29 February, 2008

Dead or alive, Malaysia voters among world's oldest ?

Malaysia has found nearly 9,000 people aged more than 100 on its electoral rolls as it heads for general elections next month, raising suspicions that the books are "contaminated" with dead voters.

They included two 128-year-olds !!.

"As far as the commission is concerned, as of December 31 last year, these voters are still alive," Kamaruzaman said.

Opposition groups have complained for years that the rolls are outdated and vulnerable to fraud.

As of December 2006, some 15,2 million Malaysians had attained the age of 21 but only 10.3 million registered as voters. 70% of the 4.9 million Malaysians yet to register as voters are aged between 21 and 35 years. These statistics compiled by the Election Commission as published in The Sun 28 February 2008.

Early stats show up to 77% pro-BN coverage in newspapers. Mainstream newspapers gave up to 77 per cent coverage for the Barisan Nasional in terms of stories on the 12th general elections in the week leading to the nominations on 24 February. On average, the six newspapers for which data have been collated had between 50 and 70 per cent stories that portrayed BN in a positive light.

Makkal Osai topped with 77 percent on 18 February of its election stories in BN's favour, Utusan Malaysia 75 per cent on 20 February and The Star, 70 per cent on 18 February.

On average, the six newspapers for which data have been collated, had between 50 and 70 per cent stories that portrayed BN in a positive light.

This is the preliminary result in the quantitative analysis carried out by volunteers who are part of the citizens' election media monitoring initiative. The newspapers monitored for the statistics are New Straits Times, The Star, theSun, Utusan Malaysia, Makkal Osai and Malaysia Nanban from 18 February to 22 February 2008.

Meanwhile, India has expressed concerns to Malaysian authorities on grievances expressed by certain Malaysians of Indian origin over their social conditions and religious rights, External Affairs Minister of India Pranab Mukherjee said.

“During our interactions with Malaysian authorities, concerns expressed in India, including in the parliament, regarding developments pertaining to the Indian community in Malaysia have been suitably conveyed,” Mukherjee said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha.

Abdullah's Power May Be Curbed by Malaysia Minorities

After Vella Murugan's third application for a government-subsidized mortgage was turned down in September, he decided he would back the opposition in Malaysia's March 8 election.

He blames the rejection on his Indian ancestry. ``I see my Malay neighbors with the same salary as me getting loans all the time,'' said Vella, 38, a laborer from a Kuala Lumpur suburb who earns about 800 ringgit ($245) a month, just above the official poverty line. Indians ``have a lack of opportunities.''

Malaysia's biggest minorities -- Indians and Chinese -- have become more vocal in airing such grievances, taking a toll on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's support. In November, Vella joined 10,000 other Indians to protest Malaysia's legalized discrimination system, the largest ethnic demonstration in Kuala Lumpur since 1969.

`We love being part of Malaysia, but the government has to know how we feel,'' Vella said.

Come election day, ``some non-Malays might feel that they need to vote for the opposition because of what they have seen and felt,'' said Mohamed Mustafa Ishak, international studies dean at Universiti Utara Malaysia...more.

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28 February, 2008

Anwar's wife pledges to give her seat to husband if she wins

The wife of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has revealed her future political plans, for the first time.

Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is the President of the opposition Party Keadilan Rakyat.

She's contesting the seat of Permatang Pauh in Penang.

And she told Channel NewsAsia that if she retains that seat in the 8 March polls, she plans to vacate it and make way for her husband to take over.

However, she said that voters in the constituency will have to choose if they want her to carry on or let her husband make a comeback. But for now, retaining the seat is her top priority.

Dr Wan Azizah was thrust into the forefront of politics when husband, Anwar Ibrahim, was arrested in 1998.

She then took over from her husband as Member of Parliament in Permatang Pauh and in 1999, she won that seat.

Dr Wan Azizah continued to retain the seat in the 2004 election but analysts said she won because of sympathy votes.

The electorate was especially swayed by a poster which showed Anwar with a ‘black eye’, after he was punched while being detained.

Dr Wan Azizah said: "I am really grateful that they gave me the support not only in 1999, but continued through to 2004 and now I see that same amount of enthusiasm in support of me now that he is out.”

The Permatang Pauh contest is one which is being closely watched by party activists from both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition parties.

In the 2004 elections, Dr Wan Azizah won by a mere 590 votes. This time round, big names from both the UMNO and opposition are heading to Permatang Pauh, to win the hearts and minds of voters over the next one week.

Dr Wan Azizah's Party Keadilan Rakyat has joined forces with other opposition parties, namely the Democratic Action Party and Parti Islam SeMalaysia, PAS.

They've formed a pact to put up a common fight against the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Malaysian leaders have called the strategy, a marriage convenience.

Dr Wan Azizah calls it, a move towards a better Malaysia.

She said: "Now, we see the system integrating, we have to have an alternative for the future of our country, for our younger generation, for our ‘anak chuchu’ as we call it in Malay. So we offer something, and if it is taken up, we build a better Malaysia.”

And the man to helm that hope is, her husband, who still cannot take part in this year's election because his term of expulsion ends only in April 2008.

So one option for Dr Wan Azizah is to quit her parliamentary post if she wins, and come April, force a by-election so that Anwar can contest and eventually, take over in Permatang Pauh.

She said: “I am telling the electorate, Anwar is your member of parliament, your representative and now there is a chance again for him to be again your representative but he (is) denied of his right.

“It is only a month away from him being able to contest and the government has taken the decision to prevent him and to stop him.

“So now I am giving an option. If you would like it, yes of course, but if you don’t, I will continue to be your representative."

Anwar has already been very much involved in campaigning to ensure that his wife retains the parliamentary seat first, before he gets the chance to take over.

-By S. Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia

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27 February, 2008

Michael Backman: Malaysia needs a strong Opposition

Age columnist Michael Backman asks does the Malaysian Government deserve to be re-elected?

Malaysia needs a strong Opposition
by Michael Backman
The Age
February 27, 2008

SHOULD Malaysians bother to vote? The corollary of this question is: does the Malaysian Government deserve to be re-elected? The answer to the second question is no.

In the past few years, the Malaysian Government has presided over an extraordinary number of scandals that are appalling by any standards: the trade minister's allocation of car import permits to friends, relatives and supporters;
the billion-dollar fraud at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone; the outrageous and much-flaunted wealth of ruling party politician Zakaria Md Deros; the claims that a High Court judge allowed the lawyer representing a rich businessman to write for him his judgement in a defamation lawsuit; an immensely rich chief minister in Sarawak state who is allowed to rule as if it were his; and so on.

The Malaysian Government richly deserves to pay for all of this at the ballot box.

So the next question is: should the Malaysian Opposition be elected to office? Again, the answer is no.

The Opposition is a shambolic assortment of the disaffected rather than a competent, alternative government. In no way is it ready to govern.

All these questions are pertinent because Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has called elections for March 8.

Elections are fought tenaciously in Malaysia as if the South-East Asian country is a fully fledged democracy. But it isn't. It is democratic in that elections are held, but they are not fair. The ruling coalition has been in power in one form or another since independence 50 years ago. One reason for this longevity is that there are legal and institutional biases that favour the Government.

Malaysian electorates are severely malapportioned. The smallest electorates are rural; the largest are metropolitan. The largest have about six times the number of registered voters as the smallest. This means that the votes of those in the smallest seats count for many times those in the larger seats.

This sort of bias meant, for example, that in the last general elections held in 2004, the ruling coalition won 198 or 91% of the parliamentary seats with just 64% of the votes cast. The Opposition won only 21 seats or 9.6% of the
seats compared with 36% of the popular vote.

Had the Parliament reflected voters' actual voting intentions, there would have been 79 rather than 21 Opposition members elected.

Outright fraud is another way in which Malaysians are cheated when they vote.

Tens of thousands of dead people
are believed to have voted in the 2004 elections. Exit polling is difficult, but it is assumed that these voters
overwhelmingly favoured the Government. Credit must be given when it is due — the Government did eventually remove hundreds of thousands of deceased voters from the electoral roles. But the damage had been done.

Also at the last elections, thousands of Malaysians who turned up on polling day found that the electorates in which they were registered had been changed without their permission or knowledge. Thousands of voters were shifted
into Opposition-held or marginal electorates. Absurdly, even family members living in the same house discovered that they had been registered in different electorates. Most Malaysians do vote for the ruling coalition, so the effect
of this was to swamp the votes for the Opposition.

Multiple voting is another problem. Indelible ink is used to mark voters when they vote, but it is not compulsory.

Next month's election is being held a year early. Why? One reason is because Anwar Ibrahim, who was deputy prime minister until he was charged and convicted of corruption and sodomy in the late 1990s, will only be eligible
to stand for election after April 8 because of the convictions.

The sodomy convictions were overturned because of
uncertainty about the dates on which the alleged acts were supposed to have occurred, but the corruption verdict stood.

Anwar is unfit to hold public office, regardless of the Government's maneuvering against him. The sodomy issue is irrelevant. The serious charges against him are the corruption charges, which relate to Anwar asking the police to heavy two witnesses into withdrawing their statements against him. On this, Anwar was convicted with irrefutable evidence.

That the deputy prime minister of any country should do such a thing is unforgivable and yet Anwar has his backers, mostly in the Western media.

Most Malaysians found his criticisms of their Government shortly after he was removed from office to be transparently opportunistic, given that he had been a senior minister in the Government for 15 years. But while Anwar is more popular outside Malaysia than inside, he is still a rallying figure for the discontented.

So what should Malaysians do? Firstly, in a country where voting is not compulsory, they should vote. There's no point complaining on internet blogs but not bothering to vote.

Given the Opposition's unpreparedness to govern, the Malaysian Government is best returned. But it does deserve a good, hard kick. Even more, it needs a significant and strong Opposition to help it govern better. It needs greater accountability and scrutiny, which a strong Opposition in Parliament will help provide.

That is what
good governments everywhere have and need.

Of course, tiny Singapore is an exception but Singapore is a country in name only. The reality is that the Singapore Government is a glorified city council.

Malaysia, on the other hand, is a diverse and complex country that wants to be modern. It needs to be governed like one.

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Opposition Envies BN's Success ?

The Barisan Nasional (BN) has become the target for slanders by the opposition parties which are envious of its success in administering the country and getting support from the majority of the people, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"They (opposition) make up various stories so that we are suspicious of each other which leads to chaos, quarrels and eventually we become weak," he said.

He said they spread lies saying that the Malays and the Chinese were not supporting each other and made use of the illegal group Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) to ask Malaysians not to support the BN and MIC.

Malaysia's political poverty
By Philip Bowring
Published: February 26, 2008

Malaysia's many middle-of-the-road critics of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi are in a quandary as the March 8 election looms. Do they deliver the governing coalition, led by the United Malays National Organization, the drubbing that it richly deserves for its money politics and abuses of power? Or do they vote for the coalition out of concern that a poor electoral performance would undermine the well-meaning if weak Abdullah and enhance the positions of those politicians more closely associated with sleaze, religious intolerance and racial preferences?

The election cannot change the government. Malaysian politics is trapped in an institutionalized racial ghetto. The coalition is sure to win, as it has for 50 years. Abdullah himself acknowledges that it will not do as well as in 2004, when he was enjoying a honeymoon after 22 years of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. But most likely, the governing coalition of race-based parties will retain a two-thirds majority in Parliament - failure to do so would be a humiliation for Abdullah.

Nevertheless, the election results will indicate important trends. The vote comes at a time when economic and political issues point in different directions. The economy is growing at 6 percent, underpinned by strong commodity export prices. Added to this has been a pre-election surge in government spending and massive subsidies for fuel and food that otherwise would have pushed consumer price inflation to double its official 2.3 percent rate. The assumed peak of the economic cycle explains why the election is being held now when Abdullah could have waited a year. Judging by history, a vote now should ensure few discomforts for the governing party.

But the election also comes in the wake of a host of scandals and disputes, some attributable to the current government, some the belated uncovering of corruption under Mahathir's watch. Issues include well-founded reports of high-level judicial corruption and influence peddling, and the bizarre conduct of the trial of Razak Baginda, an arms-dealing associate of the deputy prime minister and defense minister, Najib Abdul Razak, for the murder of his mistress.

While Abdullah has removed a few of those who prospered under Mahathir, there has been widespread disappointment at his failure to make more reforms.

It remains to be seen whether these issues resonate with the Malay majority, which has two alternatives - to vote for the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, commonly known as PAS, or support the multi-ethnic Parti Keadilan Rakyat, or People's Justice Party, led by a former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim. PAS has yet to prove that it can escape its mix of modern fundamentalism and rural conservatism and broaden its appeal among increasingly urbanized Malays. Anwar has yet to prove that his stature and Islamic past can translate into Malay votes for a multi-ethnic party, or that he can shake off the suspicions that many non-Malays have about his commitment to secular and multiracial principles.

The governing coalition will almost certainly suffer from the increased disaffection of non-Malays. Indians who traditionally support it have been upset by discrimination. Many may defect to the predominantly Chinese opposition Democratic Action Party or the People's Justice Party.

The Chinese are increasingly frustrated by the continuation of racial preferences that enrich the Malay elite at their expense, and by the low standing of the faction-riddled Malaysian Chinese Association in the government. Non-Malays are fed up with discrimination against non-Muslims.

Yet the influences that drive non-Malays into the arms of the opposition may help United Malays National Organization retain the loyalty of Malays who see it as the most effective guardian of their privileges and status of their religion. Thus they will overlook its many sins, just as many non-Malays will, however reluctantly, vote for an UMNO-led coalition, which they see as the best safeguard against Malay and Muslim extremism.

There is not much sign that Abdullah will use the election to bring change; radical moves are not his style. Yet if he does want to leave a legacy of doing more than keeping the leader's seat warm he will need to start soon after the election. Will the election make him see the necessity of change? Or leave him without the authority to achieve it?

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26 February, 2008

Excellence ! Glory !! Distinction !!!

Report card: Excellence, glory, distinction

In the run-up to the 2004 general election, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition unveiled an impressive manifesto under the slogan of ‘Excellence, Glory, Distinction’. It contains a slew of breathtaking promises involving the economy, education and religion, among others.

Four years later, with another election in two weeks, how did the BN fare in fulfilling its promises? Here’s our verdict.


In order to face future economic challenges, BN will:

* Pursue economic growth strategies to achieve Vision 2020.

* Enhance competitiveness in order to build a resilient and performance-based economy.

* Develop rural areas as new centres for economic growth.

* Exercise prudent and responsible fiscal management.

Four economic growth corridors were introduced during this period; Iskandar Development Region (IDR), Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), Eastern Corridor Economic Region (ECER) and Sabah Development Corridor (SDC)...read more from Malaysiakini here.

US presidential candidate Barack Obama appears to be able to charm the crowd fairly well on his own. Still, there is no harm in boosting his popularity by getting big names to endorse him, the most famous of whom is probably talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

On a far less glamorous scale in Malaysia, celebrities and organisations like chambers of commerce and business councils have lent their support to parties and candidates on different occasions. This election, R. Nadeswaran, more popularly known as Citizen Nades, is hopping on the bandwagon to endorse two candidates: the Barisan Nasional-MCA’s Datuk Lee Hwa Beng who is contesting for the Kelana Jaya parliamentary seat and the DAP’s Edward Lee who is gunning for the Bukit Gasing state seat.

“I’m not endorsing the party but the individual,” Nadeswaran stressed. That explains why Nadeswaran has endorsed a candidate each from the opposition and the ruling coalition. “I don’t care which party he is from,” said the deputy editor who has been heading theSun’s special reporting desk....more from Malaysia Votes here.

Personally, I've visited the Web sites so far of the PKR (aka KeAdilan), the DAP, the personal Web sites of the two candidates contesting in my area, PJ Utara (www.tonypua.com and www.chewmeifun.org), and I've also been dropping into Malaysia-Today on a regular basis and checking on my fellow CNET Asia Blogger and MP aspirant Jeff Ooi's Web site for updates.

Frankly, it's all been very disappointing as far as online experiences go, specifically in regard to the personal Web sites of the two aspirants in my area. Mr Pua is, of course, the former CEO of the e-business solutions company Cybervillage. He has a blog and a Web site, but both are, in my view, dreadfully ponderous and lack energy and vibe.

YB Chew Mei Fun's Web site is haphazard, cluttered, with some vague attempt at using YouTube to attempt to catch up with the times. She makes it blatantly clear that her Web site is NOT for free commentary (hmm, why not, YB?).

"Though this Web site is not like the blogs on the Internet which allow comments to be freely posted, it is meant for our mutual interaction, and you are welcome to contact me through my email pju@chewmeifun.org to share your views or request any support or assistance, and we will work these out to the best of our ability."

I didn't particularly find the user experience of the few political Web sites I visited this week, as a sort of dipstick research for this blog, to be great. I dropped by the DAP For PJ's Web site and found it rather haphazard (stuff all over the place) and not really useful for me in terms of learning more about the candidates in my area. Content, in particular I thought, was rather solely lacking.

Frankly, I'm not sure if Rocket TV would be a good name for a political broadcast channel unless maybe it was about the space race. And given that "women hold up half of the sky" (sic Mao), would such a phallic-sounding title prove to turn off female voters who have had to put up with a serious bunch of chauvinistic MPs in Parliament already?

I had never liked Lim Kit Siang's blog, finding it to be rather "old school" in its approach and treating the blog like a Virtual Soapbox, when it really is much more than that. One really doesn't get a sense of the old school politicians using the blog as an "engagement" device in every sense of the word and, if we want to be a bit sinister, as a cult-of-personality reinforcer.

There really isn't much sophistication in some of these blogs as far as using them for "spin" goes. (Yeah, yeah, it's not supposed to be out for spin, but let's face it, SPIN goes into everything--politics needs to sell itself a bit more if it wants to attract Generation MTV, and Generation X--even the world's OLDEST profession is engaged in SPIN, what more the world's second-oldest profession...).

I did like the Web site of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who probably is one of the most New Media-savvy politicians out there. Although one suspects it is probably due to the fact that he's one of the earliest politicians to utilize the Web's power (way back when he was put on trial). It may well also be because he has lots of young people doing a lot of thinking on his part, which helps with the media savvyness. Indeed, Anwar was one of the earliest adopters of YouTube as a powerful weapon to counter the lack of access in mainstream media when he used it to release a damaging videoclip that has been the subject of a recent Royal Commission investigation.

It was simple, slick-looking (call me superficial, but there's a lot of art and science that goes into the user experience, and nice-looking matters!). Most importantly, I was able, using a combination of the Web site and SMS, to find out where DSAI's next ceramah was due to be held in a matter of 15 minutes.

I have not checked out PAS' Web site of late for obvious reasons that they have no candidates running in my area, but the last time I had a peek, I was most impressed by its extensiveness and expansiveness. They have been well-known for their willingness early on in their embrace and adoptioin of IT as a powerful alternative communication medium that enables them to overcome the problems of the mainstream media blackout. Word has it that even as far back as the previous GE, PAS was already using the Internet to reach out to young voters.

The DAP seems to be the only laggard in this arena--as I pointed out to Mr Pua this week via email (which, to his credit, he replied very quickly), it seems a bit strange that considering Web hosting, along with email access, can be had for as little as RM300 per year, why is it DAP's candidates standing in state and national seats for PJ (who incidentally have a dedicated Web site) do not have uniform email addresses, but instead are using various free Internet accounts like Yahoo? All this adds up points as far as impressions go.

More from CNet Asia here.

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25 February, 2008

2008 Electon: Polls turn into fight for moral high ground

Malaysia's election is turning into a battle for the religious high ground among majority Muslims, with the prime minister's party offering to build or repair at least 500 mosques to woo voters.

Malaysia goes to the polls on March 8, with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's UMNO party seeking to regain the northeastern Kelantan state from an Islamic party that has been in power there since 1990.

The fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), led by clerics who promote "purer" Islamic values, is locked in a tough poll battle with UMNO now playing the same religious card.

"If we want to build mosques, is there something wrong with it?" said Awang Adek Hussin, a deputy minister heading the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) campaign in Kelantan.

Awang Adek, a former central banker, recalled that the first thing Prophet Mohammad did when he migrated to Madina from Mecca was to build a mosque.

"When we win, we will usher in a new era in Kelantan by building a grand mosque," he said on Sunday in Kelantan's capital, adding that UMNO has also pledged to repair some 500 old mosques in the state.

The fight for Muslim votes is also an issue in neighbouring Terengganu state, traditionally a PAS stronghold.

"UMNO and PAS are engaged in a battle: 'I'm more Islamic than you are'," said political analyst Ooi Kee Beng.

He said UMNO, which has in the past branded PAS as being too extreme, appeared to be deepening its own Islamic agenda.

"UMNO is playing religious politics. It is pushing the religious thing a bit too far," he said.

The poll is considered certain to return Abdullah's ruling coalition -- which has ruled the nation since independence in 1957 -- to power, although with a reduced majority.


The deep-rooted political rivalry between UMNO and PAS is spilling over into village life.

Some mosques in Kelantan and Terengganu are linked to PAS loyalists while others are loyal to UMNO supporters. If there is only one mosque in a village, the two sides have in the past held separate prayers.

The divide over mosques is evident in the Terengganu village of Rusila, the political base of PAS leader Hadi Awang.

The village's sprawling mosque complex also houses his home, a madrassa and a party office.The two-storey mosque, draped in flags, is packed with his supporters during Friday prayers.

Non-PAS supporters attend a nearby mosque built by the UMNO government, residents say.

PAS is also using next month's polls to accuse the UMNO government in Terengganu of demolishing a mosque built by PAS when it ruled the oil-rich state between 1999 and 2004.

UMNO denies the claim, saying the structure was illegally built. "Terengganu has built 67 new mosques in the last four years," said Kelantan's Awang Adek. "In Kelantan, the (state) government in the last 18 years has not built a single mosque."

Malaysia's General Election 'records'

The most hotly contested state seats are the Tanjong Kapor (N02)and Sukau (N48) both in Sabah, with Bersekutu (1), BN (1) PKR (1), and five independents contesting for Tanjong Kapor while BN (1), Pas (1), Bersekutu (1) and five other independents contested for Sukau in 2008.

The oldest candidate to run is 89-year old independent candidate Maimun Yusof, who is contesting for Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat against incumbent Barisan Nasional Datuk Razali Ismail and PAS Vice-President Mohamad Sabu.

Former finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is the country's longest-serving elected representative, both at the state and parliamentary levels, if he wins in the March 8 polls since his debut in 1962 in Umno.

MCA's Carol Chew Chee Lin, 27, is the youngest female candidate to contest in the 2008 General Election. She is standing in Seputeh against DAP's Teresa Kok. [The youngest candidate ever to contest in an election was Lee Lam Thye (now Tan Sri) who was 22 years 5 months old when he contested in the 1969 elections. Another young candidate candidate was Najib Tun Razak ( now Datuk Seri and Deputy Prime Minister) who was 22 years and eight months old when he won the Pekan parliamentary seat uncontested in 1976 following the death of his father Tun Abdul Razak, the country's second Prime Minister.]

(From Sun2Surf)

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24 February, 2008

2008 Election: political parties kick off campaign

Malaysia's political parties formally started campaigning Sunday for general elections with fractious opposition groups joining forces in a bid to deprive the ruling coalition of a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Hundreds of political heavy-hitters and first-time aspirants filed their nomination papers to contest 222 parliamentary constituencies and 505 state legislature seats. The process officially marked the start of a 13-day campaigning period ahead of the March 8 ballot.

A big crowd including foreign media turned out at the Merdeka Hall, Rembau District Council, here Sunday to witness candidates for the Rembau parliamentary seat file their nomination papers.

At the centre of attraction was Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Khairy Jamaluddin. the prime minister''s son-in-law.

Khairy, who is Umno Youth deputy chief, arrived at the hall with Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan at 8am. Mohamad Hasan is defending the Rantau state seat.

Two fixed-wing aircraft carrying Umno and BN flags flew past to lend an air of excitement to the BN supporters.

Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that there should be NO political dynasties in the country.

..Many believed it was a reference to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin.

Has Pak Lah BROKE Tun Mahathir's Long-Standing Tradition, by STARTING a Dynasty Within UMNO ?

As Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi approaches his second general election, there are some who wonder if his grip on political power is weakening.

Associate Professor Bilveer Singh predicts a tough election for Mr Abdullah, whose Barisan National coalition secured 66 per cent of the votes in 2004.

Prof Bilveer, who is from the National University of Singapore political science department, said: 'The 2004 honeymoon is over. Now the question is whether there is a sour moon or a bitter moon.

'Ever since he came into power in 2004 on the ticket of transparency and accountability, the results are lacking, and this raises questions.'

A big worry has also emerged over the handling of non-Muslims in Malaysia, with recent unrest from the Indian community over the demolition of Hindu temples and a growing disquiet in the Chinese community, especially in areas like Penang and Malacca.

Although the economy has remained buoyant, rising crime rates and a recent scandal involving the judiciary have also taken a toll on the ruling party's popularity, say observers.

They argue that Mr Abdullah's 'safe' choices of candidates over the past few days illustrate BN's concerns.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political science head Dr Ahmad Nidzammudin Sulaiman said the PM's decision to retain politicians such as Malacca chief minister Mohd Ali Rustam and former Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor was a sign that he wanted a team that was close to him.


Dr Ahmad said Tengku Adnan was a questionable choice as the latter's name had been associated with a recent judge-fixing scandal involving a chief justice and a prominent lawyer.

Dr Ahmad said this could mean that Pak Lah, as Mr Abdullah is known, not only wanted to ensure victories but secure his position as United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party president.

Umno is the largest party in the ruling coalition which includes the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress.

But some believe that a poor showing in this election could lead to Mr Abdullah being forced to step aside, especially if pressing race-relation and corruption issues are not handled satisfactorily.

'We can expect some in-fighting within Umno itself, that could challenge Mr Abdullah,' said Dr Ahmad, pointing out that 'risks' have been taken in the choice of candidates in Terengganu.

He said Mr Abdullah's decision to drop the group of Umno leaders led by former Marang Member of Parliament Mr Abdul Rahman Bakar was surprising.

'In the 2004 general elections, the group reclaimed Terengganu from the opposition (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party),' he said.

He added that this would surely cause disappointment in factions within Umno.

And if the party does turn against him, Dr Ahmad does think that Mr Abdullah could be pressured into stepping down.

But not everyone buys the argument that Mr Abdullah is losing support within the ranks.

One BN politician, who declined to be named as he is not the party's 'spokesman', said that the PM still had the support of the people.

He also explained that the party had already moved into overdrive to combat the negative sentiment.

He said this was in addition to the consistent effort made to reach grassroots leaders, a tactic that most opposition leaders do not have the resources to adopt.

'We spent long hours talking to people in rural areas and the heartlands on the rationale behind some government policies,' he said.

The former MP said at times, it was not the national issues that bothered voters.


'They are concerned with basic amenities, helping out schools and providing welfare to the hardcore poor in those areas and we are here to help them,' he said.

He said it was this type of commitment that has led to resounding victories of the past, including BN's amazing tally of 198 seats won out of a possible 220 in 2004.

And he is not alone in his views.

In a recent editorial, former New Straits Times Group Editor in Chief Kalimullah Hassan said that the BN's ability to 'keep the economy growing, bridge the rural-urban divide, improve the public delivery system and bring equitable growth to different parts of the country' would be enough of an answer to its vehement critics.

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23 February, 2008

2008 Election: showdown with Islamic party over key state

Coffee shops are abuzz with talk of the fight for the hearts and minds of Malay voters in March 8 general elections in which the Barisan Nasional coalition is intent on claiming the only state left in opposition hands.

A victory would be a huge morale boost for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose United Malays National Organization (UMNO) leads the coalition which is expecting to lose some of its majority in federal parliament.

“The coming election will really see whether Malays have lost faith in PAS’s religious and development agenda or whether they think UMNO will make a better alternative,” says political analyst Shahrudin Badarudin.

“Either way, it is going to be a tough call in Kelantan as the battle between religion and development continues,” he says.

“PAS today is viewed differently from when we came to power in Kelantan in 1990, as back then people thought we were very fundamentalist and too conservative,” says Takiyuddin Hassan, 61, a senior executive councilor.

“We are trying to provide a balance between economic development and spiritual development.”

If PAS retains Kelantan, they are pledging free education and hospital care and a reduction in petrol prices which are set to rise elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile, The Straits Times reported that Malaysia's Islamic opposition party has warned its supporters could 'run amok' if the election authorities block its candidates from standing in next month's general election.

Saying that Malaysia should avoid post-election violence that gripped Kenya, leaders of Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) told a rally late on Friday that the March 8 election could turn into one of the country's dirtiest.

'We anticipate this election will not be free and fair,' party leader Syed Azman Syed Ahmad told the 5,000-strong rally in Kuala Terengganu, the northeastern city that saw a violent anti-government protest last September.

With national elections nearing, independent daily newspapering in Malaysia appears to be an endangered species with the recent purchase of the only unfettered English-language daily, The Sun, by controversial tycoon Vincent Tan, who reportedly has already begun to make distressing changes. Outspoken political editor Zainon Ahmad has been relegated to “consultant editor” and a new editor-in-chief, Chong Cheng Hai, replaced the respected Ho Kay Tat....(more from Asia Sentinel)

AS far as complex plural societies go, Malaysia has to be one of the most complex and plural societies in the world at the moment. There are few countries with a racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious mix like Malaysia’s and I have to confess that I am more than annoyed when I meet Middle-Eastern friends who occasionally offer me nuggets of wisdom when they pontificate about how religious pluralism can and should be managed in Malaysia.

Thus, it is with these considerations in mind that we look at the election campaign in Malaysia today. Over the past few weeks, a host of religious lobby groups and NGOs have called upon the government to take up the concerns of their respective members and constituents.

We are all familiar now with the demands of the Malaysian Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), that were couched in terms of a somewhat sectarian communal demand for the respect and protection of Hindu temples, among other things. The Malaysian Council of Churches have called on Malaysian Christian voters to vote wisely; while the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism have called on the members of their respective faith communities to pray for the nation’s betterment and for election candidates who will uphold freedom of religion in the country. At the same time a coalition of Muslim NGOs and lobby groups have likewise issued their demands, calling on the political parties that are contesting in the elections to address their sectarian concerns which include the rejection of the idea that Malaysia is a secular state and of religious pluralism if it implies that all faith and belief systems are equal.What do these developments tell us about the state of Malaysia’s populist politics today? ...(more from The Other Malaysia)

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22 February, 2008

Malaysia at crossroads

Leading Malaysian opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim said it was "shameful" that the government was holding snap elections before he is allowed to stand for office.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dissolved parliament last week to pave the way for elections in March, before Anwar will be eligible to stand because of a ban.

"It is unprecedented that you would call elections after 3 years with a more than two-thirds majority," Anwar told reporters.

"The only reason you can give is to deny me an opportunity to participate in the elections."

Anwar, a former finance minister, was jailed in 1998 on corruption and sodomy charges which have been condemned as politically motivated.

The sodomy conviction was quashed but the corruption count bars him from politics until April.

"It is shameful that Prime Minister Abdullah would choose to call the elections [now]," Anwar added at a press conference organised by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Anwar said he was hoping his Keadilan party would win at least 25 seats in the upcoming poll, and that the three-party opposition coalition could win a majority, if the elections were fair.

"The so-called elections are certainly not fair or free. There is no access to the media in Malaysia, the list of voters is still being challenged and there are hundreds and thousands of phantom voters," he said.

He added that rampant postal vote fraud and the fact there were thousands of voters registered in each constituency over 100 years old also added to suspicion the elections would favour the ruling party. He said one of at least 20 Keadilan candidates would stand down if they won a seat, so a by-election could be held for him when he is eligible.

Anwar was a star in the ruling United Malays National Organisation and seen as heir apparent to then- premier Mahathir Mohamad before his spectacular fall from grace.

The elections have also been marred with Chinese and Indian voters flexing their ethnic muscles.

Under Malaysia's "social contract" hammered out by the nation's founding fathers, the majority Malays will have an unchallenged hold over politics in return for non- interference in Chinese domination of the economy.

Today, ethnic Chinese are starting to wonder whether they have been shortchanged and are likely to put the long-standing deal to the test in general elections expected next month, one report said.

Chinese businessmen in Penang, Malaysia's only state where Chinese form a majority, complain that government-linked companies (GLCs), almost all run by Malays, shut their doors to non-Malay businesses.

"We cannot do business with GLCs because they favor those with Malay partners," said Khor Teng Tong, president of the 103-year-old Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

He said Penang Chinese businessmen, worried about rising costs and a slowing economy, could snub Badawi's ruling coalition in the polls.

"In the past, support for the government was around 55-60 percent. This time, 45 percent is already considered good," he said. "So the government must work harder."

Malaysia is heading into one of its most racially charged election campaigns for many years, with ethnic Indians also complaining of unfair treatment at the hands of the government dominated by Malays.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said last week racial tensions could contribute to a "slight dip" in support for the coalition, which is considered certain to retain power but with a reduced majority.

Malaysia's worst race riots, in 1969, killed hundreds of people in the capital and led to the introduction of an affirmative action policy favoring Malays in education, jobs and business.

No one is predicting riots this time around, but an emboldened Chinese opposition could force the government to soften its pro-Malay stance, analysts said.

Many of the grouses are about the pro- Malay New Economic Policy, which critics say has benefited state firms and a few well- connected Malay businessmen.

The NEP has to a certain extent discouraged foreign investors. Even free-trade talks with the United States have stalled since Kuala Lumpur insisted that Malay firms continue to be given special access to government procurements.

Malays and other "native sons," who make up 60 percent of the population, provide the main political support for Abdullah's United Malays National Organization party. UMNO is the bulwark of the 14-party coalition, which has ruled since independence in 1957.

In fact, UMNO, which currently has 110 seats in the 219-seat parliament, can form the government on its own.

Indians, one of the smallest ethnic groups in Malaysia making up just seven percent of the population, say they have been left behind as the country’s Muslim majority and ethnic Chinese population reap the rewards of economic prosperity.

An examination of monthly household income of all three ethnic groups shows Indians are lagging behind, with average annual growth of just 3.5 % over the five years from 2000, compared to 3.6 % for Chinese, and 4.9 % for Malays.
(The Asian Pacific Post)

Visit Malaysia in 2008?

After Malaysia just had it's "Visit Malaysia" year there is little reason why someone would want to visit this country in 2008. The stream of disturbing news and incidents just does not seem to come to an end.

Most severe is certainly the discrimination of its ethnic Indian citizens, which starts to show some similarities with the apartheid politics, as formerly known, from South Africa.

Denying people basic rights to demonstrate against their obvious discrimination and indefinitely detaining activists without any trial is simply beyond any standard of civilization.

It is not only racial, but also religious discrimination which seems to be pursued by the Malaysian Authorities.

Thanks to them, now God is to be used with a copyright: Allah (c) -- is only to be used by Muslims despite the fact that Christians referred to God as Allah even before Mohammed was born.

After all, there is only one God. This sort of narrow minded religious understanding would deserve merely a raised eyebrow if it would not sadly affect the lives of Christians in Malaysia.

And finally there have been too many incidents about forced last-minute-conversions from Christians to Muslims, resulting in a Muslim burial. With this attitude, it may seem logical that Sharia court rulings are happily applied to non-Muslims also.

In which direction is Malaysia heading? For now it is certainly the wrong one. Who would want to visit a country like this, where behind the shiny facade too much is rotten?

Therefore Malaysia should be boycotted as a tourism destination in 2008 -- hopefully there will be more inviting news in 2009.


(Taken from Jakarta Post)

Malaysia needs an Islam to call its own. Just as it needs a Christianity to call its own, a Buddhism that is its own and a Hinduism that is its own. Why?


21 February, 2008

Islamic opposition drops theocracy from platform

«The country has good resources (and) big profits from our own petroleum industry. The main thing is how do you spend the money? Currently we have heard of a lot of mismanagement, abuse,»

Malaysia's Islamic opposition has dropped from its election platform a pledge to create a theocratic state, and is instead promising to slash the cost of living and ensure racial equality.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, will campaign in the March 8 general elections with the slogan "a nation of care and opportunity,"

He said the party is promising lower fuel prices, a minimum wage, free university education and more affordable health care.

PAS, which is known to want strict Islamic rule in the country, is unlikely to win the elections given the ruling coalition's dominance.

By focusing on social issues rather than Islam, it appears to be softening its hard-line image, which has alienated not only non-Muslims but also some within the Islamic community.

"We offer equal justice to all, justice in economy opportunities and freedom of religion," Abdul Hadi said. "We promise a government that is trustworthy, just and clean which will be able to give the people a better life."

In 2004 polls, PAS called for the creation of an Islamic state with harsh laws such as amputating the limbs of thieves and stoning adulterers to death.

Asked why its Islamic agenda was not mentioned in the current party platform, Abdul Hadi said it was already understood by supporters and non-Muslims and did not need to be mentioned again specifically.

Abdul Hadi said PAS stands a "good chance" of capturing three states in state elections that will be held along with the parliamentary polls. He predicted the party will retain Kelantan, the only one of Malaysia's 13 states under opposition control, and also win neighboring Terengganu and northern Kedah.

In its election platform, PAS said national oil company Petronas should be made accountable to Parliament, rather than reporting directly to the prime minister, and that its profits should be used to benefit the people.

PAS is the biggest rival of the United Malays National Organization, the leading party in the National Front coalition, for the support of ethnic Malay Muslims, who account for about 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people. UMNO espouses a generally moderate form of Islam.

The National Front, which won 199 parliamentary seats in 2004, is expected to easily return to power but with a reduced majority given public frustrations over inflation, rising crime and ethnic tensions.

The opposition People's Justice Party, an ally of PAS, is expected to contest about half of the parliamentary seats in a bid to bounce back from its stinging defeat in the last polls, when it won only one seat.

The party's secretary general, Khalid Ibrahim, said it expects to win at least 30 seats with the help of campaigning by charismatic opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim.

Yes, 'Nothing' Anwar seems to be quite a something'

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20 February, 2008

Anwar Ibrahim on opposition strategies in Malaysia election

Malaysia’s three main opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance Party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Parti Keadilan Rakyat have agreed to cooperate with each other in the upcoming March 8th general election.

They have decided to field single candidates in most constituencies in Malaysia to avoid contesting with one another and to provide a viable alternative to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

In an exclusive interview in Kuala Lumpur with former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from Parti Keadilan Rakyat, RSI’s Shereena Sajeed asked about the extent of the opposition’s preparations for the contest so far.

AI: We negotiated separately with PAS in the Malay heartland, with the DAP in the Chinese areas because we are able to at least engage with them. We have covered almost all seats except for one or two contentious ones with PAS. We’ve virtually resolved everything with the DAP except with Sabah and Sarawak which we hope to resolve by today.

In terms of Keadilan, which areas are you contesting and how many seats are you looking at?

AI: Keadilan is focused mainly on the mixed seats. We are a multi-religious, multi-racial party so therefore we cover the main middle ground. Although we do take a few predominantly Chinese majority seats and also Malay majority seats in the East Coast and the North. I can’t say for sure because discussions are still ongoing but I think we will exceed 70 seats, both in the Peninsular and the Sabah, Sarawak constituencies.

And what issues will Keadilan be focusing on?

AI: The main issue is governance and accountability. We’ve said that due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of leadership, the country has fallen in terms of competitiveness, foreign direct investments and the economy is of course faltering. We cite the example of Singapore, mainly because we started off as a country with relatively slight differences in economic standing. But Singapore has surpassed us in terms of per capita income by almost five times. There is something really wrong either with policy or governance and lack of accountability and massive corruption that has led to this state of affairs.

In your opinion, what are Keadilan’s chances of success this time round?

AI: I think since independence 50 years ago, this is going to be one defining moment in our history. We’ve seen this groundswell of support. My main concern and I need to reiterate this, is the electoral process. The electoral list until now has not been cleared or verified. It’s made so complex. There are lots of reports of phantom voters, voters with no addresses, voters above 100 or 120 years old which seems rather odd to me.

Regarding Nurul, your daughter, there is speculation about whether she is contesting, maybe you can clear that up? What’s your view on her contesting?

AI: As a party leader, Azizah (Anwar’s wife) of course wouldn’t say no but as a mother, she has a lot of misgivings. I have a more neutral stance on that, allowing her to decide for herself. Right now, frankly we’re not terribly keen because Azizah is involved and so am I. But as always, particularly in the KL neighbourhood, the pressure is very strong so I am leaving it to her. I find it very difficult for her. She always tells me, “Papa, don’t burden me. Don’t force me to decide. We’ll have to decide together”. She’s not too keen on it but I can sense that she is also changing because she’s listening to a lot of people and she’s been on the ground for some time.

That was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from Parti Keadilan Rakyat speaking with Shereena Sajeed in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia goes to the polls next month and this time the campaign is going online, as opposition parties turn to blogs, SMS and YouTube to dodge a virtual blackout on mainstream media.

Major newspapers and television stations -- many partly owned by parties in the ruling coalition -- are awash with flattering stories on the government and its achievements ahead of March 8 general elections.

The opposition parties rate barely a mention, but thanks to the Internet they have begun campaigning feverishly in cyberspace with the aim of reaching young, urban, educated voters.

"They control the television but we've got YouTube now," said 31-year-old Lee Sean Li, an accountant who avidly surfs the Net for alternative news and complains there are only negative glimpses of the opposition in the main media....more

When Malaysia last went to the polls in March 2004, many voters were attracted by the “Pak Lah Factor”. Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi , who had taken the helm as prime minister only five months before that, was described as religious and dubbed Mr. Clean. He promised to be prime minister of all Malaysians, regardless of colour or creed; to fight corruption; and improve transparency and the public service delivery. The campaign message worked – he led the Barisan Nasional (BN) to a landslide victory.

As the nation heads to the polls on March 8, almost four years later, it is appraisal time for Abdullah and his administration – and it will be no picnic. Much has happened during that period, from bread and butter issues like rising crime and inflation, to growing concerns about civil liberties, the state of the judiciary and the position of the different political parties within their constituencies....more

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19 February, 2008

Chamber of incommunicado ?

I like Po Kuan. She is charming, friendly and passionate. I also believe she is sincere. Yes, I am big on sincerity.

Just before parliament ended its sitting last year, I met her at the lobby. She was upbeat and talked about celebrating the end of term before rolling up her sleeves for constituency work. It sure didn’t look like she was going to resign.

Then I read that news article in Malaysiakini about Po Kuan being forced out of her Batu Gajah parliamentary seat.

- Jed Yoong

There are four days left to Nomination Day on Sunday. It is most unfortunate that in the past few days, particularly in the past 72 hours, the DAP had shifted from pace-and-agenda setting for the 12th general election, which is the “Battle of the Century”, to one of complete disarray because of party problems particularly over Fong Po Kuan’s shock announcement that she will not contest in Batu Gajah parliamentary seat and other general election and candidature questions.

DAP leaders have been trying to reach Po Kuan since Sunday but have not been successful as she is incommunicado. From the public responses to her and my blogs, she should know that she is held in very high regard as the voice of the oppressed and beacon of hope of the marginalized.

- Lim Kit Siang

Commentary: Shameless Political Partisanship of Media - The Fong Coverage by CIJ

Sound familiar?

Press Conference Statement by Fong Po Kuan on 17 February 2008 in Batu Gajah:

I am calling this press conference today to announce my decision that I am not offering myself as a candidate for any seat in this 12th general election. My decision is final. Yesterday morning, I had verbally conveyed this decision to Sdr Lim Kit Siang, a member of the DAP National Committee on Candidate Selection, when he had asked me about my decision due to Press speculations. I had told Sdr Lim Kit Siang that I would furnish my reason for my decision to the Party Secretary General in writing.

Last night, Sdr Lim Guan Eng had telephoned to inform me that I would be nominated to stand as a candidate in the Batu Gajah parliamentary constituency. I have this morning e-mailed to him my decision in writing.

The email Date: 17.2.2008

Sdr Lim Guan Eng; Chairman of DAP National Committee on Candidate Selection; DAP Malaysia; 24 Jalan 20/9; 46300 PetalingJaya; Selangor Sdr Lim, Firstly, I would like to thank the Party leadership for giving me the honour to contest the Batu Gajah Parliamentary seat in the 1999 and 2004 General Elections. I write to inform the Committee of my decision not to contest in any seat in the nation’s 12th General Election. My decision is final. It is a tough decision for me as DAP has become my second family and the people of Batu Gajah parliamentary constituency have been so special to me over the last 8 years. Suffice for me to say that due to the development of internal party events in the DAP Perak over the last few years as well as currently, which perhaps you are fully aware, it has become impossible for me to continue serving effectively, efficiently and wholeheartedly as a Party leader as well as an elected representative of the people. Under such circumstances and in the best interest of all concerned, I have arrived at this unavoidable and difficult decision. I do sincerely hope that the Batu Gajah Parliamentary seat could still be retained by the DAP in this coming election. I strongly believe that a wise choice of a suitable candidate should be nominated to ensure the Party’s electoral victory in the coming election as well as to provide the best service to the people after the victory. In the interest of the Party and the people of Batu Gajah parliamentary constituency, I strongly recommend that Sdr Thomas Su Keong Siong to be the ideal candidate for this seat, due to his dedication, being action oriented and sincerity in serving the Party’s cause and the aspirations of the people. Since 1999, we have been working as a team as he has been assisting me in providing services and sometimes, furnishing free legal work to the voters of the said constituency. Indeed he always walks the extra mile by going down to the ground for the people. Furthermore, he gets on very well with all those people around him especially the local members. I believe the Party will agree with me that he has carried out his responsibilities well, both to the Party and the voters of Pasir Pinji. If the Party decides to field Sdr Thomas as a candidate of Batu Gajah Parliamentary seat, I will personally assist him in the election campaign. Again, I hope the Party will seriously consider Sdr Thomas for the said seat for the interest of the constituents and the Party. Finally, please allow me to thank the Party leaders, members and staffs for all their guidance, support and assistance provided to me, inside and outside of Parliament all these years. Yours sincerely; Fong Po Kuan

* I wish to take this opportunity to publicly thank the people for Batu Gajah for their support and confidence in me. I feel honored and proud that I have been able to be their elected representative for the last 8 years. I have always tried to give my best in terms of attending to their service needs as well as articulating their voices inside and outside Parliament. However, I apologise if there are areas or instances where I have disappointed them. Finally, I wish to call on Malaysian voters to deny the Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority so as to bring about a better Malaysia. Vote DAP!

Thank you.
(Taken from Politics 101)

From her blog :

I am Sorry

Dear friends, I am sorry.

I am unable to answer all your calls, reply your messages, emails and comments. I do appreciate your views, criticisms, supports and encouragement. It was a tough decision. I am unable to reconsider my decision of not to contest in this coming 12th General Election. I am sorry if I have disappointed you. I do hope you all will try to understand.

Let us now move ahead and play our respective roles to bring a better Malaysia for all Malaysians and show the people’s power to Barisan Nasional.

Received this e mail from Susan Loone:

Dear friends;
Just to let you know there's a petition online for those who support women bloggers like Fong Po Kuan, Elizabeth Wong, Christine Liew and Gan Pei Nai. It was put up by a group of concerned citizens. It is addressed to DAP's Lim Guan Eng. You may like to put it up on your blogs. Nor force at all. But we do need these women in Parliament :=)

Here's the link: http://www.petitiononline.com/pokuan/petition.html


Best regards,

Susan Loone
Consultant - Asian Human Rights Defender Publication
Email: susanloone@gmail.com
Blog: www.sloone.wordpress.com

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18 February, 2008

Malaysia's Election May Be Done Deal

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and
awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight;
whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle
will arrive exhausted.

2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on
the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

3. By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy
to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage,
he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

4. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him;
if well supplied with food, he can starve him out;
if quietly encamped, he can force him to move.

5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend;
march swiftly to places where you are not expected.

6. An army may march great distances without distress,
if it marches through country where the enemy is not.

7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks
if you only attack places which are undefended.You can
ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold
positions that cannot be attacked.

8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose
opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful
in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you
we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible;
and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands.

10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible,
if you make for the enemy's weak points; you may retire
and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid
than those of the enemy.

11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced
to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high
rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack
some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.

12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent
the enemy from engaging us even though the lines
of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground.
All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable
in his way.

13. By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining
invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated,
while the enemy's must be divided.

14. We can form a single united body, while the
enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will
be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole,
which means that we shall be many to the enemy's few.

15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force
with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be
made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare
against a possible attack at several different points;
and his forces being thus distributed in many directions,
the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will
be proportionately few.

17. For should the enemy strengthen his van,
he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear,
he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left,
he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right,
he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere,
he will everywhere be weak.

18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare
against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling
our adversary to make these preparations against us.

19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle,
we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order
to fight.

20. But if neither time nor place be known,
then the left wing will be impotent to succor the right,
the right equally impotent to succor the left, the van
unable to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van.
How much more so if the furthest portions of the army are
anything under a hundred LI apart, and even the nearest
are separated by several LI!

21. Though according to my estimate the soldiers
of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage
them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then
that victory can be achieved.

22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may
prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover
his plans and the likelihood of their success.

23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his
activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself,
so as to find out his vulnerable spots.

24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own,
so that you may know where strength is superabundant
and where it is deficient.

25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch
you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions,
and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies,
from the machinations of the wisest brains.

26. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's
own tactics--that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.

27. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer,
but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory
is evolved.

28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained
you one victory, but let your methods be regulated
by the infinite variety of circumstances.

29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its
natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.

30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong
and to strike at what is weak.

31. Water shapes its course according to the nature
of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works
out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.

32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape,
so in warfare there are no constant conditions.

33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his
opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called
a heaven-born captain.

34. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth)
are not always equally predominant; the four seasons make
way for each other in turn. There are short days and long;
the moon has its periods of waning and waxing.


Malaysia's Election May Be Done Deal

It is a Saturday and nearly noon in Bidor, Malaysia, a small rural town about 160 km north of the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur. The coffee shops are filling up with people, mostly rubber and oil palm farmers, many of whom roar into town in new Toyota and Ford pickup trucks. These small farmers are in a jolly mood. With commodities prices at highs not seen in generations, many are prospering to a degree that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. The incomes of small landowners almost tripled between 2004 and 2007, according to government data. Some farmers say they have just returned from group holidays in Thailand and China. "I never had this much money in my life," say Ah Yew, a 58-year-old rubber-plantation worker.

An upbeat mood is washing over rural Malaysia—and Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi hopes to ride it to victory in the country's March 8 parliamentary election. Rising prices have put hard cash into the pockets of hundreds of thousands of small farmers across the country. The boom should translate into votes for Abdullah's government and for the National Front, a coalition of more than a dozen political parties that has held a majority in parliament since the country became independent in 1957. "Vast stretches of rural Malaysia are backing Mr. Abdullah," says political scientist Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, professor of politics at the National University of Malaysia. "A two-thirds majority seems assured."

Yet cracks are appearing within Malaysia's dominant political machine. Recent racial tensions between the country's majority Malays and minority Chinese and Indian populations could undercut support for coalition candidates in the elections. The Chinese and Indians are increasingly fed up with the government's longstanding affirmative-action policy that favors Malays in everything from university education to government contracts. Many Indians, the country's poorest ethnic group, accuse the government of persistent racial discrimination and have over the past few months taken to the streets in rare protests. On Saturday, hundreds of Indians marched through Kuala Lumpur carrying roses they say symbolized their peaceful intent. Malaysian police responded with water cannons and tear gas.

Rural voters may be doing well, but inflation is eroding the purchasing power of urban Malaysians—and generating support for the political opposition, whose spiritual leader is Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy Prime Minister who is temporarily barred from holding political office because of a 1999 corruption conviction. Anwar's promise to reform the country's pro-Malay programs, under the slogan of 'We Are All Equal,' appeals to many Chinese, who make up 30% of the country's 10.9 million voters. "Life is more then just economic success," says opposition leader Lim Kit Siang. "Justice, equality and humanity are important components."

No matter how attractive that message may be to those who feel politically and economically marginalized, it won't be enough to bring down the government. Still, there are signs Abdullah may be trying to adapt. In the upcoming elections, Abdullah's ruling UMNO party is running a younger crop of candidates with fewer ties to Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the architect of the country's affirmative-action policies. Abdullah says he needs "one or two more terms" to successfully complete various economic projects he has started. One more term seems certain. But how long his administration lasts after that may depend upon how effectively the government addresses the concerns of Malaysia's increasingly restive minorities.


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