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)


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