Politicking Part 2

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It is quite confusing actually, statements heard in the past week or so, especially when some are viewed against the earlier decisions made by opposition man Anwar Ibrahim. On the one hand he scoffed at the idea that foreign experts may be brought in if and when the sodomy allegation against him goes a step further into the courts but on the other his lawyers talked about having independent verification if Anwar was to submit to DNA sampling.

To end off last week let's recap some of the more significant decisions and statements made to hopefully allow us to make an informed opinion and judgement.

In talking about the involvement of independent parties, Anwar's lawyer and PKR vice-president R. Sivarasa also gave a condition -- the police must not be involved. This was as good as saying "nothing is going to happen/it is status quo, i.e. Anwar will not voluntarily submit to DNA testing" because the police will have to be involved. If they can't be involved who else is empowered by law and has the expertise to handle the investigations? Think about it.

In explaining why Anwar was not prepared to give a blood sample for DNA testing, Sivarasa repeated the claim that there was tampering/fabrication of evidence during the 1998 case against his client. If indeed there was tampering/fabrication how can they in the same breath suggest that the police should use the DNA sample from 10 years ago? I can foresee another allegation later being thrown at the police and prosecutors if the old sample was used, should the case go to court: "We cannot rely on the 1998 sample because since it has been kept by the police for so long, how are we to know it has not been tampered with?"

My question to everyone reading this posting is this: "If you don't trust someone at all, in this case the police, would you then lodge a report with the police, especially one against the national police chief himself?" I don't think you would but not Anwar.

The statement by Sivarasa on Friday made clear their position on the police and yet in the last three weeks Anwar had made at least two reports which would require the involvement of the police to investigate. The first on June 30 was a defamation suit filed at the High Court against his former election worker and accuser Mohd. Saiful. It said that the police report lodged by Saiful was intended to harm Anwar and destroy him politically.

A day later Anwar lodged a police report alleging that Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan and Attorney-General Gani Patail had cooked up evidence over Anwar's beating while under police custody in 1998.

Then last Thursday, after being released by the police, Anwar claimed that the night before he was asked to strip by staff at the KL Hospital to facilitate the basic medical check-up on him. Anwar alleged that he was asked to strip, had his private parts checked and measured. The hospital has since officially denied that anything like this had taken place, that he was briefed about the check-up in the presence of his lawyer and his consent obtained. You decide who's telling the truth. I know who I want to believe in because I can't see how a limp penis (that is measured) has any significance in relation to Saiful's allegation.

Another issue that was made to look contentious by Anwar was the failure of the police to give him a copy of Saiful's police report. He would go on to say that he thus would not give a report that would allow the police to amend and amend Saiful's report into the perfect report that would do Anwar in. But were Anwar given a copy of that report, would that not allow him to come up with a version of events that could render Saiful's report useless?

Anyway Deputy IGP Ismail Omar on Friday clarified when Anwar would get a copy of the report, citing Section 51A of the Criminal Procecure Code.

It's also worth looking again at what Anwar had said at a rally days after Saiful's allegation, should the case go to court. He was reported to have said that he would like to see credible judges handling it or otherwise he would throw the files at them. Whose standards shall we apply; whose opinions will eventually decide which judge should hear the case? Those of Anwar and his legal team? Hmm......

Peace..peace...and peace.

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It's a hunch which I'm hoping will turn out to be correct, that the developments we see today are a start to the first of many phases that will eventually bring closure to a tumultuous period in Malaysian history and from then on, better times for the people.I have a feeling that we will be able to enjoy more peace and quiet from now on.

It is crucial too that the government does better in crisis management because from commentaries in cyberspace and letters to the mainstream media it's obvious that the people are clamouring for a more decisive and strong leadership. A leadership that through it's statements and actions can give the people a peace of mind, that they are being led by people who know how to manage politics, the economy and provide convincing solutions to problems. Act with firmness and fairness, apply the rule of law equally to everyone, discard any signs of bias especially due to political differences.

But in listening to the people and in trying to do what the people want, the government must also remember that the public is not always right and trying to meet every demand by the public is not necessarily what a responsible government must do religiously.

Having read some of the commentaries relating to the politics of Anwar Ibrahim, I sometimes wonder if some people really know what is it they want the government to do and how they expect the police to enforce the law.

On the one hand you have a situation where people say the police must be the first to respect the rule of law and on the other you have those, including some amongst the former, who question if certain police actions are necessary although they are in accordance with the law. Treat someone special and they cry foul but apply the rules and they say the police should be more tactful.

That's why I always maintain that governance is never easy, although it appears like a piece of cake from the outside. Just ask the opposition politicians who are now administering Penang, Perak, Kedah and Selangor. As they say, criticising is always easy.

Many commentators have pointed to the fact that Anwar was freed by the Federal Court in 2004 on a sodomy charge to insinuate that the case was politically motivated and that the charge was trumped up. Yes, it is generally agreed that both the police and the prosecution did a bad job but read the judgement in full and you will understand the 2-1 court decision better.

One online commentary today quoted unnamed Barisan Nasional politicians as saying that it would have been better if the report by Mohd. Saiful alleging sodomy by Anwar had not been made because they thought that Anwar was not making much progress in his attempts to convince Barisan MPs to join his Pakatan Rakyat to allow him to one day become prime minister and that cracks were beginning to appear in the opposition coalition. In short, the allegation is not beneficial to the Barisan.

We don't know if indeed the writer spoke to Barisan politicians but again this in a way is suggesting that politics is involved. But this is not about politics. Many of my friends and I don't think so because if the government was going to find a way to try and put Anwar in jail as a way to kill off his political ambitions for good, it would have looked for another offence to charge him with because sodomy, unlike conventional rape, is very, very tough to prove.

But as a citizen Saiful has every right to lodge a report to the police, who then have to investigate. Charge someone with weak or made up evidence and the court will let the accused ago. That doesn't do the government any good, so to suggest that the government would do this just to fix someone is to me a preposterous suggestion.

A photo of Anwar's arrest outside his home in Segambut today showed at least one cop with a gun and wearing a balaclava. It may appear wrong to some people for the police to do it this way but there were security issues involved. A police method such as this one is not peculiar to the Malaysian police. It is a standard method with police forces all over the world. Go back to that day in the year 2000 in Miami when the police moved into the house of Cuban immigrants to take way six-year-old Elian Gonzalez to be sent back to Cuba to be reunited with his father. What were the cops wearing and carrying as a means of protection?

Samy: MIC members will choose my successor

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It remains a mystery as who will succeed MIC president S Samy Vellu as he admits that he has no succession plan in place.

Speaking at a press conference after addressing the party's 62nd general assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur this morning, Samy said he will leave it to the grassroots to choose their next leader.

"The grassroots can elect their next leader. When there is an election, the question of 'automatic' (succession) goes off. I don't think anything can happen without an election," he told reporters.

"We want everybody to think that finally it is the members who are going to elect the president," he said referring to the 3,600 delegates who will have their say in electing the president come March next year.

He also clarified that branches are free to elect whoever they want as their leaders and he will not object to it.

Asked on his readiness to step down after the abysmal showing of MIC in the last elections, Samy deflected the idea by saying that the embattled Indian-based party is in the process of a "strong rejuvenation".

"I don't know if that sort of a thing can happen now. I could have just dropped the party and walked away. But I don't want to see MIC destroyed," he explained.

Previously, in the 2006 party election, Samy had openly voiced his support for his former press secretary, G Palanivel to be deputy president.

Palanivel eventually stood against incumbent S Subramaniam and won. However, with Samy Vellu's statement today that there is no succession plan in place, it might pose another deep-seated problem for the beleaguered party.

MIC is the only major party in the Barisan Nasional without a clear succession plan as both MCA and Umno have announced theirs in recent days.

"I have to engage with overseas experts to draw my succession plan since you are so interested," Samy joked in response to repeated questions on the leadership transition in the party.

There appears to be no frontrunner for Samy's successor. In a Malaysiakini poll yesterday participated by 5,109 readers, 22 percent voted for Subramaniam while Palanivel ended up a distant third with 3.1 percent.

Grassroots must behave like grassroots

In his keynote address earlier, the MIC president started on a stiff note saying that "grassroots should behave like grassroots", in apparent reference to the 'walk-out" of some delegates at a party dinner last night.

In the incident, it is learnt that Samy's ire started with party information chief M Saravanan leaving the function hall early, after having stayed for only 15 minutes. His followers also left with him. This resulted in an annoyed Samy to also leave the dinner early.

Saravanan, who is the deputy federal territory minister, confirmed with the Star today that he had left early “as there was no protocol at the dinner.”

He added that he was cheesed off because [former deputy president] S Subramaniam was seated at the main table with other MIC leaders and prominent Indian businessmen.

“As the party's information chief and deputy minister, I was not given due respect,” Saravanan said, adding that “I don't know on what basis Subramaniam was given prominence as he is just a division leader."

On the incident, Samy indicated to reporters that some media would twist it as a sign of protest to his leadership.

"What actually happened was that the moment they finished eating, they left while others were still dining.

"If they are that unhappy with Samy Vellu, they wouldn't be here today," he laughed.

In his speech, Samy also highlighted five main issues faced by the Indian community that require urgent government attention.

The areas of concern are transportation licensing, agro-businesses, small and medium enterprises, metal scrap dealing and vendor development and entrepreneurship.

He pledged MIC's solidarity with the Barisan Nasional, adding that "the BN are the guardians of the multiracial society in Malaysia".

He however urged BN to do away with racial politics in order to win back support from the people.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who opened the assembly stressed that MIC is an old friend and BN will stand by the party.

"Whatever the difficulties and whatever the failures, we have to look at all of this (referring to general election results) as a lesson to learn from. It is not a tragedy, it is a lesson," he said.

The prime minster also spoke about the four issues plaguing the government's administration.

"We have to work very hard together to resolve issues such as the fuel price hike, rising inflation, world food crisis and competition for the global market," he added.

Samy: Different style of politics

Commenting on the determination to rebrand the party, Samy pointed out that MIC had won many times, "so what is the distress that we have lost once". This drew enthusiastic cheers from the delegates.

The MIC supremo who has led the party for 29 years then referred to an age old Tamil proverb which translates that "the only way to learn hard lessons is through experience, no matter how painful".

He subsequently said that a change is needed in the style of politics but conceded that rebranding would be a mammoth task which must be implemented.

"It's a very big exercise to convert (the members) to new thinking," he confessed.

Commenting on Abdullah's plan to hand over the premiership to his deputy Najib Razak in 2010, Samy quipped that the duo are "good partners".

However he implied that MIC did not have much role in the decision- making process.

"Although we are partners in Barisan Nasional, we can only see what is happening. We are not active participants. Still it is their (Umno) decision," lamented Samy.

PM has good news for Tamil schools

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Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today announced immediate steps to enhance education among Indian students, either at school or university level, for the long-term benefit of the country's third largest community.

He said among others, the government had agreed to turn more partly-aided Tamil schools, many of which are in the rural areas, into fully-aided schools.

"The government will also speed up the process of merging and consolidating the Tamil schools that have less than 50 students," he said in his speech when opening the 62nd MIC general assembly in Kuala Lumpur today.

According to Bernama, the prime minister said the government also agreed that students from the MIC-run Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology (AIMST) University in Kedah would be allowed to apply for scholarships from the Public Services Department.

Fifth private U to enjoy facility

The move will make AIMST University the fifth private university to enjoy such a facility after institutions like the Monash University, Swinburne University and the University of Nottingham, among others.

The BN chief said the government would also assist the AIMST University to increase its student population in critical fields such as engineering and medical - a move which Abdullah said would help push the university's standard to a higher level.

He said such a recognition would indirectly result in more Indian students taking courses at the university, of which main campus was under construction on a 156-hectare site in Semeling, Kedah.

The AIMST University now operates at its temporary campus in Bandar Aman Jaya, Sungai Petani.

Abdullah said the government was giving emphasis to education in the efforts to help the community because the success of future generation would depend on human capital development through skills enhancement training and education.

Earlier, the prime minister asked all quarters to really understand why the Barisan Nasional government had to implement measures regarded as unpopular, such as restructuring the fuel price subsidy which resulted in higher prices for petrol and diesel.

Responsibility, not popularity

He said the measures, some of which had made the people angry with the government, had to be implemented to ensure that the people were not burdened for the long term.

"Every decision may have not been popular but we had to resort to implementing them all the same because the government has to assume the responsibility in the interests of the people and country," he said.

Abdullah pointed out that the BN government was not prepared to neglect the responsibility it had been entrusted with by being popular through the introduction of measures that did not bring any benefit to the people.

"It is stupid for the government to seek to be unpopular. Why should we do something to be unpopular? Why must we do something for the people to get angry and condemn us? Why?

"We feel we don't want all that but what we want to do is something that we must do. We took those measures not to become popular.

"We cannot be popular but we must be responsible to the people and the nation," he said.

Abdullah added that the BN government was striving hard to overcome the problems of the people and announcements would be made from time to time on the measures taken in that direction.

Rally Oh Rally

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I'M still not sure what my feelings are about Sunday's rally in Kelana Jaya which was a combo to include a protest against rising prices, another platform for Anwar Ibrahim to take aim at his usual political targets and a band that was supposed to entertain but instead misfired and was lucky to escape with minor injuries after being set upon by the crowd.

I don't expect them to agree with me but I think the news item about Carburetor Dung and its vocalist Alak is quite funny. Although brought to the stadium to entertain, they found themselves targetted by a crowd that appeared not to agree with the lyrics to a song and also with Alak's underwear exposing antic. From what I've read I conclude that everything about them was a bad choice. They would be more at home with the reformasi crowd, particularly their song Mari Nyanyi Menjilat and its lyrics, but then I read that the coordinator of the entertainment segment for the day was my friend and activist Hishamuddin Rais. No surprises there for me.

The crowd of course fell way, way short of the one million the organisers said they were going to attract. In the absence of an established system to estimate the number of people present, not surprisingly one news report put the total at 10,000 while another had it at 20,000!

I've also read and read the remarks by Anwar relating to a suggestion that both he and his accuser Mohd. Saiful swear their positions on the Quran. The many reports quoted Anwar's response differently but I think I'm right to say that he has decided that he was not going to do so, as suggested by Perlis mufti Dr. Mohd. Asri but preferred the truth to the allegation be determined by a syariah court, I assume only if the prosecutors decide there is sufficient evidence to charge Anwar that is.

Other religious officials have since given their opinions on Asri's suggestion. I don't know about the rights and wrongs of it from a religious perspective but if there is nothing against the religion for someone to swear his innocence on the Quran and in the name of God, I would not hesitate to do it if I'm innocent. I'll even do it on my father's grave if that helps to dispel all doubts.

Just as he has been doing since Saiful alleged and reported to police that he had been sodomised, Anwar yesterday announced that he was going "to provide more evidence of wrongdoing by Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan and Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail". In the meantime we await what other evidence, if any, Anwar has against DPM Najib Razak. After all Anwar had said a few days ago that he was going to do so "in a few days time".

The Truth about Anwar-Ism

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I THINK it's going to be a classic example of the saying that "you can't cheat all the people all the time", this ongoing saga which has Anwar Ibrahim as the leading act.

Granted that Malaysians have good reasons to be cynical about many things when politicians of all affiliations are involved but surely they can also stop and think. Surely they have the brains and ability to analyse statements, claims and allegations. If only they do this Malaysians will live to be better people, the country more proud of its achievements rather than being known more for its frailties and bungles.

After Mohd. Saiful Bukhari lodged the police report alleging that Anwar had sodomised him, the former deputy prime minister claimed that it was all a political game and that his life was threatened because he had incriminating evidence against police chief Musa Hassan and Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail. Anwar lodged his report against Musa and Gani today but will be hard pressed to convince a lot of people outside of his camp that their alleged indiscretions were serious enough to warrant any ill intentions against their accuser. Like one commentator on Malaysian Insider said Anwar promised a blast but produced a whimper.

It was claimed in the last couple of days that it was what Anwar had on Musa and Gani which was the reason for the threat against him. Now think. No one had heard about Anwar's so called evidence before the Saiful report. No one had ever mentioned it in public before Sunday. This being the case, how could something that was a "well kept secret" be the reason for a threat?

Anwar's wife Wan Azizah was to say yesterday that the threat was received about three weeks ago and that government agents were going after Anwar. Why wasn't a police report lodged on this? What? "We don't trust the police", you say? But you have lodged other reports with the police, including one against the police chief himself!

Think. If indeed his life was under threat you would expect Anwar to be surrounded by at least a dozen bodyguards wherever he went but he didn't have 12 men protecting him. Or he would probably go into hiding. That too he didn't. On the contrary he moved around freely, attending functions which could have easily exposed him to an assassin's bullet.

A political ploy to check on his big plans to form the next federal government and that the Barisan Nasional government had been scheming against him, plotting his downfall, planting a mole by the name of Mohd. Saiful Bukari to do a number on him? Think. He has been free to talk, campaign, travel in and out of the country, earn a living and scheme and indulge in politics since he left prison four years ago right to March 8, where he was said to be the main factor for the unprecedented successes by the opposition. And today he remains free to talk and talk to the world's press.

The allegation by Saiful is frivolous said Anwar and since nothing of that sort happened the government should just drop the case. That's what he says but Saiful has his own story to tell so we'll have to allow a third party -- the police, prosecutors and judge -- to decide the truth of it all. Think. Why should Anwar be in such a hurry to have the case dropped if Saiful is lying? If Anwar is proven right I think he need not coax the Barisan MPs to cross over to his Pakatan Rakyat; I think more than 30 will voluntarily sprint over to his side.

That the report by Saiful was a scheme to derail Anwar's announcement planned for this week about his intention to contest in a parliamentary by-election and also the decision by four Barisan MPs to join Barisan. If he did plan to contest yes I agree that the report has upset everything Anwar has put in place because he may be called in by the police. Then if the police and AG think there is sufficient evidence he most likely will be charged. Think. But surely the report should not in any way affect the decision by the four MPs. Anwar after all is not a parliamentarian who has to be there to guide and lead the four. They can be in Pakatan even without him.

Threat of a political assassination against him? Think. Anything is possible of course but in this country? When was the last time a high-level Malaysian politician of significance at the national level was dumped by his rival? And we are talking about since British times here.

But what is a drama, sandiwara and wayang kulit put together if it doesn't have elements of Ian Fleming's Bond, a bit of Alfred Hitchcock and a lot of J. K. Rowling -- for fiction. Anwar is actually the main distraction that prevents the government from focusing its time and effort to better govern the country.

Anwar & Sodomy

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I'M enthralled by this drama that began to unfold late on Saturday which doesn't look like it's going to end soon. Honest, I'm over the moon because I have never been a fan of the dramas on local TV.

On one side there's the Anwar Ibrahim camp and on the other, the government. To no one's surprise Anwar has accused "those involved of trying to put a spanner in the works of his grandiose political schemes" of repeating the same (1998) script and modus operandi". The truth of the matter is that Anwar in fact is the one repeating 1998. It's the conspiracy theory all over again but just like 1998, he hasn't provided any evidence to back his claim.

To those who have asked me these last couple of days what my take is on this my response is simple. Here goes.

It is possible what was alleged by Mohd. Saiful Bukhari did take place just as it's also possible he may have fabricated the allegation. If you say Saiful was planted by elements within Barisan Nasional, it is also possible that the report may have been part of a grand design by Anwar and/or PKR to discredit the government and its agencies. Could it be part of the various acts and scenes in the drama being staged because Anwar realises that as he gets nearer to his own September 16 deadline to take over the federal government, his chances of success are dimmer and dimmer by the day. This could be a diversion, again not quite unlike the claim by his camp and their sympathisers that Saiful's allegation is a diversion by BN from the Altantuya murder case, the current inflationary pressures burdening the people and problems within the ruling coalition.

In short, everything Anwar accuses the government of doing he is doing just as diligently, if not two or three times more determinedly.

But I also thought long and deep about Saiful to consider if it was possible that he lodged the report because someone, anyone, may have paid him a few million or 10 million ringgit. That too is possible but it seems highly improbable that a good-looking 23-year-old who apparently is engaged to a pretty girl would want to sell his honour, his family's honour and that of everyone who considers him a friend for that kind of money, no matter how big the amount may be to many of us.

Would anyone allow himself to be shamed? Would anyone risk being harmed by the more fanatical Anwar believers? Given the current political scenario and the support the opposition has been enjoying since March 8, if anyone's life is at risk it is Saiful's.

If you sit down and make a level-headed analysis of all the statements made since late Saturday and link this to issues raised from 1998 till now, it is very clear that the government is in a lose-lose situation while Anwar and friends have it win-win. I can visualise the scene a few weeks or months from now.

Assuming that the police find sufficient evidence to prosecute most likely there will be street demonstrations. Expect to hear a statement saying that "we never had any confidence in the neutrality of the police anyway..... the investigation was not transparent".

If the case goes to court and Anwar is found guilty: there could be rioting here and there, maybe even attempts to prevent the authorities from sending him to prison, just like the Harun Idris case in 1978. Statement: "We are not surprised with the decision. After all it was a kangaroo court. The judiciary is still subservient to the executive...."

Today, on reaching his house after leaving the residence of Turkish ambassador Barlas Ozener the de facto opposition leader proclaimed to shouts from his supporters that the report by Saiful was to pre-empt the big plans he had and was due to announce this week. One was about his decision to contest in a by-election and the other the agreement by four Barisan MPs to cross over to Pakatan Rakyat.

I don't know about others but I am having a problem trying to see the link between the report and Anwar's plans. How are the two connected? But assuming that indeed that was the intention of the conspirators surely nothing should stop Anwar from proceeding with his announcement now. He's not in a police lock-up, he's not in jail and he hasn't been charged for anything. He's free as a bird just like 20 plus million Malaysians and no one can muzzle him. I can't see why he should not satisfy our curiosity by making the announcement, at least about the four MPs.

Having combed through the foreign news services, blogs and local news portals I've become more convinced of the wayang kulit being played before us -- PKR leader and Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail talking about a death threat Anwar purportedly received three weeks ago which strangely did not seem to affect his demeanour and movements in public; Anwar telling BBC News Hour on Sunday that he was taking refuge at the Turkish Embassy because he feared arrest and assault (similar to the one in 1998) without alluding to the threat of assassination against him, unlike as claimed by the PKR leadership at the press conference yesterday. There were many more hopes and gaps and contradictions.

Samy Vellu: Delegates decide on my position

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KUALA LUMPUR: "I am not leaving. My position is not decided by the MIC Youth, but by the 3,600 MIC delegates nationwide."

This was the response from MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to calls by Kedah MIC Youth leaders for him to step down from the top party post.

"There will be a presidential election next March. The delegates will be voting again," said Samy Vellu, who has been at the party's helm for 24 years.

He was speaking after opening the 26th delegates' conference of Hindudharma, a Hindu-based non-governmental organisation, yesterday.

Samy Vellu said it was common practice to have one or two party members objecting to a party leader.

The former minister was commenting on the move by Kedah MIC Youth leaders, including its chief R. Nantha Kumar, who resigned en bloc from their posts three days ago as a sign of protest against Samy Vellu's leadership in the party.

They were also against Samy Vellu's call for MIC Youth national chief S. Vigneswaran to resign from his post because he had passed the 41-year age limit.

Samy Vellu said: "I am the one who put him (Nantha Kumar) there. But the Youth chief failed to keep his promise to have a proper organisation for Kedah (MIC) Youth."

On the reason for asking Vigneswaran to vacate his post, Samy Vellu said it was in accordance with the party's constitution.

"The ruling that states a youth chief has to resign at the age of 41 was made about three or four years ago."

Samy Vellu also said it was to give way for the younger generation to serve the party.

"There are a lot of young graduates who want to help the party but cannot do so as others are holding the post of Youth chief for too long.

"We are not asking those above 41 years old to get out. We want them. We still want them to go to the ground and help the community. But we have to give way to young blood."

Ease entry for foreign priests, Govt urged

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MALAYSIA Hindu Council chief Datuk R. Nadarajah has called on the Government to ease entry of foreign priests into the country, reported Malaysia Nanban.

Nadarajah, who is Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam chairman, said they had invited priests and musicians from India to conduct training courses to train locals but the response has been poor.

He said the younger generation was not interested in becoming priests as it involved the learning of many scriptures and the need to follow a strict discipline.

Furthermore, the income was not encouraging.

He said many temples in the country were having problems conducting daily prayers and rituals, solemnisation of marriages and other religious prayers as they do not have trained priests.

He urged the Home Ministry to look into the problems faced by the temples and make it easier for the recruitment of priests from India

MIC Youth chief Vigneswaran quits party

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SHAH ALAM: Former youth and sports parliamentary secretary S.A. Vigneswaran has quit the MIC over the move to force him to vacate his party Youth chief’s post.

Announcing his decision, Vigneswaran criticised party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu for humiliating him by accusing him of supporting others against the party chief.

“I have no more confidence in the party chief so I am quitting and more people will follow because in the coming weeks I will open the Pandora’s Box.

Meeting the media: Vigneswaran smiling for the camera during his press conference in Shah Alam yesterday to announce his resignation.

“I hereby declare that I shall effective from 3.45pm today (yesterday) quit as a member of MIC, a membership I have proudly held for the past 25 years,” Vigneswaran said at a press conference here yesterday.

He added that he had no immediate intention of joining any other party or returning to MIC even if Samy Vellu quit.

Vigneswaran said he was also considering legal action against Samy Vellu over allegations that Vigneswaran supported the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

He said he was upset with claims made by Samy Vellu that a parliamentary seat candidate from Klang who lost the recent elections had been conspiring with Hindraf to organise a demonstration in front of the MIC office.

“If he is a true gentleman and is so sure of his sources then he should come out in the open and name me,” Vigneswaran said.

Vigneswaran said he had come to realise that all that he had done during his time with MIC had been to serve the party chief and not the organisation, so it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to continue serving.

“From the feedback from the grassroots, it is not the MIC that the people feel strongly against but the party president for failing to address the needs of the community and yet he announces that he will seek re-election for another term,” he said.

He said Samy Vellu should emulate MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, who refused a ministerial post despite winning his seat and decided not to stand in the next party elections.

The chronology of events that led to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

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Saturday, June 28

5.45pm PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s 23-year-old assistant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan lodges a police report against him for sodomy at the Travers police station in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

10PM About 1,000 Anwar supporters gather at Quality Hotel in Shah Alam after news spreads about the sodomy allegation.

Sunday, June 29

1.20AM PKR vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah holds an emergency press conference to refute the allegation. He reads out a statement by Anwar. Anwar was not present to meet the press, although he was still in the hotel where PKR was holding a supreme council meeting.

2.15AM PKR information chief Tian Chua says Pakatan Rakyat is fully behind Anwar.

5AM ADILnews sends out a statement via SMS that Anwar is in possession of new documents implicating Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan and Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail of fabricating evidence in court cases involving Anwar in 1998. PKR claimed there was an attempt to arrest Anwar.

8AM PKR’s supreme council meeting starts with two police cars parked in front of the hotel. An officer reportedly told PKR supporters they were there to prevent any untoward incident.

11AM Anwar is believed to have left the hotel and headed for the Turkish Embassy in Ampang. He has not left the building since.

1PM PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali conducts a press conference without Anwar or PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife. Halfway through, Wan Azizah turns up with her daughters, including Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah, to take over the press conference.

3PM Reporters get wind that Anwar has gone to the Turkish Embassy and head there. However, they fail to meet with Anwar or Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia Barlas Ozener.

6PM Several PKR leaders are seen outside the embassy. Reporters are told that Anwar was meeting his lawyers inside.

Would SAPP go for round two?

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THE Barisan Nasional must have sighed a big relief after successfully seeing through a government motion in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday by a convincing vote of 129 against 78. But what we were not able to know was how the two MPs from the delinquent Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) would have voted because they were not in the house.

It is also highly unlikely that the proposed motion of no confidence being planned by the SAPP against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will get to be accepted although who will actually try and table it is anyone's guess.

What appears to be happening is a hide-and-seek by SAPP orchestrated by its president Yong Teck Lee. In confirming that they had been called home Yong also claimed that MPs Eric Majimbun and Dr. Chua Soon Bui had been threatened via sms and through others means. But any problem relating to the purported threats seems to be confined to Sabah so it didn't quite make sense for the two to be going back to the lion's den.

The overal picture is very unclear. Majimbun has gone on record with the press to say that while he too no longer had confidence in Pak Lah's leadership he would not support a motion on this in Parliament. Which clouds the issue further but as I've always said, with politicians you'll never know.

The Barisan management committee chaired by DPM Najib Razak also met yesterday and had decided on the recommended action against SAPP but the final decision rests with the coalition's supreme council. In this respect Pak Lah must again show the tough side of his character, that he has it in him to do what it takes not matter how risky and how unpopular. Leadership is presicely what the issue is all about so there is only one way to go for Pak lah.


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IT'S amazing sometimes when you look at how a situation can change within such a short time. I remember that it was only 10 months ago when petrol station operators were warned not to reduce their business hours arbitrarily without approval from the government.

Their argument was that business between midnight and 6am was limited and the expenses did not commensurate with profits. Safety was another reason cited. That was then.

Now it's the reverse, with the government telling the stations to operate only from 6am to midnight. Anyone wishing to open round-the-clock will need permission from the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry. Minister Shahrir Samad said earlier that the reason behind the shorter hours was to save energy.

When the operators wanted to reduce their operational hours last year a blame game and claims and counter-claims were heard. The petroleum companies said the operating permits stated that the stations must open 24 hours a day 365 days a year while the dealers insisted that the permits were silent on this, pointing out instead to a clause that only said a station cannot remained closed for a stretch of 24 hours. The ministry came into the fray and made clear the government position which was not in favour of shorter operating hours.

The other points of contention put forward by the dealers were commissions which remained unchanged despite increases in the pump prices and the commission imposed by the petroleum companies on payments by credit cards. The latter remains a contentious issue but the commissions on sales for both petrol and diesel have now been increased, giving dealers one reason less to be grumpy.

The real world of (political) governance
Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim yesterday insisted that he had never spoken on behalf of the Anti-Corruption Agency regarding the allegation of abuse of power by his former aide. Instead he said that based on a letter dated June 11 by the ACA he had merely stated that the "investigation had been completed".

For the record, the press at that time all quoted Khalid as stating that "the ACA said there was no abuse of power or involvement" by the officer. But never mind that because Khalid now appears to be facing a bigger test or challenge to his leadership of the Selangor administration in the form of dissatisfaction by a majority of the PKR division heads in Selangor.

That he has been bungling far too often for his comfort in just 100 days at the helm is a fact. The delay in naming the new local councillors is one and the money contributed by companies for the 100-day celebrations by the Selangor PR government another.

As we now know the monies donated were deposited into the PKR accounts, not a fund managed by the state. What is unclear is who asked the companies to donate. Khalid said he was going to ask the companies if there were any strings attached. Common sense tells me that no company will ever admit even if their arms were twisted before donating or that carrots were dangled before their very eyes.

Khalid had also admitted that the PR loose coalition may have been over-zealous in drawing up their election manifestoes. I think so and wrote about this earlier, drawing some unsavoury comments from PR followers. My suspicion was that people like Khalid may have not been involved in drawing up the manifestoes. I'm sure the brains responsible just wanted to first and foremost entice for votes and deal with the problems later. I can imagine the dialogue: "Ahh no problemla..... even if we can't deliver we'll look for the justifications later. Our priority is to first win the elections. For the next elections there will be new manifestoes anyway."

As I had pointed out I don't think those responsible went through the numbers although many of the major pledges involve money. For if they had they would have realised that it would have been near impossible to deliver even as little as 10% of the pledges.

What exactly do they want?
The federal government has decided that another round of high-level effort is what is required to resolve the illegal immigrants issue in Sabah and for this a task force to be headed by DPM Najib Razak is to be formed.

But Anifah Aman, a backbencher representing Kimanis who has been highly critical of the federal government over this problem, now says that the task force is unconstitutional as it goes against a provision in the federal Constitution which gives power to regulate and control immigration matters in Sabah and Sarawak to a state authority, in this case the chief minister.

Assuming that I agree with him, my question is why did Anifah all this while target the federal government for blame over this long standing problem in his state? This was a question I posed in an earlier post here. If indeed to him immigration is a state matter Anifah should be barking at no one else but his brother Musa the chief minister and vent his anger and frustration there. But no; Anifah and every other politician in Sabah has been blaming KL for this problem.

And now opposition politician Jefrrey Kitingan of PKR says the real problem is Project IC, not the illegal immigrants themselves because the latter to him is a "normal problem".

Enough confusion for now.

Suspect No 4 held in MIC murder probe

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JOHOR BARU: Police yesterday arrested another MIC member to assist investigations into the murder of former Tenggaroh state assemblyman S. Krishnasamy.

The 45-year-old man, believed to be a member of a MIC branch in Kluang, was arrested at his home.

This brings the number of people currently in police custody in connection with the case to four.

The spate of arrests started with a 46-year-old MIC senior leader, also from Kluang, on June 17. Two others were arrested three days later in Malacca.

Johor police chief Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Sharif confirmed the latest arrest but declined to elaborate.

Krishnasamy, 62, who was the Johor MIC deputy chairman, was shot in a lift at the Johor MIC headquarters in Jalan Segget here on Jan 11.

Others who had been detained and released in connection with the case were a female clerk at the MIC state head office, the victim's driver and a personal assistant to Johor MIC chairman Datuk K.S Balakrishnan.

Editor of Tamil daily laid to rest

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KUALA LUMPUR: MIC leaders, led by secretary-general Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, yesterday paid their last respects to Malaysian Nanban chief editor K. Gurusamy who died on Tuesday.

Party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who is currently overseas, said Gurusamy was a dedicated and committed journalist.

"He devoted much of his life to his profession and to the community," he said in a statement.

The 60-year-old newspaper columnist, who was better known as Kapar Maan (Kapar Deer), is survived by his widow, Neela, and sons, Karthik, 30, and Vishnu, 29.

Gurusamy was cremated at the Jalan Lok Yew cemetery yesterday. - Bernama

Sultan to reclaim Pedra Branca 'whatever it takes'

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JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor said he would never forget that Pedra Branca was part of Johor and would do whatever it takes to reclaim the rock.

Sultan Iskandar had used a significant platform to express his views on the Pedra Branca's sovereignty when he said this in his opening speech for the first term of the 12th State Assembly at the Bukit Timbalan here yesterday.

"I would like to remind all that I have not forgotten Batu Puteh (Pedra Branca). It was not Singapore's but Johor's. Forever, I shall look for ways to return it to Johor."

He earlier read a prepared speech calling the elected state assemblymen to fulfil their responsibilities with honesty, sincerity and full understanding of the people's needs.

At the end of the 10-minute speech officiating at the opening of the assembly, Sultan Iskandar continued with the impromptu remark, firmly expressing his feelings on Pedra Branca.

Meanwhile, Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, in response to the sultan's speech, said the state government was clear on the sultan's expression.

"We heard him loud and clear," he said but declined to elaborate.

On May 23, the International Court of Justice awarded the sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore, and the ownership of nearby Middle Rocks to Malaysia.

Singapore had on Feb 14, 1980 protested against the 1979 map published by Malaysia clearly placing Pedra Branca in the country's territory.

Singapore then expanded its claims to the nearby Middle Rocks and South Ledge in February 1993. On Feb 6, 2003, Malaysia and Singapore signed a special agreement to refer the matter to the ICJ.

The 16-member court's final decision, by a 12-4 majority, rested largely on Singapore's consistent conduct over the last 100 years. Singapore had argued that it had exercised sovereign powers over the island since the Horsburgh lighthouse opened in 1851.

The ICJ also noted that the strength of Singapore's claim lay in a letter sent by the state secretary of Johor in 1953 to the Singapore government.

MIC to approve fewer student loans

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED), MIC's education arm, has been receiving more applications for student loans, but the number of approvals is likely to be reduced due to financial constraints caused by defaulters.

MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said although non-performing loans had been reduced to 17 per cent, the fact that other students were being denied access to these funds remained an urgent matter for MIED.

Besides legal action against defaulters, Samy Vellu said the loan programme had been restructured by allocating funds on a yearly basis and not for the duration of the course.

For instance, if a student pursued a three-year course, MIED would allocate funds for the first year only.

Money for the remaining two years would depend on the student's academic performance and additional funds provided by the student's family.

He said this after presenting MIED loans to 185 applicants, amounting to RM1.5 million at the MIC headquarters yesterday. Of the 185, 90 will pursue medicine.

He said since the loan programme was established in the 1980s, about RM90 million had been disbursed to 8,500 students to pursue tertiary education.

On the recent public university intake, he reminded Indian students who failed to secure a seat to submit their appeal to the MIC by June 26.

The party had requested for an eight per cent intake for Indian students, but had to settle for 6.84 per cent this year.

'Old' MIC Youth leaders must go

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KUALA LUMPUR: MIC Youth chief S.A. Vigneswaran and several other leaders of the wing have been asked to vacate their posts as they have passed the age limit.

Party secretary-general Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the decision to ask them to vacate their posts was taken at the party's central working committee (CWC) meeting nearly two weeks ago.

"The party's constitution states that a youth leader or member in the youth wing should not exceed the age of 40.

"This means that when they reach their 41st birthday, they need to vacate their positions in the youth wing," Dr Subramaniam, who is human resources minister, said.

He said that apart from Vigneswaran, several other leaders would also be given letters requiring them to relinquish their positions.

Among them were deputy chief S. Ramis, secretary M. Kumaresan, information chief K. Raj Kumar and youth representative to the CWC, S. Murugesan.

Dr Subramaniam said: "We are going by the party's constitution regarding the age limit.

"Since all these leaders have passed the age limit, they have no choice but to let go their positions." - Bernama

No Confidence Motion?

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Sabah Progressive Party(SAPP) had dropped a powerful bomb at Pak Lah's administration this morning, as the party president Yong Teck Lee announced two of it's MP will submit or support a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister next Monday when Parliament sessions resumes. This will be the first no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister since independance. And I would regard this one of the most important political benchmark in our country's democracy history.

During this moment of time, when the Pak Lah's administration is being rocked by unrest and disputes across the nation, from inside UMNO to the angry rakyat,and now he's being bombarded by one of it's BN counterpart, launching a fatal attack to force him to step down. This is a serious blow to Pak Lah, being haven't recovered from the disastrous election result and internal UMNO problems, so what's next for Pak Lah?

There's no point of return for SAPP now, as SAPP is launching the attack straight towards Pak Lah, there's just two choices left - either Pak Lah is voted no-confidence in the Parliament and resign, or SAPP will have their ass kicked out from BN.

SAPP being the first party to react to the hoo-hah's of Anwar Ibrahim,had again proved that it's not simply a rumour that Pakatan Rakyat may form the next federal government before Hari Malaysia.Anwar kept saying he got the numbers of MPs who wanted to crossover,he would need at least 30 to do so. But, SAPP only have 2 MPs, people would ask - "Can this plan work out?" Well, I guess its not impossible.

Please bear in mind,Yong Teck Lee was one of the leader of Sabah Unity Party(PBS) who planned the 1990 crossover where we saw PBS came out from BN and ruled Sabah in that year's election.And,also he was also the mastermind who crushed PBS in 1994 by organizing crossover of PBS state assemblyman to BN and eventually helped BN to retain the power till now,in cooperation with the then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.And from those previous record, it’s not possible for Yong to work things out once again with the same person,Anwar Ibrahim.He did it before, and I think he may have the ability to do it again.We shall see that.

And I believe things might even progress faster than we have thought. There might be a second political tsunami striking Malaysia soon after 8th of March.As it was reported, while Pak Lah was in Kota Kinabalu to do some "last minute rescue"(apparently it failed) with the state BN leaders and MPs,some of the important MPs were no where to be seen such as the Kimanis MP Anifah Aman and Kalabakan MP Abdul Ghapur Salleh.Both of them were the candidates who rejected Pak Lah's administration to hold the post of deputy ministers.And Yong Teck Lee was on the absent list too. This is something interesting...

But at the same time,while Parti Keadilan Rakyat(PKR) was in joy and welcome SAPP's decision,Democratic Action Party(DAP) seemed not so happy about something. The exit and joining of some Sabah BN component party into Pakatan Rakyat would weaken their position in Sabah.And this would threaten DAP's progress in Sabah to emerge as a strong party and expand their political map.Quiting BN and joining Pakatan Rakyat might be a "one stone killing two bird" plan by SAPP to maintain their political position in Sabah(to hold on DAP's strength) and at the same time doing something for the sake of Sabahans and Malaysian(changing the federal government).Well,why not?

Well,back to reality,whether will the no-confidence motion will be accepted by the Speaker of Parliament,this is still a question to be answered.Who will table the motion and how much no-confidence votes will be voted? And will other Sabah political parties such as PBS,LDP and UPKO etc follow the steps of SAPP to quit BN?

BN partners come to PM's support

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Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who came under pressure today following Sabah Progressive Party's decision to move for a motion of no confidence against him on Monday, received some good news from several BN coalition partners today.

The coalition's second biggest partner MCA, third most senior partner MIC as well as Gerakan today threw their weight behind the embattled premier.

Their support came at a time when several Pakatan leaders were lauding Sapp's brave decision to put the premier, also the BN chairperson, under severe pressure.

MCA was the first to give a lift to Abdullah by stating that it would stand steadfastly with Abdullah and the BN coalition.

"The Malaysian economy is suffering from escalating inflationary pressures, rising food and fuel prices now. The country and the people of Malaysia are going through very challenging times. What the country needs now is political and economic stability," said MCA president Ong Ka Ting in a statement.

"It would be best that all of us, both the BN and the Pakatan, to accept the results of the 12th general election.

"Our priority should be to continue to work hard to fulfil our election pledges, restore confidence and stability for the nation," he added. MCA has 15 members of Parliament.

Will not let PM down

Meanwhile MIC, which suffered a hammering blow in the general election, said that it would remain loyal with BN and continue to support the prime minister.

"We will continue working with all BN component parties that support and remain loyal to Abdullah," said MIC president S Samy Vellu.

"As for the three MIC members of Parliament, I've instructed them to support the prime minister especially in Parliament. This is the first time we have a BN component party not supporting the prime minister.

"We will not let the prime minister down because he was elected by the people," he added.

And Gerakan, another party which also suffered humiliating defeat in the general election, similarly said that it would not support Sapp's motion in Parliament. Gerakan has two members of Parliament.

Gerakan acting president Dr Koh Tsu Koon said that it was important to sustain solidarity and stability in the face of severe challenges from the global fuel, food crisis and economic uncertainties.

"Gerakan feels that such a drastic political move will only add to the uncertainty, disrupting efforts in reforms," he said in a statement.

Give him more time

He also added that Sapp president Yong Teck Lee was not giving Abdullah enough time and chance to make changes, overcome problems and address the issues concerned.

"These issues should have been deliberated more thoroughly and sentiments expressed more clearly within the BN Supreme Council and through other existing channels of communication.

"Forcing a vote of confidence in this manner is not positive and constructive. Gerakan therefore will not support such a move," he said.

Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman also expressed disappointment over the move by Sapp in making the unprecedented move to call for a motion of no-confidence.

"I'm not sure what Sapp's real motive is in making such a move," he said in a statement.

"As a BN component party president, Yong's act was uncalled for and unprecedented in the spirit of camaraderie adopted by BN all this while," said Musa who is also the Sabah BN chairperson.

In an immediate reaction, Abdullah said: "I have not been able to satisfy his (Yong's) personal greed."

According to Bernama, the embattled prime minister did not elaborate on the matter.

Shahrir: Others won't follow

Meanwhile, Rahmah Ghazali reports, Umno Supreme Council member Shahrir Abdul Samad expressed his confidence that other BN coalition partners would not be following Sapp's lead in going against the prime minister.

He also doesn't think that the BN component parties would be leaving the coalition to join Pakatan Rakyat.

"I don't think that Sapp will able to precipitate other BN members to leave the party because they do not have the leadership or consistency in their issue," Shahrir said.

He also said that Abdullah was holding up well n the face of severe pressure being piled upon him by various quarters.

"He is still making his decisions (to stay as PM) and exercising his responsibilities as one... I think the prime minister is holding it up quite well," Shahrir added.

Shahrir, who is also the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, was speaking in a press conference at his ministry in Putrajaya today.

He also said that Sapp seemed to be uncertain as to what it actually wanted - if they actually wanted to leave BN for Pakatan or if they just wanted the motion of no confidence.

"If they want to support the vote of no confidence, then they should say so. If they want to leave BN, then they would have to say so. So which is it?" Shahrir asked.

After the press conference, Shahrir also rubbished Pakatan's claim that it could form the new federal government by Sept 16.

"There is not even a shadow cabinet (formed by Pakatan) like the ones in the UK and Australia. This is a two-system party, where there's a federal cabinet and a shadow cabinet, led by the oppositions," he said.

SAPP not pulling out from BN but calls for PM to step down

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KUALA LUMPUR, WED (Updated: 3:01pm):

SABAH People Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the party is not pulling out from the Barisan Nasional but has called for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step dowe because they do not have confidence in his leadership.

Yong said the party would make its stand known in Parliament on June 23.

Two SAPP MPs will table a vote of "no confidence" on June 23. The party's supreme council will meet on Friday to discuss its membership in the Barisan Nasional.

The SAPP is making its stand now before the window of opportunity closes in August when the nation’s attention switches to the MCA and UMNO elections, the fasting month, public examinations and other year-end events.

The momentum is now on for Sabah to recover its autonomy, besides getting the 20 per cent of oil royalty and the return of Labuan.


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ENG/IT : 47
ETC: 37


BN's Sanglang state seat win 'invalid'

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The Sanglang state seat in Perlis, which was won by Umno, has been declared vacant by the Election Court in Kangar, paving way for a possible by-election.
Justice Zainal Adzam Abdul Ghani today ruled that Barisan Nasional's victory in Sanglang in the March 8 general election was invalid.

He however disagreed to allow an application by the losing candidate, Hashim Jasin (right) from PAS - who had held the seat for two terms - be automatically installed as the winner.

Umno's candidate Abdullah Hassan won the seat with a majority of 149 votes, bagging 3,384 votes as opposed to Hashim's 3,235.

Hashim, who is Perlis PAS commissioner, claimed that he should have won Sanglang based on initial Election Commission records.

He said that he should be declared the winner as the vote tallied from all counting centres showed that he had polled 3,333 votes against Abdullah's 3,286 and had thus won by a 47-vote majority.

Apart from Abdullah, Hashim also named returning officer Muhamad Daud Abdull Hamid and the Election Commission as defendants.

Hashim was the incumbent of this state seat which he first won in 1999 but failed to retain in March this year. In 2004, he managed to retain the seat with a razor-thin 45 votes.

The defendants can appeal against the decision to the Federal Court.

In the last polls, BN won 14 out of 15 state seats and all three parliamentary seats. It lost the neighbouring Simpang Empat state seat to PAS.

Senior MIC leader held over murder

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JOHOR BARU: A senior MIC leader here was arrested in connection with the murder of former state MIC deputy chairman Datuk S. Krishnasamy.

The 46-year-old man was picked up from his house in Kluang at 12.30am on Tuesday and remanded for six days. The man, a former councillor, is the most senior politician ever to be arrested in connection with the Jan 11 murder of the former Tenggaroh assemblyman.

Police have, to date, arrested more than a dozen people in connection with the case, including several MIC members but no one has been charged so far.

Krishnasamy was shot once under the left eyebrow just as he entered the lift at the state MIC building in Johor Baru on Jan 11.

State police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Mohamad Mokhtar Sharif confirmed the arrest.

Ong: MCA MPs not quitting to join PKR

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KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional component parties should continue to stay united and not be swayed by rumours, said MCA secretary-general Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan.

He said Barisan needed solid support from all the component parties, especially in these times.

Ong was responding to remarks by PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that several MCA MPs would join PKR soon and that the MCA would likely be the first to leave the coalition.

Ong reiterated that MCA Members of Parliament were loyal to the party and Barisan.

“MCA MPs are elected to serve the people. There is no question of them quitting to join the Pakatan Rakyat,” Ong, who is Housing and Local Government Minister, said after opening the 4th International Fire Protection Expo and Forum at the KL Convention Centre here yesterday.

He said the component parties had decided to set up four divisions to look into improving Barisan Nasional and to ensure it remained relevant.

The divisions would look into strengthening the Barisan leadership at all levels, improving the present mechanism, improving the racial composition of civil servants and its relationship with the media.

On housing, Ong said his ministry would obtain feedback on how higher petrol prices have affected the housing industry by this week.

He said he had discussed the matter with building material suppliers, the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association of Malaysia and Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM) last week.

He said the ministry would study the proposals and suggestions from the industry on how to lessen the burden over the escalating cost of building materials.

He was commenting on a statement by MBAM president Patrick Wong that house prices needed to be raised by 30% due to the hike in building materials and petrol prices.

Ong admitted that the escalating building material cost would definitely burden the people, especially those from the lower income group.

“We are looking at restructuring taxes for certain construction materials such as tiles and toilet equipment,” he said.

Time to govern and show results, Koh tells Pakatan Rakyat government

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PENANG: The honeymoon period is over and the Pakatan Rakyat government should start “governing” the state and show results of their own efforts, according to Gerakan leaders.

Former Chief Minister and acting Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said it was very easy for the DAP and PKR leaders to criticise the Barisan on many issues while in the opposition.

“During the general election, the leaders made many promises which they thought they did not have to fulfil as they did not expect to be voted into power.

“However, now that they are in government, they are beginning to realise that it is not easy at all to practise what they promised, because of many practical constraints – technical, procedural, financial, social and political,” he said in a press statement.

Dr Koh noted that these constraints “may well become more pronounced” as Pakatan leaders moved beyond the “honeymoon” period of the first 100 days.

Gerakan secretary-general Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye said the general impression on their first 100 days was that the DAP-PKR state government was more of a populist government rather than a “properly performing” government.

“The leaders seem to be more concerned with seeking popularity, criticising the previous government and claiming full credit for achievements which were obviously the result of the previous government’s efforts and federal support. They really have to start governing and to show real results of their own agenda and efforts,” he added.

Chia’s deputy, Teng Chang Yeow noted that the DAP-PKR leaders would have to face the great challenge of translating election promises that were popular and populist in nature into policies that were proper, practical and practicable.

“The impression is that they are still finding their footing and beginning to show conflicts and contradictions amongst themselves,” he opined.

State Gerakan secretary Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan said DAP-PKR leaders seemed to be still operating with an opposition mindset, rather than a government mindset.

“They are still quick in criticising others, but not too tolerant of being criticised as a government should be,” he added.

Penang Gerakan Wanita chief Ng Siew Lai said DAP had promised to abolish the Sungai Nyior toll along the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway in their election manifesto for Penang.

“After coming into power, they cleverly pushed it to the Federal Government, then made yet another promise that the toll would definitely be abolished if and when they come into power at the Federal Government “by or before the next general election,” she said.

“They are very skilful indeed in spinning, pushing responsibility away and playing the politics of ‘hope in the future’.”

Khalid: Bandar Tun Razak least safe seat for Anwar

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SHAH ALAM: Bandar Tun Razak might be the least safe parliamentary seat for PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to contest, said Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

Khalid, who is the Bandar Tun Razak MP, said although he would gladly make way if Anwar wanted to stand there, he felt that it would be a difficult seat to win in a by-election given what he had seen of the voters in the area.

He said after the March 8 general elections all 31 PKR members of parliament had offered to resign to allow Anwar to contest.

“He (Anwar) has his own method of calculating risks at each seat and will consider three or four seats before making a final decision,” he told the heads from various media organisations during a meeting at his official residence yesterday.

The Mentri Besar spent about two-hours fielding questions on various matters from privatisation projects, cohesion among the Pakatan Rakyat coalition members, local councils and attracting investors to the state.

On the establishment of an Islamic state or the implementation of the Hudud law in Selangor, Khalid said the people need not worry as the decision would need the Sultan’s consent and was not just up to the state government.

“The people have nothing to worry about it as I do not think that the Hudud law will be implemented in Selangor as it contravenes the right of non-Muslims,” he said, adding that the people also need not worry about all entertainment outlets in the state being closed down.

Asked to comment on the delay in announcing the list of local councillors, Khalid said, one of the biggest challenges was taking only four representatives from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in each council when there were 20 such organisations registered in some districts.

“But we have settled most of the lists which feature quality representatives that even include a former Public Works Department engineer, and we will make an announcement on June 20,” he said.

Sultan to PAS: Call off protest or I call off matches

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SHAH ALAM: An upset Sultan of Selangor has threatened to call off future Sultan of Selangor Cup matches between his state and Singapore if the protest by the state PAS Youth against two artistes performing for the event went ahead.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah described the protest over rock queen Ella and dangdut singer Mas Idayu as “hypocritical” and “trivial”.

He said there were more important issues that the party could focus on.

Subject of controversy: Ella has spoken out against Selangor PAS Youth which she feels is being judgmental of her and singer Mas Idayu (below, left).

“If this is going to be so difficult, we might as well hold this annual event in Singapore. I am sure they will be more than happy to play host,” he told The Star yesterday.

On Monday, Selangor PAS Youth submitted a memoradum to the Selangor Mentri Besar’s office to protest against plans to have Ella and Mas Idayu perform at the match on July 6.

State PAS Youth chief Sallehen Mokhyi said the movement felt that performances by the singers were inappropriate as it would be attended by many youngsters.

The youth wing threatened to stage a demonstration at the Shah Alam Stadium if Ella and Mas Idayu were allowed to performed.

Sallehen’s call came on the heels of a statement by national PAS Youth vice-chief Azman Shapawi that the party wanted all the Pakatan Rakyat states to implement Syariah laws.

The Sultan said yesterday Ella and Mas Idayu were chosen because they were good entertainers and that the organisers felt that they would be able to entertain the people before the match began.

The other singer is David Arumugam of Alleycats.

“The organising committee even planned for the performance by the singers to end before the maghrib prayers. They are performers suitable for the family and I don’t know what the fuss is all about,” he said.

The Tuanku said Selangor did not comprise of “just PAS and Muslims,” adding that the state had many political parties and people of other races and faith.

He said Pakatan Rakyat was a multi-racial coalition and the sensitivities of other races must be taken into account.

“The idea of holding the performance is to create goodwill and bring the people together before the match. Sports and music bring people together,” he said.

He added this was the seventh edition of the Cup and was organised to enhance friendly ties with Singapore through football, adding that the history of Selangor and Singapore’s friendly rivalry went back to before the Second World War.

The Sultan also clarified that the state government and its subsidiary Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd were not the sponsors of the match.

He said no government funds were used for the organisation of the match and so the issue of public funds for the performance and football match did not arise as it was all done through sponsorship.

He said organising chairman Datuk Karim Munisar, who is Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd president, was appointed by him to run the event annually because of Karim’s love for football and volunteerism.

Let's Move On

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IF there is anything to be explained it is simply this; why was the quantum so big?

I find those who say that the Government should have explained the matter better a trifle insulting, because it infers that the Malaysian people do not understand that higher global oil prices will, one day or another make its impact felt here.

We are now beyond explaining the rationale, it has been a few weeks and now most people do not care about the rationale anyway because they have made up their mind that the Government's rationale may well be flawed in the first place.

If it’s flawed why bother listening.

What we need now is action from the Government to help Malaysians cope better with the new global reality that it says it wants to introduce to the country, a world where subsidy is a dirty word.

First of all subsidy takes place everywhere, especially in two areas of economic activities, food production and cutting edge industries that typically serve the military. Some countries, especially in Europe and Japan the Governments also bear a sizeable portion of the public transportation burden

If we want to become a developed nation then we will have to reconsider our subsidy strategies in these three areas of economic activities.

Beyond that the Government will need to convince thinking Malaysians that they actually have a long term plan for the country in terms of its global role and competitiveness in commerce.

That Malaysia seems to be stuck between the rock of a manufacturing economy and the hard place of a service or knowledge economy is old news and it is also tiring to read that we seem to be no closer to an exit plan from this potentially lethal vortex.

I say that we are groping in the dark because there has been no strong injection of effort and improvements in the areas which will determine our competitiveness in the future, namely higher education and professional education.

If we are serious about taking on the world in the field of high technology and service, the Government must pour a large chunk of its money into higher education which comprises research development and it must also make Malaysia's professionals among the most desired in the world.

In my mind the first priority must go towards higher education and research. Here the Government should simply make education freely available to everyone who wishes to continue their studies.

This will substantially increase the burden of public expenditure but it is an unavoidable position as the future of the country hangs on it.

At this point we should not make the mistake of simply building more universities and colleges but also give the students more room to stretch their intellect and not be too focused on getting a degree for the sake of a job.

We must inculcate a love for knowledge among the young because this is sorely lacking in the country. If a child wants to get a degree then more often than not it is because they want a comfortable job. The pursuit of higher education in this country is rarely about satisfying the hunger for knowledge or the desire to become a pioneer in a particular field.

This change of mindset is crucial to the future of the country. As a small nation we have relatively little natural resource that we can keep digging up and sell to the world so, more than America, Australia, China, Russia and many African nations Malaysia is heavily reliant on its people to guarantee future prosperity.

More than anything else Malaysia must reverse the brain drain and start on a new economic masterplan that revolves around the development of our intellectual infrastructure and capacity.

A master plan that involves the building of more universities and packing them with world class teachers will have far fewer pitfalls than one that centres around the building of physical infrastructure in the hope of attracting foreign capital.

While there is no doubt that we need foreign investment to keep the economy humming along we also have to keep in mind the importance of knowledge as opposed to manufacturing capacity in this modern world.
Manufacturing capacity or even the actual products themselves are fast becoming generic. Even cars, which are considered the most complex mass produced item is becoming nearly identical except in design and branding.

As modern manufacturing technology becomes cheaper, the actual production of many items will be farmed out to countries which have a large pool labour that can be harnessed cheaply and we will see semi finished products being shipped back to the country owning the intellectual rights for finishing, branding and marketing.

With many contract manufacturers springing up we will see margins narrowing very quickly and this is why we must have an exit plan from low end manufacturing and enter the world of services.

The new trend now is to farm our research and development work. At the moment most of the work farmed out involves product development as developed countries try to tap the relative low cost of engineering services and keep the more critical concept development and specifying work in their home country.

India, for example is firmly entrenched as the supplier of accounting services and customer relation management solutions. Their position as software developing nation is hardly challenged.

Singapore is fast becoming a research hub in many high technology fields and they are taking a lead in some areas of financial services as well.

Thailand on the other hand has decided to become a major regional manufacturer and food production hub.

Malaysia on the other hand is left dangling in no man's land, seeing our manufacturing advantages eroding fast and being left behind in the K-economy.

We need to get on this bandwagon quickly; I believe that we have the next five years to establish ourself as a service industry investment destination.

Apart from our current lack of capacity to take on the service industry, the country may also be suffering from an image problem.

While Singapore may practice a political system that is repressive by Western standards, it is known for efficiency and excellence in many fields, its professionals are well respected the world over while Malaysia's institutions of higher education are slipping in the global ranking.

We need to find a field to excel in and quickly attract the best minds into the country to lay the foundation for the future.

The field we chose has to be a sunrise industry and one that is growing fast and has few competitors and in my mind, there area few:

1. Energy - Sustainable energy because the world cannot afford oil in the future
2. Biotech - Stem cell research, specifically organ replacement
3. Money - Finance/venture capitalism (we can do a lot more in this field than what we are doing now)
4. IT - Information warehousing and processing incorporating artificial intelligence which is what Google is doing and making a lot of money out of it and the reason why everyone should be afraid of Google
5. Food - production and processing and marketing- food will never be a sunset industry.

Samy Vellu: Dr M failed the Indian community

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KUALA LUMPUR: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did very little for the Indian community when he was prime minister, MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said yesterday.

Samy Vellu said the Indians had to struggle on their own for more than 140 years and achieved success only through sheer hard work .

"Despite the MIC appealing again and again for help, he refused to budge," Samy Vellu said in response to Dr Mahathir's remarks during a talk in Teluk Intan on Saturday.

The former prime minister had said the Malays were willing to admit other races into the country and endowed them with rights.

He had also demolished the notion of a Bangsa Malaysia and said Malaysians must accept the fact that they were just too different to be known as one race.

Dr Mahathir's remarks have drawn flak from non-Malay groups, who felt that national unity was crucial for the country to meet its future challenges.

Samy Vellu said Dr Mahathir should not be taking a racist approach at a time when Malaysians were working hard towards unity.

SAPP denies quit BN rumour

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KOTA KINABALU: A senior Sabah Progressive Party leader has dismissed reports that the party is on the verge of leaving the Barisan Nasional.

SAPP deputy president Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah said the party had no intention of ditching the coalition which it joined in 1994.

"No, it (leaving the BN) is absolutely not true," he told reporters here.

He said the speculation could have come about because of the party's vocal stance on various issues affecting the state.

"Despite the speculation, we will continue to be vocal when it comes to matters concerning the state and its people," said Tan, who is the deputy chief minister representing the Chinese.

Tan said the federal government had taken steps to address some of the issues raised by the party.

Talk about SAPP leaving the BN began circulating following a recent statement by its president, Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee, that the party would review its position in the BN if no action was taken on the issues it had raised.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said he had spoken to Yong, who did not mention anything about SAPP quitting the BN.

"There is no reason for any of the component parties in Sabah to leave the coalition," he said.

Musa, who is state BN and Umno chief, considered the reports as just speculation. Yong could not be contacted.

Several SAPP supreme council members gave differing statements, with some saying that the possibility of the party pulling out of the BN could not be ruled out. Others said there was no truth to it.

"Anything is possible. Let us just wait and see," said a supreme council member.

Another supreme council member said the party was monitoring developments in Umno before making any decision.

‘MCA MPs won’t quit’

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PETALING JAYA: MCA Members of Parliament were elected to serve the people and they will continue to do so, said party secretary-general Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan.

He said there was no question of them quitting to join the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance.

Ong, who is the Housing and Local Government Minister, said MCA MPs understood their responsibility as the people’s representatives and had signed a declaration of loyalty to the party.

“They have principles and are loyal to the party as well as to the Barisan Nasional. Anwar Ibrahim has used a dirty trick to drive a wedge between the Barisan component parties,” he said in a statement.

Ong, who is the Tanjung Malim MP, was responding to remarks by the PKR adviser that several MCA MPs would join PKR soon and that MCA would likely be the first to leave Barisan.

The party, which contested 40 parliamentary seats in the general election, has 15 MPs.

MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said he was confident that MPs would not be easily swayed.

“The MCA will always be with the Barisan Nasional as the party is one of the founders of the Alliance coalition,” he said.

Liow, who is the Bentong MP and Health Minister, described Anwar’s move as “trying to create instability to gain political mileage for himself”.

MCA Publicity Bureau chief Datuk Fu Ah Kiow hit out at Anwar, saying his remarks were nothing more than a cheap stunt to generate publicity for himself.

“Obviously Anwar is up to no good. This is part of his strategy to make his comeback with the whole purpose of chasing after the Prime Minister’s post,” he said in a statement.

Acknowledging that Barisan had gone through trials and tribulations, Fu said the ruling coalition had always stuck together “through thick and thin”.

On Sunday, Anwar said in Penang that MCA should top the list when he was asked which party he thought would leave Barisan.

“MCA is supposed to represent the Chinese community in Malaysia but the party has failed to do so.

“Therefore, it is time for it to review why Barisan has failed in addressing the interests of all communities in the country and in managing the country's economy,” he said after opening Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin's service centre in Bukit Jambul.

Federal Court allows Anwar to challenge his 1998 sacking

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PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court here unanimously gave the green light to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to challenge the constitutionality of his sacking from Cabinet posts almost 10 years ago by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Following this outcome, the Federal Court will determine two questions of law – whether Anwar’s sacking was unconstitutional or not, and whether Dr Mahathir could sack his deputy, without first advising the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The court has yet to fix the date to hear Anwar’s final appeal. Anwar was ordered by the court to file the record of appeal within 14 days.

On Dec 23, 1998, the High Court dismissed Anwar’s suit against Dr Mahathir and the Government, to summarily strike out his application for an order to declare Dr Mahathir’s decision to dismiss him from the Cabinet posts on Sept 2, 1998 was unlawful and null and void.

The Court of Appeal had held that Anwar’s sacking from the Cabinet posts was lawfully executed by Dr Mahathir since the power to appoint and dismiss ministers lay with the prime minister. – Bernama

MCA to Enter Pakatan?

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PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has dropped the clearest hint yet of impending crossovers to Pakatan Rakyat.
“I can safely say that several MCA MPs will join us soon,” he told journalists yesterday, after opening a service centre in Bayan Baru, Penang.

However, as with previous assertions of the same variety, that was all he was prepared to reveal.

Anwar has been keeping the public on tenterhooks since the general election on March 8, with repeated claims of crossovers by Barisan Nasional (BN) parliamentarians, especially those in Sabah.

He said that discreet meetings have been held in Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore, to avoid scrutiny, and that “even a cabinet minister met me”.

At a rally held last night in City Stadium, George Town, the former deputy premier worked up the crowd with similar promises.

“It’s about time that we take over. It’s only a matter of time for us to take over. We are so close to Putrajaya,” he said to roars from some 30,000 people.

“It’s very soon. I will not say how (soon). But it will happen soon.”

He stressed that defecting MPs would have to accept the Pakatan tenets of good governance.

Anwar used the rally to obtain a ‘referendum’ on replacing the federal BN government and taking over as premier from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

He and other Pakatan speakers exploited the escalating cost of living triggered by the fuel price hike, to bombard the BN government and raise the tempo of a disenchanted crowd.

“I can guarantee you all today that if Pakatan Rakyat were to form the federal government today, we will bring down the oil price tomorrow,” said Anwar.

Salvoes against BN

Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, DAP advisor and Ipoh Timor MP Lim Kit Siang and PAS leader Mohamad Sabu also spoke at the rally.

Anwar said the BN government is still in a state of denial over the electoral debacle and that it has remained arrogant.

It has further betrayed the people’s trust with an unreasonable and inhumane fuel price hike, he said, although it has contributed to this through economic and financial mismanagement.

Anwar also wondered aloud as to why BN partners are supporting Umno’s weak political leadership and wrongdoing.

Saying that BN has run out of ideas in overcoming inflation, he said only Pakatan could save the country.

“Let’s join force to topple this irresponsible and arrogant government. If enough numbers support us (in Parliament), we will form the next government. The people of Penang must lead others in backing us for change to a better life,” said Anwar.

Hinting that Abdullah could dissolve Parliament in a sudden move to “save his skin”, he cautioned Pakatan leaders and members to be ready for a snap election.

“We must fight to win till the end,” he said.

Anwar eyeing Kuala Kangsar

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IPOH: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is looking at the possibility of contesting a by-election in Perak, if the court were to rule against Barisan Nasional in the Kuala Kangsar election petition.

Responding to queries on his pending contest in a by-election, the PKR de facto leader said: “I think Perak would be a good idea. We’re waiting for a decision on Kuala Kangsar.”

Anwar said this after speaking at a closed-door convention held by Perak PKR Youth yesterday.

He also said a committee had been set up to look into him contesting in a by-election, adding that it would be done through Pakatan Rakyat.

Dissatisfied voter Ahmad Jamaluddin Abd Majid has filed an election petition to declare the results of the Kuala Kangsar parliamentary constituency null and void after Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz failed to sign two out of three sets of her nomination papers in the last general election.

Rafidah won the seat against Perak PAS deputy commissioner Dr Khairuddin Abd Malik. The case is still pending in court.

On talk that a Barisan Nasional component party was planning to pull out of the coalition, Anwar said: “I think we will monitor this closely. I’m sure you’ll know very soon.”

However, he was tight-lipped when asked if the component party was from Sabah.

Later in GEORGE TOWN, Anwar said those who wished to join the party must accept Pakatan Rakyat’s agenda for a multiracial Malaysia and a guaranteed Constitution.

“We would receive such a move well and we hope that it happens in the shortest time,” he said.

He also said there had been discussions between Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan parties but such discussions did not mean the latter were joining them.

“They (Barisan parties) wanted to know how the Pakatan Rakyat parties work together and about the promises for change that we made.

“The discussions do not indicate they are crossing over,” he said.

PKR: We prefer a full-time Ipoh mayor

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IPOH: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has set several criteria for the potential candidate who will take up the post of Ipoh mayor.

PKR national vice-president Dr Lee Boon Chye said the candidate should be able to serve full-time, and should have sufficient experience to deal with civil servants.

»We don’t want the person to leave office to attend Parliament all the time« DR LEE BOON CHYE
“We don’t want someone who has to leave office to attend Parliament all the time,’’ he said yesterday. “It should not be held by an elected representative,” he added, commenting on PKR’s stand on the Ipoh Datuk Bandar post.

Speculation has been rife that Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran was keen on filling in the post but his interest has been shot down by several quarters.

The post has been vacant since the Datuk Mohamad Rafiai Moktar retired early this month.

Dr Lee, who is also Gopeng MP, said the person for the Datuk Bandar’s post should be able to handle city affairs on a full-time basis.

“We have a candidate. We want the person to be able to run the city hall well, a full-time person and one who is able to implement policies in the spirit of Pakatan Rakyat,” Dr Lee said, adding that the candidate should also be people-friendly.

“The candidate must also be experienced in dealing with government servants,” he added.

“We will be presenting our case at a meeting with Pakatan Rakyat leaders on Tuesday (tomorrow),” he said.

On Kulasegaran’s interest in the job, Dr Lee said Kulasegaran’s constituency was 100% within the Ipoh city limit.

As such, he said, certain policies implemented could be seen as a conflict of interest.

Perak MCA organising secretary Dr Mah Hang Soon had also called for the new Datuk Bandar to be apolitical.

Chua wins MCA branch polls

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MUAR: Former MCA vice-president Datuk Chua Jui Meng has managed to wrest the MCA Sungai Abong Tengah branch chairman’s post from incumbent chairman Yap Mia Lee.

Chua, who is also the Bakri division chairman, received 96 votes, while Yap, who is the division secretary managed only 53 votes, with one spoilt vote.

Chua said he had created history in the division for contesting for a branch chairman’s post as he had been the division chairman since it was formed 22 years ago.

Lights to go out during lunch time at local authorities, ministry

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IPOH: Local authorities have been directed to switch off lights and air-conditioners during lunch hour to save cost.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, who disclosed this yesterday, said the directive was made by the Chief Secretary to the Government.

»The MCA will forever be relevant to the people. Don’t listen to naysayers« DATUK SERI ONG KA CHUAN
“Local councils have also been told to postpone or cut down on beautification projects which do not benefit the people,” he said, adding that streetlamps should only be lit between certain hours.

Speaking after a working visit to Sungkai, Ong assured the people that projects such as flood mitigation works would continue.

“Hopefully through cost-cutting measures, we can brave the difficult period together,” he said.

He added that there would also be no foreign trips for ministry officers.

On another matter, Ong said the ministry was looking into the feasibility of a further reduction in stamp duty before proposing it to the Cabinet.

In the last Budget, he said, stamp duty was cut by 50% for houses below RM250,000.

“It still depends on the Government’s financial status as funds are still needed,” he told reporters yesterday.

Earlier in his speech to Sungkai MCA branch members, Ong, who is the party secretary-general, urged members not to give up hope although the party performed badly in the recent general election.

“The MCA will forever be relevant to the people. Do not listen to the naysayers,” he advised.

Ong also announced a RM60,000 allocation for Sungkai New Village and SJK(C) Khai Meng.