Tuesday 31 January 2012

Rebranding Rela into BN’s vanguard — Bob Teoh

JAN 31 — Under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), Rela is to be rebranded as part of a police “omnipresence.” But its massive build-up has raised suspicions that it may instead become Barisan Nasional’s (BN) vanguard or even an additional vote bank.

“When the chips are down, Rela will be with this government to defend the country. Do not cause havoc in this country because the 2.8 million Rela members will not stand idly by and watch the country descend into chaos,” he thundered to the noisy approval from a crowd of 30,000 Rela members gathered in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.

Najib Razak seems at variance with his minister in charge of the GTP, Idris Jala. The GTP roadmap for combating crime requires Rela to help police keep “omnipresence” in 50 identified crime hot spots in the Kuala Lumur, Selangor, Johor and Penang.

 But Najib talks about using Rela as a vanguard or vigilante when Umno or BN’s chips are down, and he wants Rela to contain demonstrators out to create public disorder.

How do we expect a rag-tag army of volunteers to rein in demonstrators when even the specially-trained, red-helmeted FRU could not handle the peaceful Bersih 2.0 Rally last year without resorting to brutality? And Bersih 2.0 was not even out to create public disorder, at that.

There is hardly any time or resource to train a volunteer army. According to the GTP roadmap, fewer than 400 Rela/JPAM personnel were trained and deployed in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor in August and September 2009; about 280 personnel were trained and were deployed in Penang and Johor in October and November 2009. That’s a tiny drop in the ocean of 2.8 million Rela volunteers. If it takes just ten hours to train one Rela member, it would take 3,240 man-years to train all of them round the clock! What we likely to get is a largely untrained vigilante force sanctioned by BN.

The recruitment of volunteers for this auxiliary security force shot up almost five-fold, from 600,000 to the current 2.8 million, within two years. It is the biggest peace time civilian mobilisation and is 25 times bigger than the country’s standing army as well as that of the police force.

The bulk of the new Rela recruits are from frontline states. Selangor has half a million, Penang (220,328), Kelantan (222,910), Perak (271,396), Sabah (258,162) and Sarawak (199,991) as at July 31, 2011. This works out to be two-thirds of Rela’s total membership. Given that in the 2008  general election, some marginal seats were won or lost by less than 50 votes, the extraordinary Rela presence in these states is more than a concern.

This massive build-up seems extraordinarily strange especially when Malaysia already has a better police personnel-to-population ratio than even industrial countries. For every 100,000 citizens, Malaysia has 301 policemen. According to UN criminal justice statistics, this is higher than Denmark (196), Canada (200), South Korea (202), Japan (203), Sweden (206), US (229) and Australia (247).
On top this, the country also has its civil defence force of 67,000 as well as the Police Volunteer Corp, both of which are much more disciplined and experienced than Rela.

Rela has a bad reputation, having drawn flak from foreign observers for its alleged human rights abuses when nabbing aliens without valid entry permits for a bounty of RM80 per head.
In 2007, Human Rights Watch called for Rela to be disbanded.

“The government has set up what’s little more than a vigilante force to target foreigners. Given Rela’s repeated abuses, it should be disbanded right away “said Brad Adams, its director for Asia.

In that same year, the Malaysian Bar Council passed a resolution at its annual general meeting, calling for the repeal of the legislation that established Rela and extended the powers of the corps’ officers to, amongst other things, enforce immigration law.

Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia (Rela) or the Peoples’ Volunteer Alliance was established on January 11, 1972 under the (Essential Powers) Emergency Act 1964 – Essential Rules (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat) (Amendment) 2005.

This law presumably will be defunct within six months after the repeal of the emergency declarations by Parliament last September and is to be replaced by what Najib calls a new Rela Act, presumably in March. But he gave no details.

Another worrisome sign is that the Home Ministry has recently installed a RM6.65 million high-tech virtual shooting range for Rela youth cadets or teenagers to handle simulation firearms. The centre at the Rakan Muda Complex in Kuala Lumpur can cater to up to 14,400 trainees a year. The virtual firing range will run on South Korea’s Intelligent Marksmanship Training Simulation System (IMTS) for its police force.

Adding to this is the claim by Perkasa, the extreme Malay right wing group, that a Rela subgroup called Briged Setia Negara had been established by Selangor Perkasa chief, Abdullah Mansor, in December last year. This was later denied by Rela.

Rela is also a strain on the Home Ministry budget as it would cost millions to maintain such a big and superfluous outfit. Najib has also proposed to increase Rela allowance by RM2 per hour. This will effectively double the full time volunteer allowance for non-officers to between RM800 and RM900 a month, which is more than what a ketua kampung or longhouse tuai rumah gets.

Bar Council decries 'another blow' to native land rights

The Bar Council has described the desecration of Orang Asli burial sites near Johor Bharu as another blow to native customary rights to land.

NONE"The Malaysian Bar is concerned by the recent reports of desecration of two Orang Laut of Seletar burial sites in Kampung Bakar Batu and Kampung Sungai Tenom  ...,” said vice-president Christopher Leong in a statement today.

“This is yet another blow to the ancestral land rights of, and respect for, the Orang Asli.”

On Jan 18, villagers had claimed that two excavators had encroached into a shared burial site to carry out earthworks for part of the Iskandar Malaysia project, damaging at least 10 graves in the process.

"Through the years, the Orang Laut have consistently maintained that the areas they occupy and forage, both on land and sea, are customary ancestral areas.  The authorities have paid scant regard to their claims,” Leong noted.

"As such, these Orang Laut have lost much of their land and their livelihood has been seriously diminished... Many of (them) live in abject poverty amidst thriving development on their lands, from which they do not benefit.”

Leong called on the federal and state governments to immediately impose a moratorium on proposed development of land and other areas claimed by indigenous peoples, until the Human Rights Commission completes its National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples and produces its report in September.

"The incidents involving Kampung Bakar Batu and Kampung Sungai Temon are by no means isolated affairs. There appears to be a systemic pattern of rampant encroachment into Orang Asli-occupied areas throughout Malaysia," he added.

Orang Asli arrests condemned

Human rights group Suaram has condemned a separate incident in Gua Musang, Kelantan, where 13 Orang Asli from the Temiar tribe and a human rights lawyer were arrested after attempting to prevent loggers from entering their villages.

usm election conflict 060109 yap heng lung"Time and time again the police have become tools of big companies in oppressing people who stand in the way of the companies' profitable projects, and arresting people who are merely defending their homes," said Suaram coordinator Yap Heng Lung (left).

The Orang Asli, Yap said, cannot be forcibly removed from their customary lands without their consent, as stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"We urge the Kelantan government to negotiate with the Temiar community and take immediate action to cease the logging activities in the area... The police must also stop being tools of multinational companies ...."

MACC - the bigger the budget, the worse the graft

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s government has been mocked for achieving the country’s lowest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking despite a RM202.2 million budget to fight corruption.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said parliament had approved the 2012 budget for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission but the country’s was now ranked No. 60, with its lowest CPI score of 4.3.

pakatan pokok sena ceramah 140112 lim guan engLim (left) said in 1996, Parliament approved a budget of only RM29.4 million for the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).
And that was the year when Malaysia was ranked No. 26, with the highest CPI score of 5.32 in the past 15 years, he added.

He urged Malaysians to compare the budgets given to ACA in 1996 and to MACC in 2011, and the Transparency International CPI ranking for the two years.

“Why MACC, despite being given a budget of almost seven times (the amount) that of 1996, had brought Malaysia’s TI CPI in 2011 to the lowest ranking of 60 and score of 4.3 when in 1996 we could be ranked No. 26 with a score of 5.32?

“It would appear that the bigger the budget and more staffing and resources given to MACC, the more corrupt Malaysia has become.

“Where have the increased RM172.8 million in the anti-corruption budgets between 1996 and 2011 gone to?” he asked.

azlanMeanwhile, Lim said the MACC’s huge operation budget is “overshadowed by abuses within its ranks”.

He added that apart from allegations of corruption, there were two tragic deaths at MACC premises - Teoh Beng Hock in July 2009 and senior Customs officer Ahmad Sarbaini Mohamed on April 6, 2011.

He stressed that the refusal by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the “cows and condos scandal” involving the family of a senior cabinet minister contributed to the loss of confidence in the MACC.

“Unless the prime minister gives MACC independent powers to prosecute freely and is answerable only to parliament, set up RCI for scandals, and compel public declaration of assets, Malaysia’s CPI will only deteriorate,” he said.

BN ‘buying’ the people

 By Jeswan Kaur

Abusing the 1Malaysia tagline to suit its agenda, BN has decided to engage in money politics way ahead of the looming 13th general election.

The much hyped-up Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) might just work wonders for the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

The recipients of this RM500 handout have been sold to BN’s so-called generosity. If reports from the mainstream media are anything to go by, those who have benefited from the handout are singing praises of BN and its leadership under Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

This one-off handout to those earning RM3,000 and below has been cleverly devised to win the rakyat’s hearts and is at best a brainwashing process better known as “Beli Rakyat 1Malaysia” (buying over the people).

Where BR1M is concerned, BN is confident that the RM2.6 billion allocated will do the trick in appeasing the 5.2 million eligible heads of households.

BN politicans who are desperately trying to remain in the good books of Najib are working overtime to instigate the rakyat to continue glorifying the federal government. They keep drumming into the people the myth that only BN can deliver and there is no reason why the rakyat should not vote for it come the 13th general election.

The truth reveals otherwise. The BR1M or 1Malaysia People’s Aid is without a doubt a gimmick deployed by BN to assure it remains a favourite among Malaysians. Abusing the 1Malaysia tagline to suit its agenda, BN has decided to engage in money politics way ahead of the looming 13th general election.

While the BN leaders can continue denying it as hard as they want, the fact remains that 1Malaysia and all things related to it are at best a ploy to hoodwink the people into believing BN cares and deserves to continue lording over this country.

For one, the timing of the BR1M is questionable – with the election around the corner, there is every reason to suspect the shenanigans being played by the BN. And the BR1M forms were given out at no cost and snapped up in no time.

With the hike in prices of goods and cost of living on the rise, the rakyat appreciates any support from the government to reduce their financial burden.

BN, however, is not interested in offloading the monetary woes of those in need of aid; instead, the BR1M is the government’s way of holding the people to ransom, of making them feel indebted to it, which is not what a sincere and compassionate government should resort to.

Yes, any money is better than none but is the stingy RM500 sufficient to work wonders in the lives of the needy rakyat?

Let us not forget that the lay person has to put up with a stifling bureaucracy and never-ending corruption from the public sector. The country’s drop in ranking in the recent international corruption index is proof that corruption is very much alive and kicking in Malaysia.

1Malaysia a propaganda, not philosophy

Prior to wooing the rakyat through BR1M, Najib dangled carrots on several occasions; there is the Klinik 1Malaysia, Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (PR1M) and Kedai Ikan 1Malaysia, and goods and services offered at subsidised cost.

The latest attraction is the Sara 1Malaysia, an investment scheme managed by Permodalan Nasional Bhd and sister company Amanah Saham Nasional.

It helps those earning RM3,000 and below to invest and allow their money to grow in five years. The objective is to increase disposable income and encourage savings among the lower income group.
The rakyat is thankful for the various aid made available to them by the BN government. The issue here concerns the government’s agenda, which is to “buy” the people’s unconditional loyalty.

The many 1Malaysia schemes being championed by BN are also its way of raising the stakes after opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat introduced initiatives to assist the rakyat.

In Penang, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng took steps to eradicate hardcore poverty and in Selangor, both Pakatan-administered states, efforts like the Mesra Usia Emas, Tawas and Jom Shopping were much welcomed.

Not about to end up as a sore loser, BN wasted no time in trying to emerge as the real champion of the people, struggling so hard to live up to its slogan of “People First, Performance Now”.

The worry here is that unlike Pakatan which funded its schemes through budget surpluses, BN’s massive budget deficits keep increasing and so are the national debts.

Resorting to the Employees Provident Fund and banks as its cash crops is in no way going to help BN win the rakyat’s trust.

Anymore handouts, BN?

It is said that the BR1M payments are being made in time for the general election. This means that BN is hoping the rakyat will remain loyal to it after the RM500 “bribe” it gave them and not bat an eyelid when casting their vote.

Is BN planning anymore handouts to excite the people? Or is it satisified and secure in the knowledge that the rakyat is committed to BN, having enjoyed a variety of cash handouts doled out by it?
Whatever the case, clearly, the various 1Malaysia schemes are all politically motivated and an act of despair.

If the government is sincere in helping the rakyat, it should not blow its own trumpet by using the mainstream media to seek glory.

Maybe BN subscribes to what Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor, had said: “The hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no fatherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, their sole object is gain.”

Pig head found at mosque in Rawang

A pig head was found at the entrance of Nurul Iman Mosque at Batu 18 Rawang, Selangor, early this morning.

jerit ride for change youths held at rawang police station protest 161208 gan pei niePKR Rawang assemblyperson Gan Pei Nei (right) said it was found at 5am by a mosque committee member when the main gate was being opened.

The police were contacted and arrived at 7.30am and left about two hours later with the pig head for further investigation.

Gan added that they were from the Rawang police station and the case will be investigated by the criminal investigation department.

Action was political-motivated

She condemned the action as one that was provocative and offensive to religious sensitivities, adding that it was probably politically motivated as the general election is right round the corner.

NONEShe said that such an incident would not happen all of a sudden as the mosque had been there for 48 years.

"The general election is getting closer and someone is trying to cause problems," she said.

Gan urged the police to speed up their investigation and bring the criminal to justice.

Ronnie Liu visits mosque

Selangor state exco member Ronnie Liu, who also paid a visit to the mosque, said that Gan will represent the state government at the mosque committee meeting tonight.

He said she will report on the meeting as well as pass on any requests the committee had for the state.

Liu slammed the incident as provocative but was glad that the committee did not panic but remained calm.

He also refused to speculate on the incident saying that it was best to let the police do their work.

Rafizi squashes Khairy Jamaluddin in London debate

“Khairy was good, but Rafizi was better” was the considered opinion of various members of the audience when asked to comment on the dynamic battle of wits between Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and PKR’s strategic director Rafizi Ramli.

What a shame that Malaysians at home missed a lively, stimulating and exciting debate because this is what intellectual discourse is all about. No slanging matches. No name-calling atypical of the usual parliamentary exchanges across the floor of the Dewan Rakyat.

azlanThe lively banter between Khairy and Rafizi, was an inspiration for Malaysia’s youth and debates like this should be replicated in Malaysia.

Both are products of British universities and the civility that they showed, with the enthusiastic crowd egging them on, should prove to the old guard in Umno that debates in the public realm are healthy and not to be feared. Although not in the Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich league, for Malaysia it was a brilliant first attempt.

The two contenders presented their arguments at the first event of 2012 organised by the United Kingdom and Eire Council for Malaysian Students. Their topic was ‘Public Policy: Vision 2020 - Is Malaysia moving towards the right direction?’

It was not the debate Rafizi wanted. His proposal was to discuss the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) controversy. The first unofficial request to Khairy, went via the media, on Nov 14, followed by the formal invitation a week later. These fell through, but the London event was its alternative.

Students had sacrificed their Sunday to hear the other speakers, Rafidah Aziz, Marina Mahathir, Pang Khee Teik, Yunis Raiss, Karim Raslan, Zainah Anwar, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Dr Carool Kersten.

Without doubt the star-attraction was the ‘Khairy and Rafizi’ segment. Attendance was low in the morning but by the time their session was due, the conference hall was full and spilled over into an adjoining room.

The rivals were like chalk and cheese. The gregarious and gung-ho Khairy looked smart and businesslike in his bespoke suit. Tall and dark, he presented a start contrast to the affable and accommodating Rafizi, whose electric blue jumper, the colours of Keadilan, sent out subtle subliminal messages.

NONEIf Khairy seemed like the ‘Action Man’ figure (as in the boy’s action figure toy), Rafizi (right) presented an image of a methodical and thorough person, a testament to his accountancy background.

If Khairy looked like he was a notch above the crowd, Rafizi in his smart casual attire, appeared more assured and approachable, displaying neither aloofness, nor pretence.

Many familiar with Khairy’s previous talks, opined that he would probably be the better orator in both Malay and English, and doubted if Rafizi could match the Umno Youth leader’s debating skills.

They were proven wrong.

Speaking from the heart

Throughout the debate, Khairy failed to gain any advantage over Rafizi. Khairy appeared to be trying too hard. He probably expected a thrashing on the Shahrizat Abdul Jalil debacle and was disorientated when Rafizi ignored issues like the NFC.

Rafizi secured an early impact by acknowledging the role played by former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who he credited with giving the nation a sense of direction. Rafizi  summarised the state of the economy and said that if Vision 2020 were to be achieved, the target set for the annual rate of economic growth should have been maintained since 1990, but that this was unsustainable. Moreover, the economic target had been missed.

new economic policy nepRafizi’s talk was sprinkled with facts which were easily grasped because they related to the man in the street.He spoke about the disparity of wealth, and that 40 percent of the nation, with a monthly income of RM1,500 or less, were mostly bumiputeras.

He contrasted this with the obscenely wealthy people in the top echelons of society who made up a small fraction of the community. He connected facts with the people’s anger.

Khairy failed to downplay Rafizi’s bleak assessment of the economy and bombarded the crowd at dizzying speed, with figures and acronyms like the ETP, FDI, the Human Development Index and the Asian financial crisis.

Was this deliberate? Was his intention to confuse or had he made a mistake? There was too much to absorb in one go. It was hard to verify and difficult to relate to the average struggling Malaysian.

Acknowledging that he was speaking from the heart, Rafizi’s arguments came in easily digestible portions whereas Khairy’s use of statistics appeared to be blinding us with science and made him appear wooden, as if his speech was scripted.

The Umno Youth leader repeatedly challenged the Rafizi on unity in Pakatan Rakyat and quipped: “How solid is the union of PR?”

Using Kedah, Khairy attacked the menteri besar’s stance on the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), his treatment of students and the inconsistencies within Pakatan.

NONENevertheless, there were many points of agreement. Khairy praised some bits of the Buku Jingga, and agreed with the opposition on the necessity for the declaration of assets.

Khairy endorsed Rafizi’s assertion that Malaysia always manages to bounce back in times of hardship only because of the resilience of its people. Rafizi’s contention was: “….we have to trust you, the society….” and that political parties must “engage with the people”.

Khairy stressed that his was the voice of reform within Umno. He disagreed with the “parallel lives” perpetuated by our schools, and the politics of Perkasa and Ibrahim Ali.

Rafizi presented Pakatan’s solid written policies and constitution. He was disparaging of BN, which could only manage a loosely jumbled list of achievements built on the country’s 50 years of development, instead of a constitution.

NONEKhairy defended his government and featured Najib’s reforms, the ISA repeal, the proposed amendment to UUCA, Malaysia’s liberal society and the fact that his party was committed to free and fair elections.

The men played to their perceived political strengths but Rafizi had the edge over Khairy. At least twice during their exchanges, Rafizi praised Khairy’s popularity, especially among the students, many of who are Kelab Umno members. At one time he even dubbed Khairy a “national asset”. However, he added that in spite of this, Khairy’s popularity could not translate into influencing the cabinet or the prime minister.

Rafizi hoped that Khairy would become Home Minister and later teased him about the possibility of becoming an Education Minister to help push through the various reforms which he had mentioned. At one point, he even tried to entice the Umno Youth leader to consider joining the opposition, because of their similarities and shared views.

One political observer said: “Rafizi won on style and substance. Khairy was squashed”.

A student said, “Rafizi 1, Khairy 0.”

If this was a contest between the lightweights, we should look forward to a match of the decade between the heavyweights, Anwar Ibrahim vs Najib.

We will see if Khairy can convince Najib, to take on Anwar in ‘the rumble in the jungle’.

But for now, it’s game, set and match to Pakatan.

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.

Najib says Perkasa’s ‘white packet’ fiasco nothing to do with his government

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak has distanced his administration from Perkasa’s Chinese New Year “white packet” faux pas, pointing out that the leader of the Malay rights NGO, Datuk Ibrahim Ali, is an independent lawmaker.

According to Perkasa, the Pasir Mas MP had handed out white packets, which Chinese usually use at funerals, at the group’s Chinese New Year open house on Sunday after running out of traditional ang pow (red packets).

But the move caused an uproar among Malaysians online and also drew fire from the MCA and Gerakan, coalition partners in Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).

“Ibrahim Ali (picture) is an independent MP. As such the Chinese New Year function where white packets were distributed should not be seen as something that was condoned by the government,” the prime minister was quoted in the Chinese media today as saying in a posting last night on his new Chinese-language “Ah Jib Gor” Facebook page.

He added that the controversy over the white packets handed out at Perkasa’s Chinese New Year open house on Sunday could be avoided with a “deeper understanding and increased sensitivity to cultural taboos of Chinese culture.”

But his Facebook message has drawn mixed responses in the 160 comments posted there at the time of writing, with some calling for action to be taken against Ibrahim.

Some comments said that the government was not taking action against Ibrahim because the independent lawmaker was pro-BN.

The opposition and critics of Najib’s efforts at being more inclusive under his 1 Malaysia banner have repeatedly accused Umno of “outsourcing” hardline pro-Malay rhetoric to groups like Perkasa.

“Ah Jib Gor”, meaning “Elder Brother Najib,” went online on January 16 and has since gained over 21,000 followers.

Najib said the incident was a learning experience for race relations in Malaysia.

Suspend and review highway deal, Pua tells Pemandu minister

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The DAP’s Tony Pua pushed today for minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to call for the government to suspend the RM7 billion west coast highway deal and review its terms.

The opposition lawmaker said the onus was on now on Koh, as chairman of the government’s Performance and Delivery Unit (Pemandu), to ensure the Najib administration’s promised transformation processes are fulfilled.

Pua wants the Prime Minister’s Office to disclose all the details in the west coast highway deal. — File pic
“Pemandu must demand that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) disclose all details including the concession terms in the award to Europlus especially since the award was made via direct negotiation. 

“It has been more than five days since the announcement made by Europlus on Bursa Malaysia and yet the government has been steadfast in its refusal to shed light on the project,” Pua said in a statement today.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP has been leading in demanding Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak reveal the details of its direct negotiations with Kumpulan Europlus Bhd (KEuro), a company which, he said, has no experience in building highways, to privatise the national project.

Yesterday, Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) joined the call for Putrajaya to publicly disclose the details of the West Coast Expressway deal, which the watchdog has criticised as opaque.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia last Thursday, KEuro said its subsidiary, West Coast Expressway Sdn Bhd, had received an approval letter dated the same day from the federal government to build and operate the Banting-Taiping highway for the next 60 years, estimated to cost RM7.07 billion.

The public-listed company also disclosed receiving a RM2.24 billion government soft loan starting from next year and an interest subsidy of only three per cent on commercial loans for a period of 22 years to build the highway apart from the government bearing the estimated RM980 million in land acquisition cost for the project.

“Pemandu must ensure that the PMO is transparent and accountable by explaining the projected profits of the concessionaire [and] the future toll burden to be borne by commuters,” Pua said.

He urged the government’s internal check-and-balance agency to find out why the government had agreed to a lopsided deal that benefited KEuro and burdened taxpayers.

Pua highlighted the government decision to extend a RM2.24 billion soft loan and up to three per cent in interest subsidy in commercial loans to a company with a troubled financial history to take on the highway project.

He reminded Koh that the minister has a duty to “stop the rot” as seen in the country’s declining ranking in Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) over the years to 60th place last year from 56 in 2010 and 47 in 2009.

“The rakyat has been ‘taxed’ mercilessly with lopsided concession agreements signed with independent power producers, highway operators such as the North South Expressway and the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong as well as utility companies such as water suppliers,” Pua said.

Corruption and grand corruption


JAN 31 — If you have ever expressed a political opinion in public, taken part in a student demo, driven with an expired road tax disc, made out in public, agreed to overpay a cabbie, given duit kopi or expressed an opinion in favour of all citizens being equal before the law, this column is for you.

When the number of things a society sees as illegal makes it hard for even the most moral of citizens to be completely law abiding, then growth in corruption is inevitable. When added to this are the labyrinth of race-based laws and rules and the opacity in tender awards and other dealings with the bureaucracy, the opportunities for corrupt behaviour are endless.

When people simply do not believe in the merits of a particular law or in the transparency of their execution, and where even protesting against a law can be a criminal offence, there are really only two choices if caught breaking the law. Go through a tedious, expensive and sometimes humiliating legal process, or pay a bribe.

No wonder that for a long time petty corruption has been seen to be a way of life in Malaysia. No surprise either then that Malaysia’s score in Transparency International’s corruption perception index has been steadily on the decline. On a 10-point scale, where 10 represents no corruption, Malaysia has been sliding from 5.1 in 2008 to 4.5 in 2009, 4.4 in 2010 and 4.3 in 2011.

Therefore it may come as a surprise that a Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) survey last month showed that 90 per cent of Malaysians would seize the opportunity to fight graft. What has changed that despite a higher perceived rise in corruption, there is now widespread public anger and resentment against corrupt practices?

Of course the parlous state of the economy and the pressure on real incomes may have something to do with it, but the larger reason seems to be the contrast between the perceived official treatment of grand corruption and that of petty corruption.

To the ordinary citizen there is tremendous anger when on the one hand shoplifters caught with less than RM100 of goods can be sentenced to jail time and those accused of pilfering millions through corrupt practices seemingly walk free. This is precisely why Bersih chief Ambiga’s recent comment on giving amnesty to the small fry while going after the big fish in terms of corruption found such resonance.

Strictly in terms of the principle, the law punishes corruption not on the amount stolen but on the commission of the act. But the amount lost to corruption is a powerful symbol of the gulf that separates the haves from the have-nots. An ordinary citizen just cannot comprehend how it is possible for well-connected individuals to walk away with millions of taxpayer monies when every little driving, financial, moral or sexual indiscretion on their part carries the very real risk of heavy fines and jail time.

The reality of a justice system where one is presumed innocent until proven guilty demands that due process of investigation be followed before people are charged with a crime. However, when there is a perception of double standards from investigating agencies and selective prosecution depending on the accused’s stature and political affiliation, there is bound to be public anger.

In the court of public opinion, when the money and trust of the nation as a whole is seen to be abused, cases of grand corruption need to be treated very differently from those of petty corruption. When the alleged crime affects the entire country, justice needs to be exemplary in the sense of being seen to be delivered transparently and quickly without fear or favour, with media reporting that is consistent and responsible.

Like it or not, the scale of public outrage is directly linked to the amounts involved and the vigorousness of the official response. When the sums are huge and the perceived response is weak, spontaneous agitations by ordinary people like the famed one by Anna Hazare of India may become the new reality.

‘Racist price list’ for golf membership sparks backlash

January 31, 2012
The membership price list which triggered an outcry on Facebook.
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — A photograph of a membership price list for one of the country’s most prestigious golf clubs that apparently charged by race triggered an outcry on Facebook, with many condemning the different rates for the different races.
This comes after a race controversy erupted over the ownership of bread companies Gardenia and Massimo, reflecting the dire state of affairs in Malaysia where race remains a smouldering issue that permeates many facets of life.

A picture purportedly of Subang National Golf Club (Kelab Golf Negara Subang — KGNS) membership prices surfaced on Facebook yesterday, showing rates of RM35,000-RM65,000 for Malays, RM45,000-RM80,000 for Chinese, RM60,000-RM80,000 for Indians and RM40,000-RM50,000 for “Others”.

Reactions to the photo, which was posted on Facebook community page “Malaysia”, ranged from disgust to defensive.

“Apa nie??? Racist nye! (What is this? How racist!),” said Wan Hairina Ayin.

“In Singapore, I am a Malaysian. In US, I am a Malaysian. In Australia, I am in Malaysian. But in Malaysia, I am belong to the group OTHERS...” said one Frisca Freddy.

“Malaysia and Spore is the only country that allow companies to advertise ....preferably chinese, or malay or indian...so am not surprised of this la...,” said Julian Maria Intachat.

Some respondents, who appeared possibly to be foreigners, chose to respond with humour.
“So many forms in Malaysia ask ‘Race?’ I simply write ‘human’ noone has ever questioned this
When contacted, KGNS president Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas said the notice in the picture was put out by a finance company and had nothing to do with the club.

He said that while KGNS had long practised racial quotas to ensure a good mix of races in its membership, it had never mandated the prices at which memberships could be sold.

Megat Najmuddin said that due to the race quotas, a member can only sell his or her membership to a person of the same race but at any price they wished and the rates in the notice could be reflective of supply and demand among the different racial groups.

He stressed however that the prices that appeared in the notice were just “indicative” and that the club’s philosophy of imposing race quotas was a noble one and not sinister.

“We are the most multi-racial club in Malaysia,” he told The Malaysian Insider. “If you go to other clubs you see it dominated by one race or the other.”
Megat Najmuddin, who also sits on the Umno disciplinary committee, said it was sad that in Malaysia it was getting rare to find the different races mixing together.
“In KGNS, you have all the races mixing together,” he said.
Megat Najmuddin said KGNS is ‘the most multi-racial club in Malaysia.’
The KGNS president said there have been no cases of members being unable to find a buyer for membership from his or her own race. “This race quota policy has been a cornerstone of the club and no member has ever asked for it to be removed,” he said.
KGNS, the only club in Malaysia incorporated by an Act of Parliament, limits Malays to 45 per cent of its membership, Chinese to 35 per cent and Indians and others to 20 per cent.
When contacted, “Zainah”, one of the names listed on the notice, immediately started denying having anything to do with the notice.
Calls to the rest of the numbers listed on the notice were not picked up or returned.
Megat Najmuddin said he did not know the finance company behind the notice but criticised the photo as “mischievous” for making it look like it was the club that had issued it.

Race often remains a source of tension when it comes to official matters, although Malaysians of various ethnicities get along well in their daily interactions with much visible racial harmony.

Thanks to affirmative action policies, Malays and other Bumiputeras are given privileges such as easier access to government contracts, funding, licences, scholarships, educational institutions and housing in an effort to narrow economic disparities between the racial groups.

Proponents of this approach, such as former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, maintain that without such aggressive affirmative action the country would descend into chaos.

Critics of the country’s race-based policies however say that it has been hijacked and abused by an elite minority and was also damaging the country’s competitiveness, with most recently University of Malaya Vice-Chancellor Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon being quoted in the Malay Mail as saying that race quotas should end for the sake of education standards.

The Najib administration has apparently begun to address some of the weakness in the race-based approach, admitting that some of the past practices were too “blunt” to be effective.

The prime minister also introduced his hallmark 1 Malaysia campaign to unite the country although many maintain that the country is united by default and political parties are the source of problems.

“The more valid question is what happened to 1 Malaysia. Looks like 4 Malaysia to me,” said Chong Kok Shyong in response to the photo which was also posted on the Facebook page “1,000,000 Chinese dont want MCA to represent the Chinese”.

Monday 30 January 2012

Reveal details of highway deal, TI-M tells Putrajaya

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) is pressing Putrajaya to publicly disclose the details of the West Coast Expressway (WCE) deal, which the watchdog has criticised as opaque.

TI-M said the government should reveal the terms and conditions of the concession agreement and how it was awarded, given the “unprecedented” concession period and the high degree of public funding for the RM7.07 billion project.

“This will help show that the government is committed to tackling graft in Malaysia through better disclosure and governance and consistency in implementation of integrity compliance measures in all public projects,” it said in a statement today.

TI-M also said the “megaproject” would be an ideal candidate for the integrity pact (IP), which it described as a tool for curbing corruption risks in public contracting projects.

It pointed out that the government had recognised the potential benefits of the IP in a Treasury circular dated December 16, 2010 — which outlined guidelines for implementing such pacts in government procurements — and added that MRT Corp had already agreed to incorporate the IP in its procurement exercises.

Kumpulan Europlus Bhd (KEuro) announced on Thursday that it has been awarded a 60-year concession for the RM7.07 billion WCE, which will connect Banting in south Selangor to Taiping in north Perak. The new highway will serve as an alternative to the North-South Expressway.

The public-listed company will enjoy a RM2.24 billion federal soft loan at four per cent interest and an interest subsidy of up to three per cent from commercial loans for a period of 22 years.

The land acquisition cost amounting to RM980 million will also be borne by the government.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has censured the government for awarding the WCE to KEuro, which primarily produces granular and powder-activated carbon.

Party publicity chief Tony Pua has also questioned the doubling of construction costs and the concession period, noting that the highway originally cost RM3.02 billion when it was first proposed in May 2007, with a concession of only 33 years.

“It seems that the more the government negotiates, the higher the contract value and the more favourable the contract terms will be for the contracting business entities,” Pua said today.

Chinese schools: DPM, deputy education minister under fire

Selangor exco Teresa Kok takes the duo to task over the rejection to build additional branches of Chinese schools.

PUCHONG: Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his deputy Wee Ka Siong have been taken to task over the ministry’s rejection to build additional branches of Chinese schools despite land being offered by the Pakatan-ruled Selangor state government.

Speaking to reporters here, Selangor exco Teresa Kok said: “Muhyiddin and Wee were hammering the state government during the Hulu Selangor by-election and in Parliament that we do not provide land and yet now they turn down our effort. Why turn down the state government’s offer?”

“Who is the Education Ministry to decide on the land? Land is a state matter. The ministry only needs to approve,” she added.

On Sept 25 last year, Selangor approved 13 acres of land for the construction of new branches for SJK (C) Yak Chee II and Catholic High School II. The land also was meant for the Autistic Children School. All three plots of land are located in Taman Tasik Prima here.

Five days later, the Education Ministry supported the state government’s plan. However, a letter dated Nov 25 last year to the Selangor state secretary indicated that the ministry intented to maintain the abovementioned lands for the construction of SK and SMK Taman Prima Puchong.

Petaling Chinese Development Committee deputy chairman Lee Kim Chuan, who was also present at the press conference, said that the need for extra Chinese schools were pressing.

“In total, there are more than 12,000 kids in these two schools. Ideally, the average number of school children should be 1,500,” he said.

Catholic High School’s Chong Fatt Leong said the ministry’s decision wronged both Chinese and non-Chinese students.

There are 200 non-Chinese out of the 3,400 students in Catholic High School whereas 4% of the 3,000 SJK (C) Yak Chee students are non-Chinese.

‘Not walking the talk’

Meanwhile, Puchong MP Gobind Singh criticised MCA for claiming to champion Chinese schools but failed to do so.

“They are not walking the talk. The decision shows that Barisan Nasional is not connected with what is happening in Puchong,” he said.

In an unrelated development, Kok criticised MCA Seputeh member Dr Colin Tiew from Insan Welfare Society for Brain Injured Children for attending Perkasa’s Chinese New Year celebrations.

“Knowing the racism that they are spewing and the nature of Perkasa, why did he mobilise retarded children?” she asked.

Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali hosted a Chinese New Year bash at the Kelab Sultan Sulaiman in Kuala Lumpur.

He gave out ang pows in white packets and this had raised the ire of the Chinese community.
Commenting on this, Kok said:”His actions are absurd and uncalled for. White angpows are only given for death.”

Shamsubahrin: NFC chief pressured me to bribe police

Businessman Shamsubahrin Ismail, who has been charged with cheating National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) executive chairperson Mohamed Salleh Ismail, has claimed that the latter pressured him to bribe the police to cover up the company’s scandal.

NONEHe made this claim in a police report lodged at the Klang General Hospital last Friday, which was revealed by PKR at its headquarters in Petaling Jaya today.

The police report reads: “In my appointment, I received messages and pressure from Salleh asking me to cover up the NFC case with the police.

“Salleh, through phone calls and SMSes, pressured me to pay bribes to the police to cover up the case.”

In the report, Shamsubahrin claimed that he was appointed by NFC as a corporate advisor and consultant to “clean up” NFC’s internal problems.

He added that he had met with the police to facilitate their investigation but had told Salleh he would not give bribes.

NFC is accused of misappropriating a RM250 million government soft loan by allegedly spending it on luxurious assets instead of the cattle centre in Gemas, which it had been tasked to manage.

'MACC not acting on evidence'
Asked if PKR possessed the SMS evidence, its vice president Surendran said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is in possession of the phone containing the messages.

“Several phones were taken from Shamsubahrin and all the phones were later returned except for one. That one held by the MACC is the one containing all this crucial matter.

NONE“It is in the hands of the authority but we have records, we have a backup of it,” he said.

Surendran also questioned the MACC, saying that despite possessing the information, it had failed to act against the “real culprits”.

Shamsubahrin was on Dec 30, last year, charged with cheating Salleh of RM2million in consultation fees.

Surendran, together with PKR legal bureau chief Latheefa Koya, are lawyers for Shamsubahrin, said after he managed to raise enough money to post the RM300,000 bail on Jan 19, was immediately re-arrested and slapped with another two cheating charges.

The two charges were brought against him on the same day he lodged the police report. He was at that time warded in hospital for health complications.

He is now in Sungai Buloh prison and has refused to post bail for the second time for fear of being slapped with more charges, said Surendran.

“He is not ready to come out because he fears for his safety, ironically and strangely he feels safer in Sungai Buloh,” said Latheefa.

Investigation politically motivated

In the police report, Shamsubahrin said: “I believe that I have been made a scapegoat and lied to by Salleh to cover-up and save the reputation of Salleh and his wife (Women, Family and Community Development Minister) Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

azlan“The accusations and investigation on me are politically motivated where I have been victimised and is intended to cover-up the NFC investigation.”

Also at the press conference, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin caused a stir when she claimed Salleh and Shamsubahrin knew each other through Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

However, she later retracted her statement, saying: “They met through TPM, TPM is Technology Park Malaysia not timbalan perdana menteri (deputy prime minister).”

However, she said the information released today will be used for her and PKR strategies director Rafizi Ramli’s defence in a RM100 million defamation lawsuit filed by Shahrizat against her.

Shahrizat has consistently denied involvement in the controversy even though her family members form part of the company. She has since gone on a three-week leave to facilitate investigations.

When contacted, GRA Communications chief executive Ghazalie Abdullah, who is acting for NFC, said he will respond after he ascertains the content of the police report.

“We have just got wind of this, we do not know exactly what is in the police statement, I’m trying to establish it and indicate it to our client,” he said.

 Meanwhile, PKR's Subang MP R Sivarasa (right) blasted the government over a news report quoting a Public Accounts Committee insider as saying that no personal guarantees had been given for the soft loan.

"It is unusual to give huge amounts of money without some form of guarantee... What was the intention of NFC when it applied for the loan? Was there a genuine intention to implement the project or is it a sham?"

Sivarasa said using a loan other than for its intended purpose is criminal breach of trust, and ripped NFC executive director Wan Shahinur Izmir Salleh for suggesting that the matter has been blown up.

"I advise this young fellow to get a good lawyer and seek advice instead of making foolish and ridiculous statements when RM250 million in public money has been abused," he added. Later in the evening, NFC executive director Wan Shahinur Izran Salleh said via Twitter that the firm will issue a statement soon, and he hoped Malaysiakini readers would await their response. He alleged that PKR was again making defamatory and untruthful statements.

Declare salaries if innocent, DAP tells Shahrizat's kin

DAP has challenged the family members of minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to declare their true salaries to counter allegations that they are drawing excessive paychecks as National Feedlot Corporation’s (NFC) top executives.

NONEParty supremo Lim Kit Siang (right) today blasted the family for remaining elusive over various allegations that have been levelled against the company.

In particular, he noted that while they have denied allegations that the family members’ total salaries amount to RM215,000 a month, they have failed to come forth with the actual figures.

“It is significant that after being dragged over the coals for over  three months, Shahrizat’s family members who run the NFC had failed to clear themselves of the many allegations of abuse of power and misuse of public funds which have been made against them despite several attempts on their part to meet up with ‘friendly’ bloggers and NGOs.

For instance, although there have been denials that Shahrizat’s husband and three children draw RM215,000 a month as salaries from NFC - husband Mohammad Salleh Ismail drawing RM100,000 salary monthly as NFC chairperson, 31-year-old Izmir drawing RM45,000 monthly as executive director, another son Wan Shahinur Izran aged 27 drawing RM35,000 a month as CEO while 25-year-old daughter Wan Izzanah Fatimah drawing RM35,000 a month as the other director - Shahrizat’s family members have not come out with their own actual salary figures.

“What is the reason for this shocking failure of Shahrizat and her family to clear their name in the court of public opinion?” said Lim in a statement today.

NFC has been mired in scandal since revelations that a RM250 million government soft loan for a cattle project had been used to purchase luxury condominiums and other allegedly personal expenses.

The Public Accounts Committee has admitted that there are “weaknesses” in the project.

Fairness must prevail in housing schemes for poor

Housing schemes launched for the poor must be announced widely and equitably distributed to all races without any prejudice.

In the implementation of public policies, especially those in which noble ideals are enshrined, their execution by little Napoleons can be a cause for concern.

Ignoring the equitable distribution of benefits without ensuring that they go to all races, is just not acceptable.

However, the government must be congratulated for wanting to improve the wellbeing of the poor of all races.

This however was not the case in a low cost scheme announced in 2010 for estate workers.

According to Saturday's announcement, the poor people in the city can also own a home now under the People's Housing Programme.

This is part of a 1 Malaysia people housing scheme included in the Budget Speech of 2012, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced.

This loan scheme is to help those in the low- and middle-income group to own a home in the city.

While we welcome the announcement, let's not forget a similar scheme announced in Budget 2011.
In the October 2010 Budget, Najib also announced a RM50 million allocation for a low cost housing scheme for estate workers.

This scheme was managed by the Labour Manpower Department in the Human Resources Ministry and financed by Bank Simpanan Nasional.

While the objectives of the scheme are laudable, the programme was only executed one year later and the beneficiaries were all Malays, as revealed in the Senate last month.

Human Resources Minister S Subramaniam in a written reply to the Senate on December 22, 2011, noted it was a scheme aimed at improving the welfare of estate workers.

The scheme would grant a loan of RM60,000 at four percent (40 year repayment period), and aimed at reducing the dependence on foreign workers, he said in his reply to Senator S Ramakrishnan's question.

The question: What percentage of Indian estate workers benefitted from the RM50 million allocation for the low cost housing scheme?

The reply, "In the first phase of the scheme introduced in Johore, there were 142 Malay and four Indian applicants."

The applications, according to the written reply, were reviewed in a meeting held on 14th Nov, 2011, chaired by Subramaniam.

Based on the criteria, from the total of 146 applicants, 33 Malays were approved to receive the loans.
The Malay recipients were 22 from Taman Medan Jaya, Kota Tinggi, and 11 from the Taman Permai, Segamat. Four among the Indian applications did not qualify for the scheme.

The four per cent interest rate for a loan of RM60,000, over a period of 40 years will total to a repayment of RM120,000 to Bank Simpanan Nasional.

So far, a total of RM2 million has been utilised from the RM50 million allocation.

"Let's hope and pray that the balance of RM48 million will be equitably distributed to all races," said Senator Ramakrishnan.

Some of the flaws of the low cost housing scheme that seriously need to be addressed are:
  • Why was the scheme not distributed equitably to all races?
  • Why it was not implemented in other states?
  • What were the criteria for disqualification of the four Indians who applied?
  • Why didn't any Chinese apply?
  • When and how was it publicised for estate workers to apply?
  • Who are the people suppose to execute the scheme?
  • Are there more low cost schemes in which estate folks can apply?

No transformation in RM7b highway deal, Pua tells Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — Jumping on the public uproar over the RM7 billion west coast highway deal, a DAP MP continued to pound today the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s failure to live up to its economic reform pledges.

“This deal proves that no ‘transformation’ has taken place, and the financial interest of political cronies outweighs the needs of the ordinary Malaysians,” Tony Pua (picture) said in a statement.

“The BN federal government needs major improvements in negotiating its mega-project contracts,” he added.
The DAP publicity chief questioned Putrajaya’s decision to revive the old highway project but tacking on an extra 100km linking Banting in Selangor to Taiping in Perak, noting the sharp increase in cost by what he said amounted to a 134 per cent hike.
He said that the company awarded the deal, Kumpulan Europlus Bhd, had said in its 2007 filing to Bursa Malaysia that the highway only measured 216km.

Pua, the Petaling Jaya Utara MP, reminded Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Malaysians were still seeing “unbelievably lucrative concessions being awarded to the politically-connected and cronies of BN politicians”.

He pointed to the government’s decision last year to add on another RM3 billion to a the existing order for six navy patrol ships as among the projects handed out to what he said were its political connections.

Pua said: “The prime minister must explain the above glaring discrepancies to demonstrate that he is truly transparent and accountable to the public.”

No personal guarantee in loan to NFCorp, says PAC insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — There was no personal guarantee involved in the RM250 million government loan to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp), giving rise to the question who is accountable to repay if the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project fails, a member of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has confirmed.

This comes amid NFCorp’s recent remarks made on January 27, where its management said that the government loan must be repaid else “we will be declared bankrupt or locked up in jail”.
“There was no personal guarantee involved, that’s what we were told. It was a soft loan given to the company.

“As far as we are aware, nobody is held accountable,” a PAC source told The Malaysian Insider.
“There were no proper guidelines drawn in the beginning as to how the money was to be used... that is why it is now difficult to establish any instances of monetary abuse,” the source added.

NFCorp executive director Wan Shahinur Izmir Salleh had said on Friday that “stories saying we are getting free money are unreasonable.”

“RM250 million is a big amount. If we play around without direction, my children’s future will be destroyed. For centuries, we will be saddled with debt,” he said, looking uncomfortable in front of attendees and reporters who had waited for two hours for him to arrive.

Pua said the issue of a personal guarantee involving the loan was not mentioned during any PAC meeting. — File pic
“The loan agreement has been signed. If we don’t pay back, we will be declared bankrupt or locked up in jail. We will pay every sen plus interest. The question of misappropriation does not arise,” said Wan Shahinur Izmir, who is minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s son.

PAC member Tony Pua told The Malaysian Insider that the issue of a personal guarantee involving the loan was not mentioned during any PAC meeting, and that many documents — financial statements and loan agreements — have yet to be presented to the PAC.

“I don’t remember anyone asking about personal guarantee. I don’t think these loans will involve personal guarantee though,” the DAP national publicity secretary said.

Another PAC member, PKR’s Datuk Kamarul Baharin Abbas, echoed Pua’s remarks, saying that “as far as I know there were no personal guarantees.”

He also said the PAC had yet to receive documents on the loan for the cattle-farming project from NFCorp.

NFCorp, which is owned by Shahrizat’s family, had its assets frozen recently to facilitate investigations by police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) into allegations of breach of trust in the project.

This came after a series of exposés by PKR, which claimed at least RM27 million was used for land, property and expenses unrelated to cattle farming by Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat and her family.
The women, family and community development minister has since sued PKR’s strategic director Rafizi Ramli and Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin over the claims.

“If NFCorp defaults on the loan, all assets belonging to the company, infrastructure, condos will be taken by the government,” said another PAC member, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

The Umno leader told The Malaysian Insider that the public should not be too hasty in attacking NFCorp over its condominium acquisitions, and that there “must be a reason why the condos were bought.”

“It’s possible the condo generated income for the company, and we must remember that the company is not in default. Let’s not be quick to condemn them,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has rejected calls from the opposition for a royal commission of inquiry into the scandal, saying the police and MACC were capable of handling the matter.

The federally-funded cattle-farming project was first coined a “mess” in an article in a local daily after it made it into the pages of the Auditor-General’s 2010 Report.

The term was later repeatedly reused by various media organisations to describe the NFC after PKR launched a series of exposés to show the project’s funds were being abused.

NFCorp, which was awarded the project in 2006, had thanked Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang last week for clarifying that he had not called the company a “mess” in his 2010 report, saying the explanation would help strengthen public perception of its operations.

The company said the Auditor-General’s statement on Friday would help put to rest months of “tireless bashing from hardline critics” against NFCorp, which operates the scandal-ridden NFC project.

Shahrizat returns to ministerial duties on February 6 after taking three weeks’ leave to allow the authorities to complete their probes.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Shopping on corrupted money

Apparently oblivious to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s caution to Umno/BN fat-cats late last year not to flash their ill-gotten wealth, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, seems hell-bent on shopping till she drops.

Or  more likely until the Umno/BN regime drops. Because her profligate alleged spending on designer fashions, diamond jewellery and a generally jet-setting lifestyle provides so much ammunition to the opposition as to make her a one-woman shopposition.

NONEAdmittedly she has denied all attempts to portray her as Malaysia’s Imelda Marcos, including the story by Andrew Hornery of the Sydney Morning Herald that she recently holidayed with her husband in a RM60,000 per night hotel suite at Sydney’s Darling Hotel and spent RM300,000 at a Paddington boutique.

“It’s all rubbish, wildly exaggerated and not true,” she reportedly told journalists from Malaysiakini and The Sun, adding that “I’ve come across this kind of allegations many times” and that “I’m always the victim”.

Despite such protestations of innocence and pleadings for sympathy, however, public resentment and outrage appears to be rapidly transforming her dearly-desired and expensively-publicised role as ‘First Lady of Malaysia’ to that of ‘First Lady of Anything But Umno’.
But as pre-eminent as she may be in her no doubt unintended but nonetheless powerful shopposition to her husband and the corrupt regime he currently heads, she’s by no means alone.

Another prominent shopposition figure is Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, whose husband and family have allegedly been on a massive self-enrichment and shopping spree, courtesy of the government-funded National Livestock Corporation.

But of course, when it comes to playing into the opposition’s hands by spending public money for personal and political gain, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak himself puts other generators of shopposition like Shahrizat and Rosmah to shame.

An absolute art form

From the alleged squandering of the nation’s funds on the notorious purchase of Scorpene submarines during his time as defence minister, to blatantly buying, or at least attempting to buy, a whole series of by-elections and handing out money hand-over-fist to civil servants and other vote-banks, he’s raised the art of survival through spending to an absolute art form.

But, however, much support all this shopping with public money might have bought him, it has clearly excited as much if not more opposition.

NONEAnd even more costly to him and his regime has been his flip-flop position: his steady loss of support and inspiration of more and more opposition with his ceaseless two-faced attempts to portray himself as a moderate uniter of the nation as “1Malaysia” while employing Perkasa, Utusan Malaysia and other agents of rabid racism and religionism to ruthlessly divide and repressively rule the rakyat.

And let’s not forget Najib’s creation of what could justly be called a hopposition; all those opposition supporters and voters who will never forgive his illegal seizure of the government of the state of Perak by means of persuading or paying representatives to hop frog-like to the Umno/BN side, with the suspicious consent of a dubious judiciary.
As much hopposition, flip-flopposition and shopposition as Najib and his spouse and supporters have managed to generate through their greed, arrogance and double-dealing, however, what I predict will finally spell their political doom is good, old-fashioned copposition.

Under lawful governments in law-abiding societies, the police are generally seen as keepers of the civic peace and protectors of the lives and property of the citizens.

But in Malaysia the police and other so-called law-enforcement agencies are clearly so politicised, and so thus so complicit with their corrupt masters, as to be rightly seen as servants and security-guards of the regime.

Thus every crime the police commit or close an  eye to generates more political opposition.

One injured and hospitalised

A classic example of the kind of copposition thus continuously generated is the chorus of scorn that has followed the denial by Selangor police chief Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah of any real problem when a gang invaded an ABU rally at Shah Alam City Council hall.

NONEDespite reports that the aggressors were wearing BN and Umno T-shirts and one victim had to be hospitalised, Hamzah told reporters that “nothing happened, the residents were unhappy, that’s all. No BN or Umno supporters disturbed them.”

This is a small but totally typical example of how politically partisan the police are in permitting public protests by regime-related groups like Perkasa and Umno Youth, and ensuring that opposition protesters like Bersih, as de-facto law minister Nazri Aziz recently put it, “face the music.”

And in the field of criminal law the situation is even more dire, with the police conspiring with the judiciary and regime politicians in ferociously prosecuting, indeed persecuting the likes of Anwar Ibrahim and Karpal Singh, while letting the killers of opposition witness Teoh Beng Hock and countless other so-called ‘suspects’ go free.

Nor are the forces of law and order terribly interested in tracing the sources of the massive incomes and assets of those who, like Rosmah, appear to have virtually limitless funds available for shopping.

In fact, as that ubiquitous regime mouthpiece, Nazri, claimed recently in response to calls for ministers and their family members to emulate opposition politicians in revealing their assets, such a move “may endanger them.”

Pressed as to what he meant by this curious remark, Nazri appeared at a loss to explain. But all of us critics of the Umno/BN regime and supporters of the opposition are well aware of the endangerment he had in mind.

That the millions of Malaysians who have finally had it up to here with the regime’s endless shopping, hopping, flip-flopping and bad-copping can hardly wait for their next chance to give it a well-deserved chopping.

'PM must explain generous highway contract award'

DAP has demanded the prime minister explain why the government has given Kumpulan Europlus Bhd (Europlus) a “good deal” on the RM7.07 billion Banting-Taiping highway project.

Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said Najib Abdul Razak needed to explain the generous terms given to Europlus, that includes a 60-year concession and RM2.24 billion in soft loans.

dap conference 080112 lim guan engThe company will also receive subsidies for 22 years and RM980 million grant for land acquisition cost for constructing the 316 km highway.

According to Lim (right), Europlus had announced that it had received an approval letter from the public private partnership unit of the Prime Minister’s Department.

“DAP is curious why the federal government had still not make any announcement on such an important highway concession which violates the basic principles of public accountability and transparency.

“Before the government signs this agreement with Europlus, the prime minister must ensure that ... questions why Europlus was given such a good deal are fully answered,” said Lim in a statement today.
Among the questions Lim demanded the PM answer were:
  • If there was an open tender and reasons for rejecting other bids
  • The choice of Europlus that he said had no proven track record in build-operate-transfer (BOT) of highway concession and that had a “troubled history of problematic housing development projects”
  • The concession period that was the “longest in Malaysian history” after the Singapore-Malaysia water agreement
  • The rationale for the soft loan of RM2.24 billion from 2013 at 4 percent interest and an offer of an interest subsidy of 3 percent from commercial loans for 22 years, costing the federal government an estimate RM4 billion
  • Giving Europlus RM980 million for land acquisition cost, when it is supposed to be a privatised project
  • The decision for the highway to end at Taiping and not through to Penang, that sees heavier traffic.
Scandal in the making?

Calling the project another potential “scandal in the making”, Lim, who is also Penang chief minister, blasted the six decade concession for benefiting the company over the rakyat.

plus highway toll booth 161204“For the Prime Minister’s Department to grant a 60 year concession period means that generations of Malaysian will be compelled to pay toll, from me to my great grand-children.

“This is unacceptable and giving such a long concession only benefits the few, allowing the toll operators to earn mega profits of pharaonic proportions at the expense of 28 million ordinary Malaysians,” said Lim.

He pointed out that in a similar “scandal”, the 50 year concession period for the North-South Expressway (NSE) expiring in 2038 - and that had cost RM6 billion to build - had already allowed the toll operator to earn RM18.3 billion in profits as at the end of 2010.