Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bangsa Malaysia everyday please!

Unity on parade: One race, one people but why only on National Day?

Malaysians are always reminded on National Day, without fail by our politicians, that we are one race and one people. This is our country and that without the cooperation of the major races independence would not have been possible. Without Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia would not have been possible. And so, through the dances and songs, all the races are represented. Very much like the recital of the Rukunegara at the National Day parade today, where students of various races were there. The quesion is why can't we be Bangsa Malaysia everyday. Why must this be possible only through parades, dances and Tourism Malaysia video? Why must our leaders claim to represent Malaysians one day and their own community the next day? When will we stop having to state our races when filling up forms instead of being just Bangsa Malaysia? When will our politicians stop worrying about the religious background of our elected MPs? Why should PAS president Hadi Awang be worried if there would be more non-Muslim MPs from Sabah and Sarawak? When will our politicians mean Bangsa Malaysia when they say they will defend the country for "bangsa dan negara"? When will our politicians realise that the Chinese and Indians are Malaysians and no longer "bangsa pendatang" and that many of our Umno leaders can trace their ancestry roots to India,Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Yemen, Thailand and even China, which is nothing unusual as Malaysia is a melting pot of various culture. This is a diversity which we should be proud of. Dr Mahathir Mohamad has never hide the fact that his ancestors came from Bangladesh and that does not make him any less bumiputra or Malay or any less Malaysian. So, the rest of us, regardless of our races, have as much as stake in Malaysia too. We are born here and no matter what happens, we will never pack off because we are Bangsa Malaysia.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sorry, it's not convincing

The arguments that we have heard so far for blocking Raja Petra Kamaruddin's website have not been convincing at all. If RPK has published materials that are libellous, slanderous and defamatory - and certainly many of his contents are - then, use legal ways to stop him. As I have said, sue him or charge him. If his contents are incorrect, rebuke his arguments and insist on a right of reply. That is how a democracy works. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) may have the power to block RPK but the question is whether it is the right thing to do. It is not even politically clever because the decision would only create more discontentment against the government, which it can ill afford anymore. It is not just an unpopular decision, it is simply wrong. So what if it has blocked Malaysia Today, his readers can still read his website through his mirror site. What's the point in all this? See On The Beat column of the issue in The Sunday Star.

More banning of concerts

It doesn't look like this banning of concerts business is going to stop. No, it's not a trivial matter, as some may want to think. It's about our choices and our rights. It's about the erosion of our liberal liftstyles that is being slowly taken away from us in the name of religion. If we give in today, we will lose more tomorrow. Politicians who used to complain and speak up for us are not doing it anymore - simply because they are now part of the new government or simply they are afraid of losing the support of conservative votes. The PAS politicians pushed for dangdut singer Inul to be banned and they succeeded. They wanted Avril stopped and they almost succeeded but our loud protest worked. They tried to stop Mas Idayu and Ellas but they failed because the Sultan of Selangor said no too. Now, the PAS-led Kedah government has banned dangdut, reggae, pop and rock concerts. What next?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MCMC, stop being silly!

The decision to shut down Malaysia Today is totally unnecessary and unconvincing. Sue him, arrest him, charge him or whatever but Raja Petra Kamaruddin has the right to operate his website. He has a large following but there are also many including this writer who do not agree with many things he has written. He is outspoken, daring and imaginative but he has little regard for accuracy. He doesn't give a damm about evidence but that is beside the point - he is entitled to his views. He has the right to write whatever he wants and if he steps out of the boundary, there are enough laws to be used against him. In a democracy, we don't have to agree with each other but we must defend the right of everyone to speak up - including RPK and other voices of dissent. It is not the job of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to decide what is seditious or libellious or slanderous. Let the proper authorities do the job. The MCMC order to internet service providers to block his site is myopic and ridiculous. It goes against the Multimedia Super Corridor Bill of Guarantees which promised no censorship. If it can happen to RPK, it can also happen to other Malaysian bloggers. The MCMC should just end this silliness.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Avril Lavigne: PAS still pissed off

It looks like the Mullahs are still pissed off with the Avril Lavigne concert. Upset with the Cabinet decision to allow the concert, the men in green are determined to carry out a last ditch effort to stop the concert. It is appealing to other Islamic bodies to back its plan, according to Deputy PAS Youth head Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi. The party's online portal also described the Canadian rock singer as a "sex symbol" - what a joke! Nasrudin went on to say that the concert was a disgrace to the nation. The Prime Minister also came under fire from the Islamist party, which is expected to stage a protest at the concert. Well, that's nothing new and it is their democratic right to distribute leaflets, so long as the party's loonies don't disrupt the show. Seriously, a lot of us are also really pissed off with these PAS guys for trying to impose their beliefs on us.

Anwar's massive win

Anwar celebrates with his wife - Star pix

IT'S official - Anwar Ibrahim has won the Permatang Pauh by-election with a handsome 15,671 vote majority. He polled 31,195 votes against Barisan Nasional's 15,524 votes. The third contender from Akim managed only 92 votes. In the March general election, Wan Azizah obtained a 13,388 majority. Azizah garnered 30,338 against Firdaus Ismail's 16,950 votes then.
Anwar's win was not unexpected but the strong margin is surely a moral victory for him. The results would be a watershed because it means the return of Anwar to Parliament. It is history in the making tonight. For the BN, especially Umno, it would have to ask itself why the attempts to win the Malay votes failed. Clearly, its decision to reinforce its image as the Malay protector did not win the votes it needed badly in this predominantly Malay constituency. Anwar's victory, however, does not affect the power equation but as the "comeback kid" in Parliament, his presence alone would generate more excitement. The fight between the BN and PR has now become even more intense.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Permatang Pauh: The Final Countdown

IT'S the final countdown. As the clock ticks away in Permatang Pauh to end the intense campaign, the bet is still Anwar Ibrahim will win the by-election. The weatherman has predicted thunderstorms tomorrow at the constituency but it is unlikely to affect the voting turnout. A big win for Anwar is likely although the Barisan Nasional is still talking about reducing the majority. There appears to be an air of confidence among the BN workers that this is possible. They believe there is a sizeable chunk of fence sitters among the Malay voters who would vote BN or stay away from voting. The fight is still for the Malay votes. But the fact remains that even if Anwar wins with a vote, it's still a victory. His victory would not change the equation in Parliament but the victory signals the return of Anwar into Parliament. A big margin would be a moral score.The sodomy issue continues to be used in the campaign with imams giving different interpretations - depending on their political leanings - on whether Saiful's swearing on the Quran was valid and in accordance with the religious process.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Avril Lavinge concert is ON!

THE CONCERT IS ON - the organisers of the Avril Lavinge gig finally got the permit from the ministry just an hour ago. The appeal was accepted by the ministry officials. Common sense has finally prevailed, I am told the intervention came from someone really high up, who thought this dilly-dally was a lot of nonsense. Hint - the Cabinet met today. The consensus, I am told, was that no one should give in to the PAS mullahs. The voices of the liberals and moderates must always be louder than the extremists. Other ministers also expressed support for the concert. But this simple application for a concert should have just been accepted and approved without having to get the higher-ups involved, surely they have more pressing issues to handle. But what a right thing has to be done. See you at the concert!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More on Avril - Malaysia gets the black eye

Check out this clip on YouTube by clicking on the image.

Nobody is certain whether the Avril Lavinge concert on Aug 29 is on or off. PAS politicians would love to see the Canadian rocker banned while ministry officials seem non committal - saying the timing isn't good (to please the Mullahs) but for safe measure, say they would only make a decision next week (just in case, someone high up tells them this banning business is a lot of bull). The statement from Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal isn't very clear either. The organisers, meanwhile, have yet to receive any letter to tell them the concert is off and tickets are still being sold. The advertisements continue on the radio and magazines. An online protest against the possible concert ban ( has started. The organisers and the ministry officials have met for the past 48 hours. But for the time being, Malaysia has become a laughing stock around the world - simply because of a PAS politician and indecisive ministry officials.

Are they from another planet?

What's wrong with some of our MPs? An innocent question on national integration at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday ended up with MPs throwing racial insults at each other. It was just a simple discussion on the national integration programme and soon our MPs were throwing tantrums, putting on their worst behaviour and shouting racial slurs. The notorious Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-Pasir Salak), who has a record for making outrageous remarks, and Datuk Lilah Yassin (BN-Jempol), have left Malaysians wondering what's wrong with them. (For the full transcript of the exchange, check out the Hansard in the Parliament website via this link and read from Pages 13-18)

Are they from Malaysia or another planet? Yes, they represent Umno, a Malay based party but surely, they also need the votes of other races in their constituencies. Surely, they must understand that Malaysia is a melting pot which we can trace our ancestry roots to Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, China, Thailand, Myanmar and elsewhere. So, what's with this "go to Singapore" and "this is not China" remarks? They smacked of racism. Malaysians, regardless of their races, are pretty tired with such racist politicians. They seem to come from all parties and when they lose in the elections, they wonder why, and they start blaming everyone else except themselves. Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz must be commended for bringing some sense back to the Dewan Rakyat following the uproar. If our politicians want to be addressed as Yang Berhormat, we expect them to show maturity and self-restraint in Parliament.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ban the skimpy, sports attire on TV!

Even the Olympics may be deemed too sexy based on reports like the above. - Star Sports Page 57

I hope the AP report, which appeared in the NST today, isn't correct. The report, quoted a Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry official, as saying that it has cancelled a concert by Avril Lavigne. The reasons - it is unsuitable for Malaysian culture, should not be held two days before the National Day, untimely and not in the spirit of National Day. This is the biggest bull I have ever heard. It's simple, the ministry has caved in to the demands of PAS. Is the ministry telling us that one FT PAS official, Kamarulzaman Mohamed, makes this difference? Just because this chap tells us that Avril is "too sexy" for us. Please lah. My colleagues have told me that the organisers are still insisting the concert would go on and there is still no official statement from the ministry but certainly Malaysians do not need such suspense. This is the second victory for FT PAS in a row. The first was the ban on dangdut singer Inul. Only the Sultan of Selangor dared to stand up against PAS, which wanted to stop the Mas Idayu-Ella performance. Last night, the AP report made it around the world. We know pop concerts are staged at every Merdeka countdown, so the excuses given are pretty pathetic. At the rate we are going, we might as well ban MTV and Channel V on Astro - which could be next if our leaders are sucking up to the Mullahs for political favours. This is what happens when the government is weak. Next, we would have to burn our television sets because the attire of the Olympics athletes are too revealing and too sexy. Maybe we should learn to wear the turbans and learn how to ride camels from now. Remember, Hadi is the PM in waiting.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More excuses from Zulkifli Nordin

Zulkifli (in songkok) arguing outside the hall where the Bar Council forum was held. Photo courtesy of Malaysian Insider

Kulim Bandar Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin must be a man wearing many hats or many masks. After barging into the Bar Council forum, which he has now denied, and having earned the reputation for being the loudest protestor, he is now telling us that he was there as an exco member of Persatuan Peguam Pembela Islam, and not as an MP. Even his party has deemed fit to send him a show cause letter for his outrageous behaviour but he is now telling us that having explained to PKR whip Azmin Ali, his explanation has been accepted.

During his disappearing act, he must have spent time coming out with this defence line. But lawyers and reporters present at the forum knew he was part of the Umno-PKR-PAS combo that created a big fuss at the forum. Bar Council secretary Lim Chee Wee regarded Zulkifli and the others as "aggressive, refused to sit down, stood in the centre of the aisle, glared at activist Dr Mehrun Siraj, who was speaking." Wonder what Zulkifli will tell his constituents of various races and faiths when he goes back to his kawasan?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Toh Kin Woon quits Gerakan

Dr Toh Kin Woon (picture), a Gerakan central committee member, who created a stir with his open support for Anwar Ibrahim last night, has quit the party. The former academician faxed his letter of resignation just minutes ago. Among the reasons he cited was his plan to focus on non-governmental organisations. The former state executive councillor's resignation came as no surprise as his independent views, especially his relations with Anwar, have always put him at odds with his Gerakan bosses, Getting out of Gerakan was the only way. I first got to know this mild-mannered gentleman when I was a student at UKM. He taught me consumer economics and is certainly one of the nicest persons I have met. He hardly fits the image of a rebel. I believe his decision to focus on NGO work would serve his causes more effectively. At one time, he was active in the Consumers Association of Penang. Like many academicians, it has not been easy grappling with partisan politics, where values and principles are compromised all the time, regardless of their political beliefs. Kin Woon is no exception. Idealists like him have found it difficult having to toe the party line. He has not ruled out joining PKR but those who know Dr Toh would probably advise him to devote his time to NGO work.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Arif Shah's Mission Impossible

It's going to be a mission impossible for Barisan Nasional candidate Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah, who is standing against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Permatang Pauh. The third contender Hanafi Hamat from the so-called Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia, said to be a splinter of PAS, is a non starter and essentially a spoiler if the votes are tight. But that is unlikely to happen. Anwar is almost certain to cruise through the polls. Even if Arif manages to trim down the majority, which is itself a great achievement, the gap is unlikely to be wide. Although Arif has put up a brave front, saying he can beat Anwar, that is not going to happen realistically. But the national exposure for Arif would certainly help him within Umno in the long run. Today, probably for the first time in any elections campaign, the opposition supporters outnumbered the Barisan Nasional, some said as many as 17 Pakatan Rakyat supporters to one BN supporter. There are plenty of reasons why Anwar is confident. Mohd Saiful Bukhari's decision to swear on the Quran that he was sodomised by Anwar is unlikely to have an impact on the by-election. But he has to sort out the security arrangements of the PKR. The continuing roughing up of reporters by these ruffians does not help the image of PKR, even though the leadership does not endorse the thuggish behaviour. All parties including PAS have their security staff but PKR has got the worst reputation. Instead of being defensive, claiming they are unsure whether these are PKR men, the party leaders should just enforce better discipline and organise these personnels more effectively.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Will Rihanna get to perform in KL?

The word, among show promoters in town, is that Grammy award winner Rihanna (left) has offered to perform in KL. Her agents want the concert to be performed at a stadium as they expect tickets to sell well. But the offer has been sitting on the desk of many local promoters - they fear PAS and the self appointed moral guardians will protest and that DBKL will give in - I thought City Hall is still taking orders from the FT Minister and not the Mullahs. But this is what continued pressure can do.

No promoter want to invest millions of ringgit for a one night show and have it called off at the last minute because some holier-than-thou politicians, masquerading as theologians, decreed that the singer is unsuitable for our "eastern culture." More so, when the PM in waiting from PAS has been declared.

Even dangdut queen Inul Daratista fainted when told that DBKL had submitted to the demands of the men in green. At the rate we are going, KL will be missing the big names when they are in this region. Rod Stewart is said to have turned down an invitation from Genting Highlands to perform because he had been hearing negative news about Malaysia. When the mullahs grumbled about Gwen Stefani, the news made it to the whole of US. It had to take the Sultan of Selangor to issue a royal rebuke when PAS protested against Mas Idayu recently. But how many politicians have the guts to stand up to the theologians? Either they are afraid of losing the Muslim votes or being labelled unIslamic or they have now compromised their political principles because they are in the same coalition.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hadi Awang - also PM in waiting?

Everybody wants to rule Malaysia. PAS president Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang is also putting himself up as the next PM. Bahasa Malaysia newspapers today, including Sinar Harian (pic) quoted PAS central committee member Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah as saying the Islamist party wants Hadi as the next PM. The same view was echoed by its Dewan Ulama, comprising the party's theologians, today with its chief Datuk Mohd Daud Iraqi saying the council endorsed Hadi as the PM. The popularity of the firebrand PAS leader - who met Umno top guns for talks- has not been affected obviously. Hadi had met Umno leaders to find ways to work together, a move which upset others including Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat. In short, PAS is saying they do not want Anwar Ibrahim to be a PM, which has led many to suspect that this was one reason why Hadi toyed with the idea of doing a deal with Umno, in the name of Muslim unity. Hadi is said to be uncomfortable with Anwar's liberal and multi-racial approach. But could the real reason be their long time rivalry since the Abim days? Or just plain power and position? Hadi is also very much in the news for his comments at the Penang PAS convention that PAS would leave Pakatan Rakyat if there are more non-Muslim MPs than Muslim MPs. It's not a surprise really. Hadi has in fact gone on record in its party newsletter, Harakah, as saying that he is disturbed by the increasing number of non-Muslim majority constituencies in Sabah and Sarawak. Surely, his own party newsletter cannot be misquoting him.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chinese speaking Arif Shah is BN man

The battle for Permatang Pauh will be between the BN's Arif Shah (left) and PKR's Anwar Ibrahim

The Barisan Nasional is fielding Seberang Jaya Assemblyman Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah for Permatang Pauh. Arif Shah speaks Mandarin and Hokkein fluently, a key factor, which Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak must have taken into consideration in the bid to win over the crucial Chinese votes. Arif Shah received his primary and secondary school education in Chinese schools before going to the US to study civil engineering. He also acts as an advisor for Tamil clubs in his constituency, another plus point for him. Arif is known for his constituency work in Seberang Jaya - the state constituency in Permatang Pauh said to have delivered the largest chunk of BN votes. Still, Arif Shah would go into the contest as an underdog. His job is to reduce the opposition majority. His entry into the by-election is already unprecedented in Umno as the party never fields the same person for state and parliamentary constituencies but this is an unprecedented event. Both sides are playing the "underdog" tag in a move to stop any form of complacency in the polls.

Let's see some common sense

Less than three weeks from now, we will be celebrating the National Day. It is a special occasion to mark the birth of a nation and its maturity. We will be turning 51 years old. For a nation, we can still be regarded as young but at the same time, not too young either. The events of the past few weeks must worried many of us. Why are we still talking of Malay unity and not Malaysian unity? Why are some of us still unsure of ourselves and so reluctant to mix and mingle with one another, even as we spend millions of ringgit on national service for our young ones. Why are even some of our young so reluctant to share the same lecture halls with fellow Malaysians of other races even when the international ranking of universities today requires the admittance of even foreigners, as a criteria? And why should one react to a proposal so strongly when it's not even an issue, in the first place. Thanks to the democratisation of education, Malaysians have plenty of colleges and universities to pick from. Why are some of us stirring up issues that many of us have little thoughts about? The National Day isn't just about flying the national flags to demonstrate about patriotism. It isn't just about parades and fireworks but also about our commitment to the country. It is no use for anyone to claim to be nationalistic and a protector of one's race but quietly steal the people's money and squander away the nation's wealth.

Politicians who extol the virtues of our education system and yet pack off their children overseas, even at primary school level, are hardly champions of any race. The real Malaysians are the ordinary Malaysians who earn an honest living and will die here. Something is wrong, terribly wrong, when there is little tolerance for difference of views. Mob rule is unacceptable in any civilised country. It is also wrong when leaders, who suddenly find themselves in government, keep an eerie silence when their partners make statements that run against what they preach. Is it still about political expediency?

Malaysian politicians keep forgetting that they are voted in by people of all races - they should represent ALL Malaysians, no matter what parties they come from.

Yes, Malaysia has done well, in many ways. We have come a long way but the National Day is also a time to reflect and review. It is time to correct what we have done wrong and improve on what we have done right. We cannot expect everything to be rosy, especially in a multi-ethnic country, but we have lived together well. We have made Malaysia work but it has to work even better, if we are to progress. We want to see colour-blind politicians who believe in Malaysia and Malaysians - not Malays, Chinese or Indians. But Malaysians. Can we see some common sense?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keep the thugs out!

Something is terribly wrong when thugs, regardless of what political parties they come from, barged into a forum, shouting racist remarks and demanding a properly convened meeting to be stopped. They may call themselves political activists or non-governmental organisations leaders but they are just thugs. In this case, it was an Umno-PKR-PAS combo of hooligans who were unable to participate in a rational discourse. One Member of Parliament has since disappeared - he must have forgotten he was elected by Malaysians of all races and faiths. This PKR politician is widely known, among lawyers, for his religious zeal.
There is a problem, relating to conversion, and it needs to be addressed. The High Courts, so far, have been passing the buck and unless we are bold enough to resolve it, the problems would continue. If the Bar Council, comprising lawyers of various faith, cannot even meet to find ways, then how can one come up with solutions? Perhaps, the Bar Council could have registered the participants and held it behind closed doors. The protestors have a right to voice their objections as that is their democratic right. But to break up meetings and to shout racist remarks is another thing. It's criminally intimidating and seditious. We should also not be too quick to condemn those who have expressed their concerns at meetings which may stoke racial and religious anger, as they do not want meetings and counter-meetings to be held. Their concerns, I am sure, are genuine. It is obvious that not everyone is able to take part in a rational debate or want to. Let cool heads prevail but keep the thugs out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Avril Lavigne also cannot ah?

This is unbelievable but then, what do you expect from PAS? The party has consistently called for a ban of concerts, gender segregation and the imposition of hudud laws. They have never changed. Encouraged by its success in stopping dangdut queen Inul Darista from performing at the Merdeka Stadium, the Federal Territory PAS is now calling for a ban of the Avril Lavigne concert. Its chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad is saying the Canadian rocker's "punk elements" are unsuitable. Please-lah. Are we living in the dark ages or what? A good clean concert also has to be banned, we are becoming a laughing stock. If you feel so strongly about the concert, just stay at home lah! Why deprive others from having a good time? This is not Iran or Afghanistan, so please don't impose on Malaysians your kind of theocratic rule. Last month, Kelantan PAS' moral police squad stopped an underground music gathering in Kota Baru. At the rate things are going, it looks like pop concerts would have to be held in Genting Highlands only from now. But then, when the mullahs take over, the casino complex would be shut down too.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Greatest Show on Earth

Dancers perform on a giant illuminated globe (top) and dazzling fireworks at the unique Bird's Nest Stadium (click on picture for more photos via The Star Online's photo gallery)

It has to be the best Olympics opening ever. Directed by Zhang Yimou, it was pure brilliance. Zhang directed The Hero and The House of Flying Daggers. The grand opening was spectacular and if the dazzling display of fireworks we saw is a prelude of what's to come, we can expect a fantastic show ahead when the games proper begins.

The stunning display by Beijing is certainly a statement to the world that the New China has arrived. In short, see what we have achieved and see what we can do. At US$43bil, it is the most expensive ever Olympics but in cash rich China, the figure is nothing. The dragon has indeed awoke and China is certainly the pride of Asia. Let the games begin!

Anwar back in time for Budget?

If Anwar Ibrahim wins the Aug 26 by-election in Permatang Pauh, as expected, he could well be in the Dewan Rakyat within 48 hours. The Budget would be tabled on Aug 29 and we may will see Anwar Ibrahim inside Parliament by then. His presence alone would generate plenty of excitement and would add a whole new dimension to politics in Malaysia. The only difference is that he sits on the opposition bench this time. If he once used to deliver the Budget speech, this time he would be following closely. The question is how long he would sit on the opposition bench with his promise to his supporters that he would be Prime Minister by Sept 16. His credibility is on the line as his supporters expect him to meet the deadline.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Anwar likely to be back as MP before trial begins

It is almost certain that Anwar Ibrahim will win the by-election hands down. Barring any political miracle for the BN, Anwar is likely to win with a bigger majority at Permatang Pauh. With polling day on Aug 26, he would have been elected as MP before his case is mentioned on Sept 10. In fact, by then he would have been the Opposition Leader. Lim Kit Siang has said that is the consensus of Pakatan MPs. But of course, his supporters would say he would be on his way to become Prime Minister. No matter what, the sodomy charges would actually work to his advantage. You don't need a poll to know that the majority of Malaysians do not believe the sodomy charges. Without the benefit of compelling information in court from the prosecution, that means there won't be any persuasive elements to convince the people, including the voters of Permatang Pauh. By nature, people want to be convinced, better still to see a video. But for the time being, until the trial starts, there won't be any fresh information.That will work to Anwar's advantage. The fact that some BN leaders are talking of boycotting the by-election is as good as admitting defeat but the Prime Minister has said that it is not going to happen. The search is now for a local candidate who knows he is fighting a giant. For the time being, it is best that the BN accepts the reality that Anwar is making a comeback to Parliament.

Massive jam, Anwar to appear

Updates: Anwar charged, out on RM20,000 bail
Judge fixes Sept 10 for mention

Massive jams crippled the city as road blocks were set up along the roads leading to the Jalan Duta court complex. Anwar Ibrahim, who lives in nearby Segambut, is expected to show up soon to face the sodomy charges. Reporters, meanwhile, are fighting for the limited seats in the courtroom. While no bail is allowed for sodomy charges, the judge is allowed to exercise his or her discretion. Most lawyers believe that Anwar would probably be allowed bail and freed to campaign in the Permatang Pauh by election. But the question remains how both sides would refrain from using the charges as an issue as it would be subjudice to do so.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sodomy Two Begins

Nine years ago, as Britain's Queen Elizabeth arrived in town to attend the Commonwealth Games, another drama was unfolding in the capital - Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as Deputy Prime Minister. Dr Mahathir Mohamad described the sacking as a "minor distraction" at a press conference following the sacking. Thousands of Anwar supporters turned up at Dataran Merdeka on Sept 20, 1998, to protest against his arrest, shortly after the Queen left the church nearby. Fast forward, as the world gears up for the Beijing Olympic Games on Aug 8, 2008, we are making world news again with Anwar to be charged for sodomy tomorrow. Sodomy II begins on Friday. It's going to be a messy affair for sure. More dirt, more sordid details will crop up during the trial. It won't be good. Anwar has reiterated that it's a conspiracy and the charges are framed-up, aimed at stopping his career. There will be no winners at the end, only losers, whatever the outcome. For a start, the odds against the Barisan Nasional is even greater in the Permatang Pauh by-election. Anwar wins the perception game, and unless, very compelling evidence comes up, the backlash against the government would be very strong. The Attorney-General's Chambers seems to have taken a bit of a time to get their case going. Plenty are at stakes here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CNN's China bashing begins

No wonder the Chinese are angry with CNN. As part of its run-up to the Olympics, CNN has been running several negative stories. Yesterday, CNN ran a story about Western sports coaches who were unhappy with the "regimental demands" of the Chinese sports authorities on their participants. There was also a story about how bad the haze situation has become in Beijing and today, China came under criticism for its trade relations with Sudan. Sure, China's human rights records are pretty shameful but hey, can we leave politics aside and talk about sports? After all, the Olympics is about sports events. The Asia Wall Street Journal, in its Aug 4 edition, ran an editorial whacking China with purported criticism from reporters that they couldn't access "sensitive" sites like Amnesty International. Come on lah, if you are a sports reporter or a visitor, surely you won't be assessing such websites. Yes, we do not condone such cyber restrictions but it sounds like the "ang mores" (mat sallehs) are just not too happy with the Chinese Olympics.

More bad news on the economic front

This is something most of us already know but the problem seems to be more pressing. Malaysia is missing out on chances of attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) due to the current political concerns. Investors should be coming to Malaysia because China and Vietnam have lost some steam but investors are adopting a wait and see attitude. But "wait and see" is no good because we are facing strong competition for foreign money. The same questions are being asked across the region - what's happening to Malaysia? When will the excessive politicking ends? But it doesn't look like it will end - there is the Permatang Pauh by-election, the likelihood of Anwar Ibrahim being charged for sodomy, the Umno and MCA party elections. Can we see some positive development only in Jan or Feb? We would have lost a good four to five months by then to our competitors. There are more concerns - The Edge Financial Daily reported today that Maybank could suffer total losses of up to RM3.5bil if it was forced to sell down the 20% block in PT Bank International Indonesia Tbj (BII) within two years. It's already bad enough that Maybank may have to lose the RM480mil deposit it had paid to Temasek Holdings for the purchase of the Singapore's company's stake of 55% in BII for RM4.9bil. The purchase of the stake had become a talking point in town, probably even in the region, because it was about 23% premium over the market price of the stock then. So the questions remained - who were responsible for this great idea of taking over BII? So, can foreign investors be blamed when they look at the state of Malaysia's economy? The last thing they need - and we need - are politicians who only care about themselves.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Polling after National Day?

The campaigning period in the Permatang Pauh by-election is likely to be a short one. The word is that polling would be held after the National Day with the Elections Commission likely to make sure that the by-election would not be affected by the fasting month. Despite the hype of the media, in the run-up to the by-election, the winner is already known. Short of a miracle, Anwar Ibrahim will be returned as the MP for Permatang Pauh. The only Umno candidate who wants to contest against Anwar is Ezam but he has been ruled out. A local candidate is almost certain but he would probably be a reluctant candidate, too. Cynics would probably regard him as a sacrificial lamb.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sodomy trial and by-election campaign

The by-election campaign in Permatang Pauh and the sodomy trial, if Anwar Ibrahim is charged, could very well run together. This is the scenario Anwar is bracing for and certainly the media as well. With public perception against the sodomy allegations, Anwar would probably use the issue to his advantage, dismissing it as a conspiracy against his political career - which he has already started. He would use the by-election as a referendum on the allegations. The only thing holding back is that it would be sub judice to discuss any thing related to the trial. But in the heat of a campaign, where anything goes, it would be difficult to stop any discussions, particularly on the Internet. Anwar has certainly moved fast, making preemptive moves, as the Attorney-General's Office dragged its feet on the case. In fact, Anwar does not even need to campaign in Permatang Pauh, which is virtually his fortress. After all, he was the MP in that constituency. He can still attend court hearing and stroll through the by-election with a victory. ISA detainees have won elections without even being present during nominations. Najib Tun Razak has given an honest assessment by saying it would be a tough by-election. Anwar's return to the Dewan Rakyat looks inevitable.