Monday, June 30, 2008

Anwar getting ready to leave embassy

Anwar Ibrahim is packing and getting ready to leave the Turkish Embassy. He spent the day taking phone calls from reporters and supporters, reading and chatting with the ambassador, who was summoned to Putrajaya. He also told newsmen who called him that he was getting ready for a by-election. He could possibly be announcing it this week. Anwar is non-committal to any DNA tests, saying he needed to speak to his lawyers if the process was part of a normal police investigation. He repeated that he did not trust the police. Malaysiakini has also reported that a forensic team visited the condominium at Bukit Damansara where the alleged sodomy took place. Meanwhile, Anwar has filed a civil suit against Saiful Bukhari Azlan, the aide who filed the complaint against him. The drama, it appears, is just unfolding. An unsettled sodomy case and an impending by-election, that's a blockbuster.

Turkey envoy summoned

Updates: DSAI files suit against Saiful for allegedly lodging false report

Turkish Ambassador Barlas Ozener has been summoned to Wisma Putra in Putrajaya. The order was given by Foreign Minister Rais Yatim following the envoy's invitation to DSAI to stay at the embassy compound. Rais is saying Anwar did not qualify for any sort of international or diplomatic protection. In short, Turkey is now accused of meddling in domestic politics. A major diplomatic row is in the offing if the problem is not resolved as Anwar's supporters have said he would be holed up at the embassy indefinitely. His supporters have turned up outside the embassy gates to show support. For the police, they now have to question Anwar following the sodomy allegations by Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan. He claimed Anwar sodomised him at an apartment in Damansara Heights. That would mean the police need to get Anwar's side of the story and possibly carry out a DNA test. Family members, friends and associates of both sides would be interviewed as part of the investigating process. The pressure would be on the cops now - they need to do the job but they can't just walk into the embassy, which has diplomatic immunity. There's also the security and political considerations because the perception is that it's a political set-up.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Anwar seeks refuge at Turkey embassy

A crowd outside the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur where DSAI had sought refuge. - Starpic

It's super dramatic. The sodomy allegation issue has taken a new twist with DSAI seeking refuge at the Turkey Embassy since 6 this morning. No one knows how long he will be there following a claim by Dr Syed Husin Ali that there is a death threat against him. Umno leaders have challenged Anwar to defend himself if the allegation is false.

Against the emotional backdrop with PKR saying this is a set up, the police have also doubled their presence to protect the complainant, a former Universiti Tenaga student leader who worked as an aide for Anwar. PKR leaders produced pictures of him posing with an aide of the DPM and ministers. Minister Shahrir Samad, who was among them, said it was common for people to request pictures to be taken.

Despite concern of a possible stand-off between Anwar and the government, it is likely the case would be tackled differently this time. Any immediate arrest of Anwar would spark off unnecessary tension but at the same time, if he continues to hole up at the embassy, a diplomatic row may erupt. The situation is delicate and a strong arm approach would not resolve the case, as it happened previously. Stay tuned.

Sodomy: A Midnight Shocker

The newsroom worked late into the early hours of the morning following an allegation by an aide of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that he was sodomised. It seemed that he walked to the police counter of the hospital to make his complaint. He has also been reportedly warded, according to police. Anwar's supporters has another version - the man was arrested and forced to make a statement, which the police have dismissed. They have argued that it was a political ploy and that the complainant was probably planted. SMS were sent out to counter the police report. Rocky Bru has put the complainant's police report on his blog. I agreed with him that there will be those who believed everything the complainant has claimed and there would be as many, if not more people, who think it's a plot to discredit Anwar. The latest political twist would increase the political temperature. Malaysia doesn't need this. The elections are over and we should move on, really. The politics in Malaysia is bad for business. Investors are staying away. It's best that this matter be left to the police. Let's watch from the sidelines.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Breaking news: Ka Ting and Kong Choy to give up

Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting won't be defending his MCA president's post in the coming party elections. Ka Ting made the annoucement just an hour ago. His deputy, Chan Kong Choy, is also expected to make a similar announcement soon. Details later.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Talk of being over-zealous!

What's wrong with our censors? National Geographic's May issue was a special on China: Inside the Dragon. The whole issue was devoted to this Asian superpower, with many interesting articles and pictures (for which the magazine is famous for). For sure there's no sex but our censors at the Home Ministry seem to have other ideas. The famous "guidelines" of course.
This May issue was held back until late in June and the photo above tells you why. A seemingly innocent picture of a young boy getting back on his bicycle after a summer day's swim (P122), without putting back his pants, apparently seemed offensive to the censors. So out comes the black marker pen. How many man hours have been wasted censoring this image? This is not the first time (tribal people living deep in the forests are also a favourite for censorship), nor will it be the last.

Obama's Malaysian Connection

Picture from shows Konrad with Maya.

Here's a little snippet about Barack Obama and his Malaysian link. His brother in law, Konrad Ng, 34, is a Canadian born Chinese. His wife is Maya Soetoro - the step sister of Obama, whose father is an Indonesian. Maya, a Buddhist, is now a teacher in Hawaii, with Ng, who is an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii. Here's the Malaysian link - Konrad's father, Howard, migrated to Burlington, Ontario, from Malaysia. He is now a retired scientist who lives with his wife, Joan, in the little Canadian town. When Konrad and Maya got married, the usual wedding dinner was thrown at a Chinese restaurant where Obama, then a Senator, attended with his wife. Both Konrad and Maya campaigned for Obama during the campaign trail for the Asian votes. The couple has been telling voters that Obama, with his family links, has been the most multi-racial American presidential candidate.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Come on lah, don't be ridiculous!

Hannah Yeoh, the Subang Jaya assemblyman, has been banned from attending her school's prefects' reunion. She said her alma mater, SMK Subang Utama has been forced to withdraw the invitation presumably because she is from the Pakatan Rakyat. Hannah said she has been told by the organisers that the event would be cancelled if she turn up. This is ridiculous. Surely, as the pride of her school, she's a natural choice as the guest of honour. If the Education Ministry wants to be sticky about this, then a directive that says no politics from guests should be issued. That would be acceptable. Do they need the students to tell them what democracy is all about and the choice of the rakyat must be respected, no matter how painful it is to them? When the students hear about this stupid ruling, what would they be talking about in their school and their homes? There are already grumblings from PR elected representatives in other states, too.

Serban Rules in KB!

Update: The AG has said there is no exemption.

Muslim motorcyclists in turban (serbans) not wearing motor helmets are practically giving the cops in Kota Baru a ride. The KB police are at a lost and have decided to give up issuing summonses after a losing a court case. The confusion arose on Tuesday after Pasir Tumboh pondok school student Ahmad Nasir Darus, 27, challenged a traffic summons for not wearing a crash helmet on Sept 20 last year in the Magistrate's court. His counsel Ahmad Rizal Effende Zainol claimed that exemptions were allowed for "Haji, Hajjah, Lebai and Singh." He argued that motorcyclists wearing serban could be described as lebai or pious. The confused cops now want Bukit Aman and possibly the Attorney General to tell them what to do. The IGP has said the guys in serban should not be exempted as it would give rise to others using it as an excuse. The question here is that Sikhs wear the turbans for religious reasons. For Muslims, is it a religious obligation to wear serbans? Or merely tried to look pious and look Arab? Views please.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Business as usual at Parliament

It's back to normal at Parliament. After the media boycott yesterday, which saw the press conferences of the PM and DPM attended by only Bernama, RTM and the foreign media, the Parliament decided to call off their decision. The Barisan Backbenchers Club also took down the barricade. Today, the media could send as many reporters as they wanted despite the five staff per media ruling. But media representatives were told to justify why they needed a bigger team. It's simple - the print media now has multi-media reporters who handle the video, SMS alerts and online news. Two, there are now more press conferences going on with the additional opposition MPs. Third, why should the media be restricted when MPs have no problems with their supporters, assistants and supporters. Even a birthday party was thrown at the lobby! The media has also lost count of the number of NGO activists and public relations practitioners roaming freely at the lobby. Even politicians who lost in the elections. What urgent business do these hangers on have? According to Jeff Ooi, the Hansard recorded Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar as saying that the deicison to ban the journalists from the lobby was made by Speaker Pandikar Amin and his deputy, Ronald Kiandee collectively. Come on, we have a job to do. Can we just be left alone?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fast, furious and stupid in KL

Updates: SAPP to get showcause letter from BN
Media barricade removed by BN Backbenchers
Editors speak up against lobby restriction

It's fast and furious in KL. The Barisan Nasional has called for an emergency supreme council meeting at Parliament House at noon. It is almost certain that the SAPP issue would top the agenda. SAPP president Yong Teck Lee was served notice to turn up at the ACA office in Kota Kinabalu at 3pm for investigations only to get a call just minutes ago that it has been postponed. ACA officers from KL would be flying there to question him instead over allegations that RM5mil was paid to his agents. The press corp at Parliament is threatening to boycott all conferences at the lobby after reporters were barred from the place.

The lobby has now been condoned off, like some emergency area, a stupid act which has infuriated the media. It is unprecedented. The decision has left reporters stunned and certainly insulted. Media organisations have already been restricted to five representatives each. The Star and Malaysiakini have their updates here. In Shah Alam, PKR secretary Mohd Yahya Mat Sabri has quit his post. Mohd Yahya, an aide to the Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, has been suspended from duties following allegations that he "fixed" cleaning and garbage collection contracts. The talk in Shah Alam is that Mohd Yahya is a victim of power play in PKR. He has gone off to see Anwar Ibrahim. Another day in Malaysian politics. It's fast, furious and stupid in KL.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kota Baru bans lipsticks and high-heels

This is bizarre. The Kota Baru Municipal Council has issued an order to ban female workers of the MBKB and permit holders from putting on lipsticks or wearing high-heels. High heels, it seems, are too noisy with its squeaky sound and they are a distraction. Lipsticks are even more dangerous and provocative - to men, that is. According to the council president Shafie Ismail the directive was issued to prevent rapes and other immoral activities.The directive has been issued to MBKB staff and workers at restaurants and other premises, which required permits from the council. That would probably include supermarkets. That's the whole of Kota Baru! Tony Pua has blogged about the obsession of the PAS government with dressing.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Breaking news: Lim Kit Siang has submitted an emergency motion to the Speaker on RPK's allegations.

The explosive statutory declaration submitted by Raja Petra Kamaruddin is set to be even more fiery now. The Attorney General and Inspector General of Police have served notice that they will be calling up RPK. So will the three persons implicated by him. Tan Sri Gani Patil has said that the allegations were "highly inflamatory" - which means if the allegations cannot be proven, even if there is a qualification of being "reliably informed", the consequences can be heavy. There is also the question of being sued big time, which is one reason why many big name bloggers and the media, including the foreign media, have taken a cautious approach on this issue. Musa has said the allegations could be "subjudice" and that RPK must be bold enough to face the implications if proven otherwise. RPK has replied that he is ready to be called up.

SAPP: The plot thickens

After all the talk of a split within the SAPP with Yong Teck Lee on one side and his deputy, Raymond Tan, on the other side, it now appears that the Deputy Chief Minister has been neutralised. All the speculations of a fight between the Yong-led Kota Kinabalu faction and Tan's Sandakan side has fizzled out. Tan has now said he would remain in the SAPP even if action is taken against the party by the BN. Tan may have tried to convince the PM that he could swing the SAPP leaders to his side but it is well known in KK that he lacks the support. He has always depended on Yong to survive, some would say indebted. Tan stand to lose his position now when BN acts against SAPP. It appears that the PBS is trying to woo him. The plot has thicken with PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali saying two Sarawak MPs - said to be defecting - have been "hijacked" and taken to Beijing on a trip. Well, they have to come back sooner or later. The order from BN is that every MP must be present tomorrow. Nazri Aziz has said there won't be any motion against the PM tomorrow but we can expect plenty of fireworks. It will be the first time that the two SAPP MPs would walk into Parliament since their party announced its plan. Still, there is a motion on price increases, which the Pakatan MPs are likely to take advantage to put the BN in a tight spot. But as the drama builds up, the press corp has been limited to five each per organisation. The media is already up in arms with this decision, which would over-work the reporters, especially when it drags into the late evenings. Beside the proceedings, MPs from both sides hold press conferences at the lobby. Most newspapers also send their multi-media team now, which the parliament administrators does not seem to know or care. It is better to restrict the number of visitors than the press which has work to do.

RM40mil for Eye Over Malacca

It has gone unnoticed. Just days after the fuel price hike, the Malaccan government announced that it was going to put up a RM40mil "Eye Over Malacca" in its bid to attract tourists to the state. This is the same overpriced ferris wheel which KL wants to get rid off. Under a joint venture with a private company, the ferris wheel would be shifted to the state. It will be operational by October. For RM40mil, we would like to know how long it will take to get back the money. The state is hoping to get 700,000 visitors. It will be placed next to a RM24mil marina. This is the state which once boasted of having 1,001 museums. And as we talk about a ferris wheel, Singapore has beat us with a government sponsored Perakanan Museum. Sure, there are private homes in the state which are opened to the public but the Peranakan heritage surely deserves better support, and in some promotions, Singapore is claiming the museum is the only one in the world! For RM40mil, we can do better things. We can argue till the cows come home that in Malacca, the whole state is a living museum for the Babas and Nyoyas. But out in the highly competitive tourism market, Singapore will be telling tourists a different thing. Let's hope the RM40mil won't become a black eye for Malacca.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

RM128mil a year for our "free water"

RM128mil a year or RM10.4mil a month - that's how much it cost to taxpayers in Selangor for the purported free water we are getting. According to Selangor DAP leaders Tony Pua and Charles Santiago, while the populist decision by the Selangor MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is well intended to help the poor, it should have been better carried out. For sure, the free water isn't free. There's no such thing as free. It will cost RM128mil a year for this exercise. For sure, it will encourage wastage and from an environmental point of view, it's a disaster. It may be just a little more than 10% of the state's annual income but it needs some review at some point. After all the excesses by the previous BN state government, with all RM600mil worth of white elephant projects in the state, no one should tolerate any form of wastage from now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

SAPP supreme council backs motion

The SAPP supreme council has endorsed president Datuk Yong Teck Lee's no confidence motion against the Prime Minister. It did not make any decision on membership in BN. The stand has essentially remained the same. In short, Yong has his grip on the party leadership. His deputy, Datuk Raymond Tan, left before the press conference started just minutes ago. The Deputy Chief Minister did not respond substantially to the waiting media as he walked out of the room but is likely to meet the press later. If it's true that Tan convinced the PM that he could get the others to be on his side, then he has failed. But it comes as no surprise to most politicians and the media in Kota Kinabalu that Yong has the backing of most members in SAPP. While Yong is known for his gung-ho politics, Tan is perceived as an introvert. The two are opposites.
Those who chose to be on Tan's side would probably be those holding positions in the state government. For them, they can chose to join another party or set up a splinter SAPP. With the endorsement of the motion, the SAPP has opened itself to be expelled from the BN. It is no longer Yong's decision but the stand of the SAPP. To challenge the PM and BN boss is a serious breach of discipline. The BN supreme council will now have to meet again to formalise the sacking.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No action against SAPP - not yet, that is.

The Barisan Nasional supreme council which met just hours ago has decided not to act against the renegade SAPP. At least for the time being. The action of SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee and his supporters to move a motion of no confidence against the PM was condemned but the BN leaders decided to hold back its punishment. The attention, it seemed, has now being shifted to the SAPP supreme council meeting in Kota Kinabalu tomorrow, where the party is said to have split into two factions - one headed by Yong and the other, by his deputy, Datuk Raymond Tan. The latter, who is a Deputy Chief Minister, is said to have told the Prime Minister that he has enough clout to rebel against Yong. He is said to have claimed that there are enough SAPP leaders who are against what Yong is doing. It remains to be seen whether who can muster enough support but a fiery meeting is expected. Anwar Ibrahim, meanwhile, is heading to Sabah on Saturday where a major announcement is expected. At the BN meeting, the PM has demanded full attendance while a pre-council meeting of BN Members of Parliament is expected to be called ahead of Monday's parliament sitting. The next 48 hours has been regarded as extremely crucial by BN and Pakatan Rakyat leaders with both sides stepping up their political fight.

Save the trees in Kedah!

This is one piece of news that will freak out environmentalists. In case you missed it. The Kedah MB Azizan Abdul Aziz has announced that logging would be allowed at Pedu, Muda and Ahning dam catchment areas . The state is desperate and it hope to make RM16bil in revenue from the logging. The lush jungle in Pedu, for example, is home to many animals including elephants, deers, rhinocerous and even leopards but the sightings are already becoming rare. This is the home of the famous "tualang" trees which stands over 50m. News of the planned logging has already become a hot topic among environment groups. There may be hotter issues like the SAPP vote of no confidence against the PM but there are also issues such as this that we must not lose sight or forget. Blogger Khoo Kay Peng is pissed that there are politicians, regardless of their parties, who are prepared to chop down the trees in these areas. The PAS chaps may be in green but their kind of green is not for the environment for sure. The forests should be kept for eco-tourism, not chopped down. Sure, they will say there would still be enough trees but that's beside the point.

BN supreme council meets

The Prime Minister has called for an emergency supreme council meeting at 2.30pm today following the dramatic challenge from SAPP yesterday. BN component leaders received the directive via SMS late last night for the meeting. They are expected to pledge their support for Pak Lah and likely to call for the sacking of the SAPP. The defiance by Yong Teck Lee is already regarded as an open challenge and the Sabah party is as good as out of the ruling coalition. The stunning move has sparked talk that more Sabahan MPs would leave the BN in stages but it is also likely that the motion on Monday would not materialise. A splinter group of the SAPP led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Raymond Tan could also possibly emerged over the next 48 hours with several pro-BN SAPP leaders appearing on radio this morning to say they had no part in the Yong's move. As the political uncertainties drags on, the newrooms of the media have been kept busy with speculations that the BN is targetting the Perak state government. Just as the Pakatan Rakyat is targetting the federal government.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's fast and furious over SAPP

Just hours after the stunning announcement by the SAPP that it plans to move a no faith motion against the PM on Monday, the reaction has been swift. The salvoes have been fired against SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee. His deputy, Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiat has said he was not supporting the move, adding that the party did not support Pakatan Rakyat. The Deputy Chief Minister, who was not invited to the press conference today, claimed the supreme council did not give the consensus. The Liberal Democrat Party has asked the SAPP to leave thre Barisan Nasional with the strongest attack from the PM himself, saying Yong's move was a result of personal greed and inability to get what he wanted. There were more missiles from MCA, Gerakan and Umno. And the motion? Nazri Aziz said the motion was unlikely to take place, an opinion which Lim Guan Eng and Lim Kit Siang seemed to share. But Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said PKR MPs would back the motion. Over the next 24 hours, BN leaders are expected to huddle with their MPs ahead of Monday's showdown. But the fact remains that the PM's job has become even more tougher now. Stay tune.

SAPP to table no faith motion against PM

It's a defiant act. The Sabah Progressive Party is essentially asking to be sacked. For some, it's as good as being out of the Barisan Nasional now following the party's stunning announcement that the party would table a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister. The party's vice-president and MP for Tawau Datuk Dr Chua Soon Bui is expected to do the job. Sepanggar MP Datuk Eric Enchin Majimbun, who is overseas, has supported the move. At the press conference in Kota Kinabalu today, Chua cited the lack of concrete actions by the PM and the burden of the fuel price hike. She said the people had lost confidence in Pak Lah's leadership and that even Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and other Umno leaders had asked him to step down. The question now is whether the Dewan Rakyat Speaker would allow the motion to be tabled and if allowed, whether there would be enough MPs to support the motion. How the Sabah Umno MPs, who have been critical, would react would be closely watched. Chua, in fact, mentioned their names - Datuk Ghapur Salleh, Datuk Anifah Aman and Datuk Bung Mokhtar - in her statement. Whether the SAPP decision would snowballed into a political storm waits to be seen but what is certain is that Barisan Nasional component parties leaders are likely to call for the SAPP to be sacked from the BN. The easterly wind could well turn into a storm.

One very angry Sultan

The Selangor PAS Youth has hit a raw nerve. The wing's protest against the performance by Ella and Mas Idayu has upset the Sultan of Selangor. Upset is an understatement. This writer had a chance to speak with His Highness yesterday and he was so angry with the threat made by PAS that he wanted to cancel all future Sultan of Selangor matches. What PAS may not realise or chose not to realise is that the organisation of the Sultan of Selangor Cup comes under the direct purview of Tuanku. He personally supervises the running of the event. He has never asked for a single sen from the state government, previous or present. But what has irked Tuanku is the kind of narrow politics and religious intolerance pushed by PAS. He has made it clear that Selangor is multi-racial and multi-religious. Senior Selangor PAS leaders, it seemed, have washed their hands off, pleading ignorance to what the youth wing was doing. At a meeting between senior editors and Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim at his official residence yesterday, the Chinese newspaper editors brought up their concern over the continuous call by PAS to push its syariah law agenda as Khalid tried to allay their fears.

Easterly wind is blowing

The easterly wind is blowing. The Sabah Progressive Party is holding a press conference meeting today at 2pm to announce a major decision. Until last evening, SAPP officials maintained silence on speculations that the party was pulling out from the Barisan Nasional. According to informed sources, this is unlikely to happen. But the SAPP is expected to unveil some kind of declaration that it wants the Prime Minister to do. It also want to see what kind of reaction it would receive following the press conference today, particularly from the other Sabah parties. In the semenanjung, the talk of MCA defecting to the Pakatan Rakyat as claimed by Anwar Ibrahim is a non-starter. The party, which has 15 MPs, has reacted strongly to the claim and even among political analysts, not many believed the claim and is wondering why Anwar brought it up. From the land below the wind, let's see whether the easterly wind will turn into a storm.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ella and Mas Idayu too hot for PAS

Selangor PAS Youth is furious that rock queen Ella and dangdut queen Mas Idayu have been invited to perform at the Sultan of Selangor Cup on July 6. The movement is upset and presumably hot that these two even hotter artistes would be performing before the annual football match between Selangor and Singapore. Selangor PAS Youth chief Sallehen Mokhyi has described the two artistes as unsuitable and would have "an effect" on youngsters attending the match. Why only youngsters, why not middle aged and older politicians? PAS Youth has threatened to demonstrate at the stadium if the organisers decide to go ahead with the performance. The organisers should go ahead with the show and not submit to the threats of these Little Mullahs. Just last week, the national PAS Youth wing said it wanted all states under Pakatan to implement syariah laws.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

PAS Syariah laws, not again!

Barely three months and PAS is at it again. The Islamist party refrained from talking about syariah laws in the elections and many Malaysians, especially non-Muslims, voted for them because they were regarded as a better choice than the BN. But some little Mullahs in PAS have forgotten that many of their candidates won because of non-Muslim votes. PAS Youth want states under Pakatan to start implementing Islamic laws including restrictions on the sale of liquor, gaming and even dress code for government office workers. It want a special meeting in August to talk about these laws. We will hear the usual argument that all religion forbid liquor and gaming. That's true but many of us also exercise tolerance if others want to drink or gamble. Some will call critics infidels again. But leaders including Lim Kit Siang and Tony Pua have been quick to dismiss any such thoughts from PAS. Pua even warned that if PAS continued to harp on Islamic laws, then at some point, it will make the coalition untenable. The men in green may not be able to run wild in Perak, Penang and Selangor but the same cannot be said about Kedah. According to Chong Eng, previously there were 38 Chinese municipal councillors but under the PAS state government, it has dropped to 18. Now, that's a bad scene.

BN component party to leave coalition?

Anwar Ibrahim is not the only one keeping Malaysians in suspense with his Sept 16 promise of forming the new federal government. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has now predicted that a Barisan Nasional component party would leave the coalition at the end of the month. He claimed he has received news. Bahasa Malaysia online media, Agenda Daily, has speculated that it would either be Gerakan or SAPP. Not many will bet on Gerakan, that's for sure. The website has even taken the trouble to call the two SAPP MPs, Enchin Majimbun (Sepanggar) and Chua Soon Bui (Tawau) but both seemed to suggest it's not true. It's no secret that SAPP chief Datuk Yong Teck Lee is unhappy that the party has only two parliamentary seats and feels that Sabah has been neglected. He has met the Prime Minister, telling him at least three times during the meeting, to take the unhappiness of Sabahans seriously. But there is now less talk of jumping ship in Sabah. The pledges made by PM seemed to have paid off, at least for now. The Sabahan politics are seasoned political poker players. One's thing for sure, they won't join any Semananjung political party and play second fiddle.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stop horsing around!

The Nation newspaper of Thailand has quoted the country's Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung as telling district chiefs in provinces to travel on horseback following sharp fuel prices. Talk about a politician putting his foot in the mouth, this one surely beats them all. The supplement, Daily Xpress, has a picture of Chalerm getting into his expensive Bentley, but doesn't say if it's an official or personal car. Still, his idiotic suggestion, although environment friendly, has drew chuckles in the country. Si Chompoo chief Preecha Saiprasert said he would stick to his motorcycle while his Nakhon Si Thammarat counterpart Kairaj Kaewedee refused to be drawn on Chalerm's idea, saying he needed to see the policy in writing. Still, the newspaper managed to find a leather worker Phanu Nimchompoo, who has been seen on horseback on local streets, for years even before petrol became expensive. Meanwhile, the Nation put on its front page today that the price of gas for vehicles would be raised next month.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's a done deal

It's a deal. An agreement has been reached between Pak Lah and Najib over the leadership succession. The announcement will be made at a right time, according to the Prime Minister. The leadership change, said Pak Lah, would be made at the right time. The only question is when. But it is almost certain that there would be no challengers for the top Umno post. It is unlikely that Ku Li will garner enough nominations. Najib has said he would never challenge his boss. Pak Lah will retain his presidency for certain and if he chooses to, then he could provide some clues on the succession plan at the Umno general assembly.

Don't forget the middle class!

Everyone's feeling the pinch with the increase in fuel and food prices. No one's spared. The lower income, of course, is the hardest hit. But don't forget the middle class, who forms the majority of Malaysians. These are the salaried workers, who have their money deducted monthly and still have to pay more at the end of the year. Unlike the rich fat cats, they have no creative accountants to help them pay less to the IRD. The middle class are the "neither rich and neither poor" - but with the hike in prices, many are drifting towards the poor category. Worse, we are not qualified for most aid. The designations and salaries we carry don't help either, so the children lose out to others when it comes to scholarships. Sure, we understand there are more deserving cases but when you earn an average of RM3,500 or less and you have a family and live in the Klang Valley, you have a serious budget problem. The starting pay for graduates is around RM1,800-RM2,000, and after the rent, food and car loan, they still need support from daddy and mummy. Will anyone listen to the middle class?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Billboard controversy in PJ

A huge billboard in Petaling Jaya with the face of Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has sparked off a row among residents. PJ folks, like other Malaysians, have long been sick with similar billboards showing Barisan Nasional leaders. For ordinary Malaysians, these billboards are just another ego trip for these politicians. But BN leaders in Selangor are claiming their billboards had e-mail and handphone numbers for the people to call them. This one, with Khalid, has nothing. State Exco member Ronnie Liu said the billboard was put up without the state government's knowledge and that the state did not spend a single sen. What's your take?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

OK to moonlight?

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Tan Sri Amirsham Abdul Aziz has said civil servants can take up part-time weekend jobs or businesses to supplement their income in view of the rising cost of living. He said the government was encouraging all Malaysians to work harder during weekends. We are sure Amirsham is simply trying to help civil servants ease their financial burden. Already many government servants including police constables are working as taxi drivers, pasar malam traders or bodyguards. They are just earning an honest living to supplement their income. No one can fault what they are doing. But Amirsham need to come up with some guidelines. He should not open the floodgates where there would be a conflict of interest. Council workers at certain departments, for example, shouldn't be working for property developers. Land office officials should not be engaged by lawyers and those related to their work. The 10% cut in the ministers' entertainment allowances is merely symbolic. What we need to do is to focus on improving efficiency and productivity. Saving money but not earning money for the country does not help to save the economy. We have talked so much about the tender system but nothing has been carried out. Not even in the Pakatan-run states. The tender system will allow Malaysians to stop wastage and curb corruption. Taxpayers should not be burderned with over-priced projects. Or projects that have little economic value in return. Does Malacca really need a RM40million ferris wheel? The Eye will be moved from Taman Tasik Titiwangsa to Malacca's Kota Laksamana. The state has projected 700,000 tourists a year but not many are convinced that it is viable. Let's hope it won't become a Black Eye Over Malacca. Let's be serious if we want to have prudent management.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More relevations about judiciary interference

Latest: The Star has the story on Page One today. Check the story online here.

This is one piece of explosive relevation by a judge, as the news heading correctly stated, about executive interference in the judiciary. It was missed by all the Semenanjung-based media but it has been picked up by newspapers, bloggers and the Malaysian Bar since this morning.
It is a shocking story of family members being placed under detention to lectures for selected judges in a boot camp. All in the words of Sibu based judge Datuk Ian Chin who has decided to speak up. He didn't name who was responsible but it was clear he meant Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Will there be more judges, in the wake of the VK Lingam case, who would come forward to speak up and share their confessions with Malaysians?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Songkok: To wear or not to wear?

Updates: June 10 - Guan Eng says CEC has no objection over songkok

The songkok is different from the purdah, burqa, serban or telekung. A person wearing the songkok is not making a religious statement. A songkok is simply a Malay head gear. Wearing a songkok does not change a person's religion, race or make a religious stand. Selangor DAP politicians used to make a fuss over the songkok, with some refusing to wear the songkok at palace functions, until they became part of the state government. Suddenly, the biggest critics of the songkok are wearing them. See what positions can do. Now, we read that the Johor DAP state assemblymen are facing problems from the central executive committee over the issue. Ironically, some of the top leaders in the CEC are holding state government positions. In Perak, DAP state assemblymen has been wearing the songkok when they have an audience with the Sultan. In Penang, Lim Guan Eng and his exco members would have to make the official white uniforms which comes with a songkok and the state emblems soon. During Chinese New Year and Deepavali, many of our Malay friends sportingly wear the Chinese and Indian costumes because they are not religious outfits. The tudung or serbans are totally different from the songkoks. It might be popular for the DAP to stand up against the wearing of the songkok during the 60s but Malaysians have moved on. Similarly race politics won't score points either now. The songkok is a non issue, really.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's surely not Turkish delight

Turkey has the right to ban women from wearing headscarves in universities, according to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The argument by the judges is that the ban is necessary to maintain order and show that no preference is given to any religion. They also claimed that was no infringement of human rights. Although the decision was made in the name of secularism, it is clearly a violation of human rights. What people want to wear over their heads is nobody's business. If they wish to wear the purdah or burka, so be it. But the same principle also applies - if women do not wish to cover their heads, that's also nobody's business. If they want to wear the mini skirts and tight jeans, who are we to say no?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fuel price hike - the morning after

Malaysians woke up this morning to the grim reality - everything is going to be more expensive from now. The lunch time "chap fun" - or "economy rice" - would not be so economical anymore. For many wage earners, there isn't much of a lifestyle to change in the first place.It is a daily struggle of paying off our expenses. After the deductions by the Inland Revenue Department, the take home pay for many salary workers comes to almost nothing. Michael Chong would be kept busier now with his "Ah Long" stories. That's the reality. Malaysians generally are reasonable. The fuel price is expected and it is not confined to Malaysia. We understand the price increase is inevitable and we know we are still being subsidised. The price of petrol changes everyday in other countries. At current world market prices, the subsidies for petrol and gas is about RM50billion. Australia, like Malaysia, is a net oil and gas exporter but their motorists are paying RM5.70 per litre of petrol. Subsidies have become really huge in Malaysia and politicians who claim they can reduce the prices of fuel are just bluffing. Or they just don't care about long term economic sustainability for the sake of winning votes. But what Malaysians cannot stand is the wastage of public funds. Why do we spend millions to send one person to space is simply mind boggling. Why do we spend millions on grandiose and overpriced projects is another wonder in Malaysia. Or is it a way for greedy politicians to make money? On a lesser scale, can we stop those grand welcome for politicians at functions? They cost taxpayers' money. Why do we tolerate those huge billboards with faces of grinning politicians? Even the new Selangor government is guilty of that. Yes, we have to change our lifestyles because we don't have a choice but we want to see the government - federal and state - cut down on wastages. Be prudent in spending taxpayers money, that's what we want to see.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Up, up and up

Malaysians had braced for an increase in fuel prices but the hike has been sharper than they expected. It will be difficult for Malaysians who have been used to subsidies. Their livestyles must now change unless they want to pay more. Petrol has increased by 78 sens to RM2.70 per litre from RM1.92 while the new diesel price went up by RM1 to RM2.50 per litre. That's not all. Tenaga Nasional will raise electricity rates by 18% for homes and 26% for business users. We can expect the higher cost of production to be passed on to consumers. That means you can expect our "economy rice" to be more pricey. For salary workers, without any increase in wages, their spending power has immediately shrunk. For the Malaysian middle class, who form the majority of the one million taxpayers, it is a big burn in their pockets. But there is some good news. Owners of cars of 2 litre capacity engines and below, will get cash rebate of RM625 a year and their road tax will be cut by RM200. More details are expected to be issued over the next 48 hours but as of now, the petrol stations are packed.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Get ready to pay more

Let's brace ourselves for the inevitable. Newspaper editors have been invited to at least two briefings tomorrow on the new fuel subsidy scheme ahead of the Cabinet meeting. The Prime Minister is expected to announce the details of how the new subsidy scheme would work by noon. Hints have been given by Domestic Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad but no details have been leaked. In short, it's very much a guessing game at this point. The signs are already there for us to see - the cost of subsidies could cause the country's deficit to shoot up to between 8% and 10% of its GDP. That would work out to about RM60bil, given that the current GDP is about RM650mil, according to visiting Prof Danny Quah of the London School of Economics recently. Fuel makes up 79% of the country's total subsidy spending in 2007 and with petrol prices rising across the globe, Quah, a Penangite, has warned that the tipping point has been reached, The Edge quoted him as saying. In short, if we don't do something about the subsidy scheme, we will pay a heavy price in the long run. We will not be able to pay for development projects such as schools and hospitals. For ordinary Malaysians, we can expect a higher cost of living. It's going to be more than just a pinch this time. As much as we understand the need to rise petrol and diesel prices, even from August, we like to see less wastage from the government. As much as appreciate the fact that Malaysians pay the least in the region for their fuel, we cannot deny that millions of ringgit have gone to waste on projects that makes little sense and sens. It will earn the government a lot of goodwill and understanding if we take a serious look at projects that burn taxpayers' money because they are overpriced or just not priority.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Let's push for reforms

He did not have an easy time. In fact, he was heckled and subjected to some tough questioning on media freedom. But let's not be too harsh on Datuk Zaid Ibrahim. Some of his statements did not go down well with the journos and bloggers as many expected him to play to the gallery. But he didn't. Still, the fact that he accepted the invitation to turn up for the dialogue at the National Press Club speaks volume of this man, who has already been under attack by some of his Umno party members for his reformist ways. He has asked the media to submit the proposals for reforms, so let's do it. It's okay if we have done it 10 years ago with over 800 signatures. He's probably not aware of it. The media, whether print, the electronic and the bloggers, should take the challenge and put a united front for the reforms. For the first time, the mainstream media and bloggers have worked together for a common cause. It's a good start and journalists should engage liberals like Zaid Ibrahim and Ahmad Shabeery Chik to support their initiatives. Let's make representation. All over if we have too. It will be a good start if the one-off KDN can be issued, like Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar has proposed, as a first step towards the repeal of the press laws. Let's take one step at a time.