30 April, 2009

'Big Mac' VS 'Boleh' Mac

Fast food chain McDonald's lost its exclusivity to the usage of the prefix 'Mc' when the Court of Appeal here allowed a local Indian food outlet, McCurry Restaurant, to use 'Mc' in its business signage.

When it comes to its famous trademarks, McDonald's Corp. is known for McFightin'. But it came up a loser in Malaysia.

The case highlights a never-ending battle for big consumer-products companies: staving off alleged attempts to hijack their marquee brands.

"When you get a [trade] mark like McDonald's or Coca-Cola or 7-Eleven, it's a constant policing effort," said Craig Fochler, a trademark lawyer at Foley & Lardner in Chicago. And McDonald's has a "history of being very aggressive" when it believes someone is trespassing on its trademarks, he said.

The Oak Brook-based fast-food giant took offense at McCurry Restaurant, a Malaysian joint that maintains its name is an abbreviation for Malaysian Chicken Curry. McDonald's considers the "Mc" prefix to be its intellectual property.

Appeal Court Judge Gopal Sri Ram said the high court had "erred" in assuming that McDonald's had an exclusive right to the use of the prefix, Bernama reported.

He said McCurry's signboard has white and gray letters against a red background with a picture of a smiling chicken giving a double thumbs-up, in contrast to McDonald's red and yellow "M" logo. McCurry also serves only Indian food, not competing with McDonald's Western menu, he said.

"McCurry's Restaurant signboard would not result in reasonable persons associating McCurry with the McDonald's mark," he said.

McCurry has said its name was an abbreviation for Malaysian Chicken Curry.

In a statement, McDonald's said it was disappointed with the court's ruling, but declined to comment further because it has not seen the written decision.

McDonald's business began in 1940, with a restaurant opened by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino, California. Their introduction of the "Speedee Service System" in 1948 established the principles of the modern fast-food restaurant. The original mascot of McDonald's was a man with a chef's hat on top of a hamburger shaped head whose name was "Speedee." Speedee was eventually replaced with Ronald McDonald in 1963.

The present corporation dates its founding to the opening of a franchised restaurant by Ray Kroc, in Des Plaines, Illinois on April 15, 1955, the ninth McDonald's restaurant overall. Kroc later purchased the McDonald brothers' equity in the company and led its worldwide expansion and the company became listed on the public stock markets in 1965.

Kroc was also noted for aggressive business practices, compelling the McDonald's brothers to leave the fast food industry. The McDonald's brothers and Kroc feuded over control of the business, as documented in both Kroc's autobiography and in the McDonald brothers' autobiography. The site of the McDonald brothers' original restaurant is now a monument.

With the expansion of McDonald's into many international markets, the company has become a symbol of globalization and the spread of the American way of life. Its prominence has also made it a frequent topic of public debates about obesity, corporate ethics and consumer responsibility.


29 April, 2009

Malaysia - 1948 massacre 'under review'

Evidence about a 1948 massacre of unarmed Malaysian villagers by British troops is to be reviewed by the UK government, the BBC understands.

Government lawyers have written to survivors asking for evidence and testimony about the killing of 24 villagers in Batang Kali.

The Scots Guards raid, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, was meant to target communist insurgents.

Most of the evidence to be examined is testimony from villagers and soldiers who witnessed the killings.

A handful of survivors are seeking a judicial review, and also pursuing a court bid for compensation and an apology.

In January, the Foreign Office rejected demands for an inquiry put forward in a petition, citing a lack of new evidence.

At the time, a spokesman said: "The matters have been considered previously by investigations into the Batang Kali massacre in 1949 and 1970 and those investigations found insufficient evidence to pursue prosecution."

There has never been a full inquiry into the massacre.

The incident occurred on 12 December 1948, six months into a 12-year campaign to crush the largely ethnic Chinese communists who were trying to drive out British colonialists.

Official accounts describe villagers being killed as they escaped into the jungle, having been warned they would be shot if they tried to flee.

However, survivors recall victims being led out of their homes and shot in the back.

The massacre remained largely forgotten until the People newspaper in 1970 ran an account of the killings, featuring sworn affidavits by several soldiers who admitted the villagers were shot in cold blood.

(Source: Malaysia massacre 'under review' )


28 April, 2009

World battles to curb swine flu

The swine flu epidemic crossed new borders with the first cases confirmed in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, as world health officials said they suspect American patients may have transmitted the virus to others in the U.S.

Most people confirmed with the new swine flu were infected in Mexico, where the number of deaths blamed on the virus has surpassed 150.

But confirmation that people had become infected outside Mexico would indicate that the disease was spreading beyond travelers returning from the country, World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl told reporters.

"At this time, containment is not a feasible option," said Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization.

WHO raised the alert level to Phase 4, meaning there is sustained human-to-human transmission causing outbreaks in at least one country. WHO's pandemic alert system was revised after bird flu in Asia began to spread in 2004. Monday was the first time it has ever been raised above Phase 3.

Flu deaths are nothing new in the United States or elsewhere. The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 36,000 people died of flu-related causes each year, on average, during the 1990s in the United States.

But the new flu strain is a combination of pig, bird and human viruses that humans may have no natural immunity to.

A decision by WHO to put an alert at Phases 4 or 5 signals that the virus is becoming increasingly adept at spreading among humans. Phase 6 is for a full-blown pandemic, characterized by outbreaks in at least two regions of the world.

Symptoms include a fever of more than 100, coughing, joint aches, severe headache and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. Many victims have been in their 30s and 40s — not the very old or young who typically succumb to the flu.

So far, no deaths from the new virus have been reported outside Mexico.

It could take four to six months before the first batch of vaccines are available, WHO said. Some antiflu drugs do work once someone is sick.

The best way to keep the disease from spreading, the CDC's acting director, Richard Besser, said, is by taking everyday precautions such as frequent handwashing, covering up coughs and sneezes, and staying away from work or school if not feeling well.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said Malaysia is free of the epidemic as there are no cases based on observation for signs of 'influenza-like illness'.

He said to maintain the situation, the ministry activated the disease control division yesterday to monitor the situation and to check for signs of the virus at the KL International Airport (KLIA) and all other entry points.

The ministry will meet with relevant agencies tomorrow to discuss steps that can be taken to prevent and control any epidemic. Press statements will be issued from time to time to inform people about developments and steps taken.

Mohd Ismail said WHO's raising of the influenza pandemic warning from Phase 3 to Phase 4 showed a possibility of a pandemic.

"Phase 4 means the virus going from humans to humans and causing an epidemic among communities but WHO has not placed any restrictions in health, travel and trade that needed to be made. The increase in phase does not mean the pandemic could not be stopped but the phase could go down or go up based on the information and situation."

The Ministry advises people not to travel overseas especially to countries affected. Those who fall sick while travelling must get immediate treatment.

Any information on the swine flu can be obtained on 03-88810200 or 03-88810300 or on www.moh.gov.my.


27 April, 2009

Is Swine Flu 'The Big One'?

As reports of a unique form of swine flu erupt around the world, the inevitable question arises: Is this the big one?

Is this the next big global flu epidemic that public health experts have long anticipated and worried about? Is this the novel virus that will kill millions around the world, as pandemics did in 1918, 1957 and 1968?

The short answer is it's too soon to tell.

"What makes this so difficult is we may be somewhere between an important but yet still uneventful public health occurrence here - with something that could literally die out over the next couple of weeks and never show up again -- or this could be the opening act of a full-fledged influenza pandemic," said Michael Osterholm, a prominent expert on global flu outbreaks with the University of Minnesota.

"We have no clue right now where we are between those two extremes. That's the problem," he said.

International concern magnified as health officials across the world said they were investigating suspected cases in people who traveled to Mexico and come back with flu-like illnesses.

Among the nations reporting confirmed cases or investigations were Canada, France, Israel and New Zealand.

5 Things You Need to Know About the Outbreak

1. Is this a flu pandemic?

The influenza virus is constantly mutating. That's why we can't get full immunity to the flu, the way we can to diseases like chicken pox, because there are multiple strains of the flu virus and they change from year to year. However, even though the virus makes us sick, our immune systems can usually muster enough of a response so that the flu is rarely fatal for healthy people.

But every once in awhile, the virus shifts its genetic structure so much that our immune systems offer no protection whatsoever. (This usually happens when a flu virus found in animals — like the avian flu still circulating in Asia — swaps genes with other viruses in a process called reassortment, and jumps to human beings.) A flu pandemic occurs when a new flu virus emerges for which humans have little or no immunity and then spreads easily from person to person around the world. In the 20th century we had two mild flu pandemics, in 1968 and 1957, and the severe "Spanish flu" pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 40 to 50 million people worldwide.

The WHO has the responsibility of declaring when a new flu pandemic is underway, and to simplify the process, the U.N. body has established six pandemic phases. Thanks to H5N1 avian flu, which has killed 257 people since 2003 but doesn't spread very well from one human to another, we're currently at phase 3. If the WHO upgraded that status to phase 4, which is marked by a new virus that begins to pass easily enough from person to person that we can detect community-sized outbreaks, such a move would effectively mean that we've got a pandemic on our hands.

The H1N1 swine flu virus has already been identified as a new virus, with genes from human and avian flus as well as the swine variety. And since it is apparently causing large-scale outbreaks in Mexico, along with separate confirmed cases in the U.S. and Canada and suspected cases in other countries, it would seem that we've already met the criteria for phase 4. But though an emergency committee met on April 25 to evaluate the situation, the WHO hasn't made the pandemic declaration yet. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's interim assistant director-general for health, security and environment, said on Sunday that its experts "would like a little bit more information and a little bit more time to consider this." The committee is set to meet again by April 28 at the latest.

As health officials have repeatedly emphasized, with good reason, the swine flu situation is evolving rapidly, and more lab tests are needed to ascertain exactly what is going on in Mexico and elsewhere. "We want to make sure we're on solid ground," said Fukuda, a highly respected former CDC official and flu expert.

2. What will happen if this outbreak gets classified as a pandemic?

Moving the world to pandemic phase 4 would be the signal for serious containment actions to be taken on the national and international level. Given that these actions would have major implications for the global economy, not to mention the effects of the public fear that would ensue, there is concern that the WHO may be considering politics along with science. "What the WHO did makes no sense," says Osterholm. "In a potential pandemic, you need to have the WHO be beyond question, and (April 25) was not a good day for them."

Of course, declaring a pandemic isn't a decision that should be taken lightly. For the WHO, phase 4 might trigger an attempt to keep the virus from spreading by instituting strict quarantines and blanketing infected areas with antivirals. But we appear to have missed the opportunity to contain the disease at its source since the virus is already crossing borders with ease. "We cannot stop this at the border," said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's interim director for science and public health. "We don't think that we can quench this in Mexico if it's in many communities now."

That would leave the WHO and individual countries to fall back on damage control, using antivirals and old-fashioned infection control — like closing schools, limiting public gatherings and even restricting travel — to slow the spread of the virus. But such efforts would likely inflict serious damage on an already faltering global economy — and the truth is, we don't know how well those methods will work.

3. Why have the U.S. cases been so much milder than the ones in Mexico?

This is the question that has health officials from Geneva to Washington puzzled. In Mexico, swine flu has caused severe respiratory disease in a number of patients — and even more worryingly, has killed the sort of young and healthy people who can normally shrug off the flu. (Fueling such concerns is the fact that similar age groups died in unusually high numbers during the 1918 pandemic.) Yet the cases in the U.S. have all been mild and likely wouldn't have even garnered much attention if doctors hadn't begun actively looking for swine flu in recent days. "What we're seeing in this country so far is not anywhere near the severity of what we're hearing about in Mexico," said the CDC's Besser. "We need to understand that."

Some of the difference may be due to the fact that Mexico has apparently been grappling with swine flu for weeks longer than the U.S. As doctors across the U.S. begin checking patients with respiratory symptoms for swine flu, CDC officials expect to see more severe cases in the U.S. as well — and as better epidemiological work is done in Mexico, we'll probably hear about more mild cases there too. Right now, however, the true severity of the H1N1 swine flu virus is still an open question, whose answer could change over time. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic began with a fairly mild wave of infections in the spring, but the virus returned a few months later in a far more virulent form. That could happen with the current swine flu as well. "It's quite possible for this virus to evolve," said Fukuda. "When viruses evolve, clearly they can become more dangerous to people."

4. How ready is the U.S. — and the world — to respond to a flu pandemic?

In some ways, the world is better prepared for a flu pandemic today than it has ever been. Thanks to concerns over H5N1 avian flu, the WHO, the U.S. and countries around the world have stockpiled millions of doses of antivirals that can help fight swine flu as well as other strains of influenza. The U.S. has a detailed pandemic preparation plan that was drafted under former President George W. Bush. Many other countries have similar plans. SARS and bird flu have given international health officials useful practice runs for dealing with a real pandemic. We can identify new viruses faster than ever before, and we have life-saving technologies — like artificial respirators and antivirals — that weren't available back in 1918. "I believe that the world is much, much better prepared than we have ever been for dealing with this kind of situation," said Fukuda.

At the same time, the very nature of globalization puts us at greater risk. International air travel means that infections can spread very quickly. And while the WHO can prepare a new swine flu vaccine strain in fairly short order, we still use a laborious, decades-old process to manufacture vaccines, meaning it would take months before the pharmaceutical industry could produce its full capacity of doses — and even then, there wouldn't be enough for everyone on the planet. The U.S. could be particularly vulnerable; only one plant, in Stillwater, Penn., makes flu vaccine in America. In a pandemic, that could produce some ugly political debates. "Do you really think the E.U. is going to release pandemic vaccine to the U.S. when its own people need it?" asks Osterholm.

Indeed, the greatest risk from a pandemic might not turn out to be from the swine flu virus itself — especially if it ends up being relatively mild — but what Osterholm calls "collateral damage" if governments respond to the emergency by instituting border controls and disrupting world trade. Not only would the global recession worsen — a 2008 World Bank report estimated that a severe pandemic could reduce the world's GDP by 4.8% — but we depend on international trade now for countless necessities, from generic medicines to surgical gloves. The just-in-time production systems embraced by companies like Wal-Mart — where inventories are kept as low as possible to cut waste and boost profit — mean that we don't have stockpiles of most things. Supply chains for food, medicines and even the coal that generates half our electricity are easily disruptable, with potentially catastrophic results. Though we'll likely hear calls to close the border with Mexico, Osterholm points out that a key component used in artificial respirators comes from Mexico. "We are more vulnerable to a pandemic now than at any other time over the past 100 years," he says. "We can't depend on ourselves."

5. So how scared should we be?

That depends on whom you ask. Officials at the CDC and the WHO have emphasized that while the swine flu situation is serious, they're responding with an abundance of precautions. Even Osterholm, who has been highly critical of the U.S. government's long-term failures to better prepare for a pandemic, gives the CDC a 9 out of 10 for its response so far. Outside of Mexico, the swine flu hasn't looked too serious yet — unlike during the SARS outbreaks of 2003, when an entirely new virus with no obvious treatment took the world by surprise. In the U.S., the normal flu season is winding down, which should make it easier for public-health officials to pick out swine flu cases from run-of-the-mill respiratory disease. And there are simple things that people can do to protect themselves, like practicing better hygiene (wash hands frequently and cover mouth and nose when sneezing) and staying away from public places or traveling if they feel sick. "There's a role for everyone to play when an outbreak is ongoing," said Besser.

But the truth is that every outbreak is unpredictable, and there's a lot we don't know yet about the new swine flu. There hasn't been a flu pandemic for more than a generation, and there hasn't been a truly virulent pandemic since long before the arrival of mass air transit. We're in terra incognito here. Panic would be counterproductive — especially if it results in knee-jerk reactions like closing international borders, which would only complicate the public-health response. But neither should we downplay our very real vulnerabilities. As Napolitano put it: "This will be a marathon, not a sprint." Be prepared.

- Time


26 April, 2009

Swine flu an international emergency !

Mexican President Assumes New Powers To Isolate The Infected... As Many As 81 Killed In Mexico... Over 1,000 Sickened... New Cases Reported In US... California, Kansas, Texas... 8 NYC Students Likely Infected... WHO Declares Crisis A "Public Health Emergency"... "Pandemic Potential"... Fears It May Be Too Late To Stop It From Spreading

The World Health Organization on Saturday asked countries around the world to step up reporting and surveillance of the disease and implement a coordinated response to contain it.

Two dozen new suspected cases were reported in Mexico City alone, where authorities suspended schools and all public events until further notice. More than 500 events, including concerts and sports games, were canceled in the metropolis of 20 million.

Mexican authorities ordered schools closed in the capital and the states of Mexico and San Luis Potosi until May 6, and the Roman Catholic Church announced the cancellation of Sunday masses in the capital.

Meanwhile, The WHO on Saturday urged all countries to be alert for unusual swine flu outbreaks.

·Mexico City has closed schools, museums and other public gathering places.
·The H1N1, a mixture of swine, human and avian flu viruses, is still poorly understood by scientists.

On Saturday, Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova raised the probable death toll from the outbreak of the swine flu to 81, including 20 already confirmed, and said more than 1,324 had been suspected to be infected since April 13.

Mexico City has closed schools, museums and other public gathering places, and the Army has been distributing face masks to the population. The health minister said classes in the capital, the neighboring Mexico state and the northern state of San Luis Potosi will resume on May 6.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has issued an emergency decree giving the government special powers to run tests on sick people and order them to be isolated.

In the U.S., two more cases of swine flu were confirmed on Saturday in the state of Kansas and one case in California, bringing the total number of people infected to 11. Eight more cases have been reported in Texas and California.

Eight schoolchildren in New York City were found to be infected with a type A influenza virus that was likely to be the swine flu.

WHO says the virus from 12 of the Mexican patients is genetically the same as a new strain of swine flu, designated H1N1, which is also seen in eight people in California and Texas.

The H1N1, a mixture of swine, human and avian flu viruses, is still poorly understood by scientists.

Based on the advice of a WHO emergency committee, Director-General Margaret Chan "has determined that the current events constitute a public health emergency of international concern," the UN agency said in a statement on Saturday.

WHO urged all countries to boost their surveillance for any unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.

But the Geneva-based UN agency left the alert status at "Phase 3" denoting none or very limited human-to-human transmission on its scale of one to six. The alert status "Phase 4" would indicate evidence of an increase in human-to-human infection.

"It has pandemic potential because it is infecting people," Chan said in Geneva. "However, we cannot say on the basis of currently available laboratory, epidemiological and clinical evidence whether or not it will indeed cause a pandemic."

China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued an emergency notice Saturday night requiring people to report flu-like symptoms at the point of entry when coming from the deadly swine flu affected places.

This is China's latest move in response to the outbreaks of human infection of Swine Influenza A/H1N1 in Mexico and the United States.

Australia's health protection officials including chief medical officer Jim Bishop hold meetings on Sunday to talk about how to guard the nation from the pig flu outbreak in Mexico and the United States.

"Australia has good communicable disease surveillance and control systems in place to detect and respond to outbreaks of illness," a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Ageing said. ]

The South Korean government announced to tighten quarantine measures for pork from the United States and Mexico after outbreaks of swine influenza in these countries, local media reported on Sunday.

South Korea's National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service announced Saturday that U.S. and Mexican pork to be imported from Monday will be put in quarantine to check if it was infected with the disease.

Malaysian health authorities will keep a close watch on visitors coming in from Latin American countries following an outbreak of the deadly swine flu in Mexico.

The Health Ministry also advised Malaysians not to travel to the affected countries.


24 April, 2009

Church wins right to challenge ‘Allah’ ban

After a lengthy battle that lasted over a year, the Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia finally won the right to challenge the government’s ban on the right to use the word “Allah” to mean "God" outside of Islam.

The High Court today granted leave to the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, as the publisher of Catholic newspaper The Herald, in his application for a judicial review.

The Catholic Church claims the word “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam and wants the court to overturn the home minister’s order declaring it as such.

A lawyer for the Catholic Church, Derek Fernandez, said it was supposed to be a “simple, straightforward matter” but became complicated as more and more parties got involved in the suit.

Several state Islamic councils including from Penang as well as certain Sikh religious groups had sought and were granted permission by the court early this year to intervene in the Catholic Church’s suit despite the latter’s objection.

The archbishop had originally filed the suit early last year and refreshed his application two months ago, on Feb 16, following the home minister’s renewal of the newspaper’s annual publishing permit for 2009.

Justice Lau Bee Lan from the Appellate and Special Powers division made her decision on the matter in chambers this morning.

She also set May 28 to hear the Catholic Church’s application to stay the home minister’s directive and to allow it to use the word “Allah” until the court rules conclusively that it cannot.

The leading lawyer for the Catholic Church, Porres Royan, explained to The Malaysian Insider that until the court approves the stay, the “status quo is preserved”.

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23 April, 2009

Raja Petra Kamaruddin goes into "self-exile". ?

Raja Petra Kamaruddin has failed to appear in court for his trial on sedition charges.

A prominent government critic, he has published numerous claims of alleged wrongdoing by senior ministers.

He was detained for two months last year under a law which allows someone to be jailed without trial if thought a threat to national security.

When he failed to appear in court on Thursday morning, a new arrest warrant was issued against him.
His wife, Marina Lee, who paid his bail, was also absent from court .

PETALING JAYA, April 23 (Bernama) -- A warrant of arrest was issued against blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin by the Sessions Court here after he failed to turn up for his sedition trial on Thursday.

Judge Rozina Ayob also issued a show-cause notice to Raja Petra's wife, Mable @ Marina Lee, who is his bailor. She was also not present in court.

Raja Petra's counsel, J. Chandra, told the court that he could not contact his client and was not informed on why the blogger failed to show up today.

However, he said, Raja Petra had posted his reason in his blog this morning, stating that he was in self-exile from Selangor as he had an issue with the Sultan of Selangor.

When asked by Rozina how he knew about the content of the posting, Chandra said he was informed by members of public this morning.

Raja Petra, 59, is charged with publishing a seditious article entitled "Let's Send Altantuya Murderers To Hell" on the Malaysia Today news blog on April 25.

Deputy public prosecutor Shahidani Aziz applied for the warrant of arrest as Raja Petra had failed to give valid reason for his absence from the trial, which was fixed for hearing today and tomorrow.

Rozina allowed the application and fixed May 22 for mention.

Meanwhile, Raja Petra's lead counsel, Gobind Singh Deo, told reporters that he had been unable to contact Raja Petra for several weeks and was only aware about his absence via his blog this morning.

"I'm not sure what was the actual reason for his absence and I need to read his blog for the details since I could not contact him even this morning," he said.


Raja Petra wrote on his site that he feared he would be arrested under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial of suspects who threaten national security.

He was held for two months under the law last year after the government accused him of causing ethnic tensions.

"If I were to turn up in court today I would never be allowed to leave," Raja Petra wrote.

He claimed police had been monitoring him closely and that he had "reason to believe" the government was planning to re-arrest him under the law.

Why I am absent in court today

I wish to explain why I am not going to be present in court today, 23rd April 2009. Firstly, it involves my recent dispute with the Selangor Palace. This dispute was due to my open letter to the Perak Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, which I wrote on 2nd March 2009 in response to the ongoing Perak Constitutional Crisis. My family said I had acted in a treasonous manner and they wanted me to issue a public apology to the Sultan of Perak.

I refused to comply with my family’s demand and instead wrote two articles condemning the Perak Palace for violating the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and for ignoring the wishes of the rakyat. My opinion is no different from that of NH Chan, the former Court of Appeal judge, which you can read in the addendum below.

The Sultan of Selangor was very angry and that triggered a conflict between our two families. My family told me I had brought shame to the family name and they demanded that I attend a family meeting to discuss the matter. However, I did not attend that family meeting and this aggravated the situation.

My family then gave me an ultimatum. I was to either make that public apology or else my family would insert an advertisement in the mainstream newspapers practically distancing itself from me, which could be interpreted as disowning me. My response to that was, and in accordance with the normal action to be taken against a member of the kerabat who durhaka, I went into exile outside Selangor. As a matter of fact, I even missed two recent family funerals, as I could not, and would not, step foot in Selangor ever again.

It has to be noted that this has always been the punishment for any member of the Selangor Royal Family who is considered durhaka since the beginning of the Selangor Sultanate more than 250 years ago. My grandfather, Sultan Musa, was in fact subjected to that same punishment and it is the only punishment befitting a member of the Selangor Royal Family who has courted the displeasure of the Palace.

This means, in short, I can no longer attend the court hearing as the same is heard in Petaling Jaya, which is invariably within the state of Selangor.

The second reason is as follows:

In September 2008, I was detained under the Internal Security Act for what I was alleged to have written regarding the Altantuya murder and the alleged links to those who walk in the corridors of power. However, I am already facing trial on sedition and criminal defamation charges in this court as well as in the Kuala Lumpur court.

Now, my ISA detention in September 2008 was for the same crime as what I have been charged in this court (sedition) and in the Kuala Lumpur court (criminal defamation). This means I am being punished twice for the same crime and the law does not provide for one to be punished twice for the same crime.

No doubt, in November 2008, the Shah Alam court ruled my detention illegal and subsequently ordered my release. Nevertheless, the government is appealing this decision, giving a clear indication that it wants me back in Kamunting whereby I will face punishment without trial on top of the two trials I am being made to face -- which, as I said, are for those same crimes.

The events of late do not give me any confidence that I will get a fair trial. Even if the Petaling Jaya court acquits me, they can still appeal the decision of the court like what they are doing with the Shah Alam court’s decision to free me from ISA detention. And the manner the Federal Court conducted itself during the recent ISA appeal hearing is very troubling indeed and borders on unprofessional conduct.

Finally, my open letter to Nizar Jamaluddin has been classified as treason and the government wants to charge me for treason. The fact that no such law exists will not stop them as they can use the ‘waging war against the King’ law that they used against some of the Al Maunah members, which resulted in them being hanged in the Sungai Buloh Prison in October 2006.

Many of my friends have spotted police vehicles parked outside their house. Others have noticed police officers loitering in front of their residence while some have been summoned to Bukit Aman for interrogation. The police want them to reveal where I am currently residing.

Why are the police looking for me? Two months ago, the Federal Court was in a hurry to hear the appeal against my release from ISA detention. After impatiently rejecting all our applications and refusing to allow us time to file the necessary papers, the court suddenly went cold and nothing was heard from it since.

This got me very suspicious. I did some checking and have reason to believe that a new detention order has been issued and that is why the police are looking for me. If I were to turn up in court today I would never be allowed to leave. The police would immediately detain me and send me to Kamunting and this time I shall not be so fortunate as to see freedom in two months like in the last two occasions.

After two ISA detentions, I do not plan to allow them to get me so easily the third time around. I also refuse to face treason charges that will result in me being sent to the gallows. I love my life and wish to remain alive a few years longer if possible.

Those are the reasons I am not in court today. I shall, however, attend the court hearing when the situation permits, i.e., I am no longer to be charged for treason and I get an assurance from the powers-that-be that the Government’s appeal against my ISA release is withdrawn forthwith and that no new detention order has been issued. After all, if the Razak Baginda acquittal was not appealed upon, why am I being treated differently?

Raja Petra Bin Raja Kamarudin
23rd April 2009

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22 April, 2009

Government scraps ethnic equity rule in some sectors

The Government has lifted the 30% Bumiputra equity condition on 27 services sub-sector with immediate effect, kicking off an on-going liberalisation of the sector which is already a stable contributor to economic growth.

The move marks a dilution of the country's politically sensitive affirmative action program, which aims to uplift Malays who are a majority but lag economically.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said full foreign ownership will now be allowed in 27 areas spanning health and social services, tourism, transport, business and computer-related services.

Analysts hailed the opening of the services sector as a positive move but said the liberalization should be expanded to cover key services sectors such as banking and telecommunications. The Malay ownership rule still applies in these sectors.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak also gave notice that he will announce the liberalisation of the financial services sector next week.

The liberalisation initiatives are in-line with the country’s compliance with its membership in the Asean Economic Community and the World Trade Organisation.

Najib said the liberalisation of the services sector -- in the areas of health and social services, tourism services, transport services, business services and computer and related services -- will not adversely affect the domestic services industry as the Government will continue to help build capacity and to open up export markets.

Critics say the decades-old New Economic Policy hinders investment and has largely benefited well-connected elite Malays rather than the poor. But the government has been unwilling to scrap it for fear of alienating the Malays who form the main constituency of the ruling party.

It has, however, allowed 100 percent foreign ownership in the manufacturing sector, a key pillar of the economy.

The country, said Najib, is planning to raise the contribution of the services sector to 60% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He said in terms of export, the service sector contributed RM102.1 billion while imports amounted to RM99.8 billion for the year 2008.

"In 2007, for the first time, Malaysia recorded a surplus in its services trade and likewise in 2008."

The services sector contributed 55% to the GDP in 2008, of which 47.6% was contributed by non-government services. The sector accounts for 57% of total employment.

Approved investments in the services sector totalled RM50.1 billion in 2008, exceeding the investment target of RM45.8 billion per annum. The share of foreign investments was 11 % of the total investments and is expected to increase with the liberalisation.

Hitherto, foreign services companies such as retailers need a local partner who owns 30% equity in the business.

The policy has seen Malaysia slip in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rankings, according to United Nations data.



21 April, 2009

Najib has to clear his name !

"The People's Parliament" will continue to oppose Datuk Seri Najib Razak's appointment as prime minister despite the failure of their previous petition against him to net results.

"We will continue to address the point that Najib was not appointed through a popular vote, but by politicking in Umno," The People's Parliament moderator Haris Ibrahim told The Nut Graph, adding that he himself would do so whenever an opportunity arose in the public sphere.

"The fact remains that the questions that motivated the petition have gone unanswered," Haris, who is a lawyer and activist, added.

Haris stressed that political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda's acquittal and the conviction of police officers Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar did nothing to dispel doubt over Najib's integrity and restore confidence in the premier.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Haris characterised the Agong's decision to appoint Najib as prime minister, despite widespread reservation in the Malaysian public, as "alarming", and took it as proof of the lack of democracy in Malaysian government.

"I will continue to wear my black arm band in public, to mourn the death of democracy in Malaysia," Haris said.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused the international media of trying to demonise Malaysia's new leader, who is battling opposition accusations of links to corruption and murder.

Mahathir's defense of Prime Minister Najib Razak reflects concerns within the ruling party that the leader's reputation has been tarnished because of unproven allegations by political adversaries.

Mahathir said many articles published in the Western media when Najib took power earlier this month were 'anti-Najib stories' that highlighted the accusations against him.

'From France to Britain to Australia, the articles are identical and carried the same message,' Mahathir wrote on his blog. 'I cannot believe that this demonisation by so many at the same time is a coincidence.'

Mahathir - a strident critic of the Western media during his 22 years as prime minister before stepping down in 2003 - said Najib should brace himself for more foreign criticism, but added that it was ultimately with Malaysians 'that Najib has to clear his name.'


1. The Western Press launched a concerted effort to demonise the new Prime Minister. From France to Britain to Australia, the articles are identical and carried the same message. The in-coming PM is said to be corrupt and involved in a murder case. The Australian writer says Malaysia is a "pariah" nation. I cannot believe that this demonisation by so many at the same time is a coincidence.

2. Included in the condemnation of the new PM is the allegation that he would bring back "Mahathirism". By this the Western press seem to imply that the fourth PM was a dictator who detained for no reason, manipulated the judiciary, controlled the Press etc etc.

3. As the person concerned I will leave it to Malaysians to judge and to define "Mahathirism". They are the constituents which Najib should care about. The foreign press has an agenda of their own. And their friends in Malaysia are feeding them with the anti-Najib stories as they fear Najib would put a stop to their control of the media.

4. Najib can expect to hear more of this kind of demonisation from the foreign press but it is what Malaysians think that counts. It is with them that Najib has to clear his name.

- from Chedet

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20 April, 2009

" CROOKED" BRIDGE over troubled water ?

1. The Star reported that Chinese businessmen in Johor Baru want the Crooked Bridge to be built.

2. Newspapers of April 15 reports on an UMNO Youth leader in Johor Baru requesting that the bridge be built for various reasons.

3. When the previous Prime Minister stated that the people of Johore did not want the crooked bridge or any bridge, no one said anything, much less protest.

4. Is it because no one in Johore at that time really wanted the bridge, or is it that no one dared to differ from the open-minded and liberal ex-PM or the Press did not dare to report the real opinions of the people.

5. There was for a very short while complaints regarding the Custom, Immigration and Quarantine complex. No one explained that the inconvenience was due to the complex being designed to complement the proposed bridge but when the bridge was cancelled a temporary road was built to join the complex with the causeway. This caused a misfit as the two could not be properly linked together. Hence the inconvenience. In addition the traffic problems near the causeway remained unsolved.

6. Does the Government need to ask Singapore for permission to build the now desirable crooked bridge? Is Malaysia free to do things in its own territory? Are we really independent? I wonder.

- from Chedet

The mainstream media has been making a case to revive the crooked bridge across the Johor Strait, a project cancelled by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his early days as prime minister that irked his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Abdullah had cancelled the project in 2006, citing legalities that have to be pursued with Singapore and a high deficit in government spending.

Despite the cancellation, the government had to compensate several contractors linked to the project.

“The people of Johor are placing high hopes on the prime minister to review the decision to cancel the crooked bridge project across the Johor Straits.

“The effects from the construction of the crooked bridge will be most positive to the Johor economy. We urge the government to reconsider (the cancellation) as soon as possible,” said Khalid, Umno Youth information chief and is also the Johor Baharu Umno Youth chief.

He said although the country was facing the global economic slowdown, the construction of the crooked bridge would stimulate the local economy and bring it out of the recession.

“It (the construction of the bridge) is a long-term investment and no one can deny the positive effects arising from the construction of the bridge to the Johor economy and in creating various economic opportunities,” he said.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister, questioned if Malaysia needs Singapore’s permission to build a replacement in its own territory.

Dr M, who had proposed the project which was cancelled by his successor, noted that more people were supporting the project now.

“Does the Government need to ask Singapore for permission to build the now desirable crooked bridge?” Dr Mahathir wrote in his www.chedet.cc weblog today.

“Is Malaysia free to do things in its own territory? Are we really independent? I wonder,” the caustic politician asked about the project which was officially called the ‘Scenic Bridge’.

He had proposed to replace the near century-old Causeway as it kept the Johor Strait waters stagnant and would also allow development of ports in the southern state.

Without referring to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by name, he pointed out no one had protested the previous prime minister’s claim that Johor people did not want “the crooked bridge or any bridge”.

“Is it because no one in Johor at that time really wanted the bridge, or is it that no one dared to differ from the open-minded and liberal ex-PM or the Press did not dare to report the real opinions of the people,” Dr Mahathir asked sarcastically.

He said there were only a few complaints about the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex due to the connecting temporary road to the Causeway which did not alleviate the city’s traffic congestion.

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19 April, 2009

Rulers are above politics

Rulers are above politics and as such they cannot participate in open debate to answer allegations hurled against them by political groups, the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, said.

He said that the action of certain political groups in provoking the people and sowing seeds of hatred against the rulers, was akin to fanning "embers in the chaff" which, he said, was a dangerous act and could destroy the peace enjoyed by the people and the country.

"These groups are allowing the end to justify the means by condoning such acts."

"These groups and individuals feel that they are faultless and immune from any action, to the extend of disregarding the law for the sake of attaining power," he said at the loyalty pledge and Perak awards ceremony in conjunction with his 81st birthday at the Istana Iskandariah here today.

Sultan Azlan also said that he felt that there was too much politicking in the country at the moment and that this would affect economic productivity and the country's image in the eyes of the international community.

"In facing the global economic crisis, too much politicking is not helpful to the people who are struggling to make ends meet," he said.

He added that leaders of various political parties should find a meeting point from which they could work out ways to cooperate for the sake of the country and people.

Sultan Azlan Shah also spoke on the need to correct what he described as the misconception that the constitutional monarchy was just a symbol devoid of any power.

He said the rulers were neither blind, deaf nor mute. In fact, he added, they were fully aware of what was going on in the country.

"It should be stressed that the constitutional monarchy has three rights -- the right to give views and counsel, the right to encourage and motivate, and the right to remind and reprimand," he said.

Sultan Azlan Shah said that although the constitutional monarchy acted based on the power vested in it under the constitution, it would be erroneous to think that the role of a ruler was similar to that of a president whose functions had been pre-defined in the constitution.

"The role of the constitutional monarchy goes beyond what is stipulated in the constitution.

"The rulers have a far wider responsibility in ensuring that the spirit of the constitution, the philosophy behind the written law, and the interest of the country and the people are safeguarded at all times," he said.

He said that based on the spirit behind the formation of the Federation of the Malay States, the rulers were responsible in protecting the privileges and position of the Rulers Institution, Islam, the Malay language and the legitimate interest of other races.

"These are the basis of understanding and the ingredients which resulted in the formation of an independent and sovereign nation, enabling its people to live in peace and harmony," he said.

Meanwhile, The Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah today said he would implement all efforts to ensure the institution of royalty, which was core to the system of governance and nationhood in the country, would continue to be protected.

“An offspring will not allow the dignity and sovereignty of a ruler to be ridiculed.

As such the people must be conscious not to be hasty to throw the lamp away, as daylight too will end.

“Let it not be that as night falls, people grope about directionless, blanketed in darkness without a lamp,” he said at the pledging of loyalty and awards ceremony in conjunction with the 81st birthday of the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah at Istana Iskandariah here today.

He said the Malay Sultanate was not just a symbol in the country but had an important role as the centre of strength for the people.

Raja Nazrin said the administrative system with the Malay Sultanate as its core had been in place for over 600 years and had succeeded in developing a great culture and civilisation.

He said the wisdom of royalty aided the developmental process of intellectuality and from the palace emanated great works of art in writings.

“The Malay Rulers are the symbols of sovereignty, the symbols of citizens’ strength and the umbrella for the country’s crown. The Malay Rulers give identity to the nation.

“People who understand the culture of monarchy will understand the philosophy of royal administration, the role of rulers, especially the role and responsibility of holding up national identity,” he said.

He said the continuity of a race and the face of a nation depended on factors that gave it identity from the aspects of institutions, religion, culture and language.

“Actions of insulting institutions, ridiculing institutions, fermenting hatred towards institutions are early steps in the movement towards abolishing the institutions therefore abolishing the original identity of the country’s race.


18 April, 2009

When the highest court in the land could bring down the Government of the day

The judges of the Federal Court have failed the people and the government of this country when they chose to ignore the law of the Constitution of Malaysia. In other words the judges have refused to do justice according to law.

Article 72, Clause (1) of the Federal Constitution clearly states that "the validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court."

The front page of the Star newspaper of Friday, 17 April 2009 carries this startlingly outrageous decision of the Federal Court. The headline proclaims “Court: Siva does not have right to suspend seven”. The report reads:

"PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has unanimously ruled that Perak Assembly Speaker V Sivakumar does not have the power to suspend Mentri Besar Datuk Zambry Abd Kadir and six state executive council members from attending the assembly.

It granted a declaration that the seven assemblymen were entitled to take part in all the assembly sittings and to carry out their duties.
Court of Appeal president Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, who chaired a five-man panel yesterday, said the Speaker’s decision to suspend the seven applicants was ultra vires (outside the law) and invalid.

… The other judges were Chief Judge of Malaya Arifin Zakaria and Federal Court Judges Nik Hashim Nik Ab. Rahman, S Augustine Paul and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin."

NOW that a sitting of the Perak legislative assembly sitting has been called for 7 May, another showdown is expected because it is being convened without speaker V Sivakumar's consent.

In such a case, constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi believes Perak's constitutional crisis is far from over despite how recent court decisions have appeared to favour Barisan Nasional (BN).

The court has ruled that the three independents from Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang remain as assemblypersons, while the BN's Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and six executive councillors had their suspensions from the assembly lifted.

"There is still a deadlock because the speaker would not want this sitting to be held," Shad Saleem tells The Nut Graph.

Notices to Perak assemblypersons that the legislative assembly would convene on 7 May were issued on 17 April by the state secretary's office.

The sitting has to be held before 13 May, the end of the six-month deadline since the last assembly was convened in November 2008. Failure to do so would mean automatic dissolution of the assembly and fresh elections, which the BN has been trying to avoid since their takeover of the state on 5 Feb.

The likely agenda in the 7 May sitting, since it is being convened by the BN side, is to pass a motion of confidence on Zambry as menteri besar and to elect a new speaker to replace Sivakumar.

Shad Saleem says there was once a case in India where a state assembly was adjourned sine die (indefinitely) as soon as the house sat because the speaker did not want the sitting held.

"If Sivakumar does the same, then the constitutional crisis continues," Shad Saleem explains.

The law professor at Universiti Teknologi Mara also adds that "it was an open question" on whether the assembly secretary could issue the notice convening the assembly on the orders of Zambry. "Usually, the assembly secretary acts on the instructions of the speaker."

Shad Saleem says the only solutions apparent to him was to either declare emergency rule in Perak, or the sultan on the advice of the menteri besar could prorogue the assembly and then use his royal prerogative to call a new session.

Meanwhile, Perak Speaker V. Sivakumar has suspended the legislature’s secretary Abdullah Antong Sabri for issing a notice to convene the state assembly on May 7 without his knowledge.

But it remains unclear if the suspension will have any effect on the notice to call the assembly just six days before a constitutional deadline to do so.

"I hereby agree to appoint Mohd Misbahul Munir Marduki to replace him as the secretary of the state assembly until a further decision from me," Sivakumar told reporters here today, citing Abdullah's action as insubordination.

"Meanwhile, the purported sitting (of the assembly) on May 7 must not proceed pending the clarification. The sitting may have to be adjourned to another date due to the requirement to give a 14-day notice to the state assemblymen," he said.


17 April, 2009

Najib’s Cabinet has “unsavoury characters” !

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed disappointment that Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet appointments include several “unsavoury characters.”

Dr Mahathir said in his blog the inclusion of these “unsavoury” personalities had negated any desire to rid Umno of blatantly corrupt politicians.

Dr Mahathir, who has denied being offered any posts as advisor to Najib, had said he would continue criticising the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration if he felt the new prime minister made any mistakes.

True to his word, the former PM wrote in his blog today of his opinion that “several unsavoury characters who had been accused of being corrupt while in the previous government” had been included in Najib’s cabinet.

“The exclusion of Khairy Jamaluddin, the Umno Youth head who was found guilty of corruption by the Umno disciplinary committee, seems to indicate a desire on the part of the new prime minister to rid Umno of the blatantly corrupt politician.

“Unfortunately the inclusion of several unsavoury characters who had been accused of being corrupt while in the previous government, seem to negate this desire,”

The administration, he said, should be aware it has less than three years to regain the support of the public.

He said Najib’s government had missed a good opportunity for regaining public backing for BN by “excluding dubious characters.”

Pressure from Dr Mahathir is the last thing Najib needs now as he is already facing problems on multiple fronts.

Najib’s 1Malaysia concept has come under fire amid some racial tensions stoked by a significant sector of the Malay ground who are unhappy with what they see as unreasonable demands from non-Malays.

He is also busy trying to quell a revolt in Terengganu against the BN mentri besar.

But his foremost challenge has been to try to turn around a softening economy.

He will now have to contend with criticisms from Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir said that in his administration, ministers, their deputies and mentris besar were all required to declare their assets.

“But the declarations did not reveal much. Some ministers were queried by the then Anti-Corruption Agency but no charges could be made.

Still talks about corrupt mentris besar and chief ministers in particular were frequently heard.

No one was prepared to come forward to give evidence.

“In the end I had to simply drop the MBs whom I heard were corrupt. No charges were made against them as they would not stand up in a court of law,” he wrote.

What mattered, he claimed, was that the level of corruption during his time as PM was never high and did not hamper the implementation of government projects and did not result in abuses of ministerial power.

“I don't believe that corruption can be totally eradicated. But it can be minimised.

“From the complaints I hear today, corruption especially in the government party has reached record levels during the tenure of the last PM,” he claimed.

(Source:The Malaysian Insider)

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16 April, 2009

The sixth by election - Penanti

Embattled Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, who quit as the Penang deputy chief minister 1 last week after allegations of graft, today resigned his Penanti state seat.

His resignation will lead to a by-election within 60 days in Penanti, which is under Anwar's Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency.

It is learnt that Penang PKR chief and Bayan Baru MP Datuk Zahrain Mohamed Hashim is the frontrunner to contest the by-election. The other candidate is deputy state PKR chief Dr Mansor Othman, who was recently named as one of two senators from Penang.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who has yet to name a replacement for Fairus, was not available for comment.

The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) picked up Fairus on March 26 at the Causeway and questioned him for three hours before releasing him. Lim and his other deputy, Professor Dr P. Ramasamy, gave their statements to the MACC on April 6.

The MACC said it has completed its investigations and has handed over the findings to its prosecution division but Fairus has yet to be charged with any offence.

By and large, the initial reaction to the announcement of the sixth by-election in less than a year was one of bemusement. While the excitement was high for the first five, especially given the high stakes involved, the reaction this time was one more of cynical amusement with one political party worker saying that the situation has become like a circus.

"By and large, there is fatigue among voters," says Ibrahim Suffian, chief of opinion research firm Merdeka Centre. However, he says that this by-election is notable as it could be the first where a state assembly representative has resigned on account of integrity issues.

While PKR is expected to have the advantage of incumbency and the seat lies within the parliamentary constituency represented by Anwar, who is also the opposition leader, Ibrahim does not foresee an easy win for PKR as it is a Malay-majority seat which PKR lost in 2004. "PKR doesn't do well with Malay voters, and this is a Malay district which they have lost before in 2004."

This by-election then is expected to be a test of Pakatan Rakyat's popularity with the Malays.

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15 April, 2009

Mission: possible

The IMF has been promised lots more money and has a new sense of purpose. But reform is still needed—especially if it is to win the trust of emerging economies.
The leaders of the world’s biggest rich and emerging economies decided in London that the IMF should both have more resources and play a broader role in the world economy than in the past.

They said that the fund’s resources were to be increased by $500 billion to $750 billion, and that it would be allowed to issue $250 billion-worth of its own quasi-currency, the Special Drawing Right (SDR), to ease liquidity in emerging and developing economies.

The G20 also expects the IMF to ensure “candid, even-handed, and independent surveillance” of big economies and their banks, of the impact of their policies on others and of risks facing the global economy.
Cynics will argue that the summiteers trumpeted the strengthening of the fund because this was the one substantive thing they were able to agree on. They made no new promises on co-ordinated budgetary stimulus, for example, and the details of what the G20 will do for trade finance remain uncertain. Even so, it is indisputable that the G20 meeting confirmed a steady rise in the IMF’s star in recent months.

It has recently overhauled its lending schemes, along with the conditions attached to its loans, and already begun providing funding that looks more like crisis insurance than its usual loans for countries that have got into trouble. China and Russia have even talked about making it the issuer of a global reserve currency to replace the dollar.
-- read here for more.

12 April, 2009

MIC denies move to pull out minister from cabinet

MIC information chief Datuk M. Saravanan said that while there was a general feeling that the party lacked strong representation in the cabinet, there was no way that the party would resort to such drastic action.

He said that increasing the quota for ministerial posts or reshuffling the cabinet posts was the prerogative of the prime minister and that no one but the party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu could discuss the issue with the prime minister.

On whether he thought that Indians were sidelined especially after Samy Vellu's defeat in the March 8 general election last year, he said more opportunities had been given to the community since the polls.

MIC grassroots members may be unhappy with Indian representation in the cabinet but the party leadership has no plans to pull its sole minister out of the cabinet.

According to reports here and here, the MIC is mulling over the possibility of withdrawing its sole Cabinet post and its two deputies. MIC officials are said to be unhappy that the party has only been given the Human Resources Minister's post, held by Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, which the party feels is too junior for the party.

Dr Subramaniam said the report was "wrong and mischievious".

"We have not heard about such a move. Whatever decision on any matter concerning the party has always been discussed with the party president in the central working committee.

"If there are any differences within the Barisan Nasional, they will be discussed behind closed doors and resolved amicably."

The story quoting an insider within the party had alleged that the party would decide raise the matter at the central working committee.

One of the main reasons cited for the possible pull-out was that there was no senior ministerial portfolio for the MIC despite numerous appeals by the party to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to return the Works Ministry to the party.

The insider had claimed that Subramaniam's post was a relatively junior portfolio compared with the latter.

The post had been traditionally allocated to the MIC.


10 April, 2009

Persona non grata ?

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had no effect on the April 7 by-elections and this shows that people do not want him anymore, says Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

The former law minister, who has had a running feud with the former prime minister since his move last year to compensate judges sacked by Dr Mahathir in the 1987 judicial crisis, said this in an interview on the “Fairly Current Show”, a short programme that aired on the Internet yesterday.

Zaid, who is widely expected to join Pakatan Rakyat — most likely PKR — soon, also added that his former party, Umno, was too weak to stand up to Dr Mahathir and members were afraid of being ousted like Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who stepped down as prime minister last week after years of criticism by his predecessor Dr Mahathir.

"There were thousands of people in Sungai Petani they say, but clearly there was no effect," he said of Dr Mahathir's stop in Bukit Selambau in a two-stop blitz that included Bukit Gantang on the last day of campaigning in the by-elections.

PR, in fact, increased its majority in the two seats which, Zaid said, was an indicator of Dr Mahathir's unpopularity.

"He feels that people still want him. This is the problem with strongmen who some call dictators. Sometimes, they don't know they are surrounded by people who tell them their leadership is still needed," he said.

He added that it was the same throughout history, citing Suharto, the former president of Indonesia, and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who also "do not know when they are unwanted".

However, in a recent blog posting, Dr Mahathir continued to insist that Abdullah was still "entirely responsible for all the ills" in Barisan Nasional which led to the electoral defeats as "a leader plays a big role especially in Malaysia and the quality of his leadership affects the behaviour and performance of his subordinates."

Zaid also mocked the idea that Umno wanted its longest-serving president back.

"It is not that Umno wants to take him back but he wants to rejoin. But nobody is brave enough to stop him. This shows Umno is very weak and its leaders are not brave enough to stand up to him because they are afraid of ending up like Pak Lah," he said of Abdullah, who was handpicked by Dr Mahathir but then suffered years of harsh criticism from him.

Zaid cited, as an example, the fact that Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah's son-in-law, won comfortably ahead of Dr Mahathir's son Datuk Mukhriz in the Umno Youth chief contest because "he interfered. If not it would be a tougher fight".

Zaid and Dr Mahathir most recently clashed in a war of words over the appointment of Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister, with Dr Mahathir calling Zaid's plea to the King not to appoint Najib "very stupid".

(Source: The Malaysian Insider)

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09 April, 2009

Policemen to hang for murder

Two Malaysian policeman were sentenced to death for the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu, in a sensational case the opposition has tried to link with new premier Najib Razak.

Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib who was sworn in as prime minister last week, had been accused of ordering police to kill his former lover after she came to his family home to harass him for money.

But last year he was acquitted of abetting the 2006 slaying of the 28-year-old model and interpreter -- a case which, with its ingredients of sex, politics and violence, has captivated the nation.

Altantuya's body was blown up with military-grade explosives in a jungle clearing, leaving only shattered bone fragments as evidence.

The two officers found guilty of the murder, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, are from an elite unit that guards the prime minister and deputy prime minister.

"Each of them are blaming the other, they failed to raise reasonable doubt against the prosecution's case. I convict both of you as charged," said Shah Alam High Court judge Zaki Mohamad Yasin.

"I sentence both of you to death. You will be taken to a place of execution where you will be hanged by your neck until you are dead," he said.

The pair looked calm when the sentence was handed down, and then stepped out of the dock and hugged their lawyers, who later said they would file an appeal.

Azilah's fiance, Nur Azila Baharuddin, insisted the pair were not guilty.

"We expected him to be acquitted but the judge has made the decision. We will wait for the next stage," she told reporters. "I really want to marry him, I have been waiting for so long since 2006."

The question that is inevitably asked is who could be behind the two Bukit Aman Special Action Squad (UTK) cops’ C4 murder of Altantuya.

Those who had thought that the end of the Altantuya murder trial, with the conviction and death sentence pronounced on Azila and Sirul, would end national and international fixation with any connection of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak with the Altantuya murder case cannot be more wrong.

While Azilah and Sirul would appeal against the mandatory death sentence upon conviction under Section 149 of the Penal Code, their conviction and death sentence have not lessened but intensified public demands and necessity for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into swirling allegations of Najib’s involvement in the Altantuya’s C4 murder case.

As Najib has repeatedly declared his innocence of any involvement in the Altantuya C4 murder case, he must act decisively to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to lay all the swirling allegations about his involvement in the murder case which are haunting and hounding him, his administration and the nation’s good name, to rest once and for all – whether about the accessibility of C4 explosives, the disappearance of Altantuya immigration records, the exchange of SMS messages or the disappearance of private investigator Bala Subramaniam after making public a very damaging statutory declaration about Najib.

But, Why did Altantuya have to die ?

Why. That is the start of many questions that have yet to be answered in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial.

Why did the prosecution or defence not call the police aide to Datuk Seri Najib Razak who recommended the policemen to political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda?

That was the tenuous link the opposition have picked on to link the prime minister to the killing. There have been wild allegations that have even appeared in newspapers across the world, including statutory declarations and cautioned statements, that have haunted Najib since the beginning of the sensational case.

Why did Altantuya hound Abdul Razak? That she even risked coming to this country to meet him but to no avail.

Why didn't he just lodge a report for harassment? But went and asked a favour from a friend in the police force.

Why did the policemen commit the crime? She was an interpreter in a country far from home and surely no threat to anyone but she died a horrible death. Why?

Why did Abdul Razak's private investigator P. Balasubramaniam disappear after filing two statutory declarations that contradict each other? And why is he still missing?

Why ? why ?

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08 April, 2009

PR has two 'Bukits", BN has one 'Batang

Pakatan has thumped BN 2-1. It took both Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau while BN hit one back through Batang Ai.

Premier Najib Razak was dealt a rebuke by voters yesterday, losing two of three by-elections seen as a referendum on support for his new leadership and promised reforms.

It was not a night of celebration for Barisan Nasional (BN). The status quo remained with no seats changing parties in the three by-elections held yesterday.

But the ruling coalition's failure to reclaim the two peninsula seats was a severe blow to its attempt at reinventing its image. The only piece of good news was that it won big in the Batang Ai by-election in Sarawak. Its vote majority more than doubled compared to the 2006 state election.

The bad news: Bukit Gantang, a parliamentary seat in Perak, stayed in opposition hands, as did Bukit Selambau, a state assembly seat in Kedah.

In Bukit Gantang – seen as the most important of the three – the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR) won the seat by 2,789 votes, which was higher than its 1,566 majority last year. It was a convincing win.

The BN failed miserably in trying to woo voters back in the peninsula since its dramatic losses in the 2008 general election, even as it retained support in East Malaysia.

One irresistible conclusion is that the Umno-led BN is increasingly forced to rely on the Ibans and rest of East Malaysia to bolster its grip on power. If true, this geographical polarisation does not bode well for Malaysia.

DESPITE the Barisan Nasional's earlier denial that the Bukit Gantang by-election was not a referendum on the country's new leadership, the ruling coalition turned it into just that within the last few days before polling.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was brought in for the campaign and publicly endorsed Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the new prime minister, showering praises on his capabilities.

Mahathir plugged the new Umno leadership elected at its recent general assembly. "I am confident that Najib's leadership reflects the original Umno," the octogenarian ex-premier said.

Najib has announced an ambitious agenda to reform the ruling party UMNO, which represents majority Muslim Malays, and repair ties with the nation's ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

But after his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi failed to implement his own promised reforms during his six years in power, there is scepticism over whether Najib can deliver.

"It is definitely a bruising for Najib," said political analyst Shaharuddin Badaruddin.

"He will now have to look again at how he is going to win back the support of Malaysians and come up with a plan quickly to ensure the Barisan Nasional is not routed in the next general elections."

The three constituencies, embracing more than 98,700 voters, were seen as an indicator of the next elections due by 2013 because they represent a wide spectrum of Malaysians.

The electorates included rural Malays who have been UMNO's bedrock, as well as ethnic Chinese and Indians, who flocked to the opposition in the March 2008 elections.

The coalition's win in Sarawak was widely anticipated, after it flooded the impoverished electorate with development funds, but political analysts said the loss in Bukit Gantang heaped pressure on Najib.

Ibrahim Suffian from the Merdeka Centre polling firm said the new leader must now deliver on his promises, in order to win back voters before the next general elections.

"He has to be able to tangibly make a difference before Malaysians will swing back support to the coalition," he said.

"What it means is that there is no honeymoon, Malaysians want their changes to happen now, and he cannot expect that rhetoric alone will carry the day."

Azmin Ali, vice-president of Anwar's Keadilan party, which leads the Pakatan Rakyat alliance, said the results showed a "rejection of the prime minister and bad government policies that have done much damage to the country".

"What these results show is that Pakatan Rakyat is still very popular with the people and that they want an honest, credible government which Barisan Nasional is unable to deliver," he said.

Tuesday's results don't change the balance of power at the federal or state levels but serve as an unofficial referendum on Najib's popularity. The ruling National Front coalition downplayed the loss, saying the new premier was yet to make his mark.

"The feel-good factor from the power transition is still too new and has not sunk in," said Muhyiddin Yasin, who is expected to be appointed deputy prime minister in the new cabinet to be announced this week.

"I am confident that when the new leadership begin their duties, and when reforms are implemented, it will convince the people," he said.

All 13 independent candidates in the Bukit Selambau state by-election lost their deposits after failing to secure at least one-eighth of the total number of votes cast.

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