Wednesday, 29 February 2012

MAS losses soar to RM2.5 Billion

PETALING JAYA, Feb 29 — Malaysia Airlines recorded a stunning net loss of RM2.52 billion for 2011 and the company is now in “crisis”, the national flag carrier said today.

The carrier also confirmed that the losses for the 2011 financial year were the largest in its history.

The airline reported a massive net loss of RM1.28 billion in the fourth quarter, which was about as much as the first three quarters combined.

“The company is in crisis,” said Malaysia Airlines (MAS) CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya in a statement.

Ahmad said that the losses were due to higher expenses including a 25 per cent increase in fuel expenses and a 50 per cent increase in non-fuel expenses.

The company’s cash reserves more than halved to RM1 billion at the end of last year from RM2.1 billion at the end of 2010 and net assets plunged from RM3.5 billion to RM1.1 billion.

Jauhari said that the company would now focus on executing the business turnaround plan that was announced in December.

The business turnaround plan projects the airline to improve its performance in 2012 to somewhere between breakeven and a net loss of RM165 million.

The current high cost of oil, however, could throw a spanner in the works as the turnaround plan had assumed fuel costs of US$130 per barrel and MAS said that prices for fuel had already hit US$138.

The airline said that fuels costs had increased by 25 per cent last year to RM305 million.

Other major expenditure that MAS said contributed to the loss included provisions for the redelivery of aircraft (RM602 million), impairment of freighters (RM314 million) and stock obsolescence (RM179 million).

Revenue, meanwhile, was up marginally from RM13.5 billion in 2010 to RM13.9 billion in 2011.

MAS reported a net profit of RM234 million in 2010.

It noted today that it paid US$95 per barrel of oil (ex-hedging) in 2010 as compared with US$133 per barrel in 2011.

“Obviously, this was a large loss,” said Ahmad referring to the 2011 results.

He said that the outlook for 2012 was challenging with passenger and cargo segments expected to remain weak.

Ahmad said that immediate action plans include strengthening the airline’s balance sheet, winning back customers by introducing branded customer experiences and more aggressive marketing, relentless cost focus and launching its new regional airline by the middle of the year.

MAS has had a turbulent past decade after the government bought back the airline from former corporate high-flyer Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli at RM8 per share or about double the market price at the time.

Jauhari said that the company would now focus on executing the business turnaround plan that was announced in December. — file pic
The airline was at the time saddled with a debt that was reported to be as high as RM9.5 billion.

It then had its books cleaned up in 2002 under the wide asset unbundling (WAU) exercise that was engineered by the BinaFikir consultancy, then led by Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar.

The state-owned airline had two rights issues since the WAU, raking in RM1.6 billion in 2007 and RM2.67 billion in 2010 to fund its operations and fleet purchases.

It was also lacklustre financially, shocking the market with huge losses last year even while rivals such as Singapore Airlines reported profits, albeit reduced.

The national carrier also suffered the indignity of having its market capitalisation surpassed by younger upstart AirAsia after its share price fell to record lows.

Under the share swap unveiled on August 9, AirAsia’s main shareholder Tune Air Sdn Bhd swapped a 10 per cent stake in the budget carrier for a 20.5 per cent share of MAS in a move that appeared to be aimed at helping turnaround the national carrier.

Don't overrule AG on highway contract, Najib told

The DAP has urged the premier not to overrule the attorney-general in questioning the West Coast Expressway (WCE) agreement, but to reveal full details including the basis of providing various financial incentives to the concessionaire.

NONE"Najib (Abdul Razak, left) must walk the talk of 'economic transformation' by implementing all the reforms on transparency and accountability that his administration has been preaching over the past three years," said DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua in a statement today.

According to an exclusive report by English daily The Malay Mail yesterday, Abdul Gani is of the view that the terms of agreement for the project are not in the public interest.

‘Government sources tell The Malay Mail Abdul Gani had expressed reservations over the terms, which seem to heavily favour the highway concessionaire, WCE Sdn Bhd, a 64.2 percent subsidiary of Kumpulan Europlus Bhd,’ the report said.

‘Abdul Gani (right) has put the Economic Planning Unit and the relevant agencies and ministries such as the Malaysian Highway Authority, the Finance Ministry and the Works Ministry on notice over his reservations on the 316km-long highway that will link Banting in Selangor to Taiping, Perak, where 224km will be tolled.’

According to a source quoted in the report, "despite immense pressure to sign the legal documents, the AG has informed the stakeholders he wants to review the terms of the agreement".

Responding to the report, Pua demanded answers from Najib as to why the government is insistent on awarding the new WCE concession to Kumpulan Europlus via direct negotiation which has seen the cost of the project inflate excessively.

"The cost of the expressway was RM3.0 billion when it was first awarded without tender in 2007 but further 'negotiations' between the government and the concessionaire have increased the cost to RM7.1 billion when it was re-awarded last month,” he said.

"In addition, the concession period has been increased from 33 years originally to 60 years, a record for highway privatisation projects in Malaysia.”

Even with this, he said, the government will still have to provide RM2.24 billion in soft loans to the concessionaire, as well as up to three percent interest-subsidy for commercial loans secured.

The government will also bear the cost of all land acquisition, estimated at RM1 billion, said Pua.

‘Avoid another costly mistake’

Pua called on Abdul Gani to do everything within his powers to ensure that the government receives a fair bargain, and to avoid a repeat of many costly mistakes made in privatisation projects.

"What is shocking is the fact that the project is being awarded to a company with a very poor financial record over the past few years.  Kumpulan Europlus earned revenues of RM50 million and RM28 million over the last two financial years of 2010 and 2011 respectively.

NONE"(Apart from) the small revenue base compared with the RM7.1 billion project, the company also made losses of RM35 million and RM46 million over the past two years.”

Pua (left) said he wants Najib to come clean on the basis of awarding the WCE to Kumpulan Europlus, as well as the financial justifications for the soft loan, interest subsidy, 4.1 billion increase in the cost of the highway, and 27-year extension of the concession.  

"Most importantly, the government, in the interests of transparency, must disclose the proposed toll rates which will be imposed on motorists to justify such lucrative terms to the concessionaire," he said.

Should Najib fail to do so, Pua warned that the premier will soon be branded by businessmen all over the world as the one who just cannot deliver promised changes.

'I was assaulted by Umno, Perkasa members and video shows police just stood watch"

A victim of the disruption at Sunday's anti-Lynas rally in Penang, Abbey Ong, says she and her boyfriend were attacked by a hostile group before Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng arrived at the scene.

The rally was held at the Speakers Square in Esplanade and attended by more than 500 people, in solidarity with the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 gathering in Kuantan opposing the Australian-owned Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

NONEOng, 28, said she was helping to carry some boxes at the rally vanue when a few men "roughly shoved" her from the back and pushed her.

"My boyfriend, who was nearby tried, to protect me but was hit by the men and injured his fingernail and head," she told a press conference held by Lim in his office today.

Ong said the incident occured before Lim arrived to give his speech at the rally, contrary to Umno's assertion that chaos erupted after the CM provoked the group.

Ong, a personal assistant to state executive councillor Law Heng Kiang, said she believes the men who assaulted her are members of Umno and the Malay rights group Perkasa.

She was not able to say how many men assaulted her as the situation was "extremely chaotic at that point in time".

At the press event, a video clip of how Ong was attacked was shown to the press.

Lim complains to IGP

Meanwhile, Lim said he has written a letter to Inspectopr-General of Police Ismail Omar about the incident during which his speech on the Lynas issue was disrupted and two journalists from the Chinese press were injured by pro-Lynas supporters.

He accused Umno and Perkasa for rioting and disturbing him during the event.

"I understand that before I arrived, the group had already been harassing the protesters to stop their rally and return home," he told reporters.

"Many were pushed and beaten until they fell, including women. It is fortunate that the victims did not retaliate," he added.

NONELim also related how the pro-Lynas supporters hurled racist and vulgar statements at him and the anti-Lynas protesters.

In his letter to the IGP, he said, he stated that the reporters - Adam Chew and Lee Hong Chun of Kwong Wah Jit Poh - were injured and sent to the Penang Hospital for treatment.

He reminded Ismail that two reporters from the Chinese media were also injured last year, during a rally at Komtar, where Umno and Perkasa members were also involved.

"This is the second time reporters have been hurt and police did not take action against the attackers," Lim said.

"The rioters also hit and tried to stop my car and spat on the vehicle (as I was leaving the protest venue).

"The attack happened in public and arbitrarily, even in front of the police who were standing nearby, but the police did not do anything to control the situation," he added.

'Video shows police just stood watch'

He claimed that from the video evidence, the police also stood watch and did not try to protect him from those who assaulted his vehicle.

He added that he was invited to the event , organised by local human rights NGO Suaram, as the chief minister of the state.

He said he has lodged a police report and the evidence gathered has been submitted to the police.

"We cannot accept the behaviour of the police who did not do anything to control the situation," Lim said.
"We hope stern action will be taken against those involved so that a similar incident does not happen again."

I got the wrong mall, says Rafizi, the rest of what I revealed are correct.


A screen capture of the Rochester Mall website shows a listing for a “Farmhouse Supermarkets”. 
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 29 — Farmhouse Supermarkets, allegedly linked to Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s family, will operate as the anchor tenant of Singapore’s Rochester Mall and not the nearby Star Vista, Rafizi Ramli said today.

The PKR strategic director apologised for the mix up after property developer and manager CapitaMalls Asia Ltd denied that Farmhouse Supermarkets would operate at The Star Vista mall in Buona Vista, Singapore.

“Farmhouse Supermarket has rented units #02-08 till #02-35 at the shopping mall attached to luxury condominiums at 35, Rochester Drive, Singapore,” he said in a statement.

Rafizi noted that a check on Rochester Mall’s website showed that Farmhouse Supermarkets was listed as a tenant, the largest on the second floor.

He added that because Rochester Mall was located right next to The Star Vista, his initial estimate that renting the lots there would cost RM2.2 million a month were accurate.

“Therefore, I believe that aside from a mistake in the mall’s address, the rest of what I revealed yesterday is correct,” he said.

Rafizi also apologised to CapitaMalls and National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) for the confusion, but stressed that this should not detract from the questions raised over the cattle-rearing company’s alleged operations in Singapore.

NFCorp hit national headlines after it made it into the Auditor-General’s Report last year, and has continued to hog the limelight after it was linked to Shahrizat’s family.

PKR has made several claims of abuse over NFCorp’s federal loan involving over RM62 million spent on land, property and expenses unrelated to cattle-raising.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced last month Putrajaya would appoint an auditor to scrutinise NFCorp’s books in light of accusations made against the company.

Opposition parties have called on the government to freeze NFCorp’s assets to stop the company from using more public funds while the probe was being carried out.

Commercial crimes investigators said last week they will recommend to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) that all NFCorp’s directors be charged with criminal breach of trust (CBT).

Guan Eng: Umno, Perkasa members attacked reporters at anti-Lynas rally

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 29 — Lim Guan Eng claimed today Umno and Perkasa members attacked and injured members of the press at an anti-Lynas rally in Penang on Sunday.

The Penang chief minister, who filed a police report yesterday over alleged threats against him by members of the two organisations, added today that the same people attacked two reporters who had to seek treatment at the Penang General Hospital.

“Two journalists from Kwong Wah Jit Poh, Chew Seng Tun dan Lee Hong Chun, were beaten and injured.
“This is the second time journalists and members of the public have been threatened by Umno and Perkasa troublemakers without any stern action from the police,” he wrote in an open letter to Inspector General Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar.

Sunday’s rally in Penang was held in solidarity with Himpunan Hijau 2.0 in Kuantan. — file pic
The DAP secretary general said that on July 1 last year, two reporters were beaten by Umno and Perkasa demonstrators at Komtar and the Penang Bridge with no subsequent action by the police to date. Lim alleged that the threats and attacks were made at the Speakers’ Corner in Padang Kota Lama, Penang where about 100 Umno and Perkasa members had tried to disrupt the rally protesting against Lynas Corp’s rare earth plant in Kuantan.

“They used foul language, curse words and racial epithets such as ‘Cina babi, Penang Cina bodoh, babi sokong Lim Guan Eng ketua menteri’.

“The Umno Perkasa members surged forward, pointing their fists at me, again using racist language and threatening words like ‘you jaga’,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Sunday’s rally in Penang was held in solidarity with Himpunan Hijau 2.0 in Kuantan, which saw thousands turn up to demonstrate against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, some 25km from the east coast city.

He added in his letter to the police chief today that “it is clear the behaviour of policemen who kept silent and did not stop the attacks on Penang citizens is unacceptable.”

“I hope stern action will be taken by the police on the guilty parties and such incidences will not be repeated in Penang.”

Christians, Muslims are siblings of the same calling - PROF DR MOHAMAD TAJUDDIN MOHAMAD RASDI

COMMENT I wish to comment on Dr Hassan Ali’s concern over the alleged attempts of Christian missionaries in converting Muslims. He has alluded to the presence of the men-in-white who are secretly doing Christian ‘dakwah’.

I have known Hassan Ali for a long time and my respect for him was to the extent that I had prayed he would be one of Malaysia’s prime ministers.

I had entrusted my children’s religious and moral training to his ‘summer camp’ programme and I deeply respect him as a man who embodies much of the character of the Prophet.

NONENeedless to say I had wished that I would have had half of his knowlege and perhaps ‘iman’ before I leave this world.
I do not wish to deal with allegations of him coverting the chief ministership of Selangor and that his latest ‘revelation of these Christian men-in-white affair is a tool to put him in the limelight and find favours with leaders of his own racist mindset.

In this essay I wish to put across three important points concerning this matter. My first point is that I find his allegation has little credibility.

My second point is that if Muslims were to have been converted to Christianity, why blame Christians and not our way of interpreting and teaching Islam?

My final point is that, I believe that all religions are like siblings in a family and that I have found great faith in delving into how each and every religion attempts to give solace to man concerning the right way to find happiness in this world and the next.

With respect to the first point, I find it hard to believe that such men-in-white actually exist. Why do I say so? Well after 50 years of living, this the first time I have heard of such a thing. Why have we not heard of this before?

Secondly, I have seen Christians visiting many houses in my housing estate and none of them has ever tried to strike up a converstaion with me or my family about Christianity. I wish they would so that I could invite them in!

I have only had the Tabligh group coming to my house inviting me to the surau or masjid. Once a Chinese lady called at my house and asked: “Hello, ini rumah orang Melayu?” When I said “yes” she said sorry an went away.

Universal act of helping others

I have also seen those whom I think were Christians visiting Orang Asli bearing gifts of food and other life’s necessities. Why should we be angry with the Christians? To me they are practicing what is perhaps a universal act of helping others in order to help our souls.

I have read about this in Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Islamic teachings. Universal! Except I do not see Muslims doing so in that manner.

The motivation gurus say that in order to stop anxiety and worry, talk to others who have an even greater problem and your worries or anxieties will become small in comparison.

Professor Dr Eaknath Easwaran says that “we can never make ourselves happy by doing things for ourselves, only the act of kindness and consideration to others will destroy the ego and then truly make us happy”.

Eaknath was of course deliberating from the Bhagavad Gita.

Finally, in a country like Malaysia with a police and military force made up almost entirely of Malay-Muslim population, I hardly think Christians would tempt fate foolishly in being too aggressive in their missionary works.

I think the Christians have great faith in their religion but they are certainly not stupid to do such a thing. So, I find Hassan’s allegation has little credibility, if any at all.

With respect to the second point, what if there were a few or many Muslims who have chosen to convert to Christianity, why must we blame the Christians?

Is it enough and hunky-dory to just pass a law that says no religion can tempt another of different faith to convert to their own? Such simplistic thinking indeed.

When I go to book shops to look for books on Islam to give my children, teenagers and young adults reading materials on Islam, I am at a complete loss since most of the books are too preachy and do not have any interesting presentation format to this kind of users.

In the Malay language, there is hardly any and in English, I would say very feeble attempts.

Our ulamaks can preach long and loud, but they do not know how to speak to our young. Perhaps, we can train the likes of Azril to teach religious values in his many TV shows. He could pull in a big crowd.

Through their songs and novels

When I visit mosques to listen to ceramah and lectures, I am sad to find that their method of delivery is still the same with long-winded explanations without much appeal to the young. Most are without power points and the presentation formats are as dry as the bones of dinosaurs.

Now let us look at the TV shows. Well, there are some interesting ustaz trying to dump down some values to the public but the attempt is still too conservative.

We must have a ‘waktu rehat’ kind of a sit-com that might appeal more and perhaps then ask the ustaz to be more savvy with their moral examples and stories.

I like the books ‘Chicken Soup for .....’ series and we should have this in Islamic frames. Incidently, I love the WALI band that sings religious rock songs and some of these lads were trained in Pasentran or religious schools.

I think Indonesia has a much, much better way at approaching dakwah to the young through their songs and novels. I do not like the dramas that are imported from Indonesia.

Perhaps, there are other religious-based ones that are more interesting but have failed to get pass our religious censor board.
I think we should set up an academy of creative arts and put young men with religious education and train them in the arts and multi-media in order to produce a generation of ‘hip ulamaks’ and make Islam more attractive to our young.

With respect to the third point, I hold to the personal view that all religious faiths are brethrens or siblings, Islam being the youngest in the family. Christianity and Judaism, I view as older brothers with Hinduism being the eldest to my knowledge.

The reformative ideas of Buddhism stems from Hinduism and can be considered part of the same family of religions. I can’t understand why Muslims hate to be viewed in this manner. My article on Malay-Muslims and the Perfect Religion Syndrome explains much of this view.

For me, I find great joy in reading many books about ‘Positive Thinking, Inspiring Messages’ and ‘You Are What You Think’ by the Christian psychologist Dr Norman Vincent Peale. His books have helped me a great deal in dealing with anxiety isssues as well as cultivate a closer relationship with God.

He has virtually eliminated any feeling of resentment on those I find difficult to deal with.

The books of Eaknath on meditation, commentary of the Bhagavad Gita and controlling the mind, help train the mind to focus at will and not let it wander ceaselessly.

His commentary of the Bhagavad Gita teaches me that the path to the love of God is through subjugating the ego and the way to do that is to put others first.

Readings of Islamic religious texts gives me much information but their style is not as exciting and motivational as the books described above, simply because the texts are translation of classical work such as those of Imam Ghazali, Ar-Rumi and Abdul Qadir Jailani.

Two thoughts from YouTube lecture

Only the work of modernists like Dr Aidh in his famous book ‘Don’t Be Sad’ comes close to an easy and consoling motivational work.

Thus, if we view all religions as one big happy family, imagine the resources that we have to tap on in discovering the true meaning of happiness. Let us not get involved into a debate of ‘my religion is true ergo yours is not’.

Some Muslims insist that there must be sombody who is right and somebody that is wrong. Simple. Well, I beg to differ. If you have five children like me, can you claim to love one child less than the others?

I love all of them equally whether one is bad tempered or good natured or what have you, they are all my children.

If you were a parent who can insist that he or she loves one of his or her children more than the others, I am afraid to tell you that you are indeed a ‘bad’ parent to do so.

Finally I wish to summarise what I understand from a YouTube lecture given by Profesor Dr  Muhammad Tahir al-Qudri on ‘Signs that Allah Loves You’. Two things caught my attention.
First, he said that we must annihilate our worldly-selves in order to open our hearts to the divine attributes of love from Allah.

We must disassociate from our love of positions, wealth, popularity and many other vices in order to receive the attributes of the divine. One of the attributes of Allah is that he loves all mankind, whether good or bad, wealthy or poor, Christians or Muslims and so forth.

So, if we Muslims were imbued with his love and attributes we too would love all mankind, whether Muslims or of other faiths. Even Khurram Murad in his book ‘In the Early Hours’ wrote that the Prophet says one of the signs of iman is to love all man for Allah’s sake.

Of course, those who have done wrong with criminal acts must be punished  and we shall hate their deeds but still open our hearts for them if they recite their ‘tauba’ or repentance.

Thus, if all religions teach that love for others is paramount to seeking true happiness and enlightenment, what are we doing mistrusting one another? Which religion is true and which is false? That is the wrong question and certainly the wrong discourse.

We should strive to be the best at attaining the divine attributes of love and care for others in whichever religion we profess, and let every individual choose their own path.

Lao Tze said “the way that can be told is not the eternal way”. Our own paths are ours and ours alone to determine and no one person can make this journey for us except our own self. The journey of a thousand steps begin with our own feet... and not others.

In closing, I wish Hassan Ali well in his career and hope that he can still be one of our great leaders of this country. I still have faith in him to do what is right for others in this country and not for his own selfish calling.

Only then is true leadership born. No self-appointed leader is acknowledged by history nor any that is propped up by parties of vested interests. I plead to Hassan Ali not to stoke the fires of religious and racial hatred in this country for the sake of his and my children and for the sake of all caring citizens of this country.

PROF DR MOHAMAD TAJUDDIN MOHAMAD RASDI is a 23-year veteran academic and teaches architecture at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He specialises in mosque and Islamic architecture particularly that which relates to Malaysia using a hadith-based and socio-cultural approach in order to create the total idea of built environment suited for a whole social structure.

Bishop hails a voice of moderation

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing described as “literally manna from heaven” the views of a Muslim academic in Malaysiakini yesterday that he said were “the embodiment of moderation in all things religious.”

Referring to the article written by university don Mohamad Tajuddin Mohammad Rasdi headlined ‘Christians, Muslims are siblings of the same calling’, the current president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, said:

“Because of Muslims’ hypersensitivity to all things Islamic, non-Muslims are constrained from commenting on matters where Muslim concerns overlap with Christian concerns and the concerns of others among non-Muslims.

NONE“Thus when an obviously learned person like Mohammad Tajuddin holds forth the way he has done in his article, we have to stay the impulse to conclude that supremacist Muslim is the mainstream Islamic stance.

“That is a wholly liberating experience because you cannot really have inter-religious dialogue if one or the other party affects a strongly supremacist stance," added Bishop Paul Tan (left).

“This is not to mean you cannot hold your claims to truth to be final and ultimate; it’s just that the way you hold it invites dialogue rather than freezes it.

“The way Mohamad Tajuddin espouses his views, you may say he stands firmly on the pedestal of his beliefs but his eyes survey the world. That is the quintessential position of a moderate.”

Bishop Paul Tan said Mohamad Tajuddin’s had a salutary starting point which is the One Creator from whom, it can be inferred, all humanity derived their dignity.

“All humanity is the progeny of the One Creator which rationally implies the brotherhood of all humans,” deduced the bishop.

“I compliment the writer on this starting point because it is the solid and rational basis for the unity of the human family,” he said.   

Shrill clamour of the extremists
The head of the Catholic Church in the Melaka-Johor diocese, Bishop Paul Tan said he was “hugely relieved to find a voice of moderation at a time when such voices are mute or drowned  by the shrill clamour of extremists, who can only see their position to the exclusion of all else.”

NONEReferring to the entirety of the views of Mohamad Tajuddin who chastised Dr Hasan Ali (right in photo), the former Selangor state minister for Islamic affairs, for raising the dubious spectre of Christian proselytisation of Muslims, Bishop Paul Tan said, “They are literally like manna from heaven.”

The Jesuit-trained prelate said non-Muslims in Malaysia have with growing apprehension looked for voices of Muslim moderation to engage with in a common quest for solutions to society’s problems.

“But this search has been increasingly forlorn because of the supremacist and exclusivist strains propounded by influential Muslims,” observed the bishop.

“Consequently, dialogue and interaction between adherents of the various faiths is strained and distant. In recent times, this has been exacerbated by accusations over something that is inherently dubious - alleged Christian proselytisation of Muslims.

“Thus when you find someone like Mohamad Tajuddin saying the things he has said about the dubiousness of such claims, it comes as a refreshing sponge down one’s neck,” added Bishop Paul Tan.

“I cannot overstate the relief I feel that there are still voices of moderation left in our land. It only goes to show that we should never abandon hope.

“Indeed faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” concluded the Jesuit-trained prelate, quoting from Scripture.

Sarawak's Cowgate: Probe MP's contracts, urges PKR

Deputy minister Jacob Dungau Sagan is alleged to have received RM63mil in contracts via his family's firms.

NONEPKR has called on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate federal deputy minister and Baram MP Jacob Dungau Sagan for alleged "abuse of power and breach of trust" over timber concessions and "lucrative contracts".

Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian was responding to allegations by Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) that Sagan is the beneficiary of companies held by his wife and family as his "proxies".

One company, Dema Tega Sdn Bhd - owned by his wife Winnie Jolly, his brother Peter Usang Sagan and his sister-in-law Roseline Andrew Gayu - had received government contracts worth over RM63 million over the past five years, said the NGO.

BMF in a statement yesterday claimed that public contracts are the main source of revenue for the company, which has a share capital of RM750,100.

baram residents demoIt said over half of the contracts are connected to a rural water supply system funded by the federal government and commissioned by the Sarawak Public Works Department.

Additionally, whistleblower website Sarawak Report last week also revealed two other companies held by Sagan's wife and his daughter Sharon Sagan - Milisha Holdings Sdn Bhd and Winjac Sdn Bhd - that had allegedly received licences from the Sarawak government to harvest Belian timber.

Belian is an endangered tropical hardwood that has been classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as a vulnerable species and is banned for export from Sarawak and Indonesia.

Conflict of interest

BMF, which has been actively campaigning against the Baram dam in Sagan's constituency that it said will drown out 26 villages and displace 20,000 Orang Asli, alleged that the deputy minister is a "staunch supporter" of the dam because of the said contracts and concessions.

NONESagan, born in Long Anap on the banks of the Baram River, has been criticised for allowing the dam to proceed.

Bian (right), meanwhile, slammed Sagan for conflict of interest saying: "He has lost all legitimacy to continue as a member of parliament representing the people of Baram."

"The price of riches is high, and for him, the cost will be his self-respect and the respect of his constituency and indeed of the people of Malaysia.

"He should (unlike minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil) resign from his position if he has any shred of honour left in him in the light of these revelations," added the B'akelalan assemblyperson.

Learning about another’s faith - Farah Fahmy

You can’t make this kind of thing up: The leader of a multi-religious and multi-racial country is vilified for showing up at a major religious festival. Why? Because he is not of the same faith as those celebrating the festival.

Honestly. What is our country coming to?

Now it appears that we will have official guidelines to govern the conduct between Muslims and non-Muslims. How astonishing. Are we really about to publish Malaysia’s Guide to Interactions Between Muslims and Non-Muslims? (Perhaps, whilst we are at it, we should also publish Malaysia’s Guide to Interactions Between Muslims and Muslims? I mean, it would be very useful to work out how exactly we should treat those pesky Shi’ite Muslims in Gombak, wouldn’t it?)

Muslims have been urged to “stay away” from non-Muslim religious festivals. Apparently going to people’s homes to celebrate festivals is OK, but going to houses of worship is out. Hmm. Does that mean we Muslims can no longer attend non-Muslim weddings? If that is so, is someone going to advise our King that he went against his own ulama’s fatwas by attending Prince William’s wedding in Westminster Abbey last year? By the way, that wedding was also attended by the Sultan of Brunei, the King of Morocco’s wife, the Bahraini ambassador, a member of the Al-Sabah family of Kuwait, an Omani prince, a Saudi prince, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Pakistani High Commissioner — will someone also tell all these people that they, too, have erred against Islam by attending the wedding?

 If, however, weddings are not forbidden, then why should we be barred from attending other festivals? After all, a wedding taking place in a house of worship is full of religious rituals. What, then, is the difference between wedding rituals and other types of rituals?

You could say that there is nothing wrong in observation, but Muslims must not take part in such rituals. I think that is a fair point, but the problem then lies in mandating just what is meant by taking part. In various Christian weddings that I’ve been to, it is quite normal to stand up during hymns and then sit down again when they’re over. If I also stand up, does that mean I’m compromising my faith? If so, then why? We expect people who visit our mosques to come suitably attired out of respect, so shouldn’t we be bound by the same rules of respect and politeness when we are at someone else’s place of worship?

I have no problems with ulamas providing us with guidance on how to be better Muslims, and what is right and wrong in Islam. That is, after all, what they’re there for.

However, we also cannot escape from the fact that we are a multi-religious country, and that as the majority faith, we Muslims have a duty and responsibility not just towards ourselves, but also towards others. How can we discharge this duty and responsibility properly if we do not understand the faiths of others?

I believe that we would not be compromising our faith by learning about other religions, and part of that learning must also be to understand the importance of festivals like Thaipusam. How better to understand them then by actually witnessing what goes on during such events?

I am in no way advocating that Muslims should carry a kavadi or sing hymns or anything of the sort when observing the religious rituals of others. I concur with the ulamas that Muslims should not take part in anything that could compromise their faith. However, faith is something that is deeply personal. One Muslim may have no problems with going inside a church and observing how Mass is conducted; another may feel that it is not appropriate for him/her to do so. Both views, in my opinion, are valid.

I also firmly believe that it is not healthy for us to live side by side without learning about the culture and beliefs of those around us. Otherwise, witness the confusion that arose on our prime minister’s choice of clothes to Batu Caves. How can anyone think that a kurta is religious attire? That just smacks of ignorance.

Similarly, places of worship should not be forbidden ground to anyone. If we have never been inside a mosque, temple or church, if we do not know how prayers are performed; then think about how easy it would be for unscrupulous people to manipulate us into thinking that unsavoury practices go on in such places.

So don’t castigate Datuk Seri Najib Razak for attending the Thaipusam festivals. Cast as many aspersions as you wish on his motives for going to Batu Caves — his announcement of a RM2 million cultural centre there sounds rather like the RM20 million upgrade for the Kampung Baru mosque last year — but don’t fault him for wearing a kurta, or a garland, or attending a Hindu festival. He is after all the prime minister of our whole country, not just Muslims.

Reforming MACC: Tickled by PM’s two-thirds poser — Aliran

Aliran is tickled by the prime minister’s so-called pledge that he would give more bite to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) if voters hand the Barisan Nasional (BN) its coveted two-thirds parliamentary majority in the coming general election.

We are bemused because the federal government does not need a two-thirds majority to give teeth to the MACC as it does not require a constitutional amendment. What it does need, though, is political will and commitment from the federal government to ensure that the MACC is fully and fiercely independent.

A truly independent anti-corruption watchdog would not only catch “ikan bilis” but also the elusive “sharks”, many of whom have connections with people in high places. This also means that the MACC would be empowered to catch people at, for instance, ministerial level, if need be, without fear or favour.

Additionally, the “pledge” appears to be a thinly-veiled threat to voters, thereby making it sound more like a bargaining chip.

Anyway, even if the BN proposal to make the MACC truly independent requires that the existing law pertaining to the MACC be amended, we are confident that Pakatan Rakyat parliamentarians, who have been clamouring for an independent watchdog all along, would fully support the amendment.

Indeed, the rakyat as a whole would give their wholehearted support to this noble endeavour to put a stop to taxpayers’ money being abused by certain individuals for their narrow interests.

We therefore call upon the prime minister to take immediate steps to unleash the MACC before the next general election. —

Umno says Nurul Izzah not attacked, but protected

Umno’s Lepar assemblyperson Mohd Shohaimi Jusoh has said that the man accused of trying to attack Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar was actually trying to “protect” her.

NONEMohd Shohaimi said his aide Asrullah Effendi Abdullah had tried to grab the microphone from the PKR parliamentarian to stop her from speaking, as the mob was getting out of hand.

“I understand that he was leading the group of youth protestors and things started to get out of control, so he went up the stage to protect Nurul Izzah,” Mohd Shohaimi said when contacted.

“He wanted to save her before the youths stormed the stage. So he grabbed the microphone to stop her from speaking. He was afraid, as he would be responsible for any untoward incident.”

Nurul Izzah had lodged a police report yesterday alleging that a man, who was among of a group of ‘thugs’ trying to disrupt a PKR event in Felda Lepar Hilir, Pahang, had tried to attack her.

However, eyewitness and PKR’s Seri Setia assemblyperson Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad had claimed that Asrullah did not appear to be going for the microphone.

“He attempted to hit her or wrench her tudung. Not sure about the microphone snatching,” he said in a text-message to Malaysiakini today.

NONENurul Izzah said that Asrullah, who PKR claimed had been photographed that night, “lunged” towards her “in an alarming manner” while the demonstration “emcee kept shouting insults and berating (her), Nik Nazmi and (PKR)”.

“I reject Umno's attempt to whitewash this incident. Their defence of such thuggish behaviour is a sore disappointment to all of us,” she said when contacted.

Asrullah has not responded to multiple attempts to contact him, via telephone calls, Facebook and text-message, for further comment.

Police probe underway

Denying Umno's involvement, Mohd Shohaimi, who admitted that he was not at the event, said the group was made up of “locals who felt called to take part” as they were “angry”.

“The main issue is the Koperasi Permodalan Felda issue, where the settlers here feel that the opposition has stopped from from getting a windfall from the Felda Global Ventures Holdings listing,” he said. Mohd Shohaimi, who said he “supported” the demonstration against the “those who attack Felda” added that Umno members' presence does not mean the party has endorsed it.

Asked why the demonstrators carried Umno flags, he said that this is “normal” as the other side had raised PKR flags.

“Why would they raise PAS flags? That wouldn't be suitable. They can't raise Felda flags either as this is a political matter,” he said, adding that there was no violence as claimed by PKR.

Jokingly, he added: “I won't be surprised if Nurul Izzah or the local PKR leader will suddenly sport a black eye or a cast tomorrow.”

He also claimed that locals had lodged a police report against PKR's plans prior to the incident to show their displeasure.

NONEWhen contacted, Kuantan OCPD Mohd Jasmani Yusoff could not confirm the police report as he is currently attending a seminar in Kuala Lumpur.

“But the matter is currently investigated under Section 148 of the Penal Code for rioting,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nik Nazmi (left) said that they had planned to speak on Felda matters that night, but could not as the event was disrupted.

He, however, said speakers who spoke before him and Nurul Izzah arrived may have touched on the subject.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Questions raised over Singapore supermarket owned by Shahrizat’s family

PETALING JAYA, Feb 28 — PKR revealed today Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family is opening a new supermarket in Singapore, throwing up a host of questions over links to the RM250 million government loan meant for the National Feedlot Centre (NFC).

The party posed questions today about how the family, which owns the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) tasked with running the cattle-farming scheme, obtained bank loans to open a supermarket at a new luxury shopping mall on the island.

The party distributed documents showing Shahrizat’s  husband and NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh and their two children owned Farmhouse Supermarkets, which has taken loans from Maybank and United Overseas Bank.

PKR had made an earlier disclosure that NFCorp, the company owned by minister Shahrizat’s family, had a RM180 million fixed deposit with Maybank in 2009.

“We believe the loans were approved with the same method to pay for their two luxury condominiums in Marina Bay Suites worth RM34 million,” PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said.

He had earlier this month claimed the RM250 million federal loan for the NFC project given to NFCorp was used to leverage financing for the two units.

“This exposes public funds to risk of losses from the supermarket business,” Rafizi told a press conference.
NFCorp has insisted it has the right to use its RM250 million soft loan from the government as it saw fit, even to invest in property, as long as it repays the interest.

But DAP publicity chief Tony Pua, who sits on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said the Finance Ministry had told the panel last November there was no provision allowing NFCorp to use its federal loan to purchase property.

Rafizi also told reporters today the supermarket has signed a tenancy agreement to take up 28 units and be the anchor tenant in Star Vista, a new mall that will begin operations in the third quarter of this year.
He said that based on the average rental for commercial space in Singapore, the estimated 3,000-sq metre supermarket will cost more than RM2.2 million a month in rental.

“Including other expenditure, the supermarket will require operating expenditure of RM30 to RM40 million a year,” he said.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat has been repeatedly linked to NFCorp as the project was awarded by the Cabinet to her family.

The RM250 million publicly-funded cattle-raising scheme was coined a “mess” after it made it into the pages of the Attorney-General’s 2010 Report for failing to meet production targets.

The term was repeatedly used to describe NFCorp after PKR launched a series of exposés to show that the project’s funds had been allegedly abused.

The company’s assets were frozen after investigations were launched by the police and the national anti-graft body following the revelations.

Shahrizat took three weeks’ leave from ministerial duties last month to allow the authorities to complete their probe.

She was questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on her first day back at work.
Rafizi had earlier admitted PKR lacked documented proof to show NFCorp had fixed deposit accounts with UOB.

But he dared Shahrizat to “detail the income of the family by which they collect such assets”, saying the combined household income must be RM500,000 a month to service all the loans.

He also showed reporters an advertisement put out by Farmhouse Supermarkets to recruit purchasing managers on January 17, three days after Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced that NFCorp’s assets had been frozen.

“So as NFCorp says, it’s business as usual. The prime minister is very cheeky to play with words when he said NFCorp’s assets were frozen.

“By right the freeze should follow the tentacles all the way because most of the money is already outside NFCorp,” Rafizi said, repeating his call for all NFCorp directors to have their personal assets frozen.

Najib, why not cattle project for Felda subsidiary that also bid for it?

PKR today urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who has been seen silent on the scandal of National Feedlot Centre, to explain why he chose the company owned by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil's family to run the mega project, instead of a Felda subsidiary which had also bid for it.

It was hypocrite for the premier to trumpet about his contribution to the Felda settlers but did not give the project worth over RM300 million, which can benefit the settlers to a company owned by Felda, said the opposition party.

NONECiting the answer of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Noh Omar, given to parliament on Oct 31, 2011, PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli (left in photo) pointed out that Najib, who was deputy prime minister then, chaired the National Feedlot Project Anchor Company Selection Committee in 2006.

The committee invited six companies, including Felda Farm Products Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Felda Plantations Sdn Bhd, and Agroscience Industries Sdn Bhd to submit their biddings for the mega project.

Eventually the committee shortlisted Agroscience Industries and Lamberts Agriculture Trade (M) Sdn Bhd but Lamberts withdrew, making Agroscience Industries the sole company to execute the project.

Comparing the profiles of all six companies, based on documents obtained from company searches, Rafizi, a corporate executive before venturing into politics, concluded that Felda Farm Products was the best company for the project.

The company was established in 1995 with a paid-up capital of RM10 million and RM9.6 million as revenue as of Dec 31, 2010, while Agroscience Industries was only formed a year before the contract was awarded, and had no experience in cattle farming.

“It does not take a genius to figure out which should be the best company to take over the project,” said Rafizi.

NONE“Najib cannot wash his hands and keep quiet like what he has done in the last six months.

“He is like (former prime minister) Pak Lah now. He is quieter than Pak Lah... He has his signature on the project.

“If he doesn’t respond, we’ll bring something on him,” warned Rafizi, adding that the premier “is not a gentleman”.

“"I don’t want to use the word coward. But the only word to describe Najib for leaving Shahrizat alone to fend off the issue so far, is not gentleman.”

Natural choice among six companies

When asked about the RM22 million loss suffered by Felda Farm Products as shown in the financial documents, Rafizi, who is also the chief executive officer of the Selangor Economic Adviser Office, argued that the major criteria to evaluate the size and operations of a company is its revenue.

He said the loss may not reflect the company’s performance unless more details were available.

“Felda may not be the best company, that’s why the government should call for an open tender.

"If I was Najib, my natural choice among these six companies would be Felda Farm Products because the other five were just formed yesterday,” he stressed.

Furthermore, Rafizi elaborated, Felda possesses huge land and its settlers can be readily trained to farm cattle.

“Najib is responsible for granting the project to Shahrizat’s family. If he had given it to Felda, we would not have the mess now,” he added.
Hence PKR demanded the premier to publish all minutes of the selection committee meetings and explain: Why he sidelined Felda Farm Products in awarding the project; and what was the criteria used by him to award the project?

PKR: NFC bosses to open supermart in S'pore

Frustrated by the inaction of the authorities, PKR has revealed that the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) is in the midst of operating an upmarket supermarket in Singapore.

NONEThe supermarket operator, Singapore-registered Farmhouse Supermarkets Pte Ltd, is jointly owned by Mohd Salleh Ismail, second son Wan Shahinur Izran and youngest daughter Wan Izzana Fatimah Zabedah.

They are family members of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli said today that Farmhouse had entered into an agreement with a luxury retail mall named Star Vista, to be its anchor tenant, taking up 28 units on the second floor.

NONERafizi (left in photo) has made a site visit to the mall which is under construction at a prime location near Nanyang Technology University.

 A check with the Singapore Competition Commission revealed that the retail rental at such locations goes at S$350-500 per sq m, which means that floor area of some 3,000 sq m floor would cost Farmhouse more than S$1,000,000 or RM2.4 million per month, said Rafizi.

He said he believes that the company's financial documents show that the modus operandi used by NFC to purchase luxury condominiums in Singapore has been repeated in the supermarket business.

He said the RM250 million government soft loan intended for the National Feedlot Centre project was used as collateral to get extended loan facility from two banks - Maybank and UOB.

The supermarket is expected to be operational later this year when the mall opens, said Rafizi.
'Freeze personal assets, too'

Worrying that part of the government soft loan will now be sunk into the supermarket business, Rafizi demanded a freeze - not just of NFC's assets, but all the personal assets of Shahrizat's family members.

 He said it is obvious that money from the soft loan has been transferred to other companies under their names.

azlan"PKR urges NFC to come clean on its financial commitments through Farmhouse, including the rental agreement signed. Before this, they wanted a restaurant to promote the beef, that's fair, but what about supermarket?"

During the press conference at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Rafizi distributed copies of a recruitment advertisement placed by Farmhouse from Jan 17 to Feb 16 in the republic.

"The advertisement was published after (Prime Minister) Najib (Abdul Razak) announced that NFC assets have been frozen. Even as the country boils in anger, you have the family of Shahrizat doing business as usual," he quipped.

Najib had announced the freeze of NFC assets pending the completion of investigations, but the company has claimed that it is still "business as usual".

If the authorities still fail to act, warned Rafizi, PKR will do a weekly expose on the scandal until the Parliament sits next month.

Ampang MP Zuraidah Kamaruddin, who was present, threatened to move an urgent motion in Parliament if the government does not take action.

Penang journalists condemn attack by Perkasa, Umno

Five journalist organisations in Penang have severely condemned a group of hostile pro-Lynas supporters at a gathering in Esplanade on Sunday for attacking two journalists on duty.

NONEThe organisations include the Penang Press Club, Penang Chinese Media Journalists and Photographers Association, Journalists Union of North Malaya, Penang Press Employees’ Cooperative Society Ltd and Seberang Perai Press Association.

Spokesperson for the group Chew Hock Pheng said the Seremban Umno Youth members were making trouble at the scene and Penang Perkasa northeast district chairman Mohd Rizuad Mohd Azudin led his supporters to interfere at the peaceful assembly.
“We strongly condemn the perpetrators of violence and brutal force against unarmed journalists. They were injured from the assault by a group of reckless rioters,” Chew said.

“We strongly urge Perkasa and Umno to clarify their involvement in the attack of reporters,” Chew, who is Kwong Wah Jit Poh assistant general manager, added in a statement.

Chew handed the statement to journalists at a press conference held at the newspaper’s head office in Penang, with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the two injured journalists yesterday.

The Esplanade event was organised by human rights NGO Suaram in solidarity with the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 protest in Kuantan against potential radioactive hazard by Gebeng’s Australian-based Lynas Advanced Materials Plant.

About 15,000 participants turned out for the Kuantan rally, with large gatherings in Perak and Kuala Lumpur as well, but it was only the Penang leg, participated by about 500, which was disrupted.

Meanwhile, the injured reporters had lodged police reports and submitted clear photos of the assailants for police investigations, Chew said, while handing reporters their police report. Journalist was defending himself

Journalist Adam Chew from Kwong Wah Jit Poh who sustained injuries and was treated with eight stitches said he was ready to be questioned by police as he could identify his attackers.

He added that his attackers descended on him while he was on stage, trying to prevent Lim from being punched on the back.

adam chew kwong wah jit poh journalist with blood on fingersChew (right) said he was merely defending himself, as he was hit with a helmet, and five or six other men closed in on him, to punch and kick him until he fell on his face.

Another journalist from the same newspaper,  Lee Hong Chun, sustained light bruises on his head as he too, was whacked with a helmet by the same group.

“We look forward to impartial treatment by the police,” said Chew.

However, Chew said they “regretted” that the police on duty did not ask for more support from the force which indirectly resulted in the attackers becoming even “more arrogant”.

“We hope that state police chief Ayub Yaacob would look into the matter seriously and start investigations into the attack.

“If it is confirmed that policemen had neglected their duties, immediate disciplinary action should be taken against them,” he stressed.

Ayub defended his force’s lack of presence at the event, saying organiser did not inform the police about the rally, and that the NGO was then responsible for the peace and safety of the protesters.

But Chew reiterated that the country is ruled by law and should never allow anyone to take the law in their own hands.

He urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to order the police to make a fair investigation into this case.

Dear PM, revamp MACC now! — Gomen Man

FEB 27 — Memo to the prime minister: There is no need to wait for the next general election to revamp the discredited Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

According to The Malaysian Insider’s report, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that if the Barisan Nasional wins two-thirds majority, his government would legislate the setting up of a service commission for the MACC so that it can have its own powers to hire and fire officers.

You don't need to wait for the polls. If you are honest and sincere about change, I am sure you will have to support of the opposition to make the changes as early as next month when Parliament meets.

And I am not even sure you need a two-thirds majority because this is not some constitutional change. I can only assume that you threw the “two-thirds majority” line in as a carrot for the electorate.

And instead of setting up a service commission, my suggestion is to disband the MACC because its reputation cannot be salvaged after the deaths of Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbaini while in its care. The power to hire and fire is the least of its problems.

Only a smattering of people believe that the MACC is honest or serious about tackling corruption. I mean these guys have not charged any minister or government politician despite overwhelming physical evidence that many of them are living beyond their means.

Najib today said that the asset declarations from ministers and deputy ministers will now be made available to the MACC chief. And just what is the MACC chief going to do with it?

Charge a minister for having a stake in a billion-ringgit infrastructure project? Charge a minister for having a luxury apartment in London?

There is just too much hot air about fighting corruption in the higher reaches of government. And today we were treated to another chapter.

MACC revamp doesn’t need two-thirds parliamentary majority, says Pakatan, Bar chief

February 28, 2012

Lim believed both BN and PR MPs could work together on this issue in the interest of the nation. — File pic
 KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 — The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) does not need to win two-thirds control of Parliament to improve the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as such plans would not necessarily be opposed by Pakatan Rakyat (PR), say its lawmakers.
 Opposition lawmakers told The Malaysian Insider that any steps to improve the efficiency and accountability of the anti-graft body should be welcomed, and that they will be open to debating the matter in Parliament at its next sitting.

Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said there should be no reason why MPs “across the floor” would not vote in favour of amendments to the Federal Constitution if it was done in the interest of the nation.

They were responding to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who pledged yesterday to give more freedom to the MACC in the appointment of its officers if BN wins two-thirds control of Parliament in the next general election.

Liew said there was no question of needing a two-thirds majority.
DAP international secretary Liew Chin Tong rubbished the prime minister’s remarks, saying that there should be a proper level of consultation with opposition lawmakers on the matter.
“This is nonsense. In principle we agree on empowering the MACC for the betterment of the public. There is no question on needing a two-thirds majority.

“In principle we agree, and think that the MACC should be placed under the jurisdiction of Parliament, and not the Prime Minister’s Office,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The Bukit Bendera MP said that in any mature democracy where laws are made, proper consultation on all levels needs to take place.

He said Najib was presumptuous to think PR lawmakers would not agree to some of the recommendations of the advisory panel.
“The opposition is happy to be consulted,” he added.

PAS central committee member Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa stressed that past amendments to the purpose and function of the MACC had already “empowered” the commission, and that the real problem was ensuring the anti-graft body was free from “political interference.”

“You don’t need two thirds. Issue is not about strengthening, but more of allowing autonomy to MACC to carry out its duties,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“Pakatan Rakyat has agreed to reform measures for the MACC, based on proposals by the advisory panel,” the PAS leader added.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar told The Malaysian Insider that Najib’s remarks were an admission that the MACC did not have enough clout to tackle corruption in the country.

Mujahid said the issue was more of giving the MACC the autonomy to carry out its duties.
“The people should reject this kind political motivation from a leader. 
History has shown that when BN rules with a bigger majority, they are not afraid to abuse their powers,” she said. The Bar Council’s Lim pointed out that both BN and PR MPs had demonstrated “some amount of maturity” with regards to the bipartisan Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms.

“Thus there is no reason why this cannot equally be the case with necessary and advantageous amendments to the Federal Constitution,” he said.

The lawyer however questioned Najib’s mention of a proposal to elevate the status of the MACC chief commissioner to a standing equal to the Attorney-General or Auditor-General, stating that both had different limits to their jurisdiction.

“A question which arises from the PM’s statement is the meaning of equal standing of the chief commissioner of MACC to the Honourable Attorney-General and Auditor-General.

“The former has unfettered discretion to prosecute, making him probably the most powerful man in Malaysia. Whilst the latter’s powers, duties are prescribed the Audit Act 1957,” said the Bar Council president.

PM: More bite for MACC, only if BN gets two-thirds

Fellow Malaysians, Vote out BN with even a simple majority, the whole MACC will be revamped. The BN is holding the people to ransom again - 1Christians

In view of a looming general election, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today offered an election promise that should BN regain a two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next general election, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be given more independence.

najib putrajaya 280212An Anti-Corruption Service Commission, as suggested by the MACC advisory board, will be established to enable the anti-graft watchdog to have full control over its officials, including the power to appoint and sack them, he said.

“I agreed with the view of the MACC advisory board that to reflect to independence of MACC, an Anti-Corruption Service Commission should be created. This commission will be given the power to appoint and sack MACC staff.

“But this issue needs a constitutional amendment. God willing if BN is given a two-thirds mandate in the coming 13th general election, the constitutional amendment will be carried out and this service commission will be formed,” said Najib while officiating the Certified Integrity Officer Programme at Putrajaya today.
Draft bills may be made public

Elaborating, he said the commission will enjoy the same authority given to the current Police Commission and Education Commission, including the power to filter, choose, interview, appoint and sack their own staff, to ensure MACC has the specific talents to perform its duties.

"If it can be implemented, it will easier and more efficient for professionals who want to serve for MACC to do so," he added.

Currently MACC’s human resources is under the purview of the Public Services Commission, the same as all other government agencies.

Among other matters being considered by the government, Najib said, was the status of the MACC chief commissioner, which may be upgraded to a post stipulated in the constitution such as the posts of attorney-general, auditor-general and judges, to ensure independence and transparency.

Apart from giving more teeth for MACC, Najib also announced that the government, in line with the principle of transparency and public participation, is mulling to publish all draft bills on ministerial websites for public scrutiny and feedback before they are tabled in the Parliament.

"This will eliminate the public and international perception that there is law which only takes account into the interest of certain quarters," he added.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Yes, the AG must act to charge NFC directors

By Said Ibrahim

COMMENT The director of Bukit Aman’s Commercial Crime Investigation Department Syed Ismail Syed Azizan is a brave man. Why?

Because he has said clearly and categorically that there is enough evidence to charge the directors of the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) with criminal breach of trust.

I like a brave Malaysian, especially if he or she is a civil servant. I believe that it’s only when civil servants show courage and integrity that the rakyat can hope to get justice and fair play in their dealings with the government.

NONESyed Ismail (left) knows that the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission - or any enforcement agency in the country for that matter - do not have the power to lay charges regardless of the evidence.

That is the prerogative of the attorney-general. Despite this, Syed Ismail has been willing to tell the people there is in fact enough evidence to charge someone.

This is an act of courage. It is not the action of someone with an ulterior motive, as has been suggested by the family involved in the NFC.

In my years at the Bar and in government, I often heard that “such-and-such a case was presented to the Attorney-General’s Office but no action was taken”.

No one knows the actual reason for this inaction - we are told only that under the constitution, the attorney-general has absolute discretion whether or not to charge someone.

So it is possible that, in many cases, enforcement agencies such as the police have recommended prosecution but the attorney-general has refused to pursue the case.

Crown prosecution services

Our practice is entirely different from that of other Commonwealth countries, where there are crown prosecution services consisting of lawyers who act independently of the attorney-general.

Their independence is based on the trust given to them that they will work in the public’s interest.

They work in close collaboration with the police, so when the police in the United Kingdom (for example) say that they have evidence, it would be unthinkable for anyone else, even the prime minister, to suggest that the attorney-general might decide differently.

NONEOn the other hand, our Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has
made remarks that cast doubt on whether the family of Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (the  Women, Family, and Community Development Minister) will ever be prosecuted. Najib has talked about the “absolute power” of the attorney-general, and not the police, to determine if the government will prefer a charge against Shahrizat’s family.

The past has shown that when political leaders speak like that, we know that no charge is forthcoming. It would indeed be disappointing if our “reformist” prime minister should prefer to pre-empt the attorney-general’s decision.

Najib should instead give full support and praise to the police for an investigation into a case involving at least one powerful politician. But somehow, Najib always seems to get the wrong end of the stick.

So to Syed Ismail, I don’t think you will ever become the inspector-general of police, but it may be a small comfort to know that your decision to make your investigation public sets a good precedent.

After this, we hope to hear more from the heads of investigating teams. We hope to see them declare their findings publicly. We can then see how far the prime minister will go to defend his attorney-general’s discretion.

Syed Ismail, I will shake your hand anywhere I see you. And there are thousands like me who will do the same.

ZAID IBRAHIM, a former law minister, is the Parti Kita presid

Diplomatic disarray


Are Malaysian High Commissions (MHC) run like personal fiefdoms, with the Malaysian government using its political influence to bring pressure to bear on the diplomatic staff at these locations? Or are some diplomats inefficient and abusing their overseas postings and taxpayers’ money?

When the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform visited the United Kingdom last week, Malaysians were optimistic about the PSC’s engagement with relevant UK bodies to improve Malaysia’s electoral process.

Another story has emerged from the shadows of duplicity.

High-ranking sources in London allege that another MHC incident is being swept under the carpet. They say that the PSC did not keep an appointment with a British cabinet minister, the day after they arrived in London.

When the PSC turned up at the House of Commons (the parliament) in Westminster, for their 11am meeting on Feb 22, they were two hours late.

It is alleged that our MHC staff had bungled the arrangements. As a result, our MPs missed the opportunity to discuss matters with a British cabinet minister.

Is this debacle a reflection of the High Commissioner, Zakaria Sulong’s weak leadership and lack of professionalism? Or did he inherit a bunch of uninspiring deadwood and demotivated staff?

A few weeks ago, Zakaria lacked sensitivity and diplomacy when equating the Penan community to animals and thus belittling the suffering of both. Neither Zakaria nor Wisma Putra has apologised for the contemptuous remarks.

 Nevertheless, the missed appointment only erodes confidence in our diplomats and our diplomatic service. Will this incident be mentioned in the PSC report which is due next April or will it be hushed up?

PSC chairperson Dr Maximus Ongkili, who is also the Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister, led an 18-member delegation on a three-nation fact-finding mission.

“In London, the focus is to study the constituency delineation principle. That’s why we decided to spend some time at the boundary commission,” he said.

Can overseas voting be implemented in time?

At the press conference and dinner for the visiting PSC delegation hosted by Zakaria, Maximus doubted if issues like overseas voting would be implemented in time for GE13, despite measures introduced by the Election Commission (EC).

Maximus said, “It does depend on when the election is to be called but the EC says they will work within the next two months to come up with the requirements on overseas voting.

“As for Malaysian students and civil servants, if you are already on the voters list, you just have to apply for a postal vote and they will mail it to you. You can then cast your vote and post it back. But for ordinary Malaysians, we need more time.

“It is our job to find ways to make it as simple as possible for Malaysians to participate in the democratic process of our country.”

 Both the MHC and the PSC have failed overseas Malaysians.

azlanWhy did Maximus not arrange to meet overseas Malaysians and get their views? Many of them have complained that the advice dished out by diplomatic staff is inconsistent. In some cases, potential voters were given wrong information on postal ballots. Others fumed about being given the run-around.

Instead of a dinner attended by a select group of people, the MHC could have held a public forum to enable Malaysians working and studying overseas to meet the PSC.

When told that the PSC delegation would meet Malaysians in Denmark, one Malaysian professional based in London said, “Was there a Bersih rally in Copenhagen? In London, 600 Malaysians showed their support for free and fair elections at the Bersih rally. The MHC is not paying attention.”

Another wondered if the Malaysian government had colluded with the MHC to prevent engagement between the PSC and overseas Malaysians.

MyOverseasVote (MOV) UK has asked that a deadline be set for the proposal of a new overseas voting system and for defining the criterion for overseas voters. Other MOV concerns range from diplomatic staff telling potential voters they were “awaiting instruction from Wisma Putra, and/or the EC”’, to vacuous answers such as “You should register in Malaysia”.

A set of questions for both Wisma Putra and the EC

Last year the MOV prepared a set of questions for both Wisma Putra and the EC. They (the MOV) did not receive any replies.

Undaunted, the MOV posed the same set of questions to the EC, this time via Ambassador Ho, at the Embassy in Geneva. She received a reply from the EC which she then forwarded to the MOV.

The EC ignores the overseas Malaysians, whilst Wisma Putra responded only because an ambassador was involved.

Why is Wisma Putra not offering sufficient support and leadership? Why does Wisma Putra function like a third-rate provincial civil service department?

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has spent millions on foreign public media consultants to boost the image of himself and the country.

Overseas Malaysians have no need for expensive make-overs. They are proud to carry the flag and are passionate about their country. They make perfect mini-ambassadors for Malaysia and they are no less patriotic than their fellow Malaysians at home.

These Malaysians have not abandoned the country of their birth, whereas Malaysia and its diplomatic missions have failed them by denying them their constitutional right to vote.

In an effort to improve his flagging image, Najib has vowed to carry out electoral reforms.

First. The London MHC failed to respond to the MOV’s queries.

Second. Was the opportunity, missed by the PSC, to meet the British cabinet minister a result of genuine incompetence, or a subtle ploy to prevent engagement? Did party politics interfere in Malaysia’s diplomatic missions?

So how sincere and serious is Najib in carrying out electoral reforms? Is the High Commission in London serving Najib or the rakyat?

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak', this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

Journalist provoked us, claims Umno leader

An Umno blogger accused a journalist injured in the melee at the anti-Lynas demonstration in Penang yesterday of “provoking” Umno supporters at the scene.

NONEBukit Gelugor Umno division vice-chief Novandri Hasan Basri (right) claimed “pro-opposition media twisted” the incident which left Kwong Wah Jit Poh reporter Andrew Chew with eight stitches on his right hand.

"It turned out that the Chinese man with the long hair is a journalist.

"In the incident (yesterday), not even one journalist who held a camera or video (camera) was hit or injured," said Novandri on his blog Minda intelek Melayu (MiM).

"What is baffling is why this man (who) claims (to be a) journalist (was) wearing a green T-shirt just like the anti-Lynas (demonstrators) without holding a camera?" he asked.

The Penang rally was part of several nationwide demonstrations by Himpunan Hijau 2.0 to condemn the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Kuantan, Pahang for its potential radioactive hazards.

 About 15,000 anti-Lynas demonstrators had gathered in Kuantan demanding the rare earths refinery, which is expected to be up and running by June, is shut down, despite having obtained a temporary operating licence (TOL) from the government.

NONEHowever, the rally, which attracted some 500 supporters in Penang, was harassed by a group of some 50 locals allegedly from Umno Youth and Malay rights pressure group Perkasa.

The hostile group continue to jeer the anti-Lynas crowd and Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng while he was speaking on stage.

Chew, along with another Kwong Wah Jit Poh reporter Lee Hong Chun, were later beaten up with motorcycle helmets.

"(Chew) was acting as a protector in defence of (Lim) Guan Eng and also provoked the people of Penang who were present at Padang Kota Lama?" stated Novandri.

Novandri, who was present at the scene of the incident, added that he, too, had video recordings of the incident which were contradictory to videos "shot to gain sympathies" which have gone viral online.

In a 1.32-minute excerpt of one of the video in the blog post, a group of men were seen closing in on Chew, who was trying fight them off.

However, Novandri claimed that this was after Chew had tried to kick them.

He also included several screen shots of the video where a white plastic chair was seen been thrown at the demonstrators.

Shahrizat's family unlikely to be charged, says ex-top cop

A former senior police officer believes that the attorney-general chambers will not charge those linked to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) for criminal breach of trust (CBT), despite strong evidence to support the charge.

Former Kuala Lumpur criminal investigation department chief Mat Zain Ibrahim, when contacted, said that based on documents related to NFC's condominium purchases and documents pointing to NFC funds being used to fund trips, he believes that there were elements of CBT.

However, based on his experience in investigating high profile individuals in the past, Mat Zain believes that the CBT charge would not be slapped on NFC's bosses because they are the family of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

"If the attorney-general were to charge Shahrizat's family based on police recommendations, then he may also have to charge (former MAS chairperson) Tajudin Ramli, according to police recommendations.

"Then, the attorney-general may have to follow up by charging (former Malacca chief minister) Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik and (former International Trade and Industry Minister) Rafidah Aziz.

Only one ingredient needed

In 1994, Mat Zain was the investigation officer that was tasked with probing Tajudin. He was also involved in the investigations on Abdul Rahim and Rafidah.

Mat Zain explained that in his three examples, the police or Anti-Corruption Agency, as it was then known, had made recommendations that they be charged for various offences.

He said this when asked to comment on Bukit Aman commercial crime investigation department director Syed Ismail Syed Azizan's recommendation that NFC chairperson Mohd Salleh Ismail be charged with CBT.

Mat Zain, who also read law, said three main elements should be cited  in a CBT case namely dishonest misappropriation, converts to his own the property, or dishonestly uses or disposes the property in violation of any direction of the law.

“The prosecution is only required to fulfill one of the above ingredients - not all three, but one,” he stressed.

Companies don't perform umrah, people do

Explaining further, Mat Zain said the purchase of a condo using the NFC funds, and registering the condo in their own names is as good as transferring cash into personal accounts.

“If this is not converting to ones’s own use, what is?” he asked.

“Another example are the allegations against Mohamad Salleh and his son Wan Shahinur that they performed the umrah in 2010 using company funds amounting to some RM31,000 or so.

"If this can be proven than no need to argue. It’s 100 CBT. Companies are not required to perform umrah, only individuals are," he said.

Just doing our job, police tell NFCorp

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — Police brushed off today accusations by the scandal-ridden National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) that the force was “unfairly” pre-empting any charge of criminal breach of trust (CBT), saying it was only doing its job.

Bukit Aman commercial crimes investigation department director Datuk Syed Ismail Syed Azizan told Bernama today it is standard practice for police to include recommendations when handing over investigations papers to the Attorney-General.

“If they’re not satisfied, it’s up to them. We’ll carry on with our duty. Why else did we investigate?” he was quoted by the state news agency as saying.

Syed Ismail added that it was still up to the Attorney-General’s Chambers to decide whether to charge directors of the company, whose board is made up by the family of senior minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, over the RM250 million National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project.

NFCorp denied yesterday any CBT in its loan agreement with the government and questioned Syed Ismail’s motives for disclosing the recommended charges on Saturday, claiming the police had failed to understand the case’s “dynamics of the facts and the law”.

“NFCorp therefore wishes to enquire the police if, in their investigations, they had paid enough consideration to the fact that there is total lacking of the elements of dishonesty in this case, which is a primary ingredient of CBT and cheating?” the firm said in the statement.

The company, which operates the publicly-funded cattle-farming project, is chaired by Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat’s husband, Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail. Their three children also hold executive posts in the company.
The NFC hit the headlines after it made it into the Auditor-General’s Report last year, and has continued to hog the limelight after it was linked to Shahrizat and her family.

NFCorp has been repeatedly accused by PKR of abusing its RM250 million federal loan by spending on non-related expenses such as the purchase of several luxury condominium units in Bangsar and Singapore, land in Putrajaya and personal umrah trips.

The government awarded NFCorp the project in 2006, when Shahrizat first held the women, family and community development portfolio in Cabinet.

She applied for three weeks’ leave from her ministerial duties last month after new allegations of bribery surfaced and resumed work on February 8. She was called in for questioning by the MACC on the same day.

Penang anti-Lynas rally disrupted, smooth elsewhere

The Penang leg of solidarity gatherings for the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally in Kuantan was the sole event which saw disruptions, with two journalists hurt during a fracas that erupted at the rally.
NONEHimpunan Hijau supporters began gathering at the Penang Esplanade were met by a hostile group, which includes local leaders from Umno Youth and Malay rights pressure group Perkasa, numbering about 50.

Several members of this group have often been spotted at anti-Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng rallies organised by Suara Anak-Anak Malaysia and Komtar Traders Association vice president Abdul Ghani Mohammed Jiman.

When the event kicked off at about 6.00pm, the hostile group began jeering Himpunan Hijau supporters and telling them that this was not a “Penang issue”.

penang lynas himpunan hijau 260212Some shouted “Hidup Umno”, "Hidup BN", “We want freedom” and “Balik Kuantan (Go back to Kuantan)”.

Several Himpunan Hijau supporters who offered to debate with the hostile group were shouted at, pushed and told to stop their protest.

By this time, the Himpunan Hijau crowd that swelled to about 500, retorted by chanting anti-Lynas slogans, and  “Hidup rakyat (Long live the people)”.

By about 6.15pm, no police were in sight despite the intense shouting match which ensued.  

Freedom to speak, not harass

Penang executive councillor and Tanjung MP Chow Kon Yeow who was first to address the crowd, saying that the freedom of speech of both pro and anti-Lynas supporters must be respected.

penang himpunan hijau 2 260212 05However, Chow said if the pro-Lynas supporters wanted to express their views, they could have organised another protest, instead of "harassing and disturbing" their opponents.

"The pro-Lynas supporters say this is not a Penang issue. But this is not a political issue, it is something that concerns all Malaysians," he said.

"And if this is not a Penang issue, then why are they shouting here?" he added.

Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng arrived at the scene at about 6.30pm and addressed the Himpunan Hijau supporters, affirming Pakatan Rakyat’s stance against the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng, near Kuantan, because of potential radioactive hazards.

penang lynas himpunan hijau 260212He also urged the crowd not to be cowed by the opposing group gathered just near by.

Upon hearing this, the hostile group showered Lim with a barrage of vulgarities and popular Hokkien swear words, prompting Himpunan Hijau crowd to boo them.
They also continued chanting "Guan Eng penipu (liar)" and asked him to return to Malacca, the CM’s place of birth.

The hostile group also shouted at the CM to "please settle Penang problems first, before talking about issues in another country or state".

However, Lim braved all the obscenities, and told the crowd that those who supported Lynas did it for the money as the company benefitted only Umno cronies.

Journalist assaulted

Following this, Lim attempted to leave the stage and join the crowd but the hostile group started to push participants and a fracas ensued. According to eyewitnesses, two journalists from local Chinese daily Kowng Wah Jit Poh - Adam Chew and Lee Hong Chun - were struck with motorcycle helmets.

penang himpunan hijau 2 260212 02Lee, when met later, said his head was injured, and that he was hit by the pro-Lynas members while snapping shots of the group trying to stop Lim's car from leaving the field.

The police finally moved in at about 7.15pm, blaring sirens and demanding that the crowd disperse.

Unlike Penang, other solidarity rallies in major towns and cities elsewhere proceeded smoothly.

In BUKIT MERAH, Perak some 1,000 people gathered at the former Asian Rare Earth (ARE) refinery at 11am for a 90-minute rally to show support for the Kuantan counterparts.

 Rally organiser Hew Yoon Tat, when contacted, said he gave a speech during the event where he reminded the public that the cleanup works for the now defunct ARE was still ongoing and thus still pose a danger.

“The government should put a blanket ban on rare earth processing factory,” he said.

Bad experience

He said past experience with the ARE have caused doubts with the assurances being given over the soon-to-be operation Lynas plant.

Back in 2003, Bukit Merah residents were told that two years were needed to decommission the ARE.

NONE“He said the reason being is the factory needed to be torn down part by part so that the radioactive waste would not go into the village.

“How come last time when it was in operation you claimed it was not harmful and now you said it is harmful?” he asked.

In KUALA LUMPUR, some 500 people gathered in front of Maju Junction shopping centre (above) along the busy Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in a three-hour gathering.

Gatherings from Penang to Tawau

It was a festive atmosphere during the gathering which saw participants singing songs and displaying their placards for oncoming vehicles, encouraging them to honk in support.

Other than musical performances, some participants also donated small locks of hair which was later used to spell out the phrase “Stop Lynas, save Malaysia” on the sidewalk.

In KUCHING, Sarawak, some 30 protesters converged at Taman Sahabat, Jalan Song for a solidarity rally, but was forced to cut it short to about 15-minutes because of heavy rain.

Organiser William Lee drew comparisons between the Lynas plant and the country’s the first aluminum smelter in Balingian, Sarawak which has caused plants within 3km ratio to die.

He warned that a similar scene might happened in Gebeng.

There are also reports of solidarity gatherings being held in Tawau, Kota Kinabalu, Sibu, Miri, Kluang and even as far as Melbourne.