Monday, September 29, 2008

Meeting the Clinton crowd in New York

Long before Barack Obama, who has become a global icon for change, there was Jesse Jackson. The former Baptist pastor and civil rights activist was THE African-American leader of the Democratic party. In fact, he was the first black leader to campaign for a nomination from the Democrats to contest the election for US president. The outspoken politician is no stranger to controversy, landing himself in trouble once for his remarks about Jewish domination in New York and more recently, criticising Obama for "talking down to blacks" and at one point, made a vulgar remark about wanting to cut off Obama's private parts. Jackson had to apologise subsequently. But when this blogger caught up with him at the Clinton Global Initiatives meeting in NY recently, Jackson was polite and civil. He was bigger than life literally. His father was a professional boxer and it must be in his blood because he is still fighting politically. With the next CGI meeting in Hong Kong, the Clinton crowd, like Jackson, have began looking at the financial power of Asians and the problems like health, education and poverty in the continent. The CGI has already set up an office in Hong Kong which includes former White House staff such as Nancy Hernreich Bowen, who was an assistant to Clinton and the director of Oval Office operations during the Clinton Administration. She is also a friend of Malaysians and Malaysia, with positive views of the country.

Early nominations for Najib-Muyhiddin

The nominations for the top positions in the Umno polls starts from Oct 9 but two divisions have served early notices - their pick is Najib Tun Razak and Muhyiddin Yassin for president and deputy president respectively. The two divisions, Cheras and Titiwangsa, said the two would be nominated when their divisions meet. It is important to note that Cheras chief Syed Ali Alhabshee and Suleiman Mohamed have retained their division chiefs post unopposed. So with their grip on their divisions, it is certain that their choices would pull through. A similar trend is ecpected when the 191 divisions begin their meeting until end of Oct. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said that he would announce his decision on his political plans on Oct 9. But it is unlikely that Pak Lah would want to stay on as he has said the leadership transition would be earlier than 2010. lt also be interesting to see how many nominations Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah can pick up if he intends to take on the presidency post.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In conversations with Clinton

The blogger with President Clinton.

President Bill Clinton found time to share his thoughts on various issues despite a hectic day on Friday evening. The 42nd US president is still addressed as Mr President, as with all former chiefs in America. He invited this blogger to his suite at the Hotel Sheraton, where the Clinton Global Initiatives meeting was held, at around 9.30pm for a chat. Asia, particularly China, has caught his attention. The Olympics opening in Beijing floored him, he admitted, and the speed which China has moved would have a major impact. The CGI will for the first time meet outside the US in December and Hong Kong has been chosen for the meeting. But that's not all - he has received a personal invitation to visit Kuala Lumpur after the HK trip and he hope to make his first visit to Malaysia. "I would have to ask Hillary about this as she would want to say which countries should we go. I don't know if she is even available with the crisis."
I recommended Pulau Redang to Clinton and his aides, saying they should see the extraordinary marine life there.
In a chatty mood, he talked about a wide range of issues from his 89-year-old mother-in-law to the US financial crisis to celebrities. Oh yes, I also got the chance to meet up with the Rev Jesse Jackson. Details of interview to come.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Game over for Pak Lah

It looks like it's all over for the Prime Minister. The bottom line, following the Umno supreme council meeting today, is that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would exit from his post much earlier than 2010. It would appear that he would step down by March next year. How it would be done isn't clear but it is only proper that Abdullah be accorded the dignity and respect in carrying out his plan. Don't forget he is still the PM. No dates have been given and no one is talking about taking over positions. A face saving plan is now in progress. There is no question that the sentiments on the group have been strong over the past months. The decision reached at today's meeting has been unusually swift. It started at 10am but before noon, news had leaked out from the meeting on the outcome. Najib Tun Razak is now set to take over the party and government leadership. The next six months would be absolutely crucial for Najib. He has to accord the highest respect for Pak Lah, appease the supporters of the PM who must felt the carpet being pulled underneath and see a smooth leadership transition being carried out. He also do not want to see snipe shots being fired against him by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who has been outflanked in the whole exercise. More importantly, Najib now has to restore public confidence for Umno and Barisan Nasional. Will Malaysians seen a serious, if not radical, renewal in the image and policies of Umno, or will we see more of the same things, which would be disastrous for Umno. Malaysians are demanding changes in government and unless Umno can respond to these calls, even to acknowledge these voices, then Najib would have a tough time ahead. It can be business as usual following the March 8 elections. Umno cannot continue the same way. Najib has the best position to bring changes from now. Politically, it is to his advantage to introduce popular reforms and do away with unpopular legislations. He has to show that BN can do better than Pakatan Rakyat. He has four years to fix things and the clock is ticking away fast.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No escaping - not even in New York!

For the past two days, I have been attending the Clinton Global Initiatives (CGI) meetings in New York. Over lunch today, after hearing speeches by Clinton, Bono and Al Gore, I sat next to former Colombian president Andres Pastrana Arango. The truly friendly politician asked the other Malaysians on the table "how are the politics in Malaysia going on." Pain was written on his face as he waited for our answers. The ever polite gentleman did not want to make it difficult for us. The questions were a reflection of genuine concern, to me. No stranger to Malaysia, he has many Malaysian friends, including those from the Green Rubber group. Minutes later, a Pakistan businessman dropped by to say hello and again, the same questions were asked. He was seriously worried that Malaysia would be heading towards a political disaster, as he has investment in Kuala Lumpur. It was the same tone - when will the political troubles end? In Singapore recently, when I attended the Forbes CEO Conferences, participants were asking the same questions too. They must be wondering why were Malaysians talking about "pendatang" and people arrested under ISA when there are more pressing concerns that needed action.
Tomorrow, I will be taking part in a roundtable talk with President Clinton. I have had the honour of meeting the man himself on Tuesday. Fortunately, the discussions tomorrow will be on how Asians can respond to the environment crisis when the CGI meets in Hong Kong in December. I will also get to hear Obama and McCain before the roundtable talk.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

RPK goes to Kamunting

Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin's supporters hold a banner at the Jalan Duta court complex in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday asking for his release from the Internal Security Act.

Raja Petra Kamaruddin will be under detention for two years under the Internal Security Act now. He was previously detained for 52 days under the ISA in 2001 for allegedly plotting to overthrow then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which was a load of bull really. We are not sure what is he serving time for this round but he is already facing various suits and criminal intimidation charges. He has ruffled plenty of feathers, offended many powerful people, won many hearts with his brave writings but also hurt many innocent people in the process with his allegations, which seem imaginary at times. But this blogger has always maintained that he should be charged in open court, not under the ISA. By detaining him under the ISA, the government has made a matryr out of him. It would make the government look bad which it can ill afford. It would strengthen the perception that the ISA is used against political opponents and its critics. Many would now argue that RPK is not a threat to national security but a threat to the powers of the government. The next best thing the government can do now would be to present a paper detailing the offences committed by RPK, particularly parts of his writings which it deemed have no basis or could threaten race or religious relations. That would be seen, at least, as a form of a rebuttal. But it should also seriously study the many well-intended calls to abolish the ISA. Not just a review but a repeal of the Act, which some Cabinet ministers have gone through. Surely, these men who now hold high positions would not be there now if they had done terrible things to the country, which even the ISA had to be used against them, previously. Ask Dr Maximus Ongkili and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, for example.

Sept 16, Sept 23 and now Oct 1

First, Malaysians were told that the plan to topple the Barisan Nasional government would take place on Sept 16, that the plan was on track and that enough BN MPs had defected. Then, we were told that the list had been drawn up. But that time would be given to the Prime Minister to hand over power peacefully, a transition of sort. A new date - Sept 23 - was then fixed for an emergency parliamentary meeting to be held. Predictably, the PM gave Anwar Ibrahim the snub. Now, Tian Chua has announced Oct 1 as the new date for for the formation of a new government, saying the Pakatan Rakyat wanted to have a round of negotiation with the PM. Seriously, Pakatan Rakyat cannot keep on fixing new dates if it is serious with the question of credibility. Already a few Pakatan Rakyat MPs, those from outside PKR, have privately expressed their unhappiness with these date settings. They have grumbled if this continues, it would prove what the BN has been saying - that the Pakatan Rakyat has been lying to Malaysians including its supporters all this while, something the opposition do not need as all they have to do is to continue with their campaign or just sit still and do nothing, as the BN continues shooting itself in the foot with more unpopular decisions and in-fighting. So how many more dates will we be hearing?

Show of support for Pak Lah

The debate over the 2010 transition plan has taken a new twist with state liaison chiefs and division leaders pledging their support for Pak Lah. Penang and Kelantan are the first two states to declare their endorsements. The open support for Pak Lah is regarded as a counter against the statements of several Umno leaders who questioned the transition plan, wanting the process to be speed up. In short, they wanted Pak Lah to step down but denied exerting the pressure on him. A few, whose names were reported in the press, then denied making these calls. But it's clear, from the latest retaliation that supporters of Pak Lah are not taking these calls quietly. They are fighting back to keep the plan on track. According to the Malaysian Insider, a marathon meeting was held at his house which lasted until 3am. The show of support is essential ahead of Oct 9 when the divisions begin the nominations. What remains to be seen now is whether the divisions would take the cue from the open support of these state chairmen or would they act independently and make their own choices.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pressure for PM to leave earlier?

No one wants to talk about it openly but hints have been dropped following last night's Umno supreme council - several Umno members spoke up of wanting to see the transition period to move faster. The politically correct key words are "up to grassroots to decide" which means the divisions would be making their choices for the president and deputy president posts. Some divisions could end up nominating Najib Razak for president. When Umno leaders use words like "the transition period must be reviewed" or "transition plan must move faster" - they simply mean they want Pak Lah to step down faster. Leading the charge has been Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is said to have spoken up at last night's supreme council meeting, as did Rafidah Aziz, it seems. The crucial period would begin on Oct 9 when the divisions meet for a month - and openly make their nominations. The outcome would impact how the transition period would work out. The well-informed Malaysian Insider has gone a step further by suggesting that Pak Lah may not seek re-election.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

SAPP leaves BN

Click on image for StarOnline video report
It has finally happened - the Sabah Progressive Party has pulled out from the BN, saying it has had enough of the BN policies and decisions. The SAPP has turned independent but there can be denying that the SAPP is backing Pakatan Rakyat. With the SAPP pulling out from the BN, it has lost two MPs. It waits to be seen if any Sabah MPs would join the "third force" which SAPP chief Yong Teck Lee has been talking about. The SAPP action is surely a boost to the Pakatan Rakyat.
The move has exerted further pressure on the BN leadership, particularly with some BN component parties becoming more vocal, with their objections against the use of ISA. The MCA has openly called for the release of Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Teresa Kok while Gerakan wants the ISA repealed. The sentiment, it is understood, was voiced by MCA ministers at the Cabinet meeting today.

Breaking news! Najib is Finance Minister

Najib Tun Razak has been named Finance Minister with immediate effect. The appointment is part of the transition plan to provide more responsibilities for Najib. He is already the chairman of the Ni nth Malaysia Plan council. He will represent Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the United Nations general assembly next week. Pak Lah will take over the Defence Ministry now held by Najib.The message from Pak Lah is that Najib is being geared to take over as PM. The two - Pak Lah and Najib - are also expected to make public appearances together to quash rumours of a challenge from Najib for the top party post. At a just concluded press conference, PM said he and Najib were committed to the 2010 transition of power. The PM also said he could also pass the baton to Najib even earlier than 2010. But the main point is that Pak Lah will defend his Umno presidency and Najib, the deputy post. The two leaders had met over the last few days, where he told his deputy that he wanted to reform the judiciary and police before he left.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sept 16 - What's Next?

Flash 1, 11.30am: Zaid Ibrahim says he will stick to resignation.
Flash 2, 1.10pm : Ku Li: Umno leaders shouldn't be ambiguous, state stand on polls
Flash 3, 2.30pm: Anwar says he has 31 BN MPs waiting to cross but will not reveal their names until he has met Pak Lah.
Flash 4, 7pm: Ahmad Ismail press conference called off.

So finally, Sept 16 has arrived. Is this the day of reckoning or the day would pass by without any significant announcement? Anwar Ibrahim has said that he has enough MPs to form the new federal government while the PM has dismissed it as a big bluff. Has Anwar Ibrahim taken his supporters for a ride with empty promises of political utopia or is the Barisan Nasional in for a huge surprise? Even if there are not enough crossovers, is there a first batch of defectors? Anwar Ibrahim has scheduled a press conference at 2pm, the MCA central committee is meeting on the ISA arrests at 1pm and Zaid Ibrahim has called for a press conference at 11am. About the same time, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is talking to reporters. And even Ahmad Ismail has a press conference in Penang at 3.30pm. The SAPP is meeting tomorrow to decide on its position in the BN. Watch this space.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Zaid Ibrahim quits?

Update: 10pm - The PM has rejected Zaid Ibrahim's quit letter

De facto Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim is said to have quit his Cabinet post - just a day after speaking up against the use of the Internal Security Act. He had led the chorus of protest, saying he was prepared to quit as minister if he is considered to have broken the ranks. The resignation letter is said to have been sent to the PM's Office at 2pm but there has been no confirmation from the man himself. Efforts to trace Zaid has not been successful but the news rooms of media organisations have been alerted of his decision since 1pm. Zaid appears to have put in his letter before the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, where he is expected to face criticism from his Cabinet colleagues. The liberal and reformist minded politician has often spoken privately to his reporters of his frustrations in getting support for his plans to reform the laws and constitution. To some Umno leaders, he was never in favour because he did not campaign during the March 8 elections but was rewarded with a Cabinet post for his absence. Zaid's resignation would put Pak Lah in a tight spot as he had gone against the protest of Umno members when he picked him as a Cabinet member. But Zaid, a founder member of Aliran, is known for his liberal views and has never bothered about the need to win grassroots support in the party. Now that he is out of the party, we can expect Zaid to even speak louder.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Calls to end the ISA grow louder

The chorus to abolish the ISA has become louder over the past 48 hours. It is not there to protect us, let us not bluff ourselves or be bluffed. It must end because it is no longer relevant. So should the laws requiring a permit to start a newspaper or magazine. These are laws which have become outdated and are no longer applicable if Malaysia is to be a progressive nation. There are enough existing laws to stop politicians, journalists and the public who incite racial tension such as the Sedition Act. Use them to arrest the culprits. There should be no double standards in enforcing these laws if the government wishes to be respected. De facto Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim has spoken, so will there be many more in the days to come? It would not be easy for reformists like him who have stuck their necks out. He deserves our salute for speaking up. Malaysians are asking loudly whether the ISA itself has become a threat to the rule of law and our civil liberties.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shortest ever ISA detention

Glad to be home, mum!
Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng has finally been released and Malaysians are still wondering why was she arrested in the first place. She made history by having served the shortest detention period under the ISA, to be exact 20 hours. It will also go down in history as the most outrageous ISA detention. Her release has been a relief but there are plenty of misgivings among the people. Has the government heard the loud voices? See On The Beat for more comments.

Candle light vigil in Penang

Sin Chew Daily reporters, non-governmental organisation activists and former Universiti Sains Malaysia students have joined in a candle light vigil at the state police headquarters in Penang. Politicians from the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan have also dropped by to show support. The National Union of Journalists has issued a statement to protest against the use of the Internal Security Act on reporter Tan Hoon Cheng. Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, meanwhile, has been taken to Bukit Aman for questioning. Her party colleagues are at the party headquarters in Petaling Jaya to keep themselves updated on the situation.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Teresa Kok arrested under ISA too

(From left) DAP's Teresa Kok, Raja Petra and Sin Chew reporter Tan Hoon Cheng were arrested Friday under the ISA. - Starpix
Seputih MP and Selangor state executive councillor Teresa Kok has just been nabbed under the ISA, making her the third person to be arrested under the ISA today. More details to come.

Sin Chew reporter nabbed under ISA

Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, who wrote about Ahmad Ismail's racist remarks, has been arrested. She was picked up by police at her Bukit Mertajam home at about 8.30pm and it is now confirmed that she has been arrested under the ISA. The Universiti Sains Malaysia mass communication graduate has worked in the newspaper for the past nine years. Her arrest has shocked the press fratenity as even in 1987, during the Operasi Lallang mass arrests, not a single journalist was arrested. The National Union of Journalists then was assured by the authorities that no reporter would be arrested. A large crowd of reporters and politicians have gathered at the state police headquarters where Tan is being reportedly held. The arrest took place just hours after the arrest of Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin. The authorities may have their reasons for their arrests and certainly the security of the nation is paramount. But the use of the ISA cannot be justified. This is not just a draconian law but an archaic one. These are reporters and writers, not terrorists or communists. Those that deserves to be punished are racist politicians not scribes. It is unacceptable in a democracy, if we still claim we are one.

ISA arrest and warnings to newspapers

Malaysia Today's website editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin has been arrested under the Internal Security Act - a day after the Cabinet lifted the ban on his website. Three newspapers - Sin Chew Daily, The Sun and Suara Keadilan - have also been issued show cause letters. In the case of Sin Chew, it is understood that the authorities were unhappy with its report on the racist remark made by Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad Ismail. Editors at the newspaper said the show cause letter alleged that the report had caused racial tension. The report and controversy led to Ahmad's suspension from the party. Editors at The Sun confirmed receiving the letter from KDN.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Perception of Malaysia at Forbes CEO meet

For the past few days, I have been attending the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore. Some of the region's richest and most brillant chief executive officers are here to listen and to share their views on global trends. From the fuel crisis, the weak dollar and the credit crunch, there is an exciting exchange of ideas on how to tackle these issues. If there are any politics, it's only about the American presidential election and its possible outcome. The best insight is from Steve Forbes himself, who tried to win a Republican nomination. From the Malaysian side, the delegates include YTL boss Francis Yeoh and Air Asia's Tony Fernandes. But for some of us, we have been bombarded with many embarassing questions, reflecting the perception outsiders have of Malaysia. Over tea breaks and meals, we are asked questions like - did he sodomise him, did he blow her up, why is he so racist, why is your country so unsafe - have naturally embarrassed some of us. Is this what delegates are interested only? MIDA has put up an advertisement in the latest issue of the Forbes magazine proclaiming Malaysia's attraction - political and economic stability. Let's hope the movers and shakers are buying this line. But there is a silver lining - the Forbes CEOs would be meeting in KL next year. We shouldn't waste time on the likes of small fries like Ahmad Ismail, who still think he is a somebody after the March 8 whipping in Penang. Let's get the nation on track again. Politicians must take a hard look at themselves and their flaws, don't just blame the press and others. Be real if you want to stay connect. The world is moving ahead fast.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Under attack for views on Ahmad Ismail

My recent postings on the Ahmad Ismail issue has landed me in a unusual spot - I have suddenly being accused of being a racist because of my stand, which I thought has always been pretty moderate. Some fellow bloggers have now accused me of stirring up racial sentiments, choosing to ignore the source of the controversy. Apanama who is offended with my stand on what Dr Mahathir Mohamad had blogged, has some strong words for me. He feels I should be in Kamunting. But this is the Internet. We have to accept views that are different from ours. But instead of threats and name calling, it would be better if we could debate meaningfully on the actual issues. Perhaps they unable to do so, thus intimidation has always been the way of the losers. We don't have to agree with each other in a democracy but we must respect each other's views. See Rocky Bru and Jailani Harun for more views.
But Malaysians are the best judges as the work gets tougher for some of us in the media. I don't wish to prolong this issue, as it serves little purposes, as I support the views of the Prime Minister that we should move on.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Our blood, sweat and tears

This country is built on the blood, sweat and tears of all races. Not just one race. Without the Malays, Chinese and Indians, there would be no Malaysia. It was the political maturity, moderation and wisdom of the Malay rulers and political leaders who made Malaysia possible. The Malays, as it was and still is, protected the country as soldiers and policemen. The Chinese, with their labour and enterpreneur skills, build the economy. The opened up the tin mines while the Indians toiled in the estates. Others worked in the civil service and other sectors. Together, we made Malaysia what it is today. Let's not forget the Sabahans and Sarawakians - who helped formed Malaysia. Without them, there would be no Malaysia either. Read On The Beat.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dr M misses the point in Ahmad Ismail issue

Update: Sept 7, 12.30pm - Dr M has written a clarification in his blog, saying he has been misunderstood. Hear him out, given him space, it's only fair. Read Che Det.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad has added a new spin to the Ahmad Ismail - he has said that Indian and Chinese leaders should also apologise over other issues. In the case of the Hindraf, he said so many unfair allegations including claims of "ethnic cleasing" and "Islamic terrorists" were hurled against the Malays and yet no one demanded apologies from the community. He also cited the case of student Wee Meng Chee who made a parody of the Negaraku but his actions were defended by Chinese leaders. I think Dr Mahathir has forgotten that Wee made an apology, organised by the MCA, but it was rejected by the Cabinet. In short, Wee admitted wrong and the MCA took the trouble to organise the press conference. Even his father apologised. In the case of the Hindraf leaders, some are still being detained under the ISA. In the case of Ahmad Ismail, the DPM, wanting to end the controversy, took upon himself to apologise. He was supported by the PM. Dr M may have overlooked another point - no one is asking the PM, DPM or Umno to say sorry. They just want Ahmad Ismail, one person, to admit his wrong, Others have demonstrated remorse and in the case of Hindraf leaders, being jailed.
It involves an individual, who should be responsible for his remarks, so there is no reason for Dr M to widen the issue, by dragging in the communities at large and sharpen the racial tones. Let's keep it to Ahmad Ismail. As a statesman, Dr M should cool down the temperature, not make it worse, or just to score political points against the leadership.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ahmad Ismail remain defiant

"Why should I apologise? I didn't do anything wrong..." - Starpix
The Deputy Prime Minister may have apologised on his behalf but Datuk Ahmad Ismail is not going to say sorry. Period. He has remained defiant and has maintained he has done no wrong. The Star managed to track down the Penang Umno politician who insisted he would explain to the PM at the Penang Umno meeting this Saturday. Ahmad Ismail has missed the entire point - he has hurt Malaysians and even his BN component partners with his outrageous and racist remarks, yet he sees no wrong with that. What's really wrong with this chap? It's the same with PKR MP and lawyer Zulkifli Nordin, who has also arrogantly dismissed criticism against him for storming into the Bar Council forum. He is expected to face the party's disciplinary committee this Saturday but except for slap on the wrist, do we seriously believe that PKR want to lose him? Particularly when PKR is hunting for MPs to jump ship to make up the numbers?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ahmad Ismail should apologise, not Najib

Why should the Deputy Prime Minister be apologising on behalf of Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail (left)? Nobody is seeking an apology from Najib Tun Razak but from Ahmad Ismail for his offensive remark. Ahmad Ismail alone should take responsibility for his action. If he is brave, or stupid enough, to call the Chinese "pendatang," then he should be man enough to make an apology. Why should this be so difficult for him? Worse, he has kept himself away from the media, refusing to respond to queries from reporters. By being evasive, he is letting the controversy drag on, which is not doing him or his party any good.
Ahmad Ismail should be a lesson for Umno, ahead of the general assembly at the end of the year, where the speakers sometimes get carried away with their rhetoric. There is little to gain for politicians who attempt to project themselves as champions of their communities. It should also be a reminder to bosses of television stations who sometimes forget their viewers comprise of Malaysians of all races. TV reporters and interviewers sometimes uses the term "orang kita" during interviews without realising, probably unintentionally and unknowingly, that it is not just politically incorrect but not proper.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Armed and dangerous in Bangkok

IT'S not a very good time to be in Bangkok. The government has declared a state of emergency following violent clashes between pro and anti government supporters. The street fights have left one dead and many more injured. Many roads have been blocked and literally taken over by the protestors. Pictures coming in from Bangkok have showed angry protesters walking around with parangs. Thousands of protestors who occupied the compund of the Prime Minister's Office have refused to leave as pressure is being mounted for Samak Sundaravej to quit. The defiant PM has insisted he has done nothing wrong and that he won't resign as he has been legally elected by the people. But his aggressive nature has not helped cool down the political temperature in Thailand. No one is sure how the army intends to clear the protestors off the streets but the worse has yet to come. The messages coming in from Bangkok is that no one is ruling out a military take-over if the violence continues.

Click on visual for photo gallery posted on Star Online.

Ahmad Ismail, just apologise!

Update: 4. 50pm: DPM Najib Tun Razak apologises on behalf of Ahmad Ismail

A simple apology from Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail, that's all it will take to end this controversy. Now, surely that is not too difficult to do. As it is now, the pressure has been mounting with police reports lodged by fellow Barisan Nasional component leaders. Ahmad had stirred the hornet's nest when he reportedly told voters at the recent Permatang Pauh by-election campaign that the Chinese were "squatters" and as immigrant races, they could not be expected to attain equal rights amongst races. His listeners were presumably Malay voters but politicians like Ahmad do not seemed to realise that politicians can no longer sing different tunes to different audiences. The days of Malaysians reading just one newspaper or one website are over. Many Malaysians can read Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese or Tamil newspapers. News travel fast and if he or others, like him, think they can get away with such tactics, then they should know by now why they are losing their audience or plot. Playing the racial card doesn't work as the results of the general election and the Permatang Pauh by-election has demonstrated. It should be a lesson to all politicians, whether Umno, MCA, MIC, PAS or DAP, to put race or religion aside. Times have changed, so please adapt to the realities of the New Malaysia. In any case, why would any party want to win the votes of only one community instead of winning over all Malaysians regardless of their races? Let Ahmad apologise, let's not go over board with talks of sacking or charging him with sedition. Enough has been said, let's move on to more important things.