S.Manikavasagam resigned his Selangor post today

KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is staring at a permanent and damaging break with the Hindraf/Makkal Shakti movement after Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam resigned today as the deputy chairman of Selangor PKR.

He blamed the Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor led by Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim for failing to fulfil the promises made to the Indian community during the March general election.

“We feel cheated, we are disappointed, nothing has been done,” he said at a packed press conference at the Crystal Crown hotel in Petaling Jaya.

Manikavasagam remains an ordinary PKR member.

At today’s press conference, he showed open hostility to Khalid, party vice-president R. Sivarasa and Selangor exco member Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, describing them as individuals who have done nothing for the Indians although they claim to be Indian leaders.

“My decision is final,” he said adding however that joining MIC is not an option. “We are exploring several other options and other party leaders have called me. However I will first talk with Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy in India next week before making my next move.”

He said he will also discuss with PKR Ketua Umum Anwar Ibrahim to see whether the opposition leader would offer a fair deal for Indians.

He accused Dr Xavier of holding “too many” positions and alleged that Sivarasa had claimed to be an Indian leader but had not called for a single meeting to discuss Indian woes.

Sivarasa had said previously that as a multi-racial party, PKR cannot have Indian-centric policies and that its leaders represented all races.

However Manikavasagam rubbished that, saying PKR made specific promises to Indian voters and had failed to make good on them.

He also alleged PKR remains Malay-centric and campaigned for the Malay agenda, pointing out that Indians had not been offered positions in GLCs, state agencies and senior positions in local councils.

“Even in Kampung Sentosa where 95 per cent of residents are Indians, Khalid appointed a Malay as the ketua kampung,” Manikavasagam said.

In his two paragraph resignation letter dated Dec 31, Manikavasagam said he was resigning with immediate effect because “PKR did not view his opinions, a person elected by the people, seriously.”

A meeting to be held by over 100 PKR and Indian NGO leaders called by former PKR deputy secretary general P.Jenapala was moved from the Crystal Crown hotel to Grand Pacific for unknown reasons.

The meeting, called to discuss the problems Manikavasagam had with the PKR and how to respond to the PKR shortcomings, started at 4 pm and was also attended by Manikavasagam.

Unlike Dr Xavier or Sivarasa, Manikavasagam has strong roots in the Hindraf and Makkal Shakti movement, having cut his teeth with Hindraf leader P. Uthayakumar and his brother, the movement chairman P. Waythamoorthy.

Manikavasagam rose to prominence with Uthayakumar’s Police Watch NGO before joining PKR and taking up many Indian-based issues including the 2007 death of S. Sujatha, an actress who was romantically linked with Vell Paari, the son of MIC president Datuk Ser S. Samy Vellu.

It would be a big blow to PKR and the PR alliance if Manikavasagam quits the party and joins forces with Uthayakumar and pushes the Hindraf/Makkal Shakti movement away from the opposition into an independent force.

Baradan Kuppusamy

After switching from BN to Pakatan, Indians remain frustrated

KUALA LUMPUR: The cracks appearing in the Pakatan Rakyat especially among its Indian leadership in Selangor are symptoms of a larger malaise in the opposition coalition that can no longer be ignored.

It also comes at a time when the PR is facing the crucial Kuala Terengganu by-election where although Indian voters number only about 500, the damage to the PR image would have an adverse impact.

At the heart of the widening crisis is deep dissatisfaction among Indians, who woke up massively after a long slumber with the Nov 25 Hindraf protests last year, and despite wholehearted support, many do not feel they have benefited much from the Pakatan Rakyat victory.

The dissatisfaction is keenly felt by Indian leaders in the PR alliance, especially in PKR and DAP.

Many of these leaders are not rank and file party members but former Indian NGO activists who had opposed UMNO/BN domination, and subsequently joined the PKR or DAP and were fielded as candidates in the March 8 general election.

PKR's Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam is a classic example – a person who graduated from street activism to PKR youth leadership and finally into parliament.

Other NGO activists like Charles Santiago joined the DAP. Some others like Padang Serai MP M. Gobalakrishnan are ex-MIC.

What they have in common is years of activism behind them, both in NGOs and during the reformasi period when PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was jailed.

But now they are faced with ex-Umno people like Selangor MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as their boss and are being told to shut up, toe the party line and keep quiet.

It is the kind of subservient politics that had damaged BN component parties like the MIC, PPP and Gerakan – to keep quiet, toe the BN line, and put party interest over community interest.

Political experts say the crisis in the Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor is really a clash between the old "Malay dominance" politics that has persisted and deep dissatisfaction among minority Indians that they have been sidelined despite ensuring a big win for the opposition on March 8.

"It is a majority minority conflict for the promised fairer re-distribution of resources...a promise not kept," said Dr denison Jayasooria, a Suhakam commissioner who previously headed a MIC think-tank.

Although the BN was defeated and the Pakatan Rakyat took power and although political positions were distributed in a reasonably fair manner, Jayasooria says the old mode of "Malay dominance" politics persist.

"Beyond symbolic gestures like making Ramasamy deputy chief minister (Penang deputy CM Prof Dr P. Ramasamy) and giving the Speakers post in Perak to an Indian, the larger Indian community as a whole has not benefited from the March 8 victory," he said.

"The issues of poverty, employment, scholarships and minimum wages - all issues close to minorities that were raised by MPs like Manikavasagam during the election campaign, remain unfulfilled," he said.

Despite the rise of the Pakatan Rakyat, he said, the old political mode which saw Umno domination preventing minority access to services, as well as issues related to land and local authorities remain.

It is an issue of political idealogy that permeates national politics, the civil service, media, the universities and is the dominant political culture of the country.

A mere change of government does not mean an immediate change in the dominant political culture, Dr Denison argued in explaining why there are persistent disputes between minorities and the majority in the Pakatan Rakyat ruled state governments.

While PR political leaders are able to meet and iron out differences as they crop up, the frustration felt at the local level is keen and not easily resolved.

"We had expected better, we deserve better. But what we got is only marginally better than what the BN gave us," said T. Kannan, a senior DAP member, giving voice to Indian frustration with PKR in Selangor, a state which is home to 700,000 Indians, most of them living below the new income poverty line of RM1,500 a month.

"There is a lot of frustration in the Indian community that despite total mobilization for the opposition, the returns were negligible," he said. "They had high expectations, but they still struggle to make ends meet."

"So naturally they demand to know why they have been sidelined," he said.

The crisis needs resolution and the only solution, PR Indian leaders say, is an equitable power relationship between the dominant Malay agenda and minority components of Pakatan Rakyat.

But it is easier said than done because there is a wide gap between minority and majority in the power distribution in the new set up as it was also in the old political order.

"Manikavasagam is a deputy PKR leader in Selangor but he complains he has no access to the Mentri Besar," Jayasooria said.

"Access is fundamental but Manikavasagam could not get access to his boss in his own party."

"This shows that although he is reasonably high up in the party, he is treated as an outsider," Jayasooria said.

"The dynamics of Malay dominance versus minority resistance is the same, the issues are the same. Only the players have changed. The name has changed but the game is the same," he said.

Baradan Kuppusamy
The Malaysian Insider

Anwar Ibrahim, probably Malaysia’s greatest comeback kid

KUALA LUMPUR: On a hot night in March, at the height of the general election campaign, about two hundred people stood on the lane outside a block of flats in Section 17 in Petaling Jaya near here, and waited patiently for the arrival of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The crowd, though small, was enthusiastic when Anwar arrived and immediately addressed them with the kind of energy and polish which makes him probably one of the most talented and gifted politician this country has seen.

Still, it was hard to imagine then how he would once again in his career make the kind of comeback that would galvanise the disparate opposition and put the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) on the back foot for much of the year.

No, Anwar was not the single biggest factor which caused BN to lose their traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament and also cede control of five states to the combined opposition of PKR, DAP and Pas.

Credit, or blame, if you will, probably goes to high oil prices, simmering racial tensions, and the weak leadership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi as well as one of the worst campaigns in the history of BN.

But it was Anwar who seized the opportunity to unite the opposition after the election results, and created this new animal in Malaysian politics known as a two-party system, through the formation of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance.

By the time he addressed a public rally soon after the election in Kampung Baru here, thousands had turned up to hear him speak. The public could smell a winner and were gravitating to the aura of near invincibility he had created.

So confident was he that he launched an attack against Umno’s Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) philosophy, in a neighbourhood which has become the symbol of Malay nationalism in the country.

He said then that his fledgling PR coalition would offer Malaysians the philosophy of Ketuanan Rakyat, and the mainly Malay crowd cheered him on.

Anwar had clearly captured the imagination of the public.

Soon after that, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister announced to the world that the PR coalition would take power by Sept 16 by engineering a series of mass defections from BN.

In every corner of the country, the public, supporters and detractors alike, were clearly captivated by Anwar.

In July, the drama that has become Anwar’s life reached new heights when news broke of a new sodomy allegation against him.

This time, an aide claimed he had been sodomised by Anwar.

Alleging a consipiracy, Anwar responded by seeking temporary refuge at the Turkish embassy here. He turned up in public eventually and was formally charged in court for sodomy.

But the sodomy allegations did not stop him from winning by a landslide his old constituency of Permatang Pauh in a by-election.

Against all odds, Anwar returned to Parliament, and stepped up his rhetoric that the PR alliance would take power by Sept 16.

He caused such unprecedented panic among BN leaders that the backbenchers group organised a “tour” of Taiwan in September to prevent their lawmakers from defecting. But Sept 16 came and went without incident. There were no defections and BN remained in power.

He stopped talking about taking over the government.

Aside from the occasional press statement and his appearances in Parliament, Anwar appears now to have lost his hold on the public’s imagination.

The public’s attention has also shifted to that of the economy. Few have any appetite left for politics as they prepare to face the economic uncertainties ahead.

Without the spell of Anwar, the PR alliance are also beginning to openly squabble over the kind of fundamental differences which were on the back burner just months earlier.

His supporters say Anwar is regrouping and planning new strategies to take on BN. His detractors are once again writing him off.

Still, as Malaysia’s year of change draws to a close, it is probably wise to say anything can happen.

A man who can become the leader of the strongest Federal Opposition this country has seen in 51 years just four years after being released from jail cannot be written off.

The comeback kid of 2008 could well make another comeback.

Leslie Lau
The Malaysian Insider

HINDRAF – Wishing a Happy New Year 2009 to all Malaysians

Let HINDRAF, take this opportunity to wish you, your family and friends best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2009.

HINDRAF would like to pay tribute to all HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS - those who had faced adversity and being continuously subject to various methods of systematic discrimination and marginalization practiced by the present UMNO led government as these true children of the nation have persevered through their struggle directly and indirectly to create the awareness and truly have awaken the nation.

HINDRAF hold fundamental for democracy, for openness, and co-existence of races irrespective of race or religion and their differences. However, exploitation of race and religion by various sectors seems to be the main agenda of the UMNO led government and its agent provocateurs.

The government through its mechanism continues to suppress the general will of the nation that is calling for fundamental changes. This is taking place, and HINDRAF's demand for change, transformation for a return of human values for the Malaysian Indians can no longer be suppressed nor contained as it has transpired to become the foremost demand of the general public.

In 2008, our comrades were highlighting the oppressed state of the Indians through rallies, petitions and various diplomatic approaches locally and internationally which has been chastised by tyranny of the UMNO lead government. So have other organization and individuals of the Malaysian society who had faced the backlash of the UMNO tyranny. However, HINDRAF's reasoning and spirit are undeterred as we step into 2009.

Confident, resolute and without fear for the truth and reality, HINDRAF will forge ahead with new strategies, along with its allies both locally and internationally to spearhead the cause for the systematically marginalized and discriminated Malaysian Indians.

These activities in 2009 to be coordinated by HINDRAF will involve extensive coverage in the international arena in North America, Europe, and Asia as well as domestically.

HINDRAF is thankful for the support it has received and shall contribute with all its strength to push forward the necessary changes to ensure that the reforms in the society would lead to a fairer social and economic equality for the Malaysian Indians as well as the rest of the nation.

HINDRAF again takes this opportunity to wish all Malaysians a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Waytha Moorthy
HINDRAF – Chairman

Suhakam wants Malaysian police to apply law consistently

KUALA LUMPUR: Police should be consistent and neutral in applying the law, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) Commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said.

"The law does not differ from state to state," he said after receiving a memorandum from Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Oppressed People’s Network) or Jerit today.

Speaking at a press conference at the Suhakam office, Siva Subramaniam said the memorandum would be submitted to the commission next month.

He said Suhakam had sent a letter dated Dec 17 to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan after it received a memorandum from Jerit on Dec 10, and was awaiting a reply. The commission would also hear the police’s view of the matter, he said.

In today’s memorandum, which was presented to the commission by Jerit co-ordinator M. Sarasvathy, Jerit described "misuse of power" by police through-out its cycling campaign "Cycling for change", which began from Alor Star, Kedah on Dec 3 and Skudai, Johor on Dec 6, ending at the Parliament building on Dec 18.

Jerit is demanding the abolition of the Internal Security Act, legislation to provide a minimum wage for workers, comfortable homes for the poor, an end to the privatisation of water, electricity, hospitals and public facilities, price controls on basic goods and the restoration of local government elections.

It has urged Suhakam to hold a public inquiry into police handling of the campaign with regard to the following aspects – human rights, children’s rights, the right to provide information and the right to free movement.

In its memorandum, Jerit claims that the police used varying interpretations of the law in different states. It listed in chronological order, events involving the police throughout the campaign.

Also present at the press conference were Jerit spokesman S. Arutchelvan and coordinator R. Moharani.

The Sun

Malaysia at new crossroads – unite as one people to withstand the worst effects of the global economic tsunami

2009 New Year Message

2008 is the year of the political tsunami in Malaysia – with five state governments under Pakatan Rakyat, the end of two-thirds parliamentary majority of Barisan Nasional and a totally new national mindset where the toppling of the Umno-Barisan Nasional coalition government at the national level is no more impossible or unthinkable but eminently possible and a matter of time.

In 2009, the world expects the worst economic tsunami in 80 years wreaking even greater economic devastation world-wide than that caused by the global financial crisis this year which had already plunged the United States, Europe and Japan into recession and slowed down world economic growth - and the two great economic powerhouses, China and Japan, will not be spared.

Malaysia is at a new crossroads. We have lost our way after half-a-century of nationhood as illustrated by the tragic fact that the objective of a Bangsa Malaysia as proclaimed in Vision 2020 has become a subject of discord rather than concord among Malaysians and our continued slippage in international competitiveness whether in terms of university rankings, corruption perception indices, human rights or good governance ratings.

The year ended with Parliament passing two reform bills aimed to restore confidence in the independence and integrity of key institutions of the country, to eradicate corruption and to restore an independent and impartial judiciary, but under great national cynicism that there is the real political will to carry out these reforms.

Such cynicism were only reinforced when nothing was revealed in the so-called “tell all” press conference into the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone bail-out scandal after the reforms bills were passed.

The great challenge facing Malaysia in the coming year is whether Malaysians can unite as one Malaysian people to withstand the worst effects of the global economic tsunami in the coming year and regain our lost ground in the international competitiveness stakes to forge a united, just, progressive, caring and meritocratic nation.
Lim Kit Siang

Tee Keat warns of economic tsunami, says country must embrace meritocracy

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat warned Malaysians today to be on guard against an “economic tsunami” in his New Year’s message.

At a time when race and religion has dominated national politics, he pointed out that an economic catastrophe will affect everybody.

“The global economy is in intensive care. Recession and slowing growth are already impacting several major economies, including that of the United States — the world’s largest and a key export market for us in Malaysia,” he said.

“Exports are slowing; the fall in crude oil and palm oil prices is pinching our revenues; retrenchment is rearing its ugly head. Malaysians, who already are living with tightened belts, now face a period of uncertainty.”

The MCA leader said his party and Barisan Nasional (BN) has what it takes to “cushion” the economic impact and promises that the country will be able to “weather the storm”.

Ong argued that the government is an essential component in tackling the economy and has taken the necessary action through its investments in infrastructure and human capital development.

“My point is clear — during these trying times, leaders in government should exercise extra prudence in carrying out the obligations entrusted to them. We must not only do the right things in the right way but must be seen to be doing so.”

“Care must be taken to ensure that we uphold the highest standards of integrity, transparency and accountability at every level of governance. Leakages in spending should not be tolerated,” he said.

He also sees the importance of attracting “the best brains and professionals” to help the country recover from the economic recession.

This is why he believes that Malaysia must embrace meritocracy.

“Meritocracy also dictates that we respect and acknowledge one’s views regardless of the colour of his or her skin, or the language and religion he or she speaks and preaches. Diversity and pluralism of viewpoints are our strength,” he said.

The Transport Minister explained that Malaysia’s ability to embrace its diversity is what makes the country different and resilient. This is why he is confident that the nation can overcome any hardships in the New Year.

“Nationalistic struggles and sacrifices which define what it is to be Malaysian must continue to be recognised. The rights and freedom to be treated as an equal Malaysian as enshrined in our Constitution shall be defended at all costs,” he added.

“A newly energised MCA will be fearless in speaking and acting for the equal interest, not only for the Chinese community, but for all Malaysians. But make no mistake, we may be passionate and sometimes fiery but as I have said this before, let us not equate dissent with disloyalty. There should be room in our Barisan Nasional coalition for pluralism of views.”

Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani
The Malaysian Insider

Dr Mahathir, The Insider’s Malaysian of the Year

Mahathir’s shadow looms large despite having retired from public life five years ago

Equally loved and loathed, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad might have retired from public life five years ago but 2008 has seen his greatest impact on Malaysian life for him to become The Malaysian Insider’s “Malaysian of the Year”.

In a year of change, many could have easily taken that accolade — ranging from Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who capped 10 years of political wilderness with a hair’s-breadth chance of finally becoming Prime Minister to the Malaysian voter who reminded the politicians “who’s the boss”.

But Dr M — he of the sarcasm and smirk — made 2008 all his own. Revered or reviled, he recovered from illness last year to remonstrate the government, regain his momentum against successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, resign from Umno, revive Mahathirism, repudiate his critics and rejuvenate his son Datuk Mukhriz’s chances of being Umno Youth chief.

Beyond the pulpit of public office, Mahathir is still widely popular despite being without a party. Legions of fans and supporters have continued to praise him for his stand, thoughts and ideas for the country and the world.

His eight-month-old www.chedet.com blog has received some 10 million visitors with more bouquets than brickbats. Others have simply dismissed him as an old man whose time has gone by and he should just retire in peace.

But his influence has grown even beyond the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) electoral pact put together by his one-time protege Anwar. He told people to vote in a strong opposition but later blamed Barisan Nasional’s unprecedented election losses on a weak leadership. He has castigated, criticised and cut down Umno leaders and former political allies to size, without fear or favour.

Proving that age has not dimmed his memory nor withered his caustic tongue, Mahathir has single-handedly and single-mindedly hounded Abdullah out office prematurely — using a combination of his wildly popular blog, public appearances and media interviews that finally prompted Umno to ungraciously unseat his somnambulist successor.

His reasoning is simple, underscored by the second blogpost — “As for my criticisms of the leaders of the present Government, I believe I have every right to do so. Retiring from the Government simply means giving up authority and power. It does not mean I must abdicate my role as a citizen.”

The second last posting said even more when Mahathir commented on a stretch of public holidays which for some is a happy confluence of the Islamic and Gregorian calendars.

“It shows that we really don’t need a Government. It will just coast along even if no one is steering it. That is how good we have become at governing,” he said with his trademark sarcasm without even referring to Abdullah.

His tireless tirade against Abdullah culminated with his May 19 resignation from Umno Baru, which he founded in 1988. Mahathir has yet to rejoin Umno despite Abdullah set to hand over Putrajaya to the party’s president-elect Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, whom he has also called a weak leader.

Focusing on the ruling coalition and accusing the opposition of collusion with Abdullah, Mahathir’s constant carping and criticisms helped to chip away support for Barisan Nasional and awakened the people to the possibility of change in the country.

Not quite the result that he wanted but the ends justified the means.

Although he, like many other Malaysians, has complained about the lack of freedom of expression to criticise the government, Mahathir has personally stifled dissent, brooking no opposition to his thoughts and ideas — the short side of Mahathirisim where prosperity flourished while freedom decayed.

For him, the change should be towards Mahathirism which a growing number do believe is the salvation for the country, fondly recalling the steady hand and calm mind in both the 1987/88 and 1997/1998 financial crises.

For others, dismantling his legacy cannot start soon enough although it has proven difficult against this man who ruled for 22 years and united people for and against him, even beyond the pale of Putrajaya, where he sits in his Nehru jacket in an exact replica of his Prime Minister’s Office — writing, reading and reiterating his way of life.

All said and done, Mahathir’s shadow looms large and he continues to exert a great influence in Malaysia, for better or worse, and has no equal as 2008’s Malaysian of the Year.

The Malaysian Insider

Govt on ‘holiday’, Mahathir on attack

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has come up with an original way to attack Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi without even mentioning his name.

Dr Mahathir continued his long running feud with the hapless Abdullah by citing the long Christmas break that could be stretched to the New Year because of other public holidays in between and using that to wonder who was manning the ship.

“What about work?” asked the former premier in his blog yesterday. “Not to worry. During that time the government... will be on automatic. We are on the ground, we will not crash. It shows that we don’t really need a government. It will just coast along even if no one is steering it. That is how good we have become at governing.”

The continuing jibes illustrate Dr Mahathir’s deeply held resentment against his handpicked successor although his criticism has long become academic.

Abdullah has already signalled his retirement by declining to stand as a candidate in elections for party posts in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) that’s slated for March 2009.

On another level, however, Dr Mahathir’s comments resonate with many foreign investors who have criticised the many public holidays in Malaysia as a waste of time, productivity and money: keeping factories running would mean extra overtime payments which are required by law.

Malaysia has 13 gazetted public holidays but the 13 individual states have also powers to declare additional mandatory holidays. Standout example: the four states of Johor, Kedah, Perlis and Terengganu have a total of 17 public holidays.

Even so, Malaysia does not have the distinction of having the most public holidays. That goes to Thailand (24) followed by Hong Kong (18), Japan (15) and Indonesia (14). By way of contrast, Singapore has 11, one more than China and the United States.

Business Times Singapore

A year shaped by politics

It does not take a genius to guess that for most Malaysians, 2008 was all about the 12th general election.

It marked such a huge political change that it became politically correct again to use the word "tsunami" after grieving for the millions of victims in 2004.

But with the new year looming, and both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat settling into their new roles, will 2009 simply see a consolidation of these lines or yet more changes afoot?

It will depend, of course, on how events pan out, and how Malaysians themselves act and react.

While most will have clear memories of March 8, just as many will probably have forgotten what it was like in the two months of the year prior to the polls. How long ago it seems now, when there was no such thing as Pakatan Rakyat.

There was only Barisan Nasional. Powerful, unchallenged, its domination was absolute for the past four years after claiming over 90 per cent of the seats in Parliament in the previous general election.

The opposition parties were scattered, each pursuing their own agenda. But when an energy and economic crisis loomed, everyone could smell a change in the air. Malaysians were ready to make their mark.

Talk of the opposition doubling its meagre 21-seat haul from the 11th GE slowly grew to tripling it as time went by.

Realising that the bread-and-butter issues of income and cost of living would only get worse, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called a snap election, realising that an imminent price hike in fuel prices would only damage BN more.

Few can honestly say they predicted such a blow for BN, ceding 82 parliamentary seats, the heaviest defeat for the ruling coalition in the nation's electoral history.

Even members of the opposition were caught unprepared. Who was going to be the menteris besar and chief minister? As it turned out, the fledgling opposition coalition, soon to be announced as Pakatan Rakyat, was nearly undone before it could take off, by the squabbles over control of state governments.

Yet the irony is that despite the defeat, Abdullah was probably right. He may indeed have overseen a worse performance for BN had he not decided to call elections then.

The next six months saw the momentum rushing in favour of PR, with opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the economy consistently rocking BN's boat. The former deputy prime minister showed his ability to make people sit up and pay attention.

He sent tremors through the political sphere by proclaiming that he would take over the federal government by convincing at least 30 BN MPs to join PR on the symbolic date of Sept 16, Malaysia Day, a statement so bold that it saw his colleagues once again being caught unawares.

It set him up as prime minister-elect. Every time he spoke, lodged a report, got arrested, accused of sodomy or appeared in court, it scored points for his strengthening coalition and chipped away at the wobbly BN.

After losing five states including the economic engines of Selangor and Penang plus its two-thirds hold of Parliament for the first time in nearly four decades, knives were being sharpened for Abdullah.

Chief among those calling for his blood was the man who had appointed him as his successor, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Slowly but surely, Dr Mahathir got his way. Abdullah agreed to a 2010 transition plan, handing the reins over to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

But even this failed to galvanise BN, who meekly handed Anwar an increased majority in the Permatang Pauh by-election, allowing him easy entry back into Parliament as opposition leader at the end of August.

By Anwar's own admission, this was supposed to begin the countdown to Putrajaya for PR. He had now fulfilled his own constitutional obligation to be the new PM. All he needed were the numbers.

For all his claims that he indeed had the numbers, Sept 16 never materialised amid excuses of security concerns by the opposition.

Seeing an opening, Umno pressed on towards putting an end to Anwar's threat. By pushing the transition plan to March 2009, it effectively made Najib the No. 1 man there and then.

They were giving Malaysians a new PM and as predictable as ever, the country seems willing to give him a chance.

The rest of BN might still be a shambles today, but belief is there among the Umno ranks that the ship would be steadied and indeed returned to its former glory under the reign of the son of the acclaimed Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia's second Prime Minister.

And so the tide has changed again. As 2008 turns to 2009, the buzz is now all about feuds within the opposition. Pas and DAP still argue over hudud, while PKR and DAP are facing infighting within their own parties due to a relatively small matter of the relocation of a bus station in Selangor.

Meanwhile, Najib gears up his troops for the Jan 17 Kuala Terengganu by-election. A win here, which BN claimed by just 600 votes on March 8, would be the perfect fillip for Najib as he seeks to banish any more talk of advancements by PR and rebuild BN through 2009 and beyond.

With Umno's own party polls looking more like a case of musical chairs now, the Pas and PKR elections may turn out to be the real political events of 2009.

It will decide how united the nascent PR is behind Anwar's ambitions and whether it can pull through a much-hyped genesis and become a serious alternative to the five-decade-long rule by Umno and its partners.

As such, there will be no let up in the politically-charged atmosphere Malaysians now live in. Change, it seems, is somewhat infectious.

Shannon Teoh
malaysian insider

AMK minta Ezam dedahkan 6 kotak rahsia di KT

Angkatan Muda Keadilan (AMK) PKR Terengganu mengalu-alukan kehadiran Ezam Mohd Nor yang dijemput oleh calon Barisan Nasional (BN) dalam pilihanraya kecil Kuala Terengganu, Datuk Wan Farid Wan Salleh untuk membantu kempennya bulan depan.

"AMK Terengganu meminta Ezam datang bersama enam kotak yang pernah didakwa oleh beliau berkaitan rasuah dan penyelewengan pimpinan Umno dan BN," kata Ketua AMK Terengganu, Fariz Muda.

Katanya, seluruh rakyat Malaysia pernah diberitahu oleh Ezam - sewaktu menjadi ketua AMK dahulu - bahawa beliau mempunyai enam kotak bukti rasuah dan penyelewangan Umno/BN.

"Sekiranya beliau masih terus konsisten dan serius dalam menentang rasuah, sudah pasti ini medan yang terbaik untuk mendedahkannya.

"Rahsia enam kotak tersebut masih terus menjadi rahsia yang masih ditutup oleh Ezam," katanya Faris dalam satu kenyataan hari ini.

Menurutnya, Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia yang telah diluluskan oleh Parlimen, seharusnya digunakan sebaik mungkin untuk mendedahkan perbuatan rasuah tersebut.

"Integriti dan kredibiliti Ezam akan kembali pulih selepas menyertai Umno semula, dengan mendedahkan enam kotak dokumen rasuah dan penyelewengan Umno/BN.

"Ini kerana antara alasan beliau menyertai Umno semula adalah kerana menyokong Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi menentang rasuah .

"Para pengundi di Kuala Terengganu sedang menanti kehadiran Ezam bersama enam kotak yang diwar-warkan itu," tambah Fariz.


Anti-ISA gathering disrupted by pro-ISA (UMNO) group

BANGI: An anti-Internal Security Act gathering was disrupted when a pro-ISA group turned up in droves to hand over a memorandum against a pig farming project in Malacca.

The group, Pewaris, wanted to hand over the memorandum to Opposition leaders who were speaking at the event, namely PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang.

Led by its secretary Rahimuddin Mohd Harun, the group were blocked by FRU personnel who were on standby. Five Pewaris representatives were later allowed to enter the premises and handed the memorandum to PAS vice-president Mohamad Sabu and PAS Youth chief and Kubang Kerian MP Salahuddin Ayub.

Last night’s anti-ISA gathering was held to launch Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)’s big rally in March.

Hadi Awang described the ISA as anti-Islam, as it was not a fair law.

“In Islam, the legal process and its implementation must be fair. The Government cannot detain anyone without questioning them, including armed rebels,” he said.

Mohamad Sabu in his speech said supporters should not give the police any reason to fire tear gas at them.

4,000 Muslim NGOs Submit Memorandum To Yang Dipertuan Negeri

About 4,000 members of Muslim Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) gathered peacefully at the Polo field here before proceeding to the official residence of Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas in Jalan Utama to submit a memorandum.

The members from 20 Muslim NGOs under Yayasan Aminul Ummah Malaysia, had started gathering at the field from 8am this morning in conjunction with the Maal Hijrah celebrations.

Its president Md Radzi Daud said the purpose of the gathering was to express unhappiness over the action of some, including political leaders, who touched on sensitive racial issues, including questioning Malay rights and subjects related to ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy).

"Every race has their own rights and the Malay Rights was stated in the Constitution dated 1957 which was agreed by all Malaysian races at that time," he told reporters.

However, he said the memorandum was to urge all parties especially the political leaders, not to question the Malay Rights and show respect to all races living in Malaysia.

He said NGOs felt that irresponsible statements should not have surfaced as they can stoke racial tension and disrupt harmony among the races living in the country.

"We want to put a stop to this and that's why the gathering, themed 'racial integration' was mooted with the approval of the police," he said adding that all the races living in Malaysia should respect each other in order to create a harmonious environment.

Bernama learnt that the group had initially planned for a procession from Jalan Masjid Negeri to the official residence of Tun Abdul Rahman but since the police had only approved their permit for a two-hour gathering, the plan was aborted.


The disaster of forced assimilation in Malaysia

THROUGH exchanges and interactions, different cultures had throughout history influenced one another, and helped shape one another’s development. This natural process of mutual influence is quicker and more pronounced today, because of advances in technology such as in telecommunication, the modes of transport and the Internet. This process, unlike forced assimilation, is healthy, egalitarian and progressive.

On the other hand, the main argument for compelling cultural assimilation seems to be that, in a multi-cultural society, the minority should "compromise" and merge their cultural thinking and practices (or even languages) into the majority’s. In this way, it is argued, the people will be better able to understand one another, and all minority sectors of society will in time become more like (and hopefully very similar with) the majority sector. Such similarity or commonality, it is postulated, will ensure unity, peace and harmony.

Nothing can be further from the truth. That fusion formula will no more lead to unity and harmony than will wearing the same clothes and eating the same food result in love and brotherhood.

Underlying the thinking behind this kind of straight-line reasoning (no matter how well-intentioned) are ignorance, a lack of understanding of the true causes of conflicts among human groupings, resignation to the acceptance of a subtle form of racism, and a complete failure to appreciate the concept of equality.

To begin with, all human beings are already extremely similar in most ways (if not almost exactly the same): biologically, chemically, genetically, emotionally, psychologically, cognitively, and in terms of the capacity to acquire knowledge, intellect, experience, and both positive as well as negative traits. Yet these close similarities have not prevented us from being at one another’s throats.

This is because unity and harmony do not come from increasing commonalities, whether in terms of language, habits, behaviour, cultural practices, enforced thinking or otherwise. Mao Ze Dong thought, along with the other political motives that he had, that he could unify the people’s thinking using the confines of a little red book, taking commonalities to a new and narrow height. The disastrous result is for all to see.

Unity, peace and harmony will only come from enlightened minds and loving hearts, in a social environment that permits and encourages these qualities to grow. Such an environment, far from superficial similarity-seeking, embraces plurality and equality.

When education as well as social environment inculcates in us suspicions of people who do not share the same language, culture or religion as ours, and when both school and adult education are no more than official propaganda (and where contrary views are suppressed as being poisonous disunity factors), many minds and hearts will be filled with prejudices, hatred and bigotry. There is then no hope for unity, peace or harmony. Language and culture themselves are not to blame.

If official education using the same language is the key to gleeful co-existence in a civilised society, then by extrapolation this world would be a better place if only one language is officially employed in education, and that sole language can be "democratically" selected by way of a vote in which the majority’s choice prevails. Other languages can of course still be learned and used as a hobby. How absurd such a proposition is.

The argument of the desirability for the minorities to "compromise" and give up the choice of being educated in one’s language or actively practising one’s culture is myopic, misplaced and misguided. It also wears the self-intoxicating odour of cultural superiority and racism, tinged with the tired scent of being resigned to "facing the fact of life as it is".

But the development of human history and human values is precisely propelled by the refusal to accept "the fact of life as it is". A historian, more than anyone, should realise this. Without this spirit of refusing to accept what is wrong or dehumanising, for instance, women today would still not be able to vote, and (Barack) Obama would be an illiterate domesticated slave running around in gratitude for his meagre existence within a superior white culture.

Each language has its own beauty. Each culture has its own strengths, some of which may not even be apparent until certain events occur. Cultural superiority belongs strictly to the bigot. The lost generations of the natives of Australia and the United States are living testimony of the horribly misguided government policies of forced assimilation, done in the belief (genuine or otherwise) of helping the young natives to "progress" like their urbanised peers.

It is now accepted that biodiversity is a world treasure that must be preserved. Just last week, the world’s first universal herbal antidote for all kinds of poison was discovered in the jungles of Sarawak, thanks to the traditional culture and practices of the Bidayuh. This, and countless other advances, would not have been possible if we had forcibly assimilated minority groups such as the Bidayuh into our mainstream, majority, or "superior" culture.

Plurality and cultural diversity are as important as biodiversity. Cultural diversity must be preserved and encouraged, not deterred. Plurality must be embraced, not scorned. In today’s modern societies, unity, peace and harmony have little to do with differences in language or culture, the varieties of which we are already familiar with. Instead, they have to do with matters of the heart and mind, with knowledge, learning, enlightenment, and hence with education and politics. Yes, politics, because education is controlled and managed by politics.

The media of instruction do not cause disunity, misunderstanding or tension. It is what we teach our young that may. It is those, chiefly politicians, who wish to compel assimilation that would. Love, empathy, respect and equality, whether taught in one language or in multiple languages, stay beautiful, nurturing and constructive. On the other hand, hatred, prejudice and bigotry, whether spelt or pronounced in a single language or in a variety of languages, will lead to the same human catastrophes. For example, if I had been brought up and educated in a misguided fashion, and grown to hate you (a person from a different grouping) and see you as an enemy, it matters little whether the medium of instruction had been in my mother

Yeo Yang Poh

Indian religious bodies asked to identify needs of Malay-Indian community

Kuala Lumpur: Indian religious organisations in Malaysia have been urged to identify what is needed for the development of the community and to work towards achieving the goals, Makkal Osai reported.

Retired Malaysian Indian Congress politician K. Kumaran made this call after attending a fund-raising dinner organised by the Sri Andalas Malaysian Hindu Sangam branch, held at the Executive Club in Klang on Saturday.

He said religious organisations, with the help of temple committees, should conduct religious classes so that the public, especially the younger generation, would be more aware of Indian traditions and culture.

Kumaran added that the Hindu Sangam should organise religious seminars so that more people would have a better knowledge of Hinduism.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Indian Sangam resolved at its recent council meeting to call upon Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to appoint an Indian as the deputy Education Minister.

Its national president Dr G. Krishnan said previously Komala Krishnamoorthy from MIC had served as the Education Ministry's parliamentary secretary.

He said the appointment would help resolve the various issues faced by Tamil schools in the country.

Malaysia Sun

Legasi Razak, “meratah” ekonomi negara

Ketika rakyat Malaysia bergelut menghadapi krisis kewangan, segelintir elit dilihat mula menyerkap jaring ke atas peluang-peluang ekonomi yang masih berbaki. Sekiranya peralihan kepimpinan berjalan lancar seperti yang di war-warkan, tiada siapa yang mampu menghalang Najib Tun Razak menjadi Perdana Menteri Malaysia ke-enam. Menyusuri cita-cita itu Najib mula membariskan rangkaian ahli-ahli perniagaan yang terdiri daripada saudara-mara dan sahabat handai, yang bersedia untuk meratah setiap khazanah yang ada……

Keputusan Kerajaan yang menyambut baik cadangan untuk menjual Institut Jantung Negara(IJN) kepada Sime Darby Bhd. sememangnya mengejutkan. pengendaliannya yang dibuat secara tergesa-gesa, selepas tamatnya Sidang Parlimen bagi tahun 2008, turut membangkitkan bermacam kecurigaan.

Dalam tempoh 24jam(18 December) selepas penyerahan kertas cadangan pembelian IJN kepada kerajaan, Menteri kewangan Najib Abdul Razak mengalu-alukan cadangan tersebut lantas memberi lampu hijau berkenaan cadangan tersebut.

Mengapa kerajaan bergitu tergesa-gesa mahu menjual IJN? itu yang kita tidak ketahui, lebih-lebih lagi apabila institut kesihatan jantung utama negara dan terulung itu tidak dlanda masalah Kewangan.

Blogger Kadir Jasin mencadangkan kemungkinan penjualan itu dibuat adalah untuk membantu Sime Darby Bhd, Syarikat ciptaan Nazir Tun Abdul Razak melalui CIMB hasil pengambungan 3 Konglomerat Perladangan Milik PNB (Guthrie Bhd. + Golden Hope Plantation + Sime Darby).

Pada November 2006, CIMB Investment Bank Berhad, dimana Nazir merupakan CEO membiayai pewujudan ‘Entiti Tujuan Khas’ atau Special Purpose Entiti (SPE) iaitu Synergy Drive Sdn Bhd. Nazir, dengan sokongan abangnya, kemudiannya mengge-rakkan penggabungan Golden Hope Plantation, Guthrie Corporation dan Sime Darby melalui Synergy Drive, sebelum menukar nama entiti itu kepada Sime Darby Bhd.

Kini, Sime Darby Bhd (Synergy Drive) ciptaan Nazir ini membentuk syarikat perladangan terbesar di dunia. Bahkan, ia turut melebarkan sayapnya ke sektor-sektor lain khususnya perubatan dengan pembelian Pusat Rawatan Subang Jaya (SJMC).

Selaku Menteri Kewangan baru dan bakal Perdana Menteri Malaysia, Najib mempunyai keupayaan untuk melicinkan penjualan UN, lebih-lebih lagi apabila syarikat

induk iaitu UN Holdings merupakan entiti milik Kementerian Kewangan sepenuhnya.

Nazir Abdul Razak CIMB

Nazir Abdul Razak merupakan Pegawai Eksekutif Kumpulan kepada Kumpulan Commerce International Merchant Bankers Bhd (CIMB), institusi perkhidmatan kedua terbesar di Malaysia. Nazir menyertai Jabatan Penasihat Korporat CIMB pada 1989, dan memegang pelbagai kedudukan dalam kumpulan tersebut sebelum dijadikan Ketua Eksekutif pada 1999. Di bawah skim CEO, Nazir diberi 42 juta saham CIMB, bersamaan lima peratus dari jumlah keseluruhan modal berbayar.

Aset CIMB bernilai RM155 bilion, dengan market capitalisation meningkat kepada RM33 bilion dibelakang Public Bank dan Maybank.

Ahmad Johari Abdul Razak
Beliau merupakan Pengerusi Eksekutif Ancom Berhad yang meliputi pelbagai sektor seperti kimia pertanian &industri, minyak & gas, kejuruteraan, perkapalan, polimer dan teknologi maklumat dan komunikasi (ICT).

Peguam berumur 52 tahun ini juga memegang jawatan Pengerusi di Courts Mammoth Bhd dan Daiman Development Bhd, Timbalan Pengerusi di Nylex (Malaysia) Bhd, dan Pengarah Hong Leong Industries Bhd, Daiman Golf Bhd dan Deutsche Bank (Malaysia) Bhd.

Ahmad Johari Abdul Razak juga menerima 7.2 juta saham pemilikan bumiputera dari Kementerian Kewangan menerusi Tekala Corporation Bhd.

Mohamed Nizam Abdul Razak
Mohamed Nizam Abdul Razak berkhidmat di Lembaga Pengarah di Kumpulan Kamdar (M) Bhd, Deutsche Bank (Malaysia) Bhd, Synergy Track Bhd, Kumpulan Winitex Holdings Bhd, Kumpulan Wah Seong Corporation Bhd serta beberapa lagi syarikat swasta.

Beliau juga pemegang amanah di Yayasan Noah, Yayasan Dana PendidikanTan Sri Khalil, Yayasan Rahah dan Yayasan Hong Leong, serta Board of Governors di Nilai College.

Mohamed Nazim Abdul Razak
Presiden Persekutuan Taekwondo Malaysia (MTF) ini juga merupakan salah seorang dari pengarah di OYL Industries Bhd dan terkenal sebagai pengarah yang paling maha! dibayar di Malaysia - sekitar RM2,250,001 hingga RM2,300,000.

Arkitek berumur 44 tahun ini juga merupakan Pengarah di HLG Capital Bhd, HL Berhad dan ING.
Selain itu, Nazim juga dilantik ke Lembaga Pengarah HLIB, dan merupakan Pengarah Urusan Nr -Associates Sdn Bhd dan Pengerusi Bandar Tasik Semenyih Sdn Bhd, sebuah syarikat pemaju yang terkenal di Lembah Klang.

Kenneth Eswaran, (kawan baik Najib)
Meskipun beliau merupakan orang baru dalam arena korporat, Kenneth Eswaran seorang yang berpengaruh di Institut Strategi & Kepimpinan Asia (Asli) dan Institut Kajian Strategik & Antarabangsa (Isis).

Presiden Malaysian Associated Indian Chamer of Commerce & Industry (MAICCI) ini juga memiliki Benta Plantations Bhd melalui apa yang disebutkan sebagai reverse-takeover, dengan membeli 31 peratus saham syarikat ini dan 28.1 peratus dari Mun Loong Bhd.

Benta Plantations Bhd kemudian¬nya menukar nama kepada Best World Land Bhd dan pada 1994, Eswaran dilaporkan berminat mendapatkan konsesi balak seluas 250,000 hektar di Selatan Laos selama tempoh enam hingga tujuh tahun. Nilai pelaburan dalam konses ini mencecah RM60 juta, dan Eswaran juga diiaporkan telah menubuhkan sebuah syarikat baru bagi tujuan tersebut, dengan Best World Land dan Mun Loong masing-masing melabur 55 peratus dan 45 peratus dalam syarikat baru itu.

Pada 1995, Best World menjual ekuitinya di Mun Loong Bhd, dan tidak diketahui samada Kenneth berjaya dalam konsesi Laos itu.

Kenneth Eswaran disiasat atas tuduhan manipulasi saham dan insider trading di Best World Construction Group. Kenneth merupakan pemegang saham di Best World Gaming & Entertainment Corp, dan turut disiasat adalah pemegang saham terbesar syarikat itu Jose Victor JV” Ejercito, anak kepada bekas Presiden Filipina Joseph Estrada, Pengarah BestWorio Francis Ablan.

Best World Gaming diberi satu-satunya kuasa untuk mengusa-hakan judi bingo online oleh syarikat kasino milik Manila, Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp, selama 10 tahun pada Disember 1998.

Malaysians: Stand up to corruption or keep paying the price

If we accept it as a fact of life, then we have failed

WITH two days before the close of 2008, most of us are hoping, if not praying, for a better year ahead.

On the local front, what is very significant is the move to push for anti-corruption laws.

The recently passed anti-corruption bill has “teeth to bite” on relatives of those involved in corruption.

This is because under the existing Anti-Corruption Act, action could not be taken against them.

The definition of “relations” in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Bill covers more than just the immediate family members and spouses.

The new law can act against in-laws, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces who abetted in the corruption.

For far too long, we have allowed corruption to seep into society until it has almost become a norm.

Corruption is not only in the form of accepting bribes to waive punishment for offences committed; it is also about the degradation of our value system, from our religious beliefs to family values.

If we have turned a blind eye against corruption and accepted it as a fact of life or in the course of work, then we have failed.

The common fallacy is that we believe if there is no greasing of the palm, the work will not get done.

But what is the legacy we leave behind for our children when they see us trying to pass off a RM50 bill to escape a speeding ticket, or trying to talk our way out of a fine for wrongful parking?

Often, we are quick to blame the enforcement authorities for allegedly accepting bribes.

On the flip side, why is there a need for corruption to be part of our life in order to get things done.

The public in the end has to foot the bill for corruption.

There are several facets to corruption.

An architect friend said his professor once told a class of undergraduates that even before they went to the job sites, they had to make up their mind that they would not accept bribes.

But he was quick to add that many people assumed they would not take bribes until they saw the thick wad of notes.

A contractor said in the securing of a project, there were many occasions when he would have to meet up with intermediaries who wanted a cut from the project.

This would range from a government official who could arrange for quick land approval, to the brick supplier who would want to provide substandard bricks at a higher price.

In the end, the house would cost 30% more due to extra works to compensate for the poorer building materials.

Due to the corrupt practices, the house buyer would have to bear the cost.

Just as a house needs solid bricks to withstand the test of time and weather, a country needs leaders, civil servants and a private sector able to stand up to corruption.

We should not accept anything less.

Joseph Chin
The Star

Massive anti-ISA rally shaping up

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 —Opposition and rights groups are planning a massive rally in March to push for the abolishment of the harsh Internal Security Act. The rally, which organisers are hoping will be as big as the one held in November last year to push for electoral reform, could embarrass the government if thousands turn up on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

The so-called Bersih rally last year saw up to 50,000 people marching on the streets of Kuala Lumpur to the King's palace to demand changes to the country's electoral system.

It was the biggest anti-government rally since the reformasi street protests in 1998 to support Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was sacked from government.

Another anti-government rally, this time by Hindu rights supporters, took place in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25, just two weeks after the Bersih protest. Five leaders of the organisers, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), were detained under the ISA following the protest.

The planned street demonstration on March 21 next year will be organised after several non-governmental organisations and opposition political parties formed a coalition two months ago called Sekretariat Mansuhkan ISA (Abolish ISA Secretariat), or Mansuh for short.

Mansuh held a mini-rally last night to kick off several anti-ISA events ahead of the big protest in March, the location of which has yet to be decided.

Mansuh's organising committee includes Abolish ISA Movement (AIM) chief Syed Ibrahim Noh and other members of NGOs and opposition parties. AIM itself is a coalition that wants the ISA laws repealed.

While critics say that street protests, such as the ones by Bersih and Hindraf, would serve only to disrupt businesses and soil Kuala Lumpur's reputation, Mansuh disagrees.

Kamaruzaman Mohamad, vice-chairman of Mansuh and a youth leader of the opposition Pas, said attempts by rights groups and the opposition to persuade the government to abolish the ISA had failed.

“We have done so many things — sent memorandums, signature campaigns,” he said. “But the impact is so slow that we decided to try and gather tens of thousands of people on the street to show the government how we really feel about the ISA.”

He brushed aside concerns that such a rally could potentially cause dangerous situations. “The impact of the ISA is worse than the rally itself. Our intention is not to create havoc,” he said.

Critics of the ISA, which allows for detention without trial, say that it is used to control political dissent.

But Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said the ISA is not used for the political interest of the ruling party but to ensure peace and public order, and that it would not be amended or abolished despite threats and criticisms from various quarters, Bernama reported yesterday.

There are still 46 ISA detainees in Malaysia, according to Malaysiakini online news. Most of them are being detained at the Kamunting detention centre.

In recent months, AIM has been holding regular candlelight vigils nationwide to protest against the use of the ISA, prompted by several arrests in September this year.

Said opposition lawmaker Tian Chua: “It is perfectly all right to have a peaceful gathering to state our stand... No public demonstrator wants to intentionally create chaos as it would divert attention from the issue.”

The government this month released six ISA detainees who were accused of being Muslim terrorists, saying they have been reformed.

But Kamaruzaman maintained that this was not enough. “The strategy (to appease the critics) is to release some detainees. But we hope that the government will abolish the law,” he said.

In response, Internal Security and Public Order director Hussin Ismail warned that police would not hesitate to take action if the March street protest goes ahead illegally. “For any assembly without police permit, we will take action,” he told The Straits Times.

Under Malaysian law, a public gathering of three or more people requires a police permit.

The government had, in the past, often reacted harshly against street demonstrations, saying it wanted to keep public order.

Protesters at both the Bersih and Hindraf rallies were sprayed with water cannon and some were arrested.

The protests also caused shops in some parts of downtown Kuala Lumpur to be closed. — The Straits Times

The Malaysian Insider

India, Please help Malaysian Indians?

The government is willing to help Malays in other countries where they are a minority, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said recently.

May I appeal to the government of India to help Indians in Malaysia who are a minority?

The Umno-led Barisan Nasional, while it is willing to “assist the advancement of Malays” anywhere in the world – or even a half Malay in England like Sufiah Yusof, the math prodigy turned hooker – has not shown the same assiduity to help our fully Malaysian Indians.

Given how poor the Tamil underclass is, we can term it an appeal for ‘humanitarian aid’.

May I plead also to American President elect Barack Obama to help Christians in Malaysia who are a minority? The United States is a Christian country (though not a Christian state) as its national motto is ‘In God We Trust’.

In America we trust to help uplift Malaysian Christians. The BN government, by token of its own action, should welcome any assistance extended to Malaysia’s minorities.

To assist our non-bumiputeras’ spiritual advancement, churches are necessary though not asking extravagant American funding to build grand cathedrals. A modest monetary grant for homely churches – something reminiscent of the one in Little House on the Prairie will do fine.

At present some ‘churches’ in Malaysia are located in shoplots or rented space in factory buildings. Such a haphazard set-up may in fact contravene building safety regulations. Imagine a large congregation cramped into a small shoplot room on the second storey, and a fire breaks out.

Perhaps Christians should request American professional town planners sent too in the aid package.

Chinese must help Chinese
The Chinese community in Malaysia is very rich (throw a stone and you will hit a towkay or Tan Sri), and that is why we Chinese do not need Chindraf. Taking a leaf from Najib, we in our abundant prosperity must help our Chinese brethren in other countries where they are a poor, downtrodden minority.

We must share our knowledge and export our coping skills to Chinatowns the world over. Why do the overseas Chinese elect to live in single-race enclaves? We must teach them how to assimilate.

Houses of the Lord that look almost exactly like a shophouse or a factory annex reflect a successful model of Chinese assimilation. In fact, some have assimilated so well they don’t even display the representation of a cross. They only make themselves known to the public that they are churches through their shop signboards which name the premises as a church.

Malaysian Calvinists par excellence must help their Chinese kith and kin of the diaspora to embrace the same ‘making do’ philosophy. Make do that church architecture and its physical environment is not the paramount concern.

After all, church is really the spirit of the congregation and the Old Testament tells that when the exiled Jews were wondering in the desert, church was simply a tent erected on the shifting sands.

Isn’t a shoplot-church still miles better than a tent-church? Count our blessings because “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” [Matthew 5:5].

There was even one suggestion from Member of Parliament Zulkifli Nordin that a mosque specifically for Chinese Muslims be built on the site of the former Pudu Jail. What a nice inheritance!

Indian who did not help Indians
I recall attending a Hindraf forum a few days prior to the mammoth November rally. I sat next to an Indian guy who told me he cried when he saw how an old but ‘illegal’ (aren’t they all?) temple was destroyed. It was an episode where the local authorities were really ugly in their behaviour.

Yes, a grown Indian man cried. The enforcement officers smashing Hindu deities break the hearts of grown Indian women too. It is in the emotional nature of Indians to shed tears; ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamed is not shy to publicly sniff and sob.

Dr M studied medicine in Singapore. We have good minority cross race relations across the Causeway.

Our neighbour shares the philosophy expounded by Najib. She helps Chinese minorities elsewhere and Malaysians are main recipients of Asean scholarships to study in Singapore.

Our government ought to reciprocate by offering Singapore Malays scholarships on condition these Mara beneficiaries be bonded to serve in Malaysia thereafter.

Oops, I’ve clean forgotten about Indians. Yup, that bunch complaining incessantly about temple demolitions.

A current online poll in the Hindu Sangam website asks if “rituals and prayers are the most crucial factors in Hinduism”. Of the respondents, 54 percent said ‘Yes’. Aha! It must be this simple majority (not even two-thirds) that is raising the unholy hue and cry, though nobody in government bothers to listen.

The movement formerly known as Hindraf had been insisting Indians are ‘marginalised’ – a word which implies they have no voice and very little say in this country.

Since Hindraf is no more to speak on their behalf, may I suggest that Malaysian Indians appeal to the government of India to help out?

Truly, Najib, the Prime Minister designate of Malaysia would not mind nor would he object as he himself has said his government is willing to help Malays in other countries where they are a minority. His mentor Dr M popularized the slogan ‘Leadership by example’. The good times are back.

Helen Ang

UMNO is doomed: How can Najib renew UMNO's RACIST dominance

The reason Badawi failed is due to the disgust of the Chinese, the Indians, and other non-Malays over the continued marginalization that has lasted for more than 51years. Many fair-minded Malays are also disgusted with the thuggish marginalization of the minorities.

Can Najib implement policies that would institute equality and justice? Obviously not. It is equally clear that the supporters of Najib think that the way to restore the dominance of the UMNO is by using terrorist tactics of siccing the ISA on the opposition. But the arrests of Teresa Kok, Tan Hoon Cheng, and Raja Petra Kamarudin have already stirred up international condemnations from all the civilized world and within Malaysia.

Even the Law Minister Zaid was so disgusted with this mindless terrorist tactic that he resigned his post. Therefore, is it likely that Najib could use the ISA and OSA to terrorize the opposition into submission? It is obvious the answer is a resounding NO!

The threat of arresting opposition and detaining them indefinitely no longer strike fear into the heart of the Malaysian people. It only makes them angry. The anger of the people over the arrest of the Hindraf and other Malaysians are very clear.

If Najib is so stupid as not to understand this sea change in the mentality of the Malaysian people, then he will only push more of the people into the arms of the opposition and give Anwar and PR an even bigger majority when they take over the government.

PR might even end up with more than 2/3 majority. Then the new PR government could abolish NEP and all the iniquitous quotas without the help of UMNO and other BN remnants.

The winds of change is now blowing away from racist dictatorship to a more racially equitable relationship. Those who cannot promote this new desire of the people will be blown away by this wind of change.

In the end, Najib cannot stand against this wind of change if he wants to maintain the old iniquitous racist dominance. Nor can the racist UMNO be able to stand against this wind of change by using the ISA, the police, and the Malay Regiments to terrorize and to suppress the opposition.

The majority of the Malaysian people will not permit it. The international community will not permit it. In the end, no matter who assumed the presidency of UMNO, it has to make peace with the Malaysian people to usher in a new age of genuine equality and racial harmony. Otherwise, all racist bigots will simply be blown away by the new will of the people. And since UMNO's agenda is still the maintenance of racist domination, nobody can perpetrate that task.

In the end, UMNO is headed to oblivion. It will simply disintegrate after it loses the government. The members will split into three parts. One part will join the opposition and be incorporated into PKR.

One part will organize a new party with the aim of attracting support through implementing the wishes of the people which is a harmonious and equitable society. It will act as watchdog over the PR government to make sure that the wishes of the people are implemented.

The last part will be comprised of the old diehard racists who want to regain the old dominance of the Malay supremacy. But these will be like the neo-Nazis in the US. Ultimately they will become the laughing stock of the modernized Malaysian people who understand the values of equality and justice and the need of them for the growth and development of a robust economy on which the people depend for a high standard of living that they deserve.

In the final analysis, UMNO is doomed in its goal of political dominance through racist terrorization. No matter who is the head of UMNO, he can no longer rule Malaysia through fear. Therefore, UMNO is doomed.

excerpts: Malaysiakini

Is banning Hindraf the solution? Options

The day the Indians were marginalized and sidelined the Indians started hating the government silently, and for the last 50 over years they hated the government like hell in silence.

The government, thinking the Indians are fools, can be fed peanuts, then run the government as they like, thus introducing more and more discriminatory policies till one day some thing bad happened in the heart of a small town where they tore down an illegal built small shrine belong to the Hindu community in the area.

This is said to be the work of the so called representative of the Indian community hand in hand with the ruling government cronies.

A bomb blasted in the hearts of the Indian community and a chain of events detonated all around the country.

The Indians flocked every where to show their displeasure but the government still refuse to budge and a mass rally was organized by the legal eagles in the said community to show not only their unity but their displeasure against the government for permanent colonization.

Thereafter many episodes unfolded one by one belittling the community which further erode the little confidence they had on the government.

The government is not changing, not going to change and will not change, thus a CHANGE in government is inevitable.

excerpts: malaysiakini

Chinese school ‘timebomb’ finally defused

The newly-christened SJK (C) Chung Hwa Damansara. — Pictures by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, Dec 29 — The residents of Kampung Baru Damansara here do not care who takes credit over the impending reopening of the local Chinese vernacular school.

All they are concerned with now is that eight years after the school was closed, igniting furious protests and becoming a symbol in the Chinese education cause, it will finally reopen its doors to their children.

The MCA and DAP are, however, not so subtly trying to gain political mileage out of the reopening of SJK (C) Damansara, albeit under a different name.

MCA site visits have seen former Petaling Jaya Utara MP Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun joining Deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong, while banners of Chew's successor Tony Pua and local state assemblyman Dr Cheah Wing Yin from DAP greet passers-by as work continues to ensure the newly-christened SJK (C) Chung Hwa Damansara is ready for the new school year on Jan 5.

However, the Save Our School (SOS) committee, made up of local residents, says there has been no favour done for them.

They point out that they have merely got back a right that they have been owed for "more than 10 per cent of a person's lifetime."

Representatives told The Malaysian Insider this as they sat in front of a board displaying the fact that it has been 2,916 days since the school was taken from them.

"We are just putting this timebomb there. Maybe it will just keep ticking or maybe tomorrow it will explode," committee member Wong Siew Keong said, referring to the sensitive nature of vernacular education in Malaysia.

Acting president Hew Wah added that the only thing that mattered was that they got their school back.

"Let whoever say it is because of what they did. For us, whether it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat," he said, paraphrasing an often repeated quote from Deng Xiao Ping, the late reformist leader of China.

"This is our basic right of education, you owe us this," he said of the government, while making reference to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

SJK (C) Damansara was closed down at the beginning of the 2001 school year with the government citing traffic congestion and noise pollution as reasons.

Prior to shifting it to its new home in Tropicana, students had to share the premises of SJK (C) Puay Chai (2) in the neighbouring suburb of Bandar Utama for a couple of years.

Up to today, the residents are still bewildered by that decision.

"These reasons are not reasons at all. If traffic is congested, why are they building a new mall less than 100 metres down the road?" Wong said, referring to the newly-opened Tropicana City along the Sprint Highway.

"In fact, you can ask residents in Tropicana, they have been cursing over the traffic jams caused by the new school there.

"And if noise pollution is a problem, then hundreds of other schools beside highways need to be moved as well," he added.

Work going on furiously to get the classrooms ready for the new school year.
Over the past eight years, the SOS committee has stoically soldiered on by running an independent school at the adjacent Ruan Liang temple.

Students were taught in air-conditioned containers and in its final year of operation, the makeshift school had 46 students taught by 10 teachers which, Hew quips, makes them better than government schools.

As such, while the residents are happy about the reopening of the school, they are prouder still of the support from the public, both near and far. Their last fund-raising dinner garnered over RM300,000.

Lim Jian An, the executive secretary, pointed out that contributions in terms of money, manpower and time, had come from all states of Malaysia and this showed that there was universal support for their cause.

But why then has it taken eight years for the government to respond?

Despite constant contact with the authorities over the past eight years, the committee has no concrete answer, only theories.

There was a development plan in place as they claim the school land is worth over RM1,000 per built-up square foot, according one such theory.

However, the committee recognises that the main stumbling block has been an unwritten government policy that vernacular schools can only be relocated instead of new ones being built for growing communities while those with dwindling enrolments are shut down as per normal practice.

"If you compare between 1970 and today, there are fewer Chinese schools around," Wong pointed out as the consequence of this policy.

Hence, SJK (C) Damansara had to be closed down for the new site in Tropicana to be opened.

This also explains the name Chung Hwa, which comes from a school in Parit, Perak — relocated, according to the government line.

Admitting it is a "give and take" compromise, the SOS committee insists, however, that they would not have agreed to such a move, if the school in Parit still had a healthy enrolment.

But having been told that it sits in a remote estate with only one Chinese among Malay and Indian students, they agreed.

"If even 20 Chinese students would be affected by the move, we would not have agreed," Hew said.

By Shannon Teoh
The Malaysian Insider

20 Muslims NGOs submit memo to Penang Yang di-Pertua Negeri

PENANG: About 4,000 members of Muslim non-governmental organisations gathered peacefully at the Polo field here before proceeding to the official residence of Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas in Jalan Utama to submit a memorandum.

The members from 20 Muslim NGOs under Yayasan Aminul Ummah Malaysia had started gathering at the field from 8 this morning in conjunction with the Maal Hijrah celebrations.

Its president Md Radzi Daud said the purpose of the gathering was to express unhappiness over the action of some people, including political leaders, who touched on sensitive racial issues, including questioning Malay rights and subjects related to ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy).
"Every race has their own rights and Malay rights were stated in the Constitution dated 1957 which was agreed to by all the races at that time," he told reporters.

However, he said the memorandum was to urge all parties especially political leaders not to question Malay rights and show respect to all races living in Malaysia.

He said the NGOs felt that irresponsible statements can stoke racial tension and disrupt harmony among the races living in the country.

"We want to put a stop to this and that’s why the gathering, themed ‘racial integration’ was mooted with the approval of the police," he said, adding that all the races living in Malaysia should respect each other in order to create a harmonious environment.

Bernama learnt that the group had initially planned for a procession from Jalan Masjid Negeri to the official residence of Abdul Rahman but since the police had only approved their permit for a two-hour gathering, the plan was aborted.


Raja Nazrin to leaders: Stop arguing and help the rakyat

Political leaders should stop their politicking and arguing and instead focus on steering the nation through the economic crisis, said the Regent of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.

He said leaders should refrain from over-indulging in politics as it was not only unproductive but could sometimes become counter-productive.

“In facing such difficult times, it is compulsory for leaders to place priority on the rakyat (citizens) and to be united in their resolve and understanding in order to overcome challenges.

“This is not the time to find fault, but the time to rectify the situation,” he said during the state-level Maal Hijrah celebration at the State Secretariat here on Monday.

Earlier, Raja Nazrin said the world was experiencing its worst economic crisis in 25 years, adding that not only was the world economy expected to slow down but the Group of Seven countries was anticipating negative growth.

In Malaysia, the electronic and electrical manufacturing sector would see a 14.6% drop in exports to the United States due to the low demand, he said.

The sector, he noted, contributed to 62% of the country’s total exports and 43% of all jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Further noting that demand for prime commodities, especially palm oil, was expected to drop, he expressed worry for the future of school leavers and graduates and those who would lose their jobs.

Raja Nazrin also said the present economic crisis was the combined result of destructive activities carried out over a period of time.

“The grim economic situation is a reminder from God to human beings.

“It is to remind the leaders that no matter how much power has been entrusted to them, they must always remember that their main responsibility is towards humans.

“It is a reminder to leaders who have become power-hungry, greedy and arrogant until the misuse of their power leads to disaster,” he said.

Raja Nazrin further noted that it was vital for the country to create an effective mechanism to monitor any abuse of power.

“Further steps are needed to fulfil expectations by the rakyat for a clean and transparent administration that is supported by a fair judiciary,” he said.

He added that judges of high integrity were needed in order for a fair judiciary system to exist.

“Whatever judicial reforms that are introduced must be translated into action, failing which the rakyat would lose their trust,” he said.

Star Online

Polis beri permit lancar kempen anti-ISA malam ini

Majlis pelancaran kempen mansuhkan Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri (ISA) yang gagal disempurnakan bulan lalu, akan dilancarkan semula malam ini.

Kali ini, pihak penganjurnya telah mendapatkan permit polis untuk mengadakan majlis pelancaran tersebut di Stadium Bandar Baru Bangi.

Perkara itu disahkan oleh Ketua Pemuda PAS Wilayah Persekutuan, Kamaruzaman Mohamad ketika dihubungi hari ini.

Katanya, polis memberi permit tersebut dengan syarat perhimpunan itu diadakan di dalam stadium tersebut.

Kamaruzaman yang juga penyelaras lokasi untuk program itu berkata, pada mulanya, permohonan penganjur mengadakan program berkenaan tidak diluluskan.

Namun, tambah beliau, setelah rayuan dibuat, polis memberikan kebenaran minggu lalu.

Wakil keluarga tahanan berucap

Pelancaran itu akan dilakukan bersama oleh ketiga-tiga pemimpin utama Pakatan Rakyat pada jam 9 malam ini.

Mereka terdiri daripada Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PKR), Presiden PAS Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang dan seorang wakil DAP.

Wakil keluarga tahanan ISA, Norlaila Othman dan wakil mahasiswa adalah antara pemimpin lain yang dijadual turut berucap di majlis tersebut.

Kamaruzaman berkata, stadium tersebut boleh memuatkan 15,000 penonton, termasuk di bahagian padang.

Beliau menambah, perhimpunan itu pada mulanya dijadualkan di Stadium Selayang tetapi ditukar ke Stadium Bandar Baru Bangi ekoran kerja-kerja pengubahsuaian yang sedang dijalankan di Stadium berkenaan.

Seramai 250 Unit Amal PAS daripada Wilayah Persekutuan dan Selangor dikerahkan malam ini bagi mengawal keadaan dan lalu-lintas, katanya.

Syed Ibrahim di Mekah

Sebelum ini, majlis pelancaran kempen itu hendak diadakan di Dataran Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ), Pandan Indah pada malam 23 November lalu.

Bagaimanapun, pihak polis telah bertindak menyuraikan orang ramai yang berhimpun di situ kerana ia tidak mendapat permit polis.

Polis turut menahan sembilan orang termasuk Ketua Pemuda PAS, Salahuddin Ayub dan Naib Presiden PAS, Mohamad Sabu.

Kempen tersebut adalah anjuran bersama Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) serta parti-parti gabungan Pakatan Rakyat.

Bagaimanapun, Pengerusi GMI, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh tidak dapat menghadai majlis malam ini kerana masih berada di tanah suci.

Acara kemuncaknya adalah perhimpunan besar-besaran di Kuala Lumpur Mac tahun depan.

Jimadie Shah Othman

Launch of MANSUH

Pakatan Rakyat and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA is planning a massive ‘BERSIH’ - type rally in March, 2009, called MANSUH.

It’s to call for the repeal of the ISA and the freeing of all ISA detainees.

As a prelude to that massive rally, and with a view to disseminating information, a mini rally is scheduled for tomorrow.

Details appear below.

Venue : Stadium Bandar Baru Bangi

Date : 29th December, 2008

Time : 9-11pm

source: harisibrahim

Don't be afraid of Taib, Supp told

The Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp) should not be fearful to tell all-powerful Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud about the plight of the Dayak community, especially vast tracts of natives’ land being given to oil palm companies, said a Dayak political analyst.

Many of the owners of these companies not only have links with the largely Chinese-based Supp, but some of them are even members of the party, said Joseph Tawie, a well-known local blogger.

Tawie’s latest posting in his ‘The Broken Shield’ blog was in response to Deputy Chief Minister and Supp president Dr George Chan’s denial that the party had neglected its Dayak members.

In an earlier posting, Tawie described Dayak leaders in Supp, Sarawak’s oldest political party, as “mere by-standers” as the party mostly caters to the needs and interest of the Chinese community.

The oil palm companies are given provisional leases to clear the land belonging to the Dayaks. In taking away the Dayaks’ ancestral lands where they and their forefathers have been farming for centuries, these companies have uprooted the natives’ traditional way of life.

Fruit trees, cash crops, longhouses and ‘pendam’ (graveyards) have been destroyed without any compensation as the ‘so-called lands’ belong to the state, decried Tawie.

Tawie, who is also the yet-to-be-registered Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC) information chief, said: “One of the ways Supp can walk the talk is to advise the companies to negotiate with the longhouse people and come up with a win-win solution rather than showing their arrogance and disrespect towards the Dayak adat by bulldozing their way to the Dayaks’ land, clearing and destroying all the things that are so dear to them.”

By showing their arrogance, the companies are also inviting trouble as the landowners have retaliated by erecting blockades or resorting to the courts to seek injunctions, justice and compensations, he said.

There are about 200 cases pending in the court against these companies for trespassing on their lands. A few of the cases that have been heard favour the landowners.

Explanation accepted, now walk the talk

The blogger also said he welcomed the explanation from Chan in defending his party’s policy on the Dayaks.

“As far as Supp is concerned, we have never neglected the interests of our Dayak members as well as the Dayak community in general,” Chan (right) said in replying to an earlier posting in ‘The Broken Shield’ which accused Supp of failing to highlight the interests of its Dayak members.

According to a Supp Dayak leader, Andrew Shilling - who is also a political secretary to the chief minister - Dayaks form 30 percent of Supp’s membership.

He said Dayaks should be given more leadership posts in Chinese-dominated Supp, perhaps at the ratio of 30:70.

In the federal cabinet, there is no Dayak representation from Supp, lamented Shilling.

The party should have recommended Richard Riot, the Serian MP, who has been very loyal to Supp since 1993 to filled one of the two deputy ministers posts instead of Robert Lau, the MP for Bandar Sibu.

“After all, the Chinese are well-represented in the federal cabinet. At the state level, Ranum Mina should be appointed assistant minister in addition to Francis Harden to reflect the Dayak membership in the party. There are two vacancies for Supp that are yet to be filled,’ he added.

HOW effective has the Umno disciplinary board been in fighting money politics in the party?

Much criticism has been thrown at the board for what some view as its tardiness in taking action. There is also the perception that the board is "lenient" when moving against prominent party leaders.

Since the board's formation in November 2000, its most high-profile case has been the three-year suspension of Umno vice-president Tan Sri Mohamad Isa Abdul Samad for money politics.

In recent months, the board has mostly been going after members who sabotaged the party and Barisan Nasional at the last general election.

Some members have expressed disappointment about this and want the board to expedite action against those involved in vote-buying and other forms of political corruption.
Recently, Mubarak (Association of Former Umno Elected Representatives) voiced its concern over the fact that the board was taking too much time to deal with complaints.

Board chairman Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen Tengku Ismail said he felt let down by the criticisms and stressed that board members were very committed.

He said the board was constrained by loopholes in the party's code of ethics.

Tengku Rithaudeen said there was no provision to penalise a member who sought bribes in cash or kind in return for his vote or support.

"We should amend (the code) so that those who ask for money are also guilty," he told Bernama on Friday.

Politics being what it is, accusations of bribery have to be supported by evidence.

A senior party leader said: "It is easy to accuse one of money politics but, in some cases, there might not be evidence to prove it.

"This is why the board takes a rather long time to complete its investigations.

"The board also has to take account of the implications when a prominent party leader is found guilty of money politics."

Party bigwigs are especially wary of what a climate of distrust could do to Umno's rejuvenation if the allegations are later found to be unfounded or unprovable.

"The board is faced with a dilemma.

"As much as party members want the board to be transparent and act without fear or favour, it is easier said than done.

"That could be a reason why the board treads carefully before taking action against well-known personalities," said a division head.

Isa's suspension in June 2005 shook up his support base. As vice-president, he had come out tops among the three elected at the 2004 party elections.

"It does not mean that it is justified for the board to delay its findings.

"In the end, we need to prove that the board truly acts independently," the division leader said.

Tengku Rithaudeen had said that more than 800 reports had been lodged over the past few months.

But party members are still waiting to see stern action against the transgressions committed during the month-long Umno divisional elections which ended on Nov 9.

Whispers on the ground indicate that money politics was rampant during this period.

Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had instructed the disciplinary board to wrap up its investigations before the March elections.

A supreme council member said there were high expectations that the board would curtail corruption in Umno's election process.

"The board has been in existence for eight years and, except for Isa's case, we do not see anything concrete. Swift action must be taken to restore member confidence in the board."

Some of the complaints against the board have zeroed in on its chairman. After seven years, they said it might be time for Tengku Rithaudeen to consider stepping down.

A former senior party leader said: "We acknowledge that Tengku Rithaudeen has done a good job but maybe we need new energy which can bring about the much desired changes.

"The post must be filled by a veteran party leader who no longer holds any party post. Of course, it is the prerogative of the party president to appoint the chairman."

With three months to go to the Umno elections, the disciplinary board is being closely watched.

The revival of Umno's popular support could depend on whether it is seen to be capable of cleaning up the party.