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The Selangor government says it is determined to roll up its sleeves and work overtime to ease its dependency on the manufacturing sector by turning the state into a knowledge-based economy. Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim expressed confidence during a news conference today that the state government was already ahead of other states in terms of investments but warned that maintaining itself at number one would not be an easy task. In a press statement by senior state executive councillor Teresa Kok in her blog yesterday, it was disclosed that Selangor had attracted industrial investments worth RM6.76bil with the highest number of industrial projects at 278 and the highest number of job opportunities at over 20,000 in Malaysia last year.

Citing data from the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA), the Seputeh MP said that the total approved investments exceeded the state’s RM4bil target set for 2009 in light of the present economic downturn. She added that Selangor’s 278 projects accounted for 36.3% of the nation’s total industrial projects with Johor following at 150 projects and Penang at 104 projects. Khalid said today that minus Sarawak’s single aluminium smelting project (which is worth USD2bil or about RM7bil), Selangor topped the list at the highest in industrial investments.

“Being a winner you have to work harder because it is easy to be the black horse but retaining as champions is not easy,” he said after chairing a meeting with technopreneurs at the Selangor State Investment Centre in I-City here. He said that the state government was however willing to “put our feet down, roll up our sleeves and make it happen”. As a show of commitment, Khalid announced that the state government had committed a RM50mil allocation to invest in technopreneur companies taking part in an incubation programme in I-City here.

To facilitate the programme, the country’s first “technopreneur campus” will be set up in I-City, which comprises 72 acres, where the companies will be sited. Khalid also said that the state government was in the process of finalising an agreement with US-based Plug and PlayTech Centre of Silicon Valley to provide the investment and incubation expertise and be the bridge linking local technopreneurs to the US market. “The chief executive officer (of Plug and PlayTech Centre) will be coming here on March 2 and we will be formalising the agreement before we make the announcement,” he said.

Khalid explained that the RM50mil allocation was not an exact amount but a mere commitment from the state to invest in the companies taking part in the programme. Other investors or venture capitalists would later be invited to provide further funding if needed, depending on their interest in the nature of business the technopreneur companies were engaged in. “Once we identify one or two interesting innovations for example, we will sit and get all venture capitalists to discuss and then we will raise the funding for them. They (each company) could need RM1mil or RM2mil to expand,” said Khalid.

The selection of companies in the programme will focus on firms dealing with the development of solutions for digital cities, mobile contents, or products and services in the property and construction related sectors. Khalid said that the state government also recognised the need to provide better infrastructure to facilitate the entire programme. The state,he said, would attempt to accelerate the construction of a direct access link from the Federal Highway into I-City. “This elevate link will improve the traffic flow into this area. “We are looking at various options. Of course, in theory, the link should be built through the Malaysia Plan but while waiting for it, we have already asked the Shah Alam city (council) to look at other ways to build it up,” he said. The construction of the road is expected to cost some RM50mil. -Malaysianinsider

Anwar Ibrahim
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Nizar Jamaludin
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Azmin Ali
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It is a strange trial taking place in Malaysia at the moment; strange because no matter what the verdict turns out to be, the public perception of what is taking place will remain the same. Indeed, it is impossible for any observer of Malaysian politics to consider the sodomy charge against former Deputy Prime Minister, and now opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, a purely legal matter. The mere fact that his imprisonment and his removal as a parliamentarian, should he be convicted, will make the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition suffer its biggest blow makes it difficult for many to believe that no political agenda is involved.

For one thing, this is the second time that Anwar and his family are being made to suffer the indignity of sexually explicit legal proceedings. His arrest in 1998 for sodomy and abuse of power led to the formation of the Reformasi Movement that a decade later denied the Barisan Nasional (BN) its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament. This time around, there will no doubt be demonstrations should he be jailed but these will hardly be on the same scale as before. This is partly because there was no other way of challenging the Umno-led government back in 1998. After March 8, 2008, the most reliable road to power for the opposition is through the ballot box. The trial is, therefore, a severe test for the PR.

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who is a Member of Parliament from Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat, admits that Anwar’s leadership is crucial to the opposition coalition. “We will not allow Anwar to be imprisoned”, Nik Nazmi, who was also Anwar’s private secretary in 2006-2008, told this writer. Nevertheless, insider analysts, including the 28-year-old Nik Nazmi, agree that things are essentially different now when compared to 10 years ago, when Anwar was also charged — and sentenced — for sodomy. The conviction was overturned six years later. Basically, at least four factors are making the difference. First, a young crop of leaders has come to the fore, consisting of individuals once inspired by the ‘Reformasi’ and now hardened by frontal battles fought against the BN in recent years.

Many are now entrenched in positions of power. Some are parliamentarians, while others work for the four state governments run by the PR. Liew Chin Tong, for example, a 32-year-old MP from Penang, and author of the recent book, ‘Speaking for the Reformasi Generation’, admits that the results of the general election were possible only because Anwar was there to unite the opposition. “But post-March 8, cooperation among Pakatan parties occurs at all levels. Anwar’s role remains symbolic at the national level, but otherwise, day-to-day relationships cement the coalition in the states that we govern. These ties go a long way. They won’t collapse just because Anwar is not there,” Liew said.

The second factor — and this may be decisive — is that the shift in the balance of power has made it thinkable to many Malaysians who had feared the uncertainties that must accompany serious change, that the BN can be toppled. This new mindset is being sustained inexorably by websites and Internet newspapers, which continue to grow in popularity by fuelling the debate that national governance must improve if the economy is to grow. Thirdly, the multi-racial stand that the PR has been taking is being widely acknowledged, especially after Parti Islam SeMalaysia agreed with the High Court decision that non-Muslims could use the word “Allah” outside of missionary contexts.

Lastly, PR’s strength comes from BN’s weakness; basically the latter’s essential inability to project a new image that is not stained by abuse of power, political opportunism, administrative incompetence and racial partisanship. Tricia Yeoh, research officer to Selangor’s Mentri Besar, is certain that the opposition parties will succeed in working together. “They have been cooperating closely and concretely for two years now, and know that this is actually possible. Sure, without Anwar, the philosophical glue holding them together will not be quite as strong, but the respective PR state governments will continue functioning. The deeper worry for these young people seems to lie, not at the practical level, but at the ideological level,” said Yeoh, 30.

Without Anwar, the PR will trudge on because it has to. But it may increasingly be because it is politically expedient to do so, and because power is within reach. The fear is that the PR’s aspirations may soon be overshadowed by the defensive manoeuvres it adopts to neutralise BN attacks. The PR may begin to lose its ideological impetus. Indeed, that is perhaps what the BN is hoping for. — Today, *this article is not related to the video posted above.

What next for Perak?

The Federal Court’s decision on the rightful Mentri Besar of Perak today has affirmed the status quo in the state, but political analysts believe the much-awaited verdict will result in some change in the way political parties carry themselves. Closely-watched will be Pakatan’s next move — whether it will continue to engage in confrontational politics or opt for a more less antagonistic stand. “If they respect the decision, they will become less confrontational. The people will likely give them some sympathy while at the same time, they may also be able to win some support by projecting themselves as the victims,” political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said.

People were issue-oriented when come to supporting a party, he added. “If Pakatan continues to be confrontational in the state assembly even after today’s decision, it can backfire on them.” “I predict therefore that Pakatan will change their strategy and will adopt a more persuasive tone. I also foresee that both sides will eventually take this approach. The only difference is the kind of voters they are pursuing,” he said. Dr Sivamurugan said he believed the BN would more “persuasive” in tackling the support among urban Chinese while Pakatan would be working more on their declining Malay support.

Another political analyst Datuk Cheah See Kian believed that Pakatan would change their strategy by having PAS play a more prominent role — as the leader of the state’s opposition front, instead of the DAP. “By doing so, it will give the impression among the Malay voters that the Perak opposition pact is very much led by the Malay or PAS, instead of the DAP,” he said. An opinion poll by Merdeka Centre released last week showed that BN under Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir appeared to have made significant inroads while his predecessor from Pakatan, Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, had a significant edge over Zambry when it comes to the Chinese community, where the duo polled 59 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

But Zambry on the other hand, led the race comfortably in terms of the Malay support, securing 67 per cent as opposed to Nizar’s 35 per cent. For political analyst James Chin, the verdict by the Federal Court today would not bring about much change in the Perak political scenario as according to him, many had expected the outcome. “The political scenario is back as before. Pakatan will continue with their roadshow and the BN will be preparing for the next general election. The question is, what will happen in the next election?” he said.

It would not come as a surprise, therefore, for Pakatan to work on improving their image among the Malays and for BN to work on theirs among the urban Chinese as pointed out by Gerakan deputy president and state chairman Datuk Chang Ko Youn. “While the support of the Malays and Indians for the BN seems to be improving, we really need to go down and correct the negative image of the BN among the urban Chinese. “However, we believe that this is changing as Dr Zambry has done a lot to improve the BN’s image. Dr Zambry has set the direction and we hope we can build on the momentum for the next two years,” he said, adding that the BN was targeting to increase the support among the Chinese from about 20 per cent now to more than 30 per cent. “I expect them (Pakatan) to be a bad loser and create problems in the next state assembly sitting. If this happens, it will show that they are only interested in positions in the government,” he said. — Bernama

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Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim moved Monday to have the judge in his sodomy trial disqualified, complaining he had refused to rein in biased media coverage. The trial, which Anwar says is a plot to end his political career, began last week with graphic testimony from 24-year-old former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan who accuses Anwar of sodomising him. Defence lawyers objected Friday when Utusan Malaysia, a Malay-language daily linked to the government, ran photographs of the court’s closed-door visit to the apartment where the sexual encounter allegedly took place.

Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah refused a request to admonish the daily over the pictures, as well as an earlier headline that said “Not willing to be sodomised again,” which the defence said suggested they had sex more than once. Anwar, who was jailed on separate sodomy and corruption charges a decade ago in a case widely seen as politically motivated, said in a statement to the High Court there was a “real danger of bias” on the part of the judge. “The local media has condemned me as they did in 1998 without (giving me a) chance to listen to my reply,” the 62-year-old opposition leader told reporters. “Clearly it’s a political trial.”

The judge adjourned the trial until Tuesday when he will hear the application to remove him from the proceedings. However, the defence has lost several earlier legal manoeuvres including a bid to strike out the case, and to force the prosecution to release evidence including medical reports and closed-circuit TV footage. Anwar has said that the charges, which carry a penalty of 20 years imprisonment, are an attempt to end his political career and neutralise the threat he poses to the Barisan Nasional coalition government.

Malaysia on Monday hit out at foreign governments for interfering in the trial, which is being watched by Western nations whose diplomats have attended the hearings. Related article: Malaysia warning to foreign media. “They are welcome to follow Anwar’s trial as closely as they want but they must observe our laws and not meddle in our internal affairs by hurling all sorts of accusations,” deputy foreign minister A. Kohilan Pillay told AFP. “The case has only just begun so these foreign countries should please leave it to Malaysia’s judges to decide rather than creating their own trial by making damaging comments about our system.”

Kohilan did not single out any nation for criticism but the government-linked New Straits Times reported on a speech to Australia’s parliament by Michael Danby, chairman of its sub-committee on foreign affairs. “The Malaysian legal system is being manipulated by supporters of the incumbent government to drive… Anwar Ibrahim out of national politics,” Danby told parliament last week. “Perverting the legal system for political ends by charging Anwar with sexual offences is an affront to human rights,” he added.

Anwar, a married father-of-six, was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 amid a power struggle with then-premier Mahathir Mohamad and spent six years in jail before the sex conviction was overturned. After his release, he reinvigorated the opposition and led it to its best ever elections results in 2008 polls when it seized control of five states and a third of seats in the national parliament.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today he would subpoena the prime minister as his second trial began on what he says are trumped up charges of sodomy. Speaking outside a packed courtroom and cheered on by 250 supporters shouting “justice for Malaysia, justice for Anwar”, the 62-year-old former deputy premier said the presence of so many foreign embassy staff in court showed the “interest, concern and disgust” the new trial was attracting. Anwar’s trial represents a huge political challenge to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is attempting to rebuild the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for over half a century after record losses in elections in 2008.

An upbeat Anwar told reporters after the court hearing was adjourned until the afternoon that his lawyers intended to subpoena Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, alleging that they were involved in what he said was a conspiracy to jail him. Earlier, Anwar, accompanied by two of his daughters and his wife, told reporters the prosecution was down to “the machinations of a dirty, corrupt few”. The government insists it is not involved in the trial and no one was immediately available for comment on Anwar’s charge. Najib, who has been premier since April last year, also needs to defuse a religious row that has damaged the government and win back foreign investment that fled Malaysia at a faster rate than almost any other emerging market economy in 2009.

Inside the court, diplomats from the United States, European Union, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom observed the proceedings and 70 people squashed onto benches in the public gallery, including Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, spiritual adviser to Anwar’s Islamic political allies, wearing a white turban and black robe. The trial itself was adjourned until the afternoon as Anwar’s lawyers sought a date to review a higher court ruling, which refused to allow Anwar access to certain prosecution evidence. Anwar’s previous convictions for sodomy and corruption followed his dismissal as deputy prime minister in 1998, and most international observers said at the time the trials were not conducted fairly, an accusation that haunts the current hearing.

“The evidence will have to be overwhelming in order to move beyond the perception that Najib Razak is using the judiciary to remove a political rival in a desperate and mistaken move to shore up his own position,” said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia specialist at Singapore Management University. If found guilty of the charge of sodomising a young male aide in a country where all homosexual acts are criminal, Anwar, one of Asia’s best known politicians, could face 20 years in jail. That would effectively end his political challenge to Najib and the Barisan Nasional coalition that the prime minister heads and remove a major thorn in the government’s side ahead of elections that must be held by 2013 at the latest.

Anwar called for a strong turnout for his first day in court on his Twitter account, while his accuser Saiful Bukhari Azlan also said on Twitter he would be in court. Outside the court, pamphlets supporting Saiful were scattered on the road, denouncing Anwar for not taking an oath on the Quran and for using appeals to frustrate the courts. Anwar’s lawyers say they cannot defend their client properly without the prosecution’s medical evidence and that access has been blocked by a series of court rulings. “One of my hands is tied and I am going into this boxing ring,” lawyer Sankara Nair told reporters outside the court.

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