Friday, June 30, 2006

Is The Malaysian Cabinet Afraid Of Khairy?

Apparently Mohamad Sabu, Vice President of PAS thinks so. He quite categorically states that almost all the Cabinet ministers lack the courage to face the PM's son-in-law.

According to him Dr M has revealed that some 'young men' who have been placed at the 4th floor of the PM's Department by Khairy are more powerful than the PM himself. Therefore he concludes that those young men are more powerful than the cabinet ministers and the person who put them there, Khairy, is the most influential and powerful man in government!

He further states that it is regrettable that neither the leaders of Umno nor the Barisan Nasional in the cabinet are daring enough to correct the situation and in fact are condoning it to safeguard their own positions. Although all of them are aware of this 'third party' control of the PM and the government, none are brave enough to voice out despite knowing that the current situation endangers national security.

Even Datuk Shahrir Samad, Sabu says, who has been painted as a hero by the media has not come forward to caution Khairy and his clique;
how then can we expect the others to speak out?

Sabu however singled out one minister, Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin who openly stated the existence of third parties controlling the government and considers him as one person who dares to confront Khairy. He also states that Datuk Seri Rais Yatim has been said to have met the PM to convey the public's apprehension of Khairy.

Mohamad Sabu further asks Malaysians to realize the quality of our ministers who care more for their future than national security. If the cabinet ministers and other political leaders don't make efforts to check Khairy then he holds them all jointly responsible if anything untoward were to happen in Malaysia. He hopes that at least a few ministers would summon the courage to confront and curb Khairy.

The citizens too have to 'rise' and face this challenge to the security of our nation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are entirely those of Mohamad Sabu.

About RM5 Bil PTPTN Study Loans Still Pending, Says Razali

The National Higher Education Fund Corporation is a very good example of how NOT to run a corporation, department or agency. The sheer inefficiency of the staff of this cursed place is astounding. Such a noble and helpful aim of aiding students in need has been transformed into a traumatic and painful exercise by the corporation.

While it can get away with mistreating students by delaying crucial payments and claiming that application forms are incomplete or lost, it simply cannot deny the scandalously atrocious repayment history that is there for all to see. PTPTN has been unable or unwilling, due its terrible apathy, to collect RM5 billion ringgit! While the students share a large part of the blame, a lazy PTPTN only serves to encourage defaulters.

About RM5 billion study loans issued to students pursuing tertiary education have not been settled, National Higher Education Fund Corporation chairman Datuk Razali Ismail said Friday.

He said since the corporation was established, it had disbursed RM10.5 billion in study loans to students but only 49 per cent of them have paid up their dues.T he corporation would step up efforts to recover the money by sending reminders, publishing defaulters' names in the mass media and through court action, he said.

"The students should know their social and legal responsibilities to repay their loans," he told a press conference. Nonetheless, Razali said the borrowers' failure to settle their loans would not derail the corporation's duty to give loans to students from poor families as "this is a long-term investment by the Government to develop human capital."

Astro Set To Launch 50 More Channels

Astro TV is expected to launch another 50 channels by the end of the year, bringing its total offering to about 100 channels of satellite TV, including premium pay per view TV services, said David Butorac, its group chief operating officer. He said the rolling out of these additional channels and services would depend on the availability of greater bandwidth capacity with the launch of the Measat 3 satellite by Measat Global, an associate company.There had been some delay in the launch of the satellite because of issues related to the launch vehicle, he said at a media and analysts preview of Astro Max, a personal video recorder (PVR), here Thursday.

Astro TV currently beams its programmes on the Measat 1 and Measat 2 satellites to Malaysia and Brunei, and soon to Indonesia. Astro TV now has more than eight million viewers in 1.8 million households in Malaysia. The PVR will be available over the next few weeks at an introductory price of RM988 each.

Astro TV chief executive officer Rohana Rozhan said that the PVR would enable subscribers to record up to 60 hours of their favourite TV shows via 80 gigabyte hard disk. "With the Astro Max, subscribers can watch whatever they want, whenever they want," she said. The PVR will not only enable viewers to watch one programme and record another but also to pause "live" television.

She said Astro TV had spent up to RM80 million to develop, launch and market Astro Max which had been manufactured by its partner, Thomson, at its plant in Johor Baharu. Rohana said with the PVR, all recording functions would be done through a single device without any messy tapes or DVDs. She said Astro TV had committed more than RM500 million to create exciting content, both local and foreign, to its viewers so that its customer value proposition would stay fresh and relevant. "As content grows, with the Astro Max, our subscribers can be sure to never miss a single moment of their favourite programme," she said.

The PVR is expected to be the second decoder set for existing subscribers and may be the primary set for potential customers looking for premium services. However, Butorac explained that content from Astro TV would continue to be available through ordinary decoder boxes. "This (Astro Max) is a premium product and the question of affordability comes into play," he added.

Call On City's Public Transport Operators To Improve Services

With the KL public transport system 'pie' cut into many pieces to accomodate the needs of the public, the greed of the operators and the political considerations of the decision makers, it is needless to say the whole setup is in a bloody mess. Belatedly the government has realized the folly of too many cooks spoiling the 'public transport broth'. Thus the current call for improved services from all the operators, implying that none of the selected ones are up to par. So much for selection standards.

The Federal Territories Ministry wants all the city public transport operators including Rapid KL, KL Monorail, LRT and KTM Komuter to improve their services. Minister Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique said Friday they should have a dialogue with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to address issues regarding public transport delivery such as lack of parking space in their premises.

He said it was DBKL's task to administer and provide assistance to operators in terms of improving their facilities for the benefit of urban commuters who had recently shown positive feedback towards the public transport.

"There is more room for the present operators to improve their services in terms of parking space and other issues relating to infrastructures," he told reporters at the KL Monorail 40 Millionth Passenger Celebration at the Bukit Bintang Monorail Station here.Present were chairman of the MTrans Group (concession company for KL Monorail) David Chew and director of KL Monorail System Sdn Bhd Datuk Ahmad Rejal Arbee.

Reality Shows Sentenced To Slow And Boring Death.

Judges in popular television entertainment reality shows will have to tone down their criticisms and comments when new government guidelines are enforced soon.

Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said Thursday the guidelines were endorsed by the Cabinet early this month. He said the guidelines, numbering 20, have been submitted to the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry as well as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission for implementation.

According to him, all local television stations must comply with the guidelines. Rais said the guidelines covered permissible clothes, speech and conduct of people who appear in programmes in order to safeguard Malaysian values and culture.

So folks the high executioner has spoken. Rais Yatim, also executing judge-cum undertaker, is safeguarding Malaysian values and culture! This is of course based on his assumption that the target of his constant vigil are total illiterates who have no access to other means of getting to see what they want and NOT what he would like them to or prefer they view. How much more Orwellian can you get?

Although the minister did not mention it, television viewers could be expected to see less footage of women in skimpy dress and beach-wear. Rais said the guidelines were necessary because of the mushrooming of entertainment reality shows on local TV, many of them carbon copies of Western shows. He said the emphasis on entertainment would not bring any benefit in improving public behaviour and was inconsistent with Eastern culture.

Again the senseless reference to a hypothetical 'Eastern culture' that exists only in the imagination of these preachers of morality. What has the culture of people in Malaysia in common with those in say Pakistan or Kampuchea? Each is different and unique and to lump all these diverse and rich cultures and term them 'eastern' is to insult all of them.

He hit out at "copy-cat" shows such as "Malaysian Idol" in which the judges criticised contestants harshly to the extent of humiliating them."We do not want our society to turn into a copy-cat society," he said.

There goes one of the very, very few Malaysian shows which has a nationwide audience that transcends race, religion or social categories. Since when did 'harsh criticism' constitute humiliation? If at every turn harsh criticism is avoided or banned then there will be no quality graduate emerging from our universities or excellent employees from the workplace.

Ask any doctor and he or she will tell you what real harsh criticism is, and how important it was in shaping them into the good medical professionals they are today. So please Dato' Seri Rais Yatim, don't give excuses that have no basis and admit that you have aged to an extent that reality shows in a way reveal that perhaps you are slowly getting out of touch with reality.

Crooks Of A 'Feather' Stick Together.

Most of us would remember in school, when our teachers taught us that "birds of a feather stick together". Little did we realize then how often that proverb will be referred to as we grew older. The following is a classic example.

The Federal Territories Ministry is satisfied with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall's (DBKL) explanation for organising the Corporate Grooming and Social Etiquette course as it is proper to shape the public servants image as provided under the Civil Service guidelines. The Ministry's Secretary-General Datuk Ab. Hakim Borhan said that the course was a good exposure to government officials on image building and etiquette while attending official functions. "In a nutshell, I am satisfied with the report submitted, and the issue is considered settled," he said in a statement issued Thursday.

Who is this nutcase, Ab. Hakim Borhan, who in a 'nutshell' dismisses the matter by saying he is satisfied and then pompously declares the issue settled? Is he a relative of Ruslin, a partner in white-collar crime or merely one civil servant looking out for another more 'stupid' one who unfortunately got caught while most of them get away scot free?

He said the course, held from May 5 to May 7 and June 19, was part of a DBKL's human resource basic training programme and involved a cost of RM102,583.50. The first series of the course costs of RM78,730, while the second one costs RM23,863.50 and not RM94,000 as earlier reported, he added.

The rationale for DBKL organising the 18-module course was raised by several parties, including those who accused Datuk Bandar Datuk Ruslin Hasan of using it to lobby for the extension of his tenure. Local dailies published Ruslin's statement denying the accusation and explaining that the course was meant to give officials the exposure on etiquette at official events.

Hakim also explained that the allocation for tuxedo suits for Advisory Board members and senior DBKL officers for black tie affairs are estimated at RM1,200 per suit and not RM2,500 as reported. "Actually this suits have not been issued yet as claimed," he added. He said the ministry was also aware that the management expenditure for City Hall was under the purview of the Datuk Bandar.

The Secretary General of a Ministry is the de facto 'boss' who successfully gives the minister the illusion that the politician is in charge. On this person lies the responsibility of seeing that everything is done efficiently, transparently and honestly. If when gross abuses of power or mismanagement is brought to his notice, it is his duty to rectify the error and ensure that it is not repeated. When persons like Ab. Hakim Borhan appear to condone such wanton abuse, then he becomes an ally and accessory to 'civil service crime'.

I now wonder if Ab. Hakim himself is clean. Has he declared his wealth as is required? I personally feel that when one of these senior civil servants over-enthusiastically supports the abuses of another and tries to justify those mistakes publicly, then he or she should be promptly investigated for past acts of corruption. Who knows what will turn up in an ACA investigation?

Ab. Hakim Borhan, be warned. This blog will be watching you closely.

**** Earlier related post: Oh, These Wasteful Bastards.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

US Guantanamo Tribunals 'Illegal' - US Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Bush administration does not have the authority to try terrorism suspects by military tribunal.
In a landmark decision, justices upheld the challenge by Osama Bin Laden's ex-driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, against his trial at Guantanamo Bay.

The court's ruling that the proceedings violated Geneva Conventions is seen as a major blow to the administration.

But the ruling does not mean the closure of the Guantanamo Bay camp.
Mr Hamdan is one of 10 Guantanamo inmates facing a military tribunal.
He is demanding a civilian trial or court martial, where the prosecution would face more obstacles.

The BBC's Nick Miles in Washington says the implications of the ruling are profound, as the tribunals already in place will now be ended and 60 others planned would not go ahead.

The ruling does not demand the release of prisoners held at Guantanamo but gives the administration an opportunity to come up with another way of trying those held.

Suhakam Asks Police To Respect Court Decision

The Human Rights Commission Malaysia (Suhakam) Thursday asked the police to respect the court decision to free 15 prisoners who were detained under the Emergency Ordinance at the Simpang Renggam Detention Centre in Kluang, Johor.

Suhakam Commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said in a statement here the commission was taking a serious view of the incident at the detention centre Wednesday when police tried to rearrest the 15 who had been freed by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on June 22. "Suhakam believes that an arrested person should be brought to court and not detained under the Emergency Ordinance," he said.

Wednesday, five of the 15 who were freed escaped when police tried to rearrest them under the Ordinance. The five jumped out of the Prisons Department bus they were in when they realised police personnel in three vehicles were waiting to rearrest them. All the prisoners were arrested under Section 4 (1) of the Emergency Ordinance 1969 since two to six years ago for involvement in criminal violence. The rearrest was under Section 3 (1) of the Emergency Ordinance 1969 which enabled them to be detained for 60 days while waiting for the appeal decision from the Internal Security Ministry.

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had issued an order for them to be freed immediately last June 22 and they should have been freed at 11am Wednesday.

Siva asked their families to report the matter immediately to Suhakam for immediate investigation to be carried out.

In another development, Kluang OCPD, ACP Mohd Fauzi Arshad said efforts to rearrest the five were being made.

Meanwhile, the counsels representing the detainees want the police to stop making a mockery of the court order since the Kuala Lumpur High Court had quashed the detention order of the detainees. Lawyers Baljit Singh Sidhu and N. Sivanathan said they has decided to file contempt of court proceedings against the police for rearresting their clients.

Speaking at a press conference here, Baljit said one of the detainees, Lee Choon Peng, 44, has been rearrested Wednesday after he had been detained for six years for violent crime. "The Internal Security Ministry has yet to file any affidavit on Lee during the period of his detention. All we ask for is that the police give the detainees a chance of "fair play", bring them to the court," he said.

Meanwhile at the same press conference, Bar Council Chairman Lim Chee Wee said the incident gave the wrong impression to the public that the court had become powerless while the police could take action according to their wishes.

Klang Valley Folks Beware. Water Tariff Hike Beckons.

The Energy, Water and Communications Ministry is still looking into Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd's request for 15 per cent water tariff hike, its minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said. Puncak Niaga submitted the proposal for 15 per cent tariff hike for various categories to the government in November last year with the increases supposed to be put in place on Jan 1, 2006, under an earlier concession agreement.

The company via its 70 per cent owned subsidiary, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas), holds the water supply concession for Selangor besides supplying treated water to Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. However, to date, the government has not made any final decision on the request, which if approved, will affect more than seven million water consumers in the Klang Valley. "The ministry is still looking into it. No decision yet," Dr Lim told Bernama when contacted here today and refused to give any hint when the government would make the final decision.

He was asked on the comment by Puncak Niaga's executive chairman Tan Sri Rozali Ismail yesterday that the company deserved the hike as it has been working very hard. The company on numerous occasions had highlighted its request for the hike under the agreement but government replied that there was no automatic increase if the concessionaire failed to meet the benchmark set by the government.

It was not immediately known what is the benchmark but some analysts believed that this has to do with reducing the non-revenue water which is considered high at 40 percent now.

Last month, the Selangor state government said it would study how far Syabas has succeeded in reducing water loss before it considered the company's request for a tariff increase. Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Khir Toyo said the privatisation agreement with Syabas required the company to reduce non-revenue water before it could raise its rates.

However, Rozali claimed that the company has succeeded in reducing non-revenue water to 34.8 per cent from 42.7 per cent last year. Some analysts believed that under the concession agreement, Syabas is entitled to compensation in the event the government fails to allow it to raise water tariffs.

Dr Mahathir's Challenge - Government Revelations Begin.

The government today disclosed that the issues on the sale of sand and use of air space were first raised by Singapore and not Malaysia as claimed by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed. "Both these issues were raised as political quid pro quo based on the principles of equitable interests to enable Singapore to agree with the proposal to build a bridge to replace the Johor Causeway," said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.

The minister disclosed this in his written reply at the Dewan Rakyat sitting, here. Syed Hamid said the air space issue was actually not new and had been discussed long ago in the context of bilateral talks in packages from 1998 until 2002. "Tun (Dr Mahathir) himself had included the issue as a trade-off during the discussions which were held in packages between the two countries," he said.

On the use of Malaysia's air space, Syed Hamid said Singapore's Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, in his meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to discuss outstanding issues in Putrajaya, had again requested that Malaysia allowed the Singapore Air Force to use Malaysia's air space.

"At the same meeting, Goh had raised the sand issue for the first time and asked that Malaysia again allowed the sale of sand to Singapore," Syed Hamid said. However, during the Senior Officers' meetings between Malaysia and Singapore held between September 2005 and March this year, he said only two of the five special privileges sought by Singapore had been considered after obtaining approval from the Defence Ministry, namely the right to Search and Rescue and the Northern Transit Corridor.

Syed Hamid said the right to Search and Rescue was offered as a trade-off which was in line with international practices while the right to the Northern Transit Corridor was only for the purpose of transiting to the South China Sea whereby the Singapore Air Force's aircraft would not circle over Malaysian air space.

On the sand issue, he said the government considered the request by Singapore after taking into account that Malaysia had actually sold sand to Singapore way back during Dr Mahathir's administration. "Sand is in fact still being sold by Malaysia currently, that is, silica sand. However, compared to the sale of sand carried out during Dr Mahathir's administration, Malaysia had submitted more stringent conditions on the sale of sand," he said. The conditions were pertaining to the quality of sand, location, royalty payment, issuing of licence, federal and state governments' procedures, regulations on sand extraction, the relevant terms and conditions and effective enforcement to protect national interests.

However, Syed Hamid said the government had decided not to proceed with the bridge construction after taking into account the people's sentiments and sensitivities, and as such, Malaysia need no longer consider the granting of air space to Singapore and both these issues should not be raised again.

As directed by the Prime Minister, Syed Hamid said his ministry would come up with a more detailed explanation on the issues raised by Dr Mahathir on the bridge, sand and air space.

**** So the challenge has been taken up and Dr Mahathir had better beware if many of the errors of his administration will come out of the closet. It is one thing to openly confront the government of the day on any number of issues but totally another when similar if not more serious ones have been committed during the time of the accuser. Challenging and finding fault is the easy part. To counter and defend his own dismal record is probably the real difficulty. The type of dangerous game that he is playing may have its own rewards for him or it may unexpectedly backfire as gambits like this often do.

In the meanwhile an apprehensive public watches and waits nervously as the two parties prepare to square-off.

Nazri - Principled Politician Or Crass Opportunist?

Few persons can evoke strong public emotions with a mere statement. Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz ranks as one of those few, along with Mahathir, Samy Vellu and Rafidah among others. The people the public love to hate.

If we follow Nazri's more 'heated' statements over the years we can see a remarkable consistency. He has always called a cangkul a cangkul, no matter what the issue was, who he spoke about and despite the great risks in doing so.

He had not minced his words even when Dr M was the PM, once telling off Mahathir publicly. Nazri was at that time the UMNO youth leader and his public remonstrations against Mahathir drew strong reaction from party bosses and the public. Biadap was how many had then described him.

I still remember that a couple of days after he shot his mouth off, he retracted his statement and under severe pressure apologized to Mahathir. There were then rumours of how he was summoned to Sri Perdana, and while waiting for the PM to make his entrance he chanced upon a dossier on him which was kept conveniently close to him and after perusing the said dossier he had a change of heart and subsequently apologized! I cannot vouch for the veracity of that story but hey, are we not one of the few countries where the public is constantly reminded not to listen to khabar angin?

Over the years he has made many enemies with his brutally frank replies and arguments. Several years ago at the height of the 'taxi permit' scandal he gave a dressing down to a high ranking ACA officer, basically telling him to shut up and that the said officer is merely a subordinate while he (Nazri) was his political master.

Memorable also are his many 'battles' in Parliament where he has been portrayed as arrogant, racist and amok prone. Even here if we were to remove the emotional component and view his statements at face value we will find that he is consistent in his opinions - "Tell it as it is and to hell with you if you don't like it" is probably his motto.

He has of course over the years done his share of kowtowing. (I remember being very amused when Dr M was PM, and everytime he returned from a foreign trip the antics of the retinue of hand kissers at the airport, each trying to outdo the other in their sincerity and 'genuineness', as if he were royalty, never failed to evoke laughter.) Nazri was no exception to this public demonstration of loyalty and acknowledgement that he knew which side his roti was buttered.

Now the question arises, what if Nazri had maintained all that he rightly or wrongly believes in, but had done it with less bluster and had couched it in more 'politically correct' terms, would things have been different? Could he have avoided becoming the 'hate figure' he is now? If he had been much more diplomatic in his public reactions and relations would he, instead of being cast as an ungrateful opportunist, be thought of instead as a principled politician holding steadfast to the highest standards of political and public office?

I don't know. Do you?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Suhakam Says Money Incentives To Convert Orang Asli An Abuse Of Power

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said Wednesday that the monetary incentives offered by the Kelantan government to convert orang asli to Islam is an abuse of power.

It is wrong to use state funds as a marriage reward, said Suhakam economic, social and cultural rights working committee chairman Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria in a statement. "The utilisation of state resources as a motivation for preachers to convert orang asli women by marriage is an abuse of power and violation of the basic right, especially the freedom of thought, conscience and religion by monetary inducement," he said.

He said the state should instead help empower this poorest community through economic activities which will enhance their income, improve educational opportunities and develop their human potential to ensure them a better quality of life.

The Kelantan government announced on Monday a reward of RM10,000 to each Muslim preacher who marries an orang asli woman and converts her. The same incentive applies to a woman preacher who takes an orang asli husband. The preachers will also receive free accommodation, a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a monthly allowance of RM1,000.

"Inducement or reward for conversion, especially of very vulnerable and marginalised women in Malaysian society, is unethical and unacceptable even from any religious perspectives," added Dr Denison. He said his committee would review the matter and present the findings to the commission for further action.

Mara Plays Hardball; Debt Collection Agencies To Recover Loans

Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) has appointed 13 debt collection agencies to recover more than RM500 million in non-performing loans (NPLs). Beginning next month, debt-collection agents will be going after the loan defaulters who include graduates, entrepreneurs and tenants of Mara properties.

The collection agencies are Sahariah and Ass Sdn Bhd, Noble Landmark Sdn Bhd, Tetuan Amirul and Cooperation, Julitas Management, Q Matik Sdn Bhd, Ekspress Solution Sdn Bhd, Intellitec Asso Sdn Bhd, Pasadana Sdn Bhd, Priority Sdn Bhd, Seroja Anggerik Development, Yaacob Management and Consultancy Sdn Bhd, BJ Management and Services and Yayasan Pelajaran MARA.

By using this method, Mara hopes to recover at least RM20 million from its NPLs this year. Mara Director-General Datuk Zamani Mohd Nor said Mara was forced to use the services of debt management and collection agencies because the previous collection methods failed to produce the desired result.

Previously, Mara had even published the names of its loan defaulters in an attempt to force them to pay up. However, the method failed.

Meanwhile, Zamani said Mara's collection agents would carry authorisation cards to prevent borrowers from being cheated by bogus agents. "Payments by cheque must also be made to Mara only," he said.

Zamani also said that the agents, who will be paid 12 per cent commission from their collection, would not use "rough tactics" in carrying out their duties.

The trouble with some of these defaulters is their attitude. They firstly feel that they have a God-given right to obtain loans and scholarships without much effort. Secondly in their convoluted mind they think they can get away with it, if only they keep quiet and don't think about it. Thirdly they are under the erroneous impression that Mara has an unlimited amount of money to give away and whether they repay or not they will always be flush with funds.

And please people, don't think just because it is Mara loans we are talking about, that all the defaulters are Malays. On the contrary there are sizeable number of Chinese, Indians and others. You see, greed and irresponsibility knows no ethnicity.

Every one of those defaulters is a culprit and a criminal. They are a disgrace to the nation and their bloody faces should be put up in the print media like cowboy-style wanted posters. If they still refuse to pay, send out the car repossessor types. They should be taught such a lesson that they will never attempt to cheat their benefactors again when it is time for their children to obtain loans.

Delays On PR Partly Due To No Follow-up By Applicants. Oh Yeah?

The failure of many permanent resident (PR) status applicants to follow up with their applications has delayed processing of their applications.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho said such an attitude made it difficult for the ministry to proceed with the applications, especially when the documents were incomplete and the applicants had shifted to a new address. "Take this as a tips
(sic) from me, go and follow up, don't just return the forms and wait for five years. "If after a year there is still no feedback, please write to the ministry to know the status, or appeal if necessary," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby, here, Wednesday.

Earlier, at the Dewan Rakyat sitting, Tan said 17 people lost their PR status last year as they were involved in crimes or activities detrimental to national security. In the first six months of this year, seven people lost their PR status. In reply to Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera), he said there were 382,000 PR holders in the country.

Replying to Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur), he said foreigners who married Malaysians must reside at least five years in Malaysia before they could apply for PR status. It would take between three to five years to process the applications, he added.

Since when did Datuk Tan become a point-man and apologist for the notoriously arrogant and lazy Immigration Department? Tell me which PR in his right mind would not want to follow-up on his application? The problem is not with incomplete documents or address changes as the deputy minister would like us to believe. The crux of the issue is the attitude of the bloody officers that inhabit the department.

Everything else Tan says can be dismissed as pure excuses for the department's shortcomings. I have written on this very topic earlier on the immigration department's arrogance, describing it as an international disgrace

Parliament Or Animal Farm?

An argument over a factual error in a question resulted in two Members of Parliament (MPs) calling each other "animal" in the Dewan Rakyat Wednesday.

The verbal exchange between Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) and Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) culminated in Karpal Singh saying that Bung Moktar was "an insane person and animal unqualified to be in the house". Bung Moktar responded by saying Karpal Singh was "a crawling beast" and "a father of animals".

Both men ended their dispute after a reprimand by Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib who decided to move on to the next question. The quarrel began after Datuk Ronald Kiandee (BN-Beluran) asked about the success of the government's measures against drug trafficking and referred to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1989 when it should have been Dangerous Drugs Act 1988. Deputy Minister of Internal Security Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum, in his reply, correctly referred to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1988 but Karpal Singh insisted that the Dangerous Drugs Act 1989 did not exist and wanted Ronald to be referred to the Rights and Privileges Committee for "misleading" the house.

At this juncture, Bung Moktar intervened to say that an MP could not disrupt the question-and-answer session unless there was a matter of importance connected to the question. The verbal exchange continued for some time with other MPs joining in through expression of support or advice, including Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam), M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) and Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (BN-Santubong).

In his reply, meanwhile, Mohd Johari said that between June 10, 1988 and last month the value of assets confiscated from drug traffickers exceeded RM274 million, of which RM34 million had been deposited into the government's consolidated fund to finance its administrative operations.

****As for the main question, please answer it in your comments.

Number Of Smoking Women Jumps 100 Per Cent

The number of smoking Malaysian women jumped 100 per cent in 2003 compared to 1996, the Dewan Rakyat was told Tuesday. Parliamentary Secretary to the Health Ministry Lee Kah Choon said 2003 saw an eight per cent growth in the number of women smokers compared with four per cent in 1996.

The statistics were based on the ministry's second National Health Morbility survey in 1996 and a Universiti Putra Malaysia study in 2003. The study also revealed that the increase in the number of women smokers was noted in both rural and urban areas.

Lee said the ministry had identified four factors, namely physiology, psychology, social and environment, to be the main influence that promoted the smoking habit among the feminine gender. Replying to a question from Datuk Goh Siow Huat (BN-Rasah), Lee said the physiology factor influenced urban women to smoke as they thought the habit promoted weight loss. "The psychology factor is linked to image, addictive and to overcome low self-esteem as the smokers isolated themselves and make cigarettes their companion," Lee said.

He said a lot of women were also influenced by their peers and family members who smoke. Lee said the tobacco companies' aggressive promotional activities, including handing out free cigarettes and sponsoring sports carnivals, further worsened the situation.

This is definitely not a good trend either in the short or long-term. The severe detrimental effects of smoking are by now universally known and accepted, save for the tobacco companies who will not acknowledge it, even if some of their own kith and kin are killed by this dangerous habit.

However in women, the risks and implications are multiplied several fold. The incidence of foetal abnormalities has a direct link to smoking mothers. The effects of this foolish habit has consequences that go beyond the individual or the family; it has grave dangers for the nation and the well being and health of future generations.

Khairy Jamaluddin - Scapegoat Or Evil Architect?

The answer to the above depends on whom you are talking to, and where they are at, when talking to you.

KJ may be deified by some langsat polisher in one place and yet be character assassinated on the same day by the same person at another more private surrounding. For such are the devious ways of political players.

Way before Dr M started his tirade, there have been many stories, rumours and innuendoes about the disproportionate hold he has over the executive branch of government. The most explicit and comprehensive revelations since July 2005 were in Raja Petra's Malaysia Today's The Khairy Chronicles.

While some even then dismissed the writings as Raja Petra's fertile imagination it seems that now many constantly refer to his Khairy Chronicle Archives to get a better insight into KJ's psyche.

This is what Raja Petra wrote in 2005: The person who perhaps is most wary of Khairy is former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. While Dr Mahathir himself at first warmed to Khairy and his friends, appointing for example Khairy’s bosom buddy from Oxford, Dr Vincent Lim Kian Teck, as his second Chinese political secretary, he eventually found Khairy an overbearing presence upon Abdullah.

But at that time it was already too late. Mahathir had announced his retirement and Abdullah Badawi was the heir-designate. For whatever bad that Mahathir had done, he knew he could not afford to change his mind on the succession after the crippling failure of the removal of Anwar Ibrahim. So Khairy was kept on in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office in spite of Mahathir’s misgivings.

Mahathir turned red when Khairy Jamaluddin asked him in a Pemuda UMNO gathering whether he was really serious about stepping down. He thought it discourteous that Khairy insisted Mahathir send Abdullah for an overseas tete-a-tete meeting with the US President, even when Mahathir had dismissed the idea as “premature” and “unnecessary”.

Mahathir rankled when his former political secretary, Matthias Chang, reported to him that Khairy had mentioned in an informal student gathering in London that both Mahathir and Daim deserved to go to jail after Abdullah Badawi takes over.

But like all of Khairy’s enemies, Mahathir underestimated “the boy”. He thought that as leader of the country for 22 years, and the most powerful man in the country, Khairy could be pushed off the scene as and when Mahathir likes even when he was no longer in charge.

Mahathir trusted that his immensely strong iron grip on UMNO could be utilised behind the scenes to bend Khairy to the Mahathir whim. But it was not to be. Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz found himself humiliated when he tried to challenge Khairy for the deputy leadership of UMNO youth.

In spite of Mahathir’s monetary support, several large gatherings to pep up the Youth voters and the far-reaching tentacles of ANSARA (the former Mara students alumni group headed and funded by Mukhriz as a closet political tool), Mukhriz found that the rising son-in-law was more powerful than the fading son. He humiliatingly lost the UMNO Youth Head position in his father’s own constituency and got pitiful support for his national ambitions.

So basically we have an idea of how the early Mahathir-KJ relationship transpired. Therefore if today Dr M calls him that 'budak hingus' it is nothing to be surprised about.

However the above is just one side of the story. Apparently there is a supposedly other view being propounded by certain spinmasters. They speak of a very misunderstood and much maligned young man who would rather turn the other cheek than rise in rage at the injustice and public character assassination that he has been subjected to.

Despite being very fluent in several languages and an excellent public speaker he perhaps gets tongue-tied when someone makes personal allegations. That he has kept himself above the fray they say, speaks volumes of his sincerity and good upbringing. And if he has made millions in business dealings, why envy a person who has been certified by no less a minister than Nazri himself, that it was due to his business acumen. All the more made 'official' when he said this in Parliament.

It is impossible they say, for anyone, let alone the son-in-law to influence the mind of the Prime Minister who himself is subjected to the worst form of slander in modern Malaysian history. So sustained and venomous are the accusations and rumours about Pak Lah and KJ that the inner circle around them is worried that the majority of the usually well-informed public is starting to believe it.

They attribute it partly to the age-old Malay weakness - dengki. The "how come he's got everything, I've got none" attitude. So rather than let the 'boy' bask in the sun, turn everything into night and the hell with it. How tenable this line of argument is, depends on what 'philosophy' you subscribe to. While some may howl with laughter, there'll be definitely many who will buy this story.

So it is your decision people. Is KJ a misunderstood and maligned scapegoat or the evil architect as some make him out to be?

Businesswoman Fined RM1,000 For Failing To Submit Income Tax Returns

A businesswoman paid a heavy price for failing to submit her income tax returns to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD).

Low Siok Cheng committed the offence for five consecutive years since 1998.

Magistrate Syahrin Jeli Bohari fined her RM200 or two days jail for each offence. Low, the proprietor of Siok Cheng Enterprise, an automobile dealership, paid the fine.

She was charged under sub-section 120 (1)(b) Income Tax Act 1967 which provides a fine of up to RM2,000 or six months jail or both.

Only RM1000 fine for failing to submit returns for five years! She's one very lucky Ah Soh. Bloody hell, I get rammed with the full 2000 bucks fine every time I submit mine late. Would you believe my accountant is after me till this minute to get me to sign my returns?

What is 1000 ringgit for an automobile dealer? Peanuts. Pity the next few chaps who purchase a car from her though. She's got to 'make back' the fine no?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

ACA Probed 14 High-profile Cases

Fourteen of the 558 bribery cases investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency between 2003 and 2005 were classified as high-profile cases under the Anti-Corruption Act 1997.

The investigations into the high-profile cases have been completed and the investigation papers were forwarded to the Attorney-General's Chambers for further action, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

He said among them were cases involving former managing director of Perwaja Steel Sdn Bhd Tan Sri Eric Chia Eng Hock, former Land and Cooperative Development Minister Tan Sri Khasitah Gaddam and former Jeli Member of Parliament Mohd Apandi Mohamed.

Other cases were criminal breach of trust involving Kota Baharu MP Ramli Ibrahim, former Telekom Malaysia Chief Operating Officer Datuk Ibrahim Nasir and former Sepang MP Datuk Sharif Jajang, he said when responding to a question by Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian) during the winding up of debate in the Dewan Rakyat Tuesday.

On Salahuddin's question about a police officer alleging in the report of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operations of the Royal Malaysian Police that a senior police officer had declared assets worth about RM34 million, he said the ACA investigation found that it was merely hearsay.

On Transparency International's findings on the bribery perception index that placed Malaysia 39th among 102 countries last year compared to 39th among 146 in 204, he pointed out an error in the statement.

He said Malaysia had actually fared better last year because it was placed 39th among 159 countries, and not 102 countries.

On the allegation that the wealth of the prime minister's son, Kamaluddin Abdullah, and son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, had to do with corruption, Mohamed Nazri said their wealth was acquired from their business activities.

"Until now, there are no allegations against them and the wealth was accumulated through their ingenuity as businessmen," he said.

Dr M's Criticism Will Not Affect Investors' Confidence, Says Najib. Really?

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak believes that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's continued criticism of his successor and the government will not affect investors' confidence in the country. "They are aware that we are a stable government and backed by a strong political party," he told reporters.

Najib reiterated the stance taken by Umno in explaining to the people on the criticisms raised by the former prime minister. "We have to address not only Dr Mahathir but a wider populace," he said. Asked whether the former Umno president would be expelled from the party following his action, Najib, who is Umno deputy president, said the party has not discussed the matter.

Najib also dismissed claims by Dr Mahathir that Vision 2020 could not be achieved due to the slow pace of current development. He said that as long as Malaysia sustained six per cent growth for the next 15 years, the country could be a developed nation by 2020.

It would be foolish to ignore the impact of Dr M's criticism and dismiss it as inconsequential. On the contrary it will have the most significant of repercussions on foreign investors, both already here and those contemplating entering. Especially so if Mahathir raises the pitch.

Instead of attempting to reassure everyone by downplaying the issue, as many have already opined, Pak Lah has to abandon his 'elegant silence' and come forward to sort things out with Mahathir, if it is at all possible. Things cannot be left hanging in the air as the government is doing now. It gives the impression of indecisiveness and that the leadership is groping for answers rather than responding firmly. Only a firm response will convince investors.

In situations like this there has to be give and take - a trade off. What is Pak Lah willing to 'give' in order to buy peace? He must remember that the active party here is Dr M, and the government is merely playing it by ear and reacting mildly to his every provocation. How he reacts tomorrow no one knows. In a way he has the government by the balls.

How difficult it will be for the PM politically and personally to make 'sacrifices' to get this whole mess behind him is not known. Perhaps now is the time to sit down alone and calmly assess the situation that he faces and what are the real options open to him, the consequences of every one of those options, and go ahead and do what has to be done. This will be good for him, Dr M and above all, the nation.

Zainuddin Maidin - Informant Or Go-between?

Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said at a chance encounter with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Sunday, he conveyed his and the people's feelings over the former prime minister's stinging attack on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his administration.

"I sincerely poured out my feelings and that of Umno grassroot members and the people over the unhealthy development. But I found that Dr Mahathir had made up his mind. "I told him straight and he was not angry...his reaction was like what we read in the newspapers. He did not say anything but he believed in what he was doing," he told reporters after launching the NAM News Network (NNN).

Zainuddin said he met Dr Mahathir by chance at the Japan GT car racing championship at the Sepang circuit. The minister said he expressed his concern and that of many others that if the situation continued, it would only tarnish the reputation of Dr Mahathir who led the country for 22 years.

Dr Mahathir had recently openly slammed Abdullah and his administration, accusing the prime minister of changing his policies and cancelling projects approved by him when he was prime minister. He also wanted the government to reply to several issues he had raised including the thousands of Approved Permits (APs) issued to two people who did not even have showrooms, the removal of former Proton CEO Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff and sale of the Agusta motorbike company for one Euro.

Zainuddin said he honestly told Dr Mahathir that the more statements he made and the more he interfered in politics and the country's administration, he would hurt himself more. "It will also erode his high standing in society, his reputation and his big name because in politics like what he also believed -- there is no permanent friend and no permanent enemy," said Zainuddin who admitted that he still considered Dr Mahathir, whom he knew for more than 40 years since working in Kedah as a journalist, as one of his leaders.

Zainuddin said although he was a Cabinet Minister, he spoke to Dr Mahathir more as a journalist. "Let people say want they want to say, but I don't have any enemies. "I am a professional and what I am doing is what the party and the government want to be done professionally...I believe in Pak Lah and what he is doing," he said.

Asked whether he was would be the "mediator" to resolve the differences between Dr Mahathir and Abdullah if Umno asked him since he was close to the two leaders, Zainuddin said he was not qualified to mediate as he did not have an appropriate party position including not being a supreme council member. "For the party, I may be prepared (to mediate) but my role may not be effective," he said. Zainuddin also recalled the various leadership crises the country had weathered previously like the crisis between the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj and Dr Mahathir and during the formation of Umno involving Datuk Onn Jaafar but all the crises have ended amicably.

He said such crises were normal in the political world including in foreign countries.He said everybody must accept the reality that the world was changing and the views of human beings were also changing in tandem with new situations.

Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2006

Moscow replaces Tokyo as world’s most expensive city; Asuncion in Paraguay is the cheapest. Most Eastern European cities have dropped sharply in the rankings. Many US cities have risen in the rankings due to the strength of the dollar

Find out more about Mercer's Cost of Living Reports
Moscow has replaced Tokyo as the world's most expensive city, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer Human Resource Consulting, the global leader for HR and related financial advice. Seoul is in second place, climbing three places since last year. Tokyo moves down two positions in the rankings to take third place, followed by Hong Kong. Asuncion in Paraguay remains the least expensive city in the survey.

With New York as the base city scoring 100 points, Moscow scores 123.9 and is nearly three times costlier than Asuncion, which has an index of 43.5.

Mercer's survey covers 144 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is the world's most comprehensive cost-of-living survey and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.

"We have seen significant shifts in the cost-of-living rankings over the past few years, reflecting a changing global market. For many companies, it can now be more expensive to send employees to work in Russia or Korea than places like Japan or Switzerland which are often perceived to be more costly," commented Rebecca Powers, a Senior Consultant with Mercer's international business. She added: "More companies are now sending employees on expatriate assignments, so there is a greater need to keep pace with the cost of living changes. Employers need to be proactive in managing their expatriate programs to ensure they receive a proper return on their investment and employees are compensated fairly."

There have been some significant changes in the rankings this year which are primarily due to exchange rate fluctuations, in particular the strengthening of the US dollar.

Moscow is the most expensive city in Europe and in the rest of the world, with a score of 123.9. "Steep accommodation costs have contributed to the city's high ranking, as the recent property boom has driven up rental prices for expatriates," said Anna Krotova, Senior Researcher at Mercer.

London is the second most expensive city in Europe and ranks in 5th position (score 110.6). "While prices have actually increased slightly over the last year, the strengthening of the dollar against the pound means London has dropped two places since last year," said Ms. Krotova.

Other costly European cities include Geneva in 7th place (103), Copenhagen in 8th (101.1) and Zurich in 9th (100.8) - all have been pushed down one place this year. Oslo remains in 10th place with a score of 100 while St. Petersburg is in 12th position (99.7).

The Americas
New York remains the most expensive city in North America and climbs
three places to 10th position (score 100). Currency appreciation is the main reason for this, although price increases in fuel and certain consumer goods have also contributed to New York's rise in the rankings. Other high-ranking cities include Los Angeles in position 29 (86.7), San Francisco in 34th place (85) and Chicago in 38th position (84.1). Washington DC takes 83rd place (77). Winston Salem is the cheapest US city surveyed, ranked 124th (66.7).

"The strengthening of the US dollar against the European and other major currencies is a large contributor to the rise of most US cities in the rankings," commented Ms Powers.

Though still relatively inexpensive and benefiting from stable inflation, Canadian cities continue to move up the rankings due to the strength of the Canadian dollar. Toronto is the most expensive city in Canada and moves up from 82nd to 47th place (82.6). Ottawa remains the least expensive Canadian city but has climbed 32 places from 122nd to 90th (75.6).

Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the most expensive cities in Latin America moving up from 119th and 124th positions to 34th and 40th place respectively.

Three of the world's ten costliest cities are in Asia, with Seoul moving up from 5th to second place. While Tokyo has lost its title of the world most expensive city because of currency fluctuations between the Japanese Yen and the US dollar, it still ranks highly and takes third place. Hong Kong is in 4th position.

"Chinese cities have moved up slightly in the rankings as the value of the Yuan renminbi is now pegged to a number of currencies rather than just the US dollar," said Ms Krotova. Beijing is in position 14 (score 94.9) followed by Shanghai in 20th place (91.2).

****Individual reports are produced for each city surveyed. For further information visit, or call Mercer Global Information Services in Geneva at +41 22 869 3000.

PTPTN Asked To Increase Quantum Of Loan To Students

The National Islamic Students Association has asked the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) to increase the quantum of loan disbursed to students to offset the increase in the cost of living.

The association also asked the board to increase the scope of assistance to the second, third and final year students.

It said in a statement Monday that like the first-year students, the senior students also faced financial difficulty in paying the registration and other fees for the new semester.

The association advised the students to spend wisely in view of the high cost of living, it said.

It commended PTPTN for speeding up the disbursement of loans to 34,932 tertiary students who would register for the first semester beginning July 2.

It said the association hoped that the students could begin classes without any hitch caused by financial woes.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said yesterday that 34,932 students were entitled to receive an advance of RM1,500 from PTPTN by mail from Thursday.

Australia left stunned by agonising exit

Australia was in a state of disbelief on Tuesday after the Socceroos' incredible World Cup journey ended in heartbreak. A highly dubious stoppage-time penalty earned Italy a 1-0 victory over Australia in the second round, reducing thousands watching the game in public arenas to silence and even tears.

The atmosphere in Melbourne's Federation Square, the focal point for support of Australia's first World Cup campaign for 32 years, changed as the Socceroos had a quarter-final berth snatched from their grasp. "That decision was a disgrace, we didn't deserve to lose like that," said chef Sean Bowyer. "It's just unbelievable."

Australian media focused on the crucial decision by Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo, who awarded a penalty after Italy's Fabio Grosso tumbled over following a challenge by Australia defender Lucas Neill. "The decision was absolutely disgraceful," former Australia coach Rale Rasic said of the penalty on host broadcast station SBS.

Australian newspapers lamented a defeat made more painful by the fact the Socceroos enjoyed the better of the game and that Italy played most of the second half with 10 men following the sending-off of defender Marco Materazzi. "So Cruel" screamed the Daily Telegraph's front page, while the Sydney Morning Herald headlined its match report with "Goodbye, cruel world".

Australian Prime Minister John Howard was very disappointed but proud of his team. "I'm broken-hearted," Howard told reporters in Indonesia. "It's a very cruel way to lose, right on the knocker like that, but the team just played so bravely the whole match."

Just as with the first-round match against Croatia, multicultural communities experienced divided loyalties. In Melbourne, the focus was the city's Italian quarter along the restaurant strip of Lygon Street, where the "Forza Italia" banners have stood alongside Australian flags since the tournament began. No one cared that Guus Hiddink's side were depriving them of sleep for a fourth time with a 1 a.m. (1500 GMT Monday) kick-off time against Italy, the three-times World Cup winners.

Over 40,000 people had been expected on the streets but there seemed to be significantly more than for previous matches watching at specially erected screens. The mood in Sydney was subdued as thousands made their way into work . "I can't believe that we lost like that," accountant David Seaton said. "You wouldn't mind losing to a deserved penalty but that was just a joke.

"Other fans were more upbeat, preferring to dwell on the positive aspects of their team's World Cup campaign, which included a 3-1 win over Japan, a 2-0 defeat by Brazil and a dramatic 2-2 draw with Croatia to book a place in the last 16. "We have had a fantastic run and we are very proud of our boys," graphic designer Carrie Marlin said. "The tournament has been awesome."

Graduates Told To Join Franchise Business

The Government wants graduates to consider franchise business as a career and help to reduce unemployment. Cooperative and Entrepreneur Development Minister, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, said that the franchise business was the best alternative for them as it required minimum efforts in product development.

He said the business including brand management and promotions had been strengthened by the franchisor. "The franchise system is already a tested business scheme and it gives opportunity for Bumiputera entrepreneurs, particularly graduates, to move ahead quickly," he said when launching the Perbadanan Nasional Berhad's (PNS) Franchise Service Centre here Monday.

Mohamed Khaled also said PNS offered training programmes and integrated schemes to assist franchise entrepreneurs to start their businesses including providing credit facilities. "Those who want to venture into this business still need specific training to understand the trade as well as laws governing the business activities," he said.

Among the PNS-initiated programmes are the Graduate Franchise Programme and Franchising Programme for Women to create quality Bumiputera entrepreneurs. "I was informed that a total of 56 trainees under both programmes have finished their training and at initial stages of starting their venture nationwide in four sectors," he added.

The sectors are laundry services, telecommunications accessories, fast food and pre-school services.The Franchise Service Centre started its operations last month at the Putra World Trade Centre and functions as a one-stop centre to support would-be franchise entrepreneurs.-- BERNAMA

**** With this scheme, at least hopefully the thousands of unemployed graduates will not wallow in self-pity but be self-employed instead. After all with hard work and determination the franchise business is probably one of the safest bets for these types. Blindly getting into some course or another in university is one thing, but letting it get you down and not do anything about it is another. Kudos to the government on this scheme.

N2N To Offer Widest Global Market Access

Stockbroking firms and financial institutions in Malaysia will soon be given the opportunity to have direct access to major markets of the world following N2N Connect Bhd's (N2N) strategic alliance with London-based Blue System Incorporated (BSI).

Through the MESDAQ-listed company's partnership with BSI which provides market data, analysis and trading solutions to the global financial services industry, direct cross border access to more than 50 futures, commodities and equities markets in U.S, Australia and Europe will be available to Malaysian financial institutions.

It is believed that this is the first time in the country that direct access to multiple asset classes across multi markets is being made available, N2N Connect said in a statement. It said that while BSI will offer N2N customers direct access to U.S, Australia and Europe, N2N will provide direct access to Asian markets, starting with Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, to BSI's customers.

"N2N's comprehensive financial portal enables our customers to offer a heightened level of service to their own end-user customers. Our aim has always been to help our customers broaden their service offerings and to grow their business," N2N managing director Andrew Tiang said.-- BERNAMA

Perempuan Malaysia Pun Boleh!

A female private college student, believed to be the mastermind of a World Cup betting syndicate, was detained at her boyfriend's house in Taman Gembira, Jalan Kuchai Lama, here last Wednesday

.Brickfields deputy OCPD Supt Arjunaidi Mohd said the 21-year-old accountancy student, from a college in Kajang, was believed to have masterminded the operation with her boyfriend involving RM500,000 each time. The student was detained in a room on the top floor of a double-storey terrace house together with several betting equipment, he told reporters, here Monday.

The boyfriend's 54-year-old father was also held in the 10.45pm raid. The girl's boyfriend was not in the house at the time and is believed to be hiding. Arjunaidi said the syndicate was believed to have been operating since the World Cup started.

The syndicate members contacted people who wanted to bet through telephone or e-mail. Among the items seized at the house were RM8,350 cash, a list of betting numbers, a lap-top, CD-Rom, modem, and 16 payment receipts made through banks since June 13.

Meanwhile, police also detained a 52-year-old man at a house in Jalan Kuchai Lama last Saturday night while the man was watching a World Cup match. The man who worked at a shipping company, was believed to have been active in accepting bets since last November with bets amounting to RM1 million each time. "He was involved in horse racing as well as the World Cup betting," Arjunaidi said.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dr Mahathir Should Leave Umno, Says Nazri

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should leave Umno because he has colluded with the opposition and continued to criticise the government, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said Monday.

Declaring an "open war" on Dr Mahathir, Nazri said it was easier for him "to fight whatever allegations made by the former prime minister against the government if the latter is no longer in the party". "Now I'm still hesitant to oppose him because I still think of him as a former prime minister and former Umno president," Nazri told a news conference at the Parliament lobby here.The news conference was held to answer Dr Mahathir's latest criticisms made at a dialogue with the Malaysia Today portal, here last Saturday, which was also attended by many opposition leaders.

Will someone please tell Nazri that even if Mahathir is sacked from Umno he will still be the former PM and former Umno President. That unfortunately for him cannot be changed retrospectively. So his argument that only by removing him will he be able to take on Dr M holds no water. For a pipsqueak like Nazri to 'declare war' on Mahathir is not going to lead to any loss of sleep for the old tactician.

Nazri said it had never crossed Umno's mind to sack Dr Mahathir from the party. "I believe that the rumours that Umno would sack the former prime minister originated from him (Dr Mahathir) because he realised that his criticism of the government is a big offence. "I think he realises that what he has done is a big sin and is waiting to be sacked. We in Umno have never thought of sacking him. I guess he who tastes the chilli will feel the heat.

So it never occured to Nazri or the others to sack him! Despite all the inconvenience and barbed attacks by Mahathir they never wanted to sack him. What a great group of martyrs! Well ok, we'll take your word for it.

Nazri also criticised Dr Mahathir for trying to raise the issue of Abdullah's son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, who is the Umno Youth vice-head."Dr Mahathir is an experienced politician. We're not stupid to listen to Khairy. Dr Mahathir should know better and not 'fight' with someone who is 50 years his junior," he said.

So Nazri and the others are not stupid to listen to Khairy. I see. That can only mean that the rest of us who naively believed that KJ was the power behind the throne are the really stupid ones. Silly me. Sorry Nazri, I definitely got caught out this time when I was almost convinced that KJ was selling us out to Singapore. So tell me why then did Mahathir pinpoint KJ as the 'Rasputin'? The old man is senile perhaps? Or maybe he knows more than what you do?

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, in a statement, expressed the party's concern over the political storm involving Dr Mahathir and Abdullah which he said had "escalated into an intense conflict with the potential to undermine public peace and have adverse implications on the country's economy and image at the international level"."The people will suffer from this crisis," he said.

For once I completely agree with Hadi Awang. More power to you mate.

Ombudsman Not Suitable For Malaysia Says Government. But Why Not?

The Cabinet has decided that the Ombudsman institution similar to that set up in many countries is not suitable for Malaysia, the Dewan Rakyat was told Monday.

Nevertheless, several other Ombudsman-based concepts were being studied to be modified to the country's administrative system, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said. "A suitable concept that suits the nation's administrative system would be adopted by the Public Complaints Bureau in efforts to turn the bureau into an effective and reliable public complaints management organisation," he said.

While Tan Sri Dompok says that it is unsuitable he doesn't say why. But when he states that a 'modified' concept to suit our admin system is being studied, we begin to start doubting. He finally nails it when he says that it will be 'adoped' by the Public Complaints Bureau. Now things become a little clearer. There will be no ombudsman in the true sense of the word but merely a bureau with a fancy name and under strict government control run by civil servants who will still have to menurut perintah.

Ombudsman is an investigative commission or an independent intermediary body to enable ordinary citizens to lodge complaints on various issues including on misconduct and abuse of power. How can a government bureau act independently? We've seen the 'independence' of the ACA have we not? So people don't get your hopes up too high, too soon, for what I feel is going to be finally touted as an 'ombudsman' is nothing but another paper tiger which sooner or later will bite the dust.

Kelantan Offers RM10,000 Reward To Marry Orang Asli

Read the following report from Bernama and make up your mind on the wisdom or lack of it shown by the PAS led government.

The PAS-led Kelantan government will give a RM10,000 reward to Muslim preachers who marry natives (Orang Asli). Kelantan Missionary and Islamic Development Committee chairman Hassan Mahmood said the state government would also provide accommodation to them at the Orang Asli settlements, particularly in Gua Musang and Jeli, to facilitate their missionary activities.

"The move is made because the state government is dissatisfied with the missionary achievements. The 2005 data showed only 2,094 Orang Asli converted to Islam out of the 12,000 Orang Asli population in Kelantan," he told reporters here during a break of the state assembly sitting, Monday. He said the marriage reward was part of the incentives for missionaries under the newly-formed Orang Asli Missionary Unit of the Kelantan Islamic Religious Department.

Replying to a supplementary question from Mohamad Adhan Kechik (BN-Bukit Bunga) earlier, Hassan said it was not too late to form such a unit to strengthen the state's missionary efforts. In addition to the marriage reward, Hassan said other perks would include a RM1,000 allowance, accommodation and a four-wheel drive vehicle. "God willing, we will extend (the incentives) to male and female missionaries," he added.

He said the Kelantan Islamic Religious Department was giving emphasis to missionary efforts on the Orang Asli by appointing S41-level officers who were supported by five staff and one administrative officer. The number of officers and staff for the unit would be increased after this, he added.

Prior to this, missionary work among the Orang Asli was carried out with the cooperation of the Kelantan Malay Customs and Islamic Council, and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department.

Meanwhile, assemblyman Saufi Deraman (BN-Galas) questioned the rationale behind such rewards. "What about the Muslims in the country? Why were they not given such perks when they married Chinese and Indians. Aren't they Malaysians like the Orang Asli?" he asked.

It's Compulsory To Report For NS Training, Says Najib

Candidates selected for the National Service (NS) programme have been warned to report for training or risk legal action, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Monday. The Deputy Prime Minister said: "We have given many chances to NS dodgers.This is a requirement under the law for them to participate in the programme. "The programme is not burdensome but beneficial to them, so don't give excuses not to take part in the programme," he told reporters after launching the aerospace segment of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA 07) Exhibition.

He was commenting on the refusal of many NS candidates to participate in the programme from the 2004 and 2005 batches and in the latest NS series where this week nearly half of the candidates had not reported for training. Nevertheless, he was confident the registration of the latest batch would pick up after his statement. "I've not received the figures but normally the number of trainees will increase after the first week," he said.

Najib said entering university or the authority's plan to introduce firearms training using M-16 rifles for the latest batch of NS trainees were not the reasons for the drop in registration. "Actually, they are keen on shooting's optional," said Najib, who is also Defence Minister.

Of the 27,089 NS trainees asked to report for training under the third series of the programme this year at 77 training camps nationwide, only half have registered so far. A total of 11,874 NS candidates from the 2004 and 2005 batches who have still not reported for training, are given until July 17 to do so, failing which their names will be handed to the police for action.

**** In one of my earlier posts on this subject I had mentioned that parents and their children could not be bothered with the NS. They feel that the government is bluffing and nothing will happen to them if they absent themselves. Perhaps this is one of the fallouts of the 'elegant silence' strategy of the leadership? Click here to view the related post.

Students, Entrepreneurs Owe Mara RM500 Million

Mara is still saddled with a staggering RM500 million education and business loans though its collection rate increased by 30 per cent this year, its director-general Datuk Zamani Md Noor said Monday. He said the agency aimed to clear the loan arrears over the next four years if the current repayment trend continued as there had been a significant improvement in the collection of outstanding loans.

"Until March this year, we collected RM50 million compared to RM29 million last year. This is a big improvement as our average collection target per year is RM200 million," he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Mara district officers' seminar. Zamani said while borrowers were now more aware of their repayment commitments, Mara was also flexible in loan collection procedures. "If they can't pay in full, we tell them to pay in instalments," he said.

Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Minister Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said his ministry had been allocated RM5.772 billion under the Ninth Malaysia Plan and RM3.086 billion of the amount was for Mara. He said Mara, with 111 district offices nationwide currently, planned to open three more in Gua Musang, Lawas and Cameron Highlands. The agency also planned to train 150,000 new entrepreneurs under the ninth plan, he added.

**** What else can I say except repeat the same old mantra of government ineptitude, wastage of precious funds, ungrateful and greedy recipients of Mara's largesse etc etc? With such absolutely useless loan collection history it is a wonder that some actually repaid at least part of their loan.

I wonder why the authorities in Mara don't want to wield the big stick? After all these same defaulters would not dare to try the same trick with the income tax people; they'll get shafted like the rest of the defaulting population. It is primarily because of lax procedures and tidak apa attitudes that these minor criminals have the guts to stop paying.

Govt Says No To Designer Babies

The creation of "designer babies" will not be allowed in this country except for medical reasons, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Monday. As such, he said the ministry was drafting a new act which included guidelines on the matter and was expected to be announced by end of this year.

"According to the guidelines being drafted, sex selection for social reasons is not permitted. "Sex selection is, however, allowed if a particular sex predisposes a serious genetic condition like haemophilia and Down's Syndrome," he told reporters at the Parliament's lobby.

It was recently reported that Malaysia's first designer baby was born in December 2004 using the Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) method at the Damansara Women's Specialist Centre. The centre started offering this service two years ago and was the first to so in the country.

PGD, which enables the diagnosis of more than 200 genetic diseases and the determination of the embryonal sex, is not available in government or university hospitals. Dr Chua said there were about 30 private fertility centres in the country.

To a question, he said the PGD method, if not controlled, would cause a negative effect in the long run where the number of males would greatly outnumber the females. The accepted ratio between male and female in Malaysia is 105:100 and Dr Chua is worried that this may increase to 120:100 if parents are allowed to choose their babies' gender as had happened in China.

"We are not against infertile couples seeking medical treatment to have babies but they should not choose the sex," he added. Although the guidelines and new act had yet to take effect, he said, medical practitioners should stop any efforts to create designer babies. Asked whether today's announcement would cause a rush to create designer babies to beat the deadline, he said: "We have ways to handle them".

**** When man's inherent greed and avarice is aided and abetted by modern science, designer babies is but one fallout; a case of the 'hair being blonder on the other scalp', if you will. There are certain things that should remain sacrosanct and beyond the fallible meddling of mere mortals. One such area is genetics, where prudent and unbiased research and application, not motivated solely by profit, should be a creed.

I must congratulate the Minister of Health, Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek who after taking over the portfolio has brought many needed changes to the health services. Along with his very capable DG, Tan Sri Dr. Ismail Merican I'm sure we are in safe hands for the time being.

A-G Chambers In Final Lap On IPCMC Study, Says Abdullah

The Attorney-General's (A-G) Chambers is in the final stages of wrapping up a study to set up an Independent Police Commission on Misconduct and Complaints (IPCMC), Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told the Dewan Rakyat Monday.

The Prime Minister said the A-G Chambers would advise the Government soon on the setting up of the commission. He said the Government was serious in efforts to boost the image of the police force into a credible and effective law enforcer. "Therefore, whatever mechanism needs to be set up for the purpose, we will do it," he said.

Abdullah, who is also Internal Security Minister, was replying to Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) on the progress of the study to set up the commission and whether the government still held to its promise to establish the commission.

**** So if you take the PM at his words the IPCMC should be a reality 'soon'. It would be interesting to see what the reaction of the police will be now that it has been 'officially' announced in Parliament. However the unknown now is what the Attorney General's recommendation would be. If he were to backtrack on the original spirit of the IPCMC then it will be open season on the AG. We'll just have to wait and watch.

Click here for Kit Siang's reaction

Disneyland - Johor's Loss Is Shanghai's Gain.

Mickey Mouse and company will be singing in Shanghai if China's central government gives the nod to the building of Asia's third Disney theme park in the populous port city.

The Walt Disney Company had held successful talks with Shanghai local authorities and final approval was now in the hands of the State Council, said Disney's board chairman George Mitchell. "Our discussions have been with Shanghai officials, and now they are engaging with the national officials. We have an interest in proceeding and we hope that satisfactory terms can be worked out and we can proceed," Mitchell told the China Daily newspaper.

He refuted that a theme park in Shanghai would be detrimental to Hong Kong's Disneyland opened only last September. "There are a very large number of people in the Shanghai area and we don't think that this will have any more of a negative effect on Hong Kong than, say having a park both in California and Orlando, Florida.

"We are looking forward to a long and what we hope will be a productive relationship in Hong Kong and Shanghai," he said. Mitchell declined to set any timeframe for the project. "We try to proceed as quickly as possible after the execution of the contract, but until we execute a contract we don't get into when we are going to start," he said.

According to the China Daily, a site in Pudong's Chuansha has already been earmarked for the Shanghai park. Shanghai has a population of 18 million.

**** As usual by the time we in Malaysia pander to all kinds of ridiculous nationalistic, religious, ethnic and other fringe voices before taking decisions, events will surpass us as in the case of Disneyland. Johor would have been ideal but the Chinese, pragmatic as always, beat us to it. Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt from this.

I'd Be Worried If I Were Kit Siang Or Hadi.

With the incomparable Dr M back in full form after a short respite, it is now clear that he is prepared for all out war.

Apparently he has gone into battle-station readiness and has fired the first of the more serious salvoes that is calculated to hurt the Pak Lah administration. As he slowly and surely ups the ante, something has to give - either the PM has to go public sans spokesmen or representatives and raise the controversy to a higher plane, or the supreme sacrifice of Khairy Jamaluddin on the altar of pragmatism and or expediency has to be made. Which way he goes no one knows except that Pak Lah simply cannot afford to stay silent for much longer. Already I'm sure he must be under tremendous pressure from many quarters to respond adequately.

As it stands Mahathir has wrested the initiative from the opposition and other 'not so well wishers' of the present leadership in openly finding fault with the government. Now where does that leave the de jure opposition leaders like Lim Kit Siang and Hadi Awang?

They must be mucho worried that Dr M has gone on the warpath. As much as it puts the government in a poor light, such is politics that when it is not the 'real' opposition who does the shit-stirring they get very, very distressed, lest they be sidelined in the only role they have carved a niche in.

If Dr M keeps this up, then Kit Siang had better tutup kedai and become a fulltime blogger ranting his dislike for the government and blaming Mahathir for his predicaments. Same for Hadi too; at least he has the pulpit to preach from.

The hard reality is that Mahathir or rather his 'voice' is bigger than that of Kit Siang's DAP and Hadi's PAS put together. While the latter have been mostly irritants and pinpricks for the government, Mahathir is capable of delivering fatal wounds.

So where does this leave the sidelined duo? Hadi and Kit Siang could of course reinvent their traditional roles and try for once to play the peacemaker, acting as a go-between. But what's in it for them? Better than nothing I'd say. After all doesn't it say in one holy book that "blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see heaven?"

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Don't Be Alarmed Over Monitoring By Politicians - PM

I was terribly alarmed when I read that headline. What does the PM mean when he says don't be alarmed? Especially when he elaborated that the monitors included Umno members!

Government officers are reminded that they need not be alarmed or disturbed if there were elected representatives or Umno party members giving reports to them directly on the implementation of government projects. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the monitoring could also be carried out by party members through their leaders, that is, the relevant State Executive Councillors or Menteris Besar or Chief Ministers.

If that ever becomes reality it will spell the end of the civil service as we know it. The Umno divisional leaders will run riot in government departments and such will be the interference that I'm sure at some point the public servants are going to fight back. That scenario will do no one any good.

"Their role should be perceived as assisting (in the project implementation). I asked the elected representatives and party members to carry out their role and observe what is happening in their respective areas. "If something is not right, try and contact the district office and ask what is happening to the project."

How in heaven's name can these dolts who have no experience monitor projects? And does it not imply that by giving them a monitoring or supervisory role that they have access to confidential files?

Abdullah had said that Umno had created a monitoring mechanism which would look at the projects not only from the viewpoints of politicians but also that of professionals and executives who wanted to carry out this task voluntarily.

Of course they'll volunteer because there is something in it for them. Don't expect pure selflessness from anyone in Malaysia today especially where government projects are concerned. These are considered as shortcuts to become multi-millionaires.

In short I feel that it is a harebrained idea that would be better stillborn, like many of our projects, rather than be allowed to see the light of day.

Samy Vellu Will Step Down 'When The Right Time Comes'

Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who has been the MIC president for the past 25 years, said Sunday that he will only step down when the time is right. "When the right time comes, I will announce it," he said, laughing, in response to a question thrown by a reporter.

He was asked whether he would follow the footsteps of Gerakan president Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik who announced today that he would step down from the post early next year to pave the way for his deputy Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to succeed him. His answer: "That is his party, that is his view. I can't say anything."

Samy Vellu took over the helm of the party following the death of party president Tan Sri V.Manickavasagam in 1979. Despite challenges for the post, with the hottest in 1989 by his deputy Datuk S. Subramaniam, Samy Vellu has been able to retain his seat until today.

In yesterday's party elections, his position was further strengthened when all, but two, of his men won all the seats contested with the best performance from his blue-eyed boy, Datuk G Palanivel, who defeated the long-term incumbent Subramaniam for the post of deputy president by a majority of 448 votes.

**** You might as well believe in Aesop's fables if you really think that Samy Vellu is going to retire any time soon. Some have to be given a gentle push while others need to be dragged out caveman style. I wonder which one he will prefer?

Dr. Lim Keng Yaik's Final Adios?

Parti Gerakan president Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik announced Sunday he will step down from the post early next year to pave the way for his deputy Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to succeed him. He said the change of the guard will take place at an extraordinary general meeting of the party in the first quarter of next year, expected to be held after the Chinese Lunar New Year.

To empower the party to appoint his successor, the party constitution will be amended at the annual general assembly scheduled on Sept 2. The 67-year-old Dr Lim, who is the Minister of Energy, Water and Communications, has long been known to favour Koh, the 57-year-old Chief Minister of Penang, to succeed him as party president. The way was opened after Koh was elected deputy president unopposed at the Gerakan elections in August last year, taking over from Datuk Seri Kerk Choo Ting who did not defend the post and instead made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency against Dr Lim.

Dr Lim said the party constitution at present did not provide for the posts of president or chairman at state, division or branch levels to be automatically filled by the deputy president or vice chairman if a vacancy occurred. "So we will amend the constitution at the general assembly this year to enable the deputy or vice president to move up should a vacancy occur for whatever reason. "If that is done, then next year I will hand the leadership of the party to my deputy who will become acting president until the next party election," he said.

Dr Lim said his wish to step down was not something new as he had spoken about it as early as 2000 and he had prepared the party's members to accept the change. "I don't think there will be any problem and I don't think anyone wants to maintain me (as president) any more because we have already prepared the ground for the last six years," he said.

Asked whether he would reconsider his plan if called on to stay by the party delegates, Dr Lim said that kind of decision would not be good for the party and he would not consider it. As for his future role in the party after he steps down, he said he would leave the decision to the new leadership whether or not they wished to appoint him as a party advisor.

The Bruas division at its meeting today unanimously returned Dr Lim for another term as its chairman.

Now that all the major component parties of BN have got rid off their Deputies it is time for the senior presidents to exit. The pressure will now be on Dato' Seri Samy Vellu to call it a day. But when has public opinion or anyone else's ever bothered him?

Old-age Pension For Citizens - An Excellent Idea.

The government has been urged to implement a form of pension for senior citizens who have no other means of income during their twilight years.

A prominent Sarawak social activist, Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon, who made the suggestion Sunday, said a majority of the aged in the country had either very limited income or no savings at all to enable them to fend for themselves. "As a voluntary social worker I can see how life can be quite miserable for those senior citizens faced with financial and other problems," Ang said at the annual inspection parade of the Kuching Town Secondary School's St John Ambulance here.

Ang, who is chairman and commander of Sarawak's St John Ambulance, said Malaysia, being blessed with rich natural resources, could afford such a pension scheme as was done in many developed countries. "I don't think it is too much to ask that the elderly be treated with respect and be provided with the means of living out of the autumn of their lives in a comfortable, secure and pleasant environment. "Indeed I feel we owe it to them. Surely this is a problem we need to solve now, as even one elderly person living without adequate care and food in an uncomfortable, uncaring environment is one too many," he said. And he added: "Let us not forget that most of us here today could also end up in the predicament unless we find solutions now. It is a challenge we have to face".

Ang also praised grateful children who take care of their parents, citing the example of a highly qualified Malaysian medical specialist who is doing extremely well overseas but is coming home soon to be with her father, who had made a lot of sacrifices for his children's education.

Another case he mentioned was that of a man who chose to resign from his job to take care of his disabled father. "Moving stories like these touch the heart. It proves that there is still love and compassion in this hectic and materialistic world," he said.

Ang also called on more students, especially undergraduates, to join St John Ambulance, the world's oldest humanitarian organisation, as volunteers to serve the community and country.

**** I personally think it is an excellent idea if it can be practically implemented without too much of a dent on the Treasury. The old folks deserve the best that we can give them.

On a personal note Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon is a close friend of my late father and the family still treasures the souvenirs he used to send us now and then from Sarawak.
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