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Ceramah by Anwar Ibrahim
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Pakatan Rakyat, in its detailed official reaction to prime minister Najib Razak's New Economic Model announced last month, said it felt vindicated that the government had admitted to the problems highlighted by the opposition. "Pakatan Rakyat feels vindicated that our diagnosis on the problems of the economy highlighted over the past 15 years is finally conceded by the Government. "The NEM admitted that our 'engine is slowing', 'private investors have taken a back seat', 'productivity is growing… far too slowly', 'we are not developing talent and what we do have is leaving', 'the gap between rich and poor is widening' and we are 'stuck in a middle income trap'," said a joint statement issued by Tuan Guru Abdul Hadi Awang, Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang, the top leaders of PAS, PKR and DAP respectively.

Having said that, the leaders warned that the NEM will remove subsidies for the people "in the name of restructuring the economy, yet it continues to protect the 'rights' of big private crony corporations to make exorbitant profits at the expense of the public." "Such is the contradiction of NEM – Barisan Nasional advocates to the poor to embrace economic liberalisation and competition but is silent on removing protection and monopoly of the rich," they added. The latest statement, in the form of a five-part policy statement by Pakatan Rakyat on the NEM, is made after scrutinising the NEM's 193-page report prepared by National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC).

The leaders however urged Najib to explain why Minister of Economic Planning Unit (EPU), Nor Mohd Yakcop, had described the NEM as "suggestions by NEAC" for the government and not a government policy as declared by Najib. "This puts into question whether the Government is serious about the NEM, or it’s just another public relations exercise," said the statement. It also said the continued delays surrounding the full announcement of the NEM and the objections among cabinet members raised doubts about the government's seriousness in undertaking economic reforms. 'No to fancy economic plans'

The three leaders also feared that the NEM would fail like many other plans "launched with much fanfare" during the premierships of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Badawi. They were refering to Mahathir's “Knowledge-based Economy Masterplan” and Abdullah's “National Integrity Plan”, both of which "have been equally forgotten within a few years, despite their similarities to the proposed NEM." "Meaningful and holistic reforms must come first before any other fancy economic plans are brought into the picture," they said. The statement added the BN government should admit its failure to meet targets of the eighth and ninth Malaysia plans, and slammed its silence over the disappearance of RM52 billion worth of Bumiputra shares.

"The overall poverty rate (based on the unrealistic 2007 methodology to define poverty) actually was reduced to just 3.6% in 2007 as opposed to the 8MP target to bring absolute poverty to 0.5% by 2005. It remains unclear whether Malaysia can lower the overall poverty rate further to meet the 9MP target of 2.8% by 2010. "The moral standing of Barisan Nasional in championing economic reforms contained in NEM is diluted further by its various contradictory decisions even as NEM was being unveiled," it added.

The leaders highlighted four critical elements for economic restructuring which had been ignored by the NEM. These include restructuring of key utilities such as electricity, water, toll expressways and broadband services to lessen the financial burden on the public due to monopoly by big corporations; implementation of the necessary steps towards introduction of minimum wage; restructuring of income tax brackets to free young families from tax burdens; and reforms of key institutions such as judiciary, the AG’s Chambers, MACC and the police force.

Nizar Jamaludin

Anwar Ibrahim

Khalid and zaid Ibrahim

PKR today moved swiftly to clear the air over Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s allegedly ‘unholy’ past, claiming that the former Umno member is now a “reformed man” and should be forgiven for his mistakes. Zaid has been the target of attacks on his character and his principles as a Muslim ever since his candidacy for the Malay-majority Hulu Selangor seat was announced. In the list of accusations that Zaid is facing, he is branded an alcoholic, an advocate of gambling and a womaniser — all of which are frowned upon in Islam.

Zaid admitted to the media last night that he drank alcohol in the past but quickly added that he has since repented and is now a changed person. His PKR colleagues today scrambled to wipe up the spilt milk of Zaid’s un-Islamic past, using PAS’ support for the former de facto law minister as their passport to call for his acceptance on polling day. “We all have a past, do we not? And you heard him. Zaid already admitted that it had all happened in his past. [He] no longer the same today... correct? “He said that he had changed the moment he entered the PKR,” said PKR elections director Fuziah Salleh.

She added that since his Umno days, Zaid had changed and had even gone to perform the haj in Mecca. “This is a very, very dirty tactic of the Barisan Nasional (BN). On behalf of the BN, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak should be embarassed by this tactic used to character assassinate a candidate,” she said. She challenged the BN to stop bludgeoning Zaid’s character and principles and instead, list down its abilities and promises for the people of Hulu Selangor. “There is no God, whether in Christianity, Hinduisn, Buddhism or Islam, that will punish a person when that person has already changed and reformed. No one has the right to do that, not you or me. So who is the BN to do this?” she added.

Pointing to the members of the media, Fuziah continued to say: “I am sure that none of you would want the details of your past to be revealed... especially if you have already reformed.” She also said that even PAS, with its Islamist stand and beliefs, had forgiven Zaid for his past mistakes. In 2002, Zaid had brought a suit against the Kelantan and Terengganu governments for passing the Hudud law. Although the suit was later dropped, this little piece of information has been used as ammunition against Zaid and the Pakatan Rakyat, with strong allegations claiming that there was a rift between PKR and PAS over the latter party’s choice of candidate.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who yesterday turned up for the nomination process here, had however declared that PAS was solidly backing Zaid’s candidacy and would not hold him to his past. Despite this, it is clear so far from the string of functions within the PR’s campaign for Zaid, that PAS has been slow in kicking off its campaign here in Hulu Selangor. Fuziah, however, denied this, and said that PAS was clearly backing Zaid and that no such rift between the two parties existed. ”During the nomination, Zaid even spoke with PAS adviser Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat who is in Mecca now.

Nik Aziz wished him all the best. And PAS’ central leadership made their statement yesterday that they are willing to forgive Zaid and they are prepared to forget his past,” she said. Fuziah pointed out that even PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim used to be in Umno before and had made his mistakes too. “But now that he has come into the PKR, things have changed. He has reformed. Both of them have reformed,” she said.

PKR strategic director Chua Tian Chang also joined in Fuziah’s criticism of BN’s tactics to kill Zaid’s chances in the by-election and pointed out that what is most important now is not what Zaid used to do in the past but what he can do for the people in the future. “Our primary concern here today are the national issues that plague us. It is about how to fight against abuse of power and corruption and an MP’s duty is to speak up for the people in Parliament. “I don’t know how or why an issue, a personal issue like this, can become a strategy for the by-election... it just shows that the BN is bankrupt of ideas,” he said.

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Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the man chosen by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leadership to contest in the upcoming Hulu Selangor by-election, is a political animal who cuts an interesting figure. Speaking from the smoking room of his plush home in Tropicana Golf & Country Resort, light-years removed from the Felda settlements and Indian estates he hopes to one day speak for, the former lawyer seems an unlikely choice for a constituency described by many as “cowboy country.”

But speak for the people he will. In fact, that is the only thing he will talk about. His idealism, tempered by our cynical national politics, is circumspect yet present. The sheen has since worn off PR. It is now seen as a fractious cluster of parties, bound by not much else than a common enemy, that has been rocked by defections, infighting and allegations of misgoverning and excessive politicking. His rhetoric seems pre-”tsunami” Malaysia.

But that is not to say Zaid does not have his heart in the right place. One outward sign on his self-professed love for the people is his tireless charity work — particularly for Foundation for the Disabled in Kelantan, a charity he set up — for which he gained a spot on Forbes Asia’s list of generous and interesting philanthropists.

He is also a strong supporter of an independent judiciary, despite the fact that his attempts to bring closure to the 1988 constitutional crisis were inconclusive. In fact, it was the arrest of three individuals in 2008 under the ISA which caused him to resign from his Cabinet post in protest, leading to his sacking from Umno and paving the way for him to join PKR.

Zaid has come full circle and is now one step closer to returning to the upper echelons of power, sent by Anwar Ibrahim to defend the Hulu Selangor seat and hopefully maintain the number of opposition seats in Parliament. Perhaps, like many of his would-be constituents who venture into cowboy country to make their fortunes, this is where Zaid will forge a new future for himself and the rakyat he feels so strongly about.

By Anwar Ibrahim
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Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim finally hit the ground last night ahead of the April 25 by-election here, but seemed to have come up against a wall in pushing his brand of colour-blind socio-economic justice and Islamic agenda among village voters. The Selangor economic advisor was the last speaker of the night at Kampung Sekolah, a tiny village bordering Perak with about 1,700 voters, according to PKR’s count, where he spoke lengthily and expansively on the state’s welfare programmes, rolled out since Election 2008. His comparison between the PKR-led state administration’s promise to award 100,000 land titles to poor home owners in the constituency and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s priority to award vast tracts of national land to “tauke besar” — like the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong who developed Genting Highlands; property magnate Tan Sri Vincent Tan; Astro’s Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan and sugar tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary listed by Forbes as among Malaysia’s richest men — appeared to pull the interest of the 300 villagers who turned up to listen to him.

“Even if we lose this by-election, we promise you will get it,” said the Opposition Leader, making the front-row listeners straighten up and those standing at the back of the humid, dusty school hall draw nearer the stage. “If we win, we will push it. If we lose, we will still push the programme,” he stressed, and added that he had spoken to Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim about it. They applauded rather heartily when Anwar raised the issue of the federal government’s increased gambling licences and how his fellow Pakatan Rakyat colleague from the Chinese-dominated DAP, Anthony Loke, vocally criticised the move in Parliament. But the former deputy prime minister’s attempt to stir the reticent audience on national and international issues failed to excite them.

He spoke of the Najib administration’s controversial engagement of global communications firm APCO which he linked to Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence body he claimed “had killed Palestinians”, bringing up his possible suspension from Parliament as a result as well. “I broke Israel’s espionage in Southeast Asia,” Anwar boasted, to blank stares from the floor, more than half sporting skullcaps, songkoks and headscarves. Anwar’s digs against former Selangor mentri besar Datuk Seri Khir Toyo’s uninhabited mansion in Shah Alam and his family holidays to Disneyland allegedly on state taxpayers’ funds drew a few smothered titters in this Umno stronghold. But the normally charismatic speaker’s calls to back Pakatan Rakyat’s campaign for fair treatment for all races at the end of his 50 minutes saw the audience making a quick getaway before he had quite finished his sentence.

Anwar Ibrahim: APCO

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Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (picture) asked the government to answer all questions he had raised against communications consultancy APCO Worldwide and its links to Israel instead of attacking him. “Why defend APCO? The prime minister must explain all the issues raised in Parliament,” the opposition leader said today. He said the Najib administration had chosen to remain silent on his allegations that APCO was connected to the Israel government, its internal security agency Shin Bet and Zionism. Anwar added these unanswered questions relate to Malaysia’s security.

Anwar is facing the possibility of suspension over his claim during parliamentary debate last week that the international communications consultancy, engaged by the Malaysian government, was involved in Ehud Barak’s One Israel campaign. Earlier today, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the government has decided that Anwar will be referred to the parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said Anwar had so far not been able to provide concrete evidence to support his allegation that 1 Malaysia was taken from One Israel. APCO has released a statement denying the allegations made by Anwar.

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The battle for Hulu Selangor began last night with PKR sending its top leaders to promise equality and justice in a bid to keep a federal seat crucial to its dwindling numbers in Parliament. PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim made clear the party’s agenda in his speech — to retain Hulu Selangor and remind people why they had voted for the late Datuk Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad in the first place. The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MP death Thursday night has paved the way for the country’s 10th by-election since Election 2008.

“I’ve known the late Dr Zainal since his Universiti Malaya days... He was always fighting for the right cause, he knew what to fight for and never once wavered in his stand. Even when I was in prison he frequently enquired about my health, and on the principles of justice he joined PKR later on,” he told the 6,000-odd crowd in a “Save Malaysia” ceramah. “I have to apologise because the duration that Zainal was MP, he was in and out of hospital. That is why he could not attend Parliament,” said Anwar, referring to the 71-year-old politician who suffered from brain cancer. He blamed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration for practicing two double standards in his 1 Malaysia sloganeering.

“This country has 2 Malaysia, on for the rich and one for the poor. Look at the Indians, look at how you have all been treated badly, see what happened to Kugan.” “If we (PR) take over Putrajaya, there will equal opportunity for Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, Melanau and Murut!” he exclaimed. PR has now won seven out of the nine by-elections since Election 2008 but desperately needs to win Hulu Selangor after losing four lawmakers who now sit as independents since February. Apart from Anwar, other party leaders there were deputy president Senator Dr. Syed Husin Ali, vice-president Azmin Ali and Sivarasa Rasiah, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and PKR strategic director Chua Tian Chang.

Anwar also introduced on stage two ex-Hindraf leaders, Vasantha Kumar and Ganapathy Rao who have since then joined PKR and DAP respectively, to attract the crowd in a seat with significant Indian minority. Besides Anwar, other PKR leaders that briefly spoke were Azmin and Khalid. The Selangor Mentri Besar reminded the crowd the reason they voted for PR in the first place. “On March 8, 2008 you people gave PR a chance to rule Selangor and changed history. We are bringing lots of change and development, as promised to you all,’ said Khalid. He proceeded to explain the measures taken by the Selangor state to boost the welfare of people who live in the state.

“Has Umno, after running for 50 plus years, provided free water for the rakyat?have they?No. Umno has no stomach for this, it is something that PR has set out to accomplish,” he said, referring to how Selangor supplied water for free to all constituencies in the state. Despite the fiery speeches by PKR leaders, the huge crowd remained nonchalant do say the least. Questions on whether PKR plans to field an Indian candidate for the Hulu Selangor constituency arose, which saw reporters asking the PKR strategist Chua for information. Chua, popularly known as Tian Chua, played down the issue and insisted that PKR would be dragged into playing the “quota ratio”. “We have no luxury to do this quota game. In PKR, we are concerned about quality, not whether the person is Indian or Malay,” said Chua.

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