Feb 132007
 

PKR’s Dep Sec-Gen Dr. Xavier Jeyakumar had white paint splashed across his house by unknown assailants in the dead of Monday night. Dr. Jeyakumar staunchly believes the attack is politically motivated. This infruriating act of cowards will not deter those who fight for what is right!

On a more positive note, Tian Chua writes (with pics too) on how friends and neighbours helped clean the house up, despite the late hour. Hope and warmth amidst darkness.

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Suhakam bravely calls for a public inquiry on the Simpang Renggam assault case – in spite of (“I’m no bad boy”) DS Samy Vellu’s assurance that all is ok. Good on them!  However:

 When contacted, Suhakam commissioner N Siva Subramaniam said a special team from the commission will draw up the terms of references to get to the bottom of the matter. “It will deal specifically with the assault. We are not going to dwell on other issues,” he added.

= not touching the EO? :( Strategic engagement blablabla and credit where it’s due, but this is a bit of a in-denial attitude. But even if they can afford to sidestep the true root of the problem, damn well doesn’t mean we should.  Stop draconian laws!!

Also: one warder is arrested for pushing drugs on the inmates. Just one sacrificial scapegoat for what is most likely a widespread abuse? Let’s hope not. Also see thoughts from faithful anti-EO crusader The Malaysian.

Suhakam will also be looking into one case of bonded slavery.

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After being long quiet, DS Nazri Aziz bursts back on the scene with characteristic swagger in all the wrong places. On corruption:

“The government has done everything it can think of to fight corruption,” Nazri said.. “To this day, people do not believe the government is going strong in its fight on corruption,” he added. 

Everything it can think of? Think some moreLAH!!!!

Also, if the government has exhausted its mental capacities while failing to make a significant dent, as the rakyat rightfully believes, did DS Nazri thus just call the government a stupid failure?

On toll secrets:

“The Cabinet is not worried about declassifying the documents. The concessionaires are the ones making the money, not the Government. There is nothing to hide,” the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said.

Nothing to hide? How about the fact that the government is standing like a make donno voyeur while the rakyat is being gang-raped by highway companies?!?!

Eee, cannot tahan the government’s “it’s not our fault!” lame-o line. As I’ve preached many times before, that is the single worst thing a leader can say – especially an elected one. Take responsibility you wussies!!

Feb 052007
 

Long overdue, and in light of recent suffering (see Malaysiakin videos here and here) I did some basic checking on the companies that own the highways which got hit with toll hikes. I’ll start with Litrak, the company that owns the LDP concession.

These are only very basic preliminary findings – and may or may not prove significant. Much work remains to be done, and these are just some tiny excerpts. Here goes:

The single largest shareholder in Litrak is construction mega-corporation Gamuda. According the LITRAK’s 2006 financial report, they own 36.27% of Litrak (according to a recent NST article defending the hike, this number is now 42%). The second largest shareholder is EPF, who own less than one fifth of that at 6.40%.

(Incidentally, Gamuda’s share prices have recently skyrocketed – apparently due to a large Vietnamese contract that they won)

I then looked at Gamuda’s 2006 financial report, which states its largest shareholder to be Generasi Setia (M) Sdn. Bhd, which holds 8.71%, while the next largest is again EPF, at a not too distant 7.71%.

The financial report states that a major shareholder of Generasi Setia is one YAM Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena binti Raja Azlan Shah. YAM Raja DS Eleena is the daughter of the former Agong and reigning Sultan of Perak, DYMM Sultan Paduka Seri Sultan Azlan Shah.

There being no website for Generasi Setia, I had to go to the Companies Commission to see how major ‘major’ was.

According to the last available Generasi Setia (M) Sdn Bhd Company Report – for the year 2003 (isn’t it against the law not to submit accounts every year?) – out of 2 million company shares, YAM Raja DS Eleena owns 1,999,940.

YAM Raja DS Eleena is thus essentially the sole owner of Generasi Setia, which is the largest shareholder of Gamuda, which is (by far) the largest shareholder of Litrak, which owns the LDP toll concession that was raised by 60%.

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Again, this may not be very significant information. Some might argue it is out of context. Nonetheless, as I understand the reports, they are facts.

There’s a *lot* more researching of the available facts that needs to be done to get a fuller picture of what’s going on. But for now, I’ll print what I find as I sift through what’s out there.

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In the meantime, perhaps we can look at two other small facts that emerged.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors for Litrak is one Tan Sri Dato’ Ir (Dr) Wan Abdul Rahman bin Haji Wan Yaacob. TSD Wan Abdul Rahman started work in the Public Works Department as a civil servant in 1964, became its Director General in 1990 and retired in 1996.

1996 was also the year that Litrak signed a 33-year concession with the government for the construction of LDP (in April) as well as the year the company was listed on the stock exchange.

On the Gamuda side, the Chairman of the Board of Directors is one Tan Sri Dato’ Ir Talha bin Haji Mohd Hashim. TSD Talha also worked in the Public Works Department – from 1959 to 1990. The last five years of that tenure was spent as Director General – presumably TSD Wan Abdul Rahman’s direct predecessor.

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Again, there may be nothing significant in these little facts by themselves. If there is a puzzle to be pieced together, we are barely beginning. The stuff I normally blog about is getting a tad redundant with all the great voices already out there, so Insyallah, I’ll try to keep on this to see if there’s anything fishy afoot.

Jan 242007
 

Did you know that it is not against the law for the ruling party to use government machinery to campaign during elections? >:(

The facts force us to admit that Ng Chee Pang, the independent candidate in Batu Talam, is something of a joke. His latest accusations against his opponent concerning unethical campaigning may be less of a joking matter, however.

Ng explained that his complaint was based on a provision in the election code of ethics distributed to both candidates on nomination day.

He said the provision prohibits candidates and their party or election workers from using government buildings for campaigning unless written permission has been obtained. They are also barred from using ‘community vehicles and communication devices’.

“I have photos. For instance, a Chinese school hall was used, BN flags were hung all over the place for Dr Ng Yen Yen (BN Raub MP and deputy finance minister) to campaign for the candidate,” he alleged.

He also claimed that police and local council trucks were used to transport chairs and other items for the BN campaign. 

Asked if he had checked whether his rival had obtained permission to use the facilities and vehicles, he replied: “It is obvious BN has breached the election regulations.” 

Although it’s pretty lame that he obviously didn’t check about the written permissions, let’s look at what the Election Commission says:

The Election Commission (EC) today said it cannot disqualify the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for the Batu Talam by-election because it has no power to act on complaints based on its election code of ethics.

“The code of ethics is just a guideline for candidates contesting in the election, we can’t disqualify anyone based on that,” returning officer Abdul Kadir Awang Bakar told malaysiakini when contacted today.

“Our enforcement team has taken down posters (of the BN candidate) that were hung at the fence of a government school,” he said, while confirming that the EC had received Chee Pang’s written complaint.

Explaining why no further action can be taken, he said: “The posters were not put up by the (BN) candidate himself… perhaps it was ‘accidentally’ put up by his supporters and not everyone knows the law.”

Since the posters have been taken down, Abdul Kadir argued “the case is closed”.  

?!?! As we know, ignorance of the law is no defence :( But sadly, that isn’t even the issue. What is the law?

The election code of ethics prohibits candidates and their party or election workers from using government buildings for campaigning unless written permission has been obtained. They are lso barred from using vehicles or communication devices belonging to the state or government.

However, the code also clarifies that it is a guideline and that its provisions are subject to existing laws and regulations, pointed out activist Wong Chin Huat who has studied the Malaysian electoral system.

This renders certain provisions in the code as not enforceable whenever the law is silent such as on the abuse of government machinery, added Wong.

Sigh. What I think this means is that BN can use every single government, tax-payer funded piece of state machinery to ensure the success of their candidates >:( It’s perfectly legal apparently, code of ethics be damned (so typical!).

I’m now a little more sympathetic to the Opposition’s decision to boycott :(

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Elsewhere in impunity: Two senior managers of Tabung Haji, Dtk’s Mohd Amin Sidek and Mohammed Shafee have been given 10 years in jail for criminal breach of trust involving mismanagement of TH funds and (get this) deceiving ministers.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know the first thing about this case (so please feel free to enlighten me!), but this smacks of scapegoating. It just doesn’t seem like the way the BN government operates, that ministers would be ‘ignorant’ or ‘deceived’ regarding the management of funds. Isn’t it more often the case that they’re a) totally in on it, or b) actually the ones behind the whole thing?

The politicians in question were then Ministers in the PM’s Dep Datuk (now Tan Sri) Abdul Hamid Othman and Brig-Jen (rtd) Datuk Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin.

I guess at the very best, they were made fools off, and not properly discharging their duties in ensuring the integrity of public fund management.

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I won’t pretend that *everyone* is immune though. Look at Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam, also in today’s news. I confess I haven’t been following the case, and have no idea how come he is getting prosecuted while so many roam free (insights anyone?), but it does seem somewhat interesting.

Jan 222007
 

How on earth can you expect the rakyat to buy that crap?? If the economy is doing so damn well, how come we need to pay more for petrol, endure 60% toll hikes and pay 15% more for water (in Selangor) for reasons *you* (personally!) won’t disclose to us??

Geramnye!

Yah yah, you got big GDP (“6.5%), small inflation (“3%”) and low interest rates figures to show off.

At worst, this means *someone’s* getting rich, but it sure as heck ain’t the guy on the (Guthrie/LDP/Cheras-Kajang/ShahAlam) street. Sure, economy is just great – but for the fat catsLAH.

Whatever shred of credibility as some ‘voice of reason’ or ‘champion of progressive politics’ Gerakan may have ever had, it is fast losing. And don’t give me that bull about having to cover some (lying, cheating, robber) assess to help the ‘bigger picture,’ integrity isn’t exactly a two way street you know.

The water issue is perhaps the most infuriating, given how it is DS Lim himself who (essentially telling civil society and Transparency International that they can piss off) somehow declared the agreement between his ministry and multi-million profit-making Syabas to be an Official Secret (correction! politikus reminds me that the agreement is ‘confidential’ and not technically an Official Secret at this point. Thanks politikus!) – just like the toll concession agreements.

Berani kerana benar, TAKUT KERANA SALAH!

Continue reading »

Jan 132007
 

Is it only floods that are plunging Malaysians into the terrible suffering that comes with being made homeless? Apparently not – the government seems keen to imitate the rains that are inflicting homelessness and destitution on Malaysians around the country.

This post is really late but: On Jan 4th, Sarawak state officials demolished an Iban longhouse near Bintulu that was home to about 120 individuals. Some 300 officers – many reportedly armed with pistols and M-16s – and 20 vehicles were mobilised to forcefully remove most (not all) of the items within the longhouse and then destroy the home.

They did so during the day, when most of the men were working and little resistance was expected from the women, elderly and children. The inhabitants were then placed at a temporary shelter where each family was allocated a 9ft by 10ft room, and all their belongings dumped in a single pile outside. All this apparently so that the land could be used by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI). Since when were plants more important than people?

If this outrageous actions sound reminiscent of Kg. Berembang, the bad news is that the similarities don’t stop there. The inhabitants of this longhouse had an eviction notice served on them in October ’06, but they challenged that eviction in the Bintulu High Court, where a judgement had yet to be made. Once again, Malaysian authorities have showed utter contempt of court and disregard for due process as they viciously moved to demolish the buildings before a court ruling had been made.

I received an e-mail saying that the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) is trying to raise funds for zinc sheets and such to help build temporary shelters for the residents – or at least shelters for their belongings which were left in the open. Any financial or material help can be channeled through SADIA, and they can be contacted at sadiahq[at]gmail.com

Thankfully, a decent amount of documentation has been done on this incident.

- An article dated Nov ’06 detailing the pre-demolition struggle.

- Comprehensive entries at mylongkang.com (a great source!); see especially the first post.

- Statement by DAP state assemblyman for Kidurong, Chiew Chin Sing.

- Articles in the Star and the NST (the latter suggests other longhouses in the area may risk suffering a similar fate)

- A photo of a Borneo Post article (courtesy mylongkang.com) where the government claims that the longhouse was built illegally after the land was alienated to MARDI in 1993. There are some doubts as to the veracity of this claim, but even if it were true, there can be no justifying the brutal, high-handed manner of eviction and complete disrespect towards and contempt of the judicial process.

Jan 102007
 

After a self-proclaimed mini-slump, seems like Jeff Ooi is back on fire.

I have very strong beliefs against exploiting the floods for political purposes, but it does seem true that many Ministers, Wakil Rakyat and Councillors did not seem very proactive in flood relief efforts. I don’t know what they did behind the scenes, but these are the ones that should be at the forefronts, appealling for aid and so on.

Jeff and gang did some good research on where the Johor representatives/ministers and others were during the floods and the aftermath – have a look.

Just as importantly, I learnt from the post that the big ass RM 500 mil announced in aid to businesses is not in fact aid, but loans. Can you imagine?? We decry Ah Longs for preying on the vulnerable, and here we are making 2.5% (low? maybe, but not if you’re business has been destroyed) off people who’ve suffered more than we can imagine (check out the pics in the blog too!). This is like playing loan shark to tsunami victims >:(

A contrast was also made between this strings-attached allocation for flood victims (being perhaps one of the most representative cross-sections of Malaysian society available) and the RM 600 mil allocation made specifically and exclusively for bumiputera contractors everywhere in the country (except where it’s needed most – one of it’s least developed states, Sarawak).

I dunno YAB, that leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth…

The latest in his on-going series on the tolls also deserves a look. If I manage to pursue the toll matter further and try to examine the unexamined, those posts will definitely serve as a guide.

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Anwar on Najib? I’m waiting for a Malaysiakini article to be published – watch this space…

Update 2.50pm: Here’s the article! Guess I’ll put in a little post of its own.. 

Jan 082007
 

At the heart of the matter: making the super-rich super-richer. Eg: the Umno linked Litrak (LDP) has been making craploads of money from the toll hikes at least since 2002. Don’t believe me? Very simple – look at Litrak’s financial reports from 2003-2006. A whole lot of very interesting info there – may try to look closer at it soon!

The 1000+ people strong protest at Sunway went without untoward incident (credit to police, protesters and all around!). Check out the Malaysiakini video.

Lotsa other comprehensive comments out there – see Jeff Ooi’s evolving series, esp. part 2 and part 3.

Speaking of which, it seems like the press hasn’t actually gone out to ask the owners of these companies how they feel about making their big bucks from the rakyat’s suffering? Can they confirm that they’ve been making huge profits for many years already? These questions need to be asked and answered (especially asked!).
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Meanwhile, PKR advisor Anwar Ibrahim – invited to talk at a National Union of Bank Employees conference which no one in government seemed to want to touch – spoke of his own experiences with toll hikes in 1997 while he was Finance Minister. He claims that the toll hikes were to subsidise bribes and kickbacks.

“He (Samy) still said it was important to increase (the toll charges), and I told him that he should resign (from cabinet) and go work for the company (instead),” said Anwar.

Following this, a ‘Tan Sri’ from the company sought an appointment with Anwar to appeal against the refusal to allow the toll hike. Anwar said he calculated the cost of running the highway with the ‘Tan Sri’ and realised that its operating cost included paying inducements to certain individuals.

“This ‘Tan Sri’ said he had to pay! Pay leaders and their families from Perlis to Johor,” he said. “(So I said to the ‘Tan Sri’) you pay these rotten crooks and bandits, you give them million of ringgit. And you expect me [minister of finance] to sign (the documents), so that the poor workers, teachers, farmers fork out the money for you to pay those crooks?” Anwar added.

Anwar claimed he refused to sign the documents allowing the toll increase. Subsequently after his sacking a year later – in September 1998 – the documents were signed by the government and toll rates for the unspecified highway was increased a month later, he said.

Interesting information, beyond a doubt. At the risk of giving unwelcome ‘political advice,’ I have to say I felt two ways about this.

What I probably consider the most interesting of available political alternatives – PKR – has been largely built around Anwar Ibrahim. In fact, I have a feeling that for many people in the street, the extent of their knowledge is PKR = Anwar.

For long time activists, opposition-inclined people etc, one of PKR’s biggest challenges is probably to show that Anwar’s transformation is both complete and sincere – that he has truly disassociated himself from his Umno/BN past.

To that end, I personally find it… challenging, to imagine Anwar as the sole beacon of integrity throughout his tenure in a system thoroughly devoid of it.

Whether he was in fact such a lone ranger or not is almost immaterial. As his special assistant Nik Nazmi said on two occasions, in politics, perception is everything.

Thus, I might be a bit iffy about Anwar harping on his experiences while in government (I reckon he’s saving some of the more spicy things he was privy to for election time). Unless he had some foolproof way of proving he was that solitary beacon (how, I can’t precisely imagine), I for one would just be reminded of this man’s one (long) time intimate association with the very regime he says he is fighting against.

I’m no political expert, but I might recommend other approaches to PKR marketing.

(also note: Tun Mahathir’s attempt to strike out Anwar’s libel suit. TDM called him a sodomiser, despite a court finding that he wasn’t one – sounds like libel to me!)