Archive for March, 2009

PKR candidate hits back at detractors

Posted in Malaysia news with tags on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

SUNGAI PETANI (March 31, 2009) : PKR’s candidate in the Bukit Selambau state by-election, S. Manikumar, has hit back at his detractors for criticising his selection, accusing them of harbouring a personal agenda against him.

The 35-year old entrepreneur, who speaks fluent Kedah-style Malay and has been a member of the party’s Merbok division for the last two years, said he was merely answering the call to serve the reformation movement under PKR to the best of his abilities.

“I cannot please everyone. They (his critics) have their own styles. We have our own principles and dignity,” he said at the PKR centre in Sungai Lalang here.

Manikumar said the PKR leadership may have opted for him because of his education, international business exposure and the fact that he was close to the local Malays, Indians, Chinese and even Siamese.

An MBA holder from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), the Spanish-speaking entrepreneur has served as a consultant to a Thai multi-national concern and has been an active member of the Kedah Indian Chamber of Commerce.

“There were 18 candidates who were shortlisted (by PKR). They selected me,” he said.

“If I had not been chosen, I would be supporting the candidate who was.”

Manikumar, who had been seemingly reserved in giving comments before this, grew visibly impassioned yesterday as the tide of campaigning intensified just two days after nominations.

He said his vision was to help the people cast aside their ethnic differences. “If we Malaysians were to take away our racial differences, no one can compete against us,” he said.

He said there were also numerous infrastucture issues that needed to be addressed in Bukit Selambau.

PKR supreme council member Dr Xavier Jayakumar questioned the party’s former Jerai division head, B. Kalainavar, for choosing the occasion of the by-election to announce his resignation and criticise the party leadership.

“We had no problems with him before. But if he uses the occasion of this by-election to come out of the party and express dissatisfaction with the candidate, thenhe must indeed have an agenda,” Jayakumar said.

He said other PKR members were not disappointed with the party’s choice of Manikumar and would give him their full support.

Jeyakumar said that contrary to Kalainavar’s reported assertion that some 500 party members from the Jerai division and state had resigned, he found only 20 had done so.

“We won’t be short of supporters in Bukit Selambau. Our spirit s are high,” he said. The Sun

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Selangor gears for water battle

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

SHAH ALAM (March 31, 2009) : Selangor is gearing up for a battle against water tariff hikes if the federal government returns water operations in the state back to concessionnaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas).

For now, the state is asking for arbitration of the matter with all parties concerned and if all else fails, it is prepared to take the matter to court.

On a report that the Cabinet will discuss today (Wed) whether a scheduled tariff hike should be allowed, Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said there should not be any unilateral increase of tariffs.

“If the Energy, Water and Telecommunications Ministry wants to allow the tariff increase, they should meet the state through arbitration as provided for in the concession agreement,” he said, adding that discussions should include the state and Federal governments and the water concessionnaire.

“From this, we can decide if a water tariff hike is justified.”

The scheduled tariff hike of 31% (brought down from the original 37%) was supposed to kick in on Jan 1 but was postponed to April 1 to allow the state to initiate a takeover of the water concessionnaire’s equities. However, the negotiations seem to have stalemated.

Abdul Khalid hoped the Federal government will take on the state government’s suggestion to restructure the industry so that water tariffs can be brought down instead of the scheduled hikes, if the concession companies take over.

Earlier, the state had found that the concession companies failed to adhere to the terms in the contract and that it had failed to follow guidelines stipulated in the concession agreement, like conducting direct negotiations instead of via open tender.

“Syabas has also failed to keep to its end of its deal to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) in the state,” he added.

He said the state had already requested that the Federal government terminate the contract but there has been no response so far. “We are ready to initiate legal action as a last resort.”

Selangor had made an offer of RM5.71 billion to the four water concession companies Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd, Syabas, Konsortium Abbas Sdn Bhd (Abbas) and Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) to take over the water concession on Feb 13.

However, on Feb 18, two days before the deadline for the concession companies to respond to the state’s offer, the Energy Water and Communications Ministry via Span CEO Datuk Teo Yen Hua announced that the Federal Government would negotiate directly with Selangor water concessionaires via the Finance Ministry-owned Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB).

PAAB offered RM6 billion to take over just the assets of the company. Under the asset light model, companies which migrate to the water licensing regime under the restructuring, need not worry about loans for assets as these will be undertaken by PAAB.  The Sun

Tilting under the bulk of Balkis

Posted in Malaysia news with tags on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

TODAY, this newspaper stands vindicated. The events of the past week at the Selangor State Secretariat have yet again showed that theSun lives up to its motto – Telling It As It Is. When Terence Fernandez and I exposed the excesses of the Association of Wives of Elected Representatives in Selangor (Balkis) last year, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Certain sections of the media were used to discredit us and even threats of legal action were made. Two police officers turned up in the office to find out our sources of information. Our independence and integrity were questioned. Since our reports were accompanied with documents, there were also suggestions that we had breached the law but these documents were not classified. Demands that these documents be made available were made but we soldiered on.

The Balkis story started on April 25 last year when we reported: Three days after their husbands lost power to rule Selangor, the wives got into the act – plotting to dissolve a welfare body and remove almost RM10 million from its bank accounts. According to documents sighted by theSun, Datin Seri Zaharah Kechik, the wife of former mentri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo had on March 11 convened an extraordinary general meeting of the committee to dissolve Balkis and close its bank accounts. The following day, the accounts were closed, with the money transferred to another account and then to Bakti – the federal Organisation of Wives of Ministers which Balkis is affiliated to.

Three days later, we exposed yet other wrongdoings: While their husbands went on “lawatan sambil belajar”, the wives were not to be outdone. Shopping trips, overseas junkets and lavish functions have been the hallmark of activities of Balkis. Nothing wrong with the junkets, except that their excesses were paid for by the state government and private donors, who contributed money thinking that it was going to good causes. In the eight years that Khir Toyo has been mentri besar, Zaharah, who headed Balkis has led delegations on trips to Europe, Hongkong and Australia.

On the same day Zaharah called for a press conference where she read from a prepared text to “negate baseless accusations hurled against Balkis. Zaharah went as far as saying: “If further allegations are made, we the former office bearers will not hesitate to initiate legal action.” The Star quoted Dr Khir as saying that Balkis operated in a transparent manner with members allowed to bring forth ideas to help underprivileged groups in the state, and it served as a sanctuary for wayward young women.

However last week, the proceedings of the Selangor State Assembly’s Special Select Committee on Competence, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) put in public domain the bitter truth – exactly what we reported almost a year earlier. The excesses of Balkis and some of its members were laid bare for all to see. The whole country knew what members of Balkis were up to – they used money from state-owned companies to travel overseas on business class for sightseeing. Even their shopping bills were taken care of. Instead of money going to welfare and charity, the bulk went for personal gains and these companies as rightly put by Selcat chairman, Tang Chang Khim acted as tukang bayar (paymasters). In short, some Balkis members used these companies as their personal and private bank. How else could Zaharah get Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) to pay for her trip to visit her son in Australia?

But there were some gems in the proceedings. Take the “repentance” programme carried out by Balkis in Cambodia. PNSB chief Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan said the programme was to make people “repent”. Spending people’s money on such outrageous activities borders on absurdity and yet, without raising an eye brow, PNSB parted with the money.

Coming to the dissolution of Balkis, something does not compute. Was a meeting called in accordance with its constitution to dissolve the organisation? I don’t think so. Zaharah, in her capacity as the former president (emphasis is the writer’s), has no power of dissolution.

According to the Balkis constitution, it can only be dissolved by two-thirds of the members at a special meeting convened at the request of at least one-fifth of “ordinary members”.

The constitution is clear on such special meetings and it states it must be held within 30 days of receiving notice of such a requisition. It goes on to say that the notice and agenda of the meeting must be sent out by the secretary to members giving them 14 days’ notice. Let’s work backwards. If the meeting was held on March 11, the notice must have been given on Feb 25 – at the latest. But her husband, then the mentri besar, was going around campaigning on the lines of “Zero Opposition” in Selangor”! Did Zaharah get a written requisition from one fifth of the members on Feb 11 – when Parliament was not even dissolved? Unless of course, some wives knew that their husbands won’t be occupying the seats of power!

So, where do we go from here? Teng has categorically stated there is no offender or accused in Selcat’s inquiry and those who are being called up are only witnesses requested to come forward and help identify weaknesses in order to strengthen the state’s administration.

The police or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), he said, cannot use information gathered at the inquiry against any of the witnesses because the witnesses were protected by the immunity of the House guaranteed by the state’s legislation.

But such a stand should not prevent law enforcement authorities from initiating their own investigations with a view to bring wrongdoers to book.

The evidence presented at the hearings suggests that criminal offences were committed and that there was abuse of power. While everyone is talking about good governance, wouldn’t it be a right time to start in Selangor? After all, isn’t it the country’s first fully developed state?

The Sun

R. Nadeswaran has every reason to feel elated. After bearing the brunt of criticism for having a personal agenda, what he exposed was the truth and nothing but the truth. He is editor (special and investigative reporting) at theSun. He can be reached at: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

Come Home To Vote – One Vote for Pakatan is One for our Future: 7 April 09 – Bkt Selambau, Bkt Gantang & Batang Ai

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

Mediarakyat

Ban “Altantuya” name – najib Altantuya crackdown bordering on najib Altantuya madness

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

With Datuk Seri Najib Razak all set to be sworn in as the sixth Prime Minister on Friday, all stops are off for a Najib crackdown – the latest being the ban on a Mongolian name, Altantuya Shariibuu, from public discourse.

When I said yesterday that Najib’s ascension as the next Prime Minister marks an enveloping darkness descending in all fronts of human rights, as hardly a day passes in the past fortnight without a new encroachment and erosion of the fundamental liberties whether freedom of speech, expression, assembly, association or the right to information, I had not expected to be vindicated again within 24 hours.

Sad. Very sad. It would appear as if Malaysia has not become enough of an international laughing stock in recent times chalking up a lengthening list of most shameful episodes, like

• the unethical, undemocratic, illegal and unconstitutional power grab in Perak orchestrated by Najib;

• wheelchair-bound DAP National Chairman and Bukit Gelugor Member of Parliament, Karpal Singh mobbed by Selangor Umno Youth goons in the parliamentary precincts interfering and menacing him from carrying out his parliamentary duties and subsequently charged in court with sedition for stating what all law lecturers teach in the law schools in the country that Rulers are subject to the law and can be brought to court in their official and personal capacities;

• the one-year suspension of DAP MP for Puchong, Gobind Singh Deo without parliamentary pay and privileges without giving him the right to be heard;

• my suspension from Parliament for saying that Umno is “gila kuasa” –which Umno President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said as much in his farewell Umno presidential address the next day and which one Umno delegate adopted in the Umno Assembly general debate to pinpoint the causes of Umno’s downfall;

• the three-month suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan;

• Police and MACC violation of the doctrine of the separation of powers in harassing the Perak State Assembly Speaker and Perak State Assembly members for performing their State Assembly functions; and only two nights ago,

• the arrest of DAP Perak State Assemblyman for Tebing Tinggi Ong Boon Piaw for producing the “Democracy Tree” DVD.

What makes Najib think that getting the police to ban the mention of “Altantunya Shariibuu” in the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections will end and release him from being haunted and hounded by serious swirling allegations about his suitability, integrity and legitimacy as the nation’s Prime Minister, particularly over the Altantuya Shariibuu murder case?

Will “Altantuya Shariibuu” become an unparliamentary term, justifying an MP to be suspended for a prolonged period or even expulsion for uttering the unspeakable Mongolian name?

Instead of quelling and quashing the swirling questions and allegations as to his role in the Altantuya Shariibuu murder case, the ridiculous ban on any mention of the Mongolian name will only have the effect of giving the questions and allegations a high-octane boost – giving even greater life, force and potency to them.

The Najib crackdown is bordering on a Najib madness – and all this even before Najib is sworn in as Prime Minister on Friday!

Lim Kit Siang

The Global Economic Crisis and the Future of Asean

Posted in Anwar Ibrahim with tags on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS AND THE FUTURE OF ASEAN
(Keynote Address by Anwar Ibrahim at Chulalongkorn University, March 30th 2009)

When I first uttered the unutterable in Hong Kong sometime late last year that Hayek is history I was then bombarded with accusations of having turned my back on Adam Smith. Not too long later however, we heard reluctant acquiescence from liberal institutions that the free-market principles that guided American financial development would no longer count as biblical injunctions.

In the presence of such an erudite audience today, let me take the liberty to indulge further in the discourse. Just to be clear, I make no claim to pioneering new ideas but suffice to say that I am a mere commentator having had some experience in managing an economy which was also going through one of the worst financial turmoil in Asia. We need to remember only the boom-and-bust cycles articulated by the 19th century economists such as John Stuart Mill or Alfred Marshall, before we get carried away with the modern orthodoxy, which depicts financial markets as effective, stable, and self-correcting mechanisms.

The advocates of spontaneous order which had hitherto attained the level of religious orthodoxy having rammed free market strictures about self correction and deregulation are now conspicuously silent. What went wrong?

True, the reaction against command economies of the Orwellian kind as exemplified by the Soviet Union and other Communist countries in the past was well founded. But was there really a need to subscribe to a theory where absolute reliance is placed on the law of chaos? The issue here is not whether the free market system and the pricing mechanism based on competition is viable; but in stubbornly holding on to the view that markets are benign, championed by the likes of Hayek and a distinguished pedigree of Nobel laureates such as Milton Friedman and his Chicago protégés, with Alan Greenspan as the turn of the century poster boy, Wall Street enjoyed more than two decades of financial deregulation. During this time, we witnessed the unfolding of Enron, Worldcom, and so on and the Sarbanes-Oxley laws dealt only piecemeal. But what was left unchecked was the proliferation of the weapons of financial mass destruction —such as mortgage-backed securities and collateral debt obligations. In place of the earlier institutional giants, we now have on parade the largest financial institutions in the world, brought down to their knees.

The unprecedented government bail outs nailed the lie to the dictum that the State should not interfere in the free market processes. Hayek’s devotional mantra that the invisible hand will eventually work to rectify things has vaporized into mere Harry Potter hocus pocus.

The stimulus packages in America, the UK and some other EU countries are so massive that even die hard Keynesians are spoofed. It is true that the Keynesians believe that pump priming itself with the necessary checks and balances is indeed the most effective way of powering economies out of their recessionary corners but the concern we have is the unfettered adoption of polices of reducing the cost of funds to near zero, while government goes on a spending spree on even more borrowed money. The Federal Reserve and other central banks buy up Treasury bonds and other government papers in order to give that much needed shot in the arm for the economy still waiting for the invisible hand to appear. They call this “quantitative easing” but everyone knows this is just a euphemism for borrowing one’s way out of debt.

It remains to be seen whether this phase of irrational exuberance in borrowing is different from the Keynesian prescriptions to counter the 1930s Great Depression. To be sure, the once unassailable doctrine of spontaneous order has been dealt a body blow that is destined to consign it to the dustbin of economic history. That America is opting to bail out its banks and insurance companies at arbitrary values rather than allowing the law of free market supply and demand to take its course is therefore a damning indictment of its fundamental economic principles.

What then is the real lesson to be learned from this crisis?

Is this a systemic failure arising from the unbridled practice of free-market principles or is it a case of the prophetic truth coming home to roost, that is, he who sows the wind must reap the whirlwind?

One of the strongest arguments today is that deregulation has led to the current fiasco. To go further some have made the case that regulations were always there but the regulators slept on the job. Some finger pointing here is inevitable. Alan Greenspan has already been whipped. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they say, is a classic case of regulators failing to detect the cheating by accountants, something that would have been easily uncovered by a bit of fraud specific forensic accounting. It would have required just a bit more diligence perhaps but certainly it was no rocket science.

The underlying causes however must go back to the question of easy money which remained the substratum of the American political economy for the last three decades. This came on the back of a new religion of financial alchemy spawned from the fertile womb of Wall Street, a religion using sophisticated financial reengineering calculated to transform debt into wealth. This was the philosopher’s stone by which the largest economy in the world by sheer consumption alone was able to not just eke out an existence but to thrive and prosper.

To my mind, this financial maelstrom undermines not only the economic foundation but the political and moral substructure of Western capitalism. We still believe that market economies which stand solely on the feet of homo economicus are doomed to fail because the dictates of a humane economy impel us to consider ideas about right and wrong, social justice and the dignity of man. Shakespeare’s dictum against making “the orphan pine while the oppressor feeds” is a timely reminder. It must jolt us back to the issues involving the great divide between general welfare and distributive justice.

We don’t say this perched on any kind of moral high ground. It was a similar kind of profligate spending that had got us into the 1997 Asian financial crisis. And we lectured and hectored. But unlike the scenario in the U.S. there was certainly greater oversight in Asia and more regulatory control. Corruption and abuse of power featured more prominently in the case of Asia. In fact, there was a case that rogue institutions were working hand in glove with lawyers and accountants to maneuver their way through the regulatory process.

In Asia it was a case of over legislation providing a labyrinthine cover for shady and questionable transactions. And the rich were bailed out at the expense of the poor. This is where the question of accountability and transparency reigns high.

To be sure the lessons of moral hazard were relentlessly knocked on our heads in the wake of the Asian crisis and at the risk of sounding repetitive, let me say again that the massive bail outs that we are seeing today in America are nothing if not classic instances of moral hazard going bezerk, made all the more ironic considering that we are looking at the bastion of free market capitalism.

Perhaps it’s time we took another look at the factor-price equalization (FPE) theorem. We know that it was through exuberantly inflated prices of goods and services that made it possible for Americans to carry on indulging in overconsumption while the rest of the world particularly Asia had to settle for much less. As those trained in economics and international trade will tell you, this mirage will be shattered eventually as the FPE theorem sets in to bring into equilibrium the relative prices of these goods and services across the world. This may have been a tad too theoretical in the distant past but with the pace of globalization and international finance and free trade flowing the way it is now, the impact can be real.

And it is one of the great ironies that this poster nation of liberal democracy and free market capitalism is so heavily indebted to the poster nation of autocracy and command economy. Indeed it is well known that China is the biggest funder of the US federal deficit. Other Asian nations as well as Middle Eastern countries not renowned for open and liberal governments are also substantial investors.

There is the dynamics of economic self-interest and geopolitical imperatives. The question is still how long will Asian and Arab investors continue to prop up these prices?

Yes, the world has had a good five years or so of robust economic growth spearheaded no doubt by the emerging economies, but the policy shift in Asia is already under way from monetary tightening to monetary loosening. The East Asian juggernauts are moving fast with the billions in spending package proposed by Taiwan, Japan and China together with de rigueur tax cuts and interest rates lowering.

While at the start of the financial implosion, there were still brave echoes of decoupling immunity shielding Asian countries, any suggestions today would have been dismissed by the bloodbath that went on in the Asian equity markets. While it is true that generally banks in Asia are still holding up, the fact is that our economies are too closely intertwined with those in the locus of the financial meltdown. The upside of globalization that allowed export-oriented countries to thrive has a very sharp downside as well so a recession on one side of the world spreads quickly to the other. The 9% reduction in global trade predicted for this year is rendering a crushing blow to once vibrant and thriving economies.

The myth that if your exports dry up for the U.S. market there is always the emerging economies as a buyer of last resort is all but shattered. All domestic demand indices until only several weeks ago were falling. Property prices are heading south in India and construction figures in China show the steepest ever decline particularly for Shenzhen.

Growth through productivity and competitiveness remains our pathway to prosperity. It has liberated millions from the scourge of poverty and destitution and enabled our people to enjoy freedom and decent living conditions.

The temptation to explode the government bureaucracy during recessionary times must be avoided. The weight of a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy can do more harm in the long term. Money invested in entrepreneurship and stimulating the private sector will generate more value for the economy in the short and long term.

Adequate measures for ensuring good governance are essential. Government spending guided by a policy that shows little transparency in the award of contracts is a clear warning sign of mismanagement of the economy.

More importantly the spending packages that have been announced should focus on projects that are good for business and good for people. A social agenda during recessionary times would ensure that critical institutions such as public health and education are not neglected. Infrastructure development should seek growth areas in industry, public housing and strengthening transportation and communication between urban and rural areas. Fiscal intervention could then find areas to increase demand through tax cuts and incentives to hire workers and enhance their human capital through training and development.

For us in Asia, history has proven that growth through increased productivity and competitiveness is the only path to achieve prosperity. It has liberated millions from the scourge of poverty and destitution and it has enabled our people to enjoy freedom and decent living conditions. In region dominated by the economic powers of China and India the 600 million people living within Asean represent a formidable foundation upon which to regain prosperity.

It is true that our interests have never been more closely intertwined. As Asean nations buy and sell more from and to each other, as our economies become even more intimately linked by investment flows and multinational operations, and as our national borders become more porous, our fortunes will become even more inseparable and indivisible. A determined effort will be necessary to crystallize these bilateral ties into a firm and coherent pact.

A cohesive Asean regional cooperation remains an elusive goal and history has taught us that when push comes to shove Asean nations will tend towards unilateralism. This should be avoided at all costs. We would agree with Prime Minister Abhiset’s view that “As the financial crisis deepens, the world will look towards our region for action and for confidence.”

There is a greater calling that we face during these uncertain times. A looming recession and the risk of social upheaval make for a volatile political situation. Growth oriented policies that ignore the social dimension will spurn greater disenchantment. The overall societal objectives of distributive justice and fairness must not be ignored as we identify a way forward. With millions at risk of sinking into poverty as jobs become scarce the steps taken to revive ailing economies must not overlook the needs of the poor and marginalized.

We are likely to witness some leaders revive the mantra of Asian Values – that in the pursuit of economic growth the rights of the individual are peripheral. Unpopular governments would certainly need a pretext upon which they can silence dissent against policies that fail to address the problem of unemployment, poor public infrastructure and lack of quality social services.

On the contrary a prosperous Asia is merely an illusion if material wealth is subsumed in a sea of repression and denial of basic human rights. True prosperity must be accompanied by with political empowerment of the ordinary citizen. Fundamental freedoms such as the freedom from hunger, freedom from fear and exploitation, and the freedom to peacefully practice one’s religious beliefs are so basic for the growth of a truly humane society.

The growth of civil society and renewed economic prosperity will not be possible without regional stability. The political resolve to formulate an Asean pact with a mechanism to institutionalize agreements on trade, finance and human rights is necessary. This has proven no easy task but is still attainable. We must establish strong interdependibility, economic and political. The nurturing of democracy and civil society, in tandem with economic growth — for democracy and growth are not mutually exclusive — is our best guarantee of regional peace and security for future generations.

I am no one’s puppet, says Manikumar

Posted in Malaysia news with tags on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

By Shannon Teoh

SUNGAI PETANI, March 31 – In the absence of larger issues, the battle in Bukit Selambau has turned into a fight over seemingly minor points: is the PKR candidate a puppet?

“I am not a puppet to anyone. I have my own dignity and will serve according to the party’s struggle,” S. Manikumar said in answer to claims by various parties, including disgruntled former PKR division leaders, as talk of an internal revolt by PKR Kedah’s Indian members continue to swirl.

The talk is that he is either being controlled by Pas, the current PKR Kedah leadership, or an important business tycoon close to de facto PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

He also rubbished claims that he was earmarked for the seat even before an interview process, with rumours circulating that it is because he is related to previous incumbent V. Arumugam.

“I am not related to him whatsoever. My only contact with him was in the general elections when I helped in his campaign,” he explained.

The 35-year-old businessman also insisted that it was a fair interview process and he was probably chosen due to his academic and business qualifications, as well as his fluency in spoken Malay.

“It is all in self-interest and they have definite personal agendas. If not, why did they quit the party?” he reasoned.

This was echoed by PKR supreme council member Xavier Jeyakumar who has been camped out here and appears to be acting as Manikumar’s political advisor.

“Why now? Why choose the by-election period?” he questioned and added that “maybe they are disappointed with the candidate but I am not.”

He also wished Umno “good luck with Kalaivanar,” referring to B. Kalaivanar, the Jerai division chief who claimed to have led 356 members of his division out of the party yesterday.

Acknowledging that he has been a “passive member” in his two years as a member so far, Manikumar however insisted that now that he has been given the mandate by the party, members should back him to ensure PKR retains the seat.

“I have been receiving comments and criticism such as that I am not creative in my campaigning and I am willing to rectify my weaknesses,” said Manikumar who is regarded as a political novice.

In his campaign, Manikumar has been pushing the agenda of human development, pointing out that no matter how much infrastructure development Barisan Nasional promised, it meant nothing without the fundamental capacity-building for citizens.

“What point is an RM50 billion development if people are not developed?” he said.

He has however been distancing himself from being looked upon as merely a candidate to woo the 30 per cent Indian electorate here.

His message to voters has been to consider him a candidate for all races. Election chief for Pakatan Rakyat, Datuk Johari Abdul, has been making tongue-in-cheek comments during on-ground visits to the effect that Manikumar “sounds like a Malay, brought up as an Indian and has a business mind of a Chinese.” MI