31 January, 2007

May I Take Your Order, Please?


Mahathir to launch tribunal to try government leaders for alleged war crimes

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Malaysia: Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday he is forming a tribunal to try heads of governments for alleged war crimes, including U.S. President George W. Bush.

The tribunal, to be formally launched at a peace conference Mahathir is hosting Feb. 7, will not have the legal authority of any international organization and will not be able to impose penalties — but Mahathir said its aim is to condemn the accused in the history books.

"The accused may disregard" the tribunal, Mahathir said at a news conference. "There will be (other) people who will take it seriously, and historians will attach an epithet that they will not like. They will go down in history as war criminals."

Seventeen people — nine from Iraq, five from the Palestinian territories and three from Lebanon — have arrived for the peace conference in Malaysia's biggest city, Kuala Lumpur, where they will submit oral or written complaints to the so-called Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission.

The commission, made up of Mahathir and five Malaysian lawyers, will investigate the complaints and decide whether they merit being tried by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, which is also being set up by Mahathir and comprises law specialists and former judges.

Mahathir said the date for the tribunal's first hearing will depend on how long the commission takes to recommend that a case be heard.

"If the complaint is against a head of government, someone powerful, we will hold a trial in absentia," Mahathir said. He did not say if he expects other accused people to attend.

He said the accused would "have ample opportunities to rebut the allegations through their embassies."

"We can't arrest government leaders. We can't hang them like they hanged Saddam (Hussein)," Mahathir said.

Mahathir, a frequent critic of the Iraq war, has repeatedly called Bush and his Australian and British allies "war criminals," saying they should be tried in an international court for crimes against humanity.

Eight Malaysian law specialists and former judges have agreed to sit on the tribunal, and Mahathir's nongovernment Perdana Global Peace Organization hopes to add international members.

"The crimes that have been committed in Iraq, Palestine, Japan have not been given a hearing. It is time we set up a body which will give these people an opportunity to complain," Mahathir said. The coming conference will highlight the suffering of people who survived the U.S. World War II nuclear attacks on Japan.

The complainants gathering in Malaysia are alleged victims of torture, rape and abuse by the U.S. and Israeli armies, said a Mahathir aide, Matthias Chang.

They include Ali Shalah, a former Baghdad university lecturer who claims he was severely beaten and electrocuted during six months in Abu Ghraib prison.

"The victims went all over the world. Their cries fell on deaf ears. As a last resort, they asked Mahathir to help them," Chang said.

Mahathir said his initiative is not being backed by any government, including Malaysia's.

"We don't want to make it look like a government effort. This is purely NGO (nongovernment organization) work," he said.

Mahathir, who led Muslim-majority Malaysia for 22 years before retiring in 2003, is well known for critical comments about the West, and is respected in Muslim and developing countries.


Malaysia's half-century of independence overshadowed by race tensions

This year should be a time for celebration in Malaysia as 2007 marks the country's 50th anniversary of independence from colonial ruler Britain and the birth of the multicultural nation.

But instead many are lamenting an alarming slide in race relations which the milestone has highlighted, along with the rising influence of Islam which has alienated ethnic Chinese and Indian citizens.

"There is a general sense on the ground that things are getting out of hand," said civil rights activist and lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar. "It's causing a lot of fear and consternation and tensions are rising."

Malik, who has received death threats for his efforts to protect religious freedom in the Muslim-majority nation, takes issue with the government's tourism-brochure portrayal of a peaceful multi-ethnic Malaysia.

"My fears are that we'll become even more racially divided, the economy's going to plunge, the Islamist aspects will become even more pronounced, and what you'll have is a wholesale dismantling of the rule of law," he said.

"And you'll see a country imploding, and that's not a very good prospect."

As the nation prepares for a huge party on August 31, half a century after the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman joyfully declared "Merdeka" or independence, many are wondering what went wrong.

Ethnic Indian activist Waytha Moorthy recalls that during his childhood, his father used to invite friends of all religions to their home to celebrate the Hindu festival of light, Diwali, to eat, drink and socialise.

"But now currently I see my nieces and nephews, they do not have any Muslim friends, and they all complain they can't develop a relationship with the Muslims," he said.

Much of the unhappiness centres on positive discrimination policies introduced in 1971 to raise the status of Muslim Malays who make up 60 percent of the population against 26 percent ethnic Chinese and eight percent ethnic Indians.

Despite the leg-up, "bumiputras" or "sons of the soil" -- as Malays and members of indigenous groups are often called here -- continue to lag far behind the Chinese, triggering calls for an overhaul of the system in which the big winners have been Malay entrepreneurs who cash in on an array of subsidies.

Political commentators say Malaysia must stop obsessing over how to divide the nation's wealth, and instead focus on how to boost the economy so that all will benefit.

"I hope that the challenges of globalisation will make all Malaysian leaders face up to the harsh truth that if we do not get our people to unite together as Malaysians, then we will all suffer," said opposition leader Lim Kit Siang.

"What is happening now in many areas -- in nation building and racial and religious polarisation, and on international competitiveness -- we seem to be losing steam."

Apart from the economic squabbles, an ugly new theme has emerged recently with clashes over the rights of non-Muslims which some say are being sidelined as Islamic authorities exercise their influence.

The cases of mountaineering hero M. Moorthy who was born a Hindu but buried as a Muslim despite his family's protests, and Lina Joy, who is trying to have her conversion from Islam to Christianity recognised, have been landmark cases.

Hindus are also complaining that their right to worship is being compromised, and anger has flared over what they say is the demolition of thousands of temples over the past decade to make way for development.

The government, which is determined to prevent a repeat of bloody 1960s race riots, has introduced education reforms and a national service programme aimed at encouraging the races to mingle.

But meanwhile some of the most racially charged rhetoric has been coming from the ruling party itself.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said that the ethnic divide is a "disease" that must be tackled openly, and appealed for the anniversary celebrations to emphasise national unity, but many are nonplussed.

"I think it's embarrassing that after 50 years, we have a weaker judicial system, a weaker parliamentary system, the corruption index is lower -- you name it," said Imtiaz.

"So we'll have a big parade and we'll all be out there waving our flags as we always do, but it means very little I think."
(by Sarah Stewart via Yahoo! news alert)

Compare with another metaphorical news that goes :"
Malaysia takes pride in racial, religious harmony as it marks 50 years of independence" What's your take?

As investors stay away, Malaysian policy comes under spotlight

Why are foreign investors hesitant about going to Malaysia? Could it have something to do with the affirmative action bumiputra policy, which favours Muslim Malays in business, jobs and education?
The question was asked of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in an interview with Financial Times (FT). The same issue also cropped up separately at a conference on the country's outlook for this year.
The diagnoses were exact opposites.
Mr Abdullah felt that the decline in investments had more to do with the rise of China and India, which were sucking in much of the available money. The bumiputra policy, he said, was not even a factor.
In contrast, Mr Ramon Nava-ratnam, president of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Malaysia, felt that the policy was harming the country and denting investor confidence.
"This will affect confidence, this will affect investment and affect growth and then, worse still, affect our ability to distribute wealth," said Mr Navaratnam, a former treasury official who noted at a conference on the 2007 outlook for Malaysia that race relations in Malaysia were at an all-time low.
"Private investment has been declining. If we don't recognise these issues and do something about it, we'll be like ostriches putting our heads in the sand."
He claimed that the policy, while well intended, has been abused. "Corruption and poor implementation have resulted in an elite getting wealthy, while marginalising poorer Malaysians."
Mr Abdullah's take on the policy was completely different. He said it was still necessary in the country, as there were pockets of Malay Muslims who were still at a disadvantage.
He said that the policy had never been a factor in foreign investments.
"No, it's not a problem. Previously, they invested their money when foreign direct investment was so high ... that was a time of rigorous implementation (of the bumiputra policy). They (the investors) were not offended. They were not opposed to that. Why should they be now saying: Oh, you have this policy, so we will leave."
Mr Abdullah's FT interview also touched on the issue of Islamic extremism, and suggested that the international community stem the tide of extremism by tackling it at its "root" cause.
He noted that even in a moderate country like Malaysia with its wide-ranging social policies, Islamic extremism could become a threat.
"The Muslims are being looked after with all sorts of policies ensuring their progress, increasing their economic participation, providing education for the children, as we do also for other children. From that point of view, they are satisfied," said the Malaysian Premier.
He acknowledged, however, that dissatisfaction can arise despite well-intentioned social policies, especially given the prominence of issues that affect the "Umma" — the world Muslim community — such as the Middle East situation.
"As I have said before, what is happening now in the Middle East has even made the moderates angry. That is no good," he told FT.
Mr Abdullah, the current chairman of the world's largest Muslim grouping, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, added: "I have always said if you are talking about terrorism, let us examine the root causes. Trying to resolve terrorism without examining its root causes is like trying to fertilise the fruits and not the roots."
(Today Online)


30 January, 2007

Malaysia's Dr M backs Thailand over feud with Singapore

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed threw his support behind Thailand's diplomatic spat with Singapore, accusing the city-state of interfering in the country's internal affairs and violating diplomatic norms by permitting its senior government official to meet with ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

In an interview with Nation Channel's Thepchai Yong over the weekend on this island resort, Mahathir said Singapore had permitted Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar to meet with Thaksin in spite of their awareness that such act would grossly upset Bangkok.

"Singapore doesn't really care about the opinion of its neighbours," said Mahathir, adding that the decision was "unfeeling and not sympathetic".

"Singapore believes the most important thing is what profits Singapore," he said.

Thai-Singapore relation has hit one of its lowest points following the controversial meeting. The Foreign Ministry insisted that it has given the island-state prior warning about Thailand's strong objection to the meeting.

Two weeks ago, army chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin accused Singapore of spying on Thailand by eaves dropping on telephone conversations, adding more fuel to what was billed as already a difficult situation between the two countries.

"That's the kind of things they do," Mahathir said. The Singaporean government dismissed Sonthi's claim.

When asked about his 22 years of dealing with Singapore, Mahathir said "You'll get no where with them either being nice or being tough, they only think of themselves," Mahathir said.

Nevertheless, Mahathir said both sides to patch things up but "in away that is honorable", which, he said, should start with an apology from Singapore.

The former Malaysian leader said he would welcome a meeting with Thaksin only if the former Thai premier asked for it. But Mahathir quickly downplayed the idea, saying "I don't have anything to discuss with him.

Thaksin has publicly praised Mahathir as his role model during his time in office.

"Although he has said I was his friend and he wants to follow my way. But many of his ways are not my way," Mahathir said.

Thaksin has been living in exile since his ouster in September. The former premier has launched a media campaign to discredit the military-appointed government in Bangkok and the junta itself, accusing them of mismanagement and being undemocratic.

Singapore's investment firm Temasek Holdings purchase of Thaksin family-controlled Shin Corp. in January had triggered an outcry in Thailand and exploded into a national scandal that led to his downfall after it was disclosed that the family paid no taxes on the Bt73-billion deal.

The deal allowed the Singaporean investment fund, Temasek to control operation of mobile phone, Satellite and television network, which the junta deemed as a possible access to security concern areas,

Mahathir said Thailand had benefited economically under Thaksin but added that his handlings of policy and controversies were not very diplomatic.

Mahthir dismissed suggestion that Thakisin had followed his footstep by meddling with press freedom. He said his outspokenness against Western countries has put him in a bad light with the foreign press.
(Source: The Nation Thailand)

Here In Malaysia : Malaysia takes pride in racial, religious harmony

"Malaysia has reached a stage where our society has made progress that can be described as excellent ... with a democratic leadership,'' Culture Minister Rais Yatim said at a news conference.

The government has constantly reminded Malaysians that it has not been easy, since the nation's independence in 1957, to transform what was once an ethnically riven backwater into one of Southeast Asia's most prosperous and peaceful countries, with high-rise cities and a vibrant manufacturing sector.

Over there in Singapore : Malaysia's race divide threatens economy, society

Growing racial divides are undermining Malaysia and the government must act or face severe social and financial consequences, an anti-corruption watchdog warned Monday.

"We are beginning to see more and more signs of what could be indications of a failing state," he said at a conference on the 2007 outlook for Malaysia.

"If we don't address these issues now, it's like gangrene. It gathers in strength and intensity and causes major problems."


Abdullah rebuffs criticism of extravagance over VIP government plane

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi denied accusations his administration was extravagant, after it decided to get a new luxury plane to fly dignitaries.

Abdullah said state-owned holding company Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd. used its own money to buy the Airbus A319, which would be leased to the government for VIP travel, the national news agency, Bernama, reported.

"The jet is for the use of the government, not the prime minister" alone, Abdullah was quoted as saying late Monday after returning from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Abdullah did not reveal any details of the acquisition, such as when it had been finalized or how much it had cost Penerbangan Malaysia, the parent company of flagship carrier operator, Malaysian Airline System Bhd. The company is also a subsidiary of the government's investment arm.

Abdullah's aides could not immediately be contacted for comment.

The acquisition has become the subject of intense online debate over the past week among Malaysia's independent bloggers and Web sites that have been critical of Abdullah's policies.

Political analyst A. Kadir Jasin said in his blog late Monday that "the cost of leasing and operating (the jet) will still have to be shouldered by the taxpayers."

Abdullah's attempts to clarify the issue were unsatisfactory, said MYKMU NET, a Web site run by supporters of ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has accused Abdullah in the past year of mismanaging the economy and compromising national sovereignty.

"Why is there the need for this new purchase?" the Web site said in a statement Tuesday. Penerbangan Malaysia "belongs to the government. Any of its expenses is a government expense," the statement read.

Abdullah's spending policies have so far generally been more conservative than those of Mahathir, who handed power to Abdullah in 2003 after a 22-year rule that witnessed massive infrastructure projects, including the Petronas Twin Towers, once the world's tallest buildings.

Abdullah recently accused his critics of "trying their best to ridicule" him and spreading lies about him on the Internet. But he pledged not to let unfair remarks distract him from working to boost Malaysia's economic progress.

Bernama "Abdullah Denies Buying Executive Jet"
Rocky's Bru : " Blogs spot on about lux jet"
Screen Shots : "Luxury Jet: Blogs and websites were right after all"
The Malaysian Government's latest aircraft"


Both sides now bound by 'No-Subjudice' undertaking

Beauty and the Bs
(p/s B for bloggers, from left Jeff, Marina M and Rocky)

Lawyers from both sides of the defamation suit initiated by NSTP et.al against this blogger have agreed to record the following before Justice Malik Ishak in chambers at the High Court of Malaya Kuala Lumpur this morning:

By agreement, all parties henceforth agree not to publish any articles, comments or posts regarding the dispute presently before the High Court in this action that may be regarded as subjudice or that may prejudice the fair trial of the case.

I understand the draft was prepared by the plaintiffs' lawyers, and ours did not object to it.

Prior to this, the plaintiffs had on January 11 obtained an exparte injunction against this blogger, requiring him to remove 12 + 3 alleged defamatory postings posted on Screenshots between February and December last year.

The injunction also restrains this blogger, "whether by himself, or through his employees and agents", from republishing these posting in Screenshots or on the world wide web, until the disposal of the defamation suit.
More on Screenshot.

Rocky -

The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad agreed this morning "not to publish any articles, comments or posts regarding the dispute presently before the High Court in this action that may be regarded as subjudice or that may prejudice the fair trial of the case" involving a suit it has taken jointly with three individuals against Screenshots blogger Jeff Ooi.
The popular blogger, who was represented by lawyer Haris Ibrahim, has given a similar undertaking in front of Judge Malik Ishak.
The court has set March 6 to hear Jeff Ooi's application to strike out the case brought against him by the Umno-owned NSTP and its two top operatives Kalimullah Hassan and Hishamuddin Aun, together with former group editor of NST, Brenden Pereira.
More on Rock's Bru

Abdullah hits back at bloggers, websites out to 'rubbish' him

Prime Minister Abdullah says his critics have created stories, exaggerated issues to discredit his government

Quote :

The New Straits Times Press (NSTP), publisher of the NST daily, is suing bloggers Ahirudin Attan and Jeff Ooi for unspecified damages and is seeking an injunction to prevent them from continuing to post objectionable material.

The publishing company contends that 48 postings by Mr Ahirudin and 13 by Mr Ooi defamed its deputy chairman, Datuk Kalimullah Hassan, group editor-in-chief Hishamuddin Aun, and former group editor Brendan Pereira.

Some of the issues brought up by bloggers and news portals had also caused frustration within government circles, with the prime minister himself coming out to deny them.

Last month, PM Abdullah denied that he had bought a RM30million (S$13million) yacht after reports surfaced on the Internet saying that he had gone to Turkey to view the vessel.

Last week, he denied reports -- again on the Internet -- that the government was using unknown companies to raise US$50billion (S$76.8billion) in project loans.

In the past few days, the buzz on Malaysian websites has been whether the government has ordered a new US$50million luxury jet for use by top officials. Officials have yet to confirm or deny the claims.

Datuk Seri Abdullah had earlier backed NSTP's right to sue the bloggers, saying that they were not above the law and that their owners had to be responsible for content on their sites.

During the interview with NST in the Swiss city of Davos, where he attended the World Economic Forum, Datuk Seri Abdullah said he would not be deterred by distractions coming out of cyberspace.

"If I allow myself to be distracted by all this, I will not be able to do any work. That is what they want, that I not focus on my work," he said.
(Straits Times Singapore)


29 January, 2007

Globalization ?

Finally, a definition of globalization I can understand and relate to.

Question: What is the truest definition of Globalization?

Answer: Princess Diana’s death.

Question: How come?


An English princess,
with an Egyptian boyfriend
crashes in a French tunnel,
driving a German car,
with a Dutch engine,
driven by a Belgian who was drunk
on Scottish whisky, (check the bottle before you change the spelling)
followed closely by Italian Paparazzi,
on Japanese motorcycles;
treated by an American doctor,
using Brazilian medicines.

This is sent to you by an Englishman,
using Bill Gates’s technology,
and you’re probably reading this on your computer,
that use Taiwanese chips,
and a Korean monitor,
assembled by Bangladeshi workers
in a Singapore plant,
transported by Indian lorry-drivers,
hijacked by Indonesians,
unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen,
and trucked to you by Mexican illegals…..

And that, my friends, is Globalization


Why Malaysia needs migrant workers

THE movement of people from one place to another is not a new phenomenon. For centuries people have been on the move for one reason or another. Many were displaced by war as well as man-made and natural calamities, others driven out by poverty in their home country while some migrate in search of greener pastures. Thus, there exist both pull and push factors behind the migration of labour.

In the last forty years, a substantial section of the world population has been involved in international migration. It was either for better economic fortunes, escaping natural and man made disasters or for socio-political reasons. As a result, about 280 million people are said to have lived outside the country of their births in 2005.

Today in Asia there are about 20 million people who work in neighbouring countries. During the 1970s, many Asian workers particularly from the Indian subcontinent began seeking employment particularly in Middle Eastern countries and the United States, Canada and Australia. Several countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE enjoyed buoyant economies due to escalating oil prices in 1973. This, in turn, attracted a large number of foreign labourers to carry out their massive infrastructural investments. But since the '90s, many from labour abundant South Asian and Southeast Asian countries preferred to work in the fast-growing Southeast Asian countries.

Demand for both skilled and unskilled workers has grown from rapidly growing nations of the Pacific Rim such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Multi-ethnic population in Malaysia demonstrated the long history of migration. About 40 per cent of its 26 million people are of migrant stock.

Due to its geographical location at the crossroads of Southeast Asia, Malaysia had for centuries been open to traders and travellers from the East and the West. But it was only during the British colonial administration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that the inflow of foreign labourers especially from the Indian subcontinent, China and Indonesia contributed to the formation of a multi-ethnic, mutli-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual plural society in Malaysia.

The descendants of these migrant workers, especially from China and India, are classified officially as non-Bumiputra as opposed to Bumiputra (Malays and other indigenous people). Those from Indonesia have been assimilated with the Malay groups and are categorised as Bumiputra.

Before Independence in 1957 the British colonial administration, having confronted labour shortage resorted to the importation of cheap labour from India and China to work in tin mines, rubber plantation and for the overall development of the infrastructure. In fact, these migrant workers provided cheap as well as adequate supply of workers when local workers either found not suitable or interested in working under the same harsh conditions faced by the migrant labours.

The number of people involved was in millions and the inflow was abrupt and the migrants were from different ethnic and socio-cultural backgrounds. These factors led to the formation of an alien community. Although the primary objective of the migrant labours was to make some fortune and return home after sometime, a combination of factors operating within British Malaya and in the countries of origin resulted in many migrant workers taking the decision of not returning to their respective countries of origin and instead settling down in Malaya permanently.

However, many migrants returned to their homeland during the recession years in the thirties but the number of those who remained behind was still large. The majority of those who chose to stay opted for Malaysian citizenship after independence in 1957.

After Independence, this free migration was curbed by various policies and the 1963 Malaysian immigration policy made it very difficult for non-Malaysian born persons to gain permanent residence or citizenship while working in Malaysia. Therefore, the major changes in the demographic balance between ethnic groups had taken place more due to changes in fertility and mortality rates and less in net migration from overseas.

The economic development after independence is characterised by a widening economic gap between rural and urban sectors as well as between Bumiputra and non-Bumiputra communities.

Bumiputra groups after independence were found mostly in the countryside, working as peasant farmers while the migrant groups (non-Bumiputra), in particular the Chinese, were mainly involved in commerce and trade in the urban sectors. The Indians, on the other hand, were found mostly in the plantation sector working as labourers. The extreme economic disparities consequent from liberal economic strategy based on growth without redistribution together with political and ideological differences contributed to the inter-ethnic violence of May 1969, which had eventually led to the formation of the New Economic Policy (NEP).

This NEP was adopted to correct the economic imbalance and to remove occupational segregation among the major ethnic groups in Malaysia.

As a result of NEP, Malays who confined themselves to the rural areas began to migrate to the urban areas as employment opportunities were expanded largely because of the structural transformation of the Malaysian economy that created new jobs in the manufacturing and services sectors.

This migration to the industrial urban areas also affected the position of the rural population including Indian estate workers and the Malay small and marginal farmers. This has, in fact created an acute labour shortage in the rural areas in general and in the plantation sector in particular. This is how the dynamics within the country created a vacuum thereby setting the stage for pull factors to rekindle the labour inflows both legally and illegally.

The plantation sector was the first to feel the heat as the labour force began to deplete. Many educated youths opted to work in new factories rather than toil in plantations. Deplorable living conditions and low wages discouraged them to stay on. On the other hand, the new labour intensive companies provided attractive salaries and fringe benefits.

The construction industry also faces a similar situation. Hiring cheap foreign workers was the solution as it was difficult to attract local workers at prevailing wages. Later on, there was a pressing labour problem in the manufacturing sectors. Unskilled workers were in demand and to ease the tight market condition, the companies were allowed to recruit migrant workers based on specific needs.

There is a great demand for skilled workers in the electronic industry including technicians, engineers and production workers.

At the beginning, the labour shortage in the plantation sector has attracted mainly Indonesian workers and a small number of workers from the Philippines and Thailand. Later on, the rapid economic growth and the huge influx of foreign investment with emphasis on export oriented industrialisation strategy created a vacuum in the economy in terms of overall labour shortage.

More jobs were created in the construction, manufacturing and the services sectors. Therefore, without the importation of foreign workers the country's rapid development, construction and infrastructural programme could not be sustained.

Malaysia has undergone a major structural transformation from an agro-based economy to an industrialised one .This is consistent with the objective of achieving a developed country status by the year 2020. Primary commodities are being replaced by manufacturing industries by increasing its share in the total merchandise export. Because of this structural transformation and rapid economic growth, all sectors of the economy are in dire need of foreign labours since the local work force can not meet the growing need for labour.

Several factors such as limited skilled labours, lack of institutions to train workers, slow growth of skills to meet technology change and attitudes of the locals who shun menial jobs are likely to contribute to the current labour shortage in Malaysia. Government report and statistics demonstrate that there is a serious labour shortage in various sectors including manufacturing, plantation and construction. As such, a stable pool of workers both skilled and unskilled is needed to meet the on-going need of the economy.

- Zahid Zamir, financial express.

(The writer teaches at York College, City University of New York and a Research
fellow at IERF)


The Financial Times Interview transcript: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

Quentin Peel, international affairs editor of the Financial Times, interviews the Rt Hon Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, prime minister of Malaysia. The interview was conducted at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, on January 23.

FINANCIAL TIMES: What is driving the trend towards more fundamentalist religious belief in the world? Is it not a response to a general rise in insecurity, driven at least partly by a fear of globalisation?

ABDULLAH AHMAD BADAWI: What we have to address is how we can eliminate the problems that are causing this insecurity. If we know what is causing the insecurity, that is the problem we must address. We cannot continue to pursue what we are doing today. I have always said if you are talking about terrorism, let us examine the root causes. Trying to resolve terrorism without examining its root causes is like trying to fertilise the fruits and not the roots.

FT: You identify root causes as what is happening in Israel, and Iraq and the wider Middle East. But are those root causes behind the terrorism in Indonesia, for example?

Mr BADAWI: I put it this way. In Indonesia, for example, there are groups that are propagating the idea that Islam should be given a role, a very important role, in government. They would like an Islamic government. Many Muslims aspire to set up an Islamic government. I don’t think that Islam is the only way to solve all the problems. So if they see anything being done that they feel is an insult to Islam, they are going to react. These people talk on the basis of the Umma [the world Muslim community]. Anything that happens to the Umma in other places will cause them to react. Why do they want to react? They want to react because their government is not reacting. That is the whole trouble. [They say] “You are not an Islamic government, so you have no feeling for the people, the Muslims there who have been attacked, who have been marginalized, well, treated unjustly by other countries.” You see the connection?

FT: Indeed. But then how do you answer that sort of reaction – that if my government does not react, I will react myself? Surely that is a threat to the government itself…

MR BADAWI: So how should governments respond? How do they respond to the situation in Palestine, for example? They support the Palestinian cause. The government of Malaysia supports the Palestinian cause. I say, the Palestinians have the right to return to their homeland. Is this an Islamic issue? No. It is an issue of the people, of Muslims, non-Muslims, Christians and Jews, who have a right to return to the homeland when people have been expelled from their homeland. So we have to help them from that point of view. We governments work at the international level. They work at the OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference). They work at the United Nations. The UN has been passing laws one after another, resolutions, and look what happened. They are ignored. And then people get even more angry. They begin to say: “You Islamic countries cannot do anything.”

FT: And you feel that even in Malaysia?

MR BADAWI: They have the same feeling. But fortunately for us, we are doing a lot of things to make our government do well. The Muslims are being looked after with all sorts of policies, ensuring their progress, increasing their economic participation, providing education for the children, as we do also for other children. From that point of view, they are satisfied. From another point of view, they are sick.

FT: So you feel there can even be a threat in a country as moderate and middle-of-the-road as Malaysia?

MR BADAWI: As I have said before, what is happening now in the Middle East has even made the moderates angry. That is no good.

FT: What about the other problems of the Middle East, in Iraq, and in Iran, which seems to divide the Muslim world, and divide people between Sunni and Shia. Is that not dangerous for the Muslim world?

MR BADAWI: It is dangerous. You must understand that Shia is everywhere, not just in Iran. But why can’t we all as Muslims, as Sunnis, as Shia, as people who follow the other smaller denominations, accept the fact that there are differences in the Muslim community? You follow your imam. Can’t we live together happily? What is important is something that is a real concern for all the people: people want their children to be employed, people want government, people want schools, people want policies for that, they want economic programmes to enable them to get employment and to earn some money. That’s what they want. That’s what they have in common.

FT: But in Europe the clash seems to be not so much between Islam and Christianity, but between Islam and secularism.

MR BADAWI: Yes, but you must understand that the theory of secularism doesn’t exist in Islam. So please don’t talk about secular. You are wasting your time. You are creating unnecessary problems. Some young people say why should a western government talk to a government that is not Islamic. The Sunni says the Shia government is not Islamic. The Shia says a Sunni government is not Islamic. Where do you end? A government that is just, a government that is trustworthy, that becomes people-centred, that is Islamic. That is a government everyone can accept, that non-Muslims can accept. So we must see what the government professes, what the government does, what the government effects, what are their concerns, and if it is good, that is Islamic. A government can have Islamic values, without the label of Islamic. Between theatre and substance, I would declare more for the substance.

FT: In Malaysia, the government does look after its Muslim population. You have pursued the Bumiputra policy, which is a form of positive discrimination [for ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups in the economy and public education]. Now you are seen to be relaxing this. Is that correct? Has it gone far enough?

MR BADAWI: We are not forgetting the fact that these groups still need some help. The objectives of the new economic policy introduced in 1971 in terms of providing fair equity participation in the economy have yet to be achieved. We aim for 30 per cent [participation]. In some sectors, yes, we have achieved that goal and we can stop. It is not that we have relaxed. But where we have done well, we don’t have to worry about it any more. Where we have been lacking, we still have to improve. The bumiputras [sons of the earth] of today are not the bumiputras of 30 years ago. Many of them are able to compete already on their own, on merit.

FT: But are you pursuing the policy less rigidly, is it more flexible today?

MR BADAWI: It is flexible in the sense of the approach that we take. But the objective remains the same.

FT: But is it not a factor in the hesitancy of some foreign investors coming to Malaysia?

MR BADAWI: No, it is not a problem. Before, they invested their money when FDI [foreign direct investment] was so high, that was the time of rigorous implementation [of the bumiputra policy]. They were not offended. They were not opposed to that. Why should now they be saying: Oh you have this policy, so we will leave? I don’t understand. They fear that we have become so rigid.

FT: But you have seen a decline in FDI. Are you being squeezed between China and India?

MR BADAWI: Let me put it this way. What we had before coming to Malaysia was foreign investment in the manufacturing sector. It was obviously investment that favours the low-cost producer. We were an efficient low-cost producer at one time, and therefore people come to us. China was just about to take off. Vietnam was still around the corner. India was yet to go. We were ahead as an efficient low-cost producer of products. That was what attracted the FDI. Since then, Vietnam is catching up, China catching up and India catching up as low cost producers. Of course, slowly China is becoming high cost, in certain areas. So naturally we cannot any more be a low cost producer. So where are we today? We are moving up the value chain. We have become, although we are a higher cost producer today, we are offering higher skills. We are going for value-added products that are more sophisticated technologically. There is FDI for that. But we have to deliver.

FT: Where have you been most successful? Where can you offer the most value added?

MR BADAWI: We want to be a hub for out-sourcing. People will want to have their component parts where the cost is competitive.

FT: But aren’t you going to be overtaken by India?

MR BADAWI: The competition is there. But there are other things of course: our biotechnology, based on our agriculture. We are seeking value-added from agriculture, to produce bio-diesel. We can produce palm oil, which other countries cannot. China cannot produce palm oil.

FT: What about Proton, the national car manufacturer? Are you not going to sell that company? Isn’t that a setback for Malaysia?

MR BADAWI: We are not selling Proton. There will be an appropriate level of foreign participation.

FT: A minority shareholding?

MR BADAWI: Not necessarily a minority. Proton will be the holding company for vehicle manufacturing. When we come to vehicle manufacturing, that is the time when you allow for higher participation. It could be 51:49; it could be more or less. That is something we are negotiating. Proton is like all motor companies…How many motor companies do you have today here [in Britain]? How many have you sold to Germany? Your Rolls Royce, your Rover. Where are you cars? We have come to that position now.

FT: Will you reach a decision by the end of March?

MR BADAWI: We hope so. The length of negotiating depends on both sides.

FT: Is one potential partner ahead of the others?

MR BADAWI: I don’t want to judge, I don’t want to speculate.

FT: In terms of your region, are you worried about the situation in Thailand?

MR BADAWI: We are always concerned about what happens in our neighbouring countries. It is only logical to be concerned about it.

FT: Can the Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand be better resolved?

MR BADAWI: It can be. It can be. But the Muslims of southern Thailand are the citizens of Thailand. I have always told [the Thai government] to engage them. It is not in our interests for that area just across the border to become unstable.

FT: It has already become unstable, hasn’t it?

MR BADAWI: You are quite right. And we are talking to the Thai government.

FT: But where does that sort of Muslim insurgency fit into your wider picture of concern about the Muslim world? It doesn’t have anything to do with the Middle East, does it?

MR BADAWI: No, not necessarily. But you remember, a Muslim brother can be anywhere and they feel for him. That is their feeling. We cannot run away from that. If some Christian minority had been butchered in some other country, do you think the people of England would keep quiet?

FT: We live in a very strange world where people are both more concerned about what is happening far away, and yet are less concerned. It is a strange dichotomy. But there is a real danger of people retreating into nationalism and defensiveness. What will happen if the Doha round fails? Won’t that lead to more protectionism?

MR BADAWI: There are ways of overcoming that. You know there is a proliferation of free trade areas, on a regional level, or country-to-country level, which are not looking inwards, but are looking outwards. So for example we have the Asean free trade area, we have got Apec. Just because negotiating of the Doha round has stalled. Trading will carry on.

FT: The message you seem to be giving is that if the Doha round fails, it won’t be a disaster. Don’t the negotiators need political pressure if they are going to reach a deal? But you do not seem very inclined to step up the pressure…

MR BADAWI: I don’t say that failure would be a disaster. I say world trade will go on. Free trade every day will be gaining, because we have access. But what access are we talking about for the small man? But if we cannot negotiate some kind of arrangement through the World Trade Organisation, then the free trade will go on bilaterally or regionally, if it so difficult to do it internationally. People do like to trade.


Both Sides now

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
Ive looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say Ive changed
Well somethings lost, but somethings gained
In living evry day

Ive looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
Its lifes illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all
Ive looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
Its lifes illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all

Lawyers from Shearn Delamore, NSTP and the four individual plaintiffs were forced to take a haircut.

The fact is, the lawyers of the plaintiffs (NSTP, Kalimullah Hassan, Hishamuddin Aun, Brenden John Pereira and Syed Faisal Albar) had voluntarily proposed to defence lawyers, inviting them to enter into a joint undertaking to save their case.

NSTP took the position after its lawyers had sensed that defence counsels were mulling over the weekend to cite subjudice against NSTP Group Editor-in-Chief Hishamuddin Aun, a plaintiff in the defamation case against blogger Rocky and Jeff Ooi, for co-authoring yesterday’s interview with PM/Umno president Abdullah Badawi in The NST and Berita Minggu, in which the No. 1 was pawned to spit venom at the bloggers with the defendants, Rocky and Jeff, made the specific contextual targets.

The draft, which was prepared by Shearn Delamore and later tendered and accepted by the Court, says:

That the parties agree to henceforth not publish any article, comment or post regarding the dispute presently before the High Court in this action that may be regarded as subjudice or that may prejudice the fair trial of the action.

With that recorded and deposited at the Court, both blogger Rocky and the entire stable of The NSTP media, which includes the weekday and weekend editions of The NST, Berita Harian, all its news portals and Monsterblog.com.my, are now forbidden to publish any articles or comment on matters that may be subjudice or prejudicial to the libel suit between the two parties.

Contrary to the January 26 report in The NST entiled: NSTP wants postings in blogs removed, Rocky has been allowed to keep hosting online all the 48 articles originally cited by the plaintiffs in their Statement of Claims against the blogger until the disposal of his application to have the suit struck off.

However, as a gesture of good faith, defence counsel Edmund Bon told the press that his client had voluntarily removed about 400 comments which were received from readers and posted after the lawsuit was announced

“It is in no way an admission that any of the content was subjudice,” Bon told The Associated Press.

“There was no way to remove only selected comments, so we had no alternative but to put it all off-line … We do this to err on the side of caution, to let the judicial process take its due course.”

Thus far, the defence has play a gentleman’s game. Let’s watchdog The NSTP so that it keeps to the commitment it made to the Court.

As it is, the records show that Kalimullah Hassan has cried wolf once too many as his announced retirement from writing in The NST has all been lies, nothing but blatant lies.

Star Img1

The Star report was inaccurate, Rocky do not have to remove any articles,yet.
The above report was removed and replaced with the latest update . Link to the above article was directed to the same destination here..

Star Img2

Blogger Ahirudin Attan and New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd have agreed not to publish any articles or comment on matters that may be subjudice or prejudicial to the libel suit between the two parties.

Lawyers for Ahirudin and NSTP issued a joint statement before High Court Judge Mohamad Hishamuddin Yunus during a brief hearing in his chambers.

The statement said both parties agreed to "henceforth not publish any articles, comments or posts regarding the dispute presently before the High Court'' that may prejudice a fair trial.

Ahirudin's counsel Edmund Bon said his client voluntarily removed about 400 comments received from readers because some may be construed as "borderline subjudice.''

The comments were in response to four entries posted after the lawsuit announcement.

"It is in no way an admission that any of the content was subjudice,'' Bon told The Associated Press.

"There was no way to remove only selected comments, so we had no alternative but to put it all off-line ... We do this to err on the side of caution, to let the judicial process take its due course.''

The lawsuits by the English-language newspaper were the first against Malaysian bloggers for publishing comments on the Internet.

Court hearing

Jan 29th Wisma Denmark, Monday:

NSTP & Ors v Ahirudin bin Attan
Civil Suit No S3-23-2-2007

At the proposal of the Plaintiffs' lawyers, the court today recorded the following:

"That the parties agree to henceforth not publish any article, comment or post regarding the dispute presently before the High Court in this action that may be regarded as sub judice or that may prejudice the fair trial of the action."

The hearing for the striking out application has been fixed for Feb 22, 2007 at 2.30 pm


28 January, 2007

PM :''I've to do what I need to do''

Malaysia's leader says he refuses to be ruffled by 'ridicule'

"I know there are people who are trying their best to ridicule me,"
"They make a mountain out of a molehill. They just want to rubbish me."

Abdullah did not specifically identify his critics, but said bloggers and other people were using Web sites "to create stories" that underscore how online freedom has been manipulated.

"Lies after lies are being told," Abdullah was quoted as saying. "They feel they are free, they cannot be disturbed and they can say whatever they wish to say."

Abdullah's comments came after the pro-government New Straits Times sued two bloggers for defamation earlier this month in Malaysia's first lawsuits involving online journals.

Both blogs feature political commentaries that have included criticism of the government and the New Straits Times' coverage.

Abdullah has backed the Times' right to sue the bloggers, saying blogs are not above the law and their owners have to be responsible for their content.

Criticism of government policies in the mainstream media is rare, and the lawsuits have raised fears that the freedom of online media might be jeopardized. The Times has denied wanting to shut down the blogs, saying it launched the suits because some postings were defamatory.

Malaysian PM attacks Internet users

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has accused Malaysians of using the Internet to spread lies about him, according to a report Sunday.

The premier also insisted he still had the support of the majority of Malaysians despite attacks by critics.

Abdullah said Malaysians were using the freedom and anonymity of the Internet and mobile text messages to make "unfounded allegations."

"This sort of freedom had made them resort to such action," Abdullah told the government-linked New Straits Times in an interview.

"Even bloggers or those who maintain websites use this opportunity to create stories. Lies after lies are being told. To them, everything is not right, everything is not good," he said.

"If I allow myself to be distracted by all this, I will not be able to do any work. That is what they want, that I not focus on my work."

His attack follows the launch of a controversial defamation suit against two Malaysian bloggers by the New Straits Times, for which Abdullah has voiced support despite heavy criticism of the action.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi talks to HISHAMUDDIN AUN, MANJA ISMAIL and KADIR DIKOH on a range of subjects, from the Ninth Malaysia Plan to red tape, education and foreign policy.

Q: The Ninth Malaysia Plan is now in its implementation stage. Are you satisfied with the progress and are you confident that implementation of the entire plan will be smooth?

A: I am confident the plan will be effectively implemented and will meet its objectives. Implementation has begun.

Some people are under the impression that I had launched the plan a long time ago.

But it was only in June last year, and just two months after the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) was approved by Parliament, that we began proper implementation.

Government development projects are carried out continuously. The 880 projects that I had announced earlier are being carried out by the various ministries.

We estimate that close to RM35 billion had been spent on development projects last year.

This shows that the government is implementing the national development agenda through prudent spending.

The implementation of the Regional Development Corridors has also begun. The Iskandar Development Region was launched last year and we expect investments would start coming in this year.

The North and East Corridors would be launched soon.

Work on other big projects like the Second Penang Bridge will start soon.

The allocation for development under the 9MP also includes the development of "soft infrastructure" such as government services, human capital development programmes, and grants to the private sector to fulfil development agendas.

This cannot be fully seen by the public the way they can see physical infrastructural development. But these developments are important to ensure the success of the 9MP.

It will definitely take some time before the full results are seen.

The important thing is that we are gaining momentum in implementing the Plan, and God willing, we will achieve our targets.

Q: The Ninth Malaysia Plan is touted as an economic transformation which also gives emphasis to the agricultural sector.

A: The agricultural sector will be the third contributing factor (in national growth) and will play a big role in the country’s development.

We are certainly encouraging the growth of our agro-based industries. This will benefit people in the rural areas.

Previously, we emphasised more on producing high-value products but we could not sell our produce because of poor marketing.

For one, when there is over-supply, the price drops. For example, our durians are of a superior quality, but suddenly there is a glut and the price plunges.

So, in the end, despite putting in greater efforts, we end up with the same returns.

That is why I emphasise always that we should enhance our marketing efforts, and produce processed agro-products such as fruits and vegetables which have a longer shelf-life and, thereby, ensure that the earnings of those involved in this sector grow steadily and are sustainable.

The processed agricultural products will also increase in value.

By creating the demand for quality agriculture produce, we will be able to determine the markets and pricing, and earnings will be more stable and sustainable.

Q: There are those who criticise the government’s emphasis on agriculture and say we are moving backwards.

A: I don’t see how.

We are developing small- and medium-sized industries in the agricultural sector. We want our people in the rural areas to get more involved.

It is the rural areas which currently supply our agro-based needs.

When we set up small industries and factories, we not only provide a source of income for those producing (agricultural produce) but we are also providing jobs for others.

In fact, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has told me that by the end of the 9MP in 2010, we are targeting to have 10,000 enterprises which are agro-based.

This will give added value to agricultural products, create new avenues for growth and improve incomes of those in agriculture.

Q: Government policies will be successfully implemented if the delivery system is good. You have said before that poor delivery is an enemy to the smooth implementation of the 9MP.

A: If the problem of improving the delivery system is not resolved, it will become a major obstacle to the implementation of the 9MP.

We can kick-start the 9MP but it will not be as dynamic as we want it to be.

People closely monitor the delivery system and there have been many comments on the 9MP in relation to this (delivery system).

Q: Has the situation improved?

A: There are signs of improvements at district office level and higher levels.

Take passports, for example. The Immigration Department can today process passports in a day and visas much faster. This is just one example. There are many others.

People used to complain that the issuance of certificates of fitness (CF) was always delayed. The house is ready but it’s a hassle to get the CF. I promised to get this improved.

For close to two years, people were still grumbling. I asked Ka Ting (Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting): "What happened? What is the progress?"

I told him: "This is an important matter. Find a workable solution, do not look for cumbersome solutions."

I told him the best way to do it is through disclosure-based applications where professionals provide guarantees and are held accountable.

If the information provided is later found to be wrong and not consistent with current policies and laws, action must be taken against them.

I fail to understand why they (the relevant approving agencies) are still reluctant to do this.

I told Ka Ting again that I want these processes to be expedited. Why is it so difficult?

Then it was said that there are 12 laws and regulations (that need to be fulfilled) before a CF can be issued.

Amend the laws then, I told him. If something cannot be carried out because of the laws and the regulations, amend them.

Last year, we passed these in Parliament. The amendments have been approved and I hope they can now be implemented.

We cannot say do it today, implement it tomorrow.

Q: Too many bureaucratic procedures?

A: Bureaucratic procedures, too many overlapping regulations... every department has its own set of procedures.

Can’t we have uniform procedures? Can’t we have a simple "yes" or "no" in a document? We need to simplify and shorten the procedures.

For example, is the design of a project in line with the law? If the engineers and architects say "yes, it is", should the Public Works Department review it again?

Q: Do you think that there should be an improvement in the public service, particularly bureaucratic procedures?

A: Yes. Shorten them (procedures). That is the only way to get prompt decisions.

Hard work and giving priority to clients should be our work culture.

Q: Do you think the setting up of the special task force headed by the chief secretary to the government (Tan Sri Sidek Hassan) and comprising corporate leaders, which you recently announced, would be able to address these problems?

A: Yes. This is the special task force’s main objective.

Q: How do you see the views and criticisms raised at the recent "National Seminar on Abdullah Ahmad Badawi: Three Years in Putrajaya: Tracking the Country’s Future"? In terms of policy, the participants felt there had been many benefits to the people but in terms of implementation, there seems to be two drawbacks — lack of understanding on the part of the implementers and bureaucratic procedures.

A: The first (lack of understanding of policies) does not involve the majority. The second, bureaucratic delays, must be quickly resolved. But when a complaint is made, it has to be specific.

Otherwise, we would not know if it is only a perception or hearsay, a repeated story or a genuine case.

If we receive a specific complaint it is easier to investigate and take action.

Q: Do you mean to say that our civil servants are generally good but are bogged down by many procedures?

A: There are laws but do it (work) quickly. But there are people who criticise all (civil servants) just because of the acts of a small group.

But, at times, certain actions by certain groups provoke anger towards the whole civil service.

Q: Are you giving a time frame for a better delivery system to be put in place?

A: What we intend to do now is to give a time frame to whatever we do. A lot of progress has been made.

I have told the chief secretary that it is time we listed down what action and corrective measures are taken, how it was done and to continue to improvise so that the people would know.

Q: You seem bent on wanting to have this matter quickly resolved?

A: Yes, because this also affects the private sector.

Recently, we decided that foreigners could buy houses costing RM250,000 and above without having to obtain approval from the Foreign Investments Committee.

But the state governments still have to make the decision before the transfer of house ownership.

I have informed the state governments to amend this regulation, which is a hassle.

Q: How do we solve these problems?

A: Land-related matters come under state jurisdiction. If you are faced with a problem, tell us and we shall try to find a solution.

Abolish what (regulations) you must. Find the best solution, how to make prompt decisions in a given time.

Q: Perhaps the ministers should direct their ministries to overcome such problems. They probably need to review all archaic laws and do away with unnecessary procedures.

A: Everyone must play a role.

The land office, for example. There are many procedures involved in land acquisition matters. These could be reduced.

Q: Moving on to the National Education Blueprint 2006-2010 which was recently launched. Do you think the blueprint can yield the desired results?

A: It is important. Back then, Malaysia was among the countries in the region which was open to foreign investment. But now, there are so many other competitors such as Thailand, Vietnam, China and India.

We need a shift in the economy so that we can be more competitive.

We need to develop value-added sectors such as technology-based industries, ICT (information and communications technology) and biotechnology. All these require expertise.

For us to succeed in these areas, we need knowledgeable, creative and skillful students.

This (emphasis on education) is not new. The government has been allocating a large budget for education, but now we not only want education but quality education, education that will give our youths an advantage to face the challenges.

We have to realise that education is a long-term effort. The effectiveness of the changes has to be examined before it is systematically implemented.

This is the way we present a quality, valuable and meaningful education to our younger generation. The action plan is the first step. We have no choice.

Q: Among the thrust of the blueprint is to strengthen the role of national schools, an issue which some feel is quite sensitive?

A: Sensitive? In what way?

Q: In that the plan seeks to bring more non-Malay students to national schools. (Non-Malay parents fear what will happen to Chinese and Tamil national-type schools.)

A: I never thought this was sensitive.

The choice (to change to national schools) is in the hands of the parents. I don’t see why this is seen as sensitive.

We want to enhance the role of national schools. We are not suggesting or planning to shut down Chinese or Tamil schools. We will not close them, there is no reason to.

(Building up) the national schools (to have more Malaysians seeking education there) is a good thing, not something that is sensitive, or something which is unreasonable.

This is not a political gimmick. Education is not a political gimmick.

Q: Your hopes for the blueprint?

A: To me, this blueprint is pragmatic. Its objectives can be achieved.

But in education, besides proper infrastructure and teachers, parents play an equally important role. They can make the difference through their attitude towards their children’s schooling.

Parent-teacher associations are very important. Excellent schools are normally associated with parents and PTAs who play an active role.

Q: You have made efforts to improve ties with a few countries which were said to have had quite strained relations in the past, such as Singapore and Australia. You are seen to have a better and more diplomatic relations with leaders of superpowers such as the president of the United States. A few have criticised this, saying Malaysia is not as outspoken as it used to be.

A: There are many things that we can do to ensure we are really effective. We need not promote ourselves as champions.

All we want to do is the right thing, to say something which is right and to achieve our objectives.

Q: There are others who feel this approach has had many positive effects such as attracting foreign investments from countries which were previously not very comfortable with us?

A: Our foreign policy has not changed; only the approach is different.

Q: As chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference for the past three years, are you happy with the role played by Malaysia?

A: We have progressed a lot. We have given priority to economic development, increased trade and investment among Muslim nations, apart from our efforts to eradicate poverty and backwardness.

The OIC economic forum has been held twice — in Malaysia in 2005 and in Pakistan last year.

This year it will be held in Kuala Lumpur again. We want to emphasise on the efforts to expand the halal industry among the Islamic nations.

Q: How do you see Malaysia’s relations with Iraq?

A: We co-operate with the Iraqi government elected by the Iraqis. It is a legitimate government and we cannot belittle a government elected by her people.

The Iraqi government must be fair to all groups in Iraq, be it the Sunni, Shia or Kurd.

Efforts should be made to promote national unity through a power sharing government. I have conveyed this to the Iraqi leaders.

Q: What about Malaysia’s role in Asean now?

A: Good. Our relations with all (member countries) is good. All the Asean members are equally important. We must be strong and move towards greater integration.

Q: Out there, an environment has been created whereby your every step and statement is monitored and carefully studied. Even when you try to explain an issue, some quarters try to manipulate it. How do you face such situations?

A: I have to do what I need to do. I know there are people who are trying their best to ridicule me. They make a mountain out of a molehill. They just want to rubbish me.

All this is expected in politics. No politician is liked by everyone. The most important thing is that I have the support of the majority.

Q: But do you think the criticism against you has gone overboard? If previously there were people who disagreed with certain matters the leaders did, the government did, today there seems to be more integrated efforts from a particular group to discredit you. This is most evident in cyberspace. Why is this happening?

A: Seems that these people are captivated by these tools, the SMS, electronic media.

They feel they are free, they cannot be disturbed and they can say whatever they wish to say. They do it (post comments) anonymously.

This sort of freedom had made them resort to such action (of spreading lies and making unfounded allegations).

Even bloggers or those who maintain websites use this opportunity to create stories. Lies after lies are being told. To them, everything is not right, everything is not good.
(Read Walk With Us : Cite NSTP (NST & Berita Harian) for prejudice and subjudice, Susan Loone ;Subjudice!!!, Cite PM Abdullah & NST for Prejudice and Subjudice)
( P/S Instead of we, the bloggers, boycott NST, why not NST boycott the bloggers ?)

If I allow myself to be distracted by all this, I will not be able to do any work. That is what they want, that I not focus on my work.

My focus now is to ensure the 9MP is successful and I am confident that the nation is on the right track and is moving forward.

The economy is expected to grow. I feel more energised to fulfil Malaysians’ ambitions.