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Kampung Buah Pala holds its breath

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on July 6, 2009

THE SUN

Which way now… Will Kampung Buah Pala be declared a historic
communal settlement or be demolished to make way for apartments?

THERE is an old well, said to have been dug some 100 years ago in Penang’s Kampung Buah Pala, a charming settlement of cowherds and planters, which still provides fresh groundwater for many villagers. So remarkable is this well that during the national water crisis of the late 1990s, it became the lifeline for thousands of Penangites who made a bee-line to collect its water when all other supplies failed.pala5-----tmcv eg1


About five years ago, the inhabitants of this settlement – who trace their ancestry to at least five generations – were shocked when told that the land on which the well and the village stood was earmarked for a development project. The venture, which included four blocks of apartments, was called “Oasis”.

What had happened was that in August 2004 and July 2005, the state executive council reportedly approved the sale of the land at a premium of RM20 a sq ft or RM6.42 million. In 2007, the executive council halved the premium. The current value of the land is estimated at RM30-RM40 million.

What made the situation even more peculiar was that the buyer was a cooperative for government officers in Penang – Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang. The co-op has about 3,600 members – all civil servants who effectively made up the internal organs of the state machinery.

Villagers asked to see the alienation letter and transaction document, but none was forthcoming. They then sued the cooperative and the developer, Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd, and were vindicated when the High Court ruled in their favour in October last year. That decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal on May 11, giving the cooperative and Nusmetro vacant possession. Undeterred, the villagers took the case to the Federal Court, but on June 24 it too dismissed their case on grounds that they did not have locus standi.

“Our families have lived and worked on this land for more than a century, and suddenly we are told that we are trespassers,” said one of the village leaders, C. Tharmaraj. “Some day in the future, if my son asks me why I did not fight to keep this land, how would I answer him?”

What hurts the residents most is that by leaving they would be made to discard an important legacy. Their ancestors were indentured labourers brought in by the East India Company to work for the Brown Estate more than 150 years ago.

The owner and employer, Helen Margaret Brown, settled them in separate plots of land with space to rear cows and goats, and to plant fruit trees. The land became categorised as a vested crown for housing trust.

The idyllic village has been called Penang’s “High Chaparral”, after the American cowboy TV series of the 1970s. Years ago, when Penang’s general hospital was being built amid a shortage of infant formula milk, the colonial British administration relied on the cows from the village to supply patients and children with some 300 litres of milk everyday.

There are today 41 families and other residents remaining in the village. And now they want the land back. Most have refused compensation on the principle that land had allegedly been fraudulently transferred.

They have clamoured for the village to be identified by the authorities as a historic communal settlement, just like the Chitty and Portuguese villages in Malacca, or the Chinese clan jetties in Weld Quay.

But last Saturday, the residents were called in for a meeting with the George Town district police chief and the developers, and told to cooperate with a court bailiff, scheduled to serve a writ of possession today. The developer, they were told, could begin demolition after that.

The developments stirred an outpouring of emotion. Community rights group Hindraf barged in, demanding the state conserve the land as a heritage enclave – the only remaining traditional Indian village on the island.

And ironically, it is the Pakatan Rakyat state government, which only came into power in March last year, which has had to feel the brunt of the anger. But the state has been working hard behind the scenes. Deputy Chief Minister (II) Prof Dr P. Ramasamy even warned the developer: “If you don’t negotiate and provide a just solution with the settlers, you can expect to see a lot of hurdles … We are not a lame duck government.”

On Tuesday, the developer gave in, agreeing to hold back demolition by a month. It would buy some much needed time for the villagers and the state administration to work on new legal avenues and investigate the land transaction, to forestall the eviction.

Meantime, the old village well and the cattle that graze the grounds, will just have to wait and see if the heritage they have borne for so long will be able to endure for the many generations to come, or be replaced by concrete buildings.

Himanshu is theSun’s Penang bureau chief. Feedback: letters@thesundaily.com.

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Liberalisasi Ekonomi: Najib Cuma Nak Jadi Popular, Kata Mahathir

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on July 6, 2009

SUARA KEADILAN

Tun Mahathir Mohamad membidas Perdana Menteri Najib Razak atas langkahnya membuka ruang semakin luas untuk pelabur asing mengambil kepentingan dalam ekonomi negara.MAH3

Mahathir berkata langkah-langkah yang diumumkan oleh Najib hanya bertujuan untuk meraih populariti dan tidak akan membantu kaum Melayu, Cina atau pun India.

Antara yang diumumkan oleh Najib ialah pemansuhan beberapa syarat untuk melindungi kepentingan bumiputera dan kaum lain dalam sektor-sektor utama termasuk pelaburan asing.

Syarikat- syarikat yang disenaraikan di Bursa Kuala Lumpur tidak lagi perlu memperuntukan 30 peratus saham kepada Bumiputera sebagaimana yang ditetapkan sebelum Najib mengambil alih kerajaan Barisan Nasional April lalu.

“Saya berpendapat segala langkah itu lebih bertujuan untuk menjadi popular,” kata Mahathir merujuk kepada langkah-langkah Najib meliberalisasikan ekonomi untuk menarik pelaburan asing.”Saya tak tahu sama ada langkah-langkah ini akan membantu eknomi, sebab hakikatnya ekonomi Malaysia telah berkembang sejak kemerdekaan,” tambah mantan Perdana Menteri itu.

“Ekonomi kurang rancak sekarang, tetapi ini adalah kerana faktor persekitaran luaran, bukannya kerana perkara-perkara didalam negara,” Mahathir berkata.

Mahathir berkata Najib harus berwaspada terhadap pelabur asing yang mahukan kawalan sepenuh ke atas syarikat-syarikat pengurusan dana kerana “mereka tidak ada sebarang nilai kesetiaan kepada negara.”

“Mereka berada di negara ini untuk membuat untung. Apabila mereka tidak dapat berbuat demikian, mereka meninggalkan negara ini dan kita menanggung kesannya,” kata Mahathir.

Ketika menangani krisis ekonomi Asia pada tahun 1997-98, Mahathir mengekalkan dasar-dasar ekuti dan peruntukan saham bumiputera dan enggan membuka secara bebas sektor-sektor utama seperti perbankan kepada pelabur asing.

Beliau telah berpaut kepada prinsip bahawa Malaysia memerlukan pelaburan asing untuk merancakan pertumbuhan ekonomi negara, Namun pada masa sama Mahathir lantang menekankan keperluan melindungi peniaga bumiputera dan industri tempatkan daripada menjadi mangsa pengambil alihan syarikat-syarikat antarabangsa.

Mahathir sebelum ini telah mengelar Najib sebagai lemah dan pengecut apabila beliau menjadi Timbalan Perdana Menteri kepada Abdullah Badawi.

Kritikan terbaru secara terbuka Mahathir mencerminkan rasa tidak puas hati di kalangan pelbagai pihak, khususnya akar umbi UMNO terhadap mainan politik  Najib bersabit hak keistimewaan kaum bumiputera, semata-mata untuk meraih sokongan pengundi bukan Melayu.

Jambatan Pulau Pinang II Terlalu Mahal, Pakatan Gesa Kos Dikaji Semula

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on July 1, 2009

SUARA KEADILAN

 

Kerajaan digesa mengkaji semula kos projek pembinaan jambatan Pulau Pinang kedua  yang menelan belanja RM22 billion hanya untuk fasa satu.

Ketua Umum Parti Keadilan Rakyat Anwar Ibrahim berkata rakyat sudah tentu tidak mampu menanggung kos setinggi itu dan menyarankan  BN meneliti semula pelan laluan jambatan itu bagi mengurangkan harga projek.

Projek Jambatan Pulau Pinang II dilancarkan pada November 2006 dan dijangka siap pada Mei 2012.

Jambatan 24 kilometer itu akan  menghubungkan Batu Kawan di Seberang Perai dan Batu Maung di selatan Pulau Pinang.

Pembinaan projek ini bagaimanapun tertangguh ekoran lonjakan kos projek, akibat kenaikan kos bahan binaan serta kegagalan Kumpulan UEM memberikan sebut harga yang tetap.

“Saya tidak menolak rasional meneruskan dengan projek jambatan itu, tetapi saya musykil mengapa projek jambatan kedua diteruskan di laluan yang dicadangkan yang menelan belanja yang besar,” kata Anwar.

Projek ini berbilion ringgit ini dibina dengan bantuan pinjaman dari Republik Rakyat China, dalam usahasama Kumpulan UEM dan China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd (CHEC).

Walaupoun kosnya begitu tinggi, Kerajaan BN sudah pun mengeluarkan surat tawaran RM22 billion kepada CHEH-UEM untuk melaksanakan fasa pertama projek.

Pakatan Rakyat mencadangkan laluan projek ini dialihkan ke bahagian utara Pulau Pinang yang lebih hampir kepada Tanah Besar Semenanjung sebagai cara berkesan untuk mengurangkan kos.

“Berdasarkan kepada maklumat industri yang saya perolehi, ada cadangan yang dikemukakan kepada kerajaan supaya meneruskan projek di laluan alternatif dan kalau ini dapat diteruskan ia dapat menjimatkan belanja RM4 bilion ringgit termasuk gantirugi kepada syarikat yang dianugerah projek itu,” kata Ahli Parlimen Permatang Pauh itu.

Anwar berkata kerajaan perlu komited kepada perbelanjaan yang bijak dan menyelamatkan sebanyak mungkin wang rakyat dari projek-projek mega sebegini, supaya ia dilabur kepada sektor kesihatan dan pendidikan.

“Saya sekali lagi pertikai kedegilan kerajaan. Apa komitmen yang mereka buat sehingga mereka tidak mahu ubah perkara ini sedangkan mereka boleh fast-track pembinaan ini. Dari RM4 bilion ini, bayangkan kita boleh bina 400 hospital dan 400 sekolah tetapi sedikitpun tidak dipedulikan,” tegas Anwar.

Anwar menjelaskan Pakatan Rakyat tidak mempertikai projek ini diteruskan oleh usahasama Kumpulan UEM-China Harbour bahkan berpendapat komitmen usahasama ini diteruskan.

Apa yang ditekankan adalah laluan projek ini ditukar bagi menurunkan kos pembinaan supaya ia tidak membebankan warga Pulau Pinang dalam jangka masa panjang.

“Kita tidak pertikai jika rundingan dijalankan dan mereka bina projek ini di laluan alternatif. Ini lebih viable kerana projek yang dicadangkan ini menelan belanja lebih tinggi dan lebih sukar untuk rakyat pulau pinang bayar kos dengan caj yang lebih tinggi kerana kos yang tinggi,” kata Anwar.

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Dr M pushes crooked bridge to Singapore once again

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 27, 2009

SUARA KEADILAN

By Wong Choon Mei [Updated]

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is not about to give up on his “crooked bridge” idea to replace the existing Causeway link to Singapore.

In fact, the wily veteran may be trying to ride the current wave of negative reaction to Singapore’s demand for sand to revive his own frozen S-shaped bridge.

After a recent official visit, Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had said his government could only consider a new third link project proposed by Prime Minister Najib Razak if a 12-year ban on sand export to the island-state was lifted.

In his latest blog posting, the fiesty Dr M – known for his 22-year ham-fisted rule of the country – also fired several missiles at his successor-turned-foe Abdullah Badawi for pulling the plug on his idea launched towards the tail-end of his premiership.

“The work was started during my time. Had Abdullah not stopped it, the bridge would have been almost complete by now,” Mahathir said.

“Since Singapore would only agree to a straight bridge if one billion cubic metre of sand is sold to it; since the people of Johore are against selling sand and allowing Singapore fighter planes to practice over Johore, the option for the Malaysian Government is to revert to building the scenic bridge in our territorial waters. This is the sovereign right of an independent nation.”

Not all about sand but Dr M is striking while the iron is hot

By scenic bridge, Mahathir was referring to the curve-shape that his bridge would have to adopt.

It must be mentioned that this crooked shape came about not just because Singapore would not agree to a straight bridge unless Malaysia sold it sand, but also because Mahathir himself wanted to boost traffic between the country’s fast-rising ports at Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Pelepas.

For this to happen, the bridge replacing the Causeway must be high enough for ships to pass under it. Currently, they are forced to re-route all the way around Singapore because the Causeway is too low.

Hence, the dramatic curve shape to allow for the road to gain the necessary height needed to overcome the short distance between the two coasts.

“If the Causeway is opened up there would be constant flow of water in both direction, thus flushing out the water in the strait. Without the Causeway boats and yachts can sail in either direction.

“Transport of goods and people between Pasir Gudang Port to Tanjung Pelepas Port would be facilitated. This would be good for the growth of both ports – something which perhaps Singapore would not like to see.

“The free movements of boats along the strait would itself create business. The bridge which would be wider than the causeway would speed up the flow of traffic. The CIQ was designed to handle this increasingly heavier traffic.

Najib had proposed a totally different third link, from an eastern point in Johor linking the eastern coast of Singapore nearby Changi to tap the international airport’s traffic. The existing Causeway Bridge links Johor Baru to Woodlands while the Second Link connects Nusajaya to Tuas.

But for Najib’s idea to take off, he may have to agree to Kuan Yew’s request and lift the sand ban imposed by Mahathir in 1997, an idea that has been emotionally rejected by many in Johor. In fact, the Johor Sultan has already shot down the proposal.

Amid the politicking and as Malaysian policy-makers look for other ways to resolve the traffic woes at the new Immigration checkpoint, the ancillary infrastructure already put in to support Mahathir’s un-built crooked bridge may force a rethink of the idea described by many as “harebrained”.

Who knows the indefatigable Dr M may actually get his own way in the end – harebrained or not! But of course, the key question remains – does Malaysia need this sort of mega-project right now or would a simpler more down-to-earth solution be wiser?

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Azmin: Why Spend RM1mil To Hire Jean Todt And Michelle Yeoh?

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 25, 2009

SUARA KEADILAN

By SK English News

MP for Gombak Azmin Ali has asked the government to explain why it spent nearly a million ringgit to hire former Ferrari Formula One owner Jean Todt and his fiance Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh as tourism ambassadors for the country when there were already tourism offices in major European cities.

According to the PKR vice president, Todt’s annual fees amounted to RM593,400 while the couple received RM388,000 for holidays in Malaysia. Their flights alone cost up to RM360,000.

“This is only the flight costs. It does not include overseas accommodation, traveling expenses and lifestyle allowance,” Azmin later told reporters at the sidelines of Parliament.

During the sitting,  Deputy Tourism Minister Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib had refused to answer Azmin’s question, saying it was unrelated to the original question which was on the types of films and documentaries produced to promote tourism.

Did the gov’t offer him land? Was it for free?

Azmin also demanded to know if the government had offered land to Todt , who allegedly is building a home in Pulau Besar near Kuala Terengganu.

Todt was given approval this year to participate in the Malaysia My Second Home programme which allows him to buy property and live in Malaysia

“I have proof on the offer of land to Todt in Pulau Besar. I have documents to show that there has been communication between the ministry and Jean Todt on the matter,” said Azmin.

“But I’m not going beyond that until the ministry comes out with an open statement on the matter. Was the land given for free? They have to come clean. What is the premium paid by Jean Todt? What is the acreage given to him?”

Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen later confirmed that Todt was appointed as tourism ambassador for a two-year period beginning May this year. According to her, Todt’s “presence in Europe will increase Malaysia visibility”.

She also claimed that the RM1 million allocated for the tenure of his appointment has yet to be spent.

“The money is not in the form of cash to him. To promote Malaysia in Europe, RM1 million is nothing,” Yen Yen said.

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Currency, culture, Confucius: China’s writ will run across the world

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 24, 2009

TIMES ONLINE

The rise of the East will change more than just economics. It will shake up the whole way that we think and live our lives

Martin Jacques

The world is being remade but the West is only very slowly waking up to this new reality. In 2027 Goldman Sachs estimates that the size of the Chinese economy will overtake America’s and by 2050 will be twice as big.

But we still think of the rise of the developing countries and the relative decline of the developed nations in almost exclusively economic terms. China’s rise is seen as having momentous economic implications but being of little political and cultural consequence. This is a profound mistake.

In the past – Britain and the US being obvious cases in point – the economic rise of a country has always been the prelude to the exercise of much wider political and cultural influence. So why should China be different?

The only plausible reason that I can think of is the hubristic belief that our ways of doing things are so superior that other countries will automatically adopt our arrangements, values and belief systems. It is based on the absurd assumption that China’s modernity will not be deeply shaped by its own long and rich history and culture.

BACKGROUND
  • We need Brics to build the world economy
  • Analyst puts pin in supermarket price ‘bubble’
  • Putting up barriers are no protection in economic storm
  • Building a better future together

Let me give a few examples of how China will remain very different from the West. The nation state, a product of the European tradition, has become the primary defining entity of nations. The problem is that China is not really a nation state: it may have called itself one over the past century, but for the previous two millennia it was a civilisation state. For China, the nation state is the top soil and the civilisation state the geological formation.

The Chinese do not think of themselves in terms of nation but civilisation; it is the latter that gives them their sense of identity.

Although we tend to think of China in somewhat homogeneous terms, it is a continent that contains great diversity; and to govern a continent requires a plurality of systems that a nation state would never tolerate. The maxim of a nation state is “one nation, one system”; that of a civilisation state is, of necessity, “one country, several systems”.

Think back to the constitutional formula that underpinned the handover of Hong Kong: “one country, two systems”. Despite Western scepticism, the Chinese really meant it, as the Hong Kong of today clearly illustrates.

Now imagine what it might be like to have a civilisation state, rather than a nation state, as the world’s dominant power: the consequences are bound to be very far-reaching but very difficult to conceive because of its unfamiliarity.

Or take the tributary state system, which organised interstate relations in East Asia for thousands of years. It was a loose and flexible system of states that was organised around the dominance of China, the acceptance of the latter’s cultural superiority, and a symbolic tribute that was paid in return for the protection of the Chinese emperor. That system lasted until about 1900.

The deeply rooted attitudes that informed the tributary system have never really gone away, either on the part of the Chinese or others. Furthermore, the conditions that swept it away – the decline of China and the arrival of European colonialism (and the subsequent influence of the United States) – have disappeared or, in the case of America, is waning.

We are now witnessing the rapid reconfiguration of the region around a resurgent China. It is entirely plausible that we might once again see the return, in a modern context, of some elements of the tributary state system, thereby challenging the global dominance of that European invention (the Westphalian system) of sovereign, independent nation states.

There are other examples of how China will remain very different from the Western norms that we are so familiar with: unlike in Europe, the state has never had its powers curbed by competitors, giving it an unrivalled position at the heart of Chinese society; or its highly distinctive position on race, where about 92 per cent of the population believe that they are of one race; and the lack of a conception of, or respect for, difference that flows from this.

The rise of China will transform a world that presently conforms to a Western template. It will not happen quickly; not least because the Chinese are, for now, too preoccupied with economic growth and escaping from poverty to entertain such questions. But in time that will change as the country becomes more prosperous and people can afford to raise their sights and entertain other ambitions. In the 19th century, Europe left a profound and indelible impression on the world, marking the birth of the Western(-made) world. That era is now in retreat.

The rise of China signals the slow dawning of a very different era in which Chinese influence will become profound.

The renminbi will replace the dollar as the world’s dominant currency. The international financial system will be remade in China’s financial centre, Shanghai. Mandarin, already spoken by twice as many people as English, will become a lingua franca just like English is now.

The great landmarks of Chinese history – the voyages of Zheng He, the formation of the Qin dynasty, the inventions of the Song dynasty, the 1949 revolution – will become universally familiar.

Confucius will take his place as a philosopher of global, not just Chinese, signficance. Chinese film, already popular in the West through movies such as Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower will exercise a growing influence on the popular imagination. Beijing, rather than New York, will be the global reference point. Chinese traditional medicine, based on principles very different from Western, will become widespread across the globe.

Our children and grandchildren will grow up in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar to us, where the old Western furniture can no longer be taken for granted. For the first time for more than two centuries Westerners will be obliged to adapt to and learn from other cultures in a quite novel way. It will be a highly disorientating and disconcerting process.

Martin Jacques is author of When China Rules the World: the Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World (Allen Lane £30)

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Investing in this market is financial suicide

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 8, 2009

SUARA KEADILAN

By Matthias Chang

market1I only read mainstream financial newspapers for their latest double-speak and to see how markets react to such nonsense.

Time after time, greedy suckers would be lured into the trap and get slaughtered by the insiders.

How can one explain mainstream media reports such as “market rallied as price of oil surges on global demand” on some days and on others “market tumbles as crude oil spikes”?

Then we have yet another analysis that states, “markets surge as oil price tumbles as inflation worries take a back seat” to be contradicted a few weeks later, “market moves in tandem with crude’s upward trend”.

The inflation worries have evaporated from the radar screen!

In the weeks before GM Bankruptcy, we have the following analysis:

Dow falls: “Stocks Decline On GM Bankruptcy Fears” (May 27 Forbes)

Dow falls: “Rally hopes shelved as the likelihood of bankruptcy for GM shook Wall Street” (May 28 Wall Street Journal)

But when GM filed for bankruptcy on Monday, the world cheered and the market surged!

Dow soars: “Stock Market Shrugs Off GM Filing” (June 1 Reuters)

The Dow gains over 200 points!

If this is not madness, what is?

Another slaughterhouse soon

To me, this is a sure sign of market manipulation by the financial power brokers and anyone who does not have a ringside seat is going to get slaughtered as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.

When bad news can be turned into good news and start a rally, this is another indication of desperation and or worse, a grand scheme to divert attention from another more fatal financial scandal.

America is broke, bankrupt.

Obama has already admitted that America has no money in the coffers.

Bernanke’s FED has stated that they will print as much money as needed to purchase US treasuries to finance bankrupt USA.

This year alone, US must find creditors willing enough to lend US$1.8 trillion to fund current deficits as a result of the massive bailout.

USA must also find the moneys to repay debts amounting to US$14.5 trillion and the interest due on that colossal sum.

UK is in the dog house!

Europe is groping in the dark.

Malaysia depends on these huge markets for her exports.

These markets have collapsed. Vanished to cyberspace!

We will be lucky if these markets are back to positive territory in five years, and even then, they will not be back to pre-crisis levels.

Bank Negara’s analysis is wrong. EPU’s analysis is wrong. Treasury’s analysis is wrong.

So, who can Najib trust, Omar Ong and his new version of the 4th floor boys?

Pakatan Rakyat and Anwar are indulging in By-election politics and have not the faintest idea how to manage the country.

They are good at throwing stones and hoping one or two might just hit the target. But they are living in glass houses.

I cry for Malaysia.

I also speak for myself

P.S. My views are my views. I don’t represent anyone. They are given without fear or favour.

Those who propagate the rumours that I influence Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad are much too kind and generous as to my intellectual capabilities.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is an intellectual giant and a former prime minister and has no need of any “advice” from me.

To those who read my articles (especially Najib’s boys) please banish from your thoughts that what I write is a reflection of Tun’s views and or that I write under his direction.

As a practicing lawyer of 31 years and a citizen of Malaysia, I believe that I am entitled to express my own views concerning the country.

Visit my website for my views and visit Tun’s blog for his views. If there are similar opinions on some issues, let me assure you that it is mere coincidence.

I have the highest respect for Tun and my failings (if any) in expressing my views should not be attributed to Tun.

If anyone who does not like my style of writing and or my calling a spade a spade, please refrain from visiting my website. I did not stuff it in your throat!

[Matthias Chang is a barrister of 31 years standing and was once Political Secretary to former premier Mahathir Mohamad. He is also the author of three novels Future FastForward; Brainwashed for War, Programmed to Kill; and The Shadow Money Lenders and the Global Financial Tsunami]

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Is anyone really in charge of our economy

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Is anyone really in charge of our economy?

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 1, 2009

SUARA KEADILAN

By Matthias Chang

confusion1I have given up hope that our Prime Minister, who is also the Finance Minister, will be able to chart a course that will enable Malaysia to overcome the deepening global financial crisis.

One would have thought that with all the resources and expertise at their disposal and the benefit of hindsight, our experts ought to be able to put their act together and get their economic analysis right, but the recent press statements by Bank Negara, Treasury and EPU regarding the massive contraction of our economy are most distressing.

What is more depressing is that the data presented by the relevant institutions show that the key advisers to Najib are involved in some sort of turf war and are at logger heads with one another as to the extent of the downturn and what needs to be done.

Judge for yourselves from the following news reports:

New Straits Times, May 27, 2009

Remarks by Second Finance Minister:
Malaysia economy may contract by more than 1 per cent this year but is expected to return to positive growth next year, Second Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Husni Mohamed Hanadziah says. ‘It will be lower than minus 1 per cent this year. This is below the forecast we made last year,’ he told reporters after officiating at the launch of the Securities Commission Executive Enhancement and Development Programme in Kuala Lumpur.

The SUN, May 28, 2009
Remarks by the Governor of Bank Negara (Central Bank):
Malaysia’s first quarter gross domestic product this year contracted by 6.2% from a growth of 0.1% in the fourth quarter last year, but the prognosis for improved economic conditions looks brighter in the second half of the year.

Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz, in announcing the GDP figures, attributed the contraction to the significant deterioration in external demand following the deepening recession in advanced economies. ‘Export demand continues to be weak and the environment is still challenging. Despite early signs of improvement, Q2 will be similar to Q1,’ she told a press conference on the country’s economic performance here yesterday. ‘However, economic conditions are expected to improve in the second half of this year supported by fiscal stimulus measures and enhancing access to financing,’ said Dr. Zeti. ‘Malaysia is expected to see a significant improvement in the third quarter this year and a higher degree of positive growth in the fourth quarter that would continue into next year.’


So who is right – positive growth in second half of this year or next year? Or will it continue to be negative next year?

The STAR Biz, May 29, 2009:
Remarks by the Director General, Economic Planning Unit:
There are mixed signals on the economic recovery front although some confidence has returned. However, a clearer picture will emerge in the next two to three months when more impact from the stimulus package would have been felt.

Based on some economic indicators we believe there are signs of improving demand in the market, for instance, the rising price of crude oil (US$36 per barrel in mid-January to US$62 per barrel), palm oil (RM1,700 per tonne in January to RM2,772 per tonne) and rubber (lowest RM4.48 per kg in January to RM5.64 per kg) as well as better performance of the stock market, said Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob, the Director General of the Economic Planning Unit.

We believe the current economic crisis is about to bottom out…

However, he believed the Malaysian economy would experience a relatively gradual recovery before picking up in the second half of next year.

So the EPU takes the view that it is only in the second half of 2010 that we can see growth and not the second half of 2009!

The STAR Biz, May 29, 2009
Remarks by PM Najib
The worsening external economic situation has prompted a revision of the country’s economic performance to a contraction of between 4% and 5% for this year from a contraction of 1% and a growth of 1% before.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said at a press briefing yesterday that the economic climate had deteriorated more than expected.

In tandem with new developments, the government is revising the real gross domestic product performance of Malaysia for the year to a contraction between 4% and 5% from a contraction of 1% and growth of 1% previously, he said.

According to Najib, private sector investment had fallen by 26% from a year ago while foreign direct investment was also down by half compared to last year.

So who is right, the Second Finance Minister’s contraction of more than 1% or Najib’s 4% and 5%? Of course “more than 1% can mean anything from 2% to 6%.

Why the difference in approach and evaluation from three key institutions?

By any measure, a 6.2% contraction in the first quarter of 2009 is huge. How these experts could underestimate the deepening crisis even with the benefit of hindsight as the global financial crisis had deteriorated further in the last quarter of 2008 is hard to comprehend.

If they could not get it right in the last quarter of 2008 moving to 2009, how can we trust their prognosis that second half of 2009 or that 2010 will be rosier and we will have economic recovery?

In all my previous articles in 2008, especially in the second half of 2008 I had warned the government that we will have negative growth in 2009 but the warnings were all ignored.

Let me say it here and now, loud and clear – we will have negative growth even in 2010 and will be lucky to see some “green shoots” in 2011.

Recent appointments by the Prime Minister, specifically the former CEO of Malayan Banking to be the chairman of the NEAC do not inspire confidence when this banker was responsible for the acquisition of an Indonesian bank which turned out to be a multi-billion ringgit scandal!

It goes without saying that Malaysia’s economy will definitely be beyond repair when our Prime Minister appointed the 5th Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi as adviser for the development of the various “economic corridors” when these pet mega projects of Badawi have been utter failures.

Adding fuel to the fire, there have been rumours that Najib is putting his cronies in charge of Petronas – our country’s cash cow!

I suppose, if one is going to be a one term prime minister, there is only so much time to loot the dwindling coffers!

Malaysia deserves better.

[Matthias Chang is a barrister of 31 years standing and was once Political Secretary to former premier Mahathir Mohamad. He is also the author of three novels Future FastForward; Brainwashed for War, Programmed to Kill; and The Shadow Money Lenders and the Global Financial Tsunami]

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Malaysia PM faces setback on Perak takeover

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 13, 2009

AnwarIbrahimblog

From The Financial Times
By John Burton

Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime minister, on Monday suffered his biggest political setback since taking power last month as the country’s high court said his government’s takeover of Perak state, in which he played a key role, was illegal.

Perak, one of Malaysia’s largest states, has been at the centre of a constitutional crisis since February, when the opposition-held state government was brought down after three state assemblymen defected to support Mr Najib’s National Front alliance.

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance claimed that the move was unconstitutional. The high court agreed that normal parliamentary procedures had not been followed.

Perak could face fresh state elections, with most analysts believing that the opposition could gain a bigger majority in the state assembly because of a public backlash against Mr Najib’s political tactics.

The Pakatan Rakyat came to power in Perak in March 2008 when the opposition won control of five of Malaysia’s 13 state governments at the general elections. Nazir Jamaluddin, who became chief minister of Perak, won a state by-election last month in what was seen as a strong vote of public support for his stance against Mr Najib’s government.

Ipoh, the normally sleepy capital of Perak, was the scene of bitter clashes last week as the state assembly held its first session since the political crisis erupted. The opposition speaker of the house was expelled from the chamber and police arrested dozens of protesters outside the building.

The court’s ruling is embarrassing to Sultan Azlan Shah, Perak’s royal ruler, who decided to appoint a National Front member as chief minister, replacing Mr Nazir, after the defections. The high court said the sultan should not have made the appointment in the absence of a vote of no confidence by the state assembly against Mr Nazir.

The opposition has called for elections to resolve the issue and the newly reinstated Mr Nazir is expected to meet the sultan on Tuesday to ask him to dissolve the assembly.

The sultan, who trained as a lawyer, has come under public criticism for his role since he is regarded as a constitutional expert and was a former lord president of the federal court. He served as Malaysia’s monarch in the early 1990s under the country’s system of rotating kingship among nine state sultans.

Mr Najib met the sultan shortly before the appointment of the new Perak chief minister was made in February and he is also believed to have played a role in persuading the opposition assemblymen to defect.

Critics said Mr Najib’s involvement was a return to the hardline political tactics of Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister who was a mentor to Mr Najib.

The high court decision is seen as a sign of increased judicial independence.

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The Penanti doublespeak — The Malaysian Insider

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 19, 2009

The Malaysian Insider

Question: When did a group of politicians and lawmakers who have presided over billions of ringgit in wastage and leakages and who usurped power in Perak develop a conscience about prudent spending and democratic practices?

Answer: When they realised the futility of contesting a by-election in Anwar Ibrahim territory and the danger of allowing the political temperature in the country to keep on throbbing.

The latest news out of the Barisan Nasional camp is that they may not contest the Penanti seat in Penang, left vacant by the resignation of Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, the incumbent who has been damaged by a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission probe and countless complaints of incompetence and truancy.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today that if there was a consensus among BN parties, the ruling coalition may not field a candidate in the by-election. This is not the first time that the BN has contemplated giving a free victory to the opposition.

After Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail made way for her husband in Permatang Pauh last year, similar noises were made by BN politicians, arguing that they did not want to become pawns in a political game.

Fearful of coming across as cowards, BN fielded Datuk Ariff Shah and he was trounced by Datuk Seri Anwar. It is almost certain that any candidate BN puts up in Penanti will be beaten soundly. This state seat is part of the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency.

Voters here have been bribed, cajoled and threatened since 1998 but have stayed loyal to Anwar and his family.

In addition, the Umno machinery in this constituency is a mess. There are about three or four warlords here and all of them have been working furiously to undermine each other.

Under such conditions and given that this is Anwar territory, it would have been a steep climb for Umno/BN to field a candidate and expect to stop the Pakatan Rakyat juggernaut from notching its fifth consecutive by-election victory in Peninsular Malaysia, following Permatang Pauh, Kuala Terengganu, Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau.

Let’s face it, the last thing the new Najib administration needs is another defeat and another reminder that a significant number of Malaysians support Pakatan Rakyat. The new leadership wants a change in the news cycle, a drop in the political temperature and a rolling boulder to stop the opposition momentum.

It yearns for a return to the mundane and ordinary. That is why government lawyers have been pushing the courts to resolve the Perak crisis ASAP.

Perhaps that may explain why the Federal Court moved with unusual haste to hear two cases related to the power grab.

The BN has attempted to occupy the high ground on the Fairus resignation and the need for a by-election, arguing that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money and counter to the principles of parliamentary democracy.

Let’s examine some of their reasons for challenging the need for a by-election:

? The mainstream media went to town detailing the cost of holding by-elections, saying that the five by-elections cost taxpayers RM33.4 million and making the case that the funds could be better utilised.

There are gaping holes in the argument. RM33.4 million is small change for a government which is ticked off every year by the Auditor-General for wasting hundreds of millions on suspect projects. RM33.4 million is small change for ruling coalition politicians who regularly pad government contracts.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the RM33.4 million was incurred by the police. In many of the by-elections, the police contingent outnumbered party workers on both sides of the political divide.

It is hard to fathom why 6,000 police personnel were stationed in Kuala Terengganu and Bukit Gantang. The opposition is convinced that the show of force was meant to intimidate their party workers and dissuade the electorate from attending political rallies.

Clearly, the number of police personnel could have been reduced to 1,000 personnel in both constituencies and the cost would have been slashed considerably from the final bill of RM11.5 million in Kuala Terengganu and RM7 million Bukit Gantang.

? BN politicians also lashed out at PKR for forcing Fairus to resign as state assemblyman, arguing that it was against the principles of parliamentary democracy.

A few of them noted that Fairus had betrayed the voters by resigning, pointing out that once you offer yourself as a candidate, you should be committed to working for the whole duration to serve the people.

This would have been an acceptable argument had it escaped the lips of Barack Obama, Tun Dr Ismail or someone with moral standing.

But standing on a pedestal and preaching about high principles is not an option available to guys who encouraged the defection of three Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers and then took over power unconstitutionally in Perak.

If principles of parliamentary democracy mattered, then BN leaders should have given Messrs Hee, Jamaluddin and Osman a tutorial on a simple concept called loyalty to constituents.

The tutorial would have gone something like this: if you offer yourself as a candidate on one ticket, you should serve on that ticket for the whole term.

Anwar is pushing for a by-election because once again he has been found wanting in his choice of candidate.

Like Jamaluddin and Osman, Fairus liked the position but not the concept of work. Like the two former PKR men, he too is likely to be charged in court soon with corruption. It would have been untenable for Fairus to remain a lawmaker with a corruption charge over his head.

The by-election strategy is Anwar’s preferred method of replacing the controversial with the credible.

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