Friday, October 31, 2008
Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda walked out a free man today. He has now been cleared from the charge of abetting in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu. The two policemen - UTK officers Kpl Sirul Azhar Umar and Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri have now been ordered to enter their defence. In short, the prosecution failed to prove a case against Razak Baginda but the case against the two UTK men would proceed. But as the legal battle continues, so would the political battle. The allegations against Najib Tun Razak, as the Prime Minister in waiting, can be expected to intensify. The police have cleared him of any involvement; in parliament and outside parliament, the DPM has said that he did not know nor has met the woman; he has even "bersumpah" at a mosque, at meetings with Umno leaders and even during a ceramah - but the accusations, if not perceptions, would continue. It is not just a legal battle but a political fight, that's the reality. It has not helped that a lot of questions have remained unanswered. The court decision to acquit Razak Baginda could well provide fresh ammunition to the nemesis of Najib to attack him but there could also be more suits, if the critics are not careful with their choice of words on today's judgement.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Just take a walk along Jalan Petaling. It used to be a real Chinatown but not anymore. There are now more Bangladeshis, Indonesians and other foreigners than Malaysians. It's the same with Chow Kit where the foreigners have displaced the Malays in the area. In Jalan Petaling, the owners of these stalls seems to be more contented letting their foreign workers run their businesses. So when foreign tourists visit these stalls, all they see are foreigners selling these faked goods. Where are the Malaysians? Maybe the food sellers are still Malaysians but surely these foreigners have outnumbered the locals. Now that there is an application by Pengasih, a non-profit organisation that runs a drug rehabilitation programme, for additional stalls in Jalan Petaling, these traders have suddenly surfaced, grumbling and complaining. Their argument doesn't seem very convincing. What's wrong with letting Pengasih be a part of Jalan Petaling? In fact, every pasar malam in the city should keep a spot for NGOs for the disabled, single mothers and the less privileged to dabble in small businesses instead of relying on handouts. They should have realised long ago that Chinatown has become Banglatown. They should not blame anyone except themselves for losing that identity. Except for the arch, the identity of Jalan Petaling as Chinatown has disappeared. Meanwhile, City Hall has finally announced officially that Jalan Alor would stick to its identity - and name. It would be taking down the Jalan Kejora road sign soon. Thanks to Federal Territories Minister Zulhasnan Rafique for stepping in and putting things right.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Foreign Minister Rais Yatim is right - Iranian Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi should be allowed to speak at the campus. There is no reason why the invitation to the outspoken human rights activist should be withdrawn. She is a guest of a Malaysian university. So why should we worry if a small group of Iranian students grumble. This is Malaysia, not Teheran-lah. If they do not want to listen to her, then they should just stay away. Since when does Universiti Malaya and the Foreign Ministry take orders from Iranian students? A university is a place where intellectual discourse must be allowed to take place and the divergence of views must be encouraged. To stifle the freedom of expression and to submit to the demands of a small group is surely out of line. There is no place for the tyranny of the minority. Rais must be commended for saying the letter from the Foreign Ministry was made without his permission. Diplomacy and maintaining good relations is what Wisma Putra does but they should not let these envoys boss them around. Ebadi, a lawyer, and her daughter have faced death threats for their views, which does not conform with those of the Ayatollahs. Liberals must never let the conservatives and religious right drown their voices and rights.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
With all the excitement of last week's political events, I missed one piece of minor but important news item - the DBKL has decided to rename Jalan Alor, the favourite food haunt of people in Kuala Lumpur, and tourists as well - to Jalan Kejora. What was on the mind of the road naming committee when they decided to make this stupid move? Did they even bother to consult the food operators, businessmen and residents there? Don't they realise that Jalan Alor is an international name? The DBKL has came up an unconvincing line to justify the decision to rename the road, saying it had to "meet the requirements of the road naming guideline." What requirements and guidelines are they talking about? For another perspective, read Meiyen's take here. Let's hope Federal Territories Minister Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique, who is an open and fair-minded person, will put things right by keeping the name Jalan Alor.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
He has been written off as politically dead but Chua Soi Lek has staged a dramatic, if not, stunning comeback, as the MCA deputy president. The outspoken politician, who was left out of the March 8 polls, understood what the delegates wanted in the post-political tsunami period - they wanted MCA leaders who dare to speak up. Soi Lek fitted that image as an eloquent, outspoken and upfront leader. While the sex DVD issue continued to haunt him during the campaign, the constant appearance of his wife and MP son with him must have helped remove the doubts of delegates. After all, if his family had forgiven him, it was time to move on. He had also admitted his mistake. But public perception is also important although the delegates have picked him. Now, his task would be to prove to Malaysians that he can live up to their expectations and to put the past behind. Likewise, it would not be easy for the equally outspoken Tee Keat, the new MCA president. Making demands is one thing but the question remains whether they would be accomodated. Or they remain just as demands. There were snubs from several key Umno politicians after the general assembly. Repealing the ISA? No way. Dominating Umno? Who says so. Even the request for the unassuming, if not unimportant, BN Youth deputy chairman post by Liow Tiong Lai was met with reservations and questions from some Umno leaders. Even the usually level-headed Shahrir Samad questioned the need for such a post. At least Pak Lah and Hishamuddin Hussein Onn had the decency to say the request would be discussed.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Outgoing MCA president Ong Ka Ting has probably delivered one of his strongest speeches. There was plenty of sting, for sure. It may be a little too late but he will be saluted for saying what needs to be said in front of the Umno president. The Malaysian Insider also posted a commentary: "Umno not a bully? Yeah. Right" rebutting Pak Lah's defence of Umno. Perception is everything in politics. Umno leaders can shrug it off, express their displeasure or lash out at MCA for Ka Ting's strong words but that would be the greatest disservice they can do. The MCA has been Umno's loyal partner for over 50 years. Both parties have gone through thick and thin. Like all marriages, partners must take what each other say or feel seriously for it to work. Unlike some BN component parties, the MCA has defended the coalition, not once using the words "mulling of leaving the BN" to revive itself. The truth is no partner is always right but it is always good to listen, that's why God gives us two ears and only one mouth.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It isn't everyday that a Ruler of a state is ordered by the courts to pay up a loan. Today, a precedent was set when the Putrajaya Special Court (picture) , set up to hear cases involving the royalty, ordered the former King and Yang Dipertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, Tuanku Jaafar to pay Standard Chartered Bank about RM3.5mil to honour his commitment over a business deal. The court also dismissed Tuanku Jaafar's countersuit against the bank for a declaration that the bank was not entitled to uplift his fixed deposit to settle the outstanding loan. The court decision has certainly embarassed his Highness. Among corporate figures, many wondered how this perculiar situation has came about as the amount would be regarded as small among the rich and famous. It is often not talked about but the expensive lifestyles of some royalty members, especially the siblings, have often put a strain on the purses of several royal households.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Kulim-Bandar Baru MP Zulkifli Nordin, who shot to national notoriety, for barging into Bar Council interfaith forum is fast making a reputation for himself as the elusive MP. Not only does constituents do not know where he is most of the time, even the PKR leaders and reporters have problems contacting him. The PKR disciplinary committee has also yet to act against him for his outrageous behaviour at the Bar Council meeting, hoping that Malaysians would just forget about the whole incident. Today, the talk in town is that Zul Nordin, a lawyer, is joining Umno, according to the Malaysian Insider. He did not turn up in Parliament although his party boss, Anwar Ibrahim, was making his maiden speech. Neither could he be reached for comments on the Alor Star High Court decision to throw out a BN petition after the BN withdrew it, ensuring Zul remain as MP. The BN was said to have a strong case against Zul as he did not submit his elections expenditure from his 2004 polls. No reasons have been given for the BN decision. He seems to be making news for the wrong reasons. It seems the last they heard of him was that he was heading to Mecca with some Uzbekistan friends.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
IT'S one award that would surely stir a lot of controversy, if not invite much criticism. The decision to award a Datukship to Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan is mind-boggling. Such awards, we thought, were given to individuals for their contributions to a state or the country. We are not sure what is Shah Rukh Khan's contribution to Malacca. Sure, he is a great actor and dancer with a massive fan base in Malaysia, but Malaysians need plenty of convincing as far as his contribution to Malacca, or Malaysia, is concerned. There must be something that we do not know. Maybe he has helped promote Malaysia through his efforts that we do not know and it would be good if someone shed some light on this one. Bernama has quoted the CM's political secretary Saadon Bisirun as saying that SRK was awarded the title for his contribution to entertainment at the international level and for making a movie in Malacca. Certain states have been criticised for their overly generous awards of Datukship to individuals, whose identities and contributions are totally unknown. One Ruler of a state defended his long list of new Datuks each year, saying his state was a "big state" but many are cynical although it is his Highness prerogative. Still, these awards would lose its prestige and importance if is no serious efforts are made to maintain a certain level of standards.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
With Pak Lah's announcement, the 191 divisions are expected to nominate Najib for president. It isn't clear whether he would have a running mate but Muhyiddin Yassin is regarded as the most serious candidate for the number two slot. The party polls would be crucial for many as it could well determine their positions in government, especially at the Cabinet level. The assumption is that when Najib takes over in March, there would be a Cabinet reshuffle.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The Prime Minister is expected to announce by Wednesday that he is not seeking re-election as Umno president. It won't be news to most Malaysians by now but he would have to make known his stand at the Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional supreme council meetings. Pak Lah will stay on until March. He will also inform the 191 Umno divisions, which will begin their meetings on Oct 9, that he would decline nominations for the top post. His announcement will mark the beginning of a leadership transition period, which will see the baton being passed on to his deputy, Najib Tun Razak. The task for Najib will be tough. Najib has said that the BN, particularly Umno, must change or be changed. But the question is do Umno leaders realise the need to change?
More than eight months after the general election, the perception is that Umno does not see the urgency to reform itself. The impression is that Umno leaders prefer to blame others - from Pak Lah to Anwar Ibrahim to the press - except themselves. Some seemed to believe that racial posturing is the answer, not realising that they would continue to alienate the young Malays and other races. The idea is to win back the votes of all races, not lose them further. Some have lost the connect with the young, still harping on historical events, which meant little to a country where over 60% of the population are less than 24 years old. Like John McCain, who doesn't know how to use the Internet against Obama, who cannot live without his Blackberry, there are plenty in Umno, and BN, who have no inkling what is happening in cyberspace. Najib has the job of convincing his members that they must change, the party must go through reforms, the party needs rebranding (and it doesn't mean a new set of uniforms and badges) and reinvention. It's simple, nobody can sell a product that's over 50 years old with more of the same. The clients - in this case, the electorate - have changed and surely they cannot be using a product, which they cannot identify with. Unless Umno members recognise these weaknesses, the going would be tough for Najib. He has less than four years to carry out drastic changes to win back the states BN lost to Pakatan Rakyat. It has to be a battle of popularity from now. It is about appealing to the people. It can no longer be business as usual for Umno or it will be out of business.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Datuk Zahid Hamidi (pic) is contesting the deputy Umno president post. If he gets the 38 nominations* and go on to win the post, he could very well be the next Deputy Prime Minister. He is said to be the "dark horse" in the race for the number two slot in the Umno party polls. The former Umno Youth chief is said to have the endorsement of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is certain to announce soon that he is not seeking to defend his Umno president's post. It is no secret among supporters of Pak Lah that they are not backing Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin, who had openly called for Pak Lah to speed up the leadership transition period. It is not clear if Muyhiddin would contest the deputy president post. If he does, then the fight is between Zahid Hamidi and Muyhiddin. At least two division chiefs, Cheras and Titiwangsa, have reportedly endorsed Najib and Muhyiddin for the top two posts but they have yet to hold their meetings. With Zahid Hamidi's announcement, the scenario has changed sharply. The race has become tighter and the stakes even higher. While Najib is not expected to endorse any candidate for the number two post, it must be noted that Zahid had served as Najib's political secretary. The former ISA detainee was also an ally of Anwar Ibrahim. He paid a heavy political price when he backed Anwar's reformasi campaign in 1998 and it took him a long time to return to mainstream Umno politics. But the stage is now set for a showdown between Zahid and Muyhiddin.
* Under Umno quota rules, those intending to stand for party posts must get at least 30% (president), 20% (deputy president), 10% (vice-president) and 5% (Supreme Council seat) of nominations.