Recruitment System of Foreign Workers needs to be Urgently Revamped

The Centre for Public Policy Studies welcomes the statement made by the Immigration Department director-general Datuk Mahmood Adam that the department will be made a more efficient and transparent organization. In line with enhancing the Department’s effectiveness and integrity, there should be an immediate revamping of the system that manages the recruitment of foreign workers. Outsourcing companies presently get their licenses from the Immigration Department to recruit workers. The current arrangement is unsatisfactory because the system of appointing agents is subject to and a major source of abuse and corruption. Instead, it is proposed that companies should seek their own foreign employees, subject to pre-determined guidelines set by the Ministry of Human Resources and the Immigration Department.

The Centre for Public Policy Studies also calls for a reasonable wage scheme for workers. Low-income workers are currently subject to exploitation due to the poor employment conditions they undergo and are unable to afford decent living, especially with rising rates of inflation and an overall increase in the costs of living. Secondly, there would be natural preference for employment of locals who are presently unprepared to work for unreasonably low wages that are paid to foreign workers. In order for Malaysia to advance up the ladder of capital-intensive production and technology, it is necessary for the government to realize that companies now rely upon experienced staff with high productivity as opposed to cheap labour. The government has consistently emphasized the need for the economy to move up the value chain. Raising wages to reasonable levels according to respective industries would ensure the country is investing into human capital for the benefit of the economy in the long run as promulgated by the Prime Minister in his announcement that ”quality opportunities” should be made available to all.

There is a great deal of confusion presently about the management of foreign workers, the appointment of agents, renewal of permits and licenses and role of enforcement agencies. This is a poor reflection of a country intending to achieve developed-nation status. The Centre calls for a thorough and intensive revamping of the present system that would clarify matters for employers (both local and foreign) and instill greater public and investor confidence. The need to address this problem is important, as it would counter the perception as indicated by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) that the government is against unionization of foreign workers. A more transparently efficient system is urgently needed to enhance the integrity of the Immigration Department and various government agencies in managing foreign labour in the country.

Tan Sri Ramon V. Navaratnam
Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Studies
Kuala Lumpur
21st July 2008

For more information, please contact:
Tricia Yeoh,
Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies
Tel: +603-20932630/4209/2820
Fax: +603-20933078
Email:tricia_yeoh@cpps.org.my

Weekly News Monitor: 21 July, 2008

IMF Sounds Warning Despite Raising Global Forecast

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised up estimates it made in April for global growth this year and next. However, the agency coupled the improved forecasts with stark warnings that demand was slowing sharply in major industrial economies and inflation rising everywhere.

It revised up slightly growth forecasts for emerging and developing economies to 6.9 per cent this year and 6.7 per cent next year, but still a significant slowing from 8 per cent last year. China’s economic expansion is now expected to ease to around 10 per cent from about 12 per cent last year, the fund said.

In emerging economies, higher interest rates and more fiscal restraint are needed, and in some cases, countries should allow their currencies to appreciate to contain inflation, the IMF said.

Oil and food prices are expected to remain high and volatile, with financial conditions temporarily adding to upward price pressures.

More Farmers Suing Government In Nipah Case

Another group of 307 pig farmers are waiting for the Court of Appeal to hear their final appeal to be allowed to sue the government for claims arising from the Nipah outbreak a decade ago.

In another case, the Court of Appeal had allowed another group of 184 pig farmers to sue the government. But it appealed to the Federal Court on Tuesday (15 July) that the farmers’ suit is defective and frivolous and should be thrown out. Judgment is reserved.

Both groups of farmers are from Bukit Pelanduk, the country’s pig farming hub before the virus outbreak killed off the industry. Both filed claims against the government six years ago for alleged negligence in containing the epidemic in 1998.

UMNO Begins Grassroots Talks To Decide PM’s Fate

UMNO launched a first round of meetings on Thursday to determine whether it will keep Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as party chief after recent electoral losses.

About 19,000 branches in the United Malays National Organisation party are slated to hold meetings through next month to discuss preparations for the party’s congress in December, when Mr Abdullah intends to defend his party presidency.

PETRONAS Pays RM 6b As Special Divident To Government

National oil giant Petronas, which today reported a 31.5 per cent profit jump in the last financial year, has declared RM6 billion in a special dividend to the Federal Government after a request from the Finance Ministry.

Petronas president Tan Sri Hassan Merican disclosed the special dividend when announcing the corporation’s financial results ending March 31, 2008. Petronas Group reported a record nett profit of RM61 billion against RM46.6 billion in the previous financial year.

Sources said the government requested the extra dividend as its budget was stretched by a combination of factors including rising costs of subsidies for fuel and food in the past year. It slashed fuel subsidies and raised pump prices for petrol and diesel prompting protests.

Return To ME

If you are a medical specialist with ten years experience overseas aged 45 and above, you may soon be able to come home to Malaysia and commence your private practice without having to do any compulsory service with the government. If you are 35 and below you need only serve with the government for one year compared to the present three-year rule. These are measures which the health ministry are considering to ease the return of much needed medical specialists. Otherwise, the 1,800 medical specialists in the country are not able to cope with the number of patients in need of specialist attention.

Too Fast For Comfort

Express mail guarantees secure and swift delivery of essential stuff and messages.However, when they bring illicit drugs into the country, RM 1.5 million worth of them, then the service is certainly too fast for comfort to Malaysian parents already frantic about the availability of such unwelcome stuff in the country. When the the Customs headquarters’ narcotics branch in KLIA opened up what was listed as computer parts and toys and found instead 120,000 Eramine-5 pills, they have to their credit foiled a dastardly attempt to bring in these dreaded stuff. Sent from Taiwan, the three boxes were addressed to three bogus addresses.

Never Too Early

Tiger Woods started playing at four. So it is never too early to start discovering one’s talent and putting it to good use. A twelve-year old Kuching schoolgirl has had eight books published under such imaginative titles as The Lonely Lion, The Cunning Thief and The Naughty Brother. Herself the beneficiary of such children’s books as Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Victoria Siaw Wei Yah says writing is an avenue for expressing her feelings. She traces her story-writing beginnings to when she was just nine-years of age. Her first attempt at a novel is already 20-pages long. In the meantime her eight published works are already available in the book shops.

Help Keep Needy Children In School

There is a plan to provide food and tuition voucher to needy school children. The priority is for this RM1 billion per year supplements to go to the right children. An additional RM1 billion allocation is available for rural areas to develop education facilities although some school construction projects may fall victim to the current inflationary trend. For this reason, the education ministry is looking to the corporate sector to sponsor the schooling of needy children. “I do not want poverty to be the cause of our children not going to school,” says the education minister.

Helping Bedridden Children

With the introduction of a new motor action training method throughout the country, there is hope that children or the aged suffering from cerebral palsy and confined to bed may soon recover some functions like sitting or walking and even perfom some tasks on their own. This service is being made available to a number of disabled children’s homes and there are plans to introduce it to other such homes in the country. Initated through sponsorship of the Japan International Corporation Agency and the Japan Postal Department who brought trainers from Japan, the technique known as dohsa-hou helps children regain some bodily movements. It takes discipline and diligence for progress to be achieved and retained. The priority is training trainers so that the programme can be expanded.

Creating A World Class Parliament

Much mention has been made in recent weeks of the desire to make the Malaysian Parliament a “world-class Parliament”. What would this entail? We focus on 3 recommendations.

Firstly, backbenchers should be given an increased role through the setting up of Parliamentary committees to oversee the work of the government of the day. At present, the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat provide for 5 committees, all known as Select Committees. There is a Committee of Selection, a Public Accounts Committee, a Standing Orders Committee, a House Committee and a Committee of Privileges.

The Standing Orders do provide for the establishment of what are termed Special Select Committees, to be appointed by order of the Dewan Rakyat. These are the select committees with which we are familiar. In the previous Parliament we had several select committees, namely on Unity and National Integration, on Integrity, and to review proposed amendments to the Penal Code. Such select committees have restricted terms of reference and a limited time frame. They tend to focus on particular issues that arise in the public life from time to time, with a view to gathering information and making recommendations on the particular subject-matter for which they were formed. They do not, by their nature, act as an on-going check and balance to the workings of Government.

All but 1 of these 5 committees focus on internal matters pertaining to the Dewan Rakyat. The Public Accounts Committee, is specifically tasked with a public duty, namely to review the functions of the entire Executive branch of Government, with a focus primarily on the utilisation of public monies. As Parliamentary time is limited, the Public Accounts Committee is only able to review a handful of matters at any one session of Parliament. Partly because it is the only permanent committee of the Dewan Rakyat tasked with a public function, there is unnecessarily an over-attention paid to its functions and the matters brought before it. This tends towards over-sensationalisation, and therefore what has been brought before it has always been viewed as politically sensitive. Further evidence of this over-sensitivity can be seen in the fact that the Government is not inclined to allow the Leader of the Opposition to be its Chairman, as is the practice in mature Parliamentary democracies.

What is needed are permanent committees of the Dewan Rakyat to oversee each ministry of Government. Such permanent committees would act as permanent scrutinisers of the work of Government, providing the needed check and balance of the Legislative branch over the function of the Executive branch. This is done in the Parliaments of Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., as well as in the U.S. Congress. We have all seen, for example, members of the U.S. Cabinet and even the Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank testify before Congress. Ideally there should be one permanent committee for each ministry of Government (unless 2 or more areas can sensibly be incorporated within the purview of a single permanent committee). Standing Order 83 already empowers a Select Committee “to send for persons, documents or papers, and shall have leave to report its opinion and observations, together with the minutes of evidence taken before it, to the House”. Thus such a permanent committee would be entitled to call for hearings and/or otherwise investigate matters falling within the ambit of the ministry it is to oversee. It would be the permanent committee’s responsibility to vet proposed legislation and amendments, to hold public sessions where interested parties can give testimony on matters of public policy, and to have ministers appear to answer questions and to provide explanations. It would be in a position to receive oral and written submissions. Witnesses could be summoned to appear and to testify before such permanent committees on pain of being found in contempt of Parliament. Potential whistleblowers could be granted immunity from legal action. Such hearings would normally be open to members of the public.

In a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy, the Executive branch of Government has wide-ranging powers. However this is not to say that the Legislative branch acts as a mere rubber stamp. Parliament must have and exercise a supervisory function. However this role has not been allowed to develop in a significant way. To his credit, soon after Parliament was convened following the 11th General Elections in 2004, the Prime Minister indicated that one of his objectives was to strengthen the Dewan Rakyat. This was ostensibly to be achieved by strengthening the role of backbenchers in the Dewan Rakyat. The establishment of permanent committees would contribute significantly to the realisation of this stated objective.

Secondly, we need to have much better and more focused scrutiny of proposed legislation. This is where having permanent committees would be extremely beneficial, instead of having a committee of the whole House, which is the current practice. Examples from other legislatures around the world show that the real work of Parliament is done through the work of Parliamentary committees. However for this to succeed, the Government would have to end its current practice of classifying Parliamentary bills as official secrets and withholding them from open distribution until first reading. Members of the public and parliamentarians alike should have the opportunity to properly study proposed legislation. This is where we need a change in Parliamentary culture. In fact, given that we are entering the era of bilateral free trade agreements which may eventually contain commitments giving our trading partners the opportunity to be informed of, review and comment on proposed changes to legislation that may affect them, we should commence this change of culture by being open to the Malaysian public first.

By strengthening the power of backbenchers (both from the Government and the Opposition) to scrutinise legislation and question ministers, senior civil servants, captains of industry and other decision-makers, we will make the Executive branch more transparent and accountable. It would make for an active and participative Legislative branch working together with the Rakyat for the betterment of our country. This can only serve to strengthen Parliament, and to deepen the practice of democracy in our Nation.

The third recommendation would be to share the leadership of Parliament. With Barisan Nasional (BN) now holding only 140 seats in the Dewan Rakyat and the Pakatan Rakyat holding 82 seats, there is a perception of a greater sense of balance in this new Parliament. Now it is the turn of the Malaysian Parliament as an institution to show its own maturity in line with the aspirations of a more demanding electorate. The overriding rationale to do so is in order to ensure that, regardless of which political party (or coalition of parties) helms the government of the day, Parliament will operate on as level a playing field as possible. As it is now not inconceivable that the BN of today may be the opposition of tomorrow, it behoves the BN to work with the PR to progress towards a stronger and more mature Parliament.

The Federal Constitution does not mention the office of the Leader of the Opposition, although the same is recognised in Standing Order 4A. This is an anomaly which should immediately be put right. It is noteworthy that some state governments have amended or are in the course of amending their respective state constitutions to do this at the state assembly level. Currently Article 57 of the Federal Constitution provides for the Dewan Rakyat to have one Speaker and 2 Deputy Speakers. To better reflect the political plurality that now exists (and possibly permanently in the future) in the country, as seen from the share of the popular vote obtained by both the BN and the PR respectively, one Deputy Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat ought to come from among the ranks of the Parliamentary opposition. Given the potential for a possible change in the majority party in the Dewan Rakyat, this practice of selecting one Deputy Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat from among the ranks of the Federal opposition would serve to entrench the concept of a shared leadership of Parliament. The Speaker and Deputy Speakers are expected to be neutral and non-partisan. Indeed, once appointed Speaker and Deputy Speakers, they must forget their party political affiliation and become impartial umpires in the Dewan Rakyat, presiding and making rulings without fear or favour. A total shut-out of one side of the country’s political representation from leadership in Parliament should be avoided at all costs. Such a practice, if continued, would be detrimental to the full and fair workings of Parliament and a denial of recognition of the will of the Rakyat. It would also be unfair to the minority party, whichever that party might be.


The statement above was penned by Raja Aziz Addruse and Andrew Khoo of the Bar Council of Malaysia

Weekly News Monitor: 14th July, 2008

Malaysia immigration graft a ‘national security problem’: watchdog

In this AFP report, the ACA said rampant corruption at the immigration department was a national security problem following the arrest of seven people. Among those detained was a top immigration official who allegedly issued visas to foreign workers in exchange for money. Cash totaling more than 600,000 ringgit was seized.

ACA director general Ahmad Said Hamdan said the watchdog got wind of the scam two months ago following tip offs from the public.

“It goes right to the top. It involves the public, foreigners, government officers and also syndicates.

“This actually involves national security … and the problem is throughout the country. We have arrested a number of people and we expect to pick up more soon,” Ahmad told reporters in the northern state of Penang.

Cop vs cops in Gemas station

The Star reported that a policeman has lodged a report against all his colleagues including his superiors allegedly over dissatisfaction on how the monthly bribes from those operating illegal activities was being distributed.

In retaliation, one of his superiors, a sergeant, lodged another police report against the policeman, a lance corporal, for allegedly selling station property to scrap dealers.

A source said the lance corporal, in his 40s, was dissatisfied with his superiors for allegedly taking the lion’s share of the bribes while the rank and file received very little.

The sergeant, in an apparent tit-for-tat, lodged another report against the lance corporal alleging that he had sold some old wooden and iron furniture from the police station to a dealer.

State police chief Datuk Osman Salleh confirmed that a report has been lodged.

When an ISA detainee’s daughter dies …

Rockybru wrote about the tragic death of the daughter of an ISA detainee, who was too late to be at his daughter’s side. Permission for him to go to the hospital where his daughter lay dying was granted too late by the Home Minister.

http://rockybru.blogspot.com/2008/07/when-isa-detainees-daughter-dies.html

PM to quit in 2010

Abdullah Badawi has said at a news conference that he will leave office in 2010, defying pressure to step down this December. He also said that Najib would take over as head of the Umno party in June 2010.

The prime minister has been under intense pressure to resign over poor election results and high fuel prices. He said he had agreed with Najib to hand over power but that he first wanted the opportunity to implement reforms initiated since he took office in 2003.

“There are many things and programmes I want to achieve before I hand over and I hope that Najib will continue as my deputy in carrying this out,” he said, flanked by Najib and Umno officials.

Najib said that the announcement marked the start of an orderly transition of power.

Almost Half A Million Households Earn Less Than RM1,000 A Month

Bernama carried this report from the Dewan Rakyat.

In reply to a question by Dr Micheal Jeyakumar Devaraj (PKR-Sungai Siput) on household incomes in the country, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Tan Sri Amirsham A. Aziz said:

“A total of 498,800 households or 8.6 per cent of 5.8 million households in the country earn less than RM1,000 a month. “

He said the latest number was based on a study by the Statistics Department last year.

“The study covered rural and urban areas and involved 5.8 million households,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Amirsham said for monthly household income of between RM1,000 and RM2,000 there were 1,705,200 households or 29.4 per cent, RM2,001-RM3,000 (1,148,400 or 19.8 per cent) and RM3,001-RM4,000 (748,200 or 12.9 per cent).

He added that 731,000 households or 8.6 per cent earned RM4,001-RM5,000 a month, RM5,001-RM10,000 (916,400 or 15.8 per cent) and for RM10,001 and above (284,200 or 4.9 per cent).

MCCBCHST Press Statement: The Elangesvaran case decision Tuesday, 08 July 2008 07:28pm

This press statement was carried in the Malaysian Bar website.

The MCCBCHST is saddened to learn that yet again, the body of a person who his family members say is Hindu, is being taken away by the Islamic religious authorities to be buried according to Islamic rites based on a Syariah court order given in the absence of the family.

We are equally saddened that the State governments of Perak and Penang ignored calls to ensure that the Islamic religious authorities seek the directions of the civil courts so as to allow the non Muslim family members of the late B Elangesvaran to be heard before a decision is made on whether or not he professed and practised Islam or Hinduism at the time of his death.

Disheartening also is the attitude of the learned High Court Judge who seems to have meekly obeyed an order made by the Syariah courts despite recent Federal Court pronouncements clearly stating that the Syariah courts have no jurisdiction in any dispute where non Muslims are involved. Instead of disregarding the unconstitutional order of the Syariah court, the High Court has yet again avoided its Constitutional responsibility to ensure that justice is done.

We are also disappointed with the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Attorney General. After the fiasco of the “Everest Moorthy” body snatching, we had been promised so many times that legislative reforms will be made to ensure that situations like this will not recur. Yet, nothing has been done. No attempts have been made to make meaningful changes although there has been a lot of talk of reform.

The nation cannot long survive a continuation of these gross injustices. It is rather poignant that it was the Regent of Perak who famously said last year that all of us have a place under the Malaysian sun. For the family of Elangesvaran living in Perak, the words of their Regent rings hollow.

Their right to have their say in Court has been held by the Federal and State governments, the Ipoh High Court, the Ipoh Syariah court and the Islamic religious authorities to be worthless.

Datuk A. Vaithilingam,
MCCBCHST PRESIDENT

08.07.2008

Mother Of Three Becomes Pahang’s CPO

With her apointment as Pahang CPO, a mother of three, Robiah Abdul Ghani has become the country’s first female chief police officer. Her 35-year journey in the police force began in 1971 when she became a probationary inspector rising to platoon commander of the country’s first women PFF (Police Field Force) in 1973 before being posted to the management department at HQ in Bukit Aman. She served in several departments including the serious crimes division in CID and the narcotics department before heading the disciplinary department. She expressed hope that her promotion would raise the morale of other female police officers and asked all concerned to help reduce crime in the state.

Parents, Grandparents Put Aside RM 116.3 Million For Children’s Education

Since the inception of the national education savings scheme in 2004, some 412,404 accounts have been opened with deposits amounting to RM116.3 million in May 2008. Fifty percent of these accounts belong to kampung folks. In revealing this, CEO of the National Higher Education Corporation (PTPTN) Yunos Abdul Ghani also told the story of a 80-year old grandmother who invested RM30,000 for her two grandchildren’s education.

However, the savings scheme started rather slowly with only 15,551 accounts in 2004. In 2005, there were 17,937 new accounts and 51,107 new accounts in 2006. With better promotion campaigns, 180,130 new accounts were added in 2007 and then 147,679 new accounts by May this year. If the trend for 2008 continues, it is anticipated that the year will record a total of 400,000 new accounts. For further information of this savings scheme and its benefits, go to http://www.ptptn.gov.my/web/english/home

Inability To Answe Maths Question Results In Inability To Walk

In Kuala Klawang, Negri Sembilan, 17-year old Nurlieyana Nazran failed to answer a maths question addressed to her. The teacher caned her on her buttocks. This might have compounded an injury the girl had sustained in an earlier fall. The girl is now in Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban and is unable to walk. State education director, Abdullah Mohamad, promised a full investigation into the incident expressing his hope that teachers will abide by the guidelines on caning students, especially girls. Meanwhile, the teacher concerned had visited the girl and her family to convey her apologies.

Uncertainties Loom Over Hari Raya Travel

Will they or won’t they? There is serious uncertainty over whether express bus operators will offer advance ticket sales for Hari Raya break travellers come October. Express bus operators have been anxious about not receiving the full amount of daily subsidised diesel promised by the government in June. The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry said they were still awaiting instructions from the Finance Ministry. Speaking about this, Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Datuk Ashfar Ali said that it might take another three months before operators could receive the full subsidy quota. Ashfar said that if operators cannot absorb the costs in the coming three months they might have to cease operations altogether and this would lead to serious problems if they could not carry out the services for which advance ticket sales have been made. Not being able to purchase advance tickets will disrupt the plans of thousands of would-be Hari Raya travellers and jeopardize their chances of going home to their kampungs to be with their families.

Nervous Breakdown Should Have Insurance Coverage

Since lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, migraine, arthritis and diabetes are already eligible for insurance cover, why not mental disorders? This is the issue raised by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) citing that such a facility is already available in developed countries. NIOSH is concerned that employees suffering from nervous breakdown are still having to pay their own medical expenses since their employers’ insurance plan did not cover illness which is mental in nature.

It’s All In The Game

Yes; that is what politics is all about: the pursuit of power. Of course, they talk about causes and struggles. But the ‘cause’ is simple: the pursuit of power. And the ‘struggle’ is merely a power struggle, nothing more, nothing less.

You may have been facing a lot of problems getting into our site since more than a week ago. First, a hacker hit us and you probably saw a picture of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in battle fatigues on our front page. That, basically, was a message from my adversaries that they ‘know’ Mahathir is behind Malaysia Today.

Yes, since mid-2006, I have been meeting Mahathir in his house, his Petronas office at the KLCC, as well as his office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya. I am also very close to other Mahathir loyalists such as Sufi and Matthias, not to mention his children, in particular Mukhriz and Marina. Malaysia Today also co-sponsored the first dialogue with Mahathir in the Kelab Century Paradise two years ago when he ‘declared war’ on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and the day he launched his first strike. Further to that, Malaysia Today webcasted, live, Mahathir’s talk in Kota Bharu, the day he was attacked with mace.

Many, Anwar Ibrahim included, say that I have now ‘turned’ and have sold out to Mahathir. They view my ‘relationship’ with Mahathir as suspect and can only be because I now ‘serve a new master’. The talk in town is that I have had a falling out with Anwar and that is why I have now ‘crossed-over’ to Mahathir. Or maybe I am so short of cash so I have ‘sold my soul’ to Mahathir for a great sum of money.

How narrow-minded these people are. If you are with me, then you are a great guy. But if you are with the ‘other side’, then you must have sold out for money. Why is it if I openly express my support for Anwar then I am a great guy? Could it not be I am supporting Anwar because I have been paid a lot of money? Why when I support Anwar I am doing it free-of-charge and for a cause, but if I support Mahathir instead, then it can only be for money and for no other reason. Can’t I also support Anwar and ‘sell my soul’ to Anwar for money as well? But, no! If I support Anwar it can never be for money. It can only be for the cause. Only if I support Mahathir can it be for money.

Actually, I do not support either Anwar or Mahathir. The personalities are not who I support. I support the issues. And that is what all our readers should do as well: support the issues, not the person. People come and go. People change. People ‘cross over’. How can we support one person and then oppose that person when he or she changes his or her stand. If we support the person, then we should support the person all the way, even when that person crosses over. The fact that we will abandon someone when that person changes his or her stand or crosses over means we do not support him or her as such but only what he or she stands for.

Take Ezam Mohd Noor as an example. He was revered when he opposed Umno and fought against corruption. He was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and was jailed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) even before his ISA detention could end. He was considered a hero. Many stood by him. But when he resigned from the party and later joined Umno, he was defiled and called a traitor. That means most people never really supported him. They supported what he stood for. But when he changed his stand and crossed over to Umno, the support ended. He is now a man hated by the very people who treated him like a demigod all this while.

It is dangerous to support someone for personality cult reasons. You only support his or her cause or stand. And if his or her cause dovetails with yours, well and fine. If not, then you must be matured and civilised enough to disagree, while continuing to respect his or her cause or stand, in spite of it being opposite to yours. In that same spirit, you may not like that person, but if his or her cause is the same as yours, you must be able to see eye-to-eye only as far as the cause or stand is concerned, while you can agree to disagree on all other issues which you feel are contrary to yours.

My cause or stand is simple. I am not anti-government. I am not also pro-government. Barisan Nasional is the government at federal level and in many of the states. Pakatan Rakyat, in turn, is the government in five states. In that sense, both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat are simultaneously the government as well as the opposition, depending on where you happen to be at that point of time. What I am is I am pro-rakyat and anti-exploitation of rakyat. It does not matter who the government is. Be it Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, my stand remains the same for both.

Both sides of the political divide have been grossly exploiting the rakyat these last 51 years. Be it Umno, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PKR, DAP, PAS, or any of the other dozen or so political parties, they have used the rakyat in their political game and in the pursuit of power. Yes; that is what politics is all about: the pursuit of power. Of course, they talk about causes and struggles. But the ‘cause’ is simple: the pursuit of power. And the ‘struggle’ is merely a power struggle, nothing more, nothing less.

Never mind who they are. Never mind who is leading these various political parties. They all aim for one thing: to get into power. And they will use the rakyat to gain power because only the rakyat can give them this power. The rakyat is lied to. The rakyat is cheated. The rakyat is being made a fool. And the gullible rakyat will swallow everything the politicians say; hook, line and sinker; thinking that those who offer themselves to serve the rakyat do so for only one reason, to serve the rakyat, whereas serving the rakyat is the farthest thing from their minds.

Today, we are divided like we have never been divided before. Sure, we have not seen a race riot the likes of ‘May 13’ for almost 40 years now. But this does not mean we love each other. It only means we still hate each other but we are too scared to do anything about it lest we suffer reprisals. Even in the opposition they still talk about race. They still demand race-based quotas. So Barisan Nasional is not the only culprit in this race game. Everyone is equally guilty.

Sure, Barisan Nasional plays the race game to the hilt. But the opposition doesn’t really mind. In fact, they love it because the more Barisan Nasional plays the race game the more they can exploit the issue to their benefit. Does the opposition want the race game to end? Of course they do not. If Barisan Nasional stops playing the race game then what is the opposition going to use against the ruling coalition? No, Barisan Nasional must continue playing the race game, never mind how dangerous this may be. It helps the opposition when Barisan Nasional plays the race game. The opposition can then continue harping on how bad Barisan Nasional is to get the support of the rakyat who hate this race game.

If the opposition is not also playing the race game why does it matter who is the Menteri Besar or Chief Minister? Does it matter if he is Malay, Chinese or Indian? Does it even matter if it is a he or she? And why must there be five Malay, three Chinese and two Indian EXCO Members? Why can’t all EXCO Members be of one race? So we have ten Indian EXCO members and a Chinese Menteri Besar in a ‘Malay’ state. So what? Why make a big deal out of it?

But no, the positions must be race-based and must be according to the ‘agreed race quota’. Anything less will be unacceptable. To do otherwise means the coalition needs to be disbanded. We will cooperate only if our race is represented. And no other race can represent us. Someone from our own race must be that representative. And this is the opposition talking, not Barisan Nasional.

Yes, the rakyat is being exploited. And everyone is exploiting the rakyat, both sides of the political divide. And both sides benefit when the race game continues. No, the opposition does not want to see race-based politics end. It is of no benefit to the opposition if the race game ends. The opposition becomes stronger when racial politics escalates. On the other hand, the opposition would become irrelevant if racial politics ends.

So, no, I am not pro-opposition or anti-government, or the other way around. I am pro-rakyat and anti-exploitation of the rakyat. And both sides are playing the same game so how can I align myself to any one side? Be it Anwar or Mahathir — or Pak Lah, Najib, Ku Li, etc. — the same applies. And thus far no one appears to have abandoned the race game. So, until they do, we must think of the rakyat first and these leaders second. And that means I will continue meeting all these leaders, irrespective of who they are. But this in no way means I am favouring one over the other. Meeting them just means I want to know how they tick. And Malaysia Today will continue offering itself as a platform for them to speak out, even if I do not agree with what they stand for.

Anyway, in the meantime, I have other pressing problems on my mind. Malaysia Today is still very sluggish and extremely difficult to access. Our team is trying to resolve the matter and has been working around the clock for more than a week in an attempt to tackle the problem. It may mean we have to invest more money, which I do not have, into upgrading our facilities. Compounding this problem is the ‘road-block’ we are facing. The government is blocking our site and this makes the task even more complex.

Is that bad news or good news? I suppose the good news is the government views us a real threat, warranting the special operation to shut us down. The bad news is if I can’t overcome the problem then the government may win in the end. At this point of time I seriously do not know what the end result is going to be.


This post was first published in Malaysia Today by Raja Petra Kamaruddin. It is reproduced here with permission.

Weekly News Monitor: 7th July, 2008

No Escape From National Service

Those who had previously requested deferment from national service to complete their studies must now notify the NS Department of their whereabouts. These 21,000 youths will sooner or later have to report for training. According to the National Service Act, until they reach the age of 35, individuals can still be called back for NS. The names of another 5,000 youths who did not report for NS training when called upon have been given over to the police and may face possible police action. In devulging this, NS Department director-general Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang Kecil also said that some 992 youths who were selected for the forthcoming third batch of training have been granted a deferment because of medical reasons. Some 279 of them have been found to suffer from asthma while others are having severe migraine, gastritis and blood pressure problems. In a further move to assuage the anxieties of parents, for the forthcoming batch of training, all 85 NS camps will have open day every two weeks to enable parents to meet up with their children.

ACA’s Performance Below Par

Of the 71,558 cases reported to the Anti-Corruption Agency between 2000-2006, only 7,223 or 10.1% have been investigated to date. Out of these 7,223 cases, only 2,905 people or 4.1% have been arrested, 1,287 or 1.8% were charged or prosecuted, and only 524 or 0.7% were actually convicted. In revealing this, Pemudah co-chairman Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon said that according to World Bank statistics, up to four percent of the country’s growth rate could be undermined by corrupt practices. This would be translated to a loss of RM10 billion. Pemudah has been set up by the government as a special task force to facilitate business. In contrast to ACA’s performance, Yong pointed to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong saying that for the same period, 2000-2006, ICAC investigated 21,649 or 77.2% of the 28,057 reported resulting in 6,321 or 29.2% arrests. According to Yong, whereas the Hong Kong government spends close to RM40 per capita, Malaysia only spends a mere RM5 per capita on anti-corruption efforts.

NGO’s May Get More Money

In an apparent recognition that NGO’s in the country have expanded over the years reaching out to a lot of Malaysians in their services especially to the lower income group, Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop hinted that the federal government may be planning to allocate more funds to them in the coming year’s budget. He said that NGO’s already have the infrastructure and network in place and therefore it would make good sense for the government to tap on their delivery systems to reach the public. Acknowledging that the government might not have given NGO’s a significant enough role in the past, it was now realising that the contributions of NGO’s could be better utilised to benefit the people.

Critical Illness Cases Among Teachers On The Rise

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) has said that there has been an upward trend in teachers contracting critical illnesses. According to its statistics, NUTP said that from just 75 cases in 2004, 100 in 2005, 106 in 2006 and 125 in 2007, in January-June 2008 alone, already 38 cases of critical illnesses have been reported among its members and insurance claims which was paid out amounted to RM2.1 million. NUTP attributed this rise in critical illnesses to increasing workload and work-related stress. In this respect, NUTP urges that stern action should be taken against state and district-levels officers who failed to properly implement the Public Sector Manpower Training Policy.

Anwar alleges black-eye case evidence falsified

The Sun reported on July 1 that Anwar Ibrahim had lodged a police report alleging that several senior government officials were involved in fabricating evidence in the 1998 black-eye case. The report alleged, among others, that:

  • the investigating officer ACP Mat Zain Ibrahim (now Datuk) had conducted a thorough investigation and prepared an investigation paper (IP) which was given by October 1998 to the former Attorney General, the late Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, and his team which included Gani.
  • the IP concluded that Rahim Noor was the prepetrator of the assault, based on a thorough investigation which included the medical reports by KL Hospital forensic specialists such as Dr Ab Halim Mansar and Dr Zahari Noor and statement from at least 60 witnesses.
  • the medical reports concluded that the injury inflicted on Anwar was consistent with an assault.
  • despite the contents of the IP and medical reports already available, Mohtar with the assistance of Gani procured the services of Dr Abdul Rahman Yusof, who in an undated and second report speaks of a ‘reconstruction of the scene’ on Dec 14 that year.
  • it is an undisputable fact that Dr Rahman’s reports in relation to the assault on Anwar were done without actually examining him.
  • Mohtar in a press statement on Jan 5, 1999 appeared to accept the views of Dr Rahman on the so-called “inconsistencies” in the other medical reports by the doctors who had actually, physically examined Anwar.
  • Mohtar’s press statement stated that the investigation which had been carried out did not identify the person or persons responsible for his injuries. This was inconsistent with the IP which had already concluded in October 1998 that it was Rahim Noor who assaulted him.

Wan Azizah says opposition can oust BN by Sept 16

The Malaysian Insider reported on July 2 that Pakatan Rakyat remains confident of taking over the reins of government by September 16.

“Well, optimistically, I think we can keep to the deadline,” said Parliamentary Opposition leader Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife and president of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat leading the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

“The expectations are very high from the people,” she told the Reuters in an interview this evening.

Saying that any change of power would be smooth and peaceful, she added “We don’t want to have any upheaval or turmoil … We don’t want to have the feeling of uneasiness.”

High Court Rejects Election Petitions For Kuala Kangsar And Kubu Gajah Seats

In a July 4 article, Bernama reported that the High Court on Friday rejected two petitions to annul the election results for the Kuala Kangsar parliamentary and Kubu Gajah state seats. The Kuala Kangsar seat was won by Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and the Kubu Gajah seat by Datuk Seri Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar.

Judicial Review Over Herald’s Use Of Word ‘Allah’ Set For Mention On July 9

In another July 4 article, Bernama reported that July 9 has been fixed for mention of the judicial review sought by the archbishop of Kuala Lumpur to challenge the Home Ministry decision to prohibit the use of word “Allah” in a Catholic weekly publication.

The court will also hear applications by four state Islamic religious councils and the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council to become interveners and named as respondents in the review hearing on the same day.

The four Islamic religious councils are of Perak, Federal Territories, Terengganu and Penang while the gurdwaras council represents the Sikh community.

Syariah court declares deceased a Muslim

The dispute over whether Elangesvaran Benedict, who commited suicide recently, was a muslim took on a new twist. The NST on July 5 reported that although he matter was supposed to be decided at the High Court in George Town yesterday afternoon, the religious authorities jumped the gun and obtained a declaration from the Parit Buntar Syariah Court in the morning.

The Syariah court declared that the deceased, Elangesvaran Benedict, was a Muslim.

The matter was decided by the court despite the fact that Elangesvaran’s wife, who had been named as a respondent in the case, was not present in the Syariah court.

This raised the wrath of Elangesvaran’s family who had gathered at the High Court here.

Malaysian police on global manhunt for investigator who stirred politics with sex claim

P Balasubramaniam shocked the nation with a Statutory Declaration linking the DPM to Altantuya and then issuing another Statutory Declaration the next day refuting the points in the first declaration. The International Herald Tribune, in a story dated July 6 said that Malaysian police has launched an international manhunt for him as he and his family have gone missing soon after releasing the second Statutory Declaration.

Balasubramaniam Perumal is believed to have gone into hiding, or is being hidden by unidentified parties, Malaysian Criminal Investigation Department director Bakri Zinin told reporters.

Bakri urged Balasubramaniam to come out of hiding, saying he has nothing to fear. “I give a guarantee of his safety if he comes to meet us. And he is free to bring a lawyer to the meeting,” he said.

“The police in the country have been put on alert to find him. We have informed Interpol … as well as the police in neighboring countries,” said Bakri.

“We are investigating all the reports … we are seeking the public’s help to find Balasubramaniam because even the (nephew) … is not giving us his full cooperation,” Bakri said.

Trial of Irene Fernandez, Director of Tenaganita postponed to August 5, 2008 at the High Court 5, Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur

Irene went back to court today to see how the High Court will proceed with the trial since the lost notes of evidence have been recovered. In the open court, the defence counsel, Mr. M Puravalen asked the Judge to assist the court and the public to understand how the notes of evidence that had been lost for sometime, was recovered suddenly even after the deadline to find the missing notes ended on May 12, 2008.

Yang Arif Hakim Dato’ Haji Mohamad Apandi Bin Haji Ali said he could not clarify as the lower courts had not done so. The registrar at the lower courts had only sent a letter stating that the lost notes were found without any further explanation. He read out the letter. He went on to say that it was an administrative issue and thus the response should come from the chief registrar of the courts. The Judge requested the defence counsel to write a formal letter.

We understand that the court system includes the administration, the officers of the court and the judges. Each one is an integral part of the system to ensure justice and cannot be separated. If one arm is not functioning, like the administration aspect, then the administrative of justice will be severely affected. Thus it is fundamental that all, including the judge is concerned how the system functions and managed.

The non explanation as to how the courts administration has bungled the process and delayed the hearings will now form an important point and reason for the appeal. Thus the appeal statement will now be amended, said Puravalen, the defence counsel.

The courts require at least four weeks to get the notes of evidence to be typed and then certified for the appeal record. It will take 4 weeks. Then 2 weeks to verify the notes by the Defence and Prosecution. The next date for mention of the case will be on August 5, 2008.

Irene Fernandez was convicted to 12 months imprisonment by the magistrates court on October 16, 2003 under the Printing Presses and Publication Act for publishing false news when she exposed the horrific conditions and torture of detainees at Immigration detention camps, in 1995. Five years after the conviction and the appeal being filed, the notes of evidence have yet to be typed and the appeal records put in order. The question remains,”How long more for justice to be seen to be done and realized?”

Irene’s bail has been extended. She will get her passport from the court to facilitate her travel to Hong Kong for the inaugural meeting of International Migrant Alliance. Irene will give the keynote address at this founding assembly of IMA where over 200 delegates from over 100 organizations from 40 countries will found the International Migrant Alliance (IMA) on June 15, 2008.

Florida Sandanasamy
Director
Tenaganita

Reject Calls For The Use of Armed Forces In The Preservation of Public Order

We, the undersigned civil society groups view with deep consternation and dismay at a report carried by the local print media yesterday. It disclosed that members of the police and the armed forces were carrying out joint security exercises at the Police College in Cheras. The report stated that such joint security exercises focused on a possible deployment in the Klang Valley in response to demonstrations in the event of an emergency having to be declared.

The civil society groups call on the Government to firmly reject any proposal to deploy the armed forces to assist the police in maintaining order during any public rally, be it the one planned for Sunday or any other. This unprecedented measure is evidence that some of those in authority over the police and armed forces in this country are unable or unwilling to comprehend the right of citizens in this country to peaceably exercise their fundamental liberties. Any such proposal to deploy the armed forces in this manner wrongly conveys the impression to both the Malaysians and the world at large that the country is already in a state of crisis or in imminent danger of falling apart. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It will also make the recent statement of the Prime Minister that the security situation in the country is under control rings hollow. This will raise doubts about the Prime Minister’s ability to provide positive leadership and to rein in irresponsible or mischievous elements within his own government who are attempting to fabricate a situation of insecurity in order to advance their own selfish political agendas. Previous rallies however have been held peacefully without the need for any presence of army personnel.

Since 8 March 2008, our country has moved forward in her journey to a more democratic plural society. This can only be for the greater good. There are those who say that our country would suffer unless there is political stability, and by this they mean to be ruled by an authoritarian government. Those who thrived under the authoritarianism of the past would have us believe that the various expressions of politically-diverse views, whether by way of rallies, demonstrations or even intellectual debates and discussions at public forums, represent a breakdown of public order. Such exercise of citizen’s democratic rights is perceived as therefore a threat to the security of this country and necessitates strong-arm tactics such as the deployment of the armed forces in what would essentially be the work of crowd-control.

We say that what our country needs, in order to progress and prosper, is a well-entrenched democracy. A free and fair society and an open democracy are crucial to our long-term peace and stability. It is these that will ultimately promote harmonious living, investor confidence and economic prosperity. In this regard therefore, individuals or groups making or supporting calls for involving the armed forces in the preservation of public order are doing a grave disservice to our country and the economy.

We strongly urge the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to immediately assure the Malaysian public that the army would not be deployed in civilian matters and take to task those who are causing unnecessary alarm and concern and seemingly conniving in the disruption of peace and normal life in order to fulfill their personal agenda.

We urge all groups and concerned citizens to make similar calls and send a loud and clear message that any compromise of constitutional democracy will not be tolerated and must not be even contemplated.

  • All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  • Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  • Center for Orang Asli Concerns
  • Civil Society Initiatives for Parliamentary Reform (CSI-Parliament)
  • Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
  • Community Development Center (CDC)Empower
  • Group of Concerned Citizens
  • Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  • Jawatankuasa Kabajikan Mahasiswa/I (JKMI)
  • Labour Resource Center (LRC)
  • LLG Cultural Development Center
  • Malaysian Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
  • Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation (MSN)
  • National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI)
  • Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor (PERMAS)
  • Pusat Kommunikasi Masyarakat (Pusat Komas)
  • Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
  • Sahabat Wanita
  • Sisters in Islam
  • Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  • Tenaganita
  • Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)
  • Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI)
  • Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
  • Youth for Change (Y4C)
  • Youth Section of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

For any inquiry, please kindly contact spoke person Mr. Yunus Ali (Chairperson of NIEI), mobile phone no: 019-3631438.

Ensure Policies Provide Fair Economic Opportunity to all Malaysians

The Centre for Public Policy Studies does not share the view of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s assertion that the government’s drive for restructuring the country’s economy will not be to the detriment of the non-Bumiputera communities. The government’s redistribution policies have always been predicated on the principle of an expanding pie, but in practice, the gains stemming from government intervention in the economy have gone overwhelmingly to a limited segment of the Bumiputera community.

Non-Bumiputera participation in the government’s economic agenda is by default overwhelmingly limited by policies that explicitly or otherwise limit the expansion of non-Bumiputera businesses. The awards of government contracts (both closed and negotiated), licenses and permits are overwhelmingly skewed in favour of Bumiputera firms presently. This limits the opportunities non-Bumiputera entrepreneurs have to expand, especially in industries where government demand is a major factor. The ultimate result is that while the pie may expand, only certain favoured individuals and organisations — mainly Bumiputera-dominated — truly see significant gains.

The government’s commitment to eradicate socio-economic inequalities as stated by Najib can be achieved by fair and equitable access to economic opportunities. The procurement process for government contracts should be transparent, ensuring the government can be held accountable for policies which unduly benefit any party. The government could be working to increase the limited opportunities of the majority of non-Bumiputera entrepreneurs, acting without fear or favour towards any community or individual.

The Centre for Public Policy Studies calls on the government to review current policies limiting fair and equitable economic opportunity to all Malaysians, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss and refine such policies in a constructive approach. These revisions need to be consistent with changing times and globalisation 50 years after independence, and 37 years after the introduction of affirmative action policies. These positive and constructive policy revisions and improvement of implementation processes will contribute greatly to enhancing national unity in the country.

Tan Sri Ramon V. Navaratnam, Chairman; and
Tricia Yeoh, Director,
Centre for Public Policy Studies
Kuala Lumpur
1st July 2008

For more enquiries, please contact:
Tricia Yeoh: tricia_yeoh[at]cpps.org.my
Tel: +603-20932820/20934209
Fax: +603-20933078