26 August 2013

The failure of the prosection to call Deputy Superintendent Musa Safri and the failure of the trial judge to consider the notice of alibi were among the main reasons for the acquittal of two former policemen in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

In the 47-page written judgment released this morning, the three-man Court of Appeal bench ruled the failure to call Musa proved fatal to the prosecution's case as he could have unravelled the narrative of the prosection's case.

The two former police commandos, chief inspector Azilah Hadri and corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, were acquitted on Friday for the murder of Altantuya on October 19, 2006.

The judgment written by Court of Appeal judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat also pointed to discrepancies in the affidavit by political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda and Sirul's testimony in court pertaining to Musa's involvement in the case.

"It must not be overlooked that this ugly and horrendous episode started with the request by Razak to Musa before Azilah and Sirul came into the picture.

"The evidence established that Azilah and Sirul's task was to patrol the vicinity of Razak's house and their presence there that night was upon the request of Razak to Azilah," Tengku Maimun said in the judgment.

Only Musa could have unravelled this, she added.

At the time, Musa was the aide-de-camp of the then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

On Azilah's acquittal, the Court of Appeal ruled that trial judge Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yassin had failed to consider the notice of alibi which revealed that Azilah could not have been at two places at the same time on the night of Altantuya's murder.

The Court of Appeal said the call logs of telecommunication companies which were tendered by the prosecution were aimed to track Azilah’s movement on the day Altantuya was murdered.

According to the exhibits, Azilah was at Pekan Subang at 10.15pm and at Kampung Melayu Subang at 10.19pm.

However, the police station diary at Bukit Aman indicated that Azilah was there collecting his weapon, a Glock EAH 387, and two bullet magazines at 10.18pm.

He had then headed to Putrajaya for escort duty with Najib.

The investigating officer in  Altantuya's murder case, ASP Tonny Lunggan, had testified in the trial that the station diary was true and accurate.

This, the Court of Appeal held, had cast doubts on the accuracy of the call logs.

“The trial judge should have directed his mind to the two contradicting sets of evidence and in failing to do so had misdirected himself.

"We do not find it anywhere in the judgment that the trial judge had considered whether the station diary and the evidence that Azilah was at Wangsa Maju and at Bukit Aman at the material time, shows that by reason he cannot be or unlikely to be at Puncak Alam.

“In the circumstances, the judge had misdirected himself by way of non-direction in failing to consider the evidence,” she said, referring to the trial judge’s failure to consider the defence of alibi.

She said the call logs and coverage prediction were important evidence to establish Azilah’s presence at the crime scene.

“It is essential for the learned judge to address his mind to the challenge raised by the defence on the exhibits and to make a finding whether there was in fact an alteration or tampering of the data and whether the authenticity of the data was questionable or otherwise,” she said.

“Regrettably, the judge failed to do this, which amounts to serious misdirection rendering the said exhibits unsafe to be relied upon.”

The court had also said the trial judge should have made a finding on the connection between the explosives and the two policemen and his failure to address this missing link resulted in yet another misdirection.

Tengku Maimun added that the three-man Court of Appeal bench could not say if a reasonable tribunal, properly directed, would have convicted the appellants on available evidence.

"The court below had ignored and overlooked salient facts and evidence favourable to the appellants which resulted in serious and substantial miscarriage of justice,” she said.

“The cummulative effects of these non-directions rendered the conviction unsafe. We are conscious that a heinous crime has been committed but where the guilt of the appellants had not been satisfactorily proved, we are constrained to give the benefit of doubt to them.

“We unanimously allow both appeals. Conviction and sentence by the High Court is set aside, the appellants are accordingly acquitted and discharged.

23 August 2013

Despite the Court of Appeal ruling that the failure of the prosecution to call Deputy Superintendent Musa Safri to the stand had weakened its case, the Attorney-General’s stand is still that Musa was of no relevance to it.

Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, in disagreeing with the ruling, said there was no need to call Musa, who was the aide-de-camp of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, to unfold the narrative of the prosecution’s case.

"While respecting the Court of Appeal, the Attorney-General's Chambers is dissatisfied with the decision. Non-direction or misdirection by the trial court is not the fault of the prosecution,” Gani said in a statement today.

"As far as DSP Musa Safri is concerned, we maintain that his testimony had no relevance at all as the whole narrative of the prosecution's case had been unfolded in the trial below. Hence, an appeal to the Federal Court will be filed."

The Court of Appeal this morning allowed the appeal of the two former policemen, Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar, who were convicted of murdering Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

In their judgment, the three-man panel said the failure to call Musa hurt the prosecution's case.

Lawyer Karpal Singh, who was holding a watching brief for Altantuya’s family, has said he intends to  subpoena Musa and Najib as witnesses in a RM100 million civil suit filed by Altantuya's father, Setev Shaariibuu, against Abdul Razak Baginda, Azilah, Sirul and the government over his daughter’s death. 

Abdul Razak was also charged with the murder but was acquitted in 2008 without his defence being called.

The civil suit was put on hold pending today’s appeal and is likely to be further delayed because of the AG’s intention to appeal today’s decision. 

20 August 2013

Student activists are planning to hold a demonstration to protest the announcement by Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh to link PTPTN loan defaulters to Bank Negara's credit bureau database.

Adam Adli Abdul Halim, a well-known student-rights activist, said university students did not take the issue lightly, adding that they will not let it go without doing anything.

"We are discussing it. We will definitely protest," Adam told The Malaysian Insider today.

Idris had announced yesterday, PTPTN's move to link its list of defaulters to the Central Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS), a computerised database system under Bank Negara used by banks to assess prospective borrowers' financial profile.

The announcement was met with a huge outcry from the Opposition, non-governmental organisations and students, which prompted the minister to insist that the move will not "victimise" students.

"We will make sure that nobody would be at a loss. PTPTN, students and the country would be happy," he told The Malaysian Insider today.

Adam, however, pointed out that the ministry's move showed that the PTPTN was never set up for the students' welfare nor help anyone, but it was a trap to profit from the students' suffering.

"After the announcement, many student groups and other bodies like political parties have met to discuss and make a decision on how to respond to this."

"It is not right to list down the individuals who owe money to PTPTN in the CCRIS as in a declining economy and difficulty in getting jobs, students should be given the opportunity to take loans to start a business. Blacklisting them will simply mean they will be denied access to funds,” he said.

He argued that the CCRIS listing will not solve any problems, but instead showed how short-sighted the minister was.

Meanwhile, Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) chairman Safwan Anang said his group will try and meet Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to discuss the issue.

"We plan to meet Khairy  and bring this matter to him. If that does not work, we will protest again," he added.

"We object to the CCRIS listing as it is more burdensome. While Khairy wants to solve the issue of bankruptcy among the young people, this other minister wants to blacklist us."

Adam, in sharing Safwan's sentiments, said: "This latest development shows that Idris Jusoh is not the right person to look after the education portfolio, especially higher education. He does not understand student affairs and their welfare."

In April last year, Adam, Safwan along with 300 students held a demonstration at Dataran Merdeka, calling for the abolishment of the PTPTN.

They marched, carrying pictures of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the-then Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin with wreaths around it as a show of protest.

The group then set up tents at the historic Dataran Merdeka and stayed on until the Bersih 3.0 gathering on July 28.

Umno Youth reached across the political aisle today to back Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) call to stop Putrajaya’s move to list National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) defaulters on Bank Negara’s Credit Bureau database.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said the wing disagreed with the public-shaming exercise, and urged the federal government to try other credit collection mechanisms to collect from the defaulters.

“The government could use other existing measures to take action against defaulters who had stubbornly refused to pay up despite notices being issued to them,” he said in a statement.

He added that priority should be given to an integrated approach that includes introducing incentives for those who pay up and a flexible payment system that takes into consideration the borrowers’ financial situation.

“This is because PTPTN loan is different from other credit facilities such as credit card or hire purchase which are loans taken out of personal choice while PTPTN is a necessity for students,” he said.

The youth and sports minister said the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan has become a necessity for students because the government does not provide free education at institutes of higher learning.

A diploma or a degree has become a must for the intellectual development of the youths of today, he said.

“Meanwhile, the group of borrowers who had refused to pay up their loans is small and this action to blacklist all defaulters will create a negative impression of PTPTN,” he said.

Khairy was responding to a recent statement by Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh that beginning this month; PTPTN has started collaborating with Bank Negara to list defaulters on the CCRIS.

Idris was reported as saying yesterday that beginning this month, the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) has been collaborating with Bank Negara to list defaulters on the CCRIS.

PR leaders have cried foul over this announcement and demanded that the government stop this plan and threatened a nationwide campaign to protest the move it is not shelved.

The government will evacuate Malaysian students in Egypt starting from tonight, following reports of growing security risks in the area, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.

He said a team from Malaysia’s national security council in Cairo found that the situation is becoming more uncertain, and advised for evacuation to begin immediately.

“From tonight, we will be booking tickets on commercial flights via Oman and Istanbul, among other destinations, to bring our students home,” Najib said at a press conference at the Hari Raya open house of chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa today.

The prime minister said the government is finalising logistics to transfer the students who had volunteered to be sent home, and expects it to take several days to evacuate them should all 3,300 Malaysian students choose to return to Malaysia.

He noted that the government chose to use only commercial flights as it would be too expensive to use the military’s fleet of Hercules C130 transport planes as they are only designed for short haul flights and would require additional clearance from other countries to refuel.

Najib said he has also instructed his deputy and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to get in touch with the Al-Azhar University in Cairo to work out a new schedule for Malaysian students to sit for their exams.

He added that Malaysia may consider the possibility of working with the university to open a campus here, considering this is the second time in as many years that students have been flown back due to civil unrest.

“We are still thinking about it. Al-Azhar University is a renowned university in terms of Islamic studies, so maybe we can look at opening a Malaysia campus, among other alternatives,” he said.

17 August 2013

Putrajaya has revoked the permanent resident (PR) status of a resort operator in Johor who had allowed a group of Buddhist to meditate in the resort's surau, saying  he was being "insensitive to Muslims and Islam".

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today the revocation was done in accordance with provisions in the Federal Constitution, adding the resort operator was told this while under detention.

"He is a Singaporean and the PR status is a privilege given to him and the government can withdraw it. He can still come and go into the country but he is now subjected to the requirements under the Immigration Act for expatriate workers in the country,"  Zahid told reporters in Putrajaya today.

The resort owner was arrested last week after a 63-second video - "Chinese Buddhists pray in surau: surau becomes temple" - depicting a Buddhist group using the surau at the resort for meditation was uploaded on YouTube on August 10.

The owner had earlier defended his action, saying that he did not think allowing believers of other religions to use the surau was wrong.

Ahmad Zahid hoped the episode would serve as a lesson to others not to treat lightly issues of religious sensitivities.

"No one one should take our hospitality for granted. It is not a light matter especially when his action has belittled Islam the official religion of the Federation," he told reporters after attending a Hari Raya open house organised by Pengasih, a non-governmental organisation set up to assist drug dependents.

He said his ministry had no powers over Islamic religious matters as that came under the jurisdiction of rulers of the states.

"We are more concerned about safety and public order," he said, adding his ministry would work together with agencies including Jakim to curb posting of senstive videos in the social media.

Ahmad Zahid also assured the ministry would have reacted in the same manner if the sanctity of other religions were not respected.

The resort owner's decision to allow the Buddhist to use the surau had reportedly caused a furore among the fishing community in Sedili Besar, Kota Tinggi, after it was discovered by a resort visitor who wanted to perform his Asar prayers at the surau last Saturday.

Following the incident, the 45-year-old resort owner was arrested for four days to assist in the investigation.

He was released on police bail yesterday.

The police said the investigation papers of the case was being finalised before submitting it to the public prosecutor for action.

"We are also waiting for further directive from the public prosecutor while at the same time, monitoring all activities and public reaction pertaining to the case," said Johor deputy police chief Datuk Ismail Yatim yesterday.

The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim, has ordered the surau demolished once investigations were completed.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin yesterday urged all parties to stop the polemics over the issue of demolishing a resort's surau.

He said there was no need to argue over the issue anymore as the state government would abide by the Sultan’s order.

"The decision has been made. It is the order made by Sultan Ibrahim, as the head of the Islamic religion in the state. In making the decision, the Sultan had sought the views and advise of various parties,” he said today. - August 17, 2013.

15 August 2013

Someone wondered the other day: who was Malaysia's best Home Minister?

The question was in response to the increasingly irrational behaviour of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who has only one move in his playbook: use the sledgehammer to pummel and bully his way to hero status in Umno.

Justice, fairness, moderation are words that have no place in Zahid's small world, crowded out by grandstanding.

The question was also in response to a growing sense that the country is in a tailspin, buffeted from every side by worsening race relations, intolerance, a crime epidemic and in serious need of a firm but fair hand.

So who was the best Home Minister? Was it Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie? Was it Musa Hitam? Was it Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad? Was it Tun Abdullah Badawi? Was it Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar? Surely you remember Syed Hamid - he detained a journalist under the Internal Security Act to protect her, he said! What about Hishammuddin Hussein? He who was taking a serious view of this or that while crime was unravelling on the streets.

But seriously, on stature, standard and principle, none of the above comes even close to Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman. This Home Minister was called into action following the May 13 riots, when feelings among the different races were raw and legitimate questions were being raised whether the nascent democracy of Malaysia had gone up in smoke. This was a dangerous time: lives were lost, property destroyed and talk of a land of milk and honey almost foolish to entertain.

Dr Ismail could have played the race and religious card and become the most popular politician in Umno. He didn't.

Instead he went on television and delivered a stark message, edited by his friend Robert Kuok, on the death of democracy. It was his way of telling Malaysians that this would be the outcome for the country if people didn't put away their prejudices and work with the government towards reconciliation.

With the carrot came the stick. He ordered the arrest of troublemakers with no regard to their race, Malay, Indian or Chinese. And warned Malay ultras to expect no mercy if they agitated. Once he remarked that he would arrest his own mother if she did anything illegal.

Former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam watched the television broadcast and recalled "a sense of relief came over us, the sheer force of the man's reputation for fairness was magic".

Chet Singh of Penang Development Board remembered feeling comforted on hearing news that Tun Dr Ismail was returning as Home Minister.

This is how Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah described the Home Minister's performance during the darkest period in Malaysian history: "Ismail was a principled man - and was seen that way by the different races... once he decided on something you could be sure that he had gone through the relevant details and studied them. What is confidence unless it is based on the people's belief in the leader?"

Kuok said: "He was a lovely man with the strength of character, high principles and a great sense of fairness. In my opinion, he was probably the most non-racial, non-racist Malay I have ever met. Doc was a stickler for total fair play, for correctness."

Going through the excellent book, "The Reluctant Politician" by Ooi Kee Beng and culling information from various other articles on Tun Dr Ismail, these words crop up: firm, fair, principled, moderate.

Till today, older Malaysians across the racial and political divide remember Dr Ismail with rare affection. And then fall into a valley of despair when they compare him with the likes of Hishammuddin and Zahid.

He may have ticked off the dog trainer of the video clip fame but no way would he have agreed to have her remanded like a common criminal. Similarly he would have frowned on the Singaporean resort owner who allowed a Buddhist group to use the surau for meditation but you can't see him stoking the fires by talking about stripping the Singaporean of his permanent residence.

Why? Because those who knew him intimately said he never seemed interested in cultivating a loyal group of followers. Or, as Ooi Kee Beng wrote: "His style of politics, infused with the reluctance he had felt about going into politics, did not involve populist tactics."

In short, he did not grandstand at the expense of fair play or audition for a higher position in Umno as Zahid Hamidi seems to be doing on a daily basis.

These days there is little care that the take-no-prisoners approach of Zahid Hamidi and other Umno leaders is creating a them-versus-us undercurrent in Malaysian society. There is little sense of fairness or proportion to how Government reacts to a prickly situation.

Umno politicians have the slogans but few of them understand that fairness and justice are critical building blocks of nationhood.

The end result: a lack of respect among the public for the moral standing or competence of government leaders. And a growing sense of desperation for that one leader who can halt the country from sliding further into the abyss of despair with that combination of firmness, fairness and moderation.

This is what Abdullah Ali said about Tun Dr Ismail in the book, The Reluctant Politician: "He believed fully in the oneness of Malaysia, and worked on that belief. He did not care whom he had to fight. He was absolutely neutral. When you had to deal with him, you knew you would get fair treatment."

14 August 2013

Pemuda Umno Malaysia membuat laporan polis ke atas Pengerusi DAP Sarawak, Chong Chieng Jen kerana mendakwa insiden kes tembak-menembak serta jenayah yang berleluasa di negara ini merupakan sebahagian daripada sandiwara Barisan Nasional (BN) bagi mengembalikan beberapa akta yang telah dimansuhkan.

Menurut  Ketua Pemuda Umno, Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (gambar) laporan tersebut di buat hari ini di Balai Polis Indera Mahkota, Pahang.

Kata Khairy lagi, kenyataan Chong sebagai pemimpin kanan DAP  itu jelas menampakkan tahap pemikirannya yang cetek dan keanak-anakan bagi memperjuangkan politik kebencian yang diamalkan pembangkang terutama DAP selama ini.

"Tohmahan serta tuduhan itu jelas merupakan satu bentuk hasutan yang serius, keterlaluan dan bertujuan mempengaruhi rakyat bagi membenci BN selaku kerajaan yang dipilih secara sah pada pilihan raya umum lalu,"katanya dalam satu kenyataan media hari ini.

Ekoran itu, Pemuda Umno yang menyifatkan kenyataan itu sebagai "politik kotor" Chong berharap  ia dapat  membuka mata rakyat tentang kualiti pemikiran dan perjuangan politik para pemimpin pembangkang.

"Atas rasa tanggungjawab serta cintakan keamanan negara, kesejahteraan rakyat dan prinsip memperjuangkan amalan politik matang dan laporan ini sebagai bukti bahawa  satu tindakan undang-undang yang tegas dan adil dapat dilaksanakan ke atasnya," kata Khairy.

Semalam, portal The Borneo Post memetik kenyataan Chong yang  juga merupakan Ahli Parlimen Bandar Kuching berkata kejadian jenayah yang meningkat di negara ini  adalah sebahagian dari rancangan kerajaan Barisan Nasional bagi menggantikan undang-undang baru menyerupai Akta Ordinan (EO).

Chong berkata demikian semasa sidang media yang berlansung di Ibu Pejabat DAP bagi mengulas mengenai isu jenayah yang tidak terkawal.

"Ia merupakan satu tindakan terancang apabila pemimpin BN termasuk Menteri Dalam Negeri Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi menggunakan kesempatan peningkatan keganasan jenayah membabitkan senjata api untuk menperkenalkan undang-undang baru," dakwa beliau yang dipetik dari The Borneo Post.

Beliau juga berkata dengan berbuat demikian rakyat menjadi mangsa bagi agenda politik BN.

Chong memberitahu undang-undang seperti EO yang bakal diperkenal BN hanya membenarkan penyalahgunaan kuasa kerana sesiapa saja termasuk pemimpin pembangkang boleh ditahan tanpa dibicara di mahkamah. 

There’s no two ways about it  the road to Putrajaya is not a urban highway but rather one than wends its way through the kampungs and plantations of Malaysia, reveals a study of the way votes went in the past general election.

Just 30%, a little under one-third of Malaysians, live in the rural and semi-rural parts of Malaysia, but they sent 71% of the politicians into Parliament last May 5.

Yes, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) snared 51% of the popular vote. Yes, it snagged more than three-quarters of the Chinese vote. It even scored 54.9% of the Indian vote and stole about 40% of the Malay vote. But that only made PR the undisputed champion of urban Malaysia.

Barisan Nasional-friendly (BN) gerrymandering and unequal constituency sizes means that 158 or 71% of the 222 parliamentary seats are non-urban, so even if the pact of PKR, DAP and PAS performs better in all the above categories in the next general election, it will likely be occupying opposition benches in Parliament.

These facts were culled from a survey by Merdeka Center on voting patterns in 222 parliament seats. The data from voting streams from first-time voters to senior citizens was analysed by the independent researchers.

PR politicians and election watchdog groups have long complained that the carving out of constituencies is aimed at keeping BN in power and makes a rural vote worth an average of six urban voters.

But nothing is likely to change in the composition of seats and the redrawing of boundaries between now and GE14, making it necessary for Pakatan Rakyat to think up new approaches to win more friends in the rural heartland.

Ibrahim Suffian, head of Merdeka Centre, said that PR will have to come up with policies which address concerns of Malays, the largest segment of voters in rural and semi-rural seats. Or it has to make a much better effort in getting across its message of a new Malaysia to the back of beyond.

"If Pakatan Rakyat wants to win more support in rural areas, it has to first address some of the concerns about Islam and Malay rights.

“Barisan Nasional has done an effective job of creating some fear among rural folk, even planting in their minds the concern of whether Pakatan Rakyat has a plan for their economic wellbeing,” he told The Malaysian Insider, noting that even the decrease of Chinese support for BN was less pronounced in rural constituencies.

It is just not good enough to talk about corruption or the murder of Altantuya Shariibuu in areas where the Umno/BN network is strong, and where government handouts are welcomed by grateful hands.

The task of winning the rural vote was left largely to PAS in GE13 and the party had a patchy record in fighting off BN propaganda that PR rule would diminish the position of the Malays and Islam.

In a recent interview with The Malaysian Insider, PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli said that the Opposition pact had to focus more attention on the fears and concerns of rural Malay voters.

"It has to do with the fears of Malays on security and confidence in a multi-racial country and their livelihood in the rural areas. These are the issues that BN has been able to capitalise on successfully, to create a fear of Pakatan Rakyat, " he said.

He added, "We can't keep riding on urban dissatisfaction to make the numbers. We are working on strategies to get the message across to rural areas.

13 August 2013

Despite his active lobbying for fresh preventive laws now, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had been part of the same Cabinet that agreed to repeal such legislation not long ago, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin reminded today.

The former New Straits Times(NST) group editor-in-chief noted Zahid's bellyaching over the loss of these laws but said neither the minister nor his Cabinet colleagues could claim they had not been partially responsible for it.

"The question here, where was Ahmad Zahid and other Cabinet members when the suggestion to abolish the ISA, EO and Banishment Act was discussed?" Kadir asked in his blog here.

"Don't wipe your hands off by saying that the Cabinet did not discuss and debate the matter ... What are the tasks and roles of the Cabinet then?"

"Were they all yes men? It makes no sense," he added.

According to Kadir, the absence of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA), Emergency Ordinance (EO), and Banishment Act 1959, which he said were "happily scrapped" by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was likely the cause of the recent crime wave.

His remark follows what he described as frank admissions by some, including Zahid, that the repeal has been a "folly" and had instead brought harm towards Malaysia and its people.

Zahid and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had previously stirred controversy when they indicated that the return of preventive detention laws would help the police carry out their crime-fighting duties more effectively.

On Sunday, Zahid had repeated his assertion that the police force had lost its bite in the repeal of laws that once allowed them to detain suspected criminals without trial.

With violent crimes on the rise and suspicions linking the sudden spate of shootings to gangland turf wars and firearms smuggling, the Home Minister appeared insistent on the need for preventive detention as a vital aid to assist crime busters.

In the interview published byUtusan Malaysia’s weekend edition Mingguan Malaysia, Zahid said the overall crime rate had dropped but index crimes were increasing, attributing the rise of the latter to four factors.

He said the four factors include the release of the 2,600 EO detainees from the Simpang Renggam detention centre, and their hardcore followers and subordinates whom the police said hit a figure of 266,000 people.

Meanwhile, Kadir has called on Najib and other lawmakers to fix the problem by introducing replacements to preventive laws.

"If Najib, Cabinet members and MP  — whether from Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat — have stumbled, please admit your mistakes and turn back," said Kadir. 

"If they still care for 99 per cent of the citizens who love peace and need protection, they must quickly draft new and stricter laws to replace the acts that they have abolished."

Putrajaya had abolished the EO laws and the ISA, both of which allowed for preventive detention without trial, a feature that has been criticised by its detractors for allegedly infringing on human rights.

On July 26, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave his assurance that his administration would be “mindful” of human rights when drafting new laws to combat crime.

However, Najib had earlier this month pledged Putrajaya’s commitment to consider “anything” the police needs to fight serious crime, noting the sudden rise in gun-related incidents lately.

11 August 2013

In the face of rising concern over the crime rate, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi repeated his assertion today that the police force had lost its bite in the repeal of laws that once allowed them to detain suspected criminals without trial.

With violent crimes on the rise and suspicions linking the sudden spate of shootings to gangland turf wars and firearms smuggling, the Home Minister appeared insistent on the need for preventive detention as a vital aid to assist crime busters.

”I think the ‘teeth’ of the police are less sharp now because their powers used to be strengthened with laws,” Zahid said in an interview published by Utusan Malaysia’s weekend editionMingguan Malaysia today.

Zahid said that the public now enjoy more freedom than before as the authorities now have to go through the courts when taking preventive measures to fight crime.

”This is what the opposition wants where the society feels that basic human rights and liberties are more important than the issue of public safety and peace,” he said.

Putrajaya had abolished the Emergency Ordinance laws and the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, both of which allowed for preventive detention without trial, a feature that has been criticised by its detractors for allegedly infringing on human rights.

Zahid and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had previously stirred controversy when they indicated that the return of preventive detention laws would help the police carry out their crime-fighting duties more effectively.

But on July 26, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave his assurance that his administration would be “mindful” of human rights when drafting new laws to combat crime.

In the interview, Zahid said the overall crime rate had dropped but index crimes were increasing, attributing the rise of the latter to four factors.

He said the four factors include the release of the 2,600 EO detainees from the Simpang Renggam detention centre, and their hardcore followers and subordinates which the police said hit a figure of 266,000 people.

”The second factor, those that were released from detention have hardcore supporters. According to the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), from the 2,600 released, they have at least 10 right-hand men, meaning there are 26,000 with the society.

”These right-hand men also have at least 10 of their own right-hand men, meaning there’s 266,000 people,” Zahid said, roping in these followers as allegedly having contributed to the rise of index crime.

The police force have yet to increase their manpower and upgrade their resources in line with the loss of the EO and Restricted Residence Act, Zahid said.

He also said there needs to be more awareness programmes on crime prevention.

To date, the police have not provided statistics of crime cases that are said to be committed by former EO detainees.

While acknowledging that the opposition’s suggestions for legal reforms were “positive”, Zahid hinted that their approach would leave the government bearing the brunt of criticism despite being stripped of some of their powers to prevent crimes.

”Meaning, how far is our preparations in terms of preventive steps including how to handle the detainees that were released from Simpang Renggam.

“They are now in the ‘market’, the question is what is the opposition’s contribution?” he asked, referring to the former EO detainees.

”They don’t feel responsible when crime happens but instead returns the fault to the government or the authorities.

“They don’t feel guilty if there are murders because the released criminal wants to take revenge on witnesses, the opposition also doesn’t feel the slightest terusik (feeling) if there’s any weaknesses in the implementation of laws because (they) think it is the government’s responsibility,” he said of the opposition when interview by Mingguan Malaysia.

”In this situation, don’t be trapped by the opposition’s tactics, the proposals look good but in the end, the proposal will trap the government,” Zahid said.

When asked to comment on the severe criticism faced by the police force in cases of custodial deaths, Zahid urged the public to be “fair” to the police.

”Those who are arrested are gangsters and criminals but those who are blamed are the police. Be fair to the police.

”Police can carry out investigations with close circuit cameras (CCTV). Police can carry out action according to SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that is set and police can carry out investigations according to office hours, but is that effective enough?

He said the police’s actions would be based on their past experiences and the situation at hand, urging the public not to always blame the police.

”If the society feels that a certain action by the police is quite slow, they blame the team, but when the criminals acts on the police, the police is also blamed, so I think justice should also be given to the police,” he said.

10 August 2013

Umno members should steer clear of money politics to protect the party’s image during its internal elections this October, its president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said.

He said Umno members should lodge complaints upon discovering any attempt at money politics during the crucial polls.

But he also noted that amendments to its party constitution, where a larger pool of party members now have a say in the elections, would make it more difficult for votes to be bought.

“With the current system where 150,000 members will elect Umno leaders at the division and top level, it becomes harder for us to give money to get support,

“However, this does not mean that money politics does not exist at all; maybe there are people who will use money politics with the hope of influencing delegates,” Najib, who is also the prime minister, told Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysiain an interview published today.

Utusan also reported Najib as stressing that the chances of polls results being manipulated through bribery were greatly reduced with the tweaking of the party constitution.

Following the amendment, which was approved in 2009, over 150,000 Umno delegates from 191 divisions are now eligible to vote in the party polls, as opposed to the 2,500 delegates in the past.

In the same interview, Najib said the new polling system meant that Umno was now more open and democratic, which would lead to more active contests for party posts.

But the leader appeared to caution against any contest that would jeopardise the party’s image.

“We are the party which the Malays hope in and we must preserve this so that the internal party contest will not lead to any negative image or perception of Umno,” he said, expressing his hopes that the Umno polls would mark the party’s maturity.

“We hope the intention and spirit will be appreciated by the Umno members, meaning that we want to make Umno more inclusive, democratic, and secondly, free from bribery,” Najib also said when asked whether the party members could accept the new polling system.

The outcome of the Umno polls would be closely watched, with Najib’s success in defending his presidency said to be closely tied to his position as the country’s leader.

Senior Umno leaders have been calling for the top two positions in the party to be uncontested, which would then see Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin retaining their posts.

09 August 2013

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has pledged to address Malay concerns without relying on “discriminatory” race-based policies, saying educating, empowering and raising the skills of the community are the best ways to improve their livelihood.

PR leaders agreed that the Malays, as the country’s dominant ethnic group, should have their needs attended to but stressed that this must not be at the expense of the other races.

PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli noted that both former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Kuan Yew were of the opinion that Malays are “not capable”, and that the majority population in Malaysia could only participate in the country’s development process by being entitled to perpetual handouts.

“Pakatan’s proposition is we would be able to address the concerns and fears of Malays without being racially divisive and discriminatory,” Rafizi toldThe Malay Mail Online yesterday.

“Kuan Yew’s statement is if you want to be a government, and the Malays are majority, therefore you must have the support of the Malays because the Malays are incapable of standing on their own and have to be given assistance all the time,” added the Pandan MP.

Khalid said ‘the special position of the Malays is just reassurance that they won’t be left out’.Rafizi, 36, called Dr Mahathir’s and Lee’s views “outdated and repugnant, especially to younger Malays”, noting that the two elder statesmen, both of whom are almost 90 years of age, come from a generation that “looks down on the Malays”.

Lee wrote in a book “One Man’s View of the World”, which was released recently, that Malaysia’s brain drain problem was caused by Putrajaya’s insistence on promoting “one race” above all others.

Dr Mahathir also wrote a controversial book titled “The Malay Dilemma” in 1970, where he proposed affirmative action to enable the Malays to compete with the Chinese, who were more progressive economically.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said on Thursday that it was inevitable to pay more attention to the Malays as they form 60 per cent of the population.

Rafizi agreed, saying: “If the Malays are the major ethnic group, whatever their concerns and problems, the government has to attend to it.”

The young lawmaker, however, stressed that the way forward was to build the confidence of the Malays, to educate them and to enable them to voice independent opinions.

“Going forward, our generation doesn’t want to be given leeway just because we’re Malays. We want to be respected as Malaysian leaders because of our talent, our thinking, no matter whether we’re Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban, or Kadazan,” he said.

Pua said that PR has always focused on ‘ketuanan rakyat’ (people supremacy), and not ‘ketuanan Melayu’.Rafizi, however, acknowledged the difficulty of changing the mindset of some Malays, saying that Umno has conditioned the majority group for more than half a century to rely on the ruling party, without which the “Malays would be in trouble and not be able to compete with the non-Malays.”

PAS central working committee member Khalid Samad said that affirmative action policies were about “making sure no race is left behind”, and not about making one race “superior” to another.

“The special position of the Malays is just reassurance that they won’t be left out. It doesn’t mean other races have to be left out at the same time,” Khalid told The Malay Mail Onlineyesterday.

The Shah Alam MP noted that the special position of the Malays, as enshrined in the federal constitution, was agreed to by all races during the formation of the nation.

“What the constitution mentions is the special position of the Malays, which means ‘kedudukan istimewa Melayu’ or ‘hak istimewa Melayu’ (Malay special rights), which is different from ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy),” he said.

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua said that PR has always focused on “ketuanan rakyat” (people supremacy), and not “ketuanan Melayu”.

“We will help everyone. If the poor are the majority Malays, then the Malays will get it,” the Petaling Jaya Utara MP told The Malay Mail Online.

08 August 2013

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s biggest roadblock to reforming the country will come from his own Umno, according to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a new book due out next week.

“Najib is trying to do many good things. He is trying to transform the economy, the government and make changes.

“But he faces the same problem that I did ― resistance,” Malaysia’s fifth prime minister wrote in the 620-page book titled “Awakenings: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia”.

Abdullah succeeded the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in 2003.

A year later and riding on the promise of reforms, the man, fondly referred to as Pak Lah, led Barisan Nasional (BN) to its most dominant mandate in Election 2004.

But a scant five years after, he was hounded from office by the man who put him there, having led BN from the euphoria of 2004 to the despair of 2008 general election when it lost its customary stranglehold on Parliament.

“I was perhaps too idealistic and thought everyone would embrace the changes which could be the good of the country and people,” Abdullah wrote.

During his time, Abdullah had loosened the reins on the media and allowed seemingly open dissent on the Internet, the latter of which is often credited for the unprecedented gains made by the loose opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat during Election 2008.

“Unfortunately, there are still people in Umno and Barisan Nasional who refuse to accept that we did badly in 2008 because we did not meet the people’s expectations in carrying out reforms.

“They think we did not do well because we allowed too much discourse and openness to the people and the opposition.

“And it is these people who are set in doing things the old way,” Abdullah said.

“This, I believe is Najib’s biggest challenge.”

Najib, the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak, took over from Abdullah in April 2009 ostensibly to lead the ruling coalition towards reversing its losses.

But he has since led BN to an even worse electoral showing in Election 2013, losing seven more parliamentary seats from the 140 it had won in 2008; the coalition also lost the popular vote for the first time since it began contesting as BN.

Najib also has more to contend with as he heads into the Umno election later this year.

Last Wednesday, ratings agency Fitch Ratings downgraded its outlook on the country’s debt to “Negative”, piling the pressure on Najib to speed up the very reforms that may put his Umno presidency — and, ultimately, his office as prime minister — in jeopardy.

05 August 2013

Putrajaya must allow Parliament to debate the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) before committing the country to the controversial and secretive trade deal, PAS information chief Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said today.

Saying the agreement could have far-reaching effects on the country’s ability to chart its own economic course, Tuan Ibrahim said it was vital to pore over the details of the treaty while the country still possessed the leverage to negotiate.

“The TPPA must be presented and discussed in the Parliament from the angle of ‘Why should Malaysia overturn and reject TPPA?’ before any decision is made,” he added.

Putrajaya should also not proceed with the agreement until no further evidence is found to support its rejection.

Tuan Ibrahim said the move last week by ratings firm Fitch to downgrade its outlook on Malaysia’s sovereign debt from “Stable” to “Negative” meant it was doubly vital for the country to parlay with others discussing the deal while it could still do so.

“Malaysia’s economic standing is getting weaker, thus the government is not in a position to negotiate and they need to ensure TPPA will benefit the country overall,” he said in a statement today.

Mooting a special parliamentary debate on the issue, the former Pahang assemblyman suggested that ex-leaders of the country and former Bank Negara governors be invited to present their opinions on the TPPA along with economic experts.

PAS’s main point of contention with the TPPA was the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause that would allow foreign firms to bring member states to court if public policies are made against their interests.

Tuan Ibrahim hypothesised that in a scenario of economic crisis and sharp devaluation of the ringgit, Malaysia may lack the financial resources to contest such lawsuits in an international court.

“This is unfair to small countries that are involved in TPPA,” he said.

Last month, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad levelled the same criticism, among others, against the TPPA, saying Malaysia would lack the expertise to fend off such lawsuits.

“They will have the best lawyers, lots of them. We will exhaust all our funds to pay our less experienced lawyers. At the end we will lose and pay indemnities and fees running into billions. And we will continue to pay until we comply. And when we comply we will lose more money,” Dr Mahathir predicted then.

The TPPA is a free trade agreement that has been negotiated by the US, Malaysia and nine other nations as part of the larger Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership since 2010.

Critics allege that the agreement has since been co-opted by powerful corporations to allow them to trample over existing consumer, worker and environmental rights in signatory countries.

Although it is not definitively known how much — if any — of the allegations are true, the secretive nature of the negotiations continues to provide a fertile breeding ground for such speculation.

The 19th round of the TPP negotiations is scheduled to be held from August 22 to 30 in Brunei. 

02 August 2013

'Address urban woes or we'll lose more in GE14'

Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin has urged party leaders to work to address the concerns of urbanites or face risk losing more seats in the 14th general election.

At a buka puasa event organised by Federal Territories Umno, he said that the woes range from bread and butter issues to matters like human rights and corruption.

"If we do not fulfil our responsibilities, take things for granted and merely pray for support, then maybe we will not be able to maintain our present position," he said.

Muhyiddin said Umno realises that for better educated urban residents, one of the biggest issues is corruption.

"Corruption is a problem which urban dwellers pay attention to and expect the government to, as well.

"How we deal with corruption is something they want to know as they believe corruption is a cancer to society and a government who cannot overcome this cannot fulfil its other responsibilities," he said at the Al-Imam As-Shafie mosque in Taman Maluri.

He said, other than that, Umno must also help solve issues like the rising cost of living and house prices as these burden urbanites the most.

He said the urban residents are a window to the electorate in the rest of the nation, as people of all walks of life and different regions congregate in the city.

'ABU means Allah Blesses Umno'

Meanwhile, Federal Territories Umno chief Tengku Adnan Mansor said that the previous general election results show that Malays are with Umno, allowing the party to raise its number of Parliament seats from 79 to 88 seats.

"When we see (the graffiti) ABU, it actually means Allah Berkati Umno (Allah Blesses Umno) and we see in the Kuala Besut by-elections, Allah Bersama Umno (Allah Was With Umno)," he quipped.

ABU is an oft-cited graffiti around Kuala Lumpur, meaning Asalkan Bukan Umno (Anything But Umno), and has morphed into an organised anti-BN movement.

Meanwhile, Tengku Adnan in his speech also told Muhyiddin that Federal Territories Umno will support party president Najib Abdul Razak and Muhyiddin to retain the top two Umno posts.

"But as for the three vice-presidents' posts, I cannot guarantee as when I check on the ground, many want to see a contest for the post," he said.

However, he said, the Putrajaya division which he leads will vote for a status quo for the top five posts.

Tengku Adnan, who is also Putrajaya MP, also urged Umno members to remain united despite the party polls in October.

"We are on the right track, but the problem is that we like to fight among ourselves," he said.

Black 505: 3 pemimpin AMK didakwa Selasa ini

Tiga pemimpin Angkatan Muda Keadilan (AMK) menerima saman hadir ke Mahkamah Majistret Kuala Lumpur pada 6 Ogos depan atas tuduhan melanggar Akta Perhimpunan Aman 2012.

Ketua AMK, Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, timbalannya, Khairul Anuar Ahmad Zainuddin dan naib Mohd Nazree Mohd Yunus menerima saman itu selepas memberi keterangan di ibu pejabat polis daerah Dang Wangi pagi tadi.

Menurut Shamsul Iskandar, mereka akan didakwa di bawah Seksyen 4(2)(b) atas tuduhan berhimpun di tempat larangan di perkarangan Masjid Al-Rahman, Universiti Malaya pada 26 Jun lalu sewaktu himpunan 'Blackout 505'.

Sebelum itu, Khairul Anuar dan Mohd Nazree pagi ini hadir ke ibu pejabat polis daerah Dang Wangi untuk memberi keterangan dipercayai berkaitan penglibatan mereka dalam perhimpunan Black 505.

Kedua-duanya menerima notis pada 12 Julai lalu, untuk hadir memberi keterangan pada hari ini.

Mereka memberi keterangan di bawah Seksyen 4(2)(b) Akta Perhimpunan Aman 2012.

Mohd Nazree yang ditemui pemberita di pintu masuk IPD berkata beliau percaya arahan tersebut ada kaitan dengan penglibatan mereka dalm perhimpunan tersebut pada 26 Jun lalu.

Kedua-dua pemimpin AMK itu kemudiannya memasuki IPD itu yang ditemani peguam A Jeyaseelen kira-kira jam 11.15 pagi.

Shamsul Iskandar yang juga ahli Parlimen Bukit Katil pula masih belum tiba sewaktu Khairul Anwar dan Mohd Nazree memasuki IPD itu

Ahli mahu menantu Hadi dihadap ke JK disiplin

Seorang anggota seumur hidup PAS membuat aduan kepada Jawatankuasa Disiplin berhubung kenyataan anggota Majlis Syura Zaharuddin Muhammad, yang juga menantu presiden, kerana menuduh terdapat sabotaj dalaman secara terbuka.

Dalam surat yang dihantar hari ini yang salinannya diberikan kepada Media, Zulhazmi Shariff menggesa jawatankuasa displin menyiasat kesahihan dakwaan Zaharuddin yang dikatakan berlaku semasa pilihan raya umum lalu.

Bagaimanapun, jika ia ternyata tidak benar, penuduh patut dikenakan tindakan kerana mencemarkan imej parti di mata masyarakat, kata Zulhazmi.

Pengamal undang-undang itu mencadangkan Zaharuddin disiasat bawah fasal 82(1)(g) perlembagaan PAS, berkaitan tindakan yang menyalahi dan merugikan kepentingan parti.

Beliau merujuk tulisan Zaharudin di Facebook yang menjawab laporan sebuah portal berita yang mendakwanya mempengaruhi Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang menandatangani watikah calon PAS Kota Damansara, yang kemudiannya menyebabkan pertembungan dengan PKR.

"Berdasarkan tulisan tersebut sangat jelas, terang dan nyata bahawa Saudara Zaharudin Muhammad menyebut dan membuat tuduhan terbuka bahawa ada unsur-unsur sabotaj dalaman semasa pilihan raya umum ke-13, malah usaha sabotaj tersebut bertujuan menjatuhkan presiden dan timbalan mursyidul am (Datuk Haron Din).

"Ini adalah suatu tuduhan yang berat secara terbuka yang boleh menyebabkan pelbagai spekulasi buruk terhadap mana-mana pimpinan PAS mahupun ahli-ahli biasa PAS dan secara tidak langsung memberikan imej negatif terhadap PAS sendiri,"

Muhyiddin lurches to the right after quiet spell

COMMENT Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin 'fast draw' reaction to the most recent instance of an alleged insult to Islam was badly off the mark.

From remarks he made at a breaking of the fast function last Tuesday, he appears to have concluded that the video on YouTube that shows a woman cleaning her dogs while posting a Hari Raya greeting was a man and a non-Muslim.

The person in the offending video turned out to be a Muslim woman who is now under police remand.

The misperception by the DPM could readily be excused if not for what Muhyiddin proceeded to say after noting that "non-Muslims are insulting our religion."

He stated the premise for why non-Muslims ought not to insult Muslims: "Muslims do not insult the religion of non-Muslims such as Christianity and Hinduism."

He's right.

Muslims do not insult the religions of non-Muslims for the simple reason that they have too much respect for their own to want to do down that of others.

But the DPM has been misinformed or has simply forgotten that this general attitude of Muslims has been sporadically repudiated by people associated with his party, Umno.

Disparity in the treatment

Defeated BN candidate for Shah Alam in last May's general election Zulkifli Noordin has insulted Hinduism and Umno-owned Mingguan Malaysia columnist Ridhuan Tee Abdullah has derided the same religion, both in episodes that made the news in the last half year or so.

Zulkifli has apologised but Ridhuan has not expressed contrition.

Neither has been rapped across the knuckles by their superiors that would have caused a watching public to be reminded anew that Muslims are disinclined to disrespect the religious beliefs of non-Muslims.

More incendiary than either Zulkifli's or Ridhuan's derisions of Hinduism were Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali's ( right ) threat to burn Malay Bibles that carried the term 'Allah'.

All three departures from general Malay/Muslim decorum with respect to the religions of non-Muslims escaped censure by the authorities that have latterly gone after the blogging couple Alvivi and dog trainer Maznah Mohd Yusof, who was supposed to have uploaded an alleged insult to Islam on YouTube .

This disparity in the treatment accorded individual miscreants has understandably raised the hackles of non-Muslims who feel that their sensitivities can be slighted with impunity whereas violation of Muslim ones' merit swift and deterrent punishment.

Education Minister Muhyiddin's warnings over a perceived propensity among some non-Muslims to insult Muslims comes on the heels of his criticism of United Chinese Schools Committee's Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) which has expressed opposition to the National Education Blueprint 2013-2015 his ministry formulated and is slated for introduction from next month.

Education is an issue that's rife with contention. Generally, people lack belief their children can obtain a good education in government schools. For that reason they place their kids in vernacular ones.

Attesting the inefficacy of government schooling is the fact that large numbers of graduates of this stream are unemployed. Parents queue up to get their children into vernacular schools, especially Chinese language ones.

Silent on 'shower room' canteen

The recent incident like the school in Sungai Buloh that required non-Muslim pupils to have their food during recess time near where its shower rooms are located only reinforces the mistrust with which government schooling is viewed, particularly by non-Malays.

The reduced intake this academic year of non-Malay students, many with standout results, into government universities only confirms the suspicion of non-Malays that the government presence in national education is inherently flawed.

Against this backdrop is it any wonder that the Dong Zong, the body mainly responsible for the preservation of a system of preparatory schooling that parents clamor for their children to enter, is opposed to the blueprint?

Muhyiddin has painted Dong Zong's opposition as having to do with ethnocentrism and chauvinism when it is more nearly self-preservative and redolent of well-founded suspicion of government-inspired moves in education.

The education minister was conspicuously silent on the contretemps over the Sungai Buloh school. Had he been vocal in his displeasure at the impropriety of recess time arrangements for non-Muslim pupils during the month of Ramadan, his criticisms of Dong Zong's opposition would have carried moral heft.

All this begs the question of why after a period of relative quiet following the general election last May, the Umno No 2 who in the last four years has treaded a path of Malay rights assertion in the teeth of national conditions that called for an inclusive rather than exclusive vision, is once again tub-thumping on volatile issues.

Likely, he's shaping up for a run at the No 1 post after a brief period of doubt about the viability of the option - hence the quiet.

He seems to have shed that lull but with stances that pay little heed to the results of GE13 which, overall, were more encouraging to exponents of an inclusive than exclusive vision.

In sum, it would be better for the country to have Muhyiddin quiescent than questing.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.

01 August 2013

MP SPEAKS Najib Abdul Razak's immediate response to Fitch Ratings' revision of Malaysia's outlook to negative does not give confidence that the government views the matter seriously.

The prime minister tried to make light of the negative revision by pointing out that Fitch still "affirmed our rating". He said a negative element "is just the revision of our outlook but that depends on the move the government would make".

While Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, did highlight that "it is a concern that we share as a government and we would seek to address those concerns", the lack of gravity of the response does not give Malaysians and investors any comfort that real concrete actions will be undertaken.

It should be emphasised that this isn't the first "warning" by Fitch Ratings although it is the most serious action taken by the global ratings agency to date. In August 2012, Fitch has already warned that Malaysia's "fiscal trends may eventually lead to some form of negative rating action".

In November 2012, Fitch further reported that "Malaysia's public finances are a weakness relative to rating peers and offer limited scope for counter-cyclical fiscal stimulus at the current rating level... While this has not hindered the public sector's capacity to contribute to GDP, which grew 5.2 percent year-on-year in the third quarter according to Bank Negara Malaysia Friday, the growing is concerning."

Of biggest concern to Fitch then was "the increasing reliance on off-balance sheet funding could potentially call into question the meaningfulness of the 55 pecent of GDP federal debt ceiling."

The "off-balance-sheet funding refers to Malaysia's penchant to provide of guarantees to government-linked borrowers which does not officially count as federal government debt. In reality, if both official government debt and government guaranteed debt are put together, our debt to GDP ratio will be a much higher and worrying 68.9 percent, as opposed to the official 53.7 percent.

Hence despite the warnings given a year earlier, the Najib administration hasn't taken the necessary steps to correct the fiscal shortcomings in the federal government finances. Instead the reverse happened and As a result, Malaysia's issuance of off-balance sheet debt accelerated to 15.2 percent of GDP by end-2012 from 9 percent at end-2008. This is a drastic increase to nearly RM150 billion in 2012 from RM96.9 billion in 2010.

Failure of Najib's ETP

The above actually points to the failure of Najib's Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), where "Public Finance Reform" was one of the key 'Strategic Reform Initiatives' launched in 2010.

Among the key policies to be put in place are 'Expenditure Control' and 'Transparent Procurement'. The latter includes "eliminating incompetent suppliers/ service providers" and "value management". The ultimate objective was to reduce the government's budget deficit to 3 percent in 2015.

The outcome of the above initiatives however was for the government to channel development expenditure to off-budget measures, to paint a false perception of financial prudence. This is because the off balance sheet financing or contingent liabilities are not reflected as government debt and hence isn't included in the budget deficit calculations.

As an example, despite the RM50 billion MRT project being financed entirely by the government via debt instruments, not a single sen of the borrowings raised are considered official federal government debt despite the guarantees provided. Since such borrowings are excluded from deficit calculations, the official budget deficit figures give a false healthy picture of our public finances.

If the prime minister is really believes that the Fitch warning "is a concern that we share as a government and [the government] would seek to address those concerns", then the most important measure that he must agree to is to recognise all off-balance sheet loans and contingent liabilities as federal government debt in the upcoming Budget.

Only then Malaysians can see the true picture if the Najib administration has the political will to cut down our real budget deficit, instead of just providing a feel-good statistic that does not incorporate hidden debts. Najib does not reform the budgetary process, then we fear the ultimate consequence of not just a "negative outlook" but an actual downgrade of our sovereign ratings.

Stop harassing dog trainer, says Ambiga

Since news of her canine Hari Raya video broke, Maznah Mohd Yusof, or better known as Chetz, has become a household name.

The 38-year-old Muslim dog trainer received death threats, the imam in her neighbourhood allegedly attempted to assault her and the police have arrested her.

She is now being held for investigation under the Penal Code and Sedition Act.

Commenting on this, former Bar Council president S Ambiga expressed concern over the harassment faced by the dog-trainer in the hands of the police.

"I am deeply worried for her safety as well as about the threats she has been receiving," she added.

Ambiga, who is also Bersih 2.0 chairperson, said it was up to the individual whether one agreed or disagreed with the video.

"My concern, however, is related to the over-the-top responses to Maznah's video," she told Media.

On a sarcastic note, Ambiga also noted the expeditious manner in which the police had swung into action over the three-year-old video.

The speed and efficiency shown in this case, she added, were a far cry when dealing with cases of corruption and abuse of power involving ruling politicians.

"This is what disgusts many right-thinking Malaysians," she stressed.

Muhyiddin 'misleading the public'

Ambiga also took a swipe at Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for jumping the gun on the video controversy by suggesting that it was the work of a non-Muslim.

But she disagreed with the call by certain quarters to probe the deputy prime minister for sedition.

"I am not fan of the Sedition Act. I will not advocate the use of this Act against anyone," she explained.

However, Ambiga said she was appalled that the deputy prime minister made such a provocative statement .

"He has not withdrawn or apologised for it. I find this alarming.

"As the deputy prime minister, he should know that failure to retract an erroneous statement is tantamount to misleading the public," she added.

Far from calming the situation, Ambiga lamented that political leaders were inflaming the situation.

"There is an overwhelming concern among Malaysians... one needs to only look at the events over the past one week or so to know why there is this sense of unease.

"Heartbreaking incidents of violence, murder and the fanning of religious sentiments do not augur well for the future of this nation," she said.

No leadership from Najib

In an obvious reference to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's protracted silence since the conclusion of the 13th general election, Ambiga said the situation was deteriorating due to a lack of leadership.

"It seems like we are adrift with no sense of direction. Our leaders seem more preoccupied with winning their respective party elections.

"How can one win in the party polls by being extreme, unfair, unjust, racist and selective is beyond me, and what does that say about your party?" she asked.

According to Ambiga, since the last general election, the victors were behaving like the losers.

"There is a total absence of leadership. Why do they contest in the elections if they don't want to lead?

"The quality of the cabinet save for one or two members leaves much to be desired but the prime minister keeps quiet and allows the members of this cabinet to speak (on his behalf).

"I find it offensive that we have to wait until after the party elections to see some leadership," she added.

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