Monday, March 29, 2010

Malaysian Insider: Perkasa, GLCs and the New Economic Model — Lim Teck Ghee

Perkasa, GLCs and the New Economic Model — Lim Teck Ghee

MARCH 29 — During the recent Perkasa meeting on March 27, Ibrahim Ali expressed his displeasure with the CEOs of government-linked companies (GLCs) for not attending his Malay rights group inaugural congress.

He also criticised the GLC heads for being more concerned about their personal interests instead of the interests of the Malay community.

Introducing a note of intimidation, he warned that Perkasa will scrutinise the GLCs. “We are not only looking at their performance but also the role they play in helping Malay entrepreneurs.”

The GLC rebuff is indicative of a rejection of the Perkasa agenda by the Malay captains of industry who recognize the negative implications of the policies being espoused.

It is also salutary that apart from Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Mukhriz Mahathir, no other significant member of the cabinet took part in the gathering of the ultras at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC).

The Malay and Malaysian public should look forward to hearing the outcome of Perkasa monitoring the GLCs and learning the truth about how these bodies are standing in the way of, or seriously implementing, their mission of fulfilling the Malay agenda.

The importance of GLCs to the Malay agenda can be ascertained from the following facts:
• GLCs are major shareholders of corporate equity. They comprise 36 per cent and 54 per cent of the market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia and the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index.
• Seven out of the top 10 listed companies are under majority ownership of the government.
• Senior GLC positions are largely determined along ethnic lines. GLC directors, management and staff are largely Bumiputeras.
• Non-Malay owners of listed and unlisted companies often have no choice but to work with influential Bumiputera and GLCs to help protect their interests through obtaining sub-contracts or becoming suppliers of goods and services.
• Non-Malays may own 40 per cent of corporate equity based on the government’s flawed calculations but GLCs are the major players and have control over the economy.

Because they have done very well for the Malays (including the likes of Ibrahim Ali and many of his supporters who have benefitted from GLC patronage and largesse), it is rather dumb of Ibrahim Ali to expect these GLC leaders to openly attend the meeting and to proclaim to Perkasa members and the world the various ways in which they are protecting and advancing the Malay socio-economic position.

In fact, Ibrahim Ali and many GLC Malay leaders may be on the same wavelength on the issue of enhancing the Malay socio-economic position. However, the main difference might only be that the Perkasa head is a politician using crude racist tactics whilst shouting from the top of his voice at the PWTC while the GLC chiefs are likely to pursue the Malay cause through more subtle means. As corporate figures, they recognize that growth is a prerequisite to fulfillment of long-term Malay and national goals.

Quite apart from this, many of these GLC leaders also recognize the realities and implications of policies that have contributed to capital flight, the virtual drying up of FDI flows, a sizable brain drain and a general loss of competitiveness. These negatives have been acknowledged by the Second Minister of Finance and are indeed implicit in the call by the Prime Minister to adopt a New Economic Model (NEM).

A New Economic Model devoid of a course correction —via adoption of more market friendly and less racially skewed policies —would be an exercise in futility. Ibrahim Ali’s formula constitutes an abandonment of much needed pro-growth strategies in favour of a discredited policy package that is centered round the distribution of existing wealth. No country in the world in this era of globalization and liberalization has chosen such an economic strategy.

Similarly with the refusal by Umno to respond to Ibrahim Ali’s unfounded charges that the Malays have been marginalized in the country.  All Umno leaders (except perhaps Mukhriz) are aware of the overwhelming dominance of Malay power in the country. Far from Malay constitutional rights being eroded or usurped by other communities, it is the other way round. This is acknowledged by many Malay leaders including Anwar Ibrahim and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

If one is using a purely racial lens approach it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Malay hegemony has never been so strong or firmly entrenched as it is today. Ibrahim Ali and his cohorts are opportunistically delusional and appear to be living in a cocoon of their own. They fail to factor in the fact that the political and economic model that they espouse will bring irreparable harm to the nation and future generations of Malaysians, including Malays.

Tackling Malay poverty
In the economic sphere whilst there is still much work to be done to uplift the lot of the poor Malays, the task is less formidable than official statistics may make it out to be.  This is because Malay poverty — as distinct from Bumiputera poverty — is likely to be considerably over-estimated by the present statistical practice whereby the Malay figures are lumped together with the figures of recent migrants from Indonesia who have obtained Bumiputera status as well as the other Bumiputera from East Malaysia.

The great majority of the former group — Javanese, Sumatrans, etc — who have now assimilated into the country’s population in very large numbers especially after the 1970s came with virtually nothing in terms of assets or income. Inclusion of these poor “pendatang”, despite their upward mobility after settlement, has had much impact in distorting the racial distribution of household income. Without them (and also Bumiputra communities in Sabah and Sarawak), the ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’ or ‘local’ Malay achievement, as distinct from Bumiputera achievement, will be much higher on all the social and economic indicators used by the Department of Statistics to measure inter-ethnic differences.

At the same time, Ibrahim Ali and his supporters are wholly mistaken in their view of poverty. The government’s own statistics indicate that poverty, however defined, has been drastically reduced. The stark issue is the unconscionable and widening income disparities that prevail within the Bumiputera community. Ibrahim Ali and his keris waving Umnoputra crowd are totally silent on this aspect of the Malay dilemma.

Malay wealth
Umno leaders are also fully aware that much of the new wealth in the country is in Malay hands. These sources of wealth include the plantation sector which is dominated by Felda and PNB companies;  the smallholding agricultural sector where the Malays are the major group amongst the 112,635 Felda settlers; the hi-tech aerospace industry; the highly lucrative defense industry; the petroleum and gas industry where apart from Petronas and MMC, the Malays have substantial holdings in key MNCs such as Shell, Exxon, BP; the finance and banking sector where eight out of 10 banks are Bumiputera- owned and controlled; the automotive sector where Malay interests are dominant in Proton, Perodua, DRB Hicom, UMW and Naza, and where the system of APs ensures a steady stream of income for select Bumiputeras; as well as the energy and utilities sector where TNB and Malakoff are key players; and so on.

Perhaps the ace in the pack in Umno’s claim to have successfully stood up for Malay interests (besides its own) is that a key target of the NEP restructuring programme — the building of a strong Malay professional and technical elite class — was attained some years ago. From a very small base of professional and technical workers in 1970 (Bumiputera comprised 4.9 per cent of registered professionals at that time) the Malay component of the country’s professional and technical workers today is the biggest amongst the various racial groups. According to the Malaysian government’s Third Outline Perspective Plan (2001-2010), the Bumiputera community comprised 63.5 per cent of the ‘Professional and Technical’ category of employment in 2000.

This growth of a strong Malay professional class within a short period of 30 years is possibly the fastest recorded by any marginalized community anywhere in the world. That this information is not widely known or disseminated is not due to modesty but carefully controlled political spin aimed at under-reporting Malay achievement and emphasizing non-Malay dominance of the economy.
Meanwhile, the employment pattern in the public sector at all levels is overwhelmingly Malay because of discriminatory policies in hiring and in promotions. If there is any prong of the New Economic Policy that has not been fulfilled, it is the restructuring of the public sector.

The New Economic Model and the country’s future
In a few days’ time, the Prime Minister will unveil the New Economic Model which is intended to replace the New Economic Policy and its racially divisive policies. At that point, we will be able to see if Perkasa, Dr Mahathir Mohamad and other carpetbaggers have been able to successfully hijack the NEM and set the country up for another round of Malay preference policies that will destroy the promises contained in the Najib Razak vehicle ‘1 Malaysia’.

Were these fears to come to pass, Malaysia will take another step downwards to joining countries such as Burma and Zimbabwe which squandered their prospects for prosperity because of the greed of a small elite group that hijacked national wealth.

It is time for all Malaysians to firmly and clearly reject the strident siren calls of Mahathir and Ibrahim Ali to return to policies that hold no hope of serving the country’s needs. It is also important that the NEM reflects the aspirations of all Malaysians rather than the myopic views of yesterday’s men. Najib has a solemn duty to resist those that would derail moves to put right what has been wrong.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or the newspaper. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Malaysian Inisder: Ketuanan Melayu vs Cucu Datuk Merah — Hishamuddin Yahaya

Ketuanan Melayu vs Cucu Datuk Merah — Hishamuddin Yahaya

by Datuk Hishamuddin Yahaya
Malaysian Insider, MARCH 27 — Acute moral decadence plaguing the Malay youths today is  reminiscent of what was described of the Malays, a hundred years or so ago: poor, lazy and indolent, habitually waking up late, addicted to opium, caught up with cock fighting, gambling and all other kinds of entertainment.

Flabbergasted Malays condemned the writer as a British stooge, paid to disparage them.  Apart from that they did nothing and remained snug in their cocoon.

Great motivator
Outraged, a few Malays of later generations took it as a challenge.  Among them was the valiant son, Ungku Omar (Datuk Dr Ungku Omar).  He was an assistant District Officer (ADO), a glamorous, well-paid job, a rare attainment for a Malay during the British time. He decided to study science from scratch to enable him to study medicine.  He sought permission of his British boss, the District Officer (DO), to study part-time.  His bosses’ spontaneous response was to get his head examined!

Ungku Omar pursued.  With relentless hard work, he qualified to study medicine and eventually became a medical doctor. He was later employed as a lecturer in one of the American universities, specialising in tropical medicine.  Later, he was appointed as head of the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur.

Ungku Omar died of coronary thrombosis in his early forties.  To commemorate this great motivator, Politeknik Ungku Omar in Ipoh was named after him.

Datuk Dr Ungku Omar negated the people’s negative perception of the Malays.  The Malays were not lazy, but given the opportunity, they would excel.  But where were the opportunities those days?

Ungku Omar was an exception who possessed the rare qualities that others didn’t.  He did not wait for opportunity to unfold before him, but he created and found the opportunity himself — the hallmark of success!!

Malay youths of today
Do the Malays of today have the qualities of the late Ungku Omar?  Sadly no.  They are simply drunk in perceptive hallucination created by the “Malay saviour” Umno, which somehow has made them feel they are in a “comfort zone” — not because of any exemplary achievement or excelled in any field, but because they are Malays.  This is reminiscent to the Malay epic “Cucu Datuk Merah” (the grandson of Datuk Merah), who felt he was born privileged and arrogantly asked for favour simply because he was the grandson of Datuk Merah, who had to be respected, although the grandson was not good for anything.

With such a mindset, compounded by a false sense of security, the Malays do not seem to take life seriously and have become more inclined to sensual pleasures.

For example, the Malays are avid entertainment fans.  Just look at last New Year’s concert held at Dataran Merdeka.  They came in doves as early as six o’clock in the evening and by eight o’clock, we saw a sea of Malays on the padang.  Adults, men, women and children stayed until mid-night to enjoy the concert.  The same thing happened in all major towns that held the celebration.

Addition to opium (candu) and other crimes
Opium may not be the in-thing today, because all other kinds of drugs are now available.  Just to prove that the consumers are Malays, one has to look at all the drug rehabilitation centres all over the country.  Almost all the inmates are Malays.  Many of the entertainment outlets in major towns are patronised by Malay youths.  Mat rempit are exclusively Malays; bohsia and bohjan are mostly Malays. Many Malays are also involved in cases of infanticides and discarding new-borns.

Role of television stations
Television programmes are full of Malay dramas with fewer Chinese and Indian dramas.  Certain television stations are training Malay boys and girls as young as 7-years-old to be entertainers; of course under the guise of “discovering talents”.  Singers and comedians are honoured and given titles.  It almost looks as though not a few Malays are born to entertain and to be entertained, as their ultimate objective in life.

With these multifarious negative images of the Malays, they audaciously talk about “Ketuanan Melayu”.  As if these tainted Malay youths are “tuans” in the making.  Or are they?

What is Malay supremacy?
What is the Malay supremacy based on, if we may know?  Is it constitution based (which we find the constitution does not imply) or ‘son-of-the-soil’ based, like the Red Indians, the Maoris and the Australian natives?

But what’s scarier is what this indoctrination of Ketuanan Melayu entails.  Instilling fanatical belief leads to blind faith that takes the mantle of religion.  When translated into action, all means will justify the end.  We have already experienced the May 13 tragedy, a manifestation of this fanatical belief.

We live by the Constitution and the Rule of Law.  We uphold justice and equality of opportunity for all irrespective of race or religion, the bedrock of what we ourselves call “unity in diversity”.  Towards this end, we have rightly condemned Biro Tata Negara and we are not inviting Biro Tata Huruhara in its place.

What is entrenched in the Constitution — whether it’s concerning the Malay Rulers and their prerogatives, the special position of the Malays, the Malay language and the Islamic religion, and any other provisions that are deemed Malay-based — are inviolable provisions, which are the basis of the nation’s foundation.  They have been agreed to by all races before independence, and therefore they need no renewed claims on the pretext that they have been endangered.  These provisions are there to stay, to be observed and respected by all, at all times.

A place in the sun
Political developments may take a turn in the country’s political journey.  Not long from now, the Barisan Nasional may be relegated to the Opposition, with Pakatan Rakyat ruling the country.  But even in this changed scenario, Pakatan Rakyat is wise enough not to tamper with the sacred document (the Constitution) at the expense of the country’s peace and security.

With their having more statesmen then ordinary day-to-day politicians who do not think beyond the tips of their noses, like the BN has, it is safe bet that Pakatan Rakyat would be better able to steer the country into a truly democractic society, where social economic and cultural justice will prevail.  It will be a day when every Malaysian is known just as “a Malaysian”, when the word “ethnicity” would be a thing of the past and when everybody will enjoy an equal place in the sun.

So where is the relevancy of Ketuanan Melayu? —
* Datuk Hishamuddin Yahaha is a lawyer and former MP for Temerloh.
Commentary  (DQ):

Being a non-bumiputra, it is easy to relate and agree with what Hishamuddin Yahaya has so well articulated. 
Of course, as a 4th generation Chinese born in Johor Bahru just before independence in Malaysia, I can understand why many non-Malays feel so aggrieved when we are treated somewhat differently, not necessarily in obvious discriminatory ways--I have not really had the experience of say BTN, etc. 
But most of us have encountered subtle glass ceilings which do not take into account meritocracy per se, but experienced unsaid if implied bias, based on purely ethnic considerations which only rankle our sense of justice, fairness.

But clearly, we also know of so many very capable, extremely diligent and driven and illustrious Malays, who have by their own bootstraps, achieved so much without the crutches of affirmative action alone. 
I think all Malaysians support affirmative actions and positive even generous help for anyone less endowed, who fall under the poverty trap due to circumstances, regardless of race. But a concerted and unending blanket policy of disproportionate preferential treatment, can only lead to expectant give-aways, corrupt patronage, rent-seeking behaviours, which debilitate one's sense of commitment and competitive edge, so vital in today's globalised world. 
More importantly, the minorities so excluded would become increasingly aggrieved, marginalised, experience with greater and greater urgency that deteriorating sense of belonging, of decaying nationalistic fervour, of hope, of unity of purpose...

Malaysian Insider: Praba Ganesan: Looking for Anwar

Looking for Anwar

by Praba Ganesan
Malaysian Insider, MARCH 25 — You have to understand, for a long time I loathed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. And today I stand by him and for the politics he envisions for the country. So I have a bit of explaining to do.

It was the late Sixties — the summers of perpetual love in tropical Malaysia — and this kid from an Umno family, who went to a very Umno school in Perak, was unsurprisingly accepted to the only university in the country to study the only language he was willing to champion — the Malay language.

The Abdul Rahman administration — haunted by right-wingers — ended soon after and Tun Abdul Razak was prime minister by the time Anwar was an established activist and student leader.

Razak had already replanted all the ultras like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Tun Musa Hitam in the leadership conveyor belt to sustain a long period of Malay rule, national prosperity — in that order.
Anwar was in a group keen on pushing the Malay/Muslim agenda further and ended up opposed to Razak.

Within Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim), Anwar and other young renegades appeared to want to push on the revolution agenda similar to developments in the rest of the Middle-East.

In 1981 you had the Islamic Republic of Iran and Mujahideens in the Afghan mountains, and all roads were leading to an Anwar joining PAS to lead a more Muslim face to the ideologically fluid working class party.

The same year, Mahathir unexpectedly became prime minister, and the next year Anwar became an Umno member.

It is often asked if Anwar would have made that decision if Tun Hussein Onn had stayed on. Others ask, what did Mahathir offer Anwar which was so tantalising, so amazing that he went back to this father’s party?

1982. Italy wins the World Cup in Spain beating the West Germans 3-1. The same year, Anwar joins the party, secures a parliamentary seat and grabs the Umno Youth chief position from its incumbent — and was made deputy minister.

In 11 years, he just kept rising meteorically — VP by ‘87, education minister, finance minister — to win the deputy presidency by trouncing the incumbent at the nomination stage.

Through that spell I had to live through the free-wheeling Islamisation of government — the schooling system. The guy with the Malay BA kept tinkering with the school system to prioritise Malay, actually the “baku” variant. Anwar and Islamisation were synonymous, and Dr M loved not being behind PAS in theocratic fervour. And let me not get into how the majority Kadazan-Dusun community lost Sabah to Umno through the dubious and now-common method of defections in 1994.

The holier than thou “spirit” Anwar engendered in a pretentious government nauseated me.

Which is why I was always sceptical of his wooing of the business class — the Chinese in focus, the self-rebranding as a modern democrat with fiscal sense rather than a firebrand to foreign governments and leaders and spouting the renaissance in the region.

To me Anwar was having his cake and eating it too. To be the “Malay nationalism” poster boy and at the same time the face of a changing and reforming Asia of egalitarian rigour.

I was convinced that the new-age look was just about getting on with the Western media. Number two in the country, and a popularity outstripping the PM’s, plus an economy bursting with activity, the world was just waiting for PM Anwar to emerge.

But spectacularly the Dr M – Anwar partnership fell apart, as an exasperated prime minister sacked his own successor from government. Some accusations, several trials later, Anwar was sent to prison.

This set the stage for the third reincarnation of Senor Anwar.

The series of happenings in the last 12 years — half of them behind bars, are well-documented.
I don’t buy the simplistic line that Anwar is in politics for power. I mean it is literally true, but everyone is in politics for power. Politics is power.

If Anwar was bent on power irrespective of principles sacrificed, he’d still be an Umno man. Umno has always received back its worst rebels as long as they were no longer a threat — expediency is Umno’s patron saint.

The speed in which Anwar rose in Umno initially, and the following he still has in the party, indicates Anwar has the better chance to Putrajaya by returning to Umno.

These whys are academic and open to permanent debate.

To me, Anwar’s evolution from a domestic nationalist to an internationalist upholding natural law may even dumbfound Anwar. Like an accidental Eliza Doolittle.

He is larger than life, and only competes with Tunku Abdul Rahman and Mahathir for space in the private thoughts of Malaysians.

He is Mandela-like. Now I am not arguing his attributes match the father of modern South Africa’s. I am talking about symbols. Some with unique life-paths become symbols irrespective of the actual value of their lives and the mistakes they make.

Mandela executed economic sabotage of the Apartheid government in the 1960s which involved bombs. Anwar was a primary character in anti-secularisation and anti-democratisation in many instances.

But in the present, he has done three things. One, committed to the downfall of a dictatorial Barisan Nasional government; second, the setting-up of a more egalitarian nation for all Malaysians; and third, facilitating the longest and closest partnership of all the opposition parties.

He wins the moral authority argument because he has spent more years in prison for his beliefs than the whole present Cabinet in total.

Tolstoy postulates that events are always greater than the individuals, and that events are not shaped by any particular individual but by historical inevitability. Probably, but when you want to galvanise people to a cause, to a desired outcome, you’ll need a flag.

The flag for change in Malaysia is Anwar Ibrahim, for now. That’s why they want to lock him up again real soon.

* Praba Ganesan is a Hulu Langat boy with a penchant for durians and debate. He is part of balairakyat, an NGO promoting ideas exchange.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Comments (DQ)

Good perspective about Anwar and probably crystallizes what many people think he stands for these days. 

Quite honestly, many of us have been wary about him since his younger days as an ultra-Islamist, and an UMNO man par excellence. 

But his incarceration, his unfair dismissal and grotesque victimsation had certainly reshaped him into what hopefully will be the rallying point for ultimate change for modern Malaysia--more egalitarian, more equal, more attuned to human and ethnic rights, as well as less corruption and greater justice for all!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Malaysian Insider: Corruption and the lawyer — Fahri Azzat (

Corruption and the lawyer — Fahri Azzat (

Malaysian Insider: MARCH 24 — A consideration of the devastating consequences a corrupt lawyer can bring upon his client by betraying them and the importance of trust.

When we talk about corruption in our legal system the focus is usually on the judges.
This is natural because a corrupt judge is not simply the most prominent actor in the corrupt act but also the most obvious.

Injustice almost always ensures the appearance of stupidity, intellectual dishonesty, aside from the killing of one’s conscience on the judge’s part. Corruption is a certainty when those elements are present and paired with a judge known to possess some semblance of sense if not intelligence.

On balance, there is a strong likelihood of corruption when after reading the judgment or hearing of the decision, you remark to yourself something like, “So stupid ah that judge?! So obvious the wording/circumstances also can get wrong ah?”

Corrupt judges usually possess enough intelligence to allow cunning to operate. Often that is their limit, but let’s get one thing straight — they may be intellectually dishonest but they are not stupid. Their corruption makes them appear stupid and inconsistent.

That’s the general rule. There are of course exceptions with the occasional outright stupidity and utter incompetence.

But judges are not the sole actors of corruption. They usually have companions to facilitate corruption. They are the court clerks. Family members. Drivers. Secretaries. Friends. Nominee lackeys. Last but not least – lawyers.

Lawyers equal if not exceed the scope and damage (emotional, psychological, financial, trust) that can be caused by their acts of corruption as compared to a judge. They are closer to the client, receive and manage highly sensitive and confidential information and finances for their client, and interact with them more closely and intimately. For these reasons, their corrupt acts are potentially greater in scope and in terms of damage because it is inconspicuous and discovered only when the damage becomes irreversible. The betrayal of trust will be more acute and severely felt by the client because they are legally entitled to trust their lawyers. There are numerous laws and rules that are in force to create, maintain and preserve that relationship of trust.

A frequent and common complaint I hear and experience these days are of lawyers stealing clients’ money. It has gotten so bad that some land offices no longer accept legal firm cheques despite being drawn on the client’s account.

What is the significance of this? Quite simply, a cheque drawn from the client’s account should never bounce because that money was given to the law firm for a specific purpose. So when the time comes for that money to be paid, there should be no trouble at all for the legal firm to do so. That it does, strongly suggests that the lawyers in that firm used the part of those client monies.

One of my distant relatives had his life put in a tailspin when his own lawyer (who was a cousin to his wife and so they thought they were safe) ran off with the balance of the purchase price that was supposed to be paid over to the purchaser’s solicitors. That balance was obtained from a government loan. As a result of that the vendor wanted to terminate the agreement because they did not receive the balance but at the same time my relative had to start paying the loan because the money was disbursed already. This is the immense amount of inconvenience and hardship a corrupt and unethical lawyer can cause.

I want to share one of my own small experience of such an opportunity. It was early in my practise when I argued a client’s appeal in the High Court after their claim was dismissed in the Magistrate’s Court. After the hearing, my client’s appeal was dismissed with costs. After the usual after-hearing drinks with the Respondent’s counsel, we walked back together the car park at the Dataran Merdeka (near where the courts were located in early 2000-ish).

Once we reached the car park, I shook his hand and prepared take my leave. He held my hand firmly indicating he wanted to discuss something. He asked me whether we could settle the costs awarded to his client in lieu of taxation. I had a figure of about RM 3,000.00 at most in mind since it wasn’t a very complicated appeal, I was shut up within 8 minutes of beginning my submissions and the sum involved was barely RM 15,000.00. I offered him about RM 2,000.00.

He replied that the figure was too low. Then, despite us being alone, he lowered his voice and said he had a proposal for me. I, in earnest, listened. As I did, I felt there was something terribly wrong with his proposal, which went along the lines of: Why don’t I advise my client to settle the costs of the appeal at RM 15,000.00 and he would reserve for me RM 5,000.00 of that for my trouble? “Win-win!” He was very nice and polite about it.

That is probably one reason why I hate hearing that word – “win-win” - these days (the other being that too many of our local politicians love to use this word). He obviously left my client out of that phrase. I thanked him for his generous offer and told him that it was very unlikely and told him to serve us with his bill of costs. He never did.

These are some of the things from that encounter I wish to emphasize on where corruption is concerned for the lawyer, especially to those starting out:

(i) Corruption can potentially happen any time, anywhere and when you least expect it, and there will be no ominous soundtrack to warn you of it happening.

(ii) It could come from your own legal brethren. There are lawyers and then there are “lawyers”. I conducted the case for about three years before he sprang that on me.

(iii) It need not be some million dollar or even hundreds of thousands of ringgit. It is corruption even if you take RM 10.00 to betray your client?s interest or instructions.

(iv) Corruption need not even be in the shape of money. It could be gifts, sex, etc.

(v) You may when confronted with it be uncertain whether it actually is. If you feel any strangeness or are uncomfortable with the request or offer, decline it or postpone it. Do not respond or react to it immediately. If gentle pressure is put to you to accept it immediately, decline it.

The ethical standard for lawyers must remain high if not developed higher for the simple reason that our clients trust us, rely on us and are entitled to do so implicitly. That is why they trust us with highly confidential information (that if used maliciously could destroy them) and trust us with important documents or large sums of money. The effect of a lawyer’s betrayal is therefore potentially widespread and devastating. But not simply for the betraying legal firm or lawyer, but for the Bar as a whole.

Each lawyer not only represents his legal firm or the client but every other lawyer in the conduct of his duties. So when a lawyer betrays his client it raises the specter of that possibility occurring amongst the other clients. A client who has been betrayed by his lawyer will less likely trust other lawyers in the future. They will tell their children lawyers are scum and the law is a sham. They will discourage their children from the profession of law.

In the end, the legal profession as a whole loses.

It is for this reason I am tempted to think that the strength and integrity of our Bar is only as strong as our worse lawyers. It is not enough that we are honest, trustworthy and honourable. As lawyers we have a duty to ensure that our fellow legal brethren uphold to those standards as well, especially the worse.

After all, the worse apples tend to be the most prominent and so ruin it for the rest of the barrel despite them being at the bottom. So as lawyers we either take steps to remove or rehabilitate those bad apples, or have little choice but to bask in ignominy and put up with the stink of being in the barrel with them.

[LoyarBurok Editorial Note: If you have a complaint against a lawyer, you should direct it to Advocates & Solicitors Disciplinary Board. The procedure for doing so can be found here.] —
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or the newspaper. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

malaysiakini-Josh Hong: Fear and anxiety

Fear and anxiety
Josh Hong
malaysiakini, Mar 19, 10

Pastor Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism in Singapore recently shot to fame for all the wrong reasons, as he was reportedly called by the island state's Internal Security Department to explain his contentious and disparaging remarks on Buddhism and Taoism at a church event, which many found offensive.

He finally apologized in order to soothe the mounting anger.

This senior Christian leader is no stranger to controversy: he was once criticized for attributing childhood abuse to homosexuality and linking gay people with paedophiles, which merely laid bare his ignorance of the sexuality issue as a whole.

Around the same time, a teenager by the name of Kenneth Lin launched a petition to demand an apology from Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (MM Lee, 'affectionately') for telling the National Geographic that Singaporeans had become "less hard-driving and hard-striving".

When interviewed by the Temasek Review, Lin went a step further by accusing the strongman of controlling the state media "for his own greedy needs".

Such downright criticism is a rarity indeed, but it only served to unnerve the church that Lin is affiliated with.

Needless to say, pastors and elders were compelled to sit down with him to 'lance the boil'.

That the Buddhist and Taoist communities in Singapore reacted angrily to the denigration by a Christian pastor is perfectly understandable.

Still, one can see from the overwhelming online responses that cooler heads did not quite prevail.

Many used it to justify their view that such 'sensitive issues' would only 'undermine religious harmony' and 'give rise to social unrest'.The proposed solution? Public discussion on religion is a no-go area, some would say.

Searching for false conformity

Sounds familiar? The very same argument is repeatedly heard here in Malaysia too! But is it possible to create a mature and rational society without tackling openly religious differences with a view to seeking common grounds?

As for Lin's teen valour, it exposes the conservative nature and fear of politics on the part of Singapore's religious establishment to the full.

In a country where politics is the sole monopoly of the People's Action Party (PAP), religious bodies are made to behave more like a supplement to enhancing social harmony on behalf of the authorities, rather than functioning truly and freely as a vibrant part of civil society.

In Singapore, nothing demands more courage than voicing one's dissent to the ruling elite. When the PAP government decided to construct the Integrated Resort - an euphemism for casino - several years back, all the major religious communities were alarmed, seeing the move as the path to perfidy and decadence.

MM Lee, fearing that his son Lee Hsien Loong might not stand his ground but cave into the mounting pressure, came out in full support of the project.

Since then, all the discontent of the religious leaders may be expressed only "internally".

As Malaysians, we know what that means.

Shut the mouth and enjoy life

Such is the realist dilemma confronting Singapore: a model under which the powers-that-be ensure superb efficiency and the best possible quality of life, while depriving the masses of the right to genuine participation in decision-making and democratic process.

With greater material comfort comes easier manipulation, so the reasoning goes.

As the masses become acclimatized to what "should" be publicly discussed and what should not, they are also likely to expect others to 'play by the rule' instead of rocking the boat.

Such mentality is engendered by nothing but oppressive fear of 'turmoil', which prompts the majority to seek refuge in a false conformity.

While it is true that Malaysians' political awareness has vastly improved since the March 8 general elections two years ago, it does not stop Barisan Nasional - like the PAP - from resorting to fear-mongering in response to the rising calls for democratization.

Just look at the way Hishammuddin Hussein Onn reacted to the series of attacks on places of worship, when he time and again threatened the public with the notorious Internal Security Act.

Hishammuddin is perhaps the antsiest politician I have ever seen, as his unnecessarily excessive reaction is driven by a deep sense of anxiety.
Character foundation wobbly
A keris-brandisher, he is easily provoked, often allowing his fickle temperament to get the better of him. I cannot help suspecting all his antics are merely part of a feeble attempt to affirm his 'manhood'.

Just last week, Hishammuddin was again outraged, this time by a China Press headliner that Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan was on the way out.

True to form, he went on to warn that sensationalizing any issue to boost sales could be met with stern action if proven untrue.

umno agm 250309 hishammuddin wield keris 03Hishammuddin issued the Chinese tabloid with a show-cause letter (which it has kept quite a few over the years), and reiterated the seriousness of the "unfounded" report.

Quite clearly, he worked hard to ensure the public feel the brunt of his anger and shut up under a climate of intimidation and fear.

Why such a big deal? In a real democracy, all public office bearers deserve apology when news related to them is misreported or misrepresented.

However, for a government to make a mountain out of a molehill and pursue the wrongdoer relentlessly is nothing but meanness and arrogance that borders on paranoia.

In a society where information flows freely, errors are inevitable. One may chastise, clarify or apologize, but never to throw the baby out with the bath water by curtailing freedom of speech with an atmosphere of intimidation.

Moreover, the China Press had not been completely off the mark, for Hishammuddin himself confirmed the next day that Musa Hassan is indeed to be replaced soon!

All governments are in the habit of playing on the 'vulnerability' of the masses so that they can justify their grotesque behaviour and even lunacy in the name of "protecting the public".

It would not have been possible for the Bush administration to wage catastrophic wars on Afghanistan and Iraq without the pervasive fear generated in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy.

One must not forget too that the terrorist attacks scared the western media out of their wits that many were willing to go along with the wars, a sheer outcome of shrinking public space for rational debate.

A society living in constant fear is also unable to behave normally. I was therefore least surprised when some Malaysian Christians held the Catholic Church responsible for "blowing the usage of Allah out of proportion".

After all, they had long accepted the received wisdom of not confronting the government head-on!

In fact, the world is big and spacious enough for one to speak truth to power without being radical (though radicalism itself has been a positive catalyst for change throughout history).

Sadly, many choose to remain silent before political chaos, mostly out of fear as well as for vested interests, which only benefits the ruling elite in the long run.

In either Singapore or Malaysia, the ruling elite tend to tempt the masses into giving up their right to meaningful political participation with promises of 'social stability' and 'affluent life'.

But is it not paradoxical that a government that is duty-bound to manage the country well should not only claim the credit, but take away our freedom of thought along with it?

Listening to the opposing views and making our voices heard are conducive to our collective health. Engaging Khoo Kay Khim, Ridhuan Tee and Perkasa leaders in public debate is also vitally important to creating a vibrant civil society, which is also likely to weaken the hegemonic discourse of the powers-that-be.

But it is up to the individuals to decide if they want to be critical citizens or submissive subjects.

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Malaysian Insider: The leap we need to make — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

The leap we need to make — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

MARCH 23 — James Puthucheary lived what is by any measure an extraordinary and eventful life. He was, among  other things, a scholar, anti-colonial activist, poet, political economist and lawyer.

The thread running through these roles was his struggle for progressive politics in a multiracial society. His actions were informed by an acute sense of history and by a commitment to a more equitable and just Malaysia.

James was concerned about economic development in a way that was Malaysian in the best sense. His thinking was motivated by a concerned for socioeconomic equity and for the banishment of communalism and ethnic chauvinism from our politics.

The launch of the Second Edition of this collection of James Puthucheary’s writings, “No Cowardly Past”, invites us to think and speak about our country with intellectual honesty and courage.

Let me put down some propositions, as plainly as I can, about where I think we stand.

1. Our political system has broken down in a way that cannot be salvaged by piecemeal reform.

2. Our public institutions are compromised by politics (most disturbingly by racial politics) and by money. This is to say they have become biased, inefficient and corrupt.

3. Our economy has stagnated. Our growth is based on the export of natural resources.  Productivity remains low. We now lag our regional competitors in the quality of our people, when we were once leaders in the developing world.

4. Points 1) -3), regardless of official denials and mainstream media spin, is common knowledge. As a result, confidence is at an all time low. We are suffering debilitating levels of brain and capital drain.

Today I wanted to share some suggestions on how we might move the economy forward, but our economic stagnation is clearly not something we can tackle or even discuss in isolation from the problem of a broken political system and a compromised set of public institutions.

This country is enormously blessed with talent and natural resources. We are shielded from natural calamities and enjoy warm weather all year round. We are blessed to be located at the crossroads of India and China and the Indonesian archipelago.

We are blessed to have cultural kinship with China, India, the Middle East and Indonesia. We attained independence with an enviable institutional framework.

We were a federation with a Constitution that is the supreme law of the land, a parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary, a common law system and an independent civil service. We had political parties with a strong base of support that produced talented political leadership.

We have no excuse for our present state of economic and social stagnation. It is because we have allowed that last set of features, our institutional and political framework, to be eroded, that all our advantages are not better realized.

So it makes little sense to talk glibly about selecting growth drivers, fine-tuning our industrial or trade policy, and so on, without acknowledging that our economy is in bad shape because our political system is in bad shape.

A case in point is the so called New Economic Model.  The government promised the world it would be announced by the end of last year. It was put off to the end of this month. Now we are told we will be getting just the first part of it,  and that we will be getting merely a proposal for the New Economic Model from the NEAC.  Clearly, politics has intruded. The NEM has been opposed by groups that are concerned that the NEM might replace the NEP.  The New Economic Model might not turn out to be so new after all.

The irony in all this is that there is nothing to replace.  The NEP is the opposite of New. It is defunct and is no longer an official government policy because it was replaced by the New Development Policy (another old New policy) in 1991. The “NEP” was brought back in its afterlife as a slogan by the leadership of UMNO Youth in 2004. It was and remains the most low-cost way to portray oneself as a Malay champion.

Thus, at a time when we are genuinely need of bold new economic measures, we are hamstrung by by the ghost of dead policies with the word New in them.  What happens when good policy outlives its time and survives as a slogan?

The NEP was a twenty year programme. It has become, in the imaginations of some, the centre of a permanently racialized socio-economic framework.

Tun Ismail and Tun Razak, in the age of the fixed telephone (you even needed to go through an operator), thought twenty years would be enough. Its champions in the age of instant messaging talk about 100 or 450 years of Malay dependency.

It had a national agenda to eradicate poverty and address structural inequalities between the races for the sake of equity and unity. The Malays were unfairly concentrated in low income sectors such as agriculture. The aim was to remove colonial era silos of economic roles in our economy. It has been trivialized into a concern with obtaining equity and contracts by racial quotas. The NEP was to diversify the Malay economy beyond certain stereotyped occupations.   It is now about feeding a class of party- linked people whose main economic function is to obtain and re-sell government contracts and concessions.

The NEP saw poverty as a national, Malaysian problem that engaged the interest and idealism of all Malaysians. People like James Puthucheary were at the forefront of articulating this concern.  Its present-day proponents portray poverty as a communal problem.

The NEP was a unity policy.  Nowhere in its terms was any race specified. It has been reinvented as an inalienable platform of a Malay Agenda that at one and the same time asserts Malay supremacy and perpetuates the myth of Malay dependency.

It was meant to unite our citizens by making economic arrangements fairer, and de-racializing our economy. In its implementation it became a project to enrich a selection of Malay capitalists. James Puthucheary had warned, back in 1959, that this was bound to fail. “The presence of Chinese capitalists has not noticeably helped solve the poverty of Chinese households.. Those who think that the economic position of the Malays can be improved by creating a few Malay capitalists, thus making a few Malays well-to-do, will have to think again. “

The NEP’s aim to restructure society and to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic growth was justified on principles of social justice, not claims of racial privilege. This is an important point. The NEP was acceptable to all Malaysians because its justification was universal rather than racial, ethical rather than opportunistic. It appealed to Malaysians’ sense of social justice and not to any notion of racial supremacy.

We were a policy with a 20 year horizon, in pursuit of a set of measurable outcomes. We were not devising a doctrine for a permanent socio-economic arrangement. We did not make the damaging assumption of the permanently dependent Malay.

Today we are in a foundational crisis both of our politics and of our economy. Politically and economically, we have come to the end of the road for an old way of managing things. It is said you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all the time. Well these days the time you have in which to fool people is measured in minutes, not years.

The world is greatly changed. The next move we must make is not a step but a leap that changes the very ground we play on.

The NEP is over. I ask the government to have the courage to face up to this. The people already know. The real issue is not whether the NEP is to be continued or not, but whether we have the imagination and courage to come up with something which better addresses the real challenges of growth, equity and unity of our time.

At its working best the NEP secured national unity and provided a stable foundation for economic growth. Taken out of its policy context (a context that James helped frame) and turned into a political programme for the extension of special privilege, it has been distorted into something that its formulators, people such as the late Tun Razak and Tun Ismail, would have absolutely abhorred: it is now the primary justification and cover for corruption, crony capitalism and money politics, and it is corruption, cronyism and money politics that rob us and destroy our future.

No one who really cares about our country can approve of the role the NEP now plays in distorting the way we think about the economy, of our people, of our future, and retarded our ability to formulate forward-looking economic strategy.

The need for a wholistic approach to development based on the restoration and building of confidence.

We need a wholistic approach to development that takes account of the full potential of our society and of our people as individuals. We need an approach to development that begins with the nurturing and empowerment of the human spirit. Both personally and as a society, this means we look for the restoration of confidence in ourselves, who we are, what we are capable of, and the future before us.

I return to the question of the Middle Income Trap that I alluded to some time ago. I am glad that notion has since been taken up by the Government.

The middle income trap is a condition determined by the quality of our people and of the institutions that bind them. It is not something overcome simply by growing more oil palm or extracting more oil and gas.  Our economic challenge is to improve the quality of our people and institutions. Making the break from the middle-income trap is in the first place a social, cultural, educational and institutional challenge. Let me just list what needs to be done. Before we can pursue meaningful economic strategy we need to get our house in order. We need to:

1. undertake bold reforms to restore the independence of the police, the anti-corruption commission and the judiciary. Confidence in the rule of law is a basic condition of economic growth.

2. reform the civil service

3. wage all out war on corruption

4. thoroughly revamp our education system

5. repeal  the Printing Presses Act, the Universities and Colleges Act, the ISA and the OSA. These repressive laws only serve to create a climate of timidity and fear which is the opposite of the flourishing of talent and ideas that we say we want.

6. Replace the NEP with an equity and unity policy (a kind of “New Deal”) to bring everyone, regardless of race, gender, or what state they live in and who they voted for, into the economic mainstream.

These reforms are the necessary foundation for any particular economic strategies. Many of these reforms will take time.  Educational reform is the work of many years. But that is no excuse not to start, confidence will return immediately if that start is bold. As for particular economic strategies, there are many we can pursue:

* We need to tap our advantage in having a  high savings rate.  Thanks to a lot of forced savings, our savings rate is about 38%. We need more productive uses for the massive funds held in EPF. LTH, LTAT and PNB than investment in an already over-capitalized stock market.  One suggestion is to make strategic investments internationally in broad growth sectors such as minerals. Another is that we should use these funds to enable every Malaysian to own their own home. This would stimulate the construction sector with its large multiplier of activities and bring about a stakeholder society. A fine example of how this is done is Singapore’s use of savings in CPF to fund property purchases.

* The Government  could make sure that the the land office and local government, developers and house-buyers are coordinated through a one-stop agency under the Ministry of Housing and and Local Government. This would get everyone active, right down to the level of local authorities. The keys to unleashing this activity are financing and a radical streamlining of local government approvals.

* We have been living off a drip of oil and cheap foreign labour. Dependence on these easy sources of revenue has dulled our competitiveness and prevented the growth of high income jobs.  We need a moratorium on the hiring of low skilled foreign labour that is paired with a very aggressive effort to increase the productivity and wages of Malaysian labour. Higher wages would mean we could retain more of our skilled labour and other talent.

* Five years ago I called for a project to make Malaysia an oil and gas services and trading hub for East Asia. Oil and gas activities will bring jobs to some of our poorest states. We should not discriminate against those states on the basis of their political affiliations. No one is better placed by natural advantage to develop this hub. Meanwhile Singapore, with not a drop of oil, has moved ahead on this front.

* We should ready ourselves to tap the wealth of the emerging middle class of China, India and Indonesia in providing services such as tourism, medical care and education. That readiness can come in the form of streamlined procedures, language preparation, and targeted infrastructure development.
These are just some ideas for some of the many things we could do to ensure our prosperity. Others may have better ideas.

We are in a foundational crisis of our political system. People can no longer see what lies ahead of us, and all around us they see signs of decaying institutions. Wealth and talent will continue to leave the country in droves.

To reverse that exodus we need to restore confidence in the country. We do not get confidence back  with piecemeal economic measures but with bold reforms to restore transparency, accountability and legitimacy to our institutions. Confidence will return if people see decisive leadership motivated by a sincere desire for the welfare of the country.  The opposite occurs if they see decisions motivated by short term politics. Nevermind FDI, if Malaysians started investing in Malaysia, and stopped leaving, or started coming back, we would see a surge in growth.

In the same measure we also need to break the stranglehold of communal politics and racial policy if we want to be a place where an economy driven by ideas and skills can flourish. This must be done, and it must be done now. We have a small window of time left before we fall into a spiral of political, social and economic decline from which we will not emerge for decades.

This is the leap we need to make, but to make that leap we need a government capable of promoting radical reform. That is not going to happen without political change. We should not underestimate the ability of our citizens to transcend lies, distortions and myths and get behind the best interest of the country. In this they are far ahead of our present leadership, and our leadership should listen to them.

* Speech by Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah at the launch of the Second Edition of “No Cowardly Past: James Puthucheary, Writings, Poems, Commentaries” at the PJ Civic Centre on March 22, 2010.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Art Harun: Article 153 on 'special position' of the Malays and other natives: The way forward

Article 153 on 'special position' of the Malays and other natives: The way forward Print E-mail
Written by Art Harun   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 11:12

In my article, Visiting the Malay ‘Rights’ (the Bahasa Malaysia version can be read here), I had commented on article 153 of the Federal Constitution. I stated that under its provisions, the Malays in fact do not possess any special ‘rights’.

There is only the special ‘position’ of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. In general, this special position does not confer any right which is recognised by law to the Malays.

Specifically, what is contained in article 153 is the power vested in His Majesty the Yang di Pertuan Agong to ensure that places in the civil service and institutions of higher learning are reserved for the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak as His Majesty deems reasonable.

Additionally, His Majesty is also given the power to reserve a quota for the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak in the allocation of scholarships, and permits or licences required for business and trade. This power is similarly to be exercised by His Majesty as His Majesty deems reasonable.

A few fundamental premises should be examined and borne in mind regarding the provisions contained in article 153. They are:
  • They do not confer any rights to the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. For example, article 153 does not state that the Malays are entitled (as a matter of rights) to 30% or 50% of scholarships disbursed by the government every year;
  • The special position is not only conferred to the  Malays but also the natives of Sabah and Sarawak;
  • The power (enabling the quotas) belongs to His Majesty the Yang di Pertuan Agong;
  •  His Majesty is to exercise the powers under article 153 as His majesty deems reasonable.  This means the power cannot be exercised arbitrarily.
The injection of  the element of ‘reasonableness’ in article 153 brings an element of dynamism in the  implementation of the powers under article 153.  This is because what was reasonable back in 1969, for instance, may no longer be fitting in 2010 and so forth.

A starting point towards dissipating the dissatisfaction currently felt by all parties (whether the Malays or non-Malays) over article 153 is, I believe, to commence a rational discussion to determine what is held to be ‘reasonable’ at this point.

Thereafter, I feel, the implementation of those facets of article 153 can then be carefully planned by incorporating whatever equitable formula guaranteeing the element of ‘reasonableness’  in time to come.

In this way, there will be no need for all of us to have shouting matches, wield the keris and to ready the arena for a silat fight here and there every time there is doubt that the economic balance between the races falls short of the ideal in our country.

Malaysia has our fair share of the intelligentsia and learned economists. Dr Jomo Sundram, for
example, is a senior official the United Nations secretariat. We even have our very own astronaut. We have submarines in our naval fleet. Why don’t we just employ the wisdom and expertise which we possess to resolve this matter of article 153?

Lately, the issue has raised a lot of hackles and even been distorted by those who appear to be ignorant of its provisions. The trite rhetoric daily purveyed by the mass media is bereft of academic credentials and far from factual. The cheap politicking and parochialism emanating from this rhetoric is so pungent as to be nauseating.

One of the popular assertions is that article 153 cannot be amended. This claim is, in my humble opinion, very confusing and merely reflects ignorance of the Federal Constitution.

According to article 159 of the Federal Constitution, article 153 can in fact be amended on the condition that the amendment is supported by two-thirds of the members of the Lower and Upper Houses in its second and third reading. If this support is obtained, the amendment may only take effect after it is approved by the Council of Rulers.

Therefore, if there is anyone who insists article 153 cannot be amended,  I would be glad to be proven otherwise.

We as Malaysians should be more sensitive to any efforts made to gain a deeper understanding of various matters because it is only through knowledge can we arrive at the truth. Don’t simply swallow wholesale what people say. On the subject of article 153, there is a lot we can learn from history.

So let’s revisit history on it.

It is common knowledge that a commission was established to draft our constitution. This commission is known as the Reid Commission (named after its head, a renowned English judge, Lord Reid).

In drawing up the Federal Constitution, the Reid Commission was assigned the task to ensure that the position of the Malays was safeguarded. Its report says:
“Our terms of reference require that provision should be made in the Constitution for the ‘safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other Communities’.”

Nonetheless, the commission found it difficult to give a special preference to any single race permanently because such a special preference is contrary to the principle of equality in the eyes of the law. The Reid Commission reported:

“We found it difficult, therefore, to reconcile the terms of reference if the protection of the special position of the Malays signified the granting of special privileges, permanently, to one community only and not to the others."

The Alliance front led by Tunku Abdul Rahman had also wanted independent Malaya to confer equal rights, privileges, and equal opportunities to all its citizens regardless of race or religion. Additionally, the Council of Rulers had hoped too that the concept of communalism would be eventually eradicated from the country’s political and economic spheres. In relation to this, the Reid Commission reported:

“The difficulty of giving one community a permanent advantage over the others was realised by the Alliance Party, representatives of which, led by the Chief Minister, submitted that in an independent Malaya all nationals should be accorded equal rights, privileges and opportunities and there must not be discrimination on grounds of race and creed ...’ The same view was expressed by their Highnesses in their memorandum, in which they said that they ‘look forward to a time not too remote when it will become possible to eliminate Communalism as a force in the political and economic life of the country’.”

Such was the hope and good intentions of our forefathers in their common struggle to obtain independence from British colonialism. The Federal Constitution was formulated in cognizance of these intentions and aspirations.

This notwithstanding, the Reid Commission was presented with yet another difficulty. What was in actuality the special position of the Malays that was to be preserved? Where was the special position to be found? What guidelines should they have used to determine and establish this special position?

Their search ended when it was discovered that the Malays had always enjoyed a special position even from the start of British colonisation. This special position was already affirmed by the British in their earlier treaties with the Malay rulers. This culminated in the recognition of the said special position in clause 19(1) (d) of the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948. It was explained as below:

“When we came to determine what is ‘the special position of the Malays’ we found that as a result of the original treaties with the Malay States, reaffirmed from time to time, the special position of the Malays has always been recognised. This recognition was continued by the provisions of cl 19(1)(d) of the Federation Agreement, 1948, which made the High Commissioner responsible for safeguarding the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities.”

They found that the Malays had always enjoyed a special position in four areas:
  • Reserve land,
  • Quota in the civil service,
  • Quota in permits and trading licences, and
  • Quota in scholarships and education.

When they visited Tanah Melayu to solicit the views of the various parties before proceeding to draft our constitution, the Reid Commission did not meet with any objections from any parties for this special position to remain although there were some quarters that objected to it being extended for a long period of time.

After studying the special position of the Malays and the circumstances of the Malays who at that time were lagging behind the other races in the economic and education sectors, the Reid Commission decided to retain the Malay special position in the constitution that they drafted.

This is the background and rationale behind article 153 that we have with us today. The question now is whether it is true that the provisions of article 153 were meant to be maintained for perpetuity.
But what was said in the British Parliament about this? What was the wish of our Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman?

Malaysiakini-SM Mohd Idris: The sorry state of Orang Asli health

The sorry state of Orang Asli health
SM Mohamed Idris
Mar 16, 10
The recent disclosures made by Dr Selva Vathany Pillai concerning malpractice and the misappropriation of resources by hospital authorities at the Gombak Hospital bring into stark focus, the social and health status of this community.

The Orang Asli, (aboriginal peoples), who are the most marginalised community in the country 
continue to suffer the loss of their lands through resettlement, logging, mining, dam construction, golf course development, plantation schemes, re-groupment and assimilation into mainstream society.

Orang Asli rights to their ancestral lands are not recognised by the state; as such they have been 
increasingly dispossessed of their lands and suffer destruction of their subsistence base. Government policy has been to regroup and resettle them to grow cash crops and food. Land pressure and the lack of state assistance and support have led to increasing hardship. Today, some 80 percent of the Orang Asli live below the official poverty line.

Consider the following health indicators:
  • In the 1980s, life expectancy at birth among the Semai orang asli was some 35 years. (For West Malaysians it was 68-72 years).
  • The Orang Asli had an incidence of tuberculosis twice the national average between 1951 to 1971. By 1995 the rate for Orang asli children was three times the average in the Perak state.
  • In 1991 and 1992, Orang Asli averaged 48% of all malaria infections, recorded in West Malaysia (comprising less than 1% of the population). In recent years, they have averaged over 70% of the cases.
  • The crude death for Orang Asli was 1% per year for the period 1984-87, twice as high as the West Malaysian average (0.5%). Their Infant mortality rate was 5.2%, more than three times the West Malaysia average (1.6%).
  • Among Malaysian women giving birth at home in 1994, 42 died; 60% of these (25) were Orang Asli.
  • A 1995 study showed that Orang Asli women are the most malnourished adult group in West Malaysia, with 35% of them suffering protein-energy malnutrition.
  • Anemia is widespread in Orang Asli women. In one study, Temuan Orang Asli women had an average haemoglobin level of 9.9 g/dl (gm/100ml) far below the acceptable level of 12 –15 g/dl.
  • Recent studies find 23% to 68% of Orang Asli children underweight, while 41% to 80% are stunted in their growth.
  • Serological tests reveal that 82% of Orang Asli showed prior exposure to dengue-virus illness.
  • In 1994, leprosy was 23 times more prevalent in Orang Asli than in the general population.
  • In 1990, only 67 of 774 Orang Asli villages (9%) contained a medical clinic.
Despite the dismal findings, the Orang Asli community have failed to receive the attention they deserve. Today, the Orang Asli remain the most unhealthy community in Malaysia, an expression of their marginal status in society. Malnutrition is a serious problem among the Orang Asli, and Orang Asli women are the most malnourished adult group in West Malaysia.

This is due to a lost of foraging and farm land, the increase in river pollution, dietary inadequacies; the level and frequency of infectious diseases, intestinal infestations and discrimination.

Orang Asli women have high levels of iron and folate deficiency, worm burdens and malaria. This has only made worse the nutritional degradation among the most vulnerable groups ie, women of childbearing age and young children.

The Orang Asli have always foraged for a variety of food resources even when they were 'farmers' and they enjoyed high-quality food with interesting variety if seldom in large quantities. As these sources of food dwindle, they are forced to buy modern food eg, sugar, processed flour, sweet condensed milk, tinned food, and cooking oil resulting in unhealthy, unbalanced and scarce nutrition.

Studies have revealed that aneamia is a significant cause of ill health among Orang Asli women; and maternal and childhood goitre has not seen much improvement between 1951 and 1995.

Maternal health is central to both maternal and infant survival and the health and vitality of Orang Asli 
communities. The nutritional status of Orang Asli children have been described as poor by various studies.

In 1987 it was found that 54 percent were underweight and 66 percent stunted. Other studies have confirmed that widespread malnutrition exists among Orang Asli children; and the frequency of stunting range from 44 percent in infants to 80 percent in 2 to 6 year olds.

Researchers have concluded that the 'nutritional status of Orang Asli children is perilous'. Because of serious childhood malnutrition in addition to intestinal worms and other problems, Orang Asli children face severe impairment to their physical, intellectual and social development. The grim health statistics reveal that maternal and child ill health and malnutrition in Orang Asli communities needs to be urgently addressed.

Even the Orang Asli Hospital in Gombak has seen little improvement. Critics have pointed out the 'temporary' wooden structures at Gombak Hospital built in 1959 by Orang Asli workers, still house patients. Hospital staffing still lacks specialists in various medical disciplines. 

Nor is health education properly addressed by the current medical bureaucracy for the Orang Asli. According to the head of Gombak Hospital Orang Asli health was not well served by the 'staff attitude' at medical facilities.

Under the law, all aspects of their lives are 'managed' by the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA). In short, they are wards of the state with little say over their own affairs and lives.

The Orang Asli community must be involved in deciding their priorities and their needs as only they know their problems best. In this regard, the mobilisation of the active support and involvement of the community is fundamental to their health improvement.

The writer is president, Consumers Association of Penang.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Malaysian Insider-Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad: We need ‘painful’ economic reforms, not a GST

We need ‘painful’ economic reforms, not a GST

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad
 Malaysian Insider, MARCH 16 — The PM has finally taken heed of our critique of the GST. Or has he really? That’s how it seems for now.

But you really couldn’t tell from this move as to why he defers the second reading of the the bill on GST.

It could have been done to evade that ugly demonstration of the Pakatan’s MPs and the NGOs that would have otherwise marred the opening of the new parliamentary session by the Agung.

This writer (a member of the Anti-GST Task Force) however would like to believe that the PM has finally taken heed of all the critiques, not the least or perhaps most seriously from the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).

The cost to both the government and businesses is monstrous. Australia paid A$4.8 bilion  (RM14.56 billion) when it implemented the GST 10 years ago.

It may cost us in total, close to RM4.5 billion with 200,000 companies or persons as ‘taxable persons’ under the new GST as opposed to the 50,000 under the old SST regime.

The BN government is now saying that they would like to listen more extensively from the people, the rakyat. Strange.

Not after all these debates in the first reading in the parliament and especially if one considers that this is second attempt at tabling this new taxation system (after 2002), which is a onerous, massive and pervasive one!

So they are now saying that they have forgotten to engage the rakyat. Didn’t they want to even seek the rakyat’s perception and take, on the GST earlier?

Only after the Pakatan’s Anti-GST Task Force took on the offensive and later on joined by the NGOs, did the BN government realise that the GST is after all not well received and perhaps vehemently opposed save by the greatest beneficiary, the tax accountants, not all though.

Pakatan reiterates our stance on the GST. We are not against the GST per se.

However, Pakatan is totally against its reckless implementation and especially not when the nation’s economy is at its critical time to undergo ‘fundamental and structural’ reforms, in what is now hyped to be the “New Economic Model” — it better be one.

Pakatan strongly proposes few prerequisites to be put in place before attempting to replace the current SST. Though the initial 4 per cent rate for the GST may look appealing and enticing enough, this sugar-coated medicine, may actually become the medicine that kills the patient.

Reiterating, the nation needs to address, the low-income trap as only 15 per cent or 1.5 million of the work force pay income tax.

Real wages of in the domestic sector, according to the World Bank, only grew by a mere 2.6 per cent between 1994 and 2007. That’s well beyond a decade of stagnation in term of real wages growth (after taking account of inflation).

The economy must be allowed to propel into a higher income economy based on productivity (keeping cost-per-unit down) in knowledge-intensive industries and activities. No two ways about it.

That’s the way forward. Growth should now be generated through private investment (both local and foreign) and not merely by pump priming of the G-factor (in the GDP) in infrastructural mega-projects by the government, exacerbating the already yawning deficit of 8 per cent (yes not 7.4 per cent as claimed) in 2009.

We need the quality foreign investment (FDI) not so much of the portfolios investment or the hot-money.

More importantly, we need to reverse the outflow of capital ie. getting our local investors to fund growth and industries hence employment locally in higher value-added activities.

Together with the real wages issue, is the urgent need to close-up the widening income disparities.

Our income, let alone equity, disparity is about one of the worst in the world, close to perhaps Papua New Guinea. It’s quite meaningless talking about improving income per capita when the income disparity is malignant.

The NEM must seek to improve both before GST is put in place.

Finally, back to the bone of contention. Why must the government ‘victimise’ the rakyat for new revenue source and stream. Is that the true meaning of Rakyat-First’s slogan of the PM? That is to be first victimised!

We have argued and proposed that the Federal Government plucks all holes of leakages and stop the hemorrhages through ‘best practice’ and good governance in procurements and the entire delivery system. The Auditor General’s report alluded a saving of RM28 billion a year if these measures are put in place.

That’s RM27 billion more than the mere additional RM1 billion the government is targeting in the first year of the GST implementation.

How about the APs that could be monetised through an open-tender system which could easily bring in a revenue stream of RM2 billion yearly, depending on how much the government wants to tender the 60-70,000 APs yearly.

Stop subsidising the non-deserving private sectors eg. IPPs etc. and stop crony practices and bailouts as in rewarding Syabas, a private company closely linked to the Federal Government, a RM320 million interest-free loan facility that is also unsecured and back-loaded.

That BN’s penchant for giving such handouts and patronising rent-seeking activities is globally recognised, hence the reason why we are in these unending economic woes.

We are in serious need of concrete but perhaps ‘painful’ reforms. If the PM insists of pacifying the rakyat through this delay tactic, he cheats no one save himself.

He does it at his peril again!

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is a member of the PAS central working committee and MP of Kuala Selangor.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Malaysian Insider: Is Malaysia heading to an early election?

Is Malaysia heading to an early election?

Malaysian Insider, KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — The country’s recent pullback on fiscal reforms has fuelled talk that the government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is gearing up for snap polls even though the next general election is not due until 2013. Following are questions and answers on the possible timing and the political and economic implications of an early general election in the country.

Why are early polls likely?
The end of fuel subsidy reforms as well as a delay in tabling a Goods and Services Tax Bill in Parliament indicate a reluctance by the government to impose measures that would have an impact on poorer Malay voters, a critical vote bank for the Umno, backbone of the ruling coalition. This in turn signals a government that may be making preparations for early polls.

Should investors worry?
To some extent. The last elections turned unpredictable in 2008, when the opposition alliance, now led by former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, scored the country’s biggest-ever election upset. It ended the government’s two-thirds parliamentary majority, and the opposition wound up controlling five of 13 states. That election result triggered a stock market sell-off.

Recent moves to halt fiscal consolidation imply the government thinks it can narrow its budget gap, which stood at a 20-year high of 7.4 per cent of GDP in 2009, purely on the back of increased economic activity and higher oil prices.

Longer term, failure to implement fiscal reform leaves the country, Asia’s third-most trade dependent economy, vulnerable to external economic and commodity price shocks. State oil company Petronas provides almost half of all government revenues.

When could the polls be held?
The most probable timing now seems to be during 2011, for several reasons:
  • The government normally calls for polls only when economic growth is in positive territory. Najib is aiming for GDP growth of at least five per cent this year after the economy contracted 1.7 per cent in 2009. The government would need at least until the first quarter of next year for the recovery to reach ordinary voters.
  • Many of the reform pledges that Najib has made, covering six core areas from fighting graft to improving urban transportation, have deadlines at the end of this year.
  • Elections in Sarawak. The state is Barisan Nasional’s (BN) stronghold that provides the government with 30 of its 137 Parliament seats. Sarawak is the sole state in the country that holds state elections separately from national polls. It must hold polls by June 2011.
  • If the government held the next Sarawak state election concurrently with federal polls it would stretch the opposition’s meagre campaign resources even more thinly.
  • Alternatively, the government could call for state elections in Sarawak either late this year or early next year, in the hope that a strong showing would bolster confidence ahead of national polls that would follow soon after.
  • But even if the government scores a landslide win in Sarawak, it may not be willing to take a risk in far more politicised mainland Malaysia where the PAS is making inroads into its Malay voter base.
  • Petrol price hikes in 2006 helped the opposition DAP to an unprecedented six state seats in Sarawak polls that year.
  • “I believe the Sarawak polls will be held separately before the next general election because Sarawak is usually taken as a rough barometer before the national polls are held,” said Shaharuddin Badaruddin, associate professor at Universiti Teknologi Mara.
  • Calling for an election later than next year also poses a risk for the government due to the possibility of a rise in religious and racial tensions. Ethnic Chinese and Indian voters have shown no sign of returning to BN since 2008.
What are the indications of imminent polls?
  • The following indicators will provide a rough early warning that polls are coming in the next three to six months. None have taken place so far:
  • BN component party leaders and state leaders from the Umno, the lynchpin of the 12-party ruling coalition, will be summoned by Najib to finalise their proposed list of election candidates.
  • The Election Commission will also indicate looming polls with a step up in its own logistical preparations and a finalising of the electoral rolls.
  • A run-up in the stock market. In the past, government-linked funds were asked to prop up the stock market several months ahead of elections to create a feel-good factor for the economy, though the extent of such rallies varies.
  • What would be the outcome of the polls?
  • While the Opposition has never been stronger in the wake of what locals dubbed the 2008 “political tsunami”, the odds are still loaded in favour of BN.
The Anwar-led opposition has won seven out of nine by-elections held since the 2008 elections and most of Umno’s partners in BN are either paralysed following the drubbing they received in 2008 or plagued by infighting.

Anwar is battling charges of sodomy in court, in what he says is a repeat of a political conspiracy that saw him jailed for six years after his sacking as deputy prime minister in 1998.

The government insists he will get a fair trial. One risk is that a guilty verdict could energise and embolden the opposition. Alternatively it could drive a wedge between the reformers, ethnic Chinese and Islamists that comprise his alliance.

Umno has 78 parliamentary seats. Adding in allied MPs from its stronghold states of Sabah and Sarawak, its total rises to 117 seats, enough for a simple majority in the 222-seat Parliament even if all the coalition’s ethnic Chinese and Indian parties fail to win anything.

Najib however needs a two-thirds majority if he is to legitimise his rule and avoid a leadership challenge, a fate that befell his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who presided over the 2008 election losses. — Reuters