Wednesday, 30 November 2011

NFC spent RM5m on Mercedes, Putrajaya land and holidays, PKR claims

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — PKR alleged today the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) used RM5 million in public funds to buy a Mercedes-Benz and land in Putrajaya and disburse RM588,585 in cash to companies belonging to Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family.

The latest allegation of financial irregularities by PKR in the RM250 million cattle farming project awarded to the Wanita Umno chief’s family comes after she denied any wrongdoing this morning and gained the support of delegates at the wing’s general assembly today.

PKR also said NFC issued 15 cheques to tour agency Impian Global Network Services, prompting PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli to demand the Wanita Umno chief “tell us who went on these holidays.”

Rafizi added that the RM534,622 Mercedes-Benz CLS350 bought using NFC funds channelled through the National Meat and Livestock Corporation (NMLC) and the RM588,585 transferred to Meatworks (Singapore), both companies wholly-owned by Shahrizat’s family, “have nothing to do with NFC’s business plan.”

“Umno Youth chief (Khairy Jamaluddin) has said NFC has no business in Singapore ... then why was such a huge sum transferred there?” he told a press conference in Parliament today.

PKR secretary general Saifuddin Nasution, who was also at the press conference, said the land bought in Precinct 10 Putrajaya was in a mainly residential area.

“I am sure the Putrajaya Masterplan does not involve raising cattle there,” the Machang MP said.

PKR has repeatedly attacked the project with various allegations including that “loans” of over RM84 million were given by the NFC to companies owned by Shahrizat’s family including RM13.8 million for two luxury condominiums in Bangsar.

Both opposition and Umno MPs have called for Shahrizat to resign over the scandal which has led to a police investigation for criminal breach of trust.

The Auditor-General’s Report released last month had criticised the NFC, pointing out that it was now “in a mess”.

The report said production in 2010 was only 3,289 head of cattle or 41.1 per cent of the target set.
But Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar responded on October 31 that the project was a success as it had met its target of 8,000 cattle by 2010 once 5,742 slaughtered cattle were taken into account.

Rafizi told The Malaysian Insider that “there are enough scandals to last two years” as contained within financial and operational records as well as NFC’s correspondence that the party has obtained.

Pua: Which part of 'low-cost' doesn't MAHB get?

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua has questioned if Malaysia Airports Bhd (MAHB) understands the concept of ‘low cost’.

azlanThis is given that the cost of constructing KLIA2 to replace the Low-cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) has doubled from RM2 billion to RM3.9 billion.

Additional facilities at KLIA2 will include provisions for super-scale A380 operations, walkalators, a fully automated baggage handing system, a shopping mall and four hotels.

"Essentially what MAHB is building is a terminal that is 80 percent larger than the current terminal...This gives the impression that KLIA2 is a replacement for the KLIA main terminal instead of being a new LCCT," noted Pua in a statement.

The terminal is being upgraded from two floors to nine floors, at a cost of RM420 million more, while its size is being expanded by 130.7 percent at an additional RM670 million.

NONEPua pointed out that the new terminal is being upgraded to handle 45 million passengers from 30 million originally, when KLIA has a capacity for 25 million but only handles 18.7 million passengers.

"The penchant to spend big money for grandeur has resulted in Malaysia missing a true and rare opportunity to bring about a game-changing transformation for the aviation sector."

Shareholders of MAHB, including Khazanah and the government, must question MAHB’s reckless expenditure, he said.

"One could argue that, had MAHB not overspent on KLIA2, there would have been no need for the recent 28 percent increase in airport tax from RM25 to RM32 at LCCT and RM41 to RM65 at the main terminal, which resulted in lower competitiveness for Malaysia."  

‘Focus on efficiency’

Saying that Malaysia today serves fewer passengers than regional competitors like Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong, he called on MAHB to improve its efficiency instead.

"The Transport Ministry must give an assurance that there will be no further cost increases and no further delays in the construction and operation of KLIA2, (as this would) further jeopardise our leadership in the increasingly competitive low-cost carrier industry."

AirAsia chief executive officer Tony Fernandes had yesterday vented on Twitter over the doubling of the cost of KLIA2 and complained about the increase in airport tax.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Assembly law passed with only BN votes

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 — The Dewan Rakyat today passed the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill, which bars street protests, with only six adjustments to the original proposal, and after a walkout by the opposition as well as a protest march led by lawyers.

Despite this morning’s big show from more than 1,000 Bar Council members and strident objections from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc who staged a walkout from the Dewan Rakyat, the Barisan Nasional (BN) government got its way.

The Bill was swiftly passed with the six amendments revolving around the advance notice required for an assembly.

Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia (picture) had allowed just three opposition MPs to debate the Bill, all of whom asked for it to be withdrawn and put before a select committee.

“This is our way of rejecting the Bill until we have a select committee,”

PKR’s Subang MP R. Sivarasa told The Malaysian Insider as the opposition lawmakers left Parliament.

“This Bill does not protect national security, only the security of BN leaders,” said PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who was the last PR MP allowed to speak.

Critics have said the proposed law, which bars street protests, is more repressive than those in countries like Myanmar, which has one of the world’s poorest human rights records.

Myanmar’s military-dominated Parliament passed a law last week allowing street protests and a notice period of just five days, fewer than the 10 days required by the Peaceful Assembly Bill.

Pakatan walks out, will not vote on Assembly Bill

Pakatan Rakyat MPs have walked out of the Dewan Rakyat during the debates on the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 and will not participate in the voting of the Bill.

The MPs said that they were disgusted that the Speaker had only allowed three Pakatan Rakyat MPs - one from each party - to debate what they consider to be a very important legislation.

NONEThe three who were allowed to speak were opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (Permatang Pauh - PKR), Lim Guan Eng (Bagan - DAP) and Abdul Hadi Awang (Marang - PAS).

Upon Abdul Hadi’s conclusion of his speech, Pakatan MPs walked out just as Ibrahim Ali (Pasir Mas - Independent) was beginning his speech.

Ibrahim Ali was followed by P Kamalanathan (BN-Hulu Selangor), after which he was followed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz.

NONESpeaking to reporters later, Shah Alam MP Abdul Khalid Samad decried the unfair treatment and said Pakatan MPs were unlikely to stay back and vote.

Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching said the speaker’s decision to allow only three Pakatan representatives to speak was unfair.

“For example, during the debate on the Supply Bill 2012 at the Education Ministry committee stage, 42 MPs spoke. About half of them were from Pakatan,” she told Malaysiakini.

Abdul Khalid said that there was “no point” for them to be in the Dewan as they have already presented their views on the matter and it does not appear that their call for the Bill’s withdrawal is heeded.

“The government has done whatever they think they should do, in terms of amendments, but everything is still the same.

“Their attitude is very slipshod... (We are walking out and boycotting voting) as it is all just window dressing,” he said.

Asked if Pakatan will participate in the debate in the committee stage reading of the Bill, Teo said that they are still deciding.

Concert marked the launch of Malaysian Gospel Music

MGM Nite, said to be the largest concert of Christian artistes and bands in one evening, made its debut with over a dozen local Christian solo artistes and bands sharing the stage last Sunday.

The event marked the launch of Malaysian Gospel Music (MGM) -- a fellowship of home grown talents in the Christian music scene -- as well as the MGM Adore album -- a CD featuring 12 songs by local Christians -- and featured some 15 to 20 Christian names, some of whom were Patrick Leong, KB Chan, HT Long, SAND, 1 AM, Good Shepherd Band, Esther Mui, Raymond Tan, Kelvyn Yeang, Josh Yeoh, Gabby Tham, Julia Pong, Elena Koshy, Maltida Radge, Tabitha Kong, Joe Loy and the Warehouse Project; and Free To Fall.

Ng … local gospel music quality has improved but still lacks hit songs.
MGM steering committee member Rev Ng Wah Lok said that the Christian music scene has achieved significant successes, with recording labels like Oops! Asia, 1AM and Saved for a New Destiny (SAND); websites like the Malaysian Christian Songwriters Network (MCSN) and Tabernacle Music; as well as award-winning singer Juwita Suwito entering into the mainstream music industry.

MGM Nite also gave recognition to locals with over 20 years of contribution in growing Christian music here.

On the local gospel music front, Ng found the quality of songs have improved but still lack hit songs in the same calibre of Matt Redman's Heart of Worship and Darlene Zschech's Shout to the Lord, which have been sung in churches across the globe.

"I think those songs will come soon. MGM’s vision is to try to make that happen," Ng remarked.
“With just over 1 million Christians in Malaysia, the local market is really small for gospel artistes here,” said Ng, who is also a composer most remembered for his song, Everytime I Pray.

Ng said that formidable challenges lie before industry players here to change people’s perceptions and mind sets that local albums are of low quality.
Leong … his latest album's title track, Inseparable, serves as a song of encouragement.
“We are on the right track and need to keep pushing, training and encouraging our locals to rise up and stop chasing (popular Christian music groups like) Hillsongs and Planet Shakers. Foreign songs are good and have its place, but the Malaysian Church must also rise to make its own impact,” Ng added.

Others on the steering committee are Mustard Seed Company lead pastor Rev Dr Nicholas Wu, Saved for a New Destiny (SAND) founder Lucy Loo, pianist and songwriter Esther Mui, and Oops! Asiaco-founder Patrick Leong.

Penang-based SAND comprises members from seven churches and has recorded albums in English, Mandarin and Hokkien, with a mix of genres that include gospel pop, R&B, rock and hip hop.

“My hope is that churches in Malaysia will begin to sing more local songs and that we will mentor and raise up more young songwriters,” said Loo, whose band will be performing at a fund raising concert in Singapore next month.

SAND performed two songs entitled In This Land and Satu Malaysia dengan Satu Hati, both written by the band's youngest member and Loo's 17-year-old son, Jeremy Ng.

Talented Ng completed a diploma in piano performance at age 12. His song, In This Land has been recorded by Kingsway music UK in their latest Heart of Worship 10 album.

Mui … hopes MGM Nite will spark greater awareness of songs written by local Christians.
Leong, on the other hand, is an industry veteran who has opened the late Pavarotti's concert and provided back-up vocals for numerous celebrities like Dato Siti Nurhaliza, Kris Dayanti, Wang Leehom and Ning Baizura. He sung the title track from his fourth and latest album, Inseparable.

“It is a song of encouragement, especially to those who have been hurt, or lukewarm or cold (in their faith). It is a song about the bond we have with God, established through Christ on The Cross, that has made us inseparable,” said Leong, who based the song on the Bible verse in Romans 8:37 which states: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Leong was working on the MGM Adore album, which all concert ticket holders received as complimentary copy at MGM Nite. His company, Oops! Asia, will be releasing a compilation of 20 songs on spiritual revival in Malaysia, written by Malaysians, of course.

Mui had founded the MCSN website in 2006 and has composed over 100 songs by now. The mother of two has two albums under her name: Songs of Ascents and Songs of the New Covenant.

Mui hopes that MGM Nite will spark greater awareness of songs written by local Christians.
Also lending their support for MGM is youth band 1AM, which is the abbreviation of One Accord Ministry. 1AM is the worship and creative team at Eaglepoint -- a Puchong-based church.

1AM, whose seventh worship album is slated for next year, presented their original compositions, Pour Out Your Spirit and My Father. The latter was written by Lim -- whose parents divorced when he was young -- to encourage others to find strength in the Father in Heaven.
One Accord … Lim (second row, center) and his band, 1AM, will be presenting their original compositions, Pour Out Your Spirit and My Father, at the concert.

More than 1,000 march against Assembly Bill

Members of the Bar Council and supporters are marching to Parliament House from the Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur, to protest the Peaceful Assembly Bill which is expected to be voted on tonight in the Dewan Rakyat.

NONEDescribing the draft law as legislation that would rob the rakyat off their constitutional right, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee has vowed that lawyers cannot watch it enter the statute books without standing up to it.

The crowd exceeding 1,000 began the two-kilometre 'Walk for Freedom' at 12.19pm to submit a memorandum opposing the law.

NONEAction is expected in front of Parliament House as activists have called on the public to gather there for three consecutive days, with effect from 11am in an 'Occupy Parliament' move.

The group - the KL People's Assembly - has been behind the 'Occupy Dataran' movement.


10.05am: About 40 police personnel, including 10 light strike force officers, are standing by in front of the entrance to Parliament House.

10.38am: Reporters have gathered in front of Royal Lake Club in the Lake Gardens. Several lawyers are in sight.

There is no police presence here, although about 10 were seen earlier at the National Monument, across the street.

NONE10.45am: A member of the Bar Council secretariat tells reporters that the gathering has been shifted to the junction of the road leading to the Royal Lake Club approximately 300m away.

10.56am: Several police patrol cars pass by, but do not stop. The crowd has grown to about 80.

11am: Former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan arrives.

11.01am: Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee says he is "feeling good" and that he will address the crowd at 11.30am. The march will begin at 12.30pm.

NONE11.03am: More than 100 people are present - the lawyers are wearing suits and many of the supporters are in yellow.

11:05am: A traffic police officer arrives to regulate traffic.

11.10am: Ambiga tells reporters: "I hope the government will look into the Bill. There is no need to rush it."

PKR vice-president N Surendran and PKR information chief Latheefa Koya are spotted - they are lawyers.

11.14am: Lim Chee Wee tells foreign correspondents that the very inception of Malaysia was based on street demonstrations.

"This Bill takes away the very act that granted us independence."

NONE11.16am: The Bar Council is distributing its 18-page draft of the Peaceful Assembly Act to the media.

11.20am: PAS central committee member Hanipa Maidin, a lawyer, and Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin are seen.

11.23am: The crowd has grown close to 200. Lawyer and Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng and Suaram head Kua Kia Soong are present, as are several anti-Lynas activists.

11:29am: Yellow banners are being held up, some of which read: 'Kill the Bill' and 'Bebas Himpun, Bebas Rakyat'.

11.31am: Lim Chee Wee introduces the first speaker to the crowd of about 300.

NONE11.35am: Bar Council constitutional committee head Syahrezan Johan (left) tells them: This walk today is not about politics, it about the unholy haste (in which) they (government) are pushing it through to limit our constitutional right.

Syahrezan says that that, if the Bill is passed, its provisions "will be abused".

He lists situations where people cannot gather, each of which draws boos from the crowd.

"Do you know that we cannot gather at the Bar Council HQ because it is 50m from a bridge?

"We have drafted a far superior alternative Bill and it only took three days. And we ask the government to consider this because it gives meaning to PM's Malaysia Day speech."

11.47am: Members of the Human Rights Commission are seen, observing the gathering.
NONEAt Parliament House, meanwhile, police have set up a roadblock at the entrance, in readiness for the demonstrators.

11.52am: At the Lake Gardens, the organisers direct the crowd to move further in, as they are spilling onto the road.

11.54am: Lawyer Edmund Bon is leading the crowd in chanting: "Bebas bebas, bebas himpun, bebas rakyat!"

11.56am: At Parliament House, the DAP's Sibu MP Wong Ho Leng shows up at the entrance to await the demonstrators.

"How can the Bill be passed? Insane!" he remarks to reporters, explaining that he is there to take some of the demonstrators inside.

He says each MP can take five people into the premises.

NONE11.59am: Bar Council Secretary Tony Woon Yeow Thong tells the crowd at the Lake Gardens that the government has gone back on its word. During consultations, it had told the Bar Council that it would live up to international standards of human rights.

12.07pm: Former Bar Council Yeo Yang Poh who led the team that drafted the alternative Peaceful Assembly Act addresses the crowd.

"We (drafted the alternative Bill) not because it needed tweaking but (because) its fundamentals are wrong. If this law had been passed by the British in the 1940s and 1950s, we would not have attained independence."

12.15pm: A group of youngsters clad in black are seen loitering on the fringes of the crowd. Asked for their purpose, they decline to comment beyond stating: "We are defenders of YBs."

12.19pm: The crowd begins moving out of the park - the march to Parliament House has started.

NONE12.26pm: A group who claims to be a coalition of Malay NGOs are already at the bridge leading to Parliament. They are chanting "We are against free sex!". One is overheard saying "Go back to India", which does not go down well with Indian Malaysians who hear it.

12.35pm: The Bar Council crowd follows orders to keep off the road and not obstruct traffic. Lim Chee Wee and nine other Bar Council leaders are allowed into the Parliament compound to hand over their protest note.

12.45pm: Both the Bar Council's group and Malay NGOs have reached the bridge that connects to the entrance of Parliament.

They are unable to proceed to Parliament's gates and are on opposite sides of the road.
The Bar Council crowd is chanting: "Bebas, bebas! Bebas himpun!"

The opposing crowd retorts with: "Kami tentang seks bebas!"

12.50pm: NGOs' representative Zulkifli Sharif tells the press that they are a coalition of Malay groups who here to hold a counter-rally and accused the Bar Council of having a political agenda.

"We saw the Bar Council group holding placards which was promoting free sex," he said.
NONEHe said the coalition represents several NGOs, including Majlis Ayahanda Malaysia and Persetuan Veteran Tentera Melayu.

This group later unfurled a banner mocking the Seksualiti Merdeka event, whichcame under fire from the authorities who claimed that it was promoting homosexuality.

The Seksualiti Merdeka event was meant to address the rights of the queer community and the Bar Council defended their right to do so.
Those holding the banner repeatedly asked the press not to photograph their faces.

12.50pm: The Bar Council delegation has reached the Parliament lobby and are addressing the press.

12.55pm: The Malay NGOs, now numbering at about 100, sets fire to a yellow t-shirt. Police quickly intervene.

NONE1.05pm: Lim Chee Wee hands over its draft Peaceful Assembly Bill and the Bar Council's protest note to Parliament opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

1.10pm: The Malay NGOs crowd have decided to take a break from chanting slogans and seek refuge under several trees.

The Bar Council crowd is still chanting pro-democracy slogans.

1.20pm: Lim Chee Wee rejoins the protestors and is greeted with a thunderous applause.

"Today we prove that we can assemble peacefully. We must all write to our MPs and consider the Bar Council's Bill. We must thank the police for facilitating this peaceful assebly.

"This will not end, we must continue knocking on the door of Parliament to ensure this law does not enter our statute books."

Speaking to the media a few minutes later, Lim adds: "Engage as many MPs, senators and ministers as well as oppositon. I hope our parliamentarians cannot (sic) in one legislation take away what is constitutionally ours."

NONE1.30pm: The crowd has started to disperse, though some - such as the group of Malay NGO leaders, linger a few minutes more.

1.45pm: It starts to drizzle. The few remaining protestors and activists disperse.

2pm: Dang Wangi OCPD Zulkarnain Abd Rahman (left) speaks to the media after both groups have dispersed.

"Everything was under control, no untoward incident happened. It's just that they blocked the road, but it was manageable."

When asked if traffic was badly affected, Zulkarnain replied: "Its not fair for me to say that it was badly affected, but traffic was slow."

"But it is a good thing that they complied with out instructions and everything went smoothly."

He estimated the anti-PAB crowd to be between 400-500, while the counter-protest was between 150-200.

Assembly Bill's clarification doesn't hold water

YOURSAY ‘Please tell me, if the police have discretion to decide and people have rights, which of these two principles takes precedence?'

your sayManjit Bhatia: PM Najib Razak said: "We have researched 12 different Acts worldwide and we tried to make an Act that is consistent with (our norms) and international norms."

1) Explain - exactly - what your norms are and let Malaysians and others decide if they equate with basic human and democratic rights or if they equate with other pariah states like Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, North Korea and so on.

2) How does a pariah state like Malaysia with its autocratic norms reconcile these with ‘international norms'?

3) Which ‘international norms', precisely?

If you only "researched 12 different Acts worldwide", you couldn't have researched very well at all, given there are 196 countries in the world. Either you're terribly lazy, Najib, or you are lying through your teeth again.

SusahKes: PM, did you look at Burma's Act? Rumour has it that their enactment offers better democracy than you? You must have been comparing your notes with that of Zimbabwe's, I suppose.

Anyway, the thing street demonstrations will affect is the peace and livelihood of Umno.

Hang Babeuf: "[The] Police [have] discretion (previously) but in this new Act, the right of citizens to gather peacefully is guaranteed, so this is important," said Najib.

So please tell me, Najib, if the police have discretion to decide and people have rights, which of these two principles takes precedence? In a direct showdown, who wins?

Is the precedence of the right to assemble peacefully over the exercise of police discretion now guaranteed, absolutely?

If not, we are back where we were before under the old Act: in a world where police discretion - exercised arbitrarily and without need for justification or right of appeal - holds sway.

So this, dear PM, is an improvement? How stupid are we expected to be? Is this the level of argument and analysis in the cabinet?

Perhaps so. Perhaps this also explains why the government stumbles from mistake to mistake - and is always surprised.

What if I wanted to call a demonstration next week? And I said that I had given notice of my intention this afternoon to do so "within 30 days" before the event, would the government and police then, politely and obligingly say, "Sure, fine, that's okay, you've met the requirements - just so long as you give us notice at some time, any time, during the 30 days before the intended event"?

Not likely.

It's bad enough what the government intends to do regarding this Act. But what is even worse is that they give such ridiculous, patently absurd justifications and defences for their actions, and then expect people to accept them.

To be restricted an adult in one's responsible actions is one thing. To be infantilised gratuitously is another, and something far worse.

The problem, yet again, is that the government always expects people to make themselves "sufficiently stupid".

Quigonbond: I have three comments on the matter:

1) The language in section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Bill is confusing. What does "within 30 days before an assembly" mean?

It seems you can't notify two months in advance, which is preposterous. It's the Attorney-General's Chambers' bad drafting, and Pakatan Rakyat is right to see that the intent is for 30 days' advance notice.

2) So 30 days' notice doesn't apply to a designated area? But ‘designated area' so far refers to hereto an unpublished gazette. The public cannot be blamed for being skeptical that this list will be anything great.

3) The notice period isn't the only problem. The bill unconstitutionally restricts the right of children to assemble.

It empowers the very same police (and the minister) with discretion to impose conditions (and amend schedules to the Act) and to use reasonable force - this being rich coming from the same folks who think marching for free and fair elections is a threat to national security, and beating and kicking protestors are use of reasonable force.

Najib is either doing a major spin or he's very badly advised.

Lexicon: There's no 'confusion'. It's perfectly clear. Umno overreacted to Bersih 2.0, and then tried to pull a publicity stunt by 'repealing' the Internal Security Act (ISA).

But Umno has to please the thugs and thieves in its leadership, so it rushes through new laws that suppress public demonstrations and send people to jail without any hope of trial.

This pretence at reform is to allow Umno to continue to steal from us. We get it.

PM clarifies 'confusion' over peaceful assembly act

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today shot down claims that the mooted Peaceful Assembly Act is draconian, clarifying that gatherings can in fact be held on a short notice, contrary to criticisms otherwise about the bill.

"The Peaceful Assembly Act is divided into two categories, for designated areas, they only need to inform the police and there will be people to supervise even if it’s on a short notice.

NONE"For non-designated areas, then it will require a 10-day period so the police can negotiate with the local community to get their views," he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

"For designated areas, you can gather at any time... just inform the police you are having the gathering... in fact (you can) even inform within (just) 24 hours."

The premier added that this was a big change compared to the present law.

"Police has discretion (previously) but in this new act, the right of citizens to gather peacefully is guaranteed, so this is important," he said.

Najib also rubbished claims that the law was more draconian than Burma, accusing opponents of trying to confuse the public.

himpun rally crowd 1"We will define the areas where the people can gather. They will be designated. That is what we mean designated area, and they will be areas that will not impede public interest such as stadiums and open spaces.

"The police will just facilitate the peaceful gathering, that is the role of the police."

'Still no street demonstrations'

When asked whether similar rules would apply to street demonstrations, Najib was adamant that it was out of the question.

"Not for street demonstrations. We say no to street demonstrations. It's out. The point is, it will disrupt the peace and affect the livelihood of others."

NONEHe added that what was important was for citizens to have a platform to gather peacefully to voice their opinions.

"We have researched 12 different acts world wide and we tried to make an act that is consistent with (our norms) and international norms," he said.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

'Walk for Freedom' will proceed, declares Bar Council

Calling on Christians and everybody who love Malaysia to join the lawyers to match to Parliament on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011.  - 1Christians

The Bar Council declared that its Walk for Freedom on Tuesday will continue despite the concession from the government that it would consider reviewing a number of the provisions in the proposed Peaceful Assembly Bill.

“Wlawyers at brickfields police station 220509 lim chee weehilst it is mildly positive that the government - in reaction to public protest - is considering amending seven provisions, save for reduction of the notification period, we know not of other amendments...,” said the council chairperson Lim Chee Wee (right).

“However, it in fact reflects what is so wrong with the process involving the bill - it is being rushed with unholy haste into law without adequate public consultation.”

Lim said the best solution would be to refer the bill to a parliamentary select committee for public consultation and further deliberation.

The Bar Council has yesterday called for its 14,000-strong members to march to the Parliament on Tuesday where the bill is to be debated.

“In the UK, a distinction is drawn between static assemblies for which no notice is required and procession (assemblies in motion) for which notice of six clear days is to be give unless it is not reasonably practicable to give any advance notice. In Finland, only six hours is required,” said Lim.

“In Malaysia, assemblies in motion or processions except for funeral processions, are prohibited. This is outrageous.”

Notification period to be slashed

Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz today confirmed reports that the cabinet had agreed to change parts of the controversial bill.

He said the 30-day notification period required for a public assembly will now be reduced to 10 days. But he did not mention whether the prohibition on street protests as stated in the proposed bill will be removed.

According to Lim, street protests allow “the demonstrators wider audience and visibility for others to see and hear what is the cause or grievance that these demonstrators are marching and speaking about”.

“The government cannot now rob us of this right of assemblies in motion, which is presently not prohibited in the Police Act - this and other provisions in the bill are objectionable,” said Lim.

He said, among others, they include:

  • Prohibition of organisation of assemblies by persons below the age of 21 years.
  • Prohibition of participation in peaceful assemblies of children below the age of 15 years.
  • Unduly onerous responsibilities and restrictions on organisers and assemblies.
  • Excessive fines for non-compliance of the bill.
In the latest protest today, some 400 people wearing yellow T-shirts gathered at the iconic Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, carrying yellow balloons that read "Say no to PAB 2011" and chanting "Free the people."

One of the organisers, Maria Chin Abdullah, said the bill is unconstitutional as it restricts the right to peaceful assembly. She said amending it would be insufficient.

"It's like cleaning poison out of food. You can't," the prominent women's rights activist told AFP.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Dont ‘sell’ your soul, Jabu

KUCHING:  Deputy Chief Minister and long time Betong assemblyman Alfred Jabu Numpang is a true-blue Dayak who has served in the Barisan Nasional for the last 37 years but is said to have done little to help the poor in his community.

Earlier this year, FMT reported that Layar in the Betong constituency was among the most neglected sites in Sarawak, with the majority of the longhouses without water, electricity and roads.

Jabu’s responses to the community’s pleas and actions over the years have deeply disappointed the Dayaks and, to some extent, himself.

According to Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU), Jabu is “helpless” and this was evident in his outburst during his winding-up debate in the State Legislative Assembly recently.

SDNU, which has more than 100,000 members, is the biggest Dayak’s non-governmental organisation in the country.

Citing some evidence of Jabu’s helplessness, SDNU deputy president John Brian Anthony said: “Jabu badly wanted to be recognised as the man who led Dayaks out of poverty.

“Just a few days ago, he even attacked DAP as being the stumbling block to Dayaks’ progress in Kanowit.
“But the landowners have come out to rebut Jabu saying that after 15 years, they have not received any dividends.

“They even stated they are taking legal action against the joint-venture (with the oil companies) and will pull out of it,” said Brian, who is also the chairman of Dayak Consultative Council, a think-tank that is advising DAP on how to tackle Dayaks’ problems.

“It is not good to cite a specific Dayak leader’s name and accuse him of the main reason why the Dayaks do not progress as they should.

“(But) what choice is left there when most Dayaks are holding on to same perception,” added Brian.

Did BN sabotage Dayak growth?

Expanding on his view, Brian questioned why agricultural training centres (ATC) which were set up to train Dayak youths throughout the state were closed for the last 10 years.

“They (government) gave no reason for the closure.

“Within the same period, the state BN government went on rampage to grab and rob Dayaks of their native customary rights (NCR) land.

“It almost seemed that the BN government closed the ATCs on purpose so that the Dayaks slow down their progress in commercial agriculture,” he said, adding that during the same period seedlings, farm chemicals and fertilizer subsidies were also cut.

Brian recalled that there was no planting of new rubber trees and also no padi planting schemes.

“There was never any real attempt… they (government) never tried to improve the Dayaks,” alleged Brian, pointing out that it was Jabu who was the Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture.

When Penan girls and women were raped and cried for help, Brian said that Jabu who was the minister responsible for the welfare of the Penan did not come out to help.

Instead Jabu insulted the community by saying that it was the Penan’s culture of having early and uncontrolled sex, he said.
“All these are written not as a campaign to hate Jabu, because that is the last thing we should do to a Dayak leader.

“This is feedback because he still can help himself and the Dayak community as a whole,” said Brian.

‘Cannot stay in job forever’

These issues aside, Brian admitted that Jabu has done good things for Betong.

“But as Deputy Chief Minister, is it not his duty to help develop Sarawak?

“Or is Jabu so humble and simplistic in his thinking that he cannot producod ideas for development and engage in bad practice by banishing those who opposed him?” asked Brian.

 He said that it was common knowledge that Jabu refused to listen to the ideas of others as those were not his ideas.

“Jabu feels that if those are not his ideas, then such ideas are bad,” Brian said.

But Dayaks looked at Jabu’s projects such as the planting of ‘Kepayang’ trees, fish rearing of ‘terubok’ and ‘empurau’, canning of rambutan and planting of wild vegetables “as jokes only”, he added.

Brian advised Jabu not to ‘sell’ his soul in order to gain a good life at the expense of his own people.

“We cannot stay in the job forever. When we step down and without a powerful office behind us the Dayaks will spit into our face for all the injustices that we have inflicted on them,” he added.

Top 10 reasons to oppose the Peaceful Assembly Bill

NOV 25 — I disagree with the Peaceful Assembly Bill which is being tabled in Parliament at the moment and I know that many sane Malaysians also disagree with it.

There’s been (and will be) tons of people writing and voicing their thoughts on the matter and here’s my list of top 10 reasons why I disagree with it:

1. The right for people to assemble is the right to freedom of speech and expression. If you limit and restrict that right, then you are denying democracy.

2. Myanmar just passed a law to allow public protests. I repeat — Myanmar just passed a law to allow public protests.

3. Prime Minister Najib Razak says this new law will be “revolutionary.” Sure! It’s as revolutionary as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards!

4. MITI Deputy Minister Mukhriz Mahathir says that street protests portray the country as having bad governance. Great! Bar the protests instead of addressing the bad governance!

5. Aside from the rules that are obviously stated in the Bill, everything else falls under the “discretion” of the police or the home minister. How conveniently ambiguous.

6. The peaceful assembly law is unconstitutional since protests are a form of expression.

7. The Bill disallows anyone under 21 years of age from participating in assemblies. I didn’t know young people had less human rights.

8. The Peaceful Assembly Bill is actually even more restrictive than the current law, which goes against what was promised by the prime minister in September during his Malaysia Day speech.

9. One of the reasons of protests and demonstrations is to create disruption (but peaceful disruption!) in order to bring attention to issues. Disallowing this disruption goes against the principle of protests and demonstrations.

10. As a member of the Malaysian rakyat, I was not asked my opinion about the Bill. Were you?
We, as Malaysians, need to make sure our voice is heard when it comes to this matter because if we don’t, then our voice will be stifled forever by this Bill.

Ambiga: Even Burmese law allows street demos

Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan said the proposed Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 was even more repressive than a similar law passed recently in Burma's military-dominated Parliament.

NONE"It is shameful that Burma can propose a far more democratic law than us.

"It is a terrible insult to Malaysians because we were promised more democracy, but now it is the opposite," said Ambiga, who is a former Bar Council president.

At a press conference in Petaling Jaya, Ambiga said Burma's new law allows for street demonstrations and organisers only need to notify the authorities five days in advance.

She said this was a stark contrast against Malaysia's Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011, which proposes banning street demonstrations and imposing a 30 day notice period.

Putting the numbers together, Bersih secretariat member Wong Chin Huat said Burma was six times more democratic than Malaysia.
Hefty fines targets the poor
Burma has been under authoritarian military rule since 1962 and has an appaling human rights track record.
NONECommenting on the stiff fines - between RM10,000 and RM20,000 - proposed in the Bill, Wong said that this was an attempt to stop the poor from joining any protests.

“This is to tell the poor please look at your mortgage first before going to rally.”

The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 has been widely criticised by human rights groups, including the government funded Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), and Pakatan Rakyat leaders.

It was argued that the Bill seeks to provide the police and the home minister more powers and banning street demonstrations altogether.

The first round on Dewan Rakyat debates on the Bill will kick off on Tuesday.

Lawyers to march against Assembly Bill

Four years after the 2007 "Walk for Justice", the Malaysian Bar is again calling on thousands of lawyers to march in Kuala Lumpur to protest against the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 which has been presented to Parliament.

The march is to start at 11.30am on Tuesday and the lawyers will walk from the Royal Lake Club to Parliament, which is scheduled to debate the Bill, tabled on Nov 22, the same morning.

A memorandum will be submitted to the government at the end of the march.

bar council putrajaya judiciary lingam protest 260907 rainBack in 2007, more than 2,000 lawyers joined the Bar Council's 3.5km-march, dubbed "Walk for Justice", in Putrajaya to push for the establishment of a royal commission of inquiry into the infamous 'Lingam Tape' expose.

Coupled with various public protests, the march succeeded in compelling the then prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, to compromise and set up a royal commission of inquiry headed by former Chief Judge of Malaya, Haidar Mohamed Noor.

[More to follow

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Open crucial mega-deals to public eye By Tracia Yeoh


CYBERSPACE was on fire recently after the auditor-general’s 2010 annual report revealed a host of financial irregularities perpetrated by several government agencies and government-linked companies. Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) was among six GLCs reported to have paid up to two months’ bonus despite suffering RM354.91 million in losses in 2009. IWK suffered losses amounting to RM33.35 million that year (The Malaysian Insider, Oct 24, 2011).

It isn’t too difficult to understand why people are angered each year when these scandals are unveiled. As taxpayers, they feel indignant that their hard-earned money is being thrown about – and worse, to line the pockets of those they feel are undeserving.

But this is the epitome of everything that went wrong with the country’s privatisation scheme. Sewage treatment was privatised in 1994, taking over the functions of local government authorities to improve service efficiency and effectiveness. Again, the argument that under a privatised company, things would be better managed.

But in 2000, the government had to dish out RM200 million to nationalise IWK because it was debt-ridden, and today it is wholly-owned by the Minister of Finance Incorporated. Just last month, the Finance Ministry said the government had spent RM1.2 billion to cover its operational deficit. In fact, its total liability (up to June 2011) is made up mostly of “government support loans”, which means that it operates at a loss and could not possibly survive without such grants.

This seems to be the repetitive story for so many of our country’s public utility GLCs. Over the years, we have observed the same drama unfolding within water services and solid waste management as well: privatising and taking over services from the state authorities with the intention of better management, but failing and eventually requiring government assistance. So, it is most strange that recent reports indicate that the government, after nationalising IWK in 2000, is reverting to the solution of privatising it all over again.

1MDB, a strategic development company wholly owned by the government, plans to form a consortium to take over the national sewerage company for a nominal fee. The consortium would secure RM800 million from 1MDB as seed capital and help to clear IWK’s debts, which stand at RM1.5 billion (Business Times, Sept 9, 2011). Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd, a dominant player in Selangor’s water services industry, is also reported to be involved in the consortium.

Although details of the takeover seem to be unconfirmed, it is certain that the sewerage industry is undergoing major restructuring. This is something all Malaysians should pay careful attention to, for several reasons. One, as ratepayers, we would be directly impacted by any changes made to the sewage management tariff and payment system, not to mention the service quality itself. Secondly, any debts that are paid off by government in acquiring IWK would consist of taxpayers’ funds.

Finally, this is a crucial mega-deal that should not be hidden away from the public eye. In light of the furore sparked by the Auditor-General’s Report, anyone in public service ought to realise by now that transparency and accountability are key in winning the hearts of the many.

It is of great concern that these important negotiations are taking place without any participation whatsoever from parties external to the deal. A monitoring body or watchdog group like Transparency International could be invited to ensure transactions take place in an open, transparent manner.

The fact that year after year, billions of public funds seem to disappear in an instant – poof! – is truly astounding. The clarion calls repeat themselves in vain, to improve the system of governance and monitoring.

And these deals that seem to be opaque and obscure really do not help public perception of the administration. One would imagine that we would have learnt from past mistakes on several counts, namely that privatising public utilities does not work in this country. If and when these deals are made, they must ultimately be watertight to protect consumers’ interests.

Before the deal is signed, it is hoped that the officials representing all Malaysians (read: government) scrutinise every line of the concession agreement, making sure the terms and conditions favour the people. It would be a ridiculous affair if, several years down the line, the same pattern of being financially unviable and the need for public funds arises yet again.

Vying for dubious achievements - MUSINGS By MARINA MAHATHIR

We are great at railing against idiotic politicians at mamak stalls and on social websites, but when it actually comes to doing something, we make excuses; and with that, we disempower ourselves.

IN 2000, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called The Tipping Point, defining it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”.

It’s that pivotal moment when people decide that enough is enough and actually do something to make a change.

In 2011, we’ve seen lots of tipping points.

It happened at the end of December in Tunisia when fruitseller Mohamad Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest against the confiscation of his stall.

That act of defiance against in­­justice became the tipping point for Tunisians fed up with the sys­­-tem and their rebellion led to the downfall of their president and set off a chain of events in neighbouring countries known as the Arab Spring.

Sooner or later, people reach a tipping point where they will no longer tolerate repression and corruption, pushing them to do something about it, even if it means that lives had to be sacrificed.

I really have to wonder when we Malaysians will reach our tipping point.

Every day, we read so much blatant nonsense from our leaders that the newspapers have truly stopped being readable.

News reports treat us all as people of low intelligence because only imbeciles would believe some of the outrageous claims made by our leaders.

When elections are in the offing, there is no doubt that our politicians immediately start jockeying for positions by trying to outdo one another.

It would be wonderful if they were racing to think up the best policies to manage the country, the economy, social issues, etc.

Instead, they are racing to find the silliest ways to strike fear into our souls and find more ways to oppress people.

I mean, solar-powered talking Bibles, really?

There is a foreign magazine that gives out Dubious Achievements Awards every year.
These are a bit like the Ig Noble awards, the opposite of the Nobel prizes, where people are cited for doing the silliest things.

Malaysia, especially our politicians, seems to be in the running for a lot of dubious achievements this year.

Maybe we should just accept that those are the only achievements we will ever have.
Meanwhile, we the people have to live with these shenanigans.

We find out every year from the Auditor-General’s Report that millions have been wasted on ridi­­-culous items which any fool would know should not cost that much.

The report highlights a “mess” in a government-related company and an unexplained stupendously expensive apartment purchase.

There are also ministers who claim that none of it has anything to do with the Government.
ee, the Auditor-General must have so little to do that he needs to audit private companies as well.

And wow, they must really think we are dumb.

And while the world is facing an economic recession that will be more severe than anything ever seen, fodder for revolutions everywhere, what do our politicians care about?

Whether people of different sexual orientation should be allowed any space at all to talk about their problems?

Like natural disasters, the last thing economic catastrophes care about is whom you’re attracted to.

And given that most people are heterosexual, the chances are that the people who will be most affected by a recession are the heterosexual and poor.

Shouldn’t politicians vying for votes be concentrating on them? 

Perhaps our politicians, unlike voters, don’t read.

They seem not to have noticed that there are protests going all round the world against inequality, especially the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor.

Even some business people are saying that things must change or else there will be a global revolution, particularly against exploitative and uncaring corporations.

But as always, our politicians are one step behind the rest of the world.

They’re still dreaming of joining the fat cat 1% and forgetting that the 99% have a lot more votes.
Why do we put up with all this?

Are our tolerance levels for stupidity that high?

Is it because we don’t know any better?

Or are we just lazy and complacent?

We are great about railing against idiotic politicians at mamak stalls and on social websites, but when it actually comes to doing something, we make excuses.

We shrug our shoulders and say we can’t make a difference, only some people can.

And with that, we disempower ourselves, much to the delight of our leaders.

But every now and then, we do rise to the occasion.

I think last July we reached a tipping point of sorts, where lots of ordinary people simply got fed up and decided to make it known, albeit peacefully.

But have our leaders learnt anything from it?

Not much, going by the constant demonising ever since.

So how long will we put up with imbeciles leading us?

How long will we tolerate unbridled greed and hate?

PAC: NFC received RM250 million loan before signing contract

The National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) was able to withdrawn its RM250 million soft loan from the government even before a contract with the government was signed.

NONEThis was revealed by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson Azmi Khalid (right) after the committee interviewed several Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry officers today.

 “In this case, the money was disbursed in 2009  into a special account which needs the (relevant) ministry’s approval, to be withdrawn for the company’s operations.

“But only after the money was disbursed (in 2009) was the contract signed a year later in 2010,” Azmi told reporters.

He said that other problems with the NFC uncovered by the PAC were poor management, delays in approval and changes in goals.

PAC 'fed up' with fund mismanagement

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries secretary-general Che Mohd Hashim Abdullah and his predecessor Mohd Mokhtar Ismail were among some dozen other officers present today.

The practice, despite its shortcomings, is still largely exercised by government departments across the board, he said.

“2008, 2009, 2010 and now in 2011... year after year, the PAC deals with the same problem... We see this as an indication that our management system is something that should be viewed again and reviewed ,” Azmi complained.
The PAC and the people, he added, were 'fed up' with this annual debacle and the BN government was being cast in negative light because of this.
NFC’s operations have attracted negative comments in the 2010 Auditor-General’s Report, which said the project was “in a mess”.

Among the accusations made by PKR were that part of the loan had been abused to benefit a federal minister and her family members.

Although both the government and NFC have denied all the claims, PAC acted on queries raised by MPs in Parliament and began its investigations today.
Urgent revamp needed
The urgency to revamp the government’s fiscal management system was crucial, Azmi said, since government agencies were now directly involved in approving and overseeing business orientated projects.

“Their (the civil service staff) intentions may be good, even planning might be good... but the lack of coordination and weak management, and most of all, delay in this and that...

“If we ask the departments, they will give us a myriad of excuses. They will say they did everything correctly. It is true that their intentions are good, but it is the implementation that is being questioned,” he reiterated.

“Therefore, we have decided to call all the ministries involved to see what can be done and revamp the way we manage things,” Azmi said.

The Finance and Agriculture and Agro-based Industries ministries, he added, would be called in again in January, along with the NFC management.