Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bankruptcy now firmly in sight: Are political games being played to hide this?... by Maclean Patrick

Bankruptcy now firmly in sight: Are political games being played to hide this?
Written by  Maclean Patrick
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 15:39

Amidst all the racial and religious rhetoric served up by the politicians of the day, Malaysia is facing a far greater problem. The various political entities in Malaysia can throw all the mud they want at each other, and fight over who should be the next this and that, but if left unchecked; there may not be much of a country to govern within the next two to three years.

Bank Negara have just released the 1st Quarter economic and financial data for Malaysia on the 3rd of June and it paints a grim picture.

For the 1st quarter of 2011, the central government debt sits at RM430,151 million compared to RM407,101 million for the same period in 2010, i.e up RM23 billion. Of the RM430,151 million, RM425,831 million is medium and long term debt.

Domestic debt sits at RM414,217 million whereas in the same period in 2010 it sat at RM390,356 million. Again the medium and long term debt is the bigger bulk of the debt at RM409,897 million.

Plainly stated, the Government of Malaysia owes the central bank and funds like the Employee Providence Fund monies that run into the billions. Such debts are a mystery when you take into account that the central government operational expenditure has actually decreased. For April of 2011, the figure stands at RM13,769 million; a reduction compared to RM19,416 million for the same period last year.

Bear in mind the figures above are for the first quarter of 2011, there are still eight more months to go for 2011, and this figure would surely be on the rise if we take into consideration the pending General Elections and various other government initiatives.

Does GOM even know what it is doing?

The next key thing to note is that while the GOM has reduced its expenditure, yet it has increased its debt.

And unless the debt is managed well, we are on the verge of seeing the GOM going the way of the Greece government. A government broken under the weight of its own debt.

And if the GOM goes bankrupt than the people of Malaysia would in turn suffer since the money the GOM owes is taken from public funds that belongs to everyday Malaysians.

Can the GOM repay its monetary debt to the people of Malaysia?

Adding to the grim picture, figures released by BNM for April 2011 show a country where inflation is on the rise. Headline inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), increased to 3.2% on an annual basis. Higher prices for food and non alcoholic beverages along with higher cost in the transport categories are contributing to the ever-rising inflation rate.

An increase in RON97 from RM2.50/litre to RM2.70/litre accelerated the upward adjustment in the transport category. The impact would be greater as the Najib administration toys with the idea of reducing subsidies in an effort cut down on governmental expenditures.

While the idea to raise prices for RON95 has been shelved for the time being, Putrajaya announced a 7.1% hike in electricity tariffs in an effort to trim a subsidy bill that would otherwise double to RM21 billion this year, promising that the hike would not affect three-quarters of domestic users. A move some say would anger voters in the coming elections.

What should a PM do?

In a critical report published by the Singapore Strait Times, economists raised the question whether resource-rich Malaysia had fallen out of step with the global environment.

The Straits Times reported the arguments by economists that decades of state intervention that sought to meld free market practices with an ambitious social agenda to restructure the country’s multi-ethnic society in favour of politically dominant Malays had sapped Malaysia of its competitive edge as a destination for foreign investment.

Malaysia is slowly losing out on the global stage while the GOM is floundering within its own debt.

This is a problem far removed from the smoke-screen of sex tapes, sodomy trials, and mud-slinging so prevalently broadcast to the Malaysian public. Yet, it is this grim reality, that Malaysia is headed towards bankruptcy, that has drawn so little effort to remedy from the Najib administration.

Should not Malaysians demand a Prime Minister, whoever he or she may be, spends more time governing the country and the economy rather than politicking and creating political and economic trouble for himself, his party and worse of all, the innocent people who were foolish enough to have voted for him.

As they say, once bitten, twice shy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

BERSIH Rally - Letter to International Organisations to make representations to Malaysian Government

BERSIH Rally - Letter to International Organisations to make representations to Malaysian Government

 by P. Waytha Moorthy, Chair, HINDRAF
William J.Burns
The Under Secretary for Political Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Rt.Hon.  William Hague MP
Foreign Secretary
Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
King Charles Street,
Ms Heidi Hautala
Chair of the Human Rights Sub Committee
European Parliament
Rue Wiertz
B-1047 Brussels
Richard Ottaway MP
House of Commons
Foreign Affairs Committee
4 Millbank
City of London SW1P 3JA
Ms Navanethem Pillay
High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
Mr. Githu Muigai
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
Email: racism@ohchr.org
Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org
Gay McDougall
Independent Expert on Minority Issues
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Mr. Frank La Rue
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
Email: freedex@ohchr.org 
Gabriella Habtom
Human Rights Officer and Secretary of the Committee
on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Human Rights Treaties Division
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Tel. +41.22.917.9193 - Fax +41.22.917.90.08
e-mail: ghabtom@ohchr.org / tb-petitions@ohchr.org
Palais Wilson - 52, rue des Pâquis, CH-1201,
Geneva, Switzerland
Frank William La Rue
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
CH-1211 Geneva 10
 Amnesty International
1 Easton Street
Telephone: +44-20-74135500
Fax number: +44-20-79561157
Human Rights Watch
Address: 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10118-3299 USA
Tel: +1-212-290-4700
Fax: +1-212-736-1300
email: spiegem@hrw.org
Minority Rights Group International
54 Commercial Street
London E1 6LT, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7422 4200
Fax: +44 (0)20 7422 4201
Front Line –
The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Head Office, Second Floor, Grattan House
Temple Road, Blackrock
Co Dublin, Ireland
Tel: +353 (0)1 212 3750 
Fax: +353 (0)1 212 1001
E-mail: info@frontlinedefenders.org
OSCE Secretariat
Wallnerstrasse 6
1010 Vienna
Tel: +43 1 514 36 6000
Fax: +43 1 514 36 6996
E-mail: info@osce.org
Washington Bureau
1156 15th Street, NW Suite 915
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 463-2940
Fax: (202) 463-2953
Email: washingtonbureau@naacpnet.org
European Union External Action Service
Menara Tan & Tan, Suite 10.01 
207 Jalan Tun Razak 

50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel.: +6 03 2723 7373
Fax: +6 03 2723 7337
US Embassy Malaysia
Mr Brian D. McFeeters - Political Counselor
376 Jalan Tun Razak
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  
Tel No:   (03) 2168-4946,
Fax  No : (03) 2168-5165,
Rainbow Push Coalition
National Headquarters
930 East 50th Street
Chicago, IL 60615
National Action Network
House of Justice
106 West, 145th Street,
Harlem ,NY 10039
23rd June 2011.
Dear Sir/Madam,
Re:      Urgent Request to make Representations to the Government of Malaysia on the possible violence by PERKASA, UMNO sponsored NGO on Human Rights Advocates and the general public on the BERSIH 2.0 public rally for free and fair election in Malaysia on 9th July 2011.
I write to you with the utmost urgency for your attention on the above matter. 
BERSIH is a coalition of NGOs’  that  advocate   free and fair elections  and intend to march peacefully  with the public in Malaysia on July 9, 2011 in line with the fundamental rights  contained in the  Malaysian Federal constitution under Article  10.The purpose of the march is to express the collective desire of the malaysian people for a free and fair election in the forthcoming General Election.
PERKASA is a Malaysian NGO and is a tool used by the UMNO led Malaysian government in extending its ugly hands into politically extreme policies topped up by fear inducing methods to ensure that whatever is sacred in the Federal Constitution for the good of the multi-ethnic polity is  compromised through this fear and state sanctioned threats from a seemingly independent organisation -PERKASA..
Malaysiakini, one of the few independent online news  portals reported on June 19th 2011 quoting  PERKASA as saying,  “Imagine, ladies and gentlemen, if the Bersih rally is not called off and they go ahead with it - if they don't cancel it on July 8 or 9 - I believe the Chinese community, many of them, will have to stock up on food at home."Anything can happen on that day”
On 13th of June 2011 Malaysiakini  quoted PERKASA chief as saying said they are ready to "fight to the end" (lawan habis-habisan) to stop the rally if the organisers insist on taking to the streets of Kuala Lumpur on July 9. "(If they proceed) there will be a clash (pertembungan). If that happens, it is for the better," he told a press conference in the Parliament lobby.”
The insinuations above falls short of an orchestrated attempt to riot or to promote some form of violent action by UMNO sponsored PERKASA against the public for their participating in this peaceful march on July 9, 2011 just for free and fair elections.   
The fear of the Malaysian community is real and should not be underestimated or downplayed at this crucial moment as state sponsored gangsters PERKASA and its allies PEKIDA (another organization of ex-police and army personnel) & 3 Line ( a known large street gang) blatantly come forward in this aggressive and belligerent manner against what is a natural and legitimate grievance of the people. This march is nothing other than an expression of a collective voice of Malaysians.  
The international community whilst accepting Malaysia as a member of the United Nations cannot sit in silence when such threats and fear mongering methods are pursued by fascist elements in the ruling party with the implicit sanction of the UMNO led government.
Your public statement in opposing this tendency of state sponsored violence against its people is of paramount significance as it is a fundamental human rights issue and not just political theatre. The minorities, marginalized and discriminated face these kind of human rights abuse daily through the racist and fascist agenda of the Malaysian government..    
I write to urge you to make urgent representations to the Malaysian government that the BERSIH rally should be allowed to proceed unhindered and the peaceful protesters be provided protection from any untoward violent reactions by the state sponsored PERKASA, PEKIDA and other fringe elements.. 
by P. Waytha Moorthy
+447502289313 (Mobile)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

malaysiakini: Power is duty, not a prize.... by Razaleigh Hamzah

Power is duty, not a prize
Razaleigh Hamzah
Jun 19, 2011, 10:29am
Malaysia's post-colonial history began with optimism and a grand hope in 1957. When Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister of Malaysia, proclaimed our Independence at the Merdeka Stadium in the unforgettable words that "Malaysia is a parliamentary democracy with an independent judiciary," he had a vision of a happy people in spite of the formidable economic problems we needed to solve.

declaration of indepenceAfter that dawn of independence, there was a search of how we could achieve this happy society, fulfilling the needs and aspirations of all Malaysians which was to continue for the generations to come. He symbolised the concept and conviction of generational responsibility in his vision.

Tunku Abdul Rahman and his generation were dedicated leaders, not for power but a sense of duty to the present and the future. They were not in politics for the money or for themselves. Indeed, even after they had assumed power, they never used their position to benefit themselves or their families, nor did they build loyal cronies who would act as their financiers or hold any wealth unlawfully earned at the expense of the people.

The guiding philosophy was responsibility of public office. Public office was seen as a duty, not as an opportunity. The public office was also part of their sense of political commitment to create a Malaysia that was fair, just, cohesive, and balanced. This was combined by a deep conviction of generational responsibility for those who would come after them.

Our three lost decades

One of the greatest losses in public life and in politics today in Malaysia is that loss of generational responsibility. Everything seems to be surrounded by greed and the desire to be billionaires.

This had led to a pyramid of cronies within the incumbent political parties and their associates in business. It is this combination of the hierarchy of political cronies and business cronies that led to the centralisation of power in the incumbent political leadership and in the Office of the Prime Minister.

orang asli protest in putrajaya 170310This power in one individual allowed the manipulation of the political system; I mean by this the institutions of power including the media. In exchange for the centralisation of power, greed and self-interest were encouraged by example and in the guise of racial loyalty deserving rewards.

This is the case in all the parties within the power structure. This state of affairs is one of the most dangerous and difficult to dismantle because there has been three decades of centralised power.

The political style that has dominated in these lost three decades has been "double-think" and "double-talk". One of the features which is alarming in this plan to maintain status quo is the encouragement covertly of racial and religious obscurantism.

The underlying theme was a policy of using a balance of racialism and religion on the one hand and talks of unity on the other hand in order to make the people hostage to the status quo of power.

As a result, racialism and racial concerns seem to have a grip on all aspects of our lives, in politics, economics, education and employment, irrespective of the present reality which has got nothing to do with race or religion. We are deliberately made to feel that we are hostage to these forces.

Freedom of speech and expression of our political concerns to change the atmosphere are restrained by how it will be interpreted by those who want to deny us the right to differ.

Article 10 of the Constitution which guarantees this freedom is almost non-existence or subject to fear of retaliation or defamation. Legal suits intended to silence legitimate concerns of public responsibility are increasingly used.
Unfortunately, our judicial system has forgotten the fundamental importance of Article 10 to the democratic life of Malaysia. Common sense seems to have been taken out of the law.

Obscene income inequality gap

On the economic front, income inequality in Malaysia has widened. Some studies suggest that Malaysia's inequality is wider than Thailand's or Indonesia's.

Historically, the concern was about ownership and control of the economy. It was the view of some that if ownership was de-racialised or balanced at the top, economic justice would follow. It is no longer a valid premise for the future.

Income inequality is no longer a problem between races; it crosses the racial divide and it is a problem of the majority of Malaysians who feel the pressure of inflation in almost every essential aspects of their lives, challenging their well-being of themselves, their families, and their future.

Today and in the near future, this is the most serious challenge we face. It is not an easy challenge to overcome. It is a time when Malaysia needs leadership of the highest quality and of those who have the moral courage to change and re-think our economic policies.

It is in these circumstances that we face the serious problem of rising food prices, inflation in price of houses compounded by shortage in housing for the vast majority of young Malaysians.

Lack of economic expansion to give all levels an opportunity to use their talents to seek work that is commensurate with their contribution, their needs of daily life, and to narrow the inequality gap, is the threat of the future.

Therefore, we should be concerned about the justification of the removal of subsidies that affects the low income because that will further widen the inequality and open the society to social disorder and disintegration, and increase social incohesion.

It is in this context that I raise the issue about independent power production companies (IPPs). The privatisation contracts are today protected by the Official Secrets Act, and therefore we are unable to really know whether or not the public and Petronas, as trustees of the public, are directly or indirectly subsidising these companies and the tycoons who are benefitting at the expense of the public.

petrol price hike protest 2 100306 klcc towerRelated to the question of the withdrawal of subsidies is the deficit that the government suffers from in managing the economy. This question cannot be separated from the way that the government has managed the nation's finances.

If the deficit is as a result of wastage, corruption and extravagance in the use of public funds, then the solution to the problem should not be passed on to the public. What is needed is a reexamination of the management of the country's finances before taking any drastic steps that would affect the well-being of the people.

We need to know the reality behind the apparent subsidies that are given to the public and its relationship in the totality of the management of the public finance. Only after we know the truth - and the whole truth - should any change in the policy of subsidies be implemented, as the consequences would have life-changing impact on the livelihood of the people.

In the circumstances of rising inflation in food, stagnation of the economy and income, we should not do anything that would widen the disparity of income which would cause social instability.

Rule of law, not of men

The challenge today is for the return to generational responsibility in politics and public office. This can only be achieved if we have democracy and parliamentary power which is responsible.

Democracy was the basis of the founding of the state of Malaysia by the Constitution in 1957. When it was briefly suspended in 1969, the leaders of that generation were uneasy, and they restored democracy as soon as possible.

That is because they realised that democracy has an intrinsic value in creating a citizenship that is not made up of sheep but of responsible citizens. Only responsible citizenship that understands democracy can bring about stability, cohesion and economic prosperity.

During those days, it was ingrained in that generation of leaders that democracy was not only a form but a value system that respected the essential institutions of democracy like the independence of judiciary, the supremacy of parliament subject to the Constitution, the respect for fundamental rights, and free speech.

palace of justice 260207 01They also understood the meaning and primacy of the rule of law and not of men. They also knew that democracy is the common heritage of humanity that we inherited and have a duty to continue. The law that they understood was also from the common heritage of all civilised nations.

And one of our inheritances is the common law system of the rule of law which is enshrined in our constitution. They knew that the phrase "common law" meant the wisdom that is passed to us in the progress of law and the values that are encapsulated in the law governing public office and responsibility to society. That laws are meant to enhance democracy and freedom but not to maintain and continue political power that is inconsistent with the rule of law and the constitution.

Independence did not come with peace but with very difficult problems, particularly the management of the economy and transforming it to bring about a balance between all the racial groups.

They realise that some of their problems had roots in the history of Malaysia. There was a serious imbalance between the countryside and the urban sector with racial dimensions which were too sharp. Indeed, poverty was also quite prevalent. There were open discussions and experiments.

Some of you may remember that one of the highlights of public debate was organised at the University of Malaya under the title, 'The Great Economic Debate' every year. That disappeared with the changes in the Universities and University Colleges Act and the decline of universities' autonomy.

The search was to eradicate a sense of inequality between the various peoples of Malaysia, whether because of one's identity and social origins, or for other reasons. It was as part of this search that during Tun Abdul Razak's time, the Second Malaysia Plan was launched in 1971.

We need to be reminded of the objective of that plan:

"National unity is the over-riding objective of the country. A stage has been reached in the nation's economic and social development where greater emphasis must be placed on social integration and more equitable distribution of income and opportunities for national unity."

Erosion of the Malaysian Dream

That dream was slowly eroded from the mid-1980. The hope that we had at that time is now challenged in the most serious way.

Recently, Petronas announced that it had made a RM90.5 billion pre-tax profit. If we accumulate the profit of Petronas over the years, it would come to a mind-boggling figure of billions and billions.

Yet, the greatest poverty is found in the petroleum producing states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Sarawak, and Sabah. This moral inconsistency in a way exemplifies how the nation's economy is mismanaged and how the institutions set up in the 1970s have lost their objective and commitment to solving the immediate and pressing problems of the nation.

NONEPetronas was set up with the objective of serving the nation's interest as a priority. It was never intended to give Petronas a life of its own as an incorporated company for selected individuals to profit at the expense of the national interest, nor was it the objective to allow Petronas a cooperate existence independent of national interest.

What is needed is for institutions like Petronas is to have a national focus rather than maintain a multinational status. The aim of making Petronas a multinational cooperation at the expense of national interest is contrary to the Petroleum Development Act.

Petronas should have a Petroleum Advisory Council to advise the prime minister on the operation of the law as well as the management and utilisation of its resources as spelt out in the Petroleum Development Act.

Another example of the abuse of power is the privatisation of certain government institutions which were set up as a public service to serve the people.

Bernas is one example of a privatisation of an essential commodity as a monopoly for a group of people and owned partially by two companies in Hong Kong. An essential commodity such as rice should not have been privatised for business purposes. We are the only rice producing country that has privatised and given as a monopoly to one company the importation and distribution of all rice products.

rice paddy padi beras from thailand in malaysia 190307The reality today is Thailand and Indonesia are self sufficient in rice and we are dependant on 30 percent of imported rice. But because it is a monopoly, imported rice is cheaper in Singapore than Malaysia.

Privatisation for the benefit of private individuals to profit from such an essential commodity is a clear abuse of power. It would not have happened in those days. But with the centralisation of power in the office of the prime Minister who had the party under his absolute control, anything was possible!

I will suggest to you that there was a deliberate plan to centralise power in the leadership in a surreptitious manner. Unfortunately the nature of racial politics blinded us of the reality behind certain policies and conduct of leaders at that time.

RM880 bil in capital flight

The decline of democracy, the abuse of power, and the mismanagement of our economy and the nation's finances, the economic waste, the lack of national cohesion in our economic policies led to the flight of capital in the region of RM880 billion over the years from the 1980s.

That was the beginning the lost decades and the full impact of the consequences of the economic policies which has continued since then, is yet to have its full impact on our national lives. And when it does the consequences are unpredictable.

The centralisation of power in the Office of the Prime Minister and the attorney-general had a major role in this state of affairs. The challenge today is to reverse the centralisation of power and restore the check and balance of a genuine democracy.
We need to reclaim as citizens of Malaysia our rights in a democracy; that power and authority are positions of trust and responsibility, not to serve personal interest or as an opportunity for personal enrichment. We need to reassert as politically active and responsible citizens the concept of social obligation and public service in those who seek political office. Power is duty, not a prize.

We need to rethink our economic policies. Particularly in the focusing on the national objectives that are urgent; economic policies is not only about wealth creation but needs to have a moral dimension which takes into account the well-being of all citizens as the ultimate priority over profits.

I have given you a broad sweep of the past and a bird's eye view of the looming problems of managing our economy as it is today. I hope this will open a dialogue which benefits all of us.

TENGKU RAZALEIGH HAMZAH is former finance minister and Gua Musang MP. The above speech was part of the Perak Lectures, organised by Perak Academy on June 18 in Taiping.