30 November, 2006

Malaysia's Anwar Says He Plans to Run for Parliament

Anwar Ibrahim, who was fired as finance minister and arrested in 1998, said he will run for parliament after he returns to the country next month.

The 59-year-old Anwar said he plans to push for greater democracy, more press freedom and an easing of affirmative action laws that he argues have enriched "cronies" of the government. The next national elections are scheduled for 2008.

"I'm committed to the reform agenda," Anwar, who also served as deputy prime minister, said in an interview yesterday in Washington, where he is a visiting professor at Georgetown University.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia's economy is trailing those of its neighbors, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore, Anwar said, advocating a "new economic agenda." Corruption and preferential treatment for ethnic Malays are making the country uncompetitive, he added.

"On that agenda would be a specific way in which you would deal with the rise of China in India, even countries like Vietnam grabbing market share," he said in a separate interview with Bloomberg Television.

Anwar was his country's second-most powerful politician when he was dismissed by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and imprisoned for almost six years on corruption and sodomy charges. Anwar says the accusations were part of a conspiracy by Mahathir -- who had previously named Anwar as his successor -- to destroy his political career.

Malaysia's Federal Court, the highest court of appeal, quashed the sodomy conviction in 2004, although it upheld the corruption charge, which means Anwar cannot run for public office until 2008.

Attacking Cronies

Anwar reiterated his argument that Malaysia should stop discriminating in favor of its ethnic Malay majority, which he described as a "policy to enrich the few cronies and family members of the cabinet and the leaders of the ruling party."

Anwar's rise to power within that ruling party began more than two decades ago when he was elected to parliament from the state of Penang in the country's northeast. His influence grew when he became finance minister in 1991 and deputy leader of the United Malays National Organization, which has governed the country since independence from Great Britain in 1957.

Asked if he aspires to lead the country, he said: "The decision of who is going to be prime minister is going to be the decision of the party," referring to the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), currently headed by his wife.
(Source: bloomberg.com)

Meanwhile, Malaysia's trade minister is confident a free trade accord with the United States could be reached in the "very near future" if Washington continues to show flexibility, a report said Wednesday.

Negotiators from both countries have held three rounds of talks and are due to meet again in January in San Francisco, Malaysia's Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama while on a trade mission in the U.S.

She said both sides have reached a high level of understanding of each other's requirements and sensitivities.

"If the U.S. continues to show the same level of flexibility that was seen in the third round, I am confident that a mutually beneficial deal is possible in the very near future," she said in the report.

Malaysia is the United States' 10th-largest trading partner, with US$44 billion (euro35 billion) in two-way trade in 2005. Officials say that figure will double by 2010 if the pact is signed.

Malaysia has stressed it would not compromise on its policy on allocating government contracts for ethnic Malay-owned companies under a decades-old affirmative action policy.

American negotiators have said Washington wants transparency in "government procurement," or awarding of Malaysian government tenders, greater imports of foreign cars and better access to financial markets.

Malaysia, where U.S. trade negotiators have their sights set on doing away with policies that were introduced in the early 1970s after public anger over economic disparities gave rise to race-riots. Affirmative action-style policies have been used in the areas of education, employment and corporate ownership in an effort to improve the economic prospects of ethnic Malay citizens.

Under the so-called Bumiputra policies, ethnic Malays enjoy preferential status when bidding for certain government contracts; likewise, when state-owned assets are privatized, consortiums including ethnic Malays will be favoured buyers.

These policies–which could put U.S. businesses at some disadvantage–have attracted the scrutiny of U.S. trade negotiators; negotiations on a U.S.-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement are now at loggerheads over the issue.

For the time being, Malaysian officials are talking tough.

"We have our own integral policies which are based on socio-economic development premises," Trade Minister Dato Seri Rafidah Aziz recently told the Malaysia Star newspaper, and U.S. demands to unwind those policies are a "no-go."

But, the viability of a U.S.-Malaysia deal could hang in the balance. Indeed, similar tensions in free trade talks between South Africa and the United States contributed to a recent shelving of those negotiations.

U.S. businesses–abetted by U.S. trade negotiators–have objected to South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies, which seek to undo some of the disparities occasioned by decades of apartheid rule in South Africa.

Among the tools used by the South African government are affirmative action policies designed to promote greater representation in the managerial ranks of the economy, as well as requirements for private businesses to sell equity stakes to black businesspeople or other "historically disadvantaged" persons.

These policies are not without their critics, and the creation of a class of "BEE millionaires" has only served to affirm the fear that affirmative action may offer the most benefits to those who are already relatively well-off (the least advantaged of the disadvantaged).

Indeed, any sort of race-based affirmative action policy can be a delicate balancing act.

Taken too far, such policies can lead to resentment, brain drain and capital flight. The contrary danger, however, is that the failure to push redistributionist policies can give rise to darker impulses.

The Sun says "Let's have only one Bolehland "


Michael Backman " Malaysia bites back and industriously trades the insults "

Malaysia is Bolehland in more ways than one. We have certainly come a long way and have achieved much. For a small country, we are well-known as a manufacturing and a trading nation and also for our stand on important international issues. We are known for our commitment to international peace and in this regard we do not hesitate when asked to send our soldiers to serve in peacekeeping forces anywhere in the world. We have sailed around the world, gone to the South Pole, swum across the English Channel and climbed Mount Everest.

For a while we were home to the highest building in the world, we have one of the tallest telecommunications towers, our own version of the Silicon Valley - trappings of the First World - and we are now embarking on something even more ambitious - a giant city cum modern development hub called the Iskandar Development Region. But beneath all these modern indicators of progress and well-being is a side of Malaysia that many have known to exist but somehow has managed to remain hidden from most people.

But those who have gained or benefited from it know that it exists and that it is something they can exploit further should they so choose. Those who have suffered from it also know that it exists, especially in the sphere known as local government, and that it is something they can do little about. It is another realm of Bolehland.

Thus buildings collapse because poor quality materials are used, buildings on hillslopes topple over because no proper study of the strength of the hillsides was conducted, land approved for landless people is suddenly found to be owned by some rich and well-connected persons, huge bunglows are built without permission, low-cost houses meant for the poor are sold to friends of powerful people and a host of other things that should not happen.

Much of these things boleh happen because those responsible for local governments choose to close one eye to the rules, the laws and the regulations that govern their operations and because of poor monitoring by those we entrust to run the country for us. What happened in Klang and Ampang demonstrate how some officials of the government are so used to disregarding the law that they have even dared to thumb their noses at the authorities above them. We pray and hope that we are seeing the last of them.


The day before, the Government announced that a new RM400 million ($A142 million) palace will be built for Malaysia's king, a position that is almost entirely ceremonial.

(Note: a police report being lodged against Lim Kit Siang for asking questions about the new RM400 million Istana Negara in Parliament last week.)

And the week before a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a second bridge between Penang and the Malaysian peninsular costing RM3 billion, a bridge that many consider unnecessary.

(Note: Lim Kit Siang wrote - (Michael Backman, whose column “While Malaysia fiddles, its opportunities are running dry” in the Melbourne Age on the eve of the Umno General Assembly in the middle of the month, has written a sequel “Malaysia bites back and industriously trades the insults”, replying to the strictures by Rafidah Aziz.

Michael is misinformed about the second Penang bridge, which is urgently needed to relieve the traffic congestion which often brings the Penang Bridge to a standstill. The issue is not whether a second Penang bridge is needed, but why it was awarded without any open tender which is supposed to be the hallmark of the premiership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. There is also one factual error.)

Where would the money be better spent?

Education is the obvious answer. But not on school buildings, for it matters less in what children are educated than how. And how children are educated in Malaysia is a national disaster.

Learning is largely by rote. In an email to me last week, one Malaysian recalled her schooling as being in a system all about spoon-feeding, memory work and regurgitation.

Students are not encouraged to think for themselves and they become adults who swallow everything they're told.

Even the existing system fails many. It has just emerged that in Sabah state, only 46 per cent of the students who had sat the UPSR — the exam that students sit before going to secondary school — had passed. One small school actually had a 100 per cent failure rate.

But does the Malaysian Government want creative, critical thinkers? Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said to the ruling party's recent general assembly Malaysia needed to make students creative. But that means they must be questioning and thus critical; what hope is there of that when one of Abdullah's own ministers tells Malaysians that they cannot say the things that I can and hundreds of them write to me to complain because they don't feel that they can complain to their own Government?

Malaysia needs to do something. Its oil will run out soon and it has lost much of its appeal to foreign investors — recent UN figures show that from 2004 to 2005, foreign investment in Malaysia fell by 14 per cent, when the world economy was enjoying one of its longest periods of growth. One might wonder what the Trade and Industry Minister has actually been doing.

But, while politicians from the ruling party preach about Malay nationalism, there are at least some who quietly go about the business of trying to secure the country's future. Not all of them are Chinese.

Two weeks ago, Malaysia's MMC Corporation, together with a local partner, won a $US30 billion infrastructure deal in Saudi Arabia. That's a huge undertaking for any company, let alone a Malaysian one, and just as well too — someone has to pay the bills.


Filipino refugees in Malaysia
By Alfredo G. Rosario - The Manila Times

One of the stark realities in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Malaysia is the unresolved issue of thousands of Filipino refugees living in limbo in Malaysia, mostly in Sabah.

Tawi-Tawi Congressman Nur Jaafar brought this problem to light following the visit of a congressional goodwill mission which he headed to Kuala Lumpur early this month.

Jaafar said there are an estimated 100,000 Filipino refugees who were born through mixed marriages with Malaysians.

“They spanned at least three generations from the original refugees who fled to Sabah during the civil war between the Philippine military and the Moro National Liberation Front in the seventies,” said Jaafar.

In the congressional team’s dialogue with Malaysian authorities, Jaafar sought an appropriate status for the refugees’ children who consider Malaysia as their country for having been born and lived there all their lives.

Identity cards

More specifically, he appealed for the early issuance of their ICs (identity cards) to facilitate the legalization of their stay in Malaysia. He requested the Malaysian government to accord permanent residence to the palarians, or Filipino refugees. He recalled that during the incumbency of then Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir, only 600 had been issued their ICs.

Jaafar called for a new agreement between the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia to address the plight of these stateless people. He said the agreement should be forged “so that these offspring of undocumented Filipinos can have a choice.”

Foreign Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said that since the problem had been identified, the Philippine government is working on a solution calling for “a rational, calibrated and humane approach.” The government, according to him, is drafting such an agreement to be submitted to Congress for its approval.

Involved in the drafting are the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, and the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Employment and Social Welfare and Development.

Periodic deportations

Once approved by Congress, the agreement will be taken up with concerned Malaysian agencies preparatory to discussing it during the Fourth RP-Malaysia Migrant Workers’ Group meeting early next year. With the agreement, the tensions of thousands of Filipino refugees in Malaysia will decrease. Tension always goes up during every periodic deportation of Filipino illegal immigrants, mostly in Sabah.

Congressman Jaafar and members of his goodwill mission could sponsor a bill embodying the proposed RP-Malaysia agreement to hasten its early approval by Congress.

Members of the Jaafar mission to Kuala Lumpur were Reps. Munir M. Arbison, Hussin U. Amin and Mujiv Hataman of the party-list Anak Mindanao. They met Malaysian government officials led by Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.

They took up several issues with the Malaysian authorities concerning a more humane treatment for Filipino illegals in Malaysia and their staggered and orderly deportation to the Philippines. In one of their meetings, the Malaysian government proposed the establishment of a Malaysian consulate in Zamboanga City to facilitate the processing of Filipino workers desiring to work in Malaysia.


Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein's KERIS in Newsweek !!

Drifting Toward Extremism

Malaysia and Indonesia are known for their gentle version of Islam. So why is the mainstream worried?

The meeting of the united Malays National Organization, the ruling pro-Muslim party in Malaysia, was a shocking display of divisiveness. Some UMNO delegates at the rally, which ended Nov. 17, gave speeches that, either explicitly or in veiled terms, were racist or called for violence as a means of settling religious or political differences.

One of them, Hasnoor Sidang Hussein, declared: "UMNO is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood in defense of race and religion."

Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein unsheathed a keris (Malay dagger) at the meeting. Party supporters perceived the gesture as invoking Malay power and pride, but critics said the minister was pandering to racist elements in UMNO's youth wing, which Hishammuddin heads. Twenty years ago, the youth wing had displayed banners calling for the keris to be bathed in the blood of the minority Malaysian Chinese...(more)


29 November, 2006

Malay Ethnic Assertion Unnerves Minorities

"Malay rights cannot be challenged, otherwise the Malays will run amok and the May 13 (1969) riots will happen all over again.''

"The non-Malays are challenging us, it is time to raise our voices and defend the race and Islam.''

"We are willing to risk lives and bathe in blood to defend our race and religion. Don't play with fire. If they mess with our rights, we will mess with theirs.''

These words uttered over five days at the annual congress of the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO ) from Nov 17 have shaken public confidence in the party of not only non-Muslims but also from many among moderate Muslims. All Malays are deemed Muslim under the laws of the land.

Suddenly, over one mid-November weekend, ethnic distrust was in the air and the racial divide widened dramatically in this constitutionally pluralistic country. , Once proud of their country's tolerance, many non-Malay and non-Muslim Malaysians are trying to figure out whether the time has come to pack their bags.

The fear and insecurity was all the more because these chauvinist utterances came not the from ‘lunatic fringe' but from top leaders of the UMNO, the country's premier pro-Malay party that has been in power since independence in 1957 and is widely held up as "level headed, responsible and standing for a plural society."

UMNO congresses are widely watched by political analysts, foreign investors and diplomats because opinions expressed at these meetings often translate into government policies later.

Instead of debating the faltering economy or worrying about rising religious intolerance, UMNO leaders mostly from the Malay hinterland, brandished the keris -- a wavy Malay dagger -- thumped their chests and attacked minority Chinese and Indians for "demanding" equality and an end to affirmative action policies that favour Malays.

The floor comprising some 3,000 grassroots Malay leaders cheered the speakers.

Abdullah himself, famously patient and mild mannered, got caught up and shouted ‘Hidup Melayu, Hidup Melayu' (Long Live Malay, Long Live Malay) at the end of the meet.

For some non-Muslims such public displays confirm that Islamisation and Malay ethno- centric nationalism are on the rise with Abdullah seen as either unwilling or unable to check 'extremism'.

"There is now suddenly a sense of fear and uncertainty. What do these words really signify? Is this the end of Bangsa Malaysia," said opposition leader Lim Kit Siang referring to a hypothetical ‘Malaysian Race' that is supposed to emerge, over time, from the racial potpourri that is Malaysia.

"Malaysians feel excluded and threatened," Lim told IPS.

After the shock came the balm as UMNO leaders led by Abdullah rushed to assure the people that the speeches did not signal a hardening of government policies towards non- Malays.

They blamed the spike in public anger on the live telecast of the offensive speeches which, they said, was unfortunate.

Others viewed the live telecast as having unexpectedly given Malaysians, who mostly read heavily censored mainstream newspapers, a ringside view of "raw, unvarnished Malay anger''.

"The speeches are the work of a few disgruntled individuals not that of UMNO or the government," said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. "We must not give great weight to the speeches," he told Bernama, the official new agency, assuring Malaysians that the nation belonged to all races.

But the damage was done and the fear and hurt runs deep despite those assurances.

"I got the message...it simply means we non-Muslims cannot question the special status of Islam and Malays," said accountant Mark Ong. "If we do, it will be met with violence," Mark told IPS echoing the sentiments of many others.

While the government dismissed the fiery speeches as "one -off" sallies, political scientists warn it signals the deep seated grievances of the Malays, who form 60 percent of the population of 27 million. Chinese and Indians, who began migrating here in the early 19th century, make up 26 percent and 8.0 percent of the population, respectively.

Although Malays dominate national politics and the economy many Malays remain poor and resentment among them is rising largely because the government's affirmative action policies benefited the "Umnoputras" or Malays who are in UMNO or close to its politicians.

Led by opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim -- who was labelled as a traitor by the UMNO delegates -- more Malaysians also want affirmative action either ended or extended to all poor Malaysians and curtailment of the "Umnoputras."

In addition a debate on apostasy and on the boundaries between Shariah law and secular rights has sharpened religious differences and heightened suspicions among the various races.

Ironically inter-racial resentment and tensions that had lain hidden under the long rule of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad are surfacing now after his successor, Abdullah, began easing on the tight controls.

After taking over in 2003, Abdullah allowed reasonably open debate even on contentious issues like Islam and the Bumiputra affirmative action policy.

The debates were dominated on the one hand by non-Muslim fear of creeping Islam and on the other hand by Muslim fear that secularism and pluralism would dislodge Islam from its pedestal as the official faith.

The tensions are made worst by a shrinking economy which has fallen from a high of 9 percent in recent years to under 5 percent this year and projected to be lower next year. Foreign investment, a mainstay of the economy, has dropped 17 percent to just 3.7 billion US dollars this year.

Abdullah is easing Malay fears over his ‘Islam Hadhari' or Civilisational Islam which stresses moderation as well as technological and economic competitiveness.

On the economic front he has changed direction from infra-structure growth to giving priority to agriculture, biotechnology and tourism as new growth areas.

But on both fronts -- Islam and the economy -- his directions are contested not just from within the party but also by his mentor-turned-rival, Mahathir Mohamad, who has vowed to force him down.

But UMNO, the party Abdullah heads, is dragging its feet preferring the old ways -- saber rattling, racism and continuance of lopsided policies that kills competitiveness and breeds contempt for law.

Non-Malays on the other hand fear that Islamisation and Malay ethno-centric nationalism is on the rise under Abdullah who they see as either unwilling or unable to check the "extremists."

With the races drifting apart, political analysts say, this month's UMNO congress may well be a turning point for the country.

"We were moderate and praised for our tolerance and economic achievements," said lawmaker S. Kulasegaran. "Now all that has gone under a cloud."

Over the Internet the discussion is less polite and the anger palpable.

"Is it time to pack our bags again?" asked Ay Yuen on Malaysiakini, an independent news website, where the sudden plunge in race relations is endlessly debated.

"Where do we go from here?" asked another writer displaying the dilemma that has gripped non-Muslims.

(Source:IPSNEWS-Baradan Kuppusamy)


Persistent friends - PM John Howard on whistle-stop visit to Malaysia

JOHN Howard's arrival in Kuala Lumpur today is a sign of the changed fortunes of Australia in Asia. His Malaysian counterpart, the gentle Islamic scholar Abdullah Badawi, is as unlike his predecessor, the redoubtable Mahathir Mohamad, as Howard is unlike his predecessor, Paul Keating.

When Abdullah came to Australia last year, it was the first official visit by a Malaysian prime minister to Australia in 21 years, although Mahathir had an informal stop-off of a couple of hours in Brisbane on his way to New Zealand in 1996.

The Abdullah visit was historic for several reasons. It coincided with a visit by Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, almost as noteworthy as having presidents George W. Bush and Hu Jintao in town at the same time. And Abdullah agreed to the start of negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and Malaysia. This is a complex negotiation, now hitting the tough sections, but is expected to be finished by mid-2007.

That would give Australia free trade agreements with the three high-growth, substantial economies of Southeast Asia: Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

The Australia-Malaysia relationship is one of exceptional depth and variety, despite an astounding capacity for political contretemps at the very top.

Under Keating, there was a tendency among some commentators to feel that we had just discovered Southeast Asia. In fact the relationships go back, in very intimate ways, at least 60 years and often across the centuries.

Certainly Australia was intimately involved in the progress to independence of Malaya in 1957, in its security both before and after independence, in the writing of its constitution, in its joining the UN and in the education of its citizens.

Australian troops participated in the counter-insurgent campaign to quell the communist uprising known as the Malayan emergency, which began in 1950 and was not over until 1960, although the bulk of the fighting had stopped long before.

Australian troops also supported Malaya in its conflict with Indonesia in the early 1960s, known as the Confrontation.

It says something about the dexterity and judicious ambiguity of Australian diplomacy, even back then, that while Australian soldiers and Indonesian soldiers were fighting each other, Canberra managed to maintain an embassy in Jakarta and a working relationship with Indonesia.

The diplomatic cables also show that early on, as Singapore was moving towards independence, the Menzies government favoured its incorporation into Malaysia because it felt that the Chinese of Singapore were likely to go communist and would be much better off under the wise leadership of the Malay aristocrat class, whom the Menzies mandarins found congenial.

But it was a Malaysian commoner, the first commoner to be prime minister, who put the burr in the saddle of Australia-Malaysia relations.

Southeast Asia has seen some extraordinary national leaders, and none more so than Mahathir, who seemed to harbour some generalised political hostility towards Australia. There are many stories, most of them apocryphal, about where this hostility might have come from. There are stories he was badly treated at an Australian airport and, before he was PM, of being invited then dis-invited on a distinguished visitor program.

Others suggest that Mahathir's experience of colonialism, with the British on top, the Malay aristocracy as their ineffectual collaborators, the Chinese in the middle as merchants and the ordinary Malays on the bottom, left a chip on his shoulder. In this version Mahathir, like many Southeast Asians, saw Australia as colonial lieutenant, a second-class Britain, and his anti-colonial angst was redirected towards Australia.

Mahathir was prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and in that time oversaw large-scale economic and social development in Malaysia.

There were plenty of PM-to-PM spats. When Malaysian courts sentenced Australian drug smugglers Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers to death in 1986, Bob Hawke described it as barbaric, which upset Mahathir and was seen as condescending by many Malaysians.

Mahathir's spats with Keating were legendary. Keating has argued that this had little to do with personal differences and reflected a clash of visions for the nature of East Asian regionalism. Mahathir wanted regional institutions to exclude the US and Australia, Keating wanted the US and Australia included.

At first Mahathir and Howard looked as though they might reach a better understanding, but Mahathir was deeply uneasy about Australia's role in East Timor's independence in 1999 and reacted strongly to The Bulletin's attribution to Howard of the sentiment that Australia could be the US's deputy sheriff in Southeast Asia, a suggestion Howard quickly repudiated.

Then, after the events of 9/11, Mahathir became increasingly anti-American and especially opposed to the Iraq war. Australia was damned by association.

For much of Mahathir's prime ministership, Abdullah was his foreign minister. After former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was sent to jail in 1999, Abdullah became Mahathir's deputy. In all that time, and in all those spats with Australia, Abdullah never expressed any view different from Mahathir's.

However, he never used Mahathir's fiery rhetoric and was by nature a much less polarising figure. Australian officials and politicians hoped that when he became PM, the bilateral relationship could progress politically to match bountiful trade and military links.

Australia was not disappointed. While Abdullah never formally repudiated the Mahathir approach and began cautiously, increasingly he distinguished himself from his predecessor. He let Anwar out of jail, he halted some of the mega-projects associated with Mahathir, he turned down the volume on the anti-Western rhetoric and he embraced a new partnership with Australia.

This was a serious breakthrough for Canberra and changed the diplomatic outlook in Southeast Asia.

In an interview with me last year, Abdullah acknowledged the difficulties of the past, but underlined his commitment to a new chapter with Australia. "I describe Australia-Malaysia relations as continuing to mature," he said. "I don't think what happened then will affect what we do now. If you look at Australia-Malaysia relations, there is increasing co-operation in many areas."

Eventually, Abdullah even agreed to Australia joining the inaugural East Asia Summit held in Kuala Lumpur at the end of last year. While the real value of the EAS is yet to be established, Howard was impressed with how Abdullah handled the show and made Australia welcome.

It is a tribute to the odd mixture of pragmatism and theatricality of Mahathir that despite all the vicissitudes in the political relationship, the defence co-operation and people-to-people relations between Australia and Malaysia never soured and they have continued to prosper under Abdullah. Australia is the No.1 overseas destination for Malaysian students. This, too, reflects a long history, going back to the Colombo Plan and the foreign ministership of Percy Spender.

There are more than 250,000 Malaysians who are alumni of Australian universities, an astonishing figure for a nation of 26million.

Today there are about 19,000 Malaysians at Australian educational institutions in Australia and another 14,000 at Australian educational institutions in Malaysia.

The defence and security relationship is equally important. It operates under the auspices of the Five Power Defence Arrangements that were set up in 1971 to reassure Malaysia against possible Indonesian aggression. The FPDA is a collective security agreement, a rare thing in Asia, and commits Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Malaysia and Singapore to provide for the defence of the Malaysian peninsula (that is, Malaysia excluding its two Borneo states) and Singapore against external aggression.

Australia's air force has had a presence at Butterworth, near Penang in northern Malaysia, ever since and the FPDA provides an integrated air defence for the whole peninsula.

Whether or not this deters any potential aggressor from attacking Malaysia, it provides priceless intelligence for the Australian system and is deeply valued by the Malaysians. When then Malaysian defence minister Najib Tun Razak was asked at the height of the Keating-Mahathir row whether the FPDA would be adversely affected by the prime ministerial ructions he said: No, that's just politics, security is something else.

These days counter-terrorist co-operation is the key ingredient in the Australia-Malaysia security relationship. Canberra has a high opinion of Malaysia's performance in this area. Kuala Lumpur takes extremism seriously and has clamped down on it.

Howard particularly admires Abdullah's commitment to moderate Islam. Howard is attracted to moderate, pragmatic, serious Asian leaders who, like him, spurn soaring rhetoric.

Australia regards the Malaysian national leadership as an important force in the battle against Islamist extremism, a view shared by the US. In a recent interview with The Australian, the US ambassador for counter-terrorism, Hank Crumpton, singled out Malaysia's Prime Minister as a pivotal figure in the struggle for moderate Islam.

Western intelligence agencies are, however, concerned with the cross-border flow of extremists from southern Thailand who are waging attacks on the Thai state. There is no suggestion of any Malaysian government complicity, but there is clearly a degree of support among northern Malays.

Similarly, the tenor of Malaysian Islam seems to be growing ever more conservative, even as the Government stoutly battles outright extremism. Some analysts believe that although Mahathir was a doughty opponent of extremist Islamism, his relentless anti-Western rhetoric has fed a popular paranoia in Malaysian Islam, which even Abdullah finds difficult to counter.

It is possible Howard could face some hostile demonstrations in Malaysia.

There is also disunity in the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation. Mahathir has become a fierce critic of Abdullah, accusing him of trampling down dissent. Mahathir earlier this month suffered a heart attack and is temporarily out of action, but there is a roiling atmosphere within UMNO, not to mention the much more extreme Islamic fundamentalist party PAS, which could find some expression in anti-Howard gestures.

Howard has a genuine friendship with Abdullah and this unlikely partnership of two low-key but persistent leaders is comfortable and relaxed.

Mr Howard will promote the benefits of a free trade deal between Australia and Malaysia, which has been in negotiation since the visit by Dr Badawi last year.

Australia is Malaysia's biggest foreign education provider and Mr Howard will present scholarships to a number of Malaysian scholars.

He will also address a lunch hosted by the Malaysia-Australia Business Council.

The Australian News
The Age


A police report being lodged against Lim Kit Siang

Utusan Online - Mapan buat laporan polis terhadap Kit Siang

Majlis Angkatan Permuafakatan NGO Malaysia (Mapan) hari ini membuat laporan polis berhubung kenyataan Setiausaha Agung DAP, Lim Kit Siang yang mempertikaikan pembinaan kompleks Istana Negara baru pada sidang Dewan Rakyat Selasa lepas.

Pengarah Sekretariat Mapan, Dr. Izham Nayan berkata, kenyataan Lim itu seolah-olah mencerminkan sentimen anti institusi raja negara dan hak Yang di-Pertuan Agong yang tidak boleh dipersoalkan.

‘‘Mempersoalkan perkara ini dianggap biadab, menghina dan mencabar kewibawaan rakyat negara ini,’’ katanya kepada pemberita selepas membuat laporan di Balai Polis Dang Wangi di sini.

Beliau berkata, tindakan tersebut seolah-olah mencabar perlembagaan Malaysia yang berasaskan sistem beraja yang harus dipertahankan.

Seramai 16 anggota pertubuhan bukan kerajaan dari Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia dan Kongres Indian Muslim Malaysia hadir ketika laporan dibuat.

Selasa lepas, persidangan Dewan Rakyat gamat apabila Lim, yang juga Ketua Pembangkang dan Anggota Parlimen Ipoh Timur, meminta kerajaan menjelaskan mengenai kelulusan pembinaan kompleks Istana Negara baru bernilai RM400 juta berhampiran Jalan Duta.

Pada 13 November, Menteri Kerja Raya, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu mengumumkan rancangan kerajaan untuk membina istana baru berharga RM400 juta bagi menggantikan Istana Negara sekarang.


Singapore, Malaysia must end bickering: Najib

WHILE the deputy prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia made contrasting speeches at a seminar in Kuala Lumpur, there was a common theme about the need for more economic cooperation and cross-border investment.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak called for an end to what he said was the incessant bickering between the two countries.

Mr Najib described the bilateral relationship since 1965 as 'lurching from grudging civility to outright acrimony', but went on to commend the actions of his boss Malaysian premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who succeeded Mahathir Mohamad in 2003, and of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Najib said that with new leadership in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, there 'has been a palpable thaw'.

'We must raise our political will to work together where we can and accommodate each other in areas where we cannot,' he told a London Business School-organised business forum on the Challenges of Expanding in Asia. 'We have no real choice. If we choose to remain aloof, to go it alone, we risk being torn apart by competition.'

While Mr Najib devoted himself exclusively to the Malaysia-Singapore agenda, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng cast a wider net and spoke on the Republic's economic involvement with Asia and the Middle East.

Even so, Mr Wong extolled the growing economic interdependency between the two countries. 'Singapore investors make up the second largest group of investors in Malaysia,' Mr Wong said. 'I also understand that, as of October 2006, Singapore companies are the single largest participants in the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) behind Malaysian companies.' MSC is the high-tech zone in Selangor.

Meanwhile, both leaders touched on the RM47 billion (S$20 billion) Iskandar Development Region in south Johor. Mr Wong hoped that when it was set up, 'there would be more opportunities for cooperation between our two countries'.

Mr Najib likened the development of both Malaysia's Iskandar and Singapore's integrated resorts 'as a practical example' of how the two countries could invest in each other's future.

'The Singapore government, through Temasek or GIC (the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation), is most welcome to participate in the future growth of Iskandar. This will, in turn, feed into greater economic activity for the South Johor region which will surely benefit Singapore,' Mr Najib said.

'At the same time, were Genting to be chosen for Singapore's integrated resorts, it will surely bring economic benefits that would be enjoyed by both Singaporeans and Malaysians.' (Malaysia's sole gaming company Genting is a front-runner for Singapore's second integrated resort with casino project, on Sentosa.)

Even so, Mr Najib inserted a cautionary note in his otherwise conciliatory speech. Elaborating on the growing cross-border deals between the two countries, he said the acquisitions of Malaysian interests especially by Singapore state-controlled entities 'have far outweighed' the acquisitions of Singapore companies by Malaysians.

He said the deals include the purchase of Singapore stockbroker GK Goh by CIMB Bank of Malaysia as opposed to Temasek Holdings' acquisition of a significant interest in Malaysia's Alliance Bank.

'I am hopeful that there will be a greater degree of reciprocity from Singaporean authorities in facilitating more Malaysian acquisitions of assets in Singapore,' Mr Najib said.
By S Jayasankaran - The Business Times)

Rocky's Bru : Elegant silence across the Causeway

Malaysia "not mature" enough for parliament broadcasts: minister
Telekom Malaysia Reports Lower 3Q Profit
Malaysian Air Posts First Profit in Year on Job Cuts
Malaysia: Muslim nations' alms to go to int'l fund
Mathematics and Science in English: Revert policy - Salahudin
MP: Explain how school reserve land is now an entertainment centre
Unthinkable tolerance of wrong-doing

28 November, 2006

Malaysia - Five highways to charge new rates from Jan 1

Toll rates will be increased for five concessionaires come Jan 1, 2007, according to Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.

He said the Government could not afford to compensate the concessionaires for the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, Karak Highway, Grand Saga Cheras-Kajang Highway, Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP) and Kesas Shah Alam Highway the estimated RM2bil, if no increase was approved during this round of concession agreements.

You see ? Malaysia Boleh or Malaysia Bodoh ?

Mirzan's wife withdraws application for divorce. It was earlier reported that Jane, 45, who married Mirzan in 1992 had filed for a divorce from the son of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the syariah registry on Oct 20.

Jane is the daughter of the richest man in Indonesia, Liem Sioe Liong. She and Mirzan have three sons and a daughter.

THE New Straits Times and Utusan Melayu, two of Malaysia's oldest media groups, will be merged in a corporate union that will establish the country's largest media grouping, according Singapore Straits Times via Google alert.

It looks like another mega merger is in the making, just when we have the mega merger deal resulting in the world's largest listed palm oil company in the form of Synergy Drive Sdn Bhd . Read more -
(Entire Merger Deal To Be Transparent, Says Nazir Razak )

Meanwhile, Malaysia may revisit a massive 2.5 billion dollar project to link a powerstation on Borneo island to the mainland using undersea cables, a senior minister has said.

Lim Keng Yaik, energy minister said Monday the power cables, if approved, could transport up to 5,000 kilowatts of electricity to the Malaysian peninsula from the controversial hydro-power generation plant in Bakun, in the eastern Sarawak state.

Also, A railway line linking Asian nations from Singapore to China -- part of a broader "Iron Silk Road" network stretching to Europe -- will be completed by 2015, Malaysia said Monday.

Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy said the eastern link of the Trans-Asian Railway network would start from Singapore and travel north through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before ending at Kunming in southern China.

Three sections of the eastern link are waiting to be built in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mega merger, mega projects, who said Malaysia Bodoh? Did anyone mention about white elephant projects ?

Thailand Army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin yesterday left for a one-day visit to Malaysia to discuss the southern insurgency with his counterparts, a military source said. The visit to Malaysia comes as violence in the strife-torn South has escalated. Kuala Lumpur was recently angered by remarks by Prime Minister Gen Surayud Chulanont that a network of Thai restaurants in Malaysia was aiding militants.

''Malaysia used to help us, but we didn't behave. They had handed over people [suspected militants] but we killed them. Now they are reluctant to help. So I'll see how they can help us this time,'' he said.

Malaysians have been reminded to be extra careful in dealing with racial and religious issues.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who issued this reminder, said: ”Race and religious issues are still very sensitive issues. We shouldn't be too alarmed but at the same time, it must serve as a lesson to us.”

He was referring to people's unhappiness with speakers who touched on religious issues at the last Umno General Assembly, which was televised live.

Muslim nations have right to pursue nuke prog

Muslim countries shouldn't be prevented from developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, a Malaysian government minister said on Sunday at an International Conference on Nuclear Energy.

World powers must not "misinterpret the interest of Muslim nations to generate nuclear energy as having a hidden motive," Science and Technology Minister Jamaluddin Jarjis was quoted as saying by the National News Agency, Bernama.

"The tendency for such misinterpretations based on a country's religious beliefs is truly tragic and should be tackled accordingly," Jamaluddin told reporters on the sidelines of the forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia, held in Malaysia's Eastern Pahang state.

Keris-wielding Hishammuddin the most divisive and polarised Education Minister in history


Malaysia seeks to ease rivalry, deepen cooperation with Singapore

Malaysia and Singapore must set aside their economic rivalry and intensify cooperation if they want to survive in a competitive global economy, Malaysia's deputy leader said Monday.

The two neighbors must invest in each other and encourage their businesses to join forces to venture offshore in new areas amid growing competition from China, India and Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam and Thailand, said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

He noted that Singapore's acquisitions of Malaysian companies far outnumbered purchases of Singaporean assets by Malaysians and urged the island-state to "show a greater degree of reciprocity" to achieve equitable partnership.

"For Malaysia and Singapore, the stakes are high. We are no longer the darling of foreign investors as we were in the previous decade," Najib told a regional business conference.

The conference was attended by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng.

"We must raise our political will to work together where we can and accommodate each other in areas where we cannot," he said. "We have no real choice. The economic logic is as clear as the day. We must build the necessary partnerships in order to take advantage of new opportunities present within the region."

Najib said Malaysia and Singapore can together become winners in the global landscape. "But if we choose to remain aloof, to go it alone, we risk being torn apart by the competition," he warned.

The two countries, which briefly united in the 1960s, share close social and historical ties but have had a history of testy relations. Disputes have ranged from the price of water to airspace use to territorial disagreements.

In September, Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew sparked a furor in Malaysia when he told an international conference that Malaysia and Indonesia "systematically" marginalize Chinese minorities.

Malaysia's government strongly protested Lee's remark, warning it could stir up Malaysian Chinese, who make up about a quarter of the country's 26 million people. Lee apologized for causing "discomfort" to Malaysia's leadership but didn't retract his criticism.

Najib reiterated that Lee's comments were not appreciated and described it as "little bumps in the road" that the two countries must contend with.

"Whether we like it or not, our two nations are joined at the hip," he said. "With increasing competition, it simply makes common sense for Malaysia and Singapore to invest in each other's future."

Najib presses S'pore button


Man In the Net

His Royal Blog-ness: Prince Charles adds 'blogging' to his list of talents

It's the 21st Century cult that has spawned the careers of chart toppers Lily Allen and The Arctic Monkeys.

Now Prince Charles has latched onto the internet to broaden his appeal with his very own royal 'blog'.

Unfortunately, the prince's fly-on-the-wall video diary isn't quite as rock and roll those usually posted on the web, however.

Instead users are treated to footage of the heir-to-the-the-throne and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, on a day-trip to Birmingham.

The blog features on Charles's newly revamped website, whose home page is littered with glossy photographs of the prince, his wife and children.

Charles also uses the website to lay out his 'personal manifesto' , espousing his views on everything from health and 'responsible business' to faith and ethnic communities and farming.

On it he says he sees one of his roles as Prince of Wales to raise issues of national importance that might otherwise be overlooked.

Surprisingly given the criticism he has received in recent years for intervening in politically sensitive subjects, the web-site boldly states the Prince lobbys through 'meetings with Government Ministers and other people of influence, by giving speeches, writing articles and participating in television programmes'.

It adds: "The Prince's work aims to promote and protect what is good about Britain and its people. This will often involve The Prince acting personally as a catalyst to facilitate chance, to generate debate or to raise overlooked issues.

"In all these areas, the Prince aims to encourage a public debate over what he sees as vital issues to the health of the nation while avoiding party political issues.

"When issues become a matter for party political debate or the subject of Government police, The prince stops raising them publicly."

Earlier this year Charles's former aide, Mark Bolland, claimed the Prince views himself as a 'political dissident', bombarding senior ministers with memos on his views about everything from farming to the armed forces.

Camilla is something of a figure in her own right with a personal profile - minus, it has to be said, any mention of her previous marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles - and links to pages featuring her 'at work'.

There is also a segment on her interests featuring fascinating facts such as her passion for fishing, walking and gardening.

It also reveals that she has three horses stabled at Highgrove - Molly, Willie and Bearskin - and owns three Jack Russell terriers, Tosca, Rosie and Freddie.

A Clarence House spokesman refused to reveal how much has been spent re-designing the web-site, saying it was a private matter for the Prince who paid for it personally, although industry figures estimate it to be around £40,000.

"The last time it was updated was more than eight years ago, which made it quite archaic," the spokesman said.

"The Prince was very much involved in the project on a personal level and feels it is an important tool in explaining and publicising tdifferent aspects of his work.

"The video diary helps to make it even more accessible."

The web-site, which was re-designed by Soho-based company Reading Room and features a children's section with games and quizzes as well as a complete back catalogue of speeches the Prince has made over the past five decades, took four months to create.

Royal fans can also sign up for free email updates on everything from Princes William and Harry to Duchy Originals food products.

The Prince of Wales


27 November, 2006

Dealing With UMNO’s Childish Tantrums

Editorial lead: Today, Umno is the problem, for Malays, non-Malays, and Malaysia. Umno has long ceased being part of the solution.

It is heartening that with few exceptions Malaysians have learned to ignore the ritualistic childish tantrums that are now the standard staple at UMNO’s gatherings. The recently concluded General Assembly was true to form, except for the chauvinistic chanting and virulence of the racism breaching even earlier heights of vulgarity.

Child psychologists tell us that the best way to deal with unacceptable behaviors is to indicate your disapproval in no uncertain terms the very first few times the child engages in them. This may include punishment. (He he!!)

If the child were to persist, then other strategies become necessary. Continued disapproval or punishment would be counterproductive, as the child would perceive that as getting attention. We would thus be unwittingly reinforcing the pattern.

This is where UMNO leaders are today. The more angry and ballistic the responses from Malaysians, the more encouraged these infantile Hang Tuah wannabes become. The censuring remarks of the likes of DAP’s Karpal Singh, Gerakan’s Lim King Yeik, and other commentators merely feed on these UMNO leaders’ hunger for attention.

Fortunately most Malaysians have learned to ignore these attention-seeking antics of UMNO. I had to force myself to view the videotapes of the General Assembly; I was bored after the first few keris-brandishing episodes. The only redeeming feature this time was that they did not drip their kerises with ketchup; they probably could not afford the
laundry bill the last time.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Najib Razak, then UMNO Youth Leader, was the first to exploit this now infamous keris-brandishing stunt a few years back. Despite his evident clumsiness, he did not accidentally stab himself. Had that mishap happened, that would have been the end to this obscene choreography, and also to Najib. It did not, and Najib went on to greater heights, in UMNO as well as the nation. So, monkey see, monkey do.

This year we had Hishamudin aping Najib. Next year, if things go as planned, it would be Khairy’s turn. Being an Oxford graduate, he would want to prove that he is better than Hishamudin by trying to upstage him. Expect Khairy to perform the silat or some other equally silly act with his keris brandishing. Being not athletically gifted, watch him fall flat on his face with his keris inflicting a career-ending injury. Such theatrics have to end on a dramatic note.

Were that to happen, it would not be good for Khairy, of course, but it will be for UMNO, Malays, and Malaysia. UMNO members (and Malays generally), still steeped in their mystical beliefs, would view the accident as divine retribution, and we would then be spared further ugly taunting and displays of racism. Short of that happening, expect even more idiotic and obnoxious flaunting. What will they think of next?

Obviously it is much easier to come out with such stunts than it is to bring novel solutions to the intractable problems facing Malays. That would be too taxing intellectually for these folks, their Oxbridge education notwithstanding. Their preoccupation with trivialities matches their juvenile mindset.

At the recent UMNO Johore convention, its leader Ghani, who is also the Chief Minister, suggested that meritocracy was not suitable for Malays! That would unfairly penalize Malay pupils attending poorly equipped rural schools, he argued. That has been the lament since colonial times. I would have expected that after over fifty years of UMNO rule, they would have solved this long-standing problem.

To think that Ghani was once dean at the University of Malaya! Obviously, had meritocracy been practiced there, he would not have reached such academic heights; hence his defense of the status quo.

Breaking the Obnoxious Habit

As UMNO members have abrogated their collective “parental” responsibilities in not disciplining Najib Razak the first time he engaged in that obnoxious stunt (indeed they egged him on), it has now become entrenched. That such ugly behaviors are also career enhancing further reinforces the pattern. Consider that Najib is now Prime Minister-in-waiting.

The only way to disabuse UMNO of such behaviors is not to reward them. The only way to deliver that message to UMNO is in the language its members can understand: blunt, brutal, and delivered in no uncertain terms, as in not voting for them in the next election. This is not the time for subtleties or niceties.

Non-Malays are now the critical swing votes. Even PAS recognizes this reality; its leaders are consciously toning down their Islamic messages and trying to broaden their appeal. At its last Muktamar (convention), it even entertained fielding non-Malay candidates, a seismic shift in attitude and thinking.

If non-Malays abandon UMNO and join the many Malays already disillusioned with UMNO, its candidates would be defeated. The Barisan coalition need not be defeated to effect major change in UMNO. If PAS were to win more seats than UMNO, that would deal a crippling psychological blow. The ensuing blame game and infighting would implode UMNO.

The last time UMNO was threatened electorally in 1969, it triggered a deadly riot. If UMNO were dethroned today, there would be jubilations in Kampong Baru as well as Chow Kit Road. Then UMNO was seen as the defender of Malays; today thanks to the obscenely ostentatious lifestyles of the UMNOPutras, it is nothing more than the party of social and economic parasites. Then Malays were economically marginalized, today with a sizable Malay middle class, Malays have as much to lose as non-Malays should there be turmoil. If there were to be any riot, it would be UMNO members blaming each other and seeking retribution for their collective debacle.

Contrary to Khairy’s naïve expectations, a weakened UMNO would not embolden its Barisan partners to challenge it. Their choice then would be to merge with PAS, not exactly a demure bride-in-waiting. Even if they were to flirt with PAS, it would not necessarily be bad for Malaysia. These non-Malay parties might just be the influence needed to moderate PAS. PAS is after all a political party, not a religious organization. If the price for gaining power is for them to tone down their Islamic message, they will. Currently PAS leaders are self-righteously rigid because they have not been given the political opportunity.

The implosion of UMNO would not be bad for Malays or Malaysia; on the contrary, it would be good. UMNO has long ceased being part of the solution. Today, UMNO is the problem, for Malays, non-Malays, and Malaysia.

We do not need divine interventions like Khairy accidentally falling on his keris to solve UMNO’s problems, it would suffice if voters were to instill a much-needed parental discipline to the party.
(Malaysiakini via Bakri Musa)

Definition of "UMNO" by "SANG KELEMBAI"

Untuk Melayu Nikmat Orang- UMNO

Untuk Memuaskan Nafsu Oportunis - UMNO

U Must Not Object -

MCA Youth head to meet Hishammuddin over kris issue ( To hand over the Kungfu Sword ?)

MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai will meet his Umno counterpart to express concern over the latter’s use of the kris during the recent Umno Youth general assembly.

Liow said although Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had explained that the kris was merely a symbol to motivate Malays, people of other races were uneasy.

"He explained to the BN Youth why he used the kris after last year’s Umno Youth assembly. This year, when he used it again, there was also uneasiness among the other races, although it was less.

"Perhaps he needs to explain more. I still get calls from people of other races, especially Chinese, who say they are uneasy with the use of the kris.

"As leaders, we need to understand and consider the feelings of the people on the ground, especially the other races.

"If I hold a Chinese sword at a wushu function it would be different than if I hold one at a political event. This was a political function, so it is seen in a different context. It can create uneasiness," he said.

Liow was speaking to reporters at the Summit Hotel in Bandar Sunway after launching a new product, Pro Can, to fight early-stage cancer.

Liow said: "The general assembly was carried live on television so it is no more a closed-door event. Such a sensitive issue, then, was raised in public. But the National Agenda must come first. We are all Malaysians and we (non-Malays) are here to stay.

Malaysian police shot and wounded an Indonesian fisherman after he allegedly attacked an officer on a boat, reports Jakarta Post.

The incident in Port Dickson, 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Kuala Lumpur, happened Saturday night after police detained the Indonesian boat and its four crew members on suspicion of straying into Malaysian waters, district police chief MazlanOthman was quoted as saying by the national news agency Bernama.

Two policemen, including team leader Rozie Abu Hasan, boarded the fishing boat while three others followed in a patrol boat, Mazlan said.

"Suddenly, the skipper of the fishing boat attacked Rozie with a machete," he was quoted as saying. "Rozie fired a shot in self defense."

The 34-year-old skipper, who name was not released, was injured in the abdomen and is reported to be in stable condition in hospital, while Rozie has been discharged after receiving treatment for slash wounds, the report said.

Mazlan could not be reached for comment.

Fishermen from neighboring countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are frequently arrested in Malaysia for fishing illegally in Malaysian waters. Most of them are taken to courtand fined up to 1 million ringgit (US$275,000; euro210,000).

Meanwhile, Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to review their memorandum of understanding (MoU) on youth relations signed in the 80s with the purpose of enhancing it to achieve more meaningful bilateral relations.

Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said and her Indonesian counterpart Adhyaksa Dault shared the opinion that the youths in both countries needed to strengthen bilateral cooperation and work together in a more organised manner for the benefit of both countries.

During a four-eyed meeting here recently, both ministers agreed that youth relations had to be intensified not only because the youths will be the leaders of tomorrow in their respective countries but also to enable them to share their skills and abilities in facing the challenges of the future and to grab the opportunities available.

"Before this, our relationship was on an ad-hoc basis and mostly between the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). But with the establishment of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Indonesia two years ago, they now want a more systematic relations between government and government also," Azalina said.

She said Malaysia was of the opinion that this was much better because the government can determine the direction of the relationship which is part of the policies that were set and can be endorsed by the Cabinet.

"With the Youth Development Act which we want to table in Parliament in December this year, I can envisage that the relations between the youths (through) the ministries with government representatives abroad will be more organised.

"We hope that the bilateral relations will bring benefit to all, be they the government or the NGOs. This is a new chapter in Malaysia-Indonesia relations to emphasise the aspects which are more relevant," she said.

She said the new act shows that the government gives more serious commitment to the youths by defining them as those who are below 40 years of age and wanting all youth associations to register with the ministry.

Azalina said Malaysia's hope for the new chapter in the relations between its youth and Indonesian youths was to organise more youth cooperation and relations programmes in the aspects of volunteerism, economy, skills and leadership.

"There is so much that we can learn because we have so much in common in terms of culture and, for me, it should be encouraged so that we can learn from each other to give strength to the youths from both countries," she said.

According to Azalina, she was keen to learn how Indonesia, with a huge youth population from amongst its 230 million people, managed and controlled the grievances and problems of youths as well as the efforts of the world's fourth most populated nation in moulding its youths to become independent and be responsible for their actions.

"We can learn from Indonesia on how they deal with so much grievances from so many youths, how they govern the youths and create a more independent young people to take full responsibility.

"Maybe that's why their NGOs are very aggressive and they know what they want. I think this is something that Malaysian youths must learn here through a lot of exchange programmes," she said, and added that the role of youths in determining political stability in Indonesia was interesting.

Azalina also urged Indonesia to establish a Youth Index like Malaysia, which can be used as a strong platform to collect data and facts on the achievement of youths so that their strength could be combined with the strength of Malaysian youths to achieve a common goal.

Adhyaksa said he was happy with the views and suggestions of Azalina and fully supported efforts to strengthen relations between the youths of both countries because Indonesian had a large number of workers in Malaysia, a majority of whom are youths.

A Sarawak timber tycoon has offered to buy media baron Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King's entire stake in Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd and distribute it to the Chinese community.

Lau Swee Nguong, chairman of Sibu-based KTS Group of Companies which owns several newspapers in Sarawak and the peninsula, made the offer at a press conference on Sunday.

The reasons:

* To ensure the healthy advancement of the Chinese media's future development; and

* To respond to scores of requests from friends in the community.

The condition: buyers should not own more than 5% of the entire paid-up capital of Nanyang, which publishes Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press.

KTS Group owns the Oriental Daily News, See Hua Daily News, The Borneo Post and Utusan Borneo.


Nicol stops Natalie for crown - Congratulation !!

NICOL David became only the fourth player to successfully defend the World Women’s Open squash crown when she beat Australian Natalie Grinham of Australia in the final at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland last night.

It has been a grand year for Nicol as the World Open was her sixth consecutive title besides winning the her fifth Asian title in March.

The Asian Games gold in Doha next month will complete her total dominance on the women’s squash circuit.

Final: Nicol David (Mas) bt Natalie Grinham (Aus) 1-9, 9-7, 3-9, 9-5, 9-2.

Cheers, Malaysia Boleh !!!

26 November, 2006

'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire ?

Meet the millionaire sisters, Nor Akmar, 29, and Aida Nurlin, 25, from Ipoh. The Hanif sisters work smart and pray hard – a winning formula that has enabled the girls to make their first million while still in their 20s.

“The money is out there. We just need to find the correct way to reach it.

How is it that they could succeed when many others failed? Did they depend on the Government's NEP ?

“Fortunately for Aida and me, we found the way in the unit trust business,” said Nor Akmar, a wealth advisor for the CIMB group.

As one of the top 10 group agency managers, Nor Akmar and her team bring in total annual sales of between RM50mil and RM100mil.

In the early days, she “smiled” her way through rejections and took every “no” as a step nearer to a “yes.”

Her perseverance paid off. Soon, word got around about this young, articulate and pretty lass who was actually helping her clients make decent returns on their investments. Customers began to contact her instead of Nor Akmar pursuing them.

Within three months, Nor Akmar hit the RM1mil jackpot in sales. In 2003, at the age of 26, she became one of the youngest group agency managers.

ounger sister Aida Nurlin is one of Nor Akmar’s success stories.

Aida started selling unit trusts as an undergraduate in Universiti Teknologi Mara.

Aida recalled how she would wake up at 5am and pack an extra set of clothes in her car.

At 8am, she would don on her power suit to meet clients, determined to close a sale by 10am so that she could rush to her class.

“I would dash into the ladies’ to change into my student clothes. It was really tough then because I was committed to closing a RM20,000 sale every day, and at the same time maintain my grades,” said Aida, believed to be the youngest group agency manager for the CIMB wealth creation group.

She too has been making a five-digit income since student days. She bought her first property – a studio apartment in Sri Hartamas – in 2003 while still pursuing her degree in actuarial science.

Like Nor Akmar, Aida is enjoying the fruits of her success.


Hishammuddin and his Keris

The keris is here to stay. Hishammuddin who brandished the keris at the recent Umno general assembly says : ‘What is it about the keris that makes people so uncomfortable, it is the symbol of The Malay culture .

In the interview with JOCELINE TAN, he argued why it was necessary to allow the Umno grassroots to release their fears and uneasiness in the controlled environment of the assembly rather than let it get out of hand elsewhere. He defended the keris as a Malay cultural symbol and spoke about the impact of the assembly on race relations and ties with the other Barisan Nasional component parties.

Q. This general assembly saw the Malay Agenda come out stronger than in previous years.

A. Two questions I get everywhere I go – why more so this year, and why I did what I did. Any leader in a complex society like Malaysia has to feel the pulse of the constituency. It’s like what one of the delegates said about the duck swimming in calm waters but paddling like mad to stay afloat. It’s the same with ensuring stability – it requires a lot of work that is not seen, there’s all this furious paddling beneath the water surface. What happened this year was because issues raised in the past year or so have created resentment, frustration. I could feel the Malays were very restless over issues like the Lina Joy and apostasy case, the IFC (Inter-Faith Commission), the status of Islam. SMSes going back and forth about Christian conversions and the Azhar Mansor thing. Geo-politically, there are the issues of Palestine, Iran, Israel. Then there were vocal criticisms from Asli (Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute) and Lee Kuan Yew. There is also the process of more transparency and freedom of the press. All these played on the Malay psyche. If they had not been allowed to release their feelings in a controlled channel, it could have been even worse. We are in control of the situation. If you look at what happened, there was the opening speech, then the delegates spoke, then I pulled them back on track with my closing speech. It’s not about starting a fire and letting it go out of control. I told them Umno Youth has never been as strong as today and that it has to be translated into strength in the Barisan. Of course, a few of them got out of control like Shamsul (Najmi), who asked Zam (Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin) to resign. I was so upset but when I met him the next day, I told him to apologise and Zam had accepted it.

Q. The target seemed to be non-Malays rather than Umno’s political opposition.

A. If you read my speech in detail, you will realise the targets are those who were wrong in their assumptions and arguments such as Asli and Lee Kuan Yew. People tend to look at things from what one, two, three delegates said. You have to also look at the leadership. I am the leader of Umno Youth. Do I look like somebody out to target the non-Malays? And would I do that intentionally? For what purpose? Pemuda Umno (Umno Youth) is at its strongest. I don’t need that kind of record. We have built up Pemuda to the extent that it is respected. My relationship with the BN Youth is so good. Why would I want to jeopardise it?

Q. But do you have to keep brandishing the keris?

A. What is it about the keris that makes people so uncomfortable? The keris is on the Umno flag. There are two keris on the Umno logo. It is the symbol of Malay culture. It’s not Umno. It’s not Pemuda. You give keris as gifts to non-Malays and non-Malays give them to me at functions. (Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh) Tsu Koon showed me a huge keris during our Penang convention.

Q. Will you carry it again next year?

A. Yes, I will carry it again next year. The keris is here to stay. I told Liow (MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai), give me your kungfu sword and I will carry it. I am doing it on a question of principle, until people realise the keris is not there to threaten non-Malays but to motivate the Malays. These are all symbols to get Malays to move. We will do whatever it takes to bring them to a point where they don’t feel they are alienated in their own country. We’ve tried everything and if it can help Malays be more focused on what they can do, then my conscience is clear. I did it for the future. I want non-Malays to understand that our doing this is not to take anything away from anybody. That is also enshrined. Allowing the release will help the stability of the country. It won’t drive off investments.

Q. Is the keris not also symbolic of Malay supremacy?

A. Far from it. Unless I keep going on, every day, every year, people will not get out of thinking about the keris this way. If I can’t do it, I don’t think anybody else can. If I can’t do it when I’m leading Umno Youth, with Pak Lah (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) as the PM and Najib (Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak) as the DPM, when our economy is going strong, and we are rolling out the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), then when? Wait till our rubber and palm oil prices go down before voicing our fears about apostasy and the IFC? By then people will be hungry;
they don’t want to talk anymore.

Q. MCA and Gerakan may lose votes at the expense of Umno releasing tension.

A. We have to get our priorities right. It’s not just about winning elections but building a society and a very complex one that requires strong leadership. We are in it together. Even if Umno wins a lot of seats and the component parties do not win, it is not going to make us happy. We have to deliver as we build up to the elections.

Q. What does all this say about race relations after almost 50 years as a nation?

A. If you were talking to me when I was (Youth and Sports Minister), I’d say we could do it in our lifetime. But now I am more realistic because you get pulled in so many directions. You have to look at things from so many angles. It is very difficult being in a society that is very complex, but there is strength in diversity. If we galvanise that, we have something to offer the world.

Q. There was so much about Malay issues and too little on meritocracy, competitiveness or the push against corruption.

A. It’s all relative. If Dr Mahathir (former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) had been there, you probably won’t be talking about the keris, or the New Economic Policy. But people expect too much of a three-day gathering. How much more (do) you want to say about fighting corruption? Pak Lah is moving in that direction. As for meritocracy, Johor Umno has said that we are worried about Malays in the rural areas who cannot get the same level of opportunities in education. Reducing the gap between rural and urban areas is the right way. As for teaching Mathematics and Science in English, we cannot decide till 2008 even though the Malays and the Chinese don’t want it. On competitiveness, we are telling them: “Buck up, we’ve got only 14 years (till 2020). Don’t worry about your rights and religion. For now we have to implement the 9MP.” Lecturing them to work harder, telling them they are lazy and corrupt, those days are over. Pak Lah’s approach is different and we have to go with the new leadership.

Q. What did this assembly mean for you personally?

A. This is my eighth assembly. The early part was trying to rebuild the wing (after the sacking of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim). Morale was so low, some didn’t even want to wear the Pemuda uniform. After eight years of hard work, we have the strength to move on. In my speech, I told them not to look back but to move forward.

Q. Your deputy Khairy Jamaluddin had a controversial run-up to the assembly. How do you think he fared?

A. He did very well. I told him, now that people outside have heard the real grassroots speak in Umno, they are probably thinking that Khairy is not so bad. Yes, he is Oxford material and people expect more of him. But he’s back in Malaysian society and he has to address the concerns of the constituents. An Oxford degree is not going to help if your country is in shambles. But he will need to prove himself, and if he learns, he’ll get wiser. Sometimes people come back and feel they want to change things. Then you realise it is not so simple and you really sit down and learn. He has learnt a lot but he’s still got a lot more to learn. He’s so lucky he has Pak Lah as his father-in-law.


Transparency Talk ?

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said newspapers can play the role of government critic but the criticisms should be constructive and done in a responsible manner.

He said the important thing was the intention and objective of the newspapers and that they must be honest when publishing the issues at hand.

"Newspapers can criticise, but it must be made responsibly and aimed at correcting things. This will help the party criticised accept them (criticisms) positively.

"Leaders are only humans and if there is nobody to criticise us, then we may be carried away by our positions.In a democratic system, our fate lies in the hands of the people, as such it is best to be corrected early rather than be rejected by the people later,"
Najib said when launching the Pahang edition of the Malay tabloid, Kosmo!, here Saturday.

He said that the media should also play a key role in nurturing quality minds in line with globalisation, by providing reading materials that were intellectually challenging.

Najib said publishing companies should not only give priority to circulation but should adopt a holistic approach by providing reading materials that could develop the minds of Malaysians constructively.

"We must not view from one aspect or dimension only, it must be looked at as a whole," he said.

Asked whether there was a need for the media to be more transparent due to the easy access of information from other sources like the Internet, Najib said: "From what I can see, the mainstream media is playing a balanced role. We cannot compare with the alternative media like that in the Internet, which is not controlled at all."

Najib stressed that not all news on the Internet could be trusted as the information could not be independently verified.

"So, it is unfair to compare the mainstream media and the alternative media. I will like to see the media publishing stories that are correct, true and balanced," he said.

On freedom of the press, Najib said there was no total freedom per se as there were a lot of sensitivities in multi-racial Malaysia.

"Yes there is control over newspapers. As I said earlier there is no total freedom and newspapers must understand their responsibilities. I do not see this as a problem as there lots of space for newspapers to make their coverage.

"There is no control when it comes to the Internet as it is a different world altogether. What is important is control of the print media, especially the mainstream newspapers," Najib said.


Malaysian national's suicide leads to probe into road project

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala Government ordered a vigilance probe into alleged irregularities in a controversial road project that came into focus after the alleged suicide of a Malaysian project manager of the firm executing the work.

The government decided to refer the matter to the vigilance department after a ministerial sub-committee, which had a preliminary look into the issue, felt that the Rs 1613-crore World Bank-aided Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP) had suffered from a variety of irregularities and delays, official sources said.

The contract for developing about 150 km of the Main Central road linking the state capital with the central Travancore region under KSTP was awarded to the Indo-Malaysian consortium PATI BEL, whose chief project manager Lee ci Bin was found dead in his apartment at Kuala Lumpur over a week ago.

He had reportedly left a note saying he was ending his life because of problems related to the work he was overseeing in Kerala.

The Indo-Malaysian consortium was one of three firms to which works under the KSTP had been awarded. The project involved building new stretches of roads and renovating and expanding existing roads in different parts of Kerala.

The project was said to be running into huge cost over-runs due to delays on the part of government departments in acquiring land and the lack of proper cash flow management that had landed contractors in trouble.


ARDA: Stop harassment of our Chair, Chee Soon Juan

Media release

The Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia is appalled to have learnt that its Chairman, Dr. Chee Soon Juan has been imprisoned for five weeks for having been found guilty of speaking in a public place without a permit.

ARDA notes that this is not the first time Dr. Chee has been charged with the same offence. He has served at least two other prison sentences for an offence of this nature.

The Alliance calls on the government of Singapore to stop using repressive laws to silence dissenting voices. The leaders of the city-state have made claims that they make a first-world government. If this is so, why do the authorities continue to emplace and enforce laws that clearly violate democratic rights of its citizens? Such are indications of an administration that lacks confidence in winning the mandate and support of the people through legitimate means.

All those who cherish democracy and the rule of law (not the rule by law) condemn the manner in which the Singapore Government has responded to any and all opposition figures and democracy advocates. Defamation suits, bankruptcy proceedings and imprisonment have been the apparatus used by the state and its leaders to deal with those who challenge the government in calling for dialogue, transparency and accountability. Such intimidation and oppression has no place in a democratic society.

As an alliance for democrats in Asia, ARDA urges the Singapore authorities to honour its constitution and to respect the rights of its citizens.

ARDA will continue to support and stand in solidarity with those who are persecuted by undemocratic regimes. We call on the leaders of Singapore to stop its harassment of our Chairman Chee Soon Juan and democracy advocates in Singapore.

ARDA Steering Committee

Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Vice Chair of ARDA (Leader, Citizens Will Party, Mongolia)
Mr. Tian Chua (Vice president, Keadilan Party, Malaysia)
Mr. Sam Rainsy (President, Sam Rainsy Party, Cambodia)
Mr. Pema Khangtetsang (Former Minister of Security, Tibet)
Ms Saumura Tiuolong (MP, Sam Rainsy Party, Cambodia)
Dr. Ken Coghill (Former member and speaker of Victorian parliament, Australia)
Mr. Sarwar Bari (Founder, Pattan, Pakistan)
Dr. Paul Scott (Professor, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan/US)
Ms Emily Lau (Legislative council member, Frontier Party, Hong Kong)
Mr. Wang Dan (Student leader of Tiananmen Movement, China)

ARDA Director
Mr. Sivarasah Rasiah (Vice president, Keadilan Party, Malaysia)


China's Communist Party gets a taste for the blogging craze

Around 20 officials from a town in eastern China have set up their own blogs after being encouraged by a local Communist Party leader, state media said.

During a recent meeting, Zhang Xinshi, the party's number one in Suqian, in the Jiangsu province, asked the heads of various departments in the town to write blogs "to get the discussions and observations of everyone, to allow the public to check things, and to maintain an efficient and clear channel of communication between party officials and the masses," said the Beijing News.

In his blog, Zhang describes his various activities and holds forth on the damaging effects of spitting in public, a practice still common in China despite campaigns by the government to stamp it out.

However, the Chinese journalists noticed that visitors to the site are not allowed to post their comments immediately, a fact the town's computer department explains is simply a technical issue.

While the Communist government considers the Internet a useful tool in the economic development of the country, it also clamps down on any political opposition that appears there. Several blogs are regularly shut down by the authorities.

Reporters Without Borders said recently that "in a country where you can spend ten years in prison for some messages posted on the net, writing a political blog under your own name is a high risk activity."


Burned alive: savage twist in revenge attack

REVENGE-seeking militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left prayers and burned them alive with kerosene in a savage new twist to the brutality shaking Baghdad.

The attack in the Iraqi capital on Friday came a day after suspected Sunni insurgents killed more than 200 people in Baghdad's main Shiite district.

Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene in Friday's assault by suspected members of the Shiite Mehdi Army militia, said police Captain Jamil Hussein.

He said in subsequent attacks at least 19 other Sunnis were killed, including women and children, in the same area, the volatile Hurriyah district in north-west Baghdad.

Most of the thousands of dead bodies that have been found dumped across Baghdad and other cities in central Iraq in recent months have been of victims who were tortured and then shot to death, according to police......(more)