Sunday, April 26, 2009

KL Composite Index: Is 1,000 points possible?

This will be an interesting week to watch. Following last week's rally, the KLCI ended Friday at a six-month high of 992.68 points. This was 2.9 % higher than the following weekend's close of 965.17 points. Total market volume also hit the highest level in six months with over two billion shares traded on Friday alone. It's a boost certainly. A mixture of intenal and external factors had attributed to the bullish trend.

But at the local end, the PM's announcement to scrap the 30% bumiputera equity ownership quota in 27 sub-sectors has surely helped. The move has certainly helped to make Malaysia more attractive and it was one good news the market had long waited. There is supposed to be another major news on the financial services this week. Let's hope the market will react positively again. The cautious note is that there could be some profit taking there would affect the climb. Such resistance is normal and good for the market. But it is such activity that would generate interest.

There was another piece of good news. The Consumer Price Index, a barometer for inflation, continuted to ease, slowing to 3.5% in March compared to 3.7% in February. Today, the Deputy MITI Minister Mukhriz Mahathir said the government was considering scrapping the controversial Approved Permits (APs) for cars.

The series of populist measures is something the government need to do if it wishes to regain the votes the BN had lost since March 8. Further liberalisation of the affirmative actions would surely be a step forward. Malaysians want to see more need-based programmes, not ethnic skewed ones.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Terengganu MB under siege

The political storm in Terengganu is far from over. It looks like the monsoon has arrived earlier than expected. The MB Ahmad Said is facing a revolt and the number of dissidents has reportedly increased. Malaysiakini has reported differently saying seven out of eight Umno divisions backed him. But another report said at least one state assemblyman, Rasol Wahid, has come out openly to fire a new round of salvoes against the MB.

The MB has been accused of picking a former ambulance driver and ex-primary school teachers as directors of a state subsidiary, the Star Online reported. But this can't be the story. It appears to be the result of pent-up frustration. It is a fight between the political personalities in Umno but they had better be aware that if it reaches boiling point, the biggest loser would be themselves.

It has a strong opponent, PAS, in its backyard and their continuous bickering would only alienate the voters. But there is also a silver lining for Umno. This is the time for Najib Tun Razak to clean up the act in Terengganu. This is the chance for him to make changes in Terengganu Umno and to pick those who are effective. The trouble in the state may have come a little too early for Najib, just when he is starting his job, but if he reforms the committee correctly now, he would see the positive effects later. If the Terengganu Umno leaders are unable to resolve their differences, then he has to put his foot down.

It's sickening - more pictures of Eli on the Net

It's nauseating.Those responsible for putting up more pictures of Elizabeth Wong must be sick. There had been earlier speculation that such pictures would surface if she continued with her political career. Elizabeth has suffered enough and should be left to carry out her responsibilities as an elected representative. It does not matter whether we agree with her politics, the point here is that she was elected and that must be respected. Eli is also a state executive councillor and the intrusion of her private life is a gross violation of her rights. She is a single matured woman and what she does privately is nobody's business. No one has a right to judge her morality. None of us should play God.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thank you for giving us hope, Susan Boyle!

At the last count, over 27 million page views have been recorded on You Tube. They all have seen Susan Boyle sing on UK's Britain's Got Talent. The amateur singer's stunning rendition of a song from the West End Musical, Les Miserables, has captured the hearts of people around the world. She's 47, a spinster and unemployed. Her late mother's last wish was that she wanted Susan to make something out of her life. She may have a beautiful voice but certainly she doesn't have the looks to go with it. She was awkward and even physically challenged, as some would put it.

In school, she was bullied and mocked at because she had learning difficulties, the result of being deprived of oyxgen, at birth. As an adult, she spent her years caring for her mother in their council home. She has never been invited out on a date, never been kissed, and no one has celebrated her birthdays, according to press reports. It's really a sad story.

But she has now caught the attention of the world since April 11 when she appeared on the show. Boyle has since appeared on Larry King's show and has accepted a date by one of the judges of Britain's Got Talent. She has provided hope and inspiration - at a time when many of us are grappling with the effects of the global financial crisis. She has proven that everyone must be given a chance. That one shot in life. Her pick "I Dreamed A Dream" cannot be more appropriate.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Penanti by-election - what is the point of it?

It's a by-election that nobody needs. Penang CM Lim Guan Eng is peeved at the turn of events leading to the Penanti by-election. The Penang PKR assemblymen must be wondering why one of them can't be good enough to be DCM I, the voters are tired and do not need another by-election, taxpayers are upset that more money would be used, the BN is well aware that it cannot win this by-election, and certainly the entire polls have no impact to the political equation in Penang.

An upset Guan Eng told the media today that he did not know what was happening and that all questions from the media should go to Anwar - who wants a by-election so he can pick the candidate of his choice to be DCM I. Not among the current pool of PKR leaders. Guan Eng said he was only informed of Fairus Kamaruddin's decision to quit after the press was informed. Fairus, meanwhile, has given the Penang PKR leaders a two-week deadline to clear him or he would expose the dirty linen in PKR. It isn't clear whether he would be charged by the MACC as speculated but the latest talk is that there isn't enough evidence. In any case, he has quit his state seat, so the question of him being an independent is no longer an issue.

In the case of Penanti, there is little choice but to hold the by-election. Even if the BN isn't keen to contest, the whole process of nominations must be carried out and if independents are fielded, the process of elections would still have to be carried out. Unless of course, the PKR wins the by-election unopposed. But clearly, the perception is that this is one by-election that is unnecessary. It is a forced by-election. One could even suggest that this is an abuse of the democratic system. It is not about winning or losing but the question one should ask is: what is the point of it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

PKR's Zulkifli Nordin bares his fangs again

You can always depend on PKR lawyer-politician Zulkifli Nordin to come up with controversial statements. Instead of supporting his fellow PKR leader Elizabeth Wong for deciding to keep her state assembly and state exco seats, the Kulim Bandar Baharu MP expressed his objections at the decision. In his latest posting, he has blogged that there would be further pressure on Wong and that it would be better if Wong's earlier decision was respected. In short - Wong should just quit, or at the least, give up her state exco post. He is even saying the decision would pressured a section of Pakatan Rakyat supporters and the component parties. Zulkifli should count himself lucky that his party chose not to act against him for his offensive and aggressive behaviour at the Bar Council meeting last year. Probably worried that he could quit PKR, the party has decided to let him off scot free.

Political explosions in Penang

Fairus Khairuddin, who quit as Deputy Chief Minister I of Penang, has taken a step further. He has quit as the state assemblyman for Penanti. But expect plenty of fireworks. In an interview with Nanyang Siang Pau today, the PKR leader warned that he would expose what's taking place in the party if pushed to a corner. He also revealed that he was framed by his PKR collegues and that he now has to relocate his family to KL. This is not the first time, Fairus, who is being investigated by the MACC, has claimed that he was a victim of internal politics. It is understood that internal bickering is the main reason why Anwar Ibrahim has been unable to fill the DCM post vacancy. The squabbling has put Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in a fix. It is also a by-election that the CM would not want.

Picture from Nanyang Online. Click on image for the report in Chinese.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Political storm over Terengganu

A political storm is brewing in Terengganu. Eight BN backbenchers boycotted the second day of the state assembly sitting in a purported bid to force Mentri Besar Ahmad Said (pic) to step down. There were speculations earlier that a motion of no confidence would be tabled but in the end, it fizzled out and remained just rumours. But emotions seemed to be running high as three BN assemblymen have reported that they allegedly received death threats via SMS - a day before the speculations of the no faith motion. All three - Rosol Wahid (Ajil), Zakaria Ariffin (Paka) and Halim Jusoh (Pemaisuri) have lodged police reports. This is not the first time a leadership struggle has taken place in Terengganu. The previous MB Idris Jusoh was also a victim of power play in the state. There were also talk that he was not favoured by the palace. The rebellion isn't like to end soon as the eight have now reportedly taken their case to Putrajaya, accusing Ahmad of being a mini dictator.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fast and furious in Bangkok, Part Two

Street battles broke out in certain parts of Bangkok between the red-shirted supporters of Takhsin Shinawatra and the police. The riot police have so far exercised restraint, firing only warning shots, but until this morning, over 70 people have been reportedly injured.

No one is sure how long this anti-Abhisit Vejjajiva protest will last although his officials have predicted it would end in the next few days. Takhsin has called for a people's revolution to oust Abhisit, saying he was the legitimate PM.

I spoke to my Bangkok based colleague, Philip Golingai, a short while ago and he said the perception among the people is that the security forces do not want to clamp down too hard on the protestors, preferring to avoid a bloodshed. He saw two buses being overturned by the protestors but the policemen merely stood and watched.

Although an emergency has been declared, the army has preferred to stay away from the streets, letting the police to do the work. Some have said that the days of Abhisit are numbered. Some have even said he has become a lame duck PM with his orders now ignored by the army.
Even if the manages to ride through the anarchy, the political damages from the short-lived Asean summit would dealt a serious blow to him. The cancellation is unprecedented. It has a major let down and reports of leaders having to leave Pattaya by helicopter has become an international diplomatic fiasco.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bangkok - a dose of Abhisit's own medicine

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva is getting back a dose of his own medicine. He led his party to stage a series of massive demonstration in Bangkok which culminated with the seizure of the Bangkok international airport and other airports, crippling air travel and costing milions of dollars in losses.

He succeded in toppling the government. Now he is complaining the lost of the country's reputation following the protest by the pro-Takhsin Shinawatra supporters, imposing emergency rule, clamping down media criticism of the administration and sending armour vehicles to the streets.

From Pattaya, the protest has spread to the capital, where red-shirted protestors, backing Takhsin, are converging in crowded sky train stations. Usually, these stations are packed on Sundays, so the maximum impact of these protests can be felt.

A protest leader has been arrested by Abhisit's government. Strangely, when he staged the airport seizure, he justified it in the name of democracy. As the politicians squabble for power, the biggest losers are the ordinary people, who depend on the tourist dollars. The global financial crisis saw a drop in tourist arrivals and with the latest episode, there can only be further cancellation of trips to Thailand.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

MIC to give up Cabinet post and two deputies?

The MIC trio, Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam (left); Datuk S. K. Devamany (top) and Datuk M. Saravanan (bottom)

According to reports, quoting sources, the MIC is mulling over the possibility of withdrawing its sole Cabinet post and its two deputies. MIC officials are said to be unhappy that the party has only been given the Human Resources Minister's post, held by Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, which the party feels is too junior for the party. The proposal would be tabled at the party's central working committee meeting next week, according to the The Star Online.

The MIC is unlikely to gain much support from the public for sulking. The party wants the Works Ministry post, which was previously held by party president Samy Vellu and his predecessors. Shaziman Abu Mansor has been given the post. The MIC may just be pushing its luck too far if it continues to demand more. The MIC is not in a position to make demands and that it something the party leaders must understand. The reality it must realise is that the party is not negotiating from strength. Respect must be earned.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Najib's next important list

He has completed his Cabinet list. He will now have to put his mind to draw up another important list- the appointment of Umno supreme council members and the state liaison heads. Najib Tun Razak has to consider appointing severak key figures who lost in the elections but retained their Cabinet posts. This would be candidates like Khaled Nordin and Rais Yatim who made a bid for a vice-president post. The state Umno chief posts are also important as they wield tremendous clout.

Cabinet line up: Facing political realities

Najib Tun Razak started off wanting a smaller and leaner Cabinet but he had to come to terms with the realities of a broad coalition. The BN with 13 component parties is certainly one big family and the politics of accomodation had to be dealt with. The Pakatan Rakyat, for example, has said it wants to draw up a Shadow Cabinet. That's good as it will be able to check the government more effectively. It would be interesting to see how Anwar Ibrahim intends to allocate the various portfolios.

Najib obviously had to balance the interest of the party and BN and the people. He cannot ignore the demands of BN leaders. He cannot ignore the historical ties of Umno with the MCA and MIC, for example. These two parties would always have a special case, as they have gone through the good and bad times with Umno. The other post-Alliance parties, which formed BN, would obviously be in a different category.

Then, there is the question of Sabah and Sarawak. The two states have become the king makers in Umno elections and in many ways, the lifeline of the BN, as they have delivered the votes. Their lack of representation in the Abdullah Administration almost led to a mutiny but Najib has put things right. The two states deserves a better deal and Najib has done that.

He has tried to experiment with the unconventional approach by picking certain personalities for some positions, such as Mukhriz Mahathir and Datuk Raja Nong Chik. There were talks earlier that he wanted to bring in technocrats and business personalities but that could not be done. There is talk now of a Council of Economic Advisers.

The appointment of Koh Tsu Koon and Shahrizat Jalil have led to some criticism. Again, the considerations were the representation of women in the Cabinet and the position of Koh as the president of Gerakan. The two would now need to prove that they deserve their appointments as they would be closely watched. Koh, for example, cannot to possibility be handling just KPI (key performances indicators) and unity. His roles need to be better defined.

Note: Thanks to readers who pointed out the mistakes in my blog. Lesson - never, never rush to post a comment!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New Cabinet - It's 3pm tomorrow

The PM will unveil his new Cabinet line up at 3pm tomorrow. At 10am, he would have an audience with the King at Istana Negara where he is expected to keep His Majesty informed of the new ministers. The announcement at Putrajaya is scheduled to be telecast live. It is understood that Najib Tun Razak spent the morning and afternoon today putting the final touches to the list. The Cabinet is certain to be leaner and smaller. Component heads of BN have been told that they needed to make "sacrifices" for the smaller Cabinet.Some of the ministries said to be abolished included those held by Umno leaders. A mixed of new and old faces are expected in the list.

Cabinet list - More BN leaders to meet Najib

It doesn't look like the Cabinet list would be announced today. Heads of BN component parties are still making their way to Putrajaya to provide their inputs and views to the PM. They include Sarawak leaders. The MCA, meanwhile, has called for an emergency presidential council meeting at Putrajaya. The meeting is expected to discuss about the Cabinet line-up. The likelihood is that Najib would only name his line-up tomorrow. He is scheduled to leave for Pattaya for the Asean meeting on Friday and back only on Sunday. If the list is not finalised by tomorrow, there is a possibility that it would only be known on Monday. Still, many others are insisting the announcement would be made today.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PR wins Bukit Gantang and Selambau, BN takes Batang Ai

Update: Official - Bkt Gantang - Mohd Nizar (PAS) wins with 21,860 votes against Ismail Saffian (BN) 19,071 votes and Kamarul Ramizu (Ind) 62 votes.
Update: Official - Selambau - Manikumar (PKR) wins with 12,632 votes against Ganesan (BN) 10,229 votes. Independents get total of 1,200-plus votes

PAS is leading in Bukit Gantang and all indications show Nizar is likely to win the parliamentary seat while in Selambau, PKR is said to be leading too. Again, this is only unofficial indication. Many news websites have already declared PR the victors in the two contests.

Unofficial - BN wins Batang Ai

Update: Official: BN wins Batang Ai with 1854 majority

The word coming from Batang Ai is that BN has won the state seat with a strong majority. There is still no official confirmation but reporters have started to call up their editors to inform them of the development. The BN candidate is Malcolm Mussen Lamoh from Parti Rakyat Sarawak who faced PKR's Jawah Gerang in a straight fight for the state seat.

Tri-elections - the fight for the last votes

Voting in full swing in Bukit Gantang (picture)
The canvassing for votes outside polling stations has gone full steam as the candidates and their supporters attempt to persuade those who have not cast their votes to do so. In Bukit Gantang, the fight is for the crucial Malay votes that could determine the outcome of the results. The analysts have predicted a shift towards the BN over the past 24 hours but the PR has insisted that it still has a strong command. In Batang Ai, the BN is favourite to retain the constituency but the margin may not be wide. High water levels and swift river currents could affect voters turnout. The PKR appears convinced that it has an edge in Selambau. Until 1.55pm, the turnout had passed 55% and is expected to increase.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day Two: Najib's 1Malaysia Walk

Day Two: PM Najib Tun Razak hit the streets of the capital with a visit to Chinatown in Jalan Petaling, Kampung Kerinchi and Brickfields. The walkabout is to emphasise his One Malaysia Agenda. The visits caught many by surprise as even the press was not informed of the walkabout but enough reporters caught wind of the visits.

Earlier, Najib met Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his family members where they announced their return to Umno. It is an important gesture as his return would mean reuniting Umno and more importantly, an endorsement of Najib's administration.

He has already scored an important point when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi assured him of his support of the leadership. Najib, in return, said he would seek the advice of the two former prime ministers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Najib announces ISA release, lifts ban on two publications

Najib says Government has decided to release 13 detainees from ISA detention. With immediate effect, the temporary ban on two party publications will also be lifted. In his maiden address to the nation tonight, najib also promises to conduct a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act.
"I will be steadfast in my commitment to meet the needs, aspirations and concerns of all Malaysians," he said.
"I urge us to rise to the challenge of building a One Malaysia. People First. Performance Now."

Earlier post

Expect newly sworn in Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to unveil a slew of populist announcements to win over the support of the people over the next one week. The country's sixth PM will kick off with an appearance on TV tonight where he is expected to give a glimpse of what to expect from his administration. He is likely to talk about his One Malaysia call to bring Malaysians together and the reforms he would be carrying out. He is said to be planning to visit Kampung Baru, Chinatown and Brickfields as symbolic gestures to promote his "one nation, one people" agenda under his leadership. Immediately after the April 8 by-elections, he is likely to name his new Cabinet line-up, which is expected to be smaller. But over the next 48 hours, we can expect a few stunning announcements. Watch this space for details.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ignore the rumours, Najib to be sworn in

Ignore the rumours that's been making its round via SMS and purportedly on a certain website. It's all systems go as far as preparations for the swearing in of the new Prime Minister is concerned. Tomorrow, we will witness history when the country's sixth Prime Minister is sworn in. Both Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Tun Razak met the King today at Istana Negara. Pak Lah met the King to seek his permission to resign as PM and to seek his Majesty's consent to appoint Najib to succeed him, The Star Online reported. The necessary documents for the change in leadership have been prepared to pave the way for Najib to be the new PM. Agenda Daily has a report on the rumour mongering.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A leaner Cabinet on the way

A smaller and leaner Cabinet can be expected when the new PM Najib Razak unveil his line-up. There are at present 32 Cabinet Ministers and 27 Ministries, which is certainly excessive for a small country like Malaysiia. This does not include the huge number of deputy ministers.

This time, several ministeries with duplicating functions are expected to be merged or abolished. There is talk that the Higher Education and Education Ministeries will be just one. Culture may go under the Tourism Ministry again. Some of the ministries relating to information technology could possibly be affected too.

We can also expect a lesser number of Ministers in the PM's Department. This is the indication that is coming out from Putrajaya over the past one week. Those who lost in the Umno elections or are caught up in controversies are also expected to be dropped from the Cabinet.

It is certain that there would be an increase in the number of ministers from Sabah and Sarawak. Shafie Apdal, a newly crowned vice-president, is said to be slotted for the Rural Development Ministry. It would be appropriate post for the Sabahan. The ministry is currently held by Muhammad Muhammad Taib. There are also speculations that certain ministeries held by various BN component parties could be swapped.