It's Not A Threat

Anwar Ibrahim's return to the Parliament and officially becoming the Opposition Leader, marks more than just a political comeback for a strongman, but the entry of Malaysia's political struggle into yet another important watershed.

Whether you like it or not, you have to admit that Anwar, despite all the sex allegations against him, has passed the Permatang Pauh by-election, and proves once again his formidable prowess, exceptional wisdom, popularity and charms. Ther are few, if any, in UMNO today that can challenge him.

Without the slightest doubts, BN has lost in this by-election, and lost more horribly than in the March general elections. The biggest loser is none other than UMNO itself.

Many people are still suspicous of Anwar's claim to unseat the existing government on 16 September. While some are looking forward to it, others give it a cold shoulder. As an onlooker outside the political battle ground, we could only say: Let's see!

To the people in the street, the climax-filled political struggle does offer some excitement, but almost half a year of endless infighting has also made many feel helpless. Malaysians are beginning to get bored, anxious and restless.

Each time when an election war is launched, we see the massive mobilisation of human and material resources. Everyone knew about the results ever since the very beginning of the by-election campaign. However, what concern them are the process of the entire campaign, the campaign strategy and culture manifested in this by-election, as well as its significance and influences.

If the political tsunami of the March elections had not taken place, and if the lead role in this by-election were not Anwar, this by-election would have been just another insignificant by-election not worthy of all the fad, as some UMNO politicos have claimed.

The thing is, this is not just an ordinary by-election, but the first after the March general elections. To BN and Pakatan Rakyat alike, this is a unique opportunity for the voters to evaluate the performances of these two alliances over the past half a year. To Pak Lah, Najib and Anwar in particular, this is a litmus test of their popularity and acceptance.

This is a by-election that carries a lot of significance, and its results could have catalytic effects in bringing about a major turning point in the country's history. It will not only catalyse the internal reforms within UMNO, which forms the country's political backbone, but will also have some delicate influences over UMNO's upcoming party elections as well as the country's future political trends. The by-election has not only drawn much attention within the country, but is also closely watched by international media.

Unfortunately, this has not been a clean election, with venomous racial discourse, dirty smearing acts and rascally behaviours showing up within the ten-day campaign period, enough to make this Permatang Pauh a very filthy one.

In a democratic country, overly aggressive remarks and behaviours do pop up during election campaigns, and this is understandable. However, politicians must also know that such remarks and behaviours will not end with the conclusion of the election war. Just like UMNO Bukit Bendera divisional chief Ahmad Ismail, who has become the best campaginer for PKR with his "Chinese squatting in Malaysia" remarks, will continue to have the amazing "disintegration" effects long after the by-election, which to the people, society and nation is an indelible damage.

The good thing is, through this by-election, Permatang Pauh voters have delivered a very clear message with their ballots, on behalf of all Malaysians: We have had enough of racist politics! we abhor racist politics!

Behind such a powerful message is the desire for a more just, liberal and equitable mode of governance.

"Yes, Change we can believe in!" is the campaign slogan for US democrat presidential nominee, which is also the common voice for millions of Malaysians today. From March general elections to the Permatang Pauh by-election, they have strongly delivered this message. If BN still remains inactive and continues to come out with extremist remarks, then even if Pakatan's "916" plan is nothing more than just a political gimmick eventually, BN will still have to come face to face with the risks of disintegration.

This is not a threat, but a well-intentioned reminder!

(By LIM MUN FAH/Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily)




Re: Today's Press Release by various quarters.

I refer to the various press releases issued by various quarters today in all 3 Tamil Dailies on the saga affecting HINDRAF.

For many Malaysians HINDRAF only gives an impression of a struggle on November 25th and the power of people's Makkal Sakti displayed on the day. It was a proud day for all Malaysian Indians as for once Indians in Malaysia were united for a single cause ie to make their plight known to the world.

But what people did not know that HINDRAF was initiated on a serious issue affecting the rights of non-muslims as a result of the M.Moorthy case in December 2005.

I myself was not directly involved in public life or on the forefront of defending Human Rights though Uthayakumar was well known then. At the most I was involved on the background in helping Uthayakumar in his cases particularly in the death in Police custody and the shoot to kill policy. I was a member of a social organization called Vivekananda Youth Movement in Seremban.

But the way the M.Moorthy issue was handled by NGO's in Malaysia including the MCCBHS was appalling that I decided that I was not going to let this pass like any other issues that went unnoticed and swept under the carpet. That was when with the help of Ramaji about 30 organisation representatives gathered at P.Uthayakumar's office and HINDRAF was formed as a coalition but unfortunately most of these organisations left within 2 weeks and I was left in the lurch without a committee. Despite this, single handedly I campaigned on the rights of non Muslims to practise their religion at the International level when I went on an international campaign in January 2006.

I was the first person in Malaysia to raise these serious violations of Human Rights particularly religious freedom at the International Forum i.e. at the US State Department, US Foreign Relations Committee, US Human Rights Caucus, various Senators and Congressman, Human Rights Watch (the most powerful human rights organisation in USA). From there I came to London to lobby support from the Amnesty International which had its International Headquarters in London, UK Parliament and met various MP's. I made sure all these campaigns were published in the Malaysian media but because religion was a sensitive issue in Malaysia only malaysiakini carried the news.

All these I did at the expense of scarifying my legal practice for more than a month, and at my own expenses with the help of an individual who was kind enough to understand my financial burden. Most Indians never knew what and how I single handedly struggled during these times and the risk of being arrested under ISA for raising the matter at International level.

In March 2006 just after I returned I was approached by a small temple in Bangsar which was more than 100 years old which was demolished on 26th March 2006. Upon receiving call I attended to this temple and worked on the issue for more than 20 hours non stop and made sure this small poor working class temple demolition should not be swept under the carpet as usual and it became international news when wire agencies throughout the world picked up the news.

It was after this that Uthayakumar offered to help me and together we raise issues of thousands of Hindu temples being demolished in Malaysia. At the height of this I did a second International lobby for the issue. I and Uthayakumar can prove that we had written hundreds of letters/appeals/memorandums to the Agong, Sultans,PM,Attorney General,IGP, and world organisations.

All these were done at our own expense which went into thousands of Ringgit. No one came forward to help us then. Demonstrations and protests were then pathetic with a handful of people beginning with about 20 people including me uthayakumar and my family members which included my only daughter who was only about 3 years old then. Demonstrations and protests were at its infancy stage.

Demonstrations in front of Bukit Aman were unthinkable. Demonstrations in the office building of the Attorney General (not outside) must have taken a lot of guts and to convince the handful of people to do it was a greater challenge. I can go on with the feats at Istana, sultans palace parliaments ect.

Standing in front of the bulldozers at demolition of temple sites and getting manhandled by police and arrested was a norm then and we had good sympathisers like Manickavasagam and Jayathas who were equally roughed up. Where was the man who has been claiming he was the FOUNDER of Hindraf and where was the so called Secretary. I have evidence of photographs and video of these protests. On one occasion they attended, one was standing at the end of the crowd and another claimed he had headache and was sitting on the ground. It is only fair to say that while all these new kind of challenge was thrown at the Malaysian Government both Uthayakumar and myself had the genuine sympathy of two great personalities M.Manoharan and R.Kengadharan who had offered their legal services as their contribution to the cause. We were relieved that one big burden was taken off our shoulders by these 2 lawyers and we
could concentrate on the main issues.

But the point is most Malaysians never knew this history of HINDRAF. November 25th never came on its own. It came after I had decided to gamble all within myself to file a class action against the UK Government. Road shows we conducted throughout the country attended by thousands of curious supporters who wanted to know what the suit was about.

The thousands who attended were impressed that we had a plan and vision for the Indian community. I had maintained that HINDRAF never had any political intentions, however we had political friends like Manoharan, Manickam, Jayathas and. It was during this time when suddenly Uthayakumar said we have the services of 2 new personalities Ganapathi Rao and Vasanthakumar.

They joined us from September 2007 onwards (before we started the Roadshows) enthusiastically and we believed their sincerity. Ganapathi Rao being a lawyer was given opportunities to speak at our road shows on Malaysian Budget. Vasanthakumar had helped to organise printing and other ground work. Upon his suggestion I later appointed him (upon my honest trust) as the pro tem Treasurer after which he opened a bank account under HINDRAF ENTERPRISE.

So in total the contributions of these 2 personalities were for 2 ½ months prior to their arrests under the ISA. They were not even there at the forum which adopted the 18 points demand that were to be submitted to the PM on 12th August 2007. If their contributions are more than this then they should put it in writing for all to see what they had actually contributed.

This doesn't mean I do not appreciate their contributions. They have no doubt done their part. Though in January 2008 I discovered Vasanthakumar was planted by Police special branch to infiltrate HINDRAF I still took it upon me to campaign for his release as well for I appreciated whatever he had done during this short period. I had concealed the fact to protect the integrity of the new freedom movement, which found genuine support from the masses who had placed their hope on this organisation to advocate their rights.

The two great personalities Manoharan and Kengadharan merely acted as Counsels and lawyers for Uthayakumar, I and the hundreds others who were later arrested on November 2007. For this there had to pay a high price i.e. arrest under the ISA. These were the information I had given to all my International lobby including the International Bar Association i.e. that Lawyers are detained for performing their duties.

HINDRAF's struggle is noble. I have always maintained my personal belief that this is a dharmic war and if it is indeed a dharmic war we would win eventually albeit all the backstabbing and badmouthing.

From September 2007 (road shows) thousands of well wishers had approached me for membership forms. I had always told them that if they were a true believer in the 18 point demands that we had submitted to the PM on 12th August 2008 and are willing to fight for their rights without fear or personal gain then they were members and there was no need for a registration form and subscription.

Though I left the country upon my release on 28th November 2008 I had done and am still doing all within my strength and capability to seek the release of the 5 detained. I had used my personal funds to travel throughout India UK Europe Geneva.

The issue of the 5 HINDRAF leaders has been raised in the Tamil Nadu Parliament immediately upon my arrival in India thereafter in Parliament In New Delhi, Indian PM and Foreign Minister, Leaders of the opposition House of Parliament, Madam jayalalitha, Vaico, The Dalai Lama, UK Parliament, British MP's, House of Lords, The Parliament at Scotland,The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Commonwealth Secretariat, Amnesty International., Human Rights Trusts UK, Minority Rights International, International Bar Association, UK Bar Association, Law Society for England and Wales, World Organisation against Torture based in Geneva, United Nations Human Rights Council, International Red Cross, FIDH in France, Human Rights Commission in Brussels, Human Rights Commission in Holland, European Parliament to name some of the work I have done.

By using my base in England I managed to get a briefing organised for the first time at the US Congress on 8th April 2008 which was attended by Senators and Congressman, Civil and Human Rights organisations in US and the Malaysian embassy which was severally embarrassed. This was seen as an act of betrayal by the UMNO Government and hence they revoked my passport immediately. I am now a stateless person for doing what I felt right for Malaysian

While doing all the above I also manage HINDRAF from London and wherever I travelled. I plan the campaigns in Malaysia for the release of the 5 and for the basic rights of Malaysian Indians as per the 18 point demands submitted. I not only plan but execute the campaign in Malaysia from where I am. For this I have thousands of well wishers on the ground who take instructions from me and my 10 member interim committee which I formed in February 2008.

Today we have been stabbed by many within us. To cover himself Vasanthakumar has made accusations via his wife attacking me as a coward who ran away from problems and Raidu who had accused me of using children.

I sympathise for Mrs Vasanthakumar and her family for the naive hope and belief that has been placed before the truth by sinister. I offer my apologies to her for having to expose her husband at this stage.

As for Raidu he is not worth my effort to respond as his statements are sheer evil and ominous statements. He was a boy sitting in the front row of every road shows and enthusiastically clapping hands whenever each speaker made their points as if he was enlightened for the first time.

I urge all genuine HINDRAF supporters to remain calm, focussed and let us maintain our phase to seek our democratic rights. I maintain HINDRAF is not a membership seeking organisation nor is it keen to mislead the people.

We are here to advocate our basic rights even if it means permanent incarceration.

P.Waytha Moorthy
Currently in London

Ahmad Ismail’s racist remarks - test case for all BN Ministers/leaders whether they are Bangsa Malaysia

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his 51st National Day Message called on every Malaysian to give importance to solidarity, as “it is the cornerstone of the country’s political stability, social harmony and economic competitiveness”.

However, the Prime Minister has caused great dismay and distress among right-thinking Malaysians as he has chosen to demonstrate his “solidarity” with the Bukit Bendera Umno chief, Datuk Ahmad Ismail who had made offensive, insensitive, derogatory and racist remarks about the Malaysian Chinese during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign –referring to the Chinese as pendatang, orang tumpang and totally untrustworthy Malaysians.

Why is the Prime Minister not prepared to show “solidarity” with right-thinking Malaysians who deplore Ahmad Ismail’s insensitive, offensive, derogatory and racist remarks about the Malaysian Chinese.

I will declare my solidarity with what is right, just and true – including deploring insensitive, offensive, derogatory and racist remarks whether referring to the Malays, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans, whether it is made by a Chinese or non-Chinese leader.

Why is Abdullah not prepared to take a similar stand?

MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers, Deputy Ministers and leaders may not dare to tell Abdullah, then let me say it loud and clear to the Prime Minister – that his protection and condonation of Ahmad Ismail’s offensive and derogatory references to the Chinese in Malaysia, seeking to make light of the furore, has caused even more dismay and distress than Ahmad’s original offence.

It raises the question whether Abdullah has forgotten his pledge to be Prime Minister for all Malaysians and not just for any one race or one political party.

It also raises the question whether the Prime Minister and all Cabinet Ministers realize that they should always be exemplars of Bangsa Malaysia, who not only respect all races, religions, languages and cultures in plural Malaysia but ever-prepared to be role models to admonish all conduct unbecoming of a Bangsa Malaysia in showing insensitivity, disrespect or contempt for other races, religions, languages or cultures like what Ahmad Ismail had done especially when such disgraceful misconduct come from within their ranks.

The Ahmad Ismail furore has become a test case, not only for MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MPs and leaders but for everyone from the Barisan Nasional component parties, including Umno, as well.

Malaysians are entitled to ask whether, on the 51st National Day anniversary, there are any and if so, how many BN Ministers and leaders regard themselves as Bangsa Malaysia and are prepared to stand up in Cabinet on Wedneday, the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council and in public to make clear that derogatory references to the Malaysian Chinese or any other community, religion, language or culture is reprehensible, completely unacceptable and must attract the severest censure.

Ten days before the 51st Merdeka anniversary, there were UMNO MPs who behaved most boorishly in shouting “Balik Cina” in Parliament – the height of disrespect and contempt for a plural Malaysia after more than half-a-century of nation-building – and yet there had not been any censure by any Umno leader or a squeak of protest by any MCA, Gerakan or SUPP leader over this episode!

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said two days ago that the Barisan Nasional had taken cognizance of the thrashing the BN received in the Permatang Pauh by-election and is taking steps to restore the people’s confidence in the coalition.

He said that “it is natural that we have to listen to the people and the BN, as a political party, will have to listen and evaluate the voices and feedback”.

But the BN has learnt nothing if Ahmad Ismail is allowed to get away scot-free despite making such insensitive, offensive, racist and derogatory remarks about the Chinese in Malaysia. What is most shocking is that Ahmad Ismail had made such offensive remarks at a Permatang Pauh by-election ceramah which was attended by Najib himself, and the Deputy Prime Minister had done nothing to reprimand Ahmad Ismail.

It is not only MCA, Gerakan, SUPP, but all other BN parties including UMNO who are facing this acid test – whether all their claim that they had heard the voices of the people and are prepared to learn from the lessons of the two “political tsunamis” in six months are just empty and meaningless words!

Lim Kit Siang

Malaysia belongs to all races, says Anwar

BUTTERWORTH: While protecting the rights of the Malays, the Chinese and Indians must also be given an assurance on their citizenship and position in the country, said Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Permatang Pauh Member of Parliament said the country belonged to all races and not to just one community.

“With such an assurance, it does not mean that you will be sacrificing the rights of another community,” he said during a breakfast gathering with Permatang Pauh PKR Wanita members in Yayasan Aman in Penanti yesterday.

Anwar said when Independence was declared on Aug 31, 1957, the Malays, Chinese and Indians were assured the freedom of speech and freedom to form associations.

“Now, when you say you disagree (with your political leader) you get threatened. The true spirit of Merdeka is no longer present.

“What is the meaning of Merdeka when we are still ruled by our own community?” he asked.

The newly elected Opposition Leader also said Malays should support leaders who abhorred corruption and those who were fair to all communities.

He said political leaders should also refrain from making racist remarks that would make other races feel threatened, adding that it was unfair to blame one community for the economic slowdown.

Anwar said Merdeka also meant giving an assurance towards the nation’s security, which he noted was “sadly not addressed in Budget 2009.”

Star Online

Malaysia's Independence Day ceremonies are clouded by politics

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia celebrated 51 years of independence Sunday, wracked by economic woes and political uncertainty over fears that a resurgent opposition could topple a government that has ruled since 1957 when British colonial rule ended.

Spectacular fireworks lit the skies at midnight.

A colourful parade with dances by Malaysia's three main ethnic groups - majority Malays and minority Chinese and Indians - passed through the historic Dataran Merdeka, or Independence Square.

"The world ... is impressed with Malaysia because not many countries with a multiracial population exist with tolerance, peace and harmony," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in a speech.

It also touched on his government's efforts to fight inflation that has reached a record 8.5 per cent.

Abdullah also referred indirectly to the threat by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's plans to topple the government with parliamentary defections.

"A united people is a strong national bulwark against any threat, whether from within or outside the country," Abdullah said.

While a slowing economy, dwindling investments, spiralling inflation and a lacklustre stock market are major concerns for the country, the nation's attention has been riveted this year by the political fireworks surrounding the 61-year-old Anwar.

In June, a stunned nation heard of an accusation by a young male aide who claimed he was sodomized by Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was convicted and jailed on the same charge about a decade ago.

His conviction was overturned later.

Anwar says he was a victim of a political conspiracy both times. Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is a crime in Malaysia and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Anwar's humiliation came as he mounted a serious challenge to the government, accusing it of corruption and subverting the civil service, the judiciary and the police.

He also says minorities are treated unfairly while the majority Malays are given special privileges. The government denies it's doing anything wrong.

"We see the constitution being weakened, democracy trampled on and national institution turned into tools of the ruling power," Anwar said in a statement.

"It is time for Malaysians to rediscover the real meaning of freedom in the country."

Anwar's three-party coalition made spectacular gains in the March 8 general elections, increasing its strength from 19 to 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament.

Abdullah's National Front returned to power with a simple majority of 140 seats, down from its traditional two-thirds majority.

Anwar says he's now close to getting at least 30 National Front lawmakers to defect so that he can form a new government and become the next prime minister.

It is not clear if Anwar can carry out the threat by his self-imposed deadline of Sept. 16, but it has evidently unnerved the government.

In an unprecedented step, Abdullah injected politics into his economic speech to unveil the annual budget on Friday.

After announcing that the economy is expected to expand by 5.7 per cent in 2008, slowing from 6.3 per cent growth in 2007, Abdullah warned against anyone destabilizing his National Front coalition.

"Efforts by certain parties to destabilize the country by attempting to seize power through illegitimate means, and without the mandate of the people, must be rejected," he said.

"We cannot allow uncertainties to continue, as this will adversely affect foreign investment, economic sentiment and the capital markets. I will not allow these disturbances to continue," he said.

The National Front is a coalition of 13 parties led by Abdullah's United Malays National Organization.

By Vijay Joshi, The Associated Press
source: The Canadian Press

Hadiah MERDEKA: UMNO Perlu tegas tangani pencabul Perlembagaan

KOTA BHARU 30 Ogos - Kerajaan perlu bertindak tegas terhadap mana-mana pihak yang terus mempertikaikan peruntukan Fasal 152 dan 153 Perlembagaan Persekutuan berhubung kedudukan Bahasa Melayu dan Hak Keistimewaan Orang Melayu.

Pensyarah Undang-undang Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia, Prof. Dr. Abd. Aziz Bari berkata, kerajaan sepatutnya memandang serius perkara itu dan segera menghentikan gejala yang membimbangkan ini.

Katanya, perkara itu tidak harus diberi ruang untuk dipertikaikan lagi kerana ia merupakan kunci kepada kestabilan negara yang telah dipersetujui dengan penuh muafakat sebelum mencapai kemerdekaan.

Beliau berpendapat, antara faktor keberanian pelbagai pihak yang mempertikaikan undang-undang tersebut adalah kerana kurangnya penguatkuasaan kerajaan terhadap pelaksanaan matlamat dan semangat kedua-dua fasa berkenaan.

"Sebenarnya keseluruhan Perlembagaan Persekutuan perlu diperkasakan dan bukannya hanya setakat Fasal 152, 153 sahaja kerana jika langkah konkrit tidak dilakukan, Perlembagaan kita akan jadi seperti perhiasan atau kosmetik sahaja," katanya.

Beliau berkata demikian dalam Forum Merdeka Pelaksanaan Undang-Undang Fasal 152, 153 dengan tema Memperkasakan Perlembagaan Negara anjuran Majlis Tindakan Rakyat Kelantan (MTRK) di sini hari ini.

Forum yang dipengerusikan oleh Pensyarah Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Profesor Dr. Mohamad Agus Yusof itu turut dihadiri oleh ahli panel lain iaitu Penasihat Undang-Undang Majlis Muafakat Melayu Malaysia, Tan Sri Abd. Aziz Abd. Rahman dan peguam, Zainur Zakaria.

Majlis itu dirasmikan oleh Penaung MTRK, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah yang juga Ahli Parlimen Gua Musang dan turut dihadiri Presiden MTRK, Datuk Ibrahim Ali yang juga Ahli Parlimen Pasir Mas.

Sementara itu, Abd. Aziz mencadangkan supaya kerajaan mewujudkan satu badan atau jawatankuasa khusus di peringkat Pusat dan negeri bagi memperincikan pelaksanaan Fasal 153 yang dilihatnya agak tersasar daripada maksud dan matlamat sebenar undang-undang itu.

"Saya difahamkan pada masa ini tiada badan khusus sama ada peringkat kementerian atau negeri yang melaksanakannya dan ini adalah antara punca berlakunya keciciran di kalangan Melayu sendiri dan wujudnya pihak tertentu yang mempertikaikan intipatinya," katanya.

Bekas Pengerusi Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) itu berkata, hak Bahasa Melayu dan keistimewaan orang Melayu telah diiktiraf oleh British sebelum negara mencapai kemerdekaan dan Perlembagaan Persekutuan dirangka lagi.

Malah, katanya, ia telah dipersetujui oleh semua pihak melalui kontrak sosial sebelum ini dan adalah tidak rasional apabila selepas 51 tahun negara mencapai kemerdekaan ia diungkit dan dipersoalkan.

Dalam pada itu, Zainur menyelar pemimpin Melayu beragama Islam yang sanggup menggadai maruah bangsa dan agama demi mencapai cita- cita politik.

Katanya, pemimpin ini kononnya akan mewujudkan sebuah masyarakat Malaysia baru yang mempunyai kesamarataan tetapi tidak dijelaskan ciri-cirinya yang sebenar.

"Adakah kita mahukan sebuah masyarakat seperti Singapura atau masyarakat mempunyai pelbagai bahasa rasmi, agama Islam diletakkan pada kedudukan sama dengan agama lain, adakah kita sanggup terima semua ini.

"Melayu bukannya tuntut hak lain cuma kita pertahankan hak sedia ada yang telah dipersetujui dan termaktub dalam Perlembagaan. Tetapi apabila kita perjuangkan hak ini seolah- olah seperti kita pula yang bersalah," katanya.

Mingguan Malaysia

Budget of no significance to many

KUCHING: No matter who you talk to, the general consensus is that the Budget 2009 would be of no significance if it does not solve the people’s bread and butter issues.

It’s also not wrong to say that most people did not tune in to watch the Prime Minister table the budget on Friday.

They only skimmed newspapers and glimpsed the nightly news, looking out for new measures to curb rising cost of living.

Those who thesundaypost spoke to yesterday, including restaurant managers, shopkeepers and especially those from the lower income group, all agreed that the economy was slowing down and they were unsure whether the budget could help improve situation.

Andrew Chan, a restaurateur, said incentives such as the reduction of import duties for consumer durables was not going to bring much difference to those in the food business.

“We only buy these items once. What is more important is to look into ways to reduce the cost of daily essentials such as petrol, gas, and cooking oil,” he said.

He said since the fuel price hike, his business had reduced by half of what it used to be due to poorer spending power and increase in price of raw materials.

Chan felt that the incentives highlighted were not going to help him much and he believed that they would also not narrow the gap between the rich and the poor people in the state.

Suzy, on the other hand was not aware of the budget.

However she hoped that the budget would include ways to control the price of essential items.

The 21 year-old lass from Padawan said her salary as a shop assistant was below RM1,000 and she had to take care of six siblings without any aid from the government.

For Lucy Lau, 22, a hardware store owner, she felt that the incentives announced was not going to benefit her business. Instead, it could lead to poorer business in her shop.

“We do sell cigarettes here and we make a few hundred ringgit from them every month. With the increased price of cigarettes now, I feel that we will be making less profit this time,” she said, adding that the fuel price hike was already affecting her business.

Sim Poh Kiaw, 25, meanwhile felt that the budget should place more emphasis on improving infrastructure rather than welfare.

“Welfare assistance will only benefit a limited group of people, while improved infrastructure will benefit more people as we all depend on such facilities in our daily lives,” she said.

She felt that Sarawak was not getting enough attention in as far as public facilities were concerned, such as public transportation, “which is way behind that in Peninsular Malaysia”.

She however said there was nothing much Sarawak could do about it as Peninsular Malaysia had always received more for the purpose.

Abdul Rauf, 25, and Irwan Mosli, 30, said they disappointed because there was nothing said about a higher minimum wage.

“We work in a shop for up to 10 hours a day for a salary of RM700 a month. What can we do with that sort of money,” Rauf lamented.

He said that petrol alone had gone up to RM300 a month, and the balance for payment of bills.

“There is nothing left.”

Irwan on the other hand was hoping for more goodies, in the form of subsidies, rather than infrastructure development.

“This way many people will benefit rather than a certain group of people.”

By Yu Ji & Vijaya Menon
Borneo Post

Harris blames govt for rural folks staying poor

Kota Kinabalu: The Government needs to analyse the reason behind its failure to improve the people's living standard in the rural areas as many are still just making enough to get by.

"Because they are in this situation, even if the government assists in developing their abandoned land, they would still need some kind of financial assistance in the form of a temporary monthly 'hardship allowance' while working on their land and waiting for the harvest."

The shortcomings of the Government's policies are also the reason why farmers remain mainly producers for the local Tamu, instead of becoming agriculture entrepreneurs.

Giving these views was former Chief Minister Datuk Harris Salleh, who said despite the significant improvement in basic infrastructure that has been extended to the rural areas, many rural people remain poor without any or no permanent income.

"Nobody knows why. The only reason given is that the people are lazy.

Actually, the reason is due to the shortcomings and ineffectiveness of the Government's policies and programmes," he said.

Delivering a talk at the Syarahan Tokoh Pertanian at the Recital Hall in Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Thursday, he said there were various factors leading to smallholders abandoning their land.

He said most of the Government projects were found to be either not suitable for rural people or the areas; the policies do not contain serious commitment or are implemented half-heartedly and the dominance of buyers has caused prices to be unstable and below even the farmers' nominal production costs.

Also, the subsidies on food products and agricultural produce like rice and cooking oil have further suppressed prices and become a disincentive and hotels and up-market restaurants prefer to serve imported rather than local fruits.

Towards this end, Harris said a detailed and comprehensive study by the Government could translate all the data into a truly committed plan of action to develop rural areas and at the same time motivate rural people to accept the challenge.

"This study must look into the question of land suitability, the best ways to exploit the desire and ability of the smallholders and farmers to meet the challenges of change and the creation of a fair and reliable market for any type of agricultural produce," he said.

Harris stressed that unless and until such a comprehensive study is done, the only progress seen in the rural areas would be the infrastructure, schools and clinics.

However, the income levels of the rural people would remain the same while the general cost of living keeps increasing.

"In a nutshell, if there is no commercially sustainable agricultural produce, there will be no perniagaan tani (agri-business)," he said.


Belanjawan 2009 Ibarat Gula-Gula Getah (malay language)

Belanjawan yang dibentangkan 29 Ogos lepas nyata belanjawan ‘menawan semula hati rakyat’ pasca 8 Mac dan 26 Ogos 2008. Justeru mudah saya simpulkan, ia belanjawan yang ‘dijangka tetapi mengecewakan’.

Malaysia mencatat rekod sebagai satu-satunya negara pengeluar minyak yang berterusan mencatatkan belanjawan defisit selama 10 tahun berterusan.

Ia memberi gambaran ekonomi negara berada di tahap yang tidak stabil. Apatah lagi kali ini ia terus mencatatkan belanjawan tertinggi yakni RM209.7 billion.

Apa yang menjadi kebimbangan adakah kerajaan benar-benar berupaya mengawal perbelanjaannya. Tahun lepas kerajaan juga mencatatkan belanjawan yang besar iaitu RM 176.9 billion, akan tetapi berdasarkan jumlah terkini, belanjawan yang lepas sudahpun melebihi sebanyak RM 20.3 billion, menjadikan jumlahnya yang sebenar RM197.2 billion.

Selain itu kita melihat perbelanjaan pengurusan meningkat sekitar 20%, peningkatan dari RM 128.8 billion kepada RM154.2 billion.

Ini bercanggah dengan komitmen kerajaan untuk megurangkan defisit fiskal.

Sangat mengecewakan tidak ada sebarang usaha menarik pelaburan langsung asing (FDI) yang digariskan di dalam belanjawan kali ini.

Sebaliknya hanya imbuhan buat rakyat terbanyak ibarat ‘gula-gula getah’, manisnya sekadar bersifat sementara. Tidak ada penyelesaian komprehensif untuk mewujudkan mekanisme kawalan jangka panjang ke atas masalah-masalah pokok seperti pembasmian rasuah serta penyelewengan wang rakyat atas nama ‘pembangunan’.

Pencegahan jenayah yang kian membungkam seolah-olah tidak menjadi fokus kerajaan umno-bn berbanding meraih populariti yang kian hilang.

RM35 bilion yang diperuntukkan untuk peningkatan kecekapan pengangkutan awam sebermula tahun 2009 hingga 2014 juga mendatangkan persoalan. Andai peruntukan sebanyak RM4.4 billion di bawah Kumpulan Wang Amanah Pengangkutan Awam yang diumum hasil kenaikan harga minyak sebanyak 30 sen pada April 2006 masih tidak menampakkan apa-apa impak positif, ke mana pula bakal ‘perginya’ RM35billion itu?

MRR2 terus retak, komuter dan LRT terus semak, jalanraya terus sesak, Kontrak-kontrak bertambah banyak, kroni terus membiak, masalah tidak luak, rakyat semakin jelak!

Apa lagi yang boleh kita harapkan hasil gula-gula sementara ini?


UMNO/BN - political dinosaurs irrelevant to Merdeka II aspirations of new generation of Bangsa Malaysia

In his 51st National Day message last night, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he hoped that every Malaysian could give importance to solidarity.

However, Abdullah had himself set the bad example of failing to give top priority to national unity and solidarity in plural Malaysia, or he would not have adopted a lackadaisical and irresponsible stance on the legitimate protests over the highly racist, divisive and provocative remarks by the Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign belittling the Chinese community in Malaysia as “orang tumpangan” who could not be trusted as Malaysians.

In defending Ahmad Ismail by claiming that the Penang Umno leader had not meant what he said, Abdullah was condoning Ahmad Ismail’s insensitive, offensive and racist remarks when he should have lived up to his pledge repeated many times before that he would be Prime Minister for all Malaysians and not of any one race.

The Prime Minister has again disappointed Malaysians with another breach of his many sweet-sounding pledges when he became Prime Minister five years ago.

In the past few days, various levels of the MCA and Gerakan (and even SUPP), and their youth and women wings, reaching as high as MCA Minister, Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, MCA Deputy Minister Dr. Wee Ka Siong and Acting Gerakan President, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon had been making public noises demanding disciplinary action against Ahmad Ismail.

With the Prime Minister coming out with such a weak, ineffective and useless response in virtually protecting Ahmad Ismail from having to face any disciplinary action, are the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP leaders again going to capitulate or will they pursue the matter in Cabinet next week as well as demand an emergency meeting of the Barisan Nasional supreme council for stern disciplinary action to be taken against Ahmad Ismail so as not to make a mockery of the 51st Merdeka celebrations?

The Ahmad Ismail episode is the latest example that Umno and the Barisan Nasional have become political dinosaurs irrelevant to and incapable of adapting to the Merdeka II aspirations of the new generation of Bangsa Malaysia who want to see justice, fair play, moderation and good governance.

UMNO and Barisan Nasional (since Alliance days) may be the world’s longest-serving government coalition in a parliamentary democracy but this only underline its increasing irrelevance as a political dinosaur.

There is however no shortage of examples of UMNO and BN’s growing incompetence, impotence and irrelevance as political dinosaurs.

Just two latest instances:
Firstly, the increasingly undemocratic instincts by the powers-that-be to impose a clamp on dissent and criticism as illustrated by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to shut down Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s Malaysia Today news portal, completely ignoring the solemn government undertaking to the world of no Internet censorship in the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees.

Secondly, the unchecked corruption, abuses of power and malpractices exposed in the latest Auditor-General’s Report 2007, such as pouring RM537 million of taxpayers’ money into the Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation in the United States in the past 13 years but only getting a return of only RM25 million!

Such colossal waste of public funds are not isolated cases, whether at the federal or state government level. In Perak for instance, a subsidiary of the Perak State Development Corporation went on a losing spree, chalking up over RM100 million in accumulated losses when its paid up capital was only RM50,000!

These are shocking, shameful and ugly examples of “Malaysia Boleh”!

Last year, the country also went into a frenzy of shock at the exposes of financial irregularities, criminal breach of trust and corrupt practices in the Auditor-General’s 2006 Report, such as the government paying RM5,700 for a car jack worth RM50; RM224 for a set of four screwdrivers costing RM32 in the market; RM5.72 million for two crane towers against the market price of RM2.98 million; technical books consisting of 10 titles priced at RM10,700; and a 3.1 megapixel digital camera that was bought for RM8,254.

Parliament and the nation were assured by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) that it was conducting investigations into the exposes by the Auditor-General in the 2006 report, but nothing has come of it and the ACA is now inundated with even more exposes in the Auditor-General’s 2007 Report!

(Media Conference Statement in Batu Pahat on Sunday, 31st August 2008 at 11.30 am)

Lim Kit Siang

The Anwar saga: Fear-driven politics?

Even as Anwar Ibrahim ensures himself a seat in parliament Tuesday and comes closer to realizing his ambition to become prime minister, no one is sure whether he will be allowed to in view of the controversy raging through the country over fresh sodomy charges.

Malaysian politics is getting murkier with every passing day and its characteristic intrigues and scandals are repeating once again. Meanwhile the country faces high inflation from soaring oil prices, causing misery to the people and bringing uncertainty to its economy with a possible fall in investor confidence.

It’s deja vu, recalling a similar drama in 1998 when the political battle was fought not on principles but on cliques, conspiracies and sleazy scandals. One decade later it is playing out exactly the same with more or less the same cast of characters. The only difference is, while in 1998 Prime Minister Mahatir initiated and led the assault against Anwar, this time we do not know who is behind the current drama and what role Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is likely to play.

Anwar was charged with sodomy a decade ago, spent a number of years in jail and saw his political career ruined. He is once again in the center of the drama, being charged with sodomy with one of his aides, arrested for a day and then freed on bail. The sword of Damocles still hangs over him. Unlike his sacking and arrest in 1998, which drew tens of thousands onto the streets, there was scant show of public support for Anwar this time around.

Anwar’s impatience to be prime minister will probably cost him dearly again as it did in 1998 when he challenged his boss Mahatir. Possibly goaded by his supporters and spin doctors, Anwar is committing the same 1998 mistake by pushing the incumbent prime minister and his team to the wall. We can’t but expect them to push back a la Mahatir.

Anwar was the darling of Mahatir who helped him to supersede many other claimants to the position he reached. Given a little patience, he probably would have succeeded his mentor in a few years time as Mahatir was naturally advancing in age.

Like Mahatir in 1998, Badawi now faces the greatest challenge to his leadership and is already under intense pressure to resign because of poor election results and high fuel prices. While the main assault against Badawi was started by Mahatir himself — long unhappy with the way Badawi had been sidelining Mahatir’s camp — skepticism within the UMNO about Badawi’s ability to lead the nation was also growing rapidly.

Emboldened by the spectacular success of his People’s Justice Party (PKR) and the Barisan Alternatif (”alternative front”), which he helped to forge to fight the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, Anwar might have thought the declining legitimacy of the government and the prime minister presented an opportune moment to mount a challenge.

He was inspired by some defections in the last few months from the government party to the opposition and was confident enough to declare with great fanfare he would dislodge the government from power and replace it with his own by mid-September this year.

But Anwar forgot his past, from which he had never been fully cleared, which his detractors could use against him at any time. More importantly, despite his spectacular success in the March elections, he has yet to remove past stigmas from being too close to the Muslim agenda of the Malaysian state and from never articulating a vision for justice for all Malaysians irrespective of race.

He did begin in earnest in recent months to give the right signal by defending interests of minorities and a secular state, but he needed more time to establish trust with each and every sector of Malaysian citizens and the credibility required to emerge as undisputed leader to challenge a government in power.

Not surprisingly, the sodomy allegations came only weeks after Anwar said he was in a position to launch a challenge to the ruling coalition with the help of government defectors. This was a sure provocation for a government under siege and thus ready to use anything in its arsenal to hit back at Anwar.

Knowing full well Anwar’s vulnerability, his detractors calculated such an allegation would not only distract the opposition from its goal of bringing down the current government and confuse the general public about the truth behind the allegations but would also throw the opposition into chaos by removing its most charismatic leader from the political arena.

Even though the government is in disarray, it still holds sway over the police, many media organs and many financial stakeholders.

The trends in Malaysian politics since the March elections were moving fully in his favor. Anwar’s opposition alliance made stunning gains in those elections, winning a third of the parliamentary seats and gaining control in five states. These results have redrawn Malaysia’s political landscape.

With a little patience, hard work at the grassroots level and trust building by articulating a vision of justice for all in the coming years, Anwar could appeal to Malay voters to change the rules of the game in Malaysian politics and finally emerge as a renascent and true reformer. But we are unsure today which way the drama will unfold.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy 9Research, New Delhi. He once lived in Malaysia.

Baladas Ghoshal

Stop fawning over leaders, politicians told

KOTA KINABALU: Politicians should stop fawning over their leaders and instead be daring enough to point out their mistakes, former Sabah chief minister Datuk Harris Salleh said.

Noting that the “budaya cium tangan (the hand-kissing culture)” had become prevalent among some Malaysian politicians, he said such a practice was of no benefit.

Take on the boss if the boss is wrong,” said Harris, 78, adding that during his term as chief minister from 1976 to 1985, even senior state civil servants stood up to him if they thought he had made a mistake.

Speaking at a convention on Sabah issues organised by the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) here Saturday night, Harris said although some Barisan Nasional politicians had lately become vocal about matters involving the state, this should not be taken as they wanting to join the Opposition.

“I don’t think Sabahans want to join the Opposition. It will be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire,” said Harris, who is known for his candour.

He said any significant change in the country’s administration must start with Umno, adding that the Government and Opposition must have the courage to acknowledge and tackle the serious challenges facing the nation.

These include permanently inculcating unity among the races, eradicating money politics and changing the autocratic and monopolistic system of the Government.

Harris said it was difficult to promote national unity when Malay and non-Malay students wore different school uniforms, invariably distinguishing Muslim and non-Muslim students.

“Consequently, Malaysian children are made to feel different from each other. Surely, a common uniform could be designed to satisfy the requirements and sensitivities of all races and religions,” he added.

Star Online

10 highlights of Merdeka II for a new Malaysia

I rose up in Parliament last week, 21st August 2008, to point out that although the 51st Merdeka anniversary was ten days away, the country was never so devoid of National Day enthusiasm with so little cause for celebration.

This was because in the past six months since the March 8 “political tsunami”, what obsessed the ruling politicians were “ketuanan Melayu”, “kedaulatan Melayu” and “perpaduan Melayu” when the national focus after half-a-century of nationhood should have been “Malaysian unity”.

Who knows what is the theme of the official National Day celebrations this year? The overwhelming majority of Malaysians, including Barisan Nasional leaders, just don’t know.

The official National Day theme this year is “Unity, the core of success”. It is humdrum, pedestrian, uninspiring and even meaningless in the midst of keris-wielding and shouts of “perpaduan Melayu”.

If the official National Day theme is to touch the hearts of all Malaysians and be a binding and inspiring slogan for all citizens in the country, then it should be amended to: “Malaysian Unity, the core of success”.

The Barisan Nasional government has failed in its first fundamental task – to be the government for all Malaysians.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi presented the country’s biggest budget in history – a walloping RM207.9 billion.

Coming just before the 51st Merdeka anniversary, it should be a budget of national unity, which it failed woefully.

This is because it failed to inspire unity, hope and confidence among Malaysians that they will be the main beneficiaries from the RM207.9 billion 2009 Budget, as it is budget of denial which has continued to plunge the country into a multiple crisis of confidence - political, economic and nation-building!.

We decided at short notice on Thursday night to organize this Perak DAP 51st Merdeka anniversary because the great Pakatan Rakyat victory by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the Permatang Pauh by-election on August 26 has given all Malaysians throughout the country new hope of continuing paradigm shift in the destiny of Malaysia.

Earlier that evening while I was in Damansara, a stranger recognized me and came up to shake my hand, saying that he felt that there is hope for him and his children in the country.

I wanted to correct him that he must be feeling for the second time in six months that despite the dark clouds, ordinary Malaysians regardless of race can again hope that there is a future for Malaysians in their own homeland.

This must be the message of the 51st Merdeka celebrations – not the meaningless slogan of the official celebration of “Unity the core of success”.

Let the word go out from here that on the occasion of the 51st Merdeka anniversary, all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or territory, are united in the resolve to herald a second Merdeka for all Malaysians.

The first Merdeka in 1957 ended as a Merdeka for the Barisan Nasional leaders and their cronies. It is time for a Merdeka II where all Malaysians can enjoy the full gamut of freedom of citizenship of an united, just, democratic, progressive and prosperous Malaysia.

There are already several important milestones for this Merdeka II movement, the most notable being:

• 308 – the “political tsunami” of the March 8 general election;

• 826 – the second “political tsunami” of the Permatang Puah by-election

Everyday, new landmarks of a Merdeka II are being chalked up, including this morning, with the breakthrough announcement by the Perak Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin that the Pakatan Rakyat government of Perak has agreed to give 1,000 hectares of land to the nine Chinese Independent Secondary Schools to fund their continuous growth and future expansion.

In the Merdeka II long march in the second half-century of our nationhood, Malaysians must dare to dream big dreams again for the country.

I for one will like to see the achievement of the following ten national objectives in the Merdeka II campaign:

1. Make Malaysia safe and secure again for its citizens, visitors and investors, with a dedicated, efficient, professional world-class police service to keep crime low. Malaysians today feel even more unsafe whether in the streets, public places or the privacy of their homes compared to five years ago when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became Prime Minister. Let us start immediately with an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

2. Restoration of an independent, impartial, professional and meritocratic judiciary. A Judicial Appointments Commission should be set up without delay and the country must not suffer another judicial trauma by the appointment of a Umno Chief Justice

3. Zero tolerance for corruption – with Malaysia ranked among the top 10 countries which are least corrupt in the world.

4. Malaysian universities should rank among the best in the world – with at least two among the World’s Top 100 and another two in the list of the World’s next Top 100. In other words, at least four Malaysian Universities among the World’s Top 200 Universities.

5. End the brain drain of the best and brightest talents overseas – in particular stemming the brain-drain to Singapore by reinstating the principle of meritocracy and ensuring that Malaysia’s best and brightest, regardless of race, can get the best educational and employment opportunities in their own country.

6. Restored competitiveness to enable to Malaysia to be among the ranks of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore (as we were the second most developed nation in Asia after Japan when we achieved Independence in 1957) instead of continuing to trail behind more and more countries.

7. Restore grass-roots democracy with elected local government.

8. Repeal of draconian and undemocratic laws which violate human rights such as Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Police Act.

9. Eradication of poverty for all Malaysians, regardless of race.

10. A Bangsa Malaysia based on “Malaysians Unite” and “ketuanan rakyat Malaysia”.

(Speech at the Perak DAP 51st Merdeka Day reception at Heritage Hotel, Ipoh on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 5.30 pm)

Lim Kit Siang

Malaysia, My Malaysia...

I know this is going to sound faintly ludicrous, but the Malaysia which has emerged after the March 8th elections is still better than the one that existed before.

It's more open, more diverse and infinitely more lively; in short it's less 'Barisan' and more Malaysian – because (surprise, surprise) the two are not one and the same. The coalition and its leading party Umno are no longer the dominant voices they once were. Instead, they have been reduced and sidelined by other infinitely more energetic, impassioned and exciting voices.

Of course the liveliness also has its costs. Businessmen and women are concerned at the disruption caused by the incessant political chatter and melodrama, most notably the storm surrounding Anwar Ibrahim. The allegations against him have cast an extremely dark shadow over the nation as people try to figure out the difference between prosecution and persecution.

Perhaps we despair too quickly, however. We can't, after all expect change to be smooth and seamless. This is not the time to roll back on the openness of the days after the last General Election. The more we as a people discuss - and openly - the 'what', 'where' and 'how' of the nation's progress the stronger our national consensus will be, going forward. We need more, not less debate, especially over "sensitive" issues. Malaysians are definitely ready for this - it's just a shame that the politicians are not.

We now have the makings of a Malaysia that is of our own making- however imperfect, and not the one carved out for us by our masters. However, all these changes are merely the beginnings of a process to really open up the system. And as the post-Merdeka social contract slowly unravels we will have to create a new, deeper and more dynamic understanding both across the racial chasm and also increasingly across the 'class' divide.

"The desire to write and comment on our own world is now firmly lodged within the public experience."
We cannot afford to let our political masters control this process. We must not be passive on-lookers. We can't fall back on our old cynicism. A Malaysia that refuses to vote, think and speak out simply because politics is 'dirty' or because 'no one can really make a difference' is the sort of country that the reactionaries want. Apathy will roll back the changes that have been taking place in our country.

Malaysians must be committed, bold and determined. The age of strongman leaders has to give way to that of an engaged and virtuous citizenry holding up the nation. But this doesn't mean a rejection of politics. We need it more than ever, in fact. Why? Well, both sides of the political spectrum have their own separate agendas and we need the different contending voices to balance one another out.

On the one hand the Barisan would try to curb the reform agenda whilst on the other hand; PAS from the Pakatan side would wish to impose their at times harsh and narrow view of the world on the rest of us.

Barisan will certainly resist reform in certain critical areas – most notably the ISA, the judiciary (look at how the Judicial Appointments Committee has been stalled), press freedoms and other civil liberties. They'll be wrong to do so and those who advocate the old-ways - I've termed them the 'conservatives' - will be punished by the voters in the next election.

Some would have us believe that the people in the kampongs and your average Malaysian salary-man don't care about such things. It is they who are mistaken. Time and our evolving demographics are on the side of change.

Another word of warning, this time to the members of our esteemed Cabinet. Remember, just as you're watching us, the nervous 'scribblers' in the newspapers and internet - rest assured we're watching you and more importantly, judging you. You have been weighed, measured and found wanting, as a matter of fact. You can silence individual bloggers or columnists, for example but, the media is like a multi-headed hydra - chop off one head and ten new ones will sprout up.

The desire to write and comment on our own world is now firmly lodged within the public experience. Freedom of expression is something we demand. It cannot be extinguished and people no longer fear the long arm of the law as they once did.

But as we move forward one of the most important challenges will be for the Malays, in particular to learn to accept and live with the diversity within the community. There's going to be enormous pressure from PAS for example to assert a particular spectrum of morality and behaviour. In this respect the Ullama-led PAS possesses the same will to dominate that Umno currently exhibits. Whilst many PAS leaders are genuinely incorruptible and deserve credit for this, their self-righteous moralizing is unacceptable and we need to defend our public space from them. We will regret the day that one set of tyranny has been exchanged for another.

Part of the subtext of what's been happening over the past few months has been the way Malaysians have asserting their individual identities - declaring their independence from the widely disseminated 'truths' of nation-building.

I'd like to end by recounting a personal anecdote. Back in 2002, I published my third book. It was a second collection of articles and essays called Ceritalah Two: Journeys Through Southeast Asia. Rereading the preface now, is a slightly disturbing experience. Back then, I was just coming to terms with what I called "the ugliness and injustice of Anwar Ibrahim's case". Despite being a confirmed Anwar skeptic the events of 1998 - the selectiveness of it all has haunted me. I never quite got over the idea that Malaysia - my Malaysia - could be such an unjust and evil place.

We can't avoid viewing political events through the prism of our own personal experiences and the last Anwar Ibrahim debacle was to shake me very soundly. I resolved not to be dependent on Malaysia for my livelihood. As it happened, Indonesia was to become my second home and work-place. Indeed, Indonesia has been very good to me and I am forever indebted to this magnificent country for its welcome.

However, home is still Malaysia for me. I cannot deny my childhood years. I cannot reject my emotional, familial DNA. For all its infuriating flaws and foibles, it is home. We often hear how Malaysians denigrate their country compared to other places like Australia and (God knows why) Singapore. Listen closely and you will hear frustrated love rather than disdain.

We only hurt the things we love. We complain because we care. The 'turmoil' that our country is undergoing is a sign of how deeply invested all sides are in its future, which makes the anxiety we feel perfectly natural. If it feels like we need to battle, then it is because this country is definitely worth fighting for.

Still as the dark cloud extends further and further across the nation and as the 'conservatives' secure their power many of us may well chose to move away once again. We cannot let that happen, as it would mean letting them win.

I hear too many stories and I see too many things. Gross abuses of justice, leaders who are little better street thugs, men and women who delight in devising ways of ripping off the exchequer. We are surrounded by those who feel no shame in abusing the system to their own ends.

We have to take back the Malaysia for the people. We have to set the agenda. We must speak for ourselves, as one nation. The Bar Council demonstrations. The teacher who racially abused her students. Those are not the faces of the real Malaysia. We are.

Malaysia will not become a 'failed state' despite the prophets of doom. But only if we stand up and say, enough is enough; it is time we move forward. The people of Malaysia will get the country they deserve. Many people groan at this, but I think of the long way we have come, the opportunities that lie ahead- and think otherwise. I believe in the rakyat. I believe in Malaysia.

(By KARIM RASLAN/ MySinchew)

Racial politics not yet over, says Harris

KOTA KINABALU: Former Sabah chief minister Datuk Harris Salleh opines that racial politics in the country is not yet over.

He said contrary to the perception of some people, the voices of certain leaders fighting for the interests of their own communities or groups were still heard.

“Racial politics still exists except that nobody wants to tell the truth because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of other people or races,” he told reporters after delivering a lecture on agriculture development in Sabah at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) main campus in Likas, here yesterday.

Harris was asked to comment on the statement by Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Yong Teck Lee on Wednesday that the landslide victory of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim augured well for non-racial politics in Malaysia.

Yong, who is also a former chief minister, said racial politics which was rejected in the March general election was again rejected by voters in Permatang Pauh.

On Anwar’s victory in the by-election on Tuesday, Harris said it was expected as Permatang Pauh had always been a stronghold of the former deputy prime minister. He said the swing of non-Malay voters in favour of the opposition also contributed to the victory.

On another note, Harris urged the Sabah government to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study or “area by area study” in the state with a view to embark on commercial-scale agriculture activities other than oil palm, rubber, padi and cocoa cultivation.

“We have a lot of vacant land in Sabah that can be developed for this purpose and I believe it’s high time for the state government or even UMS to study this matter.

“What we need is a conclusive finding that can be used as a guideline for the people to know the kind of crops that are suitable for a particular area,” he said.

Harris, who is Gaya Group of Companies chairman, said with good agriculture practice, the sector would further develop and reduce the country’s dependency on food imports in future.

Borneo Post

Issues Overlooked In The Budget

Despite the fact that the BN government has been tabling people-friendly Budgets over so many years, including this year, the national economy has not been performing that well, showing that certain issues may have been neglected in the Budgets.

Given the slowing global economy and the impact of the March general elections as well as the just concluded Permatang Pauh by-election, it is well within everyone's expectations that the government will once again announce some good news in the 2009 Budget. However, there are a few things that have obviously been overlooked.

1. The management and drafting of economic strategies: The government has been introducing measures that will lessen the burden of the people from time to time, but in the end, such efforts have not produced the desired results because the national economy has not improved or strengthened. As a consequence, it is utterly important for the government to put in place effective and professional economic management policies.

Besides, the government must also map out workable economic strategies to tackle changes on the global as well as domestic fronts in a bid to enhance the country's business environment. The government has set up a 40-member economic council to deal with inflation as well as sluggish global economy. However, such a large team will not only render the operational process a time-consuming one, but will also add to the existing formalities, not unlike the many other committees which have been set up.

2. Taming inflation: Although the July CPI rose dramatically to 8.5%, Bank Negara has not made any move to increase the interest rate during its two most recent meetings. While the central bank's principal objective is to prevent the economy from slipping into recession, it must also come out with some effective strategies to curb the heightening inflationary pressure.

The ringgit exchange rate has been sliding lately owing to persistently low interest rates, political instability as well as withdrawal of foreign investments, and this will only aggravate import inflation. The PM's recent announcement to reduce the retail petrol price by 15 sen per litre does not seem to be sufficient to relieve the ever rising inflationary pressure.

If the government fails to curb inflation, then employees will have to demand pay rises or allowances, and this will only send production costs higher, resulting in eroded competitiveness.

3. Deteriorating external environment: Many European economies have already slipped into recession, while the US is trying hard to lift its head above the water. To a trading nation like Malaysia, this is indeed a grave warning sign.

Despite such hostile economic environment, we still have not readied ourselves, including better financial planning to prevent unchecked outflow of money.

For example, as oil money makes up over 40% of our government's tax revenues, the government must contemplate what it has to do if the oil money eventually dries up. The government's operational expenditure will sum up to RM154.2bn next year, or about 74% of total expenditure. The government will be in hot water if it does not cut back the size of its massive army of civil servants.

4. Enhance competitiveness: We cannot deny that the various economic sectors as well as our people have very low tolerance for any untoward incident due to poor competitiveness. The government cannot afford to keep on providing the safety net. We must open ourselves to outside competition and improve our competitiveness.

The government must pay more attention to the macroscopic scope of economy instead of the details. Only if the overall economic conditions have improved will Malaysians be able to enjoy more comfortable life.

(By LIM SUE GOAN/Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily)


Why DNA Bill need further consultations.

The BN Government has postponed further discussion – the committee stage - of the DNA bill to after the Budget. However the government has already got the DNA Bill through the Policy stage.

There are several aspects o the DNA Bill that should worry all right minded Malaysians. Let me enumerate some of these

Section 7 of the proposed bill empowers the Minister of Home Affairs to appoint a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police as the Head of the Forensic DNA Databank.
Some of us objected to this saying that there should be clear separation of powers. A body that is independent of the police should handle collection, storing and testing of body fluids of suspects.

Section 13 which deals with the collection of non-intimate samples such as scalp hair, buccal swabs and saliva, states under subsection 7, that “a police officer may use all means necessary for the purpose of taking of a non-intimate sample”.
Several among us brought this up. What does “all means necessary” mean in the case of a suspect who is in police custody?

Section 14 of the proposed bill states that anyone who refuses to give a sample, or obstructs the taking of such sample, commits on offence and upon conviction can be fined up to RM10,000 or imprisoned for a period of up to a year!
How will the police fail to get a sample given section 13(7)?

Section 24 of the Bill states that “not withstanding any written law o the contrary, any information from the DNA Databank shall be admissible as conclusive proof of the DNA identification in any proceedings in any court.
This seems to mean the person being charged cannot ask for an independent review of the DNA evidence. The opinion of the DNA Bank cannot be queried in a court of law.

Section 25 specifies that no action or prosecution shall be brought in any court against the Minister or any DNA Databank personnel in respect of any act, neglect, default or omission done by him in good faith.
In addition to these, there are no sections dealing with the handling of left over samples. Details of how they should be destroyed etc. The possibility of police keeping some of that material to later implicate that person in another crime is something that cannot be ruled out.

DNA testing is a powerful tool – too powerful to be placed in the hands of a police force that has shown that the executive to go after political opponents can sway it, and I am not referring to only Anwar Ibrahim. So many of the people arrested under the ISA faced a hostile police force that concocted considerable evidence to justify their arrest and detention.

As the government has postponed the committee stage of the Bill’s passage to the sitting in October, there is still time to make representation to the Minister. I would therefore urge public interest groups to take up these issues with the government while at the same time highlighting it to the public.

Make no mistake, this is a bad law with very serious implications.

YB Sg Siput

Menemukan Kembali Erti Kemerdekaan (malay language)

31 Ogos ini genaplah 51 tahun berdirinya Malaysia sebagai sebuah negara yang merdeka dan berdaulat.

Semenjak dari tarikh keramat kemerdekaan, kita rakyat Malaysia telah lalui bersama saat-saat sukar dan detik kejayaan. Kita menaruh harapan untuk melihat Malaysia yang adil, makmur dan perkasa.

51 tahun lalu rakyat negara ini telah membuat pilihan untuk berdiri sendiri, bebas dari pemerintahan penjajah, bersetuju bahawa negara ini ialah negara hukum yang mengamalkan sistem raja berperlembagaan dan demokrasi berparlimen. Rakyat Malaysia membuktikan mereka berani untuk memilih dan membuat keputusan. Memilih yang terbaik buat Malaysia.

Namun genap 51 tahun merdeka kita sekali lagi berada di persimpangan. Kita melihat perlembagaan diperlekehkan, demokrasi diinjak dan institusi kenegaraan dijadikan alat penguasa.

Sudah tiba masanya kita rakyat Malaysia membuat pilihan untuk menemukan kembali erti kemerdekaan negara ini. Adalah menjadi tanggungjawab kita sekarang untuk memastikan demokrasi bernafas semula di negara ini, keluhuran perlembagaan kembali dijunjung dan kedaulatan undang-undang terbina kukuh.

Marilah kita perbaharui persetujuan yang kita buat bersama 51 tahun dahulu; memastikan negara Malaysia ini kekal bebas dan merdeka.

Ketua Umum Parti Keadilan Rakyat
Merangkap Ketua Pembangkang Dewan Rakyat
dan Ahli Parlimen Permatang Pauh

PM to instruct Bkt Bendera chief not to repeat remark

KEPALA BATAS: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi will personally see to it that Bukit Bendera Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail does not repeat his remarks about the Chinese community.

“I’ll tell him not to do it again. You know during campaigning all sorts of things can come up. I don’t think he meant it. I’ll make sure to tell him not to say it again,” he said Saturday after chairing the Bertam Umno division meeting here.

Ahmad had allegedly called the Chinese "squatters" and said that "as the Chinese were only immigrants it was impossible to achieve equal rights amongst races" during a ceramah in Permatang Pauh on Aug 25.

He had allegedly made the remark in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Ahmad’s remarks have caused a furore among the Barisan Nasional component parties after it was printed in several Chinese newspapers.

Penang Gerakan Youth committee member Dr Thor Teong Gee lambasted Ahmad and alleged that Umno was still using racial ideology to achieve its personal political agenda.

Bukit Mertajam MCA division chairman Lau Chiek Tuan said disciplinary action should be taken against Ahmad.

“An apology is not enough to the Chinese community. We want Umno to take disciplinary action against him. We want him to leave Barisan and Umno because he has broken the racial harmony (of the parties),” said Lau, adding that the division had also lodged a police report against Ahmad.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s political secretary Ng Wei Aik has also called on Ahmad to immediately retract his statement and apologise to the community.

Ahmad could not be reached for comment.

In George Town, Tanjung Gerakan Youth division chief H’ng Khoon Leng lodged a police report at the district police headquarters in Patani Road over Ahmad’s alleged remarks.

Speaking to reporters after that, H’ng reminded people of all races to learn and be aware about the contribution of other races to the nation so that they won’t look down on others.

PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said Umno leaders should stop using racial sentiments to seek support from the people.

“They (Umno leaders) do not seem to understand history very well.

“They are not being respectful and sensitive toward the feelings of the non-Malays,” he told reporters Saturday at a thanksgiving luncheon in Kampung Permatang Pasir, Permatang Pauh.

Star Online

Chinese “squatters” in Malaysia - why no MCA/Gerakan ultimatum in PP by-election?

In the past three days, spokespersons and branches of MCA and Gerakan and their youth sections have been protesting in the media against the racist remark by the Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad Ismail during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign making derogatory reference to the Malaysian Chinese as “squatters” in the country.

Daily protests are being made in the MCA and Gerakan, including calling for MCA and Gerakan to quit the Barisan Nasional, if top Umno leaders do not take strong disciplinary action against Ahmad.

Ahmad’s speech was reported in the Chinese media on Monday, 25th August 2008 – the eve of the Permatang Pauh by-election on August 26.

Why didn’t the MCA and Gerakan Ministers and leaders take a strong stand on Monday itself to issue an ultimatum that Ahmad apologise and withdraw the racist remark, failing which they would pull out of the Barisan Nasional by-election campaign in Permatang Pauh?

Wouldn’t this be more effective and fruitful than just making protests “after the event”, although it would still get them into the newspapers despite being ignored not only by Umno, the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council but also the Cabinet?

Lim Kit Siang

Anwar: Budget 2009 not good enough to attract FDI

KUALA LUMPUR: Parliamentary Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said the 2009 Budget is not good enough to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) which is important to propel the country's economy.

"Nothing new. We reiterated that in the last four, five years when there was global pressure and slow economy, (but) the Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional were not able to give new incentives.

"The problem is that we have lost the competitive edge. There are no new FDI, slow management and corruption. These were not dealt with," he said to reporters after the prime minister had tabled the budget in the parliament.

Describing it as a deficit budget, Anwar said for an oil-producing country, it is exceptional that Malaysia continues to register deficit.
"It is understandable for a country that has no resources," he added.

Anwar said the issue is not about giving sweeteners to Sabah and Sarawak and the poor because it does not commensurate with the big increase in inflation and cost of living.

"What is given does not alleviate the problems and sufferings of the poor. Abdullah did not address the issue of competitiveness. We continue to be in a state of denial," he said, adding the government was not able to shift from its obsolete economic policy where corruption is rampant.

"The failure to be more competitive is because we are stuck with old policies. I see no way where we can attract FDI. Without FDI, Malaysia cannot propel its economy. It is unfortunate this was not addressed.

"The endemic corruption, tenders awarded to cronies and family members, failure to cut cost and be more efficient. All these are not addressed."

Anwar commented that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi looked nervous when delivering the speech, saying that it was probably "because of the unrest in the people."

He was also disappointed with Abdullah for not dealing with major issues like the inefficient police force, the increase of crime rate and judicial corruption.

The Sun

Permatang Pauh Hero: Mr. Anwar Returns

Mr. Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, has completed his rehabilitation with a stunning by-election win. Mr. Anwar won a landslide victory over his rival despite heavy campaigning by the government, including the prime minister and his deputy. He now promises to forge a coalition to wrest power from the Berisan Nasional, which has governed Malaysia since it won independence.

Mr. Anwar has had a remarkable career. He first gained public attention as a Muslim youth leader and went on to become a star in the United Malay National Organization, the biggest of the groups in the ruling coalition. Then, in a stunning development, he was fired as deputy prime minister in 1998 and jailed for six years after being convicted on charges of corruption and sodomizing his driver. Mr. Anwar has maintained that the charges were unfounded and the result of a power struggle with then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The conviction was overturned by Malaysia's Supreme Court in 2004, after Mr. Mahathir stepped down.

Mr. Anwar has since then fought for his rehabilitation and against the government. His wife formed an opposition party while he was jailed to support his personal and political causes. This week's by-election was called when she vacated her parliamentary seat to permit Mr. Anwar to re-enter Parliament. Her move was prompted by two developments. The first was gains by the opposition party in March elections: A three-party coalition led by Mr. Anwar won 82 of 222 parliamentary seats, 30 short of a majority. The second was a new allegation that he had sodomized another aide. Mr. Anwar again says the charges are unfounded and politically motivated. The election result suggests voters believe him. Opposition parties' readiness to name him their parliamentary leader suggests they do too.

That does not mean he will not be convicted, however, which would likely end his political career. Nor does his win mean that the government is his to claim. Mr. Anwar wants to end the racial preferences that have protected Malays and — some assert — helped create a culture of corruption in Malaysia. That is easy to support in theory, but the government's ability to hand out benefits — which it has done for years to support its rule — can overwhelm such abstract concerns. Mr. Anwar's appeal will be tested against the government's budget. That is just one of the tools that it will roll out as it tries to roll over its nemesis.

The Japan Times

Budget 2009: We have lost our competitive edge, says Anwar

KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was disappointed with Budget 2009, saying there was "nothing new" in it.

"The problem is, we've lost our competitive edge. There are no FDIs (foreign direct investments), management is slow and corruption is rampant. These issues were not dealt with (by the government)."

He also took exception to the fact that this year's budget is a deficit one.

"For an oil-producing country, it is an exceptional case for Malaysia to continue to register a deficit. It is understandable for a country that has no resources, but not this country."

He said the incentives given to Sabah and Sarawak as well as the poor would not help them in the long run.

He said the budget did not address the issue of competitiveness. "We failed to be more competitive because we are stuck with old policies."

NST online

Putik Lada: Flight of human capital worrying

The shackles of generally accepted standards or privileges afforded to some at the price of creating discontent amongst others must be removed.

THE Merdeka celebrations are around the corner but to many the past one-year has been an unhappy time.

More and more young Malaysians are leaving the country as a result of some policies, which in my view are now outdated. Can we continue down this road?

Less than a month after last year’s Merdeka celebration, we saw the Walk for Justice, followed very closely by the Bersih and Hindraf rallies and the People’s Freedom Walk in celebration of the World Human Rights Day.

The first quarter of this year saw the general election and the shocking wave of change brought by it.

Soon after that the people struck again with various rallies and assemblies, big and small, in protest of the fuel price hikes. There were also other less sensational rallies and assemblies and hype over Namewee, Fitna and the arrest of Raja Petra.

Then came the furore over the Bar Council’s forums on the “Social Contract” and “Conversion to Islam”. In the latter’s case, the abbreviation of the title, which resulted in much misunderstanding, is still very much in our minds.

The latest was the UiTM students’ assembly. And not to mention the cancellation of Ella’s performance and Beyonce’s concert. I am pretty sure I have missed a lot more!

And yes – all these happened in just one year. The reason for these can be summed up in three words – race, religion and politics. Perhaps not in that particular order.

In the closed network of young legal practitioners, we have been busy attending farewell parties. Our friends, mostly non-Malays, have been leaving in droves to work in Singapore. Most of those leaving are up and coming lawyers who I think are amongst the best brains of the new generation in the legal profession.

Our friends from the engineering and architecture departments back in college are suddenly quitting their jobs and moving their families to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and even Syria.

Our friends who are now medics, high achievers in their respective overseas universities, only exist to us as online identities in Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, Skype and Facebook.

They simply refuse to come back and serve in the country and they have convincingly good reasons for doing so.

We also often hear “good news” from some other friends that their applications for permanent resident status have been approved by a foreign government – generally Australia.

This “brain drain” or flight of human capital has been an increasingly worrying trend for quite some time now.

Having gone past the golden anniversary of Merdeka, we Malaysians have become an unhappy lot. We have a lot to shout about. We are running away!

What are the causes for this state of unhappiness?

In the eyes of a Malay Muslim young lawyer keeping tabs with of all these calamities of late, I would say, it is the curtailment on our freedom of thought which has been instilled in each of us since a tender age.

Didn't our parents tell us that we should become engineers, doctors, architects or lawyers when we grow up and that becoming musicians, painters, professional hockey players or go-kart drivers would not take us anywhere in life?

So some grew up believing this and later realising that it was not entirely true after all.

How many of us grew up listening to the pearls of wisdom from our elders that the only way to get ahead must be to seek the help of a certain Yang Berhormat or business tycoon who is close to a certain Datuk if we want to enter boarding school, college or university; or to get scholarships, government jobs or business opportunities? And that these are our privileges.

There are also some of us who grew up being told that these privileges do not apply to us. We watched our friends enjoy the privileges in silent envy and we secretly harboured contempt for them.

And we were reprimanded by our elders not to say anything about it as it is a “sensitive” issue.

Some of us grew up realising that we could have made it, and did make it, on our own without such privileges after all. There are still some of us who have not grown out of it.

We need to halt this fiction. The only way for us to grow is to believe that we are the ones in control of our destiny.

We must remove the shackles of generally accepted standards or privileges afforded to some of us at the price of creating discontent amongst others.

Malaysians born post-Merdeka, Malays and non-Malays alike, whether they realise it or not, are screaming for a complete makeover of this orthodox paternalistic approach.

Continued interference with their liberty of action and their freedom of choice, and outright discriminatory means which is used to preserve the rights of one section of Malaysians over the other irrespective of their actual needs should no longer be seen as a necessary form of protection, but a weapon of mass self-destruction.

The makeovers the young ones want, to a large extent, entail real changes in our laws and policies.

Feel good community service messages such as “I am not Chinese, I am not Indian, I am not Malay, (altogether) we are Malaysians!” just won’t cut it anymore.

Our Proclamation of Independence says that we “shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.”

After 51 years, it seems to many that this has not been fully achieved.

Noor Arianti Osman
The Star

Sabah: Yong Teck Lee's response on Federal Budget 2009

Kota Kinabalu, 29 August 2008

Trust is vital in fulfilling the budget ¡V can we believe that this government will implement the budget that the PM has tabled today? There are numerous promises in recent years that the PM has yet to fulfill.

There have been so many flip flops such as over the fuel prices, the indecisiveness over the double tracking rail project, uncertainty over the Penang bridge, cancellation of the Singapore bridge and the Port Klang Free Port controversy that the people have lost confidence in the PM. In Sabah, the suspense over the fate of the coal power plant in the East Coast of Sabah and the blur over whether to have a gas power plant in Kimanis or a RM 3 billion, 500-km gas pipeline to Bintulu have decimated the trustworthiness of the government leadership among the people.

Other examples that have made people to lose confidence abound. For instance, on 10 September 2004 the PM proclaimed a budgetary proposal in Parliament to implement a Goods and Services Tax (GST) on 1 January 2007. But because the PM did not realize the adverse consequences of a hasty GST, the Minister of Finance, who is also the PM, had to declare eighteen months later (in February 2006) an indefinite deferment of the GST proposal. Never before was a budgetary proposal (which was later approved by Parliament) failed to be implemented by the government due to ignorance of the implications of a GST in the country.

The 2005 budget too had declared its aim to raise RM 20 billion through PFI (Private Finance Initiative) for infrastructure projects as domestic investment in the economy. Hardly any of this RM 20 billion was raised up till last year. This budget 2009 is silent as to the future of PFI and did not address the difficulties faced by the construction sector due to increased construction costs in public infrastructure projects.

Economic and corporate management is still suspect. The sale of M.V. Augusta, which Proton Holdings Berhad had sold to a third party for one Euro (RM 5) who then resold the M.V. Augusta for RM 358 million (Euro 70m) last year.

At the same time, the Malaysian corporate sector is still reeling from efforts to mitigate losses over national icon Malayan Banking's purported purchase of PT Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) for a total of RM 12.7 billion. This follows soon after Maybank share value lost sharply upon announcement to purchase 15% of a Pakistani bank (MCB Bank Ltd.) at RM 2.17 billion. The PM has yet to effectively explain how confidence can be restored among both domestic and foreign investors.

After the general elections of 8 March, investor confidence was so low that, in the 2nd quarter of 2008 (April to July), domestic investment dropped to RM 2.6 billion from RM6.7 billion (in the first quarter ending March 2008). Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) was even more bleak, dropping from RM 16 billion to a mere RM 7.3 billion in the 2 quarter compared to the first quarter before the 12th general elections. The budget presented by the PM today did not address this loss of investor confidence.

There is also no sign of the so-called RM 1 billion each allocated to Sabah (and later Sarawak) as announced by the PM on May 30 in Kota Kinabalu. Neither did these RM 2 billions appear in the supplementary budgets of last July's Parliamentary sitting. It remains a mystery where the RM 1 billion for Sabah comes from or will go to.

The one and only sector where hard working people make money for the government is the oil palm sector. But the government jealously had chosen to punish this "golden egg goose" by imposing a wind fall tax of 15% in June 2008, something that oil palm industry is still reeling from and unable to recover. This budget 2009 did not deal with the issue of the damages caused to the oil palm industry. A form of damage control would be to reduce the foreign workers levies to a flat RM50.00 per worker so as to make it more feasible for employers to register their workers. Sadly, the budget missed out the subject of foreign workers levies.

This budget is obviously sugar-coated to pacify the people with many unprecedented goodies. But the source of funds has not been adequately explained.

As for inflation, something that affects most people, July saw a high rate of 8.5%, the highest in the last quarter of a century. For the poor people, the real effect is definitely much more than 8.5%. Pensioners and average persons with bank savings will find that their savings depreciate in value because inflation in wiping out the value of their savings. I find it disturbing that the PM has forgotten altogether to address inflation. The budget did not even forecast the inflation rate for 2009.

Issued by SAPP HQ