Posts Tagged ‘Penang’


Development without corruption is an ideal situation in Malaysian politics. Corruption and development is, at a stretch, somewhat acceptable. But corruption without development is completely unacceptable. Sadly, the Malaysian political scene has somehow have found ourselves in the second scenario and moving rapidly towards the last scenario. And it is within this such formula that incumbent Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the undisputed leader of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and Chairman of the ruling coalition in Sarawak’s victory in the recent 10th Sarawak state elections 2011, needs to be seen.

The issue whether or not Taib Mahmud is a clean politician was never the key. It was whether Taib Mahmud had delivered, and on that count he scored. Perhaps not in the most raring of percentages but but he was adequately high on a scale of one to ten. In the Malaysian context, irrespective of corruption, development scores. If a politician at the helm of affairs demonstrates his intent and will to deliver as well as takes positive steps in that direction, similar to that of the Taib Mahmud Sarawakian government, then the electorate reposes its faith in him. This more often than not overlooks the incumbency factor. Taib Mahmud was voted in as chief minister for eight terms: the last one going beyond anyone’s expectations. The grapevine has it that Taib himself was not sure of winning but the people voted him in on three counts; the first being that only he can keep UMNO from coming into Sarawak, the second being that he had done for Sarawak what no other Chief Minister had and third being that development was high on the agenda.

There were stories about several family members benefiting billions during his regime but those allegations waned in the face of the work he had done. A great deal still remains undone but his intention and will to work benefited the people who voted him in and this alone is enough reason for the electorate to back him and ensure his return to office which he held for eight terms. In the case of Dr Mahathir, the issue also worked in his favour was the perception that his heart beats for the Malays although he is half-Indian and that even while the party or his confidantes made money left, right and center, he had electoral support till of course he made the fatal mistake of sacking Anwar Ibrahim for corruption and sodomy charges.

In Malaysia, race, religion or corruption comes into play when development takes a backseat. In situations like this, non-performing politicians have a field day in exploiting race and religion blocks to their advantage and they often succeed. Koh Tsu Koon was able to rule Penang and later managed to name chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan as his successor primarily because he helped UMNO and had the support of the Feds in the center, get electoral power and in turn had a role in decision making. But what dented Koh Tsu Koon’s unassailable position were his non-performance and confining his tenure solely to UMNO politics. That worked initially but later Penangites wanted results of governance where of course he failed miserably. The consequence: a total rout from which recovery seems a near impossibility as the recent 2008 election-results have demonstrated.

This is in great contrast with Lim Guan Eng’s human development agenda in which the situation is crystal-clear. Koh Tsu Koon’s UMNO discrepant policies brought Lim Guan Eng center-stage: His initial victory had little to do with him and more with being the protégé of then Penang Chief Minister Lim Chong Eu and UMNO. Koh Tsu Koon’s Parti Gerakan who vouched for him throughout the years deserted him on the grounds that his UMNO sucking up politics were limited to his family and an inner circle comprising his relatives and maybe a handful of supporters. At the macro level Koh Tsu Koon had failed to deliver or do anything for the state, they argued. Worse still, he had put the clock back.

Lim Guan Eng reign checked these: corruption, accountability and transparency and followed this up with development. Not only did he bring back the dignity of Penangites but also stressed on the state’s CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) principles. It is after many years in Penang that the state is finally transparent in its governance. In the face of all this, whether Lim Guan Eng and his minions are corrupted or not were non issues when it comes to voting him and his boys back to power. This can be said about Taib Mahmud or Musa Aman for that matter. Upon a better look, the way Musa Aman went about getting The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah to investigate the Mother of ALL Problems, “Project IC”, the alleged systematic granting of citizenship to foreigners, was a brilliant move in spite of so much objections and even sabotage by Shafie Apdal and some UMNO Sabah chaps. Despite the drama he still managed to get it thru and convince Premier Najib against all odds, that this is the true meaning of development!

I stand corrected on my theory that people accept corruption only if it rides piggyback on development and never the former without the latter. Lim Guan Eng substantiates the first and Koh Tsu Koon the second. And although the the third option of development without corruption is an ideal situation, it is sadly rarely found in Malaysian politics. Even honest politicians, Musa Aman, who was voted in on grounds of his honesty and integrity, rued the fact that political parties need money to survive.

So with the way things are, it is less about corruption and more about being found out. Or even getting caught. Hence, solo development or clean governance in Malaysian politics is an ideal situation. In lieu with this, I have to single out Former Prime Ministers Tengku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn whose integrity is beyond doubt, despite the various scams their Government had been besmeared with. But ask the man on the street or even Tengku or Tun Hussein Onn’s former political rivals and they will charge them with inaction but not dishonesty. In this case the clean image scores over governance.



HAVING witnessed democracy in action in the form of state assembly elections in Sarawak recently, it is worthwhile looking at what the Sarawak elections had exposed. Political analysts have already made pronouncements about identity politics, that is, the politics of race and community, being pushed to the side by new demands for development. They have pronounced on the virtues of being “with the people” in the manner of Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, as opposed to the “parachute politics” of Anwar Ibrahim.

Corruption has been mentioned, but in terms that are not very clear, at least to lay people like myself. Has this exercise in democracy proved that there is widespread anger at the corruption that exists in almost all parts of society, in public bodies and authorities as well as in private entities? From what one can comprehend, the answer is the familiar “yes-and-no” that analysts take shelter behind when faced with a phenomenon they cannot really understand.

The verdict cannot be against corruption in, for example, Sarawak, where the reputation of the ruling Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and the other Sarawak BN component parties combine is not of its being a group of saints, to put it mildly. For the record, the perception about the party that lost badly, the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) which lost 13 of 19 seats it contested and its President Dr. George Chan Hong Nam, Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, humiliating defeat in the hands of the DAP, is no better.

In Sarawak, no one will take you seriously if you claim that the Barisan National Sarawak is pure as driven snow; that the losing SUPP was seen as utterly corrupt, which is why it lost; and that the Sarawak BN and Taib Mahmud is responsible for the chopping down of most of Sarawak’s rainforests at the expense of the indigenous communities; and Taib Mahmud was also seen as corrupt and the protector of corrupt allies. The fact is that all of them are seen as corrupt.

Without making any solemn pronouncements on why a party won or lost, or the role played by rebel candidates of all parties in splitting vote banks, one can say with a degree of certainty that a rejection of corruption was not really the main issue in the election. And that is the truly worrying factor in this round of exercise of democracy.

Equally worrying is the sense one gets that the major political parties know this and are not really bothered. They also know, from the look of things, that the public protestation of corruption will never ever amount to anything as far as political power in our system is concerned. The parties strategise their moves and countermoves on the basis of other considerations, which they think to be more effective and relevant. So we can continue to bark corruption, coruption, coruption but nothing is gonna happen and nothing is gonna change, it has not change for the last 50 years.

An article that appeared not so long ago in The Nation cited a study by a group of scholars in the London School of Economics, which said that the comparisons made by various writers and experts between Malaysia and Singapore as emerging economic powers were erroneous; that Malaysia could never hope to be a rival to the economic powerhouse that Singapore already is. One reason given for this is the all-pervasive corruption in Malaysia.

This trend of thinking will in all likelihood catch on, despite brave words from leaders of Barisan National. One can sense it in the way the Malaysian stock market has behaved; in the way the ringgit has got weaker by the day; and in the general gloom among bankers, which they will not admit to publicly but will talk about mainly among themselves. It is not gloom about the immediate future – it is about Malaysia in the long term. It is, finally, about the nature of Malaysian democracy.

There are those who increasingly see signs of fatal flaws in Malaysian democracy because of the way it has developed. Political parties in power, from regional parties to so-called national parties, depend on corruption from the top down to survive, and survival is all that matters. An even more dangerous trend was the failure to improve the education standards.

Malaysia’s failure to provide quality education means that eventually our young men and women will lack the intellectual capabilities, leading to a falling off of quality of work, of skill levels and so on, with its inevitable ill effects on the economy as a whole. But are our politicians who are engaged in the task of survival, interested or concerned?

Eventually, one has to conclude that Malaysian-style democracy and the ills afflicting our economy, our industry, our infrastructure, our health services and our education system will ensure that Malaysia does not become an economic superpower, emerging or otherwise, and that it will have to depend on aid to keep itself going after all the natural resources have depleted. Then, multinational corporations will start to invest in other more lucrative ASEAN countries. Remember, Malaysia’s debts is now a whopping RM0.5 TRILLION.

Now, a lot depends on what young leaders such as Nurul Izzah and others such as Chief Ministers Musa Aman of Sabah and Lim Guan Eng of Penang do. There is little to be gained by looking at any other leader; those who are indeed leaders are either erratic and whimsical, or interested only in lining their pockets. Some like Taib Mahmud although in his twilight may well take Sarawak towards development, but he has to provide proof of that, as Musa Aman has done so admirably.


By SHALINI MUKERJI

The Hindu

Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker, glides on Zen awareness just as his 2007 Man Booker longlisted debut The Gift of Rain did. Like Gift, Garden is a luminous, imagistic and affecting narrative of conflict and intrigue — Malaya during the Japanese Occupation and Emergency — with characters that rip your heart not just in their loss or ache but in the choi ces they must make to survive, in their fierce steadiness when the world as they know it is shifting. They read as koans about how one can live with conscience and clarity when everything seems broken and bloodied, truth is elusive; even remembrance.

“If one steps out of time, what does one have? Why, the past of course, gradually being worn away by the years as a pebble halted on a riverbed is eroded by the passage of water.” (Gift)

Exploring flawed characters

I catch Twan in “a quiet place” while he is touring with his book in the U.K. and discuss these novels that try understand evil, look for humanity in wartime. “Moments in time when the world is changing bring out the best and worst in people. A character who doesn’t have hard choices to make doesn’t appeal to me as a writer and a reader,” says Twan. “I’m interested in exploring realistic and flawed characters. I don’t set out to judge or to preach morality, but to convey what all of us have to confront daily — our own flaws, our own weaknesses and strengths. If my books feel ambiguous, it’s because life is ambiguous. Nothing is in black and white, and this is what makes writing so fascinating and challenging. I’ve always wondered what I would do, if faced with certain alternatives: would I have the courage and the strength to make the right decision? I’m still looking for the answer.”

Gift, the coming-of-age of Philip Arminius Khoo-Hutton — a motherless Anglo-Chinese boy in Penang who trains in aikijutsu with a Japanese diplomat and learns about the Way of the Tao from his Pai-Mei Chinese grandfather — was a story of integration and fluidity. Suffused with the grace of rain as by Chinese brush painting, aikido and the fleeting magic of fireflies, Gift affirmed love, friendship and honour at their most fragile.

In Garden, perhaps a harsher book, you might find the courage for equanimity and the freedom of letting go as Judge Teoh Yun Ling, the lone survivor of an internment camp who becomes a war crimes prosecutor in Malaya, reconstructs the past falteringly in the ‘stillness of the mountains’ where she was once held prisoner and, later, where she began her reluctant apprenticeship in gardening in memory of her sister, under Nakamura Aritomo, once a gardener of the Emperor of Japan. If in Gift, “… the one impression that remains now is of rain, falling from a bank of low-floating clouds, smearing the landscape into a Chinese brush painting. Sometimes it rained so often I wondered why the colours around me never faded, were never washed away, leaving the world in moldy hues”; in Garden, even when questions go unanswered, “The hollow of the valley reminds me of the open palms of a monk, cupped to receive the day’s blessing.” Such awareness of the natural world, says Twan who was born in Penang, is “shaped more by the time I’ve been spending in South Africa, where nature is such a strong presence in people’s lives. The lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur is very city-oriented, but I love that too.”

READ THE REST HERE


by Lim Guan Eng

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

Firstly, even though the budget deficit is projected to come down from 4.5% in 2012 to a ‘mere’ 4.0% in 2013, this figure masks the poor track record of the BN government in sticking to its spending plans. For example, total expenditure for Budget 2012 was announced at RM232.8b in last’s year’s budget speech. But in this year’s Economic Report 2012 / 2013, total expenditure for 2012 is projected to total up to RM252.4b. This is almost RM20b more than the projected expenditure announced last year.

We were fortunate that projected revenue is expected to be RM207b for 2012, RM20b more than the RM186.9b projected revenue announced last year. Without this tax ‘windfall’, our budget deficit would have ballooned up to 6.7% of GDP rather than the projected 4.5% for 2012. But we cannot expect that actual revenue will continue to exceed projected revenue especially given the slowing global economy. Furthermore revenue from oil related tax revenue is likely to decrease given the change in the dividend policy of Petronas as well as political uncertainty in Southern Sudan which could decrease Petronas’s bottom line by as much as US1 billion.

While we do not object to giving financial assistance to the truly deserving, there is nothing to indicate that the government has stopped leakages in the BR1M program which went to people like an MCA Datuk in Pahang. The initial RM1.8b that was allocated to BR1M for 3.4m households in the 2012 budget ballooned to over RM2b for over 4m households. A country whose GDP is projected to expand by 5% in 2012 should see fewer households earning less than 3000RM. And yet, BR1M recipients are projected to increase to 4.3m households with another 2.7m individuals earning less than 2000RM joining them. Without proper checks and balances, the RM3b that has been allocated to BR1M 2.0 for Budget 2013 can easily increase to more than RM4b, if not more.
The same lack of fiscal prudence could be seen in the expenditure on subsidies. An allocation of RM32.8b was given for subsidies in Budget 2012 but the actual expenditure on subsidies is projected to be at RM42.4b, an increase of RM9.6b or 29.3% over the original budget! If the same kind of trajectory is followed, the RM37.6b which is allocated for subsidies in Budget 2013 could easily increase to almost RM50b!

Given the BN’s poor record for fiscal prudence and especially if elections are held next year, it is likely that BN will break the bank to funnel out as much taxpayer’s money as possible in a blatant attempt to buy votes by giving handouts irresponsibly. I would not be surprised if our total expenditure will be RM30b over budget and our budget deficit for 2013 would end up well in excess of 5.0%!

Secondly, this budget provides incentives and handouts which favors certain projects and parties rather than providing the basis for longer term sustainable economic growth that will benefit all. In fact, many of these incentives will skew the system against hardworking Malaysian entrepreneurs who are not in the position to receive and benefit from these incentives.

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

The aggressive promotion of TRX not only increases the problem of a property glut in commercial office space in Kuala Lumpur, it also unfairly disadvantages developers who own and are in the process of developing commercial property which TRX is directly competing against. These developers would lose out if existing or future tenants decide to relocate to TRX and at the same time, the taxpayer would also lose out since these companies would be given income tax exemption for 10 years. As part of this initiative, 1MDB will be allocated an additional RM400m from the Prime Minister’s Department in Budget 2013, an unnecessary expenditure for what is essentially a property development project.

Similarly, under the guise of lowering prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, the government is introducing 57 Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia or KR1M stores at the cost of RM386m. Just like in Peninsular Malaysia, the ones who will be hurt by this move are the owners of the kedai runcit stores who cannot compete against the government subsidized KR1M stores. It would make more sense for the government to abolish the cabotage policy and to improve the transportation network in Sabah and Sarawak to reduce prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, which is what Pakatan is proposing, rather than to subsidize KR1M stores that are run by one private company which would drive out many existing kedai runcit owners out of business.

These kinds of initiatives contradict PM Najib’s statement that the era of ‘government knows best is over’. Indeed, according to the Economic Report 2012 / 2013, the public sector is expected to expand by 13.3% in 2012 to account for 25.2% of GDP (up from 23.3% in 2011), meaning that the government will play a larger role in the economy, rather than to reduce its footprint and to allow the private sector to thrive and drive the economy forward. By promoting and undertaking these initiatives, Najib is contradicting one of the major thrust of the New Economic Model (NEM) and also the impetus behind the Economic Transformation Program (ETP).
Thirdly, this budget fails to bring to the table long term solutions for the problem of rising cost of living, especially in the urban areas.

Crime is one of the main drivers of cost of living increases. Businesses which have to spend more on security pass the costs to consumers. Residents who have to pay for private security have less disposable income. Sadly, the measures which are in Budget 2013 to reduce crime leave much to be desired.

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

Instead, what was provided was the allocation of RM20m to buy 1000 motorcycles at a cost of RM20,000 per motorcycle to set up a Motorcycle Patrolling Unit.

In addition, there were hardly any efforts proposed to involve the state and local authorities to fight crime. All that was mentioned as the allocation to buy 496 units of CCTVs for 25 local authorities to prevent street crimes in urban areas. This works out to 20 units of CCTVs for every local authority which is not even sufficient to cover one neighborhood, much less the area in one state authority.

Similarly, the ambitious program to build more than 100,000 affordable and low cost houses will come to naught if these housing projects are not integrated with public transportation. The MRT project and the LRT extension cannot possibly cover all the areas which have or will have low cost and affordable homes, assuming that they even get built. Allowing the state and local authorities to provide bus services would be one possible solution to this problem. But instead of this, the federal government is expanding the federally owned RAPID bus services to other places, this time to Kuantan.

With car prices still at very unaffordable levels, especially for the lower middle income groups, the issue of affordable and low cost housing cannot be seen in isolation from the issue of public transportation. Unfortunately, PM Najib does not seem to have realized this as seen by his Budget 2013.

Pakatan Rakyat’s budget, on the other hand, exercises much more fiscal prudence. Not only is our projected deficit lower at 3.5% of GDP or approximately RM37b, our revenue and expenditure projections are also much more conservative, at RM197b and RM234b respectively. A more conservative budget would give us more room to maneuver if Pakatan does take over power at the federal level and puts its budget in place.

PR’s budget is also more economically sustainable in that we do not attempt to favor one sector or project over another. Instead we will set out to abolish monopolies, abolish unfair practices and increase competition in all sectors of the economy.

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

The choice for Malaysians is very clear. Najib’s 2013 budget is full of one shot goodies and handouts which do not adequately address the long term concerns of the country namely fiscal prudence, economic sustainability and cost of living increases. Pakatan, through its Alternative Budget, and through the state governments in Penang and Selangor, have shown that it can govern with fiscal responsibility in mind, with sustainable policies which encourage fair competition and with measures that puts money in the pockets of the people in the long term. Let the people of Malaysia choose wisely.

Lim Guan Eng

Read the rest in Mandarin here


Malaysia comprises of 13 states and 3 federal territories but only 4 states have chief ministers.

Elections to 3 state assemblies in Penang, Malacca and Sabah will be turned into a sort of referendum on the performance of the chief ministers. Whereas Sarawak had its state assembly elections in 2011, meaning Taib Mahmud would still be around past GE13 despite Premier Najib Tun Razak having told the people of Sarawak that he would ensureTaib steps down after the 2011 state election. Taib is unlikely to retire anytime soon as his Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) won all the 35 seats it contested in 2011. Besides, Sarawak has 31 parliamentary seats and Taib controls at least 25 of them.

In all these states, the incumbent chief ministers are very popular and, as a result, the election campaigns will be strongly focused on their performance. As a result, national leaders of both the Barisan National and the Pakatan Rakyat have begun to realize that they actually have little role to play in these elections. Penang’s one-term chief minister Lim Guan Eng​, Sabah’s two-termed chief minister Musa Aman and Sarawak’s four-termed chief minister Taib Mahmud alongside relatively the low-profile three-termed chief minister of Malacca Mohd ​Ali Rustam, respectively, have all acquired a larger-than-life image in their states, making it difficult for opposition parties to easily dislodge them.

This has then given respective ruling parties in all these states an incumbency advantage. Whether all these chief ministers will succeed in their re-election bid will depend on whether they can overcome issues at the constituency level, especially in terms of candidates who don’t have strong track records. But it is increasingly clear to me that the chief ministers have put their parties in a strong position.

Many Malaysian voters have begun choosing governments not on the basis of party ideology and long-prevailing preferences but on specific party leaders. This trend has become more obvious with an increasing number of young people emerging as a major voting bloc. That’s because, in general, party loyalty and party identification among the youth is weaker compared with older Malaysian voters. Perhaps the youth have realized that it is better to focus on leaders rather than parties as there are good and bad leaders in all parties.

People are craving for leaders who are honest, easily accessible and have a strong, pro-rural and pro-people orientation. Incumbent chief ministers of the latest poll-bound states don’t necessarily have all these qualities. Yet, overall, they have performed remarkably well on these attributes; this is what makes it difficult for their challengers. I am not suggesting that these leaders could win without the backing and cadre of their parties. But they have added an extra element of strength and give an edge to their parties. Elections in Malaysia are increasingly focused on a specific leader is clear from recent electoral victories of Taib Mahmud in Sarawak, contributed hugely to his party’s victory.

In the case of Malacca, Mohd Ali Rustam, was barred from contesting in the UMNO elections, the UMNO Disclipinary Board found Mohd Ali guilty of violating party ethics for indulging in money politics and hence was prohibited from contesting the post of UMNO deputy president. But he still remains as the Malacca Chief Minister. In the past, it was only national leaders such as Dr Mahathir​ and Anwar Ibrahim​, and some regional icons such as Musa Aman, Pairin Kitingan and Taib Mahmud​, who had the magnetism to win on their sheer personal strength. Today, a number of chief ministers, such as Musa Aman and Lim Guan Eng, in these poll-bound states, have acquired this larger-than-party persona.

What is interesting is that all these chief ministers have emerged mainly due to their pro-development agenda. Most of them have implemented welfare-oriented and populist programmes to woo the electorate. Financial assistance schemes targeting the poor as well as rapid strides in basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges especially in Sabah have all been priorities for the respective chief ministers. These smart chief ministers have found a way of potentially overcoming the dreaded anti-incumbency factor so prevalent in Malaysian elections.

What this suggests is that parties ought to announce leaders in every state, especially those in the opposition, and let these leaders build up a profile. UMNO is benefiting in Sabah due to the image of Musa Aman as an urbane, decent and efficient chief minister. The recent visit to Sabah by Wu Bangguo, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and even the visit by Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Cathrine, all confirms that Musa has done a fantastic job in Sabah. Its a fact Sabah is the most successful state in Malaysia in attracting private investments. For the first quarter of 2012, Sabah under Musa Aman managed to attract private investments in the amount of RM10 billion, way ahead of other states. Among the reasons is having a stable, business friendly and a prudent government besides the environment in Sabah is well protected because of Sabah’s stringent forestry laws and strong conservation programme. Yet, the party’s’ dogged refusal to announce its chief ministerial candidates in other states, even where popular leaders are available and willing, is going against the voters’ tendency to choose leaders over parties.

Given the voter fixation with state issues and chief ministers, national issues have become rather irrelevant in these elections. Altantuya, Scorpene submarines, Sharizat’s 250million “Lembu” episode and price rise on food items, which the Pakatan hoped to raise in these elections in a big way, appear to have failed to take off as these elections have become virtual referenda on the performance of the chief ministers. If the UMNO/Barisan National fares poorly in Penang in this coming GE13, it will be mainly due to its inability to challenge the DAP’s popular chief minister Lim Guan Eng and not necessarily to the Barisan National government’s failures in managing the economy or maintaining internal security. So, even if it fails to win in the Pakatan-ruled states, this is a message that may bring solace to the Barisan National leadership and hopes in national elections to the Parliament that are due in March/April 2013.


In this time of stupefying political stagnation at the highest levels of the Government of Malaysia, good news is hard to come by. Good news is only possible when governments show that they are capable of firm economic and political decisions. And, there is not the smallest sign that the Najib’s government plans to do anything other than continue stagnating till the next general election somewhere on March/April 2013. Please do not allow 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) payment of RM500 to households with an income of less than RM3000 per month to fool you into believing that there are signs of renewal that are suddenly going to manifest themselves. The results of the last round of General Elections the 12th were so stunningly bad for UMNO that there is not a murmur of revival in the hot June air.

On the economic front, where there is the most urgent need for change, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala also Chief Executive Officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) drops a bombshell that Malaysia will be bankrupt by 2019 if it does not cut subsidies and rein in borrowings. Idris a Sarawakian the former “Number One Man” for Sarawak Shell further added fuel when he said that Malaysia’s debt would rise to 100 percent of GDP by 2019 from the current 54% if it did not cut subsidies. And what is even more frightening is when Idris said that Malaysia was likely to become an oil importer as early as next year at the current rate it was consuming petroleum. It seems Malaysians continue to be among the highest fuel consumers per capita in the world fuel consumption habits pattern which generally has remained relatively unchanged despite increased oil prices in 2008. The damage that can be done by a tired, comatose government before 13th General Elections is too horrific to think about but do not despair. There are signs of good news from the states.

You would have noticed them if you read between the lines of the statements that were made in Keningau Sports Complex few days ago by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak when he celebrated Tadau Kaamatan this year in Keningau with 20,000 Natives including, Huguan Siou Pairin Kitingan and Chief Minister Musa Aman. Najib openly acknowledged that Sabah is experiencing rapid growth under Musa Aman and Sabah in the first quarter of this year had attracted about RM10 billion from foreign investors including the Sabah Ammonia Urea (SAMUR) project in Sipitang and the Keningau Integrated Livestock Center and a lobster cultivation project in the east coast of Sabah. But, UMNO now rules only 8 states minus Sarawak, so it does not matter. What does matter is for chief ministers like Musa Aman, Lim Guan Eng and perhaps even Menteri Besars like Khalid and Tok Guru Nik Aziz to wake up to how they could become the engine that takes Malaysia forward despite the inertia in Putrajaya.

To wake up and become engine that takes Malaysia forward, sometimes the state governments should be vocal with the way development projects from the Federal is forced down their throats and not done according to the aspirations of the local population. So far they have only rebelled against the Rural Development Ministry’s attempts to set up rural development committees to bypass and to undermine the state governments without consulting them. In states were UMNO was not in control, the minister Shafie Apdal uses his district rural development committees to bypass and to undermine state governments. In states were UMNO is in control, the rural development program was used in a pork-barrel fashion to support local party leaders. And, the states are right to do so but they now need to become more vocal about other things like having centrally controlled development and welfare programmes rammed down their throats. I have met state ministers and state exco members who admit privately that they are often forced to sacrifice excellent welfare programmes of their own for the sake of national welfare programmes. Remember, the former Chief Minister Harris Salleh recently even said that Shafie’s Rural Ministry had even justified awarding a RM100 million tender amount for the Pulau Gaya electrification project when the actual tender cost was only about RM25 million. Harris Salleh even said that he had received “many complaints from rural folk” that the billions of ringgit allocated by the federal government for rural projects was not having an impact on their lives and these projects were introduced for the sake of contracts and most of them are of low standard.

This is wrong because I can confirm from my own field research that the rural development programmes and welfare programmes that work best are the ones that are locally controlled. I have said it before and I will say it again that if we are seriously interested in ensuring that not another child grows up malnourished and illiterate in Malaysia, the solution lies in giving kampong women control of food programmes. This is something that more enlightened chief ministers should start doing forthwith which brings us back to what chief ministers can do to become Malaysia’s engine of growth.

They must demand more control over their resources. The sight of chief ministers and Meneri Besars lining up outside the Putrajaya to beg for development funds is an ugly one. Some states are bigger than the whole of Peninsula Malaysia and they would develop and grow much faster if they had more control over their economies. Many distortions crept into Centre-State relations in those bad old days when UMNO controlled nearly all of our major state governments. These distortions need to be removed and should be quite easy to remove now that we see Non-UMNO chief ministers making common cause on matters of national security.

Once state governments start competing with each other to become popular tourist destinations, favorites for foreign investment and centres of excellence in rural development, education, healthcare, sanitation and infrastructure building, Malaysia will finally begin to really change.

If this starts to happen soon, then the deleterious consequences of having a stagnant government in Putrajaya and a Prime Minister who seems to be in a somnambulant state will be mitigated. At the moment, despite the “spectacular” success of BR1M, we are in the hands of so weak a government that not a day seems to go by without someone giving it a slap or two. In recent months, we have seen Ministers and supposedly faceless bureaucrat interfere publicly in matters of policy.

When Federal Ministers decide what our telecommunications and multimedia policy should be and when Ministers decides whether MAS should be refinanced or abandoned to its fate. And, when the Minister tells us despite possessing state-of-the-art warplanes, modern weapons  and submarines that the nation’s security was so fragile that it could be compromised by mineral water bottles and packets of salt, it starts to feel as if we do not have an elected government at all. The Chief Ministers and Menteri Besars have at least a mandate to rule and real administrative experience.


Musa Aman will be back in the saddle even after the 13th GE which is expected anytime now. As he returns to Sabah, a third term, as the longest serving chief minister of Sabah, and who has broken the 9 years jinx, after generating a hope for the better for the average man on the street.

I am reminded of what a former Chief  Minister of Penang a distinguished doctor a political strategist par excellence the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu had once told my late father and me when we visited him after he lost the 1990 Padang Kota state seat to Lim Kit Siang of DAP. As Chief Minister of Penang since 1969 he was able to generate a growth rate of ten per cent and more, brought in top Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Billions of US$ and thousands of  jobs were created when he brought in big name electronic multinationals like Intel, Motorola and many more. “And still people voted me out,” he acknowledged.

“It was a rude awakening for me. I then realised that a high economic rate of growth is no indicator of human development.”

Dr Lim Chong Eu then gave me the memorable gem: “We were wrongly advised that we should take care of GDP and it will automatically take care of urban poverty. This is not correct. We need to take care of poverty and it will automatically take care of economic growth”. This is exactly what Musa Aman did. And true to what Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu had said, people of Sabah had voted Musa Aman back to power in 2008 with almost 98.33% success, winning 59 out of the 60 seats contested. Musa Aman invested in the people, and the people paid back.

A high growth rate of 5 per cent between 2004 and 2008 is not the reason why Musa Aman had been voted back in 2008. Restoring the right to freedom and good governance was certainly the first step. Simultaneously he followed it up with various development initiatives, which mainline economists would wrongly classify as populist measures. Providing free milk, food supplements, textbooks, uniforms, shoes to school-going children, and reserving seats for women in JKKK and local bodies was part of the social engineering that he undertook. Program Pembangunan Rakyat Termiskin (PPRT), was introduced to assist the hardcore poor. The programme established a register on the profile of hardcore poor households and contained a package of projects tailored to meet their specific needs, such as increasing their employability and income, better housing and educational assistance. Direct assistance was given to the hardcore poor who were disabled and aged. In addition, the hardcore poor were provided with interest-free loans to purchase shares in a unit trust scheme (ASB-PPRT) so that the dividends can supplement their income. With the foundations now well laid out, the challenge Musa Aman faces in his third term are not only formidable but if attempted in a more realistic and holistic manner can even chart out a new future for the country.

Unlike most other political leaders, I found Musa Aman to be more receptive and sensitive to the needs of the poor and marginalised. While the Sabah verdict amply demonstrates his willingness to improve the lot of the masses mainly the natives. And the 2012 state budget amounting to RM4.048 billion the  highest and biggest budget ever allocated and announced in the history of Sabah Government is a clear example that Musa Aman cares for Sabahans.

With 80 per cent of the population involved in farming, Sabah’s future revolves around agriculture. Except for rice which is still imported,  Sabah is trying to attain self-sufficiency in food production and produces surplus vegetables both highland and lowland vegetables, surplus of poultry and eggs, surplus of marine fish, surplus  of milk, but, the fact remains that the State still has a large proportion of population which is poor and there is still poverty. The challenge therefore is on how to bring a synergy between agriculture and food security; on how to turn agriculture economically and ecologically sustainable in a manner that it does not lead farmers in distress to sell off their land to ‘outsiders’ and become landless and at the same time provide food and nutrition for the masses. A healthy agriculture is also the first line of defence against poverty.

Sabah therefore needs to discard the Green Revolution approach. It has to stop poisoning its soils, contaminating the water bodies and the environment and pushing more and more farmers out of agriculture. Sabah needs to shun the industrial model of farm growth, and build an ecologically sustainable farming model driven by a futuristic vision. Agriculture has to be re-designed and linked with its own traditional time-tested public distribution system – where the communities have been in control and have managed the food needs in a kampong.

Instead of chemical fertilisers, vermi-composting as a cottage industry has to be encouraged on a massive scale. This will restore soil health, increase crop productivity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will also generate more rural employment. Chemical pesticides need to be eliminated besides its so expensive, I know I was in this industry in the past. Sabah can learn from the ‘Non-Pesticides Management’ system of agriculture from Indonesia and Thailand. No chemical pesticides are applied in over 50,000 hectares in Indonesia, and yet the crop yields are very high. Driven by its increasingly successful adoption by farmers, Indonesia plans to raise the area under no-pesticides agriculture to half-million hectares by the year 2014. If this can happen in Indonesia, there is no reason why Sabah cannot learn from its success.

Sabah can create history by showing a development path that is not only sustainable in the long-run but also brings prosperity and happiness to the masses. Musa Aman can surely create history by showing the world what true development means. And his time begins now.


Bloomberg has hailed Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as embodying the contrast between Penang’s business transparency and the four-decade old policies of the ruling party (Barisan Nasional) that favour Malays.

Lim Guan Eng turned Malaysia’s second-smallest state into the nation’s biggest economic success after he bumped into two National Instruments Corp. (NATI) executives at the local airport in 2008.

Elected in March that year as Penang’s first chief minister from an opposition party in 36 years, Lim was struggling with the prospect of federal funding cuts. He convinced the managers to set up a research and production center in the state, and within two years the former British trading post was Malaysia’s top destination for foreign manufacturing investment.

“The deal was struck very quickly,” said Eugene Cheong, a director at the local unit of the Austin, Texas-based maker of industrial testing and automation equipment.

See rest of the story here


In the season of scams when political reputations are at their lowest ebb, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman stands out as a remarkable exception. His emergence as a front-runner in a field crowded with seemingly redoubtable figures like Shafie Apdal, Rahim Ismail, Yong Teck Lee, V K Liew, Chong Kah Kiat, et al, is all the more noteworthy because of his quiet, unassuming persona.

Yet, by winning a resounding electoral mandate in 2008, he has been unequivocally hailed by vox populi as their choice as the best chief minister of Sabah since 1963.

The extraordinariness of Musa Aman’s feat is demonstrated by the unbelievable turnaround that he has brought about in Sabah’s social and economic scene. Needless to say, his political success is based on this transformation.

The result is that he has proved beyond all doubt that if a politician uses the official and political power in his hands for the betterment of ordinary people’s lives, he becomes virtually unbeatable.

Malaysia will be a much improved country if this simple lesson provided by Musa Aman is widely emulated. And at no time is there a greater need for such emphasis on the fundamental requirements of the people than in the present murky atmosphere when, as Lim Kit Siang has said, the country’s ‘moral universe’ has shrunk.

Except, perhaps, in Sabah where the incarceration of thousands of illegals and criminals, and the fall in the number of abductions to nearly zero in the east-coast of Sabah, and the continuous deportation of illegals back to Philippines and Indonesia, have largely restored the common man’s faith in the administration’s clout and goodwill. In a state where the parties are not averse to get illegals as voters or illegals as cadres, since the days of the Late Tun Mustapha, the chief minister has shown that he means business. Besides, as the Sabah State Security Chief, he does not use the police to harass the opposition and he upholds civil liberties.

As a result, there has been a huge surge in tourist coming to Sabah because people are no longer afraid to visit Sabah with women and children. Besides, they can afford to remain out after nightfall unlike in the past when the town and roads became deserted and the haunts of criminals.

But it isn’t the improved law and order situation alone which has encouraged greater outdoor excursions to the beautiful islands in the east-coast of Sabah. There has also been a vast improvement in the condition of roads with the restoration and construction of nearly hundreds of kilometers of highways and bridges, including elevated hanging bridges.

Much of this work was done by public sector undertaking and also private sector undertaking, which was able to overcome its earlier deficit to contribute for relief even to the flood victims the last time. But no less noteworthy than its good work was the subsequent appointment of capable executives, which underlined the chief minister’s ability to spot and reward talented bureaucrats.

At the same time, he has been ruthless in the matter of initiating action against officials found guilty of corrupt practices. Many have been sacked.

Since these measures have improved the investment climate, it is not surprising that Sabah’s current growth rate of 8 percent has become comparable to Penang and Selangor’s. For the present, however, this upward trend can be ascribed to the fact that shops and commercial establishments are mushrooming all over Sabah and they can remain open till late at night, which was not possible during the days of PBS and Pairin Kitingan when even the streets had no lights.

The phrase was earlier derided as political hyperbole, but not after the return of normalcy in daily life.

Apart from law and order, Musa Aman has focused on the education sector which is under the Federal Government, he has been continuously pressuring the Federal Government, to get more teachers at the primary and secondary levels to reduce the teacher-student ratio from the present dismal 1:50. The provision of uniforms and school shoes and free milk for kids attending school has also been an attractive feature of his policies.

The chief minister has now turned his attention to higher education with his proposal to the Federal Government to set up more colleges and technical institutions. For this purpose, he has selected some good academicians to advice the state government.

Health had been a neglected factor in Sabah. Hospitals were in a bad way and most primary health centers were non-functional in the interior of Sabah. Musa is now working at upgrading health facilities. He is inviting private partnership to achieve this and already millions and millions have been spent in construction and upgradation. Federal Government who is responsible for health in Sabah has been constantly told to pay more attention to Sabah. Immunization, the key to control disease is being aggressively promoted.

The power situation was pathetic. With the exception of Kota Kinabalu, almost all the districts have severe power cuts and even now have power for only a couple of hours sometimes everyday.

Musa understands that power will bring in industry. A new Power Policy is being prepared that will woo private investment in generation and distribution. For a start, there are proposals for new power projects that could generate 300 megawatts. Geothermal power plant and gas fired power plant are also being considered without adversely damaging the environment. Private players are being roped in and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) has been constantly told to improve their performance. He has even warned Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) to justify the recent increase in the power tariffs and not burden Sabahans with the increase.

Then there is the issue of children from Chinese-native parents in Sabah where the National Registration Department (NRD) is unwilling to specify their mixed ethnicity in their MyKad applications. The NRD required Sino-Kadazans or Sino-Dusuns to choose between Chinese, Kadazan, Dusun or Murut ethnicity for their MyKads. The NRD is insisting that the community use the generic term “Sino-Native” in the documentation. So silly for the NRD to do this. This policy has angered the mixed Chinese-native community in the state and they have refused to subscribe to the NRD ruling and are demanding that their particular native groupings be recognised. As a Sabahan, Musa Aman understands their feeling. Musa Aman has even told the NRD repeatedly that in Sabah by virtue of its traditions, customs and beliefs everyone recognises the existence of Sino Kadazan, Sino Dusun and others because inter-marriages in Sabah are norm, just like in my own case where my wife is Chinese-Native. After all, as far as Sabah is concerned there are many things that were being done in Sabah that was not done in other parts of Malaysia. KL must recognise and learn from Sabah in terms of harmony and living together. Musa even said that blanket policies could no longer apply for Sabah and that the federal government must take into account local situations and accord the ‘right treatment’ in policies to be implemented in the state.

Then we have the Christians in Sabah and Musa’s success in winning the support of the Christians despite having the Party Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and UPKO and even PBRS as a partners is based on a no-nonsense approach to communal relations. In this respect, Musa Aman has shown how stern he is compared to Taib Mahmud of Sarawak, who looked on helplessly when the Alkitab and Allah issue was played up by fanatics within UMNO.

In contrast, Musa Aman showed the firm, uncompromising side of his character when he refused to let extremist break the racial harmony in Sabah which has been around for hundreds of years and a trademark of Sabah, and the West Malaysians will never understand this.

Musa Aman’s success via these steps in weaning sizeable sections of the Christians undoubtedly contributed to his electoral triumph in 2008 and even the recent Batu Sapi Parliamentary by-elections.

His focus on the natives also helped him by widening the distance between them and the others, who constitute the Sabah’s vote bank.

Musa Aman knows that he now has to start delivering and there is great expectations by Sabahans. He has got everyone thinking and interested in Sabah, but that is not enough. Change has now to be felt and experienced. The masses are eager and impatient. No one knows it more than Musa Aman does. Elections are only months away. Time flies.


Ahli parlimen Sungai Siput, Dr Micheal Devaraj Jeyakumar yang ditahan di bawah Ordinan Darurat (EO), hari ini melancarkan mogok lapar ketika dalam tahanan.

Perkara itu dimaklumkan oleh isteri beliau, Mohanarani Rasiah ketika menemui suaminya itu kira-kira jam 11 pagi, semalam.

Menurut Moharani, suaminya itu sangat hampa dan kecewa dengan pendirian polis dan kerajaan terhadap enam aktivis Parti Sosialis Malaysia yang ditahan di bawah EO sejak 2 Julai lalu.

“Beliau akan teruskan mogok lapar sehingga kesemua PSM 6 dibebaskan atau dituduh di mahkamah.

“Saya cuba menasihatkan beliau untuk tidak berbuat demikian kerana risau akan kesihatan beliau tetapi beliau bertekad mahu meneruskan mogok lapar,” kata Mohanarani dalam satu kenyataan hari ini

===

KENYATAAN AKHBAR RANI – ISTERI DR. JEYAKUMAR DI IPOH, 2PM 28
Julai 2011

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj melancarkan Mogok Lapar dalam tahanan

Apabila saya jumpa suami saya Dr
Jeyakumar pada 11 pagi semalam, 27hb. Julai 2011, beliau suarakan perasaannya
yang sangat hampa dan kecewa dengan pendirian polis dan kerajaan terhadap enam
aktivis PSM yang ditahan di bawah EO sejak 2 Julai 2011.

Menurutnya, polis enggan berganjak
dari posisi asal mereka walaupun PSM 6 telah bekerjasama penuh dan menjawab
kesemua soalan yang ditanya semasa soalsiasat dijalankan. Walaupun polis tidak
dapat sebarang bukti untuk menjustifikasikan pertahanan lanjutan, namun beliau
pasti tempoh tahanan mereka akan dilanjutkan sebab polis dan kerajaan ada
agenda sendiri dan mempunyai tujuan untuk memangsakan PSM6 .

Maka Dr
Jeyakumar telah memberitahu saya bahawa beliau akan mulakan mogok lapar pada 28/7/11 untuk
mendapatkan keadilan. Beliau akan teruskan mogok lapar sehingga kesemua PSM6
dibebaskan atau dituduh dimahkamah. Saya cuba menasihatkan beliau untuk tidak
berbuat demikian kerana risau akan kesihatan beliau tetapi beliau bertekad mahu
meneruskan mogok lapar kerana berpendapat

1. Walaupun tuduhan keatas mereka
adalah hanya pengerak BERSIH dan ini dinafikan oleh 6 orang tetapi polis
sengaja mahu kaitkan mereka dengan tuduhan ini
2. Walaupun sudah berkali-kali
dikatakan PSM tidak ada kaitan dengan PKM dan PSM tiada niat untuk kembangkan
fahaman komunis dan selama ini semua aktiviti PSM adalah terbuka dan
transparen, tetapi polis cuba memaksa, mereka (frame up) tuduhan-tuduhan palsu
keatas PSM 6
3. Tuduhan menghidupkan komunisme ini
hanya berdasarkan beberapa t-shirt dan kebelakangan ini polis sedang bergiat “frame-up”
tuduhan baru dan menurutnya ini berdasarkan lawatan-lawatan pemimpim PSM ke
luar negara atas jemputan parti sosialis lain di dunia dan cuba bertokoh tambah
bahawa PSM ada hubungan rahsia dengan PKM di Thailand.
Dr. Jeyakumar
menafikan semua tuduhan palsu ini, semua soalan polis menjurus untuk
mengeluarkan satu cerita karut untuk melanjutkan tempoh tahanan

Dr Jeyakumar memberitahu polis dan
kerajaan supaya bersikap jujur dan review kerja-kerja dan aktiviti PSM dalam 13
tahun sejak ia ditubuhkan. Di mana semua aktiviti PSM adalah terbuka dan dan
jika PSM mengkritik kerajaan BN, itu adalah hak demokratiknya.

Menurut Dr Jeyakumar, beliau telah
memberi kerjasama penuh sejak direman di mana beliau telah menandatangani 3
laporan termasuk laporan 45 muka surat di Pulau Pinang. Sekarang SB telah
sediakan report dengan 80 mukasurat tetapi Dr Jeyakumar buat keputusan beliau
tidak akan tandatanganinya kerana beliau melihat kesemua siasatan sebagai
sia-sia sahaja. Polis masih ‘menembak secara liar’ (shooting wildly).

Oleh itu, Dr Jeyakumar telah hilang
kepercayaan kepada polis untuk melaksanakan isu ini secara adil. Beliau
menuntut supaya Menteri Dalam Negeri mainkan peranan untuk membebaskan atau
hadap mereka ke mahkamah. Sehingga hari itu beliau akan buat mogok lapar.