Sunday, 30 September 2012

When Awang Selamat asks Malaysiakini for an apology… ― The Malaysian Insider

September 30, 2012
SEPT 30 ― Utusan Malaysia columnist “Awang Selamat” today asked news portal Malaysiakini to apologise for its reporting that is said to be anti-government over the years.

Awang Selamat, the collective pen name for the Umno-owned Malay daily’s editors, said Malaysiakini should also apologise for articles that appear to support Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, street protests and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lifestyle.

It also repeats all the allegations that have appeared over the years about Malaysiakini’s funding and directors, be they attributed to a former editor or an opinion by Dr Chandra Muzaffar, the one-time Aliran president who now heads the Yayasan 1 Malaysia, a government-linked foundation.

While opinions are a dime a dozen, Awang Selamat’s call to Malaysiakini to apologise is laughable.

Being anti-establishment is not a crime anywhere in the world, including Malaysia. But being divisive and racist is, something that Utusan Malaysia has been accused of in the recent past.

So, if anyone needs to apologise, should it not be Utusan Malaysia or Awang Selamat?

A court has already ruled that Utusan Malaysia was wrong in its reporting about Lim Guan Eng.

An Utusan editor has also admitted that writing or arranging news in favour of the government of the day is not a crime. Its reporting has driven a wedge among Malaysians on certain issues but it has remained recalcitrant about such matters.

Why pick on Malaysiakini, then? Again and again?

Malaysia is a country big enough to take a spectrum of views, be they pro- or anti-government. There is no need to persecute Malaysiakini just because it reports the way it does, or is financed by people from Malaysia or outside the country.

A newspaper is only relevant when readers want to read its reporting and news. Utusan Malaysia’s falling circulation is proof of its relevance, as is Malaysiakini’s popularity.

There must be space for all views ― be they from Utusan Malaysia or Malaysiakini ― as long as they are within the laws of the land.

Pakatan pledges to shelve Petronas’ RM60b Pengerang project after GE13 win

UPDATED @ 04:38:01 PM 30-09-2012
September 30, 2012
PENGERANG, Sept 30 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) today promised to stop the Petronas RM60 billion petrochemical project should it wrest federal power in the coming polls, an electoral pledge likely aimed at capitalising on an emotive issue that could mark the start of Umno’s weakening grasp over Johor.

Johor PKR chief Datuk Chua Jui Meng (picture), speaking on behalf of PR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Himpunan Hijau Pengerang Lestari rally here, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands who whooped at his words.

“If we do not win this case in court, this is Anwar’s message to you — when PR wins the Malaysian government, and we are sure to win... when he becomes the prime minister, he will stop this RAPID project,” he thundered to the crowd.

“That is our pledge to you today... and we will help you restore your lives here.”

Speaking to The Malaysian Insider later, the former MCA leader said the petrochemical industry’s plan for Pengerang was “not suitable” for the local villagers.

He pointed out that many constituents rely on fishing, farming and other petty trade to make a living, and would not have these means available should they be forced from their homes and away from the coast, some 15km to 20km away.

Chua noted that Pengerang was also home to a number of FELDA settlements, which are predominantly where Umno’s vote bank lies.

“But these settlers do not realise that these industries will affect them in a long run too.

“The wastes from here will cause acid rain and this is what will destroy their oil palms,” he pointed out.

During the rally earlier, PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub promised Pengerang folk that the opposition pact will use their grouses as the topic of their debate speech in Parliament tomorrow.

“Parliament starts its debate on Budget 2013 next week. We, MPs from PR – PAS, PKR and DAP – promise that the struggles of Pengerang folk will be the topic of our speech.

“Because your MP will not even discuss it. Look, we asked her to attend this rally but she did not turn up,” he said, referring to Pengerang MP and former minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
“Thank you, we love you all and we will fight for you.”

Earlier this morning, the sleepy hollow of Kampung Sungai Rengit came alive with animated chants and blares from portable air horns as green-clad protesters streamed in by the bus loads to rally against Petronas’ RM60 billion Refinery and Petrochemicals Development (RAPID) project that will see thousands of villagers lose their homes and livelihoods.

The highly-anticipated Himpunan Hijau Pengerang Lestari protest kicked off peacefully to a bright and early start despite earlier fears of possible police blockades to prevent protesters from attending the mass rally.

From 25 different locations across the country, including the east Malaysian state of Sabah, rally participants arrived from 9am onwards, all dressed in Himpunan Hijau’s signature neon green T-shirts and bearing banners that detailed the rally’s three protests — to protest the land grab, to protest the loss of livelihood, and to protest environmental destruction.

As at 10am, the small village square where the township’s landmark steel lobster structure is located was flooded by nearly a thousand protesters.

Banners and placards condemning RAPID, which will see the relocation of over 3,000 people from seven villages girdling the shore of Pengerang, have also been erected across the small Chinese-majority Kampung Sungai Rengit, the only village that has escaped the government’s relocation plans thus far.

According to rally organisers, the government has refused to acquire land from Kampung Sungai Rengit residents due to the high value of the commercial property here.

But a Pengerang PKR leader Taufik Jahir claimed the objective was to “force the villagers from their homes” as Kampung Sungai Rengit will turn into an island once all phases of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) is completed in the years ahead.

RAPID is set to occupy over 6,424-acres of PIPC’s 22,500 acres, which is home to some 28,000 Pengerang parliamentary constituents in the southernmost tip of Johor. PIPC is a massive RM170 billion project that is expected to turn Malaysia into a mega petrochemical hub

The better team for Malaysia? ― Spencer Gan

SEPT 30 ― Prime Minister Najib Razak says that Pakatan Rakyat is no alternative to Barisan Nasional. He is entitled to his own opinion, as are the nearly 50 per cent of the electorate who voted for Anwar Ibrahim and friends in 2008.

Najib and other BN leader trumpet their so-called unity and common platform but that is a charade. There is only Umno and the hangers on.

Since Najib says BN has a better team, let me name his BN team.

Muhyiddin Yassin: Best known as the Johor mentri besar involved in a controversial land deal that resulted in a group of Singapore crying foul and winning in court. Now, he is famous as the right-wing leader in Umno and the education minister who is clueless.

Hishammuddin Hussein: Best known for waving the keris to prove his political manhood and for treating the cow-head protestors with kid gloves and Bersih’s champion of free elections with water cannons.
Dr Chua Soi Lek: Once famous for a sex tape.

Koh Tsu Koon: Rejected by the people but brought in through the back door to the Cabinet by Najib because Gerakan had to be rewarded for being part of BN. Best known for dancing to Umno’s tune.

Taib Mahmud: A very rich chap in Sarawak.

Musa Aman: A very rich chap in Sabah.

Shahrizat Jalil: NFC (No Further Comment) needed.

G. Palanivel: Priority is to get a safe seat to contest in elections. One of many Indians who claim to represent the Indians.

Ng Yen Yen: Famous for once having been an Australian PR.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob: Showed his prowess recently by making Malaysia the laughing stock by “discovering” that SUARAM and other NGOs received funds from overseas.

This, my friends, is the A-Team of BN. Read it and weep.

Pengerang rally declared 'roaring success'

  • Lee Way Loon & Koh Jun Lin
  • 7:44PM Sep 30, 2012
Braving the searing heat and undeterred by several rounds of harassment, thousands have descended on the small coastal town of Pengerang today to protest against the Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project.

Organisers estimated the turnout today at 8,000, while both the media and the police were more conservative with an estimates of 3,000.

pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 pkrWhat was beyond doubt however was that this rally was a roaring success compared to past ones against the plant, that had usually only drawn hundreds.

The venue of the action is relatively isolated, being located on the southeastern end of the peninsula and connected to the outside world by only two or three main roads.

It is a five-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and one hour from Johor Bahru, via the Senai-Desaru Expressway that was completed in June last year.

pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 start marching 06Some of the protestors came by the busloads from far-flung places such as Perlis on the opposite end of the peninsula to show solidarity with movement.

Protestors from Raub, Pahang, also came in honour of representatives from Pengerang who made the trek up for the Himpunan Hijau Raub rally on Sept 3 against the use of cyanide in gold mining.

“Our original target was 10,000 people. Though only 8,000 people turned up, I think it is a very successful rally,” said Himpunan Hijau Lestari Pengerang chairperson Anis Afida Mohd Azli.

‘Malays scared to protest’

Despite the optimistic turnout, challenges remain in mobilising grassroots support against the project.

pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 crowd at dataran 1010am“The areas affected by the Rapid project include ten ethnic Malay villages and about four ethnic Chinese villages. That is about 24,000 people in total - 20,000 Malaysian Malays and 4,000 Malaysian Chinese.

“Amongst the locals who attended the rally, about 70 percent are Chinese,” said Anak chairperson Mazlan Aliman when contacted.

He said the Malays are intimidated by Umno leaders and village chiefs, but said they should be bolder in defending their rights because they have a larger stake in this issue.

pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 anak president mazlan aliman 02Mazlan (right), who is also a PAS central committee member, pointed out that Pengerang is an Umno fortress like much of the rest of Johor, with ten Felda settlements in the constituency to serve as vote banks.

On the eve of the rally, Pengerang MP Azalina Othman was at the rally venue distributing party flags to some 50 bikers, who then paraded through town with their engines revved in a show of force.

pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 supporter 03Even as today’s rally ended, Umno and BN flags left at Dataran Sungai Rengit still fly.

Of Pengerang’s over 35,000 voters, 88 percent are Malay while about 10 percent are Chinese. During the last general election, Azalina won uncontested when her PKR opponent withdrew at the last minute.

Azalina has defended the Rapid project heatedly in the face of rising resistance, condescendingly rebutting on several occasions that the project is safe and urging local residents to reject what she claimed was incitement from the outside, even blaming foreigners for joining the rally.

Fighting Rapid through ballot box

Regardless, many outsiders did turn up at Pengerang today to show solidarity to the locals who are facing serious environmental and other challenges from the Rapid project.

azlanAlthough they may not in the long run be able to do much to help the local residents much in the battle, they did bring valuable lessons in resistance and democratic change.

At the rally, representatives from Bersih, Bukit Koman Anti-Cyanide Committee, and Himpunan Hijau Kuantan all urged Pengerang voters to value their vote and use it to reject authoritarianism and environmentally harmful projects.

Although the anti-Rapid movement seems to be picking up steam, civil society movements usually take time before its cause enters national consciousness, Kuantan’s anti-Lynas movement perhaps being an exception.

The anti-cyanide movement in Raub for example took five years before it entered the limelight and drew 10,000 protestors to the sleepy heartland town.

'Innocent' and 'Tanda': Our season of fear

  • S Thayaparan
  • 9:27AM Sep 30, 2012
Once again
Colour, race, religion and language
Become sharp blades
To use in the carnage

- Said Zahari (Hidden Hands)

COMMENT I am of course breaking my self-imposed ban on not commenting on anything ‘Islam' but circumstances warrant it.

Here's the thing. The anti-Islamic diatribe (how I loathe describing it as such because I have read and seen far more provocative and intelligent musings on the subject by Islamic scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim) ‘The Innocence of Muslims' and the race-baiting ‘Tanda Putera' share similarities that should make right-thinking Malaysians sit up and question the status quo.

Malaysians should also begin asking their preferred political allegiances the tough questions instead of making appropriate noises of compromise or appeasement when it comes to the questions of race and religion.

Both films are fear-mongering pieces designed as appeals to emotions to radicalise majority communities to view the ‘other' as a threat to the status quo and whatever ideals that are most often only paid lip service to.

NONEBoth films conflate or distort or cherry pick (and not necessarily in that order) in order to bolster a narrative to demonise the ‘other' and as a way to redefine genuine complex tensions between diverse groups as a simple conflict between good and evil or right and wrong, using ‘facts' as a defence against legitimate criticism.

Understand now that I am not equating the senseless deaths that have occurred because of the over reaction of ‘Innocence' (and yes, I think the carnage that has occurred is an overreaction orchestrated by groups whom would use any excuse to pursue agendas that are anathema to right-thinking Muslims and non-Muslims or as Salman Rushdie's puts it, "manufactured outrage") and a piece of state-sanctioned propaganda (‘Tanda') meant to scare minorities into embracing the devil they know (sic) but I believe that the motives behind both movies are the same - that is to generate fear and loathing of the other.

State-sanctioned 'Tanda'

The difference (and depending on how you view Islam, of course) is that here in Malaysia, ‘Tanda' is state-sanctioned, while abroad ‘Innocence' has become the minefield which separates political correctness and right-wing bluster with a good dose of hypocrisy thrown in with regards to the free speech/expression angle.
Here's a quote by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz "Malaysia is of the opinion that freedom of expression must be practiced with tact and responsibility. The freedom to condemn and slander must not be allowed as it can destroy lives and international harmony," which is interesting for a couple of reasons.

NONEThis quote of course does not apply to the way how the DAP's Lim Kit Siang was demonised with outright lies or the way how Utusan Malaysia and its ilk have been allowed to run riot in the mainstream discourse.

On the flip side, the way how pro-opposition commenters routinely slander and demonise their fellow Malaysians from the opposite side of the political divide demonstrates that something has always been rotten in those who always claim the moral high ground when the reality is that compromise is the glue that binds the opposition together.

Muslim reaction in this country has been swift in the case of ‘Innocence' but muted when the numerous provocations that the minority have had to endure at the hands of Islamic forces (most often state-sanctioned) in this country.

Be it the cow-head protest or the spitting out the sacraments of the Holy Communion, the ‘others' and the religions they adhere to have been mocked and vilified all the while we are told that Islam is a religion of peace and warned against questioning of Islam and of the Malay race less we poke the hornet's nest that would lead to the ruin of Malaysia through the destruction of the precious social contract.

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub's statement of "agreeing to disagree" seems to be in conflict with that of Lim Guan Eng's, which is "DAP's co-operation with PAS under Pakatan is principled in not just agreeing to disagree on hudud but also that any future Pakatan federal government is not about implementing an Islamic state or hudud," and this is something that should be of concern to Pakatan partisans.

Conflicting statements
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim while speaking at the Royal Selangor Club's Fifth Presidential Luncheon Talk observed that many are concerned about the question of hudud when it is only part of the greater Islamic whole.

Speaking for me, my concern is not with hudud - I categorically oppose it - my concern is with the way how Pakatan deals with issues concerning Islam when it is supposed to be the so-called middle path political alliance. The conflicting statements of Lim and Ayub is a case in point.

(Apropos nothing, I have seen Anwar speak in his various incarnations throughout the years and the one constant is that he is a remarkably persuasive politician. As an Anwar sceptic, I was impressed by the candour on display at the talk.

He didn't dodge the hard questions and answered questions, especially those touching on his Umno DNA, without resorting to lame mea culpas and his talk was grounded in the real politik of race and religion, something almost unheard of here in Malaysia.

NONEAnd yes, I think it's time to bury this whole "Anwar will say anything to different crowds" accusation because he did not say anything that deviated from his overall message that I have been following for some time now walking amongst Anwar ceramahs far and wide in this country.

Readers may be interested in the fact that Anwar stated that he is not interested in pursuing any vendettas against his former BN brethren, and as long as monies are returned he is uninterested in seeking jail time for any miscreants. He prefers a Mandela-like approach to BN malfeasances, which is something I advocated in one of my pieces.

I don't doubt that he is ambitious and wants to sit on the Putrajaya throne but I think his thirst for power is fuelled by the desire to prove his Umno enemies wrong, that there is another way - his way - of doing political business in Malaysia. For many, his way and the Umno way are the same, but I don't think this is the case. However, this is a topic for another piece.)

To be fair to Anwar, he did say that people should have sympathy for him because of the difference between the way how Pakatan and BN do things. In his cabinet days, all he got were "Saya setuju" but these days he has to thrash it out with the various divergent expectations in his coalition.

I, of course, don't sympathise because he (and the rest of the Pakatan leadership) is merely carrying out the obligations that he claimed [they] would when they asked for our votes.

However, when it comes to the Islamic issue "agreeing to disagree" is not an acceptable compromise especially when you have an Islamic party in your alliance which is extremely influential despite what the current regime claims.

Pakatan kool-aid drinkers acknowledge that the Malays will decide the future of this country but are quite willing to indulge PAS in its waffling because they don't want to rock the boat to Putrajaya. Already there are some naive enough to believe that hudud is an acceptable feature in Malaysian life when nowhere in the world has an Islamic system of jurisprudence delivered on the ‘egalitarian' promises its adherents claim it would.

Putting out the fire

The conventional wisdom is that we should not be side-tracked by this issue but at the end of the day, I want to know how Pakatan will deal with the Islamic indoctrination that separates Muslims from non-Muslims.

I want to know what role the Pakatan state Islamic agencies will play in governing the lives of fellow Malaysian Muslims and the impact on non-Muslims. I want to know if the process of Arabisation will begin to be reversed when Pakatan comes into power.

NONEI want to know if the Malay community through its elected Pakatan representatives will begin the slow process of reverting back to a bygone era were the Malay polity was not as cut off from the rest of their fellow Malaysians because of the way how their religion is promulgated.

Because once this issue is resolved, all others will fall into place and once we are truly a cohesive society in substance we could be a great power perhaps even more so than China and India in South-East Asia, something which was denied us by Umno ... okay, for years we voted BN in, so it was our fault but I truly believe that our multi-ethnic/religious foundation so long used to divide us is our greatest asset.

I am not concerned about the Islamic fire that Umno continues to fuel, I am concerned about the way how Pakatan intends to put out the fire and so far, all they seem to be doing is blowing smoke our way.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Budget: A tart whose falsies are plain to the eye

  • Terence Netto
  • 10:35AM Sep 30, 2012
COMMENT Governing, no matter who does it, is part philosophy, part exigency, part panic, part payoff. And it is never easy to ascribe precise percentages to each factor.

However, the 2013 Budget of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, unveiled last Friday, is so patently an electioneering one there is no difficulty making an inference as to its prime motivation: it is to buy votes through payoffs even if that means a steadily worsening national debt situation.

The coupling of ill-affordable munificence with entrenched misallocation of resources is accompanied by nervous anxiety that this time the ruse may not work.

NONEHence a dose of gratuitous denunciation of the opposition must suffice to make the point that though the fat lady may be long gone in the tooth, her would-be replacement is a cad.

It is the government's argument that it is better for the hoi polloi to persevere in faith with the devils they know (despite the looming bankruptcy their profligate ways invite) in preference to angels (who have done, to be sure, some pretty nifty work in some places) promising the sun and the moon but who are certain to wind up without the shirts on theirs and the people's backs.

The fact that the auditor-general's annual report, nominally the preamble to the Budget, was delayed this year till after the latter's presentation was indicative of things seriously amiss.

Since the mid-1980s when the redoubtable Ahmad Nordin applied abundant common sense to his office's fiduciary scrutiny of government accounts, this comprehensive annual appraisal has become a matter for trepidation by the public.

But to an administration that flashes the catch word "transformation" as promiscuously as a desperate tart would her wares, this delay in the AG's report is not be terribly distressing, given that a general election is due and the fate of the government is said to be balanced by a thread in which case such niceties like the AG's report being released before the Budget can be ignored.

A subservient mainstream media can spin this as a hiccup rather than what it actually is: a red flag signaling more distress points in the system.

Expect GST after the polls

The annual budget of democracies is an account of how a government proposes to raise revenue and disburse it.

It is inherently a statement of political and economic philosophy, the enunciation of which is usually done in ways that transcend the parochial simply from grave contemplation of the importance of the matter it deals with - a country's finances whose responsible stewardship is vital to the well-being of not just the present generation of citizens but successive ones too.

Thus the disclosure that the already high national debt would soar past the RM500 billion mark under spending envisaged by the 2013 Budget is a matter of grave concern, given that the economy is already overly dependent on revenue from a fast depleting resource (oil) and is trapped in a labour intensive, middle-income cycle.

The government has announced plans to transform this reality into something more dynamic but so far there are no signs that structural disparities stemming from crony capitalistic practices and monopolies are being watered down and removed.

Favouritism and protectionism towards an elitist few and election year dole outs to an underclass essentially compose the warp and woof of the government's economic policy.

may first worker against gst gathering 010510 banner 05This is accompanied by Santa gifts to various groups, like taxi drivers, intended more as sops than as sinews for their regeneration.

The handouts are a conjuror's trick whose falsity will be exposed by the severity of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that the government plans to introduce once this election is over and they have won the vote.

All told, the handout-targeted groups of civil servants, the underclass, and young voters comprise more than half the 12.5 million voters presently on the rolls, an increase of two million over the size of the electorate at the last election when the Umno-BN government lost to the opposition in the popular vote on the peninsula and had to rely on their traditional strong plurality in Borneo to carry them through.

Spiraling national debt 

Now one wing of their Borneon bastion is in tumult, its appeasement by Najib's announcement of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into a festering issue - illegal migrants - is turning out to be as chimerical as, perhaps, the handouts promised by 2013 Budget could well become.

Meanwhile, the national debt rises swiftly and menacingly, but a spendthrift government is undaunted.

Blithe indifference to spiraling national debt was the hallmark of the social democracies of the West now is peril from insolvency, with national debt-to-GDP ratios before their crises hit as anemic as the one Malaysia now sports.

But a government more interested in salvaging its survival than in prudential management is apt to gallop to the precipice's edge under a bogus patina of "transformation."

The Budget 2013 — Lim Guan Eng

SEPT 30 — Even though many goodies where announced during yesterday’s Budget 2013 speech by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, this budget has failed the Malaysian people by not addressing three crucial areas which are necessary to guarantee the long term well-being of our country and its people — namely fiscal prudence, economic sustainability and cost of living increases.

Firstly, even though the budget deficit is projected to come down from 4.5 per cent in 2012 to a ‘mere’ 4.0 per cent in 2013, this figure masks the poor track record of the BN government in sticking to its spending plans.

For example, total expenditure for Budget 2012 was announced at RM232.8 billion in last’s year’s budget speech. But in this year’s Economic Report 2012 / 2013, total expenditure for 2012 is projected to total up to RM252.4b.

This is almost RM20b more than the projected expenditure announced last year. We were fortunate that projected revenue is expected to be RM207 billion for 2012, RM20 billion more than the RM186.9 bilion projected revenue announced last year. Without this tax ‘windfall’, our budget deficit would have ballooned up to 6.7 per cent of GDP rather than the projected 4.5 per cent for 2012.

But we cannot expect that actual revenue will continue to exceed projected revenue especially given the slowing global economy. Furthermore revenue from oil related tax revenue is likely to decrease given the change in the dividend policy of Petronas as well as political uncertainty in Southern Sudan which could decrease Petronas’s bottom line by as much as US1 billion.

While we do not object to giving financial assistance to the truly deserving, there is nothing to indicate that the government has stopped leakages in the BR1M program which went to people like an MCA Datuk in Pahang.

The initial RM1.8 billion that was allocated to BR1M for 3.4m households in the 2012 budget ballooned to over RM2 billion for over 4 million households. A country whose GDP is projected to expand by 5 per cent in 2012 should see fewer households earning less than 3000RM. And yet, BR1M recipients are projected to increase to 4.3 million households with another 2.7m individuals earning less than 2000RM joining them.

Without proper checks and balances, the RM3b that has been allocated to BR1M 2.0 for Budget 2013 can easily increase to more than RM4b, if not more. The same lack of fiscal prudence could be seen in the expenditure on subsidies.

An allocation of RM32.8 billion was given for subsidies in Budget 2012 but the actual expenditure on subsidies is projected to be at RM42.4 billion, an increase of RM9.6 billion or 29.3 per cent over the original budget! If the same kind of trajectory is followed, the RM37.6 billion which is allocated for subsidies in Budget 2013 could easily increase to almost RM50 billion!

Given the BN’s poor record for fiscal prudence and especially if elections are held next year, it is likely that BN will break the bank to funnel out as much taxpayer’s money as possible in a blatant attempt to buy votes by giving handouts irresponsibly. I would not be surprised if our total expenditure will be RM30 billion over budget and our budget deficit for 2013 would end up well in excess of 5.0 per cent!

Secondly, this budget provides incentives and handouts which favours certain projects and parties rather than providing the basis for longer term sustainable economic growth that will benefit all.

In fact, many of these incentives will skew the system against hardworking Malaysian entrepreneurs who are not in the position to receive and benefit from these incentives.

For example, Budget 2013 continues to give preferred incentives and tax treatments for companies who want to locate to and developers who want to build in the Tun Razak Exchange formerly known as the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD) including tax exemptions for property developers, income tax exemption for 10 years for TRX-status companies, stamp duty exemptions, industrial building allowance and accelerated capital allowances for TRX Marquee-status companies.

The aggressive promotion of TRX not only increases the problem of a property glut in commercial office space in Kuala Lumpur, it also unfairly disadvantages developers who own and are in the process of developing commercial property which TRX is directly competing against.

These developers would lose out if existing or future tenants decide to relocate to TRX and at the same time, the taxpayer would also lose out since these companies would be given income tax exemption for 10 years.
As part of this initiative, 1MDB will be allocated an additional RM400m from the Prime Minister’s Department in Budget 2013, an unnecessary expenditure for what is essentially a property development project.

Similarly, under the guise of lowering prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, the government is introducing 57 Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia or KR1M stores at the cost of RM386 million. Just like in Peninsular Malaysia, the ones who will be hurt by this move are the owners of the kedai runcit stores who cannot compete against the government subsidized KR1M stores.

It would make more sense for the government to abolish the cabotage policy and to improve the transportation network in Sabah and Sarawak to reduce prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, which is what Pakatan is proposing, rather than to subsidize KR1M stores that are run by one private company which would drive out many existing kedai runcit owners out of business.

These kinds of initiatives contradict PM Najib’s statement that the era of ‘government knows best is over’. Indeed, according to the Economic Report 2012 / 2013, the public sector is expected to expand by 13.3 per cent in 2012 to account for 25.2 per cent of GDP (up from 23.3 per cent in 2011), meaning that the government will play a larger role in the economy, rather than to reduce its footprint and to allow the private sector to thrive and drive the economy forward.

By promoting and undertaking these initiatives, Najib is contradicting one of the major thrust of the New Economic Model (NEM) and also the impetus behind the Economic Transformation Program (ETP). Thirdly, this budget fails to bring to the table long term solutions for the problem of rising cost of living, especially in the urban areas.

Crime is one of the main drivers of cost of living increases. Businesses which have to spend more on security pass the costs to consumers. Residents who have to pay for private security have less disposable income.

Sadly, the measures which are in Budget 2013 to reduce crime leave much to be desired. There are no recommendations to re-organize the police force by re-allocating Special Branch officers, which have twice as many investigating officers / detectives as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), or by re-allocating some of the 14,000 General Operations Force (GOF) police personnel, an organizational legacy from the Communist fighting days, to the CID and the frontlines of fighting crime.

Instead, what was provided was the allocation of RM20m to buy 1000 motorcycles at a cost of RM20,000 per motorcycle to set up a Motorcycle Patrolling Unit. In addition, there were hardly any efforts proposed to involve the state and local authorities to fight crime.

All that was mentioned as the allocation to buy 496 units of CCTVs for 25 local authorities to prevent street crimes in urban areas. This works out to 20 units of CCTVs for every local authority which is not even sufficient to cover one neighbourhood, much less the area in one state authority.

Similarly, the ambitious program to build more than 100,000 affordable and low cost houses will come to naught if these housing projects are not integrated with public transportation. The MRT project and the LRT extension cannot possibly cover all the areas which have or will have low cost and affordable homes, assuming that they even get built.

Allowing the state and local authorities to provide bus services would be one possible solution to this problem. But instead of this, the federal government is expanding the federally owned RAPID bus services to other places, this time to Kuantan.

With car prices still at very unaffordable levels, especially for the lower middle income groups, the issue of affordable and low cost housing cannot be seen in isolation from the issue of public transportation.

Unfortunately, PM Najib does not seem to have realized this as seen by his Budget 2013. Pakatan Rakyat’s budget, on the other hand, exercises much more fiscal prudence. Not only is our projected deficit lower at 3.5 per cent of GDP or approximately RM37 billion, our revenue and expenditure projections are also much more conservative, at RM197 billion and RM234 billion respectively.

A more conservative budget would give us more room to maneuver if Pakatan does take over power at the federal level and puts its budget in place. PR’s budget is also more economically sustainable in that we do not attempt to favor one sector or project over another. Instead we will set out to abo

Our budget also gives more focus on long term solutions to address cost of living issues including a proper redeployment and reallocation of police personnel to fight crime, more involvement of local authorities to reduce crime and provide public transportation alternatives, reduce and abolish toll rates to put money back into the pockets of the people and to find new ways of providing affordable public housing.

The choice for Malaysians is very clear. Najib’s 2013 budget is full of one shot goodies and handouts which do not adequately address the long term concerns of the country namely fiscal prudence, economic sustainability and cost of living increases.

Pakatan, through its Alternative Budget, and through the state governments in Penang and Selangor, have shown that it can govern with fiscal responsibility in mind, with sustainable policies which encourage fair competition and with measures that puts money in the pockets of the people in the long term. Let the people of Malaysia choose wisely.

* Lim Guan Eng is Penang Chief Minister, MP for Bagan and DAP secretary-general.

BN should welcome two-party system, says Gerakan

September 30, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — Gerakan today expressed support for a two-party system and urged the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition to “welcome” political competition in the run-up to national polls.

“As I have said before, Gerakan is basically supportive of a two-front system, especially if both coalitions are multi-racial and multi-religious,” Gerakan’s president Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon (picture) said at the party’s 41st national delegates conference today.

“The two coalitions would then compete to be moderate, to move towards the middle and not towards the extremes,” he added in the copy of the speech that was made available to The Malaysian Insider.

“Therefore, as BN is committed to 1 Malaysia, BN should welcome competing in a two-front system.”

Koh also said the BN component party is “keenly aware” that “some Malaysians, especially the younger generation and those in the urban areas, are now advocating a two-party, two-front or two-coalition system as practiced in many advanced countries. Some are attracted by the prospect of a change in government.”

Malaysia is largely dominated by one coalition, with BN having been in power since the country’s formation, and previously ruled as the Alliance Party.

Talk of a viable two-party system has been gaining ground following the 2008 elections which saw the rise of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as a formidable opposition.

The opposition pact composed of DAP, PAS, PKR had managed to wrest control of five states — Penang, Selangor, Kedah, Kelantan and Perak.

Perak has since then fallen back into BN’s fold after a few state assemblymen defected from PR.
PR has come up with promises to carry out policy reforms and also an alternative Budget 2013 ahead of the 13th general elections that must be called by next April.

The BN government has stepped up its pace in the run-up to polls and seems to be leeching steam from PR’s electoral campaign after announcing a slew of Budget 2013 goodies across the board last Friday, including another round of cash handouts to low-income households and the youth through discounts for federal tertiary study loans.

Updated @6:45pm Protest begins against Petronas’ RM60b Pengerang project

September 30, 2012

Over a thousand protesters have squeezed into the tiny Kampung Sungai Rengit square in Pengerang to protest Petronas’ RAPID project. — Picture by Clara Chooi
PENGERANG, Sept 30 — The sleepy hollow of Kampung Sungai Rengit came alive this morning with animated chants and blares from portable air horns as green-clad protesters streamed in by the bus loads to rally against a RM60 billion petrochemical project that will see thousands of villagers lose their homes and livelihoods. 
 The highly-anticipated Himpunan Hijau Pengerang Lestari protest kicked off peacefully to a bright and early start despite earlier fears of possible police blockades to prevent protesters from attending the mass rally.

From 25 different locations across the country, including the east Malaysian state of Sabah, rally participants arrived from 9am onwards, all dressed in Himpunan Hijau’s signature neon green T-shirts and bearing banners that detailed the rally’s three protests — to protest the land grab, to protest the loss of livelihood, and to protest environmental destruction.

As at 10am, the small village square where the township’s landmark steel lobster structure is located was flooded by nearly a thousand protesters.

The atmosphere was peaceful and almost carnival-like with some rally-goers erecting small booths to sell items like T-shirts, umbrellas, face masks and light snacks, while only a handful of police personnel were seen keeping an eye on the cheerful rally participants.

Seen among the crowd were known Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders like PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub and Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau, as well as Bersih 2.0 steering committee members Wong Chin Huat and Hishammuddin Rais, who was the emcee for the event.

The vocal activist, Hishammuddin spurred the crowd on by teaching them cheering signals and a song “Suara Rakyat” (voice of the people), which was sung along to the tune of the famous American folk ballad “Oh my darling Clementine”.

Banners and placards condemning Petronas’ Refinery and Petrochemicals Development (RAPID) project, which will see the relocation of over 3,000 people from seven villages girdling the shore of Pengerang, have also been erected across the small Chinese-majority Kampung Sungai Rengit, the only village that has escaped the government’s relocation plans thus far.

According to rally organisers, the government has refused to acquire land from Kampung Sungai Rengit residents due to the high value of the commercial property here.

But a Pengerang PKR leader Taufik Jahir claimed the objective was to “force the villagers from their homes” as Kampung Sungai Rengit will turn into an island once all phases of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) is completed in the years ahead.

RAPID is set to occupy over 6,424-acres of PIPC’s 22,500 acres, which is home to some 28,000 Pengerang parliamentary constituents in the southernmost tip of Johor. PIPC is a massive RM170 billion project that is expected to turn Malaysia into a mega petrochemical hub.

“Once they have been turned into an island, the Kampung Sungai Rengit property values will drop and the residents will be forced out, having lost their means of living,” Taufik told The Malaysian Insider.

Taking the stage during the rally later, a few local residents sought to condemn the multibillion ringgit petroleum project, telling the crowd that “we are not Taiwan’s dustbin”.

They were referring to KuoKuang Petrochemical’s reported involvement in the project, which villagers have condemned as the firm reportedly had to abandon its plan to house a petrochemical project in Taiwan following concerns that those living in close proximity to such developments would see their lifespans reduced.

“We will stand to protect our land. We will throw them into the dustbin,” said one villager.

NGO Pengerang chief Anis Afida Mohd Azli later described the rally as a historical event for the local folk of Pengerang, whom she said had dared to stand up to express their disdain with the government.

“As I stand here on this stage, I feel so much pride because I have managed to become a part of history, a history charted today that proves Malaysians are rising against cruel leaders.

“Look around you and see how your fellow Malaysians are with you. We are not alone. We need not be afraid to defend our own lands,” she said.

She said since RAPID was given the go-ahead in May last year, local NGOs opposed to the project, and have been “on our knees” before the people, hoping for support to keep the issue alive.

“This October 8, we will go to the mentri besar’s office to voice the people’s wishes. Today, I think, was enough to send a message to the government that Pengerang folk want to be able to enjoy their God-given blessings,” she said.

The protest today ended peacefully shortly after noon. There were no untoward incidents reported.

Ancestors ‘join’ thousands in Pengerang rally

Ancestors photographs were placed at the rally venue in a symbolic move to oppose the proposed grave relocation.

KOTA TINGGI: More than 3,000 people gathered at Pengerang, Johor today for the Himpunan Hijau Lestari Pengerang rally against a massive petro-chemical plant, with some local residents bringing ancestral photographs to the scene.

Clad in green, the protesters started to gather at Dataran Sungai Rengit since early morning, to the  backdrop of a huge lobster statue at the square entrance.

By the time the rally began at 10am, the squre was packed with protesters holding placards that read, among others, “Don’t wait until our villages are pawned”, “Taiwan treats it as rubbish, we take it as treasure”, “Defend sustainable Pengerang”.

 A row of empty chairs were also placed in front of the stage where 10 local residents later placed their ancestors photographs on the chairs in a symbolic move to oppose the proposed grave relocation.

“The authorities always say there are only a few people protesting against this project, but today not only the entire village has come out, we even invited our ancestors to come,” said Gabungan NGO Pengerang vice chairman Sim Seng San.

Johor PKR chairman and party vice president Chua Jui Meng, who was present at the rally, said that Pakatan would close down the Petronas plant if it comes to power in the next general election.

The rally ended peacefully at noon, with emcee Hishammuddin Rais leading the crowd to recite Earth Charter, a pledge to conserve the environment.

Analysts: Budget focus on young and rural voters may not bounce BN’s game at polls

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak appears to be betting on delivering a youth- and rural-friendly Budget 2013 to boost his Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s electoral chances but analysts say the short-term feel-good initiatives may not be enough to swell its support at national polls due soon.

The RM256.1 billion Budget, was announced on Friday, has been described as an “election budget” as the Najib administration prepares to fight with the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) for votes in the coming polls.

Ibrahim Suffian, director of independent pollster Merdeka Centre, said the Budget is targeted at two major groups, the rural, low-income group and first-time young voters.

“(The) first one is the rural and low-income vote which is typically a strong source of support for BN,” he said, adding that the Budget is likely to result in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition keeping its hold on this group.

He said that the Budget may have a greater impact on low-income voters, as “a lot of households are going to miss out” in the government handouts, citing Selangor as an example, where the average household income is more than RM4000.

A second round of RM500 handouts under the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) scheme will be given to households earning less than RM3,000 monthly, while the scheme will also now give RM250 to singles aged 21 and earning less than RM2,000.

He said that even for young voters, the “rural-urban divide” factor will still make a difference.

In rural areas, the “cost of living tends to be lower... money lasts a bit longer and has a bigger impact especially in Sabah and Sarawak”, he said.

But the cash handouts do not go very far in urban areas, he said.

He said the rebate for the purchase of smartphones is a “double-edged sword” for BN, saying that people will gain “access to internet” and “there’s no controlling what kind of news they get.”

Under the Budget, those aged between 21 to 30 and earning less than RM3,000 will get a discount of RM200 when buying a smartphone.

But two other analysts disagreed with Ibrahim, saying that the Budget is not likely to have much effect on rural voters’ decisions on who to support.

Datuk Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff said he had strong doubts as “to what extent this announcement can translate into votes”.

He brushed off the effect of handouts under the Budget for low-wage earners, pointing out that sugar prices will now go up by 20 sen per kilogramme with a slash in government subsidies.

The political analyst from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) said that “voters do not have to vote for people who gave you money”, saying that the people retain their rights to choose.

“Unless yesterday’s Budget promised that this is not a one-off payment but should we be in power, we’ll keep on giving it or increasing it... perhaps the outcome will be different,” Agus said.

Dr Lim Teck Ghee, Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)’s director, said that “the amounts that are being given out to rural and low-income group are very small.”

He added that the Budget did not fix the problem of low wages, low-productivity jobs and a lack of opportunities to advance, saying that this group is “unlikely” to be influenced in their voting.

He said that they still have to deal with the rising cost of living.

When commenting on young voters, he said: “I’ll be very surprised if it changes their minds.”

“They will realise this is an attempt to buy their votes,” Lim said, describing the handouts in the Budget as “more like gimmicks.”

He also said that in trying to please everyone, the government runs the risk of “pleasing very few people”, again pointing to the “small” amount of each handout.

Ibrahim also noted that “voters are becoming increasingly adept at understanding offerings from politicians.”
He said that any effect on voters by the Budget “may be limited” as “I strongly suspect people already know there’s going to be cash.”

He was also “hesitant” to say that there will be a “significant bounce in support for BN.”

Himpunan in Pengerang to protest oil refinery

  • Koh Jun Lin
  • 8:53AM Sep 30, 2012
Protesters are now gathering in fishing village of Pengerang in Johor for the 'Himpunan Hijau Lestari Pengerang' (Pengerang Sustainable Green Rally) against a nearby oil refinery project.

Local residents, led by the ad-hoc Pengerang NGOs Coalition, had complained that they were not consulted and they feared that the massive project would adversely impact the environment, their health and their livelihood.

azlanThe RM60 billion Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project would eventually occupy 9,000 hectares of land, affecting at least 15 villages in the area at the southern tip of Johor.

However, the local MP Azalina Othman had denied that consultations were not held.

The protest today, scheduled to kick off at 10am, is partly aimed to refute claims that the majority of locals are in favour of the project.

They would first gather at two designated locations about one kilometre away from the venue, before marching to Dataran Sungai Rengit in Pengerang.

Both the protest's campaign material and a stainless steel sculpture at the square feature depictions of lobsters, in honour of Pengerang's most famous produce.

In addition to the ‘Angry Lobster', a dugong has been added as a mascot after the carcass of one was washed ashore late last month.


pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 supporter arriving 027.40am: The sun is out in Pengerang, and in the town area near the rally point, Dataran Pengerang, many people are spotted donning the trademark Himpunan Hijau green shirts.

A group of PAS unit amal (security unit) members is walking along the beach towards the town.

It was reported that there are roadblocks set up along the highways leading to Pengerang. The main road in front of Dataran has been sealed off by police. A few FRU (riot police) trucks are seen moving through the area.

pengerang himpunan hijau 300912  zaaba abdul samad with police7.50am: More than 120 people led by Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall CEO Tang Ah Chai arrive in three buses and they are joined by another bus from Bukit Koman Ban Cyanide Committee.

Bukit Koman Ban Cyanide Committee chairperson Wong Kim Hoong told Malaysiakini that another bus from Raub has been stopped from using the highway by Transport Department officials during its six-hour journey from Pahang.

"This forced them to use the old route to Pengerang," said Wong.

According to Johor Dapsy chief Tan Hong Pin, the Ulu Tiram toll plaza at Desaru Highway has been blocked by the police.

8am: Protestors, perhaps in their hundreds, are still having breakfast in eateries throughout the small town surrounding Dataran Sungai Rengit.

pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 supporter 02About 30 are seen are in the immediate vicinity of the square patronising stalls selling protest paraphernalia, posing for portraits or simply enjoy the salty ocean breeze.

Meanwhile, police appeared to have assembled for a briefing at the local police station, about 100 metres from the venue.

8.45am: The crowd around Dataran Sungai Rengit has now swelled to about 300, most of them seeking shelter under the trees or at shoplots from the hot sun and cloudless skies.

9.05am: Organisers ask those under 15 years old to leave the protest venue before the rally starts at 10am, in accordance to the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

 The announcement, which is made through the public address system, also asks those wearing masks to remove them.
pengerang himpunan hijau 300912 supporter 039.30am: The crowd at Bao An Temple has grown to about 500 people.

Armed with banners denouncing the oil refinery project, many are busy taking photos.

A group of them from Pagoh shouts "Down with Muhyiddin” in Chinese, referring to Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the MP for Pagoh.

Another group from Segamat chants: "We are with you, Pengerang”.

9.55am: About 1,500-strong crowd begins marching from Bao An Temple to the rally venue, about 1km away.

Shouting slogans such as "Hidup, Hidup, Rakyat", "Tolak, Tolak Rapid", "Tolak Tolak BN", they head towards Dataran Sg Rengit in Pengerang.

Many of them are opposition supporters from all over the country. About 40 PAS unit amal members are helping to direct traffic and provide security.

10am: The Himpunan Hijau Lestari Pengerang kicks off with a prayer in Dataran Sg Rengit despite that those marching from Bao An Temple have yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, Malaysiakini citizen journalist Azizan Yunos claims that his car, a blue Perodua Kancil, was splashed with acid this morning.

"I don't know why I'm targeted," he says.

He was in Pengerang since 3pm yesterday with several others to do a video on Lim Hwee Seng, a former teacher and long-time local resident whose car was also attacked.

The car was lent to Lim by social activist Hishamuddin Rais at the time to facilitate the making of the documentary.

The incident occurred at 5.15am today at Lim's residence about five minutes' drive away from the protest venue.

10.15am: Representatives from various NGOs are invited to take the stage briefly, one after another, while photographers on the ground complained of the lack of time to take their photos.

10.20am: With the arrival of the marchers, the number of protesters has been boosted to about 3,000.

Jawatankuasa Bertindak Pengerang Prihatin (Prihatin) president Ishak Surin addresses the crowd.

After ending his speech with chants of "Defend cultural heritage" in both Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese, an empty chair reserved for local MP Azalina Othman was moved aside to make room for more arriving VIPs.

10.30am: Speaking in Bahasa, Bersih steering committee member Wong Chin Huat says the people will rise up.

"We are here because we love Malaysia, we don't want our lands become the rubbish bin of Australia and Taiwan.

"Instead, we will throw them to rubbish bin of history if they gadai (pawn away) our rights and lands," he says.

10.45am: Holding several pages of documents, Anak chairperson Mazlan Aliman lists out the purported reasons why Pengerang has been chosen for the Rapid project, each one triggering a round of boos from the crowd.

Among them include Azalina supposedly informing Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak that there would be no opposition to the project, and that the Johor government had been offered a 10 percent stake in the project as an "inducement" to facilitate the land acquisitions.

10.50am: Himpunan Hijau Bukit Koman chairman Wong Kim Hoong takes to the stage and blames the premier for failing to fulfill his promises and slogans.

"Our PM said 1Msia and people first, but this slogan has humiliated all of us as we cannot live happily and peacefully.

"For the sake of a small group of people, the government has pawned the lives of the rest.

"We have to stand together and use our votes to reject all these hazardous projects come the next general elections."

11.10am: Himpunan Hijau Kuantan committee member Clement Gan urges for sustainable development, saying that neighbouring countries should be concerned about the environmental damage here, as it may affect them.

"When I saw lobsters here, I felt pity because they would become toxic, and if they swam to Kuantan, they would become radioactive," he adds.

It's now the turn for politicians to give their speeches. DAP state chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau urges the people to "green" the whole of Johor and Malaysia in order to save the nation and its land.

"This is for our children in the coming generations," says the Sekudai state assemblyman.

11.20am: PAS Johor commissioner Mahfodz Mohamed also sticks to the theme of sustainable development, saying the party opposes development that only benefits cronies.

"If we defeat BN, God willing, we shall defend the rights of the people of Pengerang," he says.

Johor PKR chief Chua Jui Meng hits out at Pengerang MP Azalina Othman for failing to take care of the people here. "Where is Azalina? Is she staying in the hotel now?"

He says when Pakatan takes over, it will stop all hazardous projects and safeguard the lives of the people.

Malaysiakini at the rally, Solidariti Hijau chairperson Khairuddin Abdul Rahim says his side has mobilised about 100 people to attend the rally today.

He says this shows the solidarity of the Johor people against environmental hazardous projects.

"Let's together help the Pengerang community and return the green environment to the people," he says.

11.25am: Chua, claiming to represent his party's de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, also promises that the Rapid project would be scraped if Pakatan takes over the federal government.

"We (PKR) already represent the people here. Our lawyers have already petitioned against the project in the courts," he adds.

 11.30am PAS veep Salahuddin Ayub says next week, Parliament will debate the budget. "We from PAS, PKR and DAP will make your struggles the topic of our speech.

This is because your MP is not fighting for you. She has challenged us to a debate, yet she is not present today.

11.35am - Himpunan Hijau chairperson Wong Tuck says although the fight against the government has been hard, it must go on.

"The government has given up on us, we (the people) must give up on them," he said to loud cheers.

11.40am: Pengerang NGO coalition chief cum Pengerang green rally chairperson Anis Afida Mohd Azli takes to the stage as the final speaker and urges protestors not to fear any threats or allegations, because they have the support of Malaysians across the nation.

She thanked all the protesters from all over the country turn out in support of the Pengerang community.

However she declared the struggle is not over yet and and they will continue to fight for the people.

"We can only save our country by our votes," she said, adding that the coalition will submit a memorandum to Johor Mentri Besar office on 8 October.

She was also disappointed with Azalina's absence today though the organiser had invited her to come.

"I went to Parliament on the budget day and invited her to attend the rally, but where is she?"

11.45am - Emcee Hismauddin Rais leads protestors in singing'Suara Rakyat' and to recite the Earth Charter, the latter of which is printed on the back of the protestors' green T-shirts as well as in chants the slogan, "stop rapid".

He then announces that the rally has ended, and urged protestors to pick up the garbage as they leave.

Pengerang rally a sign of trouble for Umno in Johor

PENGERANG, Sept 30 — A sea of green and noise will break the characteristic silence of Kampung Sungai Rengit here this morning as thousands converge to this sleepy corner of Johor to rally against the development of Petronas’ RM60 billion petrochemical complex — a major event that could see Umno’s Johor bastion crumble.

The Himpunan Hijau Lestari mass rally is expected to blow the lid off months of simmering frustrations felt by Pengerang’s 28,000-odd villagers who believe the mega project would come at too great a cost to their livelihoods.

According to media reports, the state government has already invoked compulsory land acquisition under Section 8 of the Land Acquisition Act 1960 to resettle the seven villages occupying the 6,424-acre space earmarked for Petronas’ Refinery and Petrochemicals Development (RAPID) project.

The total value of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) in Johor, which includes Petronas’ RM60 billion RAPID, is believed to involve a whopping RM170 billion worth of investments in total, once it starts operations in 2016.

The mega project is expected to turn Pengerang into a boom town for global petroleum investors, rivalling neighbouring Singapore as Asia’s most vibrant petrochemical hub, and creating over 40,000 job opportunities for locals from construction to downstream activities.

A lone cyclist enjoys a quiet ride in the sleepy Pengerang town.- Picture by Siow Feng Saw
But the government’s plans have still run afoul the local communities living in the many fishing villages girdling the southern shore of Pengerang.

Apart from fear over reports that one of the investors in RAPID-KuoKuang Petrochemical had to abandon its plan to house a petrochemical project in Taiwan following concerns that those living in close proximity to such developments would see their lifespans reduced, a number of the affected 3,129 villagers in Pengerang are also unhappy with the government’s compensation payment.

According to previous reports, licensed fishermen have been offered RM30,000 in compensation payments for their loss of livelihoods while unlicensed fishermen are offered RM15,000. Smallholders of between one and two acres of land have been offered between RM65,000 to RM105,000.

The government has also offered villagers the option of subsidised alternative housing on a 6,000 square foot piece of land with a built-up area of between 750 and 1,600 square feet, some 15 to 20km from their villages.

But local villager Kasran Dollah said the government was out to “kill the Malays” with their offers.
“It is not like we are fighting the government. We are just asking them to help,” he told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

“At first, us Malays agreed with the compensation... but when the rates dropped to just RM2.80 per square feet... we were dissatisfied... it’s like they are out to kill the Malays,” he said.

The retired school teacher will be among the many keynote speakers headlining this morning’s Himpunan Hijau Lestari protest at Dataran Sungai Rengit, joining a host of others from Johor-based and national NGOs, including organisers of the anti-Lynas rally in Kuantan.

According to local coalition NGO Pengerang chief Anis Afida Mohd Azli, the mass rally is expected to draw in some 10,000 people, turning it into yet another massive show of public anger that could potentially turn into major concern for the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government ahead of the coming polls.

“We hope that the local villagers will come out. They are indeed angry with the situation, they are very angry,” she said.

Since yesterday, protestors from across 25 locations nationwide had begun streaming into Kampung Sungai Rengit, located at the southernmost tip of Johor here, turning the quiet coastal township into a hive of activity ahead of this morning’s protest.

When met, organisers told The Malaysian Insider that they have already run afoul the authorities as both the local council and the police have refused to give their go-ahead for the mass rally.

The Himpunan Hijau Lestari event coordinator Zaaba Abdul Samad (right) speaks to The Malaysian Insider at an interview recently. - Picture by Siow Feng Saw
Three roadblocks are expected to be erected to block the single carriageway into Kampung Sungai Rengit, but event coordinator Zaaba Abdul Samad said the authorities “may be able to stop the vehicles but not the people”.

The outspoken activist added that the Pengerang issue would likely be Umno’s sore point, even affecting its chances of recapturing the parliamentary seat in the coming polls.

He pointed out that during the previous two elections in 2004 and 2008, Umno’s Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said had cruised to easy walkover victories as the opposition had trouble with its candidates.

“But this time, we will ‘lawan tetap lawan’ (fight to the end),” he said.

When met in Kampung Sungai Rengit earlier, Himpunan Hijau chairman Wong Tack told The Malaysian Insider that the Pengerang issue should not be regarded as a matter of concern only for the local villagers.

He pointed out that much like the anti-Lynas movement in Kuantan, where the government’s approval of Australia-based Lynas Corporation’s rare earth refinery had caused public uproar due to safety concerns, the Pengerang project was no different.

“This is not about Sungai Rengit or Pengerang. It is a national issue.  That is why we can see thousands of people coming in from across the country... they know they have to come forward, they know they need to stick together to ensure the country has its future, that our children have their futures,” he said.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Anwar 'invites' Najib to his parliament rebuttal

  • Zulaikha Zulkifli
  • 5:45PM Sep 29, 2012
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has "invited" Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to be present in Parliament on Monday to listen to his address on the latest budget.

"Because I have heard Najib's (budget) speech, and I have requested him to listen to my speech on Monday 11.30 am commenting on the budget.

S Pakatan dinner Anwar"As the finance minister, I hope he will accept my invitation. If he doesn't want to debate it, doesn't matter," said Anwar (left) at the Pakatan Rakyat dinner at the Stadium Melawati Shah Alam last night.

"Let's wait and see if he dares to come or not," he said.

Anwar added that he is prepared to allow Najib, who is Pekan MP, to comment and intervene in his parliamentary speech.

The prime minister may not attend all parliamentary sessions. Anwar, who is Permatang Pauh MP, however said he, as former finance minister, has never missed attending an opposition leader's rebuttal speech.

"When I was finance minister, I had never absented myself from a rebuttal speech by the opposition leader. I feel that by listening to his/her speech, we are showing for the democratic system," he said.

"I advise Najib to be present on Monday, and I will give him room to comment and rebut fully during that time," he added.

Turning back to world

Commenting on the PM's budget speech yesterday, Anwar said this was the first time that a budget presentation has failed to touch on the international economic scenario, that is an essentially tied to the country's economy.

NONE"Najib's budget is the first time it has been presented without giving the international economic scenario. This is relevant because Malaysia is a trading nation and it cannot run away from external issues.

"(Yesterday's) budget did not make any reference. We will address this on Monday," he said.

Instead, he said, the budget speech was spent attacking Pakatan from the outset.

"From start to finish, the budget speech attacked Pakatan Rakyat and myself. I was thinking to myself, when would we swap places?" he said, to thunderous applause from the participants of the fundraising event that drew about 2,500.

Najib's Budget 2013 speech has been roundly criticised not just for delivering what is said to be a vote-canvassing exercise lacking in real structural solutions for the country's economy, but for being more of a campaign speech.

The PM's presentation was peppered with attacks on the opposition coalition, firing salvo after salvo in his closing remarks and making repeated pleas for the BN to be returned in the polls so it may deliver "six more budgets".

Who benefits most from Budget 2013

Budget 2013, which was unveiled yesterday, is filled with goodies and incentives. Market commentators seem to agree that it will bring cheer to millions of households, especially low-income families.

Students and youths in particular will enjoy incentives in the form of book vouchers, a one-off cash payment and even rebates on smartphone purchases.

Budding entrepreneurs will also see more support from newly-formed funds to help encourage more entrepreneurship endeavours.

iMoney has produced this infographic to help Malaysiakini readers visualise some of the salient points in this year’s budget and what it means for you.
Malaysia Budget 2013 Infographic by iMoney
This Malaysian Budget 2013 infographic is prepared by

ROS ropes in police to haul up Suaram

  • Nigel Aw
  • 2:27PM Sep 29, 2012
After the Registrar of Societies' (ROS) failed attempts to enter Suaram's office, it is now roping in the police to haul up the human rights NGO.

ROS yesterday served Suaram advisor Kua Kia Soong, secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel and co-founder R Sivarasa notice to show up at its headquarters in Putrajaya to facilitate its investigation on Monday.

NONE"ROS officials came in three cars to deliver a notice summoning me for investigations on Monday, Oct 1! Don't they have other work to do?" tweeted Gabriel yesterday.

Speaking to Malaysiakini today, she elaborated, "It is under Section 111 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and if we don't show up we can be arrested. The police are now involved."

Section 111 allows the police to compel a witness to appear before them and a warrant can be sought if the witness refuses.

According a copy of the notice sighted by Malaysiakini, the trio are required to give a recorded statement for an investigation by one inspector Ab Rahim Mohammad of the ROS.

The notice read: "The report is about Suaram causing dissatisfaction (tidak puas hati) to the complainant."

On Sept 19, Suaram had turned away ROS officers attempting to "inspect" its office, insisting that the regulator does not have jurisdiction over it.

suaram scorpene case fundraising dinner 160612 cynthia gabriel 1Suaram, who operates under Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd, had said that it is regulated under the Companies Commission Malaysia (CCM) and not ROS.

"But we are asking our lawyers to write a letter to them for a postponement to a suitable date because some of us cannot make it," said Cynthia (right).

She added that Suaram's lawyers are looking at options on how to deal with ROS' continued attempts to probe it even though the regulatory body has no jurisdiction.

"We believe the ROS is doing this because the CCM could not find any substantial evidence to charge us (in earlier investigations) under the Companies Act.

"They are now using other agencies to intimidate and harass us. This is political persecution and definitely an authoritarian act," she said.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had on Sept 18 declared that CCM aimed to have Suaram charged within two days for "confusing accounts".

ROS has no jurisdiction'
Meanwhile, lawyer Baljit Singh Sidhu when asked concurred that ROS has no jurisdiction over Suaram.

"They are a Sdn Bhd so it is very clear it comes under the CCM.

"But in this case, (the notice is) under the CPC so they must comply and take it from there," he said.

However, Baljit said Suaram could consider seeking a court declaration to stop ROS' continued attempts to investigate if the NGO feels it is being wronged.

"If they feel there is injustice or anything unlawful, they can go to court for a declaration but they're lawyers will need to study the matter closely," he said.

NONELawyer Edmund Bon (left) who is also active in civil society, too, agreed that ROS has no power over Suaram.

"There is no jurisdiction by the ROS. Companies are excluded from the Societies Act," he said.

Bon added that even if the company's activities involve activist work, ROS still does not have authority over it.

Buying love on a Budget — Gomen Man

SEPT 29 — Is this it? This is not a Budget, what was announced yesterday by Finance Minister Najib Razak was vote-buying through the liberal use of taxpayers’ funds.

Yesterday was making Malaysians more addicted to handouts, the opiate of the masses.

Idris Jala, aka the salesman, can talk all he wants about GST and Malaysia’s readiness to wean itself of subsidies and Najib can go on about cutting the budget deficit but this government did this country a great disservice yesterday: it mortgaged the future for short-term gain.

And it also did the virtually impossible: it cut taxes, gave out more money and said that it would still cut the deficit. Najib should bottle this miraculous potion and sell it to the US.

The finance minister unashamedly said later that Malaysian should vote BN for more of WHAT WE HAVE TODAY! No talk about high-income economy; reducing dependency on foreign workers, etc.


1) A completely corrupt political and civil service elite. The only difference in these two groups is that it appears only the civil servants are being charged in court. Ministers wantonly flaunt their wealth, their wealth accumulation usually the result of kickbacks from privatisation awards to their cronies.

2) A country divided. The mainstream Malay media and Umno have positioned the Chinese as ungrateful. Under the veneer of unity, this is a country fractured and in dire need of rehabilitation and reconciliation.

3) The country’s debt is rising and is at an all-time high. And it is not 53 per cent of the GDP as announced in the Budget but 67 per cent. This includes government guarantees. The red flag should be raised when debt ratio to GDP is 55 per cent. It is now 67 per cent and you can bet that a government which does not know anything apart from spending will make our grandchildren pay dearly.

4) Rent-seeking has always been a feature of privatisation in Malaysia. Now the leaders of this country offer us liars and award contracts to companies which have no track record for billion ringgit deals. The inflated cost will be borne by you and me and our children.

Yesterday’s Budget was very much in keeping with a BN government which has tried to paper over cracks and gaps in this country by money.

It is like a parent who, devoid of any ideas of proper parenting, has decided to buy the affection of his children.

Confused over right to choose

By Marina Mahathir

We have a far from perfect democracy but then there are no perfect ones anywhere.
IN all the past 55 years, we have been proud of being a democracy, minimalist though it may be.

We elect our Parliament like clockwork every five years or so and everyone is aware that that is the first hurdle they have to get over in order to get into power.

Of course, we have a far from perfect democracy but then there are no perfect ones anywhere.

We can do with a more inclusive and representative government and certainly can do with a more vibrant and free media and more space for alternative viewpoints to be heard.

Still, we like to describe our federation with its constitutional monarchy as a democracy – our democracy. So it rather surprises me that of late, there are voices that seem to say that democracy is a bad thing to have.

For some reason, there are people who think that an elected form of government where people have the power to choose who they want to elect is not a good thing.

Perhaps this is because they are unsure that this type of government will put them into power at all. Some are even going so far as to say that democracy is incompatible with our state religion, Islam.

That’s rather odd because I’ve just been at a conference where an Islamic scholar stated that Islam is the most democratic of religions, because everyone has equal access to God. Yet, he added, most Muslims live in undemocratic states.

This sudden turn in attitude towards demo­cracy has had predictable results. Anyone who talks about democracy is suddenly viewed with suspicion, as if they are advocating that the Devil himself should take over the country.

People’s right to voice critical opinions is suddenly seen as traitorous. The possibility of alternative administrations is deemed taboo, a word that has connotations beyond the mundanity of voting, rather like talking about sex is considered taboo.

If the citizens of a country are not allowed to elect whom they want, then they don’t live in a democracy.
So to say that it is taboo to elect anyone other than the present government is to bring the conversation to a realm that is beyond rational argument.

Somehow nowadays, it is a sin to get our people to think democratically, as if democracy is a religion that teaches immorality.

I remember in my childhood being taught about democracy at school. My teachers would talk about how concepts like apartheid or “the colour bar” were undemocratic.

We held mock elections where we would have candidates and campaigns, including “political” rallies, so that we would understand the whole process of how our leaders are elected.

Of great importance were the issues our “candidates” put up; those who had the best solutions to our issues at school were the ones who would get elected.

Today, I hear that schools are not encouraged to have any such thing in case our children get “funny” ideas.
Instead, we are differentiating children by the way they look and dress, rather than treating all of them as equal.

We expose them to possible discrimination, even violence, even though our Federal Constitution says that every citizen has an equal right to education.

Every day, we have new restrictions on our already limited democracy. We can get arrested for comments we never made just because someone made them on our website or Facebook page.

Some of us, in an already limited job market, find ourselves charged with allegedly working against our own religion even though we are not responsible for anything other than doing our jobs.

Even though both our official religion and Constitution give us rights, these rights are now contested. And contested in such a way that those who shout loudest win, even if their numbers are small.

Yet these same folks would be the first to demand their right to speak should anyone object to what they say.
We need to ask ourselves, how did we come to this state where democracy is confused with “total freedom” and “Westernisation”?

Are Westerners the only ones allowed democracy? In that case, why are thousands of people in those autocratic Middle Eastern countries demanding to have a say in how their countries are run?

Are we somehow undeserving of democracy, of the simple right to have a say?

GE only after February, say analysts

BN will need time to disburse the goodies promised in the Budget 2013 to target groups in order to generate a feel good factor.

PETALING JAYA: Following Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s tabling of Budget 2013, analysts predicted that the 13th general election will be called after next February.

Independent pollster Ibrahim Suffian said the polls would likely take place after the Chinese New Year in February as the government would only start disbursing the goodies in January.

Referring to the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) 2.0 scheme, he said it would take time for the government to disburse the cash to some 4.7 million eligible households and to some three million eligible singles.
He described the handouts as “very comprehensive” since the lower-income households with two children in school would be entitled to at least RM700 under BR1M and student voucher programmes.

However, Ibrahim doubted if the handouts could translate into ballots for the ruling party as many benefitting from the handouts might not be registered voters.

“There are those who are registered and those who are not registered. At the end of the day, it is not sure whether the RM250 recipients will go out to vote,” he said.

Ibrahim also said that the goodies would have minimal effect on urban voters.

‘Handouts may backfire’

Independent political analyst Wong Chin Huat also agreed with Ibrahim that the polls would be called after February.

He however warned that the handouts might backfire on BN, especially with voters who understand the current state of Malaysia’s economy.

“The government is trying to emulate Singapore in giving out money to the people.

“But the difference is, they are giving out money not because they have managed the country well and made extra revenue, but because they want to give.

“It’s very likely to get people, especially the more sophisticated voters, to take the money and think whether they want to vote for this government or not,” he said.

Wong said the handouts would possibly create a short-term positive impact on the government but the period would not last long.

“They need to capture the good feeling very fast,” he added.

Meanwhile, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan pointed out that there were two ways to decide the election date in relation to the handouts.

“The government may say, if you want to get the handouts, vote for us. So election can be in November. If not, they will disburse the cash first and call it next year,” he said.