Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New kid on the block

This writer's entry into blogsphere has attracted the attention of fellow scribes. Thanks for the support and encouragement for this newcomer! Ex-journo Ong Hock Chuan, who is now a public relations consultant in Jakarta, is the first to blog about this writer's plans after DAP MP Tony Pua revealed that this new kid on the block has been blogging quietly.
Online news website Malaysian Insider has also reported about this new entry with some comments from a quick interview by seasoned reporter Joan Lau. And analyst Khoo Kay Peng too, with his frank views. Bahasa Malaysia political website wilayahkini also has a take here. Rocky Bru too, of course.

What a disgrace at the Dewan Rakyat!

It's a disgrace really. I am now at the Dewan Rakyat press room to send out my post after catching the first 40 minutes of question time. It's being telecast live and millions of Malaysians must be watching the proceedings. Having covered the Dewan Rakyat for years, I must admit the performance of some MPs has been pretty disgraceful.
While the Opposition MPs appeared to capitalise on the live telecast by bringing up procedural issues, the Barisan Backbenchers Club deputy chief Datuk Bung Mokhtar was in his usual element - being unparliamentary.
At one point, DAP's Karpal Singh called the Kinabatangan MP "Big Foot" and he shouted back "Big Monkey". And this is only the first day of question time. Pasir Mas MP Datuk Ibrahim Ali also joined in the fray, sounding more like a Barisan MP although he sits on the opposition bench. But clearly the Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin lacked the command and authority to bring order on the first day.
At one stage, he said there should be no supplementary questions, which even the Prime Minister must have found unusual. Pak Lah luckily asked for some questions to be allowed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another record by Jeff Ooi

Blogger Jeff Ooi has set the record for being the first blogger to be elected a Member of Parliament. Yesterday, together with fellow DAP MP Tony Pua, the two set another record - they blogged inside the Dewan Rakyat.
Today, there was another record of sort for Jeff. His seven-year-old Proton Wira was towed away by traffic police for allegedly parking outside the Parliament House. Jeff said the car belonged to his wife and did not carry the MP crest. Even seasoned reporters on the parliament beat could not recall any MP having their car towed away. The good news is Jeff got his car back.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jeff Ooi and Tony Pua, well done!

Newly sworn in MPs - Jeff Ooi and Tony Pua - created history today by blogging from inside the Dewan Rakyat chambers. Jeff Ooi is also possibly the first blogger to be elected as a Member of Parliament. Tony Pua also posted a short commentary about his experience today.
The live reporting by these bloggers means mainstream newspapers and their online team would have to work harder to keep their readers updated. It's good for our new MPs and the reporters covering the parliamentary meetings. Well done, Jeff and Tony!

What's the fuss over Chelsea's visit?

It's a really a big fuss over nothing. I am talking about the protest by some groups against the entry of two Israeli members of the English football team Chelsea. The government is right in telling the protestors off.
There's a big difference between the people of Israel and its government. There are orthodox Israelis, secular Israelis and even Arab-Muslims holding Israeli passports. So, are these groups going to lump them together?
What about Israelis holding US passports, which is not uncommon there, or have become Americans? Maybe we should stop watching Larry King on CNN or even Steven Spielberg's movies. They are Jews, after all.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar is right in saying that Chelsea's coach Avram Grant and midfielder Tai Ben Haim are here for football, not politics. Or we should also stop listening to Barbara Streisand and Barry Manilow, too?
Piece of advice - there are only two kinds of people in this world - the good and the bad.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

End keris waving, end racist talk

It's good that Umno Youth chief Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein Onn has apologised for his keris waving action. It had generated much ill-feelings and it caused a massive loss of votes for the Barisan Nasional.
But Umno Youth leaders have to realise that while they represent the Malays, they need to realise as the backbone of the Barisan, they also represent the rest of Malaysians. They can't deliver fiery communal speeches and expect non-Malays to keep silent.
It would be disastrous if any party - Umno, MCA, MIC, PAS, DAP or PKR - think that the way to strengthen themselves is to remain communal. Or more communal or more religious.
The days of being racial champions are over. Stoking up the racial fire will not deliver votes, please wake up.
One perplexed MB said he had delivered what he wanted for the Chinese in his state and yet they voted for the opposition. He didn't know why as he said he had delivered.
No one has told him that national issues such as the keris episode and the arrogance of some Umno leaders were major factors. It was beyond his control.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cigar Room: Not the end yet?

For readers following the Cigar Room episode involving the alleged molest of a lounge promoter by a former Cabinet minister, they thought the show had ended when the woman said in a statement that it was a mistake. She was unwell that night and the senior politician had just acted in jest, as he has been for the past five years.
So, it was a case of potong steam for many Malaysians following the Cigar Room episode. She said she was used to the politician's jokes and "rough ways" and had never objected to his actions nor felt offended by it previously.
Now the police are saying they will proceed with the investigations. See The Star for the City CID's probe into the allegations against the Datuk Seri.
But don't hope for a fantastic ending. The case is as good as closed despite the police bravado. If the woman isn't complaining anymore, why should the Attorney-General want to pursue a case he can't win?

Welcome back, Makkal Osai

It's good to hear that the government has renewed the KDN of Tamil newspaper, Makkal Osai (click here) According to The Star, the newspaper's general manager S.M. Periasamy said the Home Ministry had renewed its publishing licence after the publication had appealed its earlier decision. Makkal Osai will be back on the newsstands this Saturday.
The newspaper ceased publication for a week after it failed to obtain a renewal on April 16.
Makkal Osai submitted an application for renewal on July 16, 2007, three months before its permit expired on Oct 15 last year.
When its printing permit was not renewed, the Home Ministry gave little details of its decision except to say that it had not followed guidelines provided by the Home Ministry.
It is good that a quick decision has been made but at the same time, the media fratenity would surely ask what was the point in refusing to renew Makkal's KDN and then make an aboutturn in weeks.
When The Star, Sin Chew and Watan were banned in 1987, we were less fortunate. We had to sit it out for five months.

The Cigar Room: Anti climax ending

It's an anti-climax ending to the Cigar Room incident allegedly involving an ex-cabinet minister, who is now an MP, and a waitress at a five-star hotel.
The waitress, who had earlier claimed to the police that she was molested, has now sworn that it was a mistake and she had overeacted.
It appeared that she was sick that particular faithful night and that she now regretted her action against the senior politician, whom she has known as a friend and customer for some years. The said politician, she added, was a man with a good sense of humour.
So, we can now expect the Cigar Room incident to come to an end. And certainly one anti-climax drama which many Malaysians knew would end this way.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Cigar Room Incident

It's only a filler but it has become one of the top read stories. In newspaper jargon, a filler is a short story needed to fill up a space in a page.
The story "Ex-Cabinet minister under probe" (The Star, April 23) said that a former Cabinet Minister was under investigation for allegedly outraging the modesty of a promoter at a five-star hotel in the city.
He allegedly fondled the 32-year-old woman last Thursday at the cigar room of a hotel. Police have recorded a statement from the woman and are expected to get a statement from the senior politician.
Although the report was confirmed by KL CID chief Ku Chin Wah, it is still essentially an allegation.
But it's politically bad for the cigar-chomping politician, who has just returned from London. He has declined to respond to the allegation, where the woman claimed her buttocks were grabbed by the man. There were witnesses, it seemed.
KL is a small place and while he wasn't name by the media, his identity is already known among the political and media circles.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Don't miss the point, Mat Tyson!

Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib is the latest blogger in town. He has said the New Media would serve him better, adding that "unlike the press, the blog will be a two-way traffic, so my medium is better than yours."
It's good to know that the veteran politician is enthusiastic with his new found communications medium. (The Star, April 22)
Like many Barisan Nasional politicians who have turned bloggers and befriending bloggers, they should not forget that they need to fix the real problem - free the media.
There's is no point in talking about blogging if there is still not enough respect for press freedom. Lip service by politicians is pointless if there are so many laws that shackled the press and bloggers are threatened.
A credible and free press is good for the government, not a threat. As we usher World Press Freedom day in a few weeks, let's push for more freedom of expression.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dr M - love him or loathe him

It wouldn't be wrong to say that he is the only Prime Minister I know. As a rookie reporter in Penang, I covered Tunku Abdul Rahman briefly. He was already in poor health then and we had difficulties communicating. I was just too young for him to take seriously.
But I covered Dr Mahathir Mohamad for most of his 22 years as PM. I travelled with him overseas, often to places we could only dreamed of. On these trips, Rocky Bru was often my travelling mate. But Dr M was a serious man. He had little love for idle chats. The generation gap didn't help either.
In 1987, he shut down The Star and for five months I was out of job. He jailed his opponents under the ISA. As he talked about democracy and press freedom, he would probably be dismissed cynically. He never was a democrat.
But many of us never held that against him. He was a good leader and certainly he instilled confidence in Malaysians although the "Malaysia Boleh" spirit went too far as times. As Malaysians, we held our heads high and in some strange cities we went to, people stopped us and asked us about Dr Mahathir. The Twin Towers, too, of course.
He spoke up for the Third World and awed Asians, Africans and South Americans.
But under his leadership, the judiciary was stained. Judges were sacked and Anwar was jailed. Money politics made its mark in Ummo and corruption worsened.
He gave The Star his first interview only after he stepped down. He never liked the newspaper for some strange reasons.
Later, when I wrote that he did not do much to fight corruption during his 22 years in office, he blew his top. I was with Malaysiakini editor Steven Gan attending a press forum in South Korea when Dr M called a press conference in KL to criticise me. The Cheras Umno chief called for my sacking at the Umno general assembly.
But after over two decades in journalism, being criticised by politicians and readers have become part of the job.
Nothing has really changed. Today, it was vintage Dr M speaking in the BBC "Hardtalk" programme. The man has been consistent, that's all. At the end of the day, you either love him or loathe him. For many Malaysians, it's a bit of both.

An independent ACA finally!

This is the best news to come out in years. The Prime Minister has finally given the nod to the setting up of a Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption. The independent body would also answer to Parliament.
There is more. He also said a parliamentary committee to propose measures against corruption would be set up, together with an advisory board of eminent persons to provide views on high profile cases.
Let's give credit when credit is due. It is important that this decision is translated into real action soon. Pak Lah has given until the end of the year to get it started.
But Malaysians will certainly want to see it moving faster if possible. If Malaysia wants to remain competitive, to be cost worthy and respectable, we have to weed out corrupt politicians and officials, this is the way forward.
For many foreigners, Malaysia is one lucky country - thanks to its palm oil, rubber and crude oil - but when it comes to corruption, we are a disgrace.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Let's do away with KDN rules

Congratulations Datuk Seri! The Home Minister has promised more press freedom and one of his first acts was to approve the publishing permit for the Parti Keadilan Rakyat newspaper. He has also suggested that the ministry re-look the annual licensing requirement for newspapers.
It's a good start and certainly we hope Syed Hamid, who is used to facing the media as a foreign minister then, would allow greater democratic space for the media.
Syed Hamid also said the banning of Makkal Osai was not his personal decision but was done after a lengthy observation of the way the newspaper operated.
But the media fratenity hope that the appeal by the Tamil newspaper would be given serious consideration and the KDN restored.
Finally, we also hope that the KDN permit requirement should just end. It is surely one reform that the Prime Minister can do now.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Free the ACA to fight corruption!

Let's hope the Anti-Corruption Agency would be freed. According to the New Straits Times April 19, the ACA has told the Prime Minister that it wants to be like Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption, which has wide ranging powers to weed out corruption.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz confirmed that a proposal has been submitted to the PM for a decision.
Let's hope the PM will not waste anymore time on this. Let the ACA carry out its work to end the corruption in this country.
Taxpayers are fed up of paying for projects that cost more than they should because of kickbacks. We do not want the ACA to worry about RM9.90 bribes but those that involves RM9mil or RM90mil. That's the real dirty money.
If our leaders have nothing to hide, then they should not hesitate in letting the ACA be truly independent.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Let's reform the ACA next

It has taken over 20 years but short of an apology, the government has finally decided to come out clean. The Prime Minister has announced the formation of a Judicial Appointments Commission to help him choose judges.
He has also proposed change to make the process of nominating, appointing and promoting judges more transparent and representative.
The PM should go one step further now - please free the Anti-Corruption Agency. It should be made independent and answerable only to Parliament.
If we are serious about ending graft and kickbacks, which has escalated building and production costs, then we must have more reforms in fighting corruption. After all, it was one of Pak Lah's promise in 2004. Surely he has not forgotten his promises.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Judicial reforms ahead

Hours from now, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would make known his plans for a judicial reform.
That's not all. Former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and family members of the Supreme Court judges who were sacked in the 1988 judicial crisis would also be present. So would Cabinet members and leaders of the opposition.
The issue of sacked judges has plagued the nation for two decades. The time for renewal of trust and confidence in the judiciary must start from tonight.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Breaking news! Makkal Osai banned

The printing permit of Tamil newspaper, Makkal Osai, has been revoked by the Home Ministry. The newspaper's owner, former MIC deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam, is said to have met Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar today over the ban of the newspaper, which has been critical of the MIC. An appeal, it is understood, has been submitted to the ministry.
Last year, Makkal Osai ran into trouble after printing a picture of Jesus Christ holding a cigaratte in one hand and a can, resembling a beer can, on the other hand. The newspaper then printed an apology.
But Makkal Osai was suspended for 30days following the uproar. The MIC Youth also submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office calling for the revokation of its KDN.
The decision to ban Makka Osai has surprised editors who thought that the government would be more liberal following the elections, which saw a massive swing to the opposition.

Political transformers

It's amazing how some defeated candidates of Barisan Nasional component parties have changed - they have now turned their guns on their Barisan boss, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. From kissing his hands and paying homage to him, they have now blamed him for the massive losses in the elections.
The best part is that while Pak Lah has accepted responsibility for the shocks, these critics are saying they were not a major factor for the losses. Predictably, they have also refused to let go of their party posts, their standard line being "the need to rebuild their parties". It's shameful, really.
But such political transformers are not merely confined to Barisan. There are plenty in Pakatan Rakyat too. Despite proclaiming to uphold lofty ideals, some are offering justification when it comes to party hopping. Suddenly, it is acceptable for Barisan MPs to cross over to Pakatan. In the name of the People, of course. Never for position and money.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kudos to Karim Mansor!

Kudos to Tanjung Sepat Assemblyman Datuk Dr Karim Mansor for his proposal that a buffer zone be set up for the proposed centralised pig farming project in Ladang Tumbuk, Tanjung Sepat (NST, April 15).
It's a constructive suggestion as it would take into account the feelings of the residents. He is right in saying nobody would want a pig farm in their backyard. Not just Muslims but non-Muslims, too.
He also stated that he had always supported the project because current methods were untenable, due to pollution from pig farms.
Dr Karim also revealed that the previous Barisan state government had examined modern pig breeding methods in Germany and Thailand.
His proposal that a 5 to 10km buffer be considered is worthwhile studying. Pig breeding should be regarded as a commercial venture but should be carried out in a modern way.
The new Selangor state government should proceed with the project by balancing the right of livelihood and the feelings of Muslim residents in the area.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blogging is not the remedy!

Suddenly every Barisan Nasional leader has been told to start blogging. It's sounding like a mantra. But let's get real. Blogging isn't the remedy to the problems facing the BN, Umno in particular. It doesn't help if the blogs are dead boring or devoid of good political arguments. The Internet is just a tool, it's the content that matters. Neither does it help to call for resignations. The problems facing some Barisan component parties won't disappear, even if their leaders quit, because serious reforms are what the parties need.
Political parties, regardless of whether they are in the Barisan or Pakatan Rakyat, that use racial or religious issues would not be tolerated by voters. They will be shown the door in the next elections if they do that.
Blogging doesn't win votes, it is just a channel for communication. It is certainly not the silver bullet to end the woes of politicians.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spot on Mat Taib, but Umno must change fast

Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib had it spot on when he said that arrogance and complacency of some Umno leaders sent the wrong message to the other races in the country.
"Knowingly or unknowingly, some of the decisions by Umno leaders hurt the feelings of other racea, especially the Chinese and Indians in peninsular Malaysia.
"Some of the Umno leaders- when they speak - here Malay, there Malay...tenders for Malays...hoisting and kissing the keris. Out there, when they (other races) see our leaders speak, they get scared." (April 12, The Star).
But Mat Taib need to get his fellow Umno leaders to wake up to the new political reality in the country. Why would Umno want to get only the support of the Malays and not all Malaysians?
Umno leaders must also be beware that when they speak in Bahasa Malaysia newspapers, they are being read by non-Malays as well.
Take the case of the plan to implement integrated modern pig farming using environmentally friendly methods.
It is said to be a plan of the previous state Barisan Nasional government. It is a good one because German technology would be used and the old-fashioned method of farmers would stopped. The Selangor BN government deserves credit for being far sighted and having sound management plans. But it has now being used to discredit the Pakatan Rakyat government.
Worse, the posturing of some Umno leaders, using language with religious and racial overtones, are worrying. It was highlighted in one particular newspaper and the reaction is now seen by many Malaysians as a sledgehammer treatment.
Pig farming is a sensitive issue and no one, even non-Muslims, want a pig farm behind their houses, that's for sure. So it must he handled carefully.
Tan Sri, as a seasoned politician, you feel the pulse of the nation. Now, you have to tell fellow party members to adjust to the New Politics of Malaysia.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Top Barisan Nasional leader to blog too

It's better late than never. While DAP leaders like Lim Kit Siang started blogging before the general election, Barisan Nasional leaders have now began to embrace the New Media. A top Barisan leader is expected to join in soon. He will probably be the first Barisan component head to do so.
Umno Youth secretary Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, meanwhile, said candidates wanting to contest for any posts in the movement would have to set up their own websites or blogs. The New Straits Times reported April 11 that those who want to slug it out in the party polls needed to go online. Umno Youth chief aspirant Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo has already started his Bahasa Malaysia blog.
But let's hope that these new bloggers will actually write their own postings and not use their machais to do their work!

Najib-Muhyiddin Umno succession plan?

Umno leaders are not saying it openly but read between the lines. Following a meeting between Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Johor Umno division leaders, supreme council member Datuk Shahrir Samad said the state Umno would work together with Abdullah "until the party's general assembly in December" after which "Abdullah will sort out the succession plans with Najib."
Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin revealed a bit more - Abdullah touched a bit on the transition plan, The Star reported April 12.
In short, it is safe to conclude that the transition period has started. An Umno leadership succession plan is or would be worked out.
The popular guess around town is that it would be a Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak-Muyhiddin partnership. Both come from Pahang and Johor - two powerful Umno states and the combination would certainly be accepted by the Umno ranks.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Enter the New Malaysia

The media in Malaysia will never be the same again. March 8 2008 changed all the rules. In fact, the election tsunami changed Malaysia. Only those who are still in denial mode are still resisting the voices of Malaysians. There seem to be many of such people in Umno, who still has plenty of clout, and newspaper editors, too.

It is a watershed in the Malaysian history and all Malaysians must remember this date because a New Malaysia has emerged.

The New Politics of Malaysia has entered our lives. Malaysians voted massively for CHANGE and the changes, whether for good or bad, started from that day.

The demands for change include the media. More precisely, the mainstream media and as the editor of a newspaper, I cannot escape from the loud calls for changes in the media. Malaysians have cried loudly the kind of media they want. Certainly, Malaysians deserves better than a divided media of overwhelmingly pro-government newspapers or excessively pro-opposition bloggers.

March 8 changed all that. Suddenly, the distinction between government and opposition isn't so clear anymore. Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan are now with the Pakatan Rakyat, who are in government in these states. The Barisan Nasional is in the opposition now.

The media - whether old or new - must change if they do not wish to be left behind. As we march towards more changes, Malaysians must continue to reform these institutions meaningfully, not destroy them.

The many laws that have crippled the media such as the need for annual permit renewals should be abolish. No one needs a KDN to start a blog, so why a newspaper?