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Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali warned PKR today not to dismiss a group of independents dubbed the “Third Force” as they could prevent Pakatan Rakyat (PR) from achieving a huge victory in the next general election.
“If it (the Third Force) is formed, this group will breathe life to Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN),” said Syed Husin in his opening speech at the seventh PKR Wanita and Youth congress today. “It will complicate Pakatan’s efforts in achieving a huge victory,” he added. PKR officials have come out strong against the Third Force as it can split the vote in multi-cornered fights that will benefit the ruling BN federal government.

Straight fights between BN and PR in Election 2008 helped the opposition pact to an unprecedented 82 federal seats and four states then. The Third Force’s initiative could result in multi-cornered fights in up to 30 of the 222 parliamentary seats that are being held or will be contested by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR. In Election 2008, more than 90 per cent of the federal seats saw a straight fight between PR parties and BN. Today, Syed Husin said the Third Force needed to be handled with care.

“This matter (the Third Force) must be handled wisely,” said the PKR deputy president. Recently, Third Force co-ordinator Haris Ibrahim said his objective was to offer strong candidates to PR who would not switch allegiance in case PR forms the next federal government. Haris had said that his group aimed to prevent a repeat of the Perak constitutional crisis last year that saw the fall of the PR state government after three of its assemblymen became BN-friendly lawmakers.

PR has also lost five MPs since March 2008. Four of them — Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim (Bayan Baru), Tan Tee Beng (Nibong Tebal), Mohsin Fadzli Samsuri (Bagan Serai) and Wee Choo Keong (Wangsa Maju) — quit, citing a loss of confidence in Anwar’s leadership. Zulkifli Noordin (Kulim-Bandar Baru) was sacked following disagreement with the PRK leadership over the “Allah” row. At a press conference later, however, Syed Husin said the Third Force did not pose a threat to PR currently. “As of now, no,” he told reporters. “It’s neither a ‘third’ nor a ‘force’. They use it to get people who are dissatisfied with the (PR) parties,” he added.

Haris, who has been working with civil society groups for the initiative, had stressed that the pool of candidates would first be offered to the federal opposition. The lawyer and active blogger said the candidates would only contest as independents if PR parties could not offer better candidates. His group of activists and bloggers has been campaigning against BN since before Election 2008 that saw the ruling coalition losing its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time and losing control of four states.

They were also behind a manifesto called the People’s Declaration that was endorsed by all PR parties ahead of the 12th general election. The group was also influential in mobilising urban voters to back PR candidates in 2008. Haris said negotiations with “non-BN parties” would start in January. Speculation is rife that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will call for a general election as early as the first quarter of next year. However, the current government’s mandate only expires in May 2013.

Kempen PR di Galas

The by-election in Galas is an unusual one. Can you label it as just another by-election? Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah or Ku Li said it was going to be a friendly match, and if BN won the match, it would be excellent. But even if it lost the match, it wouldn’t be too bad either. Anyway, Ku Li has not said he would defend Galas with all his prestige, or... blood. And since it is going to be a friendly match, friendship should come before the contest itself. Period. Even if the game is lost, we should at least take the defeat in stride.

The important thing is that Ku Li said Galas was going to be a gentlemen’s fight and no one should engage in any dirty trick. He did not enter the nomination centre on nomination day, which should have been a most opportune time for a show of spirit and force. But, was BN going to show that off with Ku Li nowhere in sight? Even his Pakatan Rakyat friends such as Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat were looking for him, probably to have some kind of friendly chat among old acquaintances. It was like a party, and everyone was expecting the most anticipated VVIP. Without him the party would lose half its shine.

On such an occasion, he had no foes but friends. On Day Two of campaigning, he was seen sipping Chinese tea with some “Ah Pek” at a coffeeshop, totally relaxed and unaggressive. Did we call that election campaigning? Such a campaigning style will only put the professional campaigners at a complete loss. No smearing of rival candidate, no destroying of rival banners and flags, no exchange of words, no extremist discourse, no mammoth mobilisation of manpower... Oh dear, they will go nuts very soon!

It has been said that Ku Li has barred the Perkasa people from coming to Galas for fear that they would contaminate the pristine by-election. Ku Li seems to be telling them: “This is my place. Please play by my rules. Don’t create havoc!” His way is obviously not the way of Umno, which has just convened its general assembly and whose commander-in-chief has just sworn to grab both Galas and Batu Sapi, on the other side of the South China Sea. Ku Li was chosen as the campaign director mainly for his local influence as well as tying him to Umno’s side so that he would not secretly collaborate with PAS. Ku Li’s unbecoming calmness may have already sent many hysterical.

The veteran fighter has seen battles 10 times more powerful and momentous than the one in Galas. While he hopes the battle could be won, so that his political life in Umno can be further prolonged, he will never want to sacrifice his friendship with PAS at the expense of a by-election. He understands better than anyone else that his political stage is more than just Umno, but includes also the vast space that is overlapped by the two major political camps in the country. His supporters have come out with the manifesto “Ambo nok parti Kuli” (We want Ku Li’s party), not the outright Umno or BN banner.

The by-election is momentary. Whether the game is won or lost, Ku Li’s political career still needs to go on beyond the election. In a similar manner, inter-party competition is also momentary, and what is more important is the country’s democratic process. Such gently fought friendly matches might, who knows, constitute a positive model for future political competition in Malaysia. — -

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BATU SAPI, Oct 30 – On the stump for PKR in one of the party’s more shaky by-elections to date, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has urged Batu Sapi folk to ask for “double the rations” of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) election “bribes”. The PKR de facto leader (picture) said that PKR was not out to compete with the ruling coalition’s massive election machinery but wanted to change the people’s mindsets instead. “We have to anticipate that (BN’s large machinery). I think in all our speeches, we say, please accept. Please ask for more.

“In fact, we said, please ask for more because this is the one by-election when you are going to get it and the next round will be in the next [general] election. “So please ask for double the ration because of inflation, the higher cost of living,” he told reporters here, smiling. Anwar however urged the people to use their vote wisely come polling day this November 4 by selecting PKR’s Ansari Abdullah as its representative in the parliamentary seat. Batu Sapi folk, he added, needed to learn the lessons from voters in states like Selangor, Kelantan and Kedah who were brave enough to make a change in government.

“We want to tell them (Batu Sapi voters) that there is nothing wrong with you accepting handouts from BN but use your vote wisely because it is after all, secret ballot,” he said. Anwar admitted that in the past, PKR’s campaign tactic was merely to attack the BN and its unfair policies. “And then they would come along with all their bribery and the people take it and feel indebted to vote for them. So I say, take it but vote wisely,” he said. Anwar had hit the Batu Sapi campaign trail with PKR’s Ansari yesterday but received less than rousing response from the local folk.

The Malaysian Insider reported this morning that several villagers in Kampng Gas had admitted that they were more favourable of BN as the ruling coalition was generous with its handouts during the elections period. In his speeches however, Anwar told voters that there was nothing wrong with accepting election sweeteners from BN but it would be a grave mistake to vote it into power. “If you are tired from work and hungry, go to the BN election camps and ask for food. If you are out of money, go to them and ask them for money. But give your vote to PKR,” he had told villagers in Kampung Gas and Kampung Lupak Meluas last night.

Today, he said that voters should pay close attention to what the BN had done for Sabah during its rule. “Look at the bridge incident with Ansari. It was good, in a way, not good that he fell but good because of the effect of the incident. This is not a question of one bridge in one kampung. “But everywhere we travel here, people say – Datuk, be careful of that hole, Datuk be careful of that broken plank. This is the risk the people face, even after 50 years of independence and revenue from timber in the billions... you cannot even build one bridge? I think you only need one or two huge logs to rebuilt all the wooden pathways in Kampung Gas,” he said. Anwar was referring to yesterday’s incident when Ansari took his second tumble since the start of the campaign period after a bridge collapsed in the village.

PKR elections director Fuziah Salleh, who was also at the press conference along with several other Pakatan Rakyat leaders, noted that in the past, the people of Sabah voted for BN merely out of habit. “They were used to it. But we want to tell them now that they will not stand to lose anything if they vote for the opposition. “In fact, they will get more than just the election sweeteners from the BN,” she said. Such handouts, she added, only came during the elections. “But in the five years that the BN governs, the people are left abandoned,” she said. Meanwhile, Anwar reiterated his view that PKR was likely still trailing behind in the race for Batu Sapi.

He however said that PKR had made plenty of inroads so far and would work round the clock to change its fortune. “One thing about things here in Sabah is that the contest is not so intense. The people, although there are many who are yet to support us, still keep open minds. “We went to visit them and they were friendly to us. They can see our ways and that we do not give promises, we tell them what we have done. Hence, I see a greater potential,” he said. Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, agreed and added that the people of Sabah could use the examples set by the Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor.

“There may be three choices in this by-election, between BN, PKR and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP). I have explained however that the only ones that have track records are BN and PR. “SAPP has no record, not even if you take into consideration the fact that SAPP candidate Datuk Yong (Teck Lee) was the chief minister for two years,” he said. Yong is also vying for the Batu Sapi seat, along with PKR’s Ansari and BN’s Datin Linda Tsen Thau Lin. “PR in Selangor has only governed for less than three years and we already showed our capabilities. We do not wait until the elections to deliver promises,” he said.

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PKR’s Ansari Abdullah prefers to ignore Barisan Nasional taunts of him being a “recycled” candidate, instead he maintains that “God and the people” will decide the by-election winner here. The PKR Tuaran division chief pointed out this afternoon that his focus was not on the fact that he had lost in several elections before but on winning the present one. “I never count how many times I contested before. To me, whether I win or not is not for the BN or the SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party) to decide; it is for God and the people,” he told reporters after his candidacy for the race was confirmed this morning.

BN deputy chairman and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had called Ansari a “recycled” candidate this afternoon as the latter had failed in several election bids. In Elections 2008, Ansari had contested in the Tuaran parliamentary seat and the Sulaman state seat but lost in both areas. He was also said to have contested in numerous other elections but had never been successful. Reports even said that when Ansari, known to be a loyalist to PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, was announced as a candidate at the Hakka Association Community Hall near here on the weekend, a number of PKR members left in protest. Instead of Ansari, they had wanted Sabah PKR chief Ahmad Thamrin Jaini to lead the contest in Batu Sapi.

Today however, Ansari quelled all questions on his eligibility in the polls and pointed out that it was “people power” that would ultimately determine the victor in this by-election. This, he added, was proven in the last general election. “BN can lose five states plus the Federal Territories. There is no reason why they cannot lose in Batu Sapi when the have lost in Sibu,” he said. The people, he added, were stronger than the BN. Pakatan Rakyat’s DAP achieved a shocking victory during the Sibu by-election this year when its candidate Wong Ho Leng defeated BN’s Robert Lau Hui Yew of the Sarawak-based party Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) during the contest.

Despite the slim 398-vote majority victory, the loss had dealt a severe blow to BN, who had held the seat for the past five terms in the 1990, 1995, 1999, 2004 and the 2008 general elections. Ansari also would not be discouraged by talk that Sabah folk had little regard for PKR’s political antics on the national arena, claiming that the opposition PR pact had done well in the last general election. “I hope we will be given a chance to win. Whether by one vote or 10,000, it is still a victory and that victory is not mine but the people’s and PR’s,” he declared. Ansari also pointed to the BN government’s failure in developing Sabah, claiming that he had been shocked to discover the poor living conditions in Sandakan, north of Batu Sapi here.

“I have been working 20 hours a day for the past one week. I have been to Sandakan so many times and little did I realise that when I went in, that what we see from the outside near the road is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. He described the living conditions to be “as bad as that of Jakarta’s and Manila”. “Just go to the villages and see the amount of filth, the lack of hygiene, lack of water and electricity. The people do not seem to be living in a country that has been independent now for decades,” he said. Ansari has two contenders in the fight for the Batu Sapi state seat, which fell vacant following the death of MP Datuk Edmund Chong Ket Wah in a biking tragedy.

The long-serving PKR politician will be facing Chong’s widow, Datin Linda Tsen Thau Lin of BN’s Sabah-based party Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee of the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), a former BN partner here. Batu Sapi has 25,582 voters, including 1,535 postal voters.The constituency near Sandakan comprises 59 per cent of 15,099 Muslim Bumiputera; 38 per cent of 9,737 Chinese; 2.69 per cent of 698 non-Muslim Bumiputera; and 0.22 per cent or 57 others. Chong had won the seat with a 3,708-vote majority over independent Chung On Wing in Elections 2008.

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Analysts have lambasted Budget 2011 for neglecting key reforms and ignoring plunging foreign direct investment (FDI), and instead rely on turning Kuala Lumpur into a major metropolis with projects of grandeur. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s budget plan includes several large construction projects — such as the RM43 billion new KL MRT project, the RM5 billion 100-storey Warisan Merdeka tower and the RM26 billion KL International Financial District — and expectedly denounced by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as an election budget that was honed to win votes over resolving fundamental economic issues.

Analysts point out that the government also appeared too fixated on big projects. “This budget has nothing about the NEM (New Economic Model). It doesn’t liberalise the economy further,” political analyst James Chin told The Malaysian Insider. “The budget should restructure the economy to attract foreign investment. But they didn’t want to rock the boat because of the election coming,” he added. There is wide speculation that Najib may call for snap polls by the first half of 2011 to capitalise on the strong economic performance and his high approval ratings, although a general election is not due until March 2013.

Budget 2011 targets a 2.8 per cent rise in spending and aims to shrink the deficit to 5.4 per cent of gross domestic product next year, from 5.6 per cent this year thanks to sustained strong growth. According to the Budget, Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy is expected to grow five to six per cent in 2011 after a seven per cent expansion this year and a 1.7 per cent contraction in 2009. Chin, a Monash University professor, also lambasted the RM212 billion spending plan for not addressing the 81 per cent dive in FDI last year and pointed out that it was impossible to become a developed nation without foreign investment.

“Where is the FDI component? We can’t achieve developed status without foreign investment...and expertise,” said Chin. Private investment grew only two per cent on average between 2006 and 2010, and was expected to be 10.8 per cent of GDP this year, rising to 11.3 per cent of GDP next year. RAM Holdings group chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng echoed Chin’s points and said that legal and regulatory reforms were more important than building hard infrastructure to attract investors. “When you build, if you don’t undertake the reforms to enhance the quality of services and skills level to support a first class, world class operating unit, then you also fail,” said Yeah.

“You cannot say that FDI now is determined by the city. When they say people look at the city, they have already assumed that the macroeconomic policies are similar across countries, which liberalise the market,” he added. Like Chin, DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang has also noted that the Budget 2011 tabled last Friday did not reflect the objectives of the NEM to transform Malaysia from a middle income country to a high income economy, but was focused on mega projects instead. He accused Najib of trying to outdo former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, citing the 100-storey Warisan Merdeka tower that is expected to cost RM5 billion and will be the tallest tower in Malaysia upon its completion in 2015.

Kenanga Investment Bank economist Wan Suhaimi Wan Saidi pointed out that the Najib administration should focus on economic policies instead of just developing Kuala Lumpur in its bid to attract foreign investment. “The city is the facade, but the real thing is what runs the country, especially for emerging economies,” said Wan Suhaimi. “If you look at a resource-rich country like Malaysia, you have to look at the bigger picture, like how the ruling party governs the economy and how it distributes its wealth in terms of regulations,” he added. Besides the controversial Warisan Merdeka tower, Najib announced the redevelopment of the Sungei Besi Air Base and the Rubber Research Institute land in Sungai Buloh, as well as the construction of several new highways.

The economist also noted that talented human capital was crucial to transform Malaysia to a high-income economy. “They should stress on people. What is the point of having grand cities if you don’t the human resources?” asked Wan Suhaimi. Najib has announced in his Budget 2011 speech that a Talent Corporation will be set up early next year to arrest the country’s growing brain drain problem that is threatening his vision of turning Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020. About 700,000 Malaysians are currently living abroad, with half of them in Singapore, while the rest can be found mostly in Australia, Britain and the United States.

The number of Malaysian migrants rose by more than 100-fold in a 45-year period, from 9,576 Malaysians in 1960 to 1,489,168 Malaysians in 2005, according to the World Bank. Political analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee backed Wan Suhaimi’s views and cited the lack in local talent as Malaysia’s Achilles’ heel. “More important is producing the skilled manpower needed to man the plants and factories, especially the high value ones. This is really our Achilles' heel which no amount of beautification projects can put right,” said Lim. “Making KL and other major towns in the countries more attractive to investment is only a small part of the problem,” he added.

Companies have complained about the lack of skilled labour in Malaysia and economists have cited this problem as a hindrance in the country’s ability to attract more high-technology industries. About 80 per cent of the country’s workforce only has secondary school education. Like his peers, the Centre for Policy Initiatives director also slammed Budget 2011 — which is 2.8 per cent higher than this year’s budget total – for dismissing the country’s falling FDI and the NEM. “The 2011 Budget seems to have been prepared with the FDI issue and the NEM relegated to the sideline. But then it was clearly an election budget so what else can we expect?” said Lim.


The Selangor State Government celebrated Hari Raya Aidil Fitri at I-City in Shah Alam on the 10th Sept 2010 to mark the conclusion of the month long fast by Muslims in the month of Ramadhan. On hand to welcome the public was the Menteri Besar of Selangor, YB Khalid Ibrahim and Members of the State Exco Committee. YB Anwar Ibrahim, the Opposition Leader in the Malaysian Parliament also made a brief appearance to join the public in the celebration.

Anwar Ibrahim, the Parliamentary Opposition Leader also made a brief appearance to join the public in the celebration. Duit raya was distributed by the Exco members to children under the age of 12 and senior citizens. There was plenty of food and on stage entertainment for the guests.

zaid ibrahim
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Raja Petra
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Friends of Pakatan Rakyat (FPR), was formally launched in London on Sunday 04 July 2010. Nearly 250 Malaysians and local supporters gathered in Conway Hall, Holborn, to commemorate the launch event which aims to rally the support of Malaysians who share the vision of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition for a democratic, fair and just Malaysia. FPR supporters were joined by Pakatan Rakyat leadership who flew into London to offer their support. The keynote speaker Dato’ Mohd Zaid Ibrahim was joined by Pakatan Rakyat leadership including Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP), Dr Hatta Ramli (PAS), Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR) and Dato’ Kamaruddin Jaffar (PAS) as well as blogger and civil liberties and justice advocate, Raja Petra Kamarudin; all of whom spoke at the event, offering congratulations to members of the group and encouraging further involvement from Malaysians living overseas towards a better Malaysia.

The opening address was given by Pro tem Chairman of Friends of Pakatan Rakyat, Brian Morais, who reminisced, “Citizens gave a mandate to politicians in the newly independent Malaysia of 1957 and so the age for a new merdeka has arrived, where the citizens reclaim power from politicians who should in effect become servants to the nation”. Quoting the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Idris Jala’s prediction that Malaysia could become bankrupt by the year 2019 as national debt crept to 54% of GDP, Morais urged the audience to go home and vote for a new, accountable government before it is too late. On the agenda for the new FPR is fundraising for Pakatan Rakyat’s electoral campaign, compiling research to aid policy reform, and establishing overseas voting for Malaysians, stated Morais.

Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) spoke scathingly of a Malaysia that was bankrupt of ideas and morality. “Malaysia has turned into a society that is materialistic – the highest tower, the longest bridge…the biggest debt!” He challenged the government to battle corruption in the police force by increasing wages to end bribery as a way of life in Malaysia. Accusing the ruling coalition of trying to re-create the race riots of May 13th 1969 in Kampung Baru when tear gas was shot into the crowd of peaceful HINDRAF supporters in 2007, RPK noted that Malaysian society had truly united as Malay residents provided refuge to suffering HINDRAF supporters instead of rioting against them – thus bringing home the point that the age of race politics, the apartheid, can and must end.

MP for Kepong , DAP’s DR Tan Seng Giaw’s address to FPR supporters pledged an end to money politics and promised transparency in the Pakatan Rakyat government where the new coalition members would be held accountable. He spoke of reforming the education system by targeting and increasing the quality of educators as well initializing the independence of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which currently sits under the biased jurisdiction of Barisan National.

Keynote speaker Dato’ Mohd Zaid Ibrahim who famously resigned from the Barisan National Cabinet in 2008 following the arrest of 3 prominent individuals (including RPK) under the ISA in 2008 spoke of the need for Malaysians to sacrifice themselves in the name of freedom from an oppressive regime, likening BN rule to a fascist dictatorship where leaders say and do what they like without question or accountability to law or society. Challenging Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak’s mantra for policy and government reform, Dato’ Zaid Ibrahim remarked BN would never be transparent as they have too much to hide. Encouraged by the small percentile loss to BN in the 2008 general elections, he proclaimed the next election would bring victory to Pakatan Rakyat because “…we have the people’s heart with us!”

En route to London, during a 5 hour stop-over in Dubai, Dr Hatta Ramli met with a couple dozen Malaysians and discussed the next overseas chapter of FPR over the Ghana vs. Uruguay match, which he confirmed during the opening statements of his speech. Acknowledging that PAS and DAP had their differences, he countered by saying that common ground outweighed the smaller issues and both parties had made considerable concessions to meet each other halfway to become part of Pakatan Rakyat.

Concluding the FPR launch was Nurul Izzah Anwar, Pakatan Rakyat MP for Lembah Pantai who admitted that she and many opposition MPs now Tweet as a means of keeping younger constituents in the loop. She spoke of her encouragement at the widespread support that Pakatan Rakyat was garnering both at home and abroad, and at how much the Malaysian political landscape progressed since her first visit to London in 1999 after her father’s unfair dismissal and imprisonment, when she met with pro-reform groups here, seeking to highlight to the international community her father‘s plight and the shocking human rights abuses unfolding in Malaysia at that time.

Despite the events that propelled Nurul Izzah Anwar into the political arena, in her address, she noted that the oppression under Malaysia’s current ruling party was above and beyond just Anwar Ibrahim, but against anyone who spoke out against its power. She fleshed out some of the plans Pakatan Rakyat have made for reform, citing that a commitment had been made to Common Policy Platform that unites Keadilan, DAP and PAS in their vision for a better Malaysia, something that had never been undertaken by Barisan National’s conglomerate of parties. She confirmed that the Pakatan Coalition had made a commitment to abolishing the ISA; along with a review of a number of repressive laws including the Printing Presses and Publication Act if 1984 and Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, while noting that a Freedom of Information bill would also be tabled. Nurul spoke passionately about the need for a reformed Malaysia and urged attendees to go home and vote when the time came.

The panel opened up for a question and answer session to conclude the launch of FPR UK and as the speakers answered questions posed by attendees, there was a sense that the country was progressing closer towards a new merdeka; the utopian ideals of freedom and democracy that our founding fathers did not take for granted are re-emerging in a more unified Malaysia. A quotation used by Dr Tan Seng Giaw from T.S. Elliot’s poem Exploring the Waste Land rings true:

…And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

There are plans for this new and exciting initiative to be be expanded globally,with groups in Australia,the US,and other countries in South East Asia and the Middle East expressing an interest in starting chapters in various locations with large communities of Overseas Malaysians,in a show of solidarity and to contribute to the agenda for change and reform in Malaysia. -malaysia today-

CNN has stringently denied that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim paid the global news broadcaster to do an interview early this month. “The story about CNN accepting payment from anyone for Anwar Ibrahim to appear on ‘Connect the World’ is clearly fabricated,” said a CNN spokesperson, who is based in Hong Kong where the network’s Asia headquarters are located. “It is disturbing that no effort was made to contact us and independently verify these groundless allegations before they were subsequently reported as fact.”

Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysia had last Friday kicked off the controversy with its July 9 report headlined ‘Anwar alleged to have paid CNN’. The report referred to Trevino Strategies and Media Inc president Joshua Trevino, who wrote in a US-based news portal The New Ledger that Anwar hired media contacts, particularly in CNN, to convince Jewish lobbyists that he is not anti-Israel. Trevino had lamented that the CNN’s ‘Connector of the Day’ interview on July 2 was “tame” in questioning Anwar’s anti-Zionist rhetoric. Following the Utusan report, a number of Umno leaders attacked Anwar over the alleged “paid” interview.

“If it is true that Anwar paid for the CNN interview, it shows that he stoop so low to the United States and the Jews… he will do anything to achieve his ambition of becoming the prime minister,” said Umno vice-president Mohd Shafie Apdal the day after the Utusan report. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Umno deputy head, said the allegation shows that Anwar was desperate. “He can use the media. If he has to pay, then let him pay to clarify his position and the lies he told when he went abroad,” he was quoted as saying by New Straits Times in a July 11 report headlined ‘Muhyiddin: Anwar paid CNN’.

Another round of attacks

Utusan, an Umno-owned newspaper, has since ratcheted up the tempo against Anwar, this time with another report on Sunday alleging that the PKR supremo was a CIA stooge. The report is based on the posting of an obscure American blogger, Elaine Meinel Supkis, who claimed that her source was “a Jewish editor of the warmongering Washington Post”. Utusan cited Meinel’s posting – bizarrely entitled ‘CIA and Mossad want Anwar Ibrahim assassinated’ – which claimed that Anwar serves to protect the US’ interests and to undertake covert planning on its behalf in Malaysia. This sparked another round of attacks from other Umno leaders, including Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Information Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim.

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Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would be ready should Barisan Nasional (BN) opt to hold snap elections. “We will deal with it,” said Anwar. The government’s reluctance to upset the majority Malays has led to reversal of government decisions and reform pullbacks that are fuelling talk Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak may be readying for a snap election.

Constituency allocations for BN MPs have been recently increased from RM1 million to RM1.5 million, leading to more speculation. The PKR de facto leader noted that he was coming under increased attack in the mainstream newspapers who accused him of being pro-American or pro-Jewish. Anwar (picture) has come under after fire for a June 28 Washington Post article which quoted him as saying that he was “regretful” over his anti-Zionist attacks.

He added that he had no opportunity to defend himself in the local press and accused Barisan Nasional (BN) of being hypocrites. He repeated that he did not apologise for his “Zionist” statement. “I stated my stand in that I disagree with the Iraq occupation and disagree with Israel’s actions against the Freedom Flotilla,” Anwar said.

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Fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin has scoffed at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s accusation that he is funded by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and therefore untrustworthy. Referring to other media outlets in Malaysia which are either owned or controlled by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, the controversial Malaysia Today writer rubbished the prime minister’s suggestion that political backing equated to a lack of credibility. “Well, isn’t New Straits Times backed by Umno? The Star, by MCA?” he said here yesterday.

Najib had said the people should not believe the claims made by the blogger, who has fled to London, and challenged the Malaysian government to bring charges of sedition, criminal defamation and an appeal against his release from the Internal Security Act to the United Kingdom’s courts. “If Raja Petra is funded by the opposition, it means that his statements are politically-motivated. We should weigh them carefully and not merely [accept] them,” Najib told reporters after opening a Pekan Umno meeting yesterday.

Speaking to The Malaysian Insider here, Raja Petra said that all media outlets were backed by investors with some kind of agenda, regardless of whether they affected the editorial direction. “So is he saying that we shouldn’t trust any media?” he retorted. The member of the Selangor royal household has been a thorn in Najib’s side even before he stepped up to the premiership, with the most prominent allegation being over the latter’s involvement in the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shariibuu.

When quizzed on whether he was receiving any money from the federal opposition, Raja Petra replied that “I am trying to raise money for Pakatan, not take it from them.” He said that his reason for doing so was his desire to see a two-party system established in Malaysia, instead what was described as BN hegemony. ~malaysianinsider~

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We appear to be stuck in the middle income trap. On one hand we are unable to compete with low cost countries such as China, India and Vietnam but on the other hand we are unable to move up the value chain to a high income knowledge based economy due to lack of skilled workers. We are unable to attract skilled foreigners to our shores while skilled Malaysians are leaving in droves. ANALYSIS What has happened to the Malaysian economy? We were once one of the most promising emerging economies in South East Asia and blessed with bountiful natural resources including oil and timber. In the 1970s Malaysia was on par with other developing countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong but these countries have progressed far ahead of us.

Their per capita incomes and currency values are a few multiples of ours. For example Singapore and S. Korea’s per capita incomes are US$35,400 and US$16,700 respectively while Malaysia is lagging badly at a mere US$8000. S. Korea has also exceeded us in technological products and has many global brands while all we have is Proton which cannot compete outside its domestic protected market

We appear to be stuck in the middle income trap. On one hand we are unable to compete with low cost countries such as China, India and Vietnam but on the other hand we are unable to move up the value chain to a high income knowledge based economy due to lack of skilled workers. We are unable to attract skilled foreigners to our shores while skilled Malaysians are leaving in droves. Meanwhile we are importing masses of low skilled foreigners which depress our wages. As a result our wages have remained stagnant for the past 15 years while the cost of living has escalated. The net result is that the standard of living of ordinary Malaysians is regressing due to depreciation of real income while our income gap is the widest in Asia.

The economy of a country cannot be treated in isolation to its social, human and political factors. It is closely interrelated to education, meritocracy, corruption, natural resources, productivity, creativity, democracy and rule of law among others. A strong and robust economy is the net result of good governance, good policies and proper use of resources and is reflected in the happiness and wellbeing of its citizens. In this article I shall try to explain how Malaysia has stumbled and sowed the seeds of its economic decline.

If any single factor can be blamed for the poor health of the Malaysian economy it is racial policies. Meritocracy is the natural selection of the economy; it ensures that the best and brightest people and companies rise to the top just as natural selection in the ecosystem ensures that the strongest and fittest organisms survive and propagate for the wellbeing of the species. If race has replaced meritocracy as the qualifying factor it means that we are not making full use of our human and natural resources with detrimental effect on our competitiveness.

Even worse, racial policies as embodied in the NEP has encouraged rent seeking and created a culture of bumiputraism where rewards are expected by a privileged group without the requisite effort. It has also led to patronage in the form of negotiated and bloated contracts such as those given to IPPs and toll concessionaires which distort economic efficiency with consequent higher cost to consumers.

Exclusion of other races from government tender and procurement means that the government does not get the best price or the best vendors. The preferential treatment and government assistance given to bumiputra contractors, suppliers and entrepreneurs shield them from real market forces which would have made them stronger and more competitive.

The special economic privileges espoused by bumiputraism require the productivity of other races to sustain. The government cannot give something for free to anybody without taking it from someone else who must give it up for free. Essentially this means a lower overall productivity and an injured entrepreneur spirit among the minority races.

Unfortunately Malaysia’s racial policies cover more than just economic privileges, it also intrude into education, employment, sports, licensing, government linked investment funds, buying houses, petrol station dealerships and new share applications and indeed into every facet of human endeavour. It is sad to say that racial policies are woven into the very fabric of Malaysian society.

The Chinese have fared better under Malaysia’s racial policies due to various factors such as their emphasis on education, their clans, the large domestic Chinese economy and their entrepreneur spirit but the Indians have become an underclass. However if any community is held back from achieving its full potential the whole country suffers.

The difference in economic opportunities and the lack of meritocracy lead naturally to a brain drain as the best and brightest Malaysians disadvantaged by race take their talents overseas. In a globalized world the educated and the skilled are extremely portable as there is a huge competition for skilled labour. Although there are pull factors enticing them away the push factors originating domestically is no less compelling.

Education is the future of the county but unfortunately education in Malaysia has not been spared the deleterious effect of racial policies. As racial policies essentially mean that meritocracy takes a backseat to ethnic origin this is extremely injurious to education.

Students face race based policies after Form 5 when Malays are streamed to matriculation with a token 10% for other races while non-Malays either opt for Form 6 which is longer and harder route to university or private colleges which require considerable financial outlay. Those who go to matriculation save one academic year compared to those who go to Form 6.

Even more unfair is that the grades acquired in matriculation are taken as equivalent to the grades acquired in STPM (Form 6) for the purpose of university entry although they are in no way comparable. Matriculation students sit for segmented internal exams and a large portion of the final marks may come from projects done throughout the year while STPM students sit for a difficult final public exam which are marked externally.

After Form 6 non-Malay good achievers are confronted with unfriendly racial quotas at the gates of tertiary institutions. If they are accepted into public universities they are likely to be shunted into less popular courses with little commercial value such as fisheries, forestry and philosophy. This is despite many universities, colleges and technical schools reserved for one race only which is found in no other country in the world.

Pre-tertiary students in private colleges will continue their studies in local private institutions or overseas which again entail heavy financial commitment. Scholarships for non-bumiputras are hard to come by and every year we hear of heart-breaking stories of top students who fail to secure scholarships.
The upshot is that non-bumiputra parents have to spend a lot of money to educate their children to tertiary level. Those students who do not have well-off parents and not lucky enough to gain a place in public universities or win a scholarship are forced into the job market.

It is clear that standards in public universities have fallen drastically due to the lack of meritocracy in intake of students. This is compounded by race based preference in the employment and promotion of academic staff. Standards have also been marked down to make it easier for bumiputra students to graduate. Our universities have long dropped out of the ranking of the 200 best universities in the world. They are churning out low quality unemployable graduates who do not know how to speak proper English to join the bloated civil service or the ranks of the unemployed.

The result of our two tiered education policy is to contribute to the brain drain of young non-Malays incensed by the racial inequality in education opportunities. They head for the exit as soon as they have acquired their tertiary education while those who remain behind are a fertile breeding ground for opposition supporters. Parents have also been known to migrate in order to obtain affordable tertiary education for their children.

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About 20 people were killed today when the Israeli navy intercepted a convoy of aid ships that activists were trying to sail to the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Channel 10 private television network said. According to news reports, a Malaysian television crew were also on one of the ships that were boarded. Earlier, a spokesman for the Free Gaza Movement which organised the six-ship flotilla said at least two were killed. Casualties could hurt Israel’s international image and diplomatic relations, especially its long-time regional Muslim ally Turkey, whose flag some of the aid ships were flying.

Israel has said it was absolutely determined to maintain its blockade of the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory of 1.5 million. It has previously halted such activist ships, although others have reached Gaza before. Amid Israeli military censorship and a refusal of Israeli officials to comment on what appeared to be a continuing operation three hours after dawn broke over the Mediterranean, Channel 10 made clear it was not citing foreign sources. After initially reporting that at least 10 people were dead, it later said the death toll was between 14 and 16. It said commandos who had boarded the convoy were still conducting searches and encountering what it called violent resistance.

“Two people have been killed on board the Turkish boat and 30 or more were wounded,” said Mary Hughes Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, which was behind the convoy. “As far as we know IDF (Israeli military) commandos descended on the boat from helicopters and took it over.” The convoy set off in international waters off Cyprus yesterday in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip and warnings that it would be intercepted. The flotilla was organised by pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish human rights organisation. Turkey had urged Israel to allow it safe passage and said the 10,000 tonnes of aid the convoy was carrying was humanitarian.

Turkey, long Israel’s best Muslim friend and a key ally in a hostile Middle East, was highly critical of Israel’s attack on Gaza 18 months ago, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed. Relations between the two states are now distinctly chilly and bloodshed at sea will do nothing to improve them.

CNN showed pictures of a commando apparently sliding down a rope and clashing with a man wielding a stick. Other TV images showed what appeared to be rubber boarding launches. France 24 television aired video of a woman in a Muslim headdress holding a stretcher with a large bloodstain on it. Below her lay a man, apparently wounded, in a blanket. Israel had said it would prevent the convoy from reaching the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt tightened a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took over the territory in 2007. Israel launched a devastating military offensive in Gaza in December 2008 with the aim of halting daily rocket fire towards its cities.

Most of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza rely on aid, blaming Israel for imposing restrictions on the amount and type of goods it allows into the territory. The United Nations and Western powers have urged Israel to ease its restrictions to prevent a humanitarian crisis. They have been urging Israel to let in concrete and steel to allow for post-war reconstruction. Israel denies there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying food, medicine and medical equipment are allowed in regularly. It says the restrictions are necessary to prevent weapons and materials that could be used to make them from reaching Hamas. — Reuters

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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has reached a critical point after just over a year in office — will he enact economic reforms and cut subsidies and risk alienating his voter base, or will he back off? Poorer Malays could be hit initially by Najib’s pledge to reduce subsidies and roll back a controversial racial affirmative action policy. Many analysts believe the promised economic reforms, aimed at winning back foreign investment, will be delayed, watered down or abandoned to avoid losing votes.
Malaysian bonds have rallied this year, returning 4.99 per cent for dollar-based investors in the past three months, according to the industry benchmark JPMorgan Government Bond Index-Emerging Markets, outperforming the wider Asia index which rose 2.67 per cent. Malaysia’s outperformance is largely due to rate hikes and the ringgit’s proxy as a China revaluation play.

By contrast, Thailand is up 4.77 per cent and high-flying Indonesia scored a 6.81 per cent return in US dollars, although all markets are off their highs, roiled by global risk aversion. Following is a summary of key Malaysia risks to watch:


Political tensions spiked after the 2008 general election when unprecedented opposition gains transformed the political landscape. The Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s dominance through 52 years in power was dented as it lost control in five states and its once iron-clad two-thirds control of Parliament. The ruling coalition has since lost in several by-elections including one last month in its own bastion state of Sarawak. The political uncertainty has weighed on foreign investment with net portfolio and direct investment outflows reaching US$61 billion (RM201 billion) in 2008 and 2009 according to official data. While money has flowed into the bond market recently, according to central bank statistics, little has flowed into equities.

What to watch:

• Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, which ends in late August. Anwar says the case is a political conspiracy, and a contentious verdict would anger his supporters. Any marked increase in political tensions could see more foreign money pulled from stocks, bonds and the ringgit. But with limited foreign portfolio investment still in the country, the impact will be muted.

• Elections in Sarawak which are expected by the end of this year. The BN’s shock defeat last month at a parliamentary by-election in Sarawak has raised doubts whether it can maintain its support levels in the state. A further weakening of Najib’s coalition in the coming Sarawak elections could spell more losses for the BN in the next general election which analysts say could be held as early as next year.


The government’s commitment to economic reform is being put to the test with a plan to cut subsidies presented to the public last month, with a decision expected in the coming months. Malaysia spent 15.3 per cent of total federal government operating spending on subsidies in its 2009 budget when its deficit surged to a 20-year high of 7 per cent of GDP. Key to investor confidence will be whether the government has the courage to significantly unwind the crippling subsidies amid a potential voter backlash. Najib’s political will to reform will also be tested by the “New Economic Model” (NEM), a blueprint to replace a four-decades-old Malay affirmative policy known as the New Economic Policy (NEP).

The controversial NEP was adopted after 1969 race riots and gave a wide array of economic benefits to ethnic Malays who make up 55 per cent of the population. Investors complain that abuse of the policy spawned a patronage-ridden economy, causing foreign investors to favour Indonesia and Thailand. Najib has rolled back elements of the NEP, and axed the rule that companies must offer stakes to indigenous ethnic Malays. But his plans face growing opposition from conservative Malay rights groups who want the NEP preserved, including Perkasa which is backed by a significant number of people within Najib’s own Umno party.

What to watch:

• The phased rollout of the NEM and how far Najib will accommodate conservative Malay pressure groups. The NEM’s broad outline was released on March 30 and public reaction will be sought before the final measures are announced. Markets barely shifted when it was announced, reflecting scepticism over implementation after some key reforms were put on hold.

• Moves to reduce crippling fuel and food subsidies. Past fuel price hikes have drawn an intense public backlash which Najib appears wary of attracting. Malaysia was supposed to cut its fuel subsidy bill from May this year as part of the 2010 budget to tackle its budget deficit which hit a more than 20-year high of 7 per cent of GDP in 2009, but the measure was withdrawn.

• The 10th Malaysia Plan, a five-year economic masterplan. Set to be tabled in Parliament on June 10, the plan will contain Malaysia’s revised growth and budget deficit forecasts.

Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) is a conference about human rights first held in May 2009 in Oslo, Norway. Founded by the Human Rights Foundation's Thor Halvorssen, it is "part of the Human Rights Foundation's ongoing campaign to defend and promote human freedom around the world." The forum aims to bring together world leaders including former heads of state, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and prisoners of conscience as well as a selection of authors, together with business, political and cultural leaders from both Norway and internationally. According to the Forum website, the first Oslo Freedom Forum was "made possible thanks to a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation". It also received support from the government of Norway. The second OFF is scheduled to take place in April 2010 in Oslo. It is supported by Norway's Fritt Ord, Amnesty International, the Nobel Peace Center, the Norwegian Author's Union, University of Oslo, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Thiel Foundation and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.

Anwar Ibrahim is the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and the current leader of Keadilan, the People’s Justice Party. Before becoming deputy prime minister in 1996, Ibrahim held various cabinet positions, including minister of agriculture, culture, education, and finance. During his tenure as finance minister, Malaysia earned recognition as an “Asian tiger" and Newsweek named him its 1998 “Asian of the Year" for his role in steering Malaysia's economy out of the Asian financial crisis. Later that year, Ibrahim spearheaded a reform movement that eventually led him to criticize Prime Minister Mahathir – of his own party – of corruption. Ibrahim was subsequently removed from office, arrested, and sentenced to six years in solitary confinement. He was released from prison in 2004, whereupon he became a consultant for the World Bank and also a professor. After lecturing for several years on accountability, democracy, governance, and Islam at St. Anthony's College at Oxford, Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, he reentered Malaysian politics. In 2008, he won a landslide election to become a member of the Malaysian Parliament. Today, Ibrahim is working to form a new government that would break more than 50 years of one-party rule.

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SIBU, May 16 —The DAP pulled off a surprise win in the Sibu by-election today, defeating Barisan Nasional’s (BN) SUPP by 398 votes in a hard fought race. DAP’s Wong Ho Leng polled 18,845 votes compared to BN candidate Robert Lau’s 18,447 votes. The margin of victory was just a little more than the 395 spoilt votes. The independent candidate garnered 232 votes. “Thank you Sibu. Thank you Malaysia. One small step in winning Sibu, one giant step to winning Putrajaya, “ Wong said after he was declared the winner.

BN had earlier been expected to retain its Sarawak stronghold but lost despite the best efforts of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. The Sibu vote is seen as a bellwether for the Sarawak state elections which must be called by next year. Asked by reporters today what he thought today’s result would mean for impending state polls, Wong said “Sarawak is ready for change.” DAP is the biggest opposition party in Sarawak and is expected to put up a serious challenge in the next state polls. Today’s result is also significant in that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has snapped a streak of successive defeats to BN in recent by-elections.

The count now is 8-3 in favour of PR in terms of wins in by-elections held since Election 2008. Today’s result is also a setback for Najib who had personally campaigned for BN and had placed his own reputation on the line. Najib has been counting on Sabah and Sarawak as BN’s fixed deposit, but today’s result shows a major swing from 2008 when BN won the seat by more than 3,000 votes. Today’s result also raises two thorny issues — how to deal with the Tan Sri Taib Mahmud factor and whether to push for state polls which sources say had been slated for October this year.

Taib, who has been at the helm for more than two decades now, was absent from most of the Sibu campaign because BN had anticipated DAP attacks against his leadership. The white-haired chief minister known as “pek moh” among Chinese voters has been heavily criticised for alleged abuse of power. He has to call state elections by next year and Najib and BN had been hoping a resounding win would provide the ruling coalition the momentum needed to go into the next general elections. The victorious Wong called his win tonight a miracle. “It is a miracle we have created together. For those who did not vote for me I now want to be your friend,” he said.

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Slamming the Barisan Nasional (BN) regime as authoritarian, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (picture) called for civil society to take centrestage in the development of democracy in Malaysia. “Opposition parties and civil society must enjoy freedom of speech. Can it be democracy if they are barred from the airwaves? “We must not just guarantee civil liberties in a document, but basic institutions of civil society must be in place,” the Opposition leader said to nearly 200 people in a lecture hosted by the Cambridge University Southeast Asia Forum.

The former deputy prime minister criticised the likes of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who as prime minister had sacked Anwar from the deputy premiership, as well as the People’s Action Party in Singapore as holding to the dictum of “government knows best” and being condescending to its citizens. He said that there should be no need for licenses for media outlets as currently required and that withholding permits to hold public gatherings and protests ran contrary to fundamental principles of freedom even if unbridled freedom might not be acceptable to everyone as “it is up to the electorate to decide.”

Despite himself rising high in the BN hierarchy in the 1980s and 1990s, Anwar seemed to highlight exactly this period — “hardly three decades from the euphoria of independence” — as a time of blatant dictatorship which saw “despotism and greed for power.” “There was no tradition of discussion or reasoned debate in Umno or BN as we have between the parties in Pakatan Rakyat,” he said, comparing his experiences in the governing and opposition coalitions in Malaysia. “We fought colonisers because of the sanctity of freedom. It is totally unacceptable that after half a century, our people are not ready. What have you been doing if not to prepare citizens to accept democratic change and progress?” he said of BN’s unbroken rule since Malaysia’s independence in 1957.

He further chastised BN for limiting multiracial unity to terms like “tolerance” rather than extending it to “appreciation and understanding.” The de facto PKR leader also stressed on individual rights to self-determination and expression. Citing the personal attacks on Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, PKR’s candidate for the recent Hulu Selangor by-elections, for having consumed alcohol in the past, he said individuals have the right to decide and determine their own personal behaviour. “It is not our business to peep and pry into people’s doors and windows and judge them,” he said.

He added that it was hypocritical of Umno leaders to criticise Zaid as even Dr Mahathir’s son, Mirzan Mahathir, was a board member of San Miguel, a Filipino beermaker, although he has recently stepped down. “They (Umno) do not chase the rich and famous but only the weak and poor,” he said. He called on political leaders to “listen to the voice of conscience and be prepared to do the right thing” in allowing citizens to exercise basic civil liberties such as the right to a fair trial.

“We are not soft on crime or condone any excesses by terrorist. But it is untenable to continue this way,” he said of laws that allowed for detention without trial. Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders have also been accused in the past of taking the side of criminals rather than law enforcers and recent controversy over the shooting by the police of 14-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah who was driving illegally has also become a political issue for opposition lawmakers.

KUALA LUMPUR: Repairs to a fault in the submarine cable network linking Malaysia, Europe and the United States are expected to cause disruptions in nationwide Internet services from today until May 2.

Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) said it was taking active steps to minimise disruptions by having additional links on other routes and coordinating with other international carriers to provide additional bandwidth for its customers.

“Despite these initiatives, customers using Internet services nationwide may experience some degree of service degradation, such as slow browsing while accessing international websites.

“Customers using Virtual Private Network and other critical business applications linked to Europe and the US will be assured of minimal service degradation, if any,” said TM in a statement yesterday.

TM will also provide necessary updates on the progress of the restoration works.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and assure customers that we are taking all necessary measures to ensure that customers experience uninterrupted service.”

For more information, contact TM at 100 and select “Technical Assistance” or e-mail for any Internet-related problems.

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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