Friday, 31 July 2009

We Will Be Heard

I will be there, folks.

If you fumed in a needless and futile traffic congestion caused by the police roadblock, then now is the time for you to make your stand.

I mean, heck, for all the effort the police went through to publicise this event, you can't possibly disappoint them.

I know some of you were riled up so bad that there was significant global warming today due to the hot air billowing out of your ears.

See you tomorrow.

The Wrongs Of The Kg Buah Pala Issue

By Walla

If they are illegal squatters on state land, then Kg Buah Pala's recourse to generational settlement has no legal ground. Giving in will only encourage other illegal squatters to park in every open spot and claim right against eviction later. How does that differ from blackmail?

The second wrong was for the civil service cooperative to buy up that state land at special price and then sell it to the developer at grossly inflated price. Was it the right of the cooperative to buy it at special untendered price in the first place?

What's happening now is that all the worms are coming out of the woodwork to show how past BN component parties have been abusing their state powers. The opposition has to pick up the pieces, face the indifference of the BN culprits and try to solve something which requires funds that BN as federal is withholding from them just because they are the opposition. In the political crossfire, the rakyat suffer.

Out of this particular case, the squatters seem to have received two gifts they are not entitled to. One, free stay on state land over five generations; that's already not a bad deal. Two, unearned duress money upon leaving, and that's not a small sum. Additionally, no one seems to notice that the developer may be incorporating the sympathy money paid out into the price of the property that it will be selling soon.

Which means legal buyers of the new property are the ones who will be subsidizing the squatters relocation to their new and more hygienic homes.

Taken from any perspective, this seems downright wrong.

Yet there is another third wrong. It is that the government, federal and state, have not put their heads together to figure out proper and legal solutions to squatters. Knowing full well that urbanization is a given, they should have factored the need for housing for the urban poor.

Parallel to that, they should have controlled better the illegal use of state land. As can be seen, closing one eye today will only push the problem to someone else tomorrow whose only resolution will be a clash between the common heart and the federal rule book in a political arena no one can afford to view.

Admittedly, there's something sentimental about the notion of growing one's roots and identifying one's familial lines with a particular place. It grows onto one, an old saying. But the world as we all know tends to overturn all comfort zones. What one desires to attach to the most will be detached the very next minute as though to deliver a biting lesson about life.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Going Against The Flow

An ideal world is one where everyone has what they need and nothing changes.

Sadly, this world is far from ideal.

Some people think Malaysia needs more development.

Others beg to differ. Antares, for one, says:

I wasn't born in Kg Buah Pala. In fact I didn't even know such a place existed. So I feel no special love for that piece of land and have no emotional roots there. However, I have grown extremely deep roots in my present location and am prepared to KILL to defend it against bulldozers and corporate pirates. Cranky, highrise apartments do NOT equal "progress." Indeed, "progress" is perhaps the stupidest and most dangerous word in the dictionary since it traps us in linear time inside our left brains.

No doubt the people of Kg Buah Pala have likewise grown deep roots to their village, having lived there for 5 generations.

Apparently, some of them are still cowherds til today. From various images I have gleaned over the internet, they even get their water from a well.

Now, I will humbly admit that this is a completely different lifestyle from what I'm used to.

The first time I ever saw a cow close-up, I got my friend to take a picture of us (cow and I).

I stood at a comfortable distance (just in case the cow developed a sudden hostility towards me and decided to butt me - or is it just bulls which do that?) and flashed my best smile.

Which reminds me, my friend still owes me those photos. But I digress.

Antares has an issue with the word 'progress'. I think if given a chance, he would prefer that those who live in their condos remain there and those who live in their villages be allowed to live peacefully - each in amicable understanding.

In fact, upon re-reading my original post, I think I was a little harsh when I said that Kg Buah Pala is a blight in the face of Penang. I had no right to say that.

But, I haven't changed my stance on Kg Buah Pala.

Perhaps we may be able to halt the demolition this time. But to what end? Will we buy every single village in this country and save them from developers?

Will we decide that new highways should not be built to ease traffic congestion?

Will we ban all foreigners from living in Kuala Lumpur?

And when I say 'foreigner', I'm not just referring to the Indonesians, Bangladeshis and Americans who have come to live here.

I also include all those who were born in another state and came to KL to find a job and earn a living.

If you are a foreigner, you are one of the reasons why KL experiences traffic congestion before and after office hours.

And as one of the natives who has had ancestors here for 6 generations, I don't particularly like having to share my space.

There's this new apartment being built across the road from my house. During construction, my house was covered in dust. But that's nothing compared to what will happen when the owners eventually move in.

A survey was carried out recently, and according to the findings, the average family in KL owns 2 cars. I can already imagine cars parked outside my gate in the evenings, blocking my entrance like it happens when someone in the neighbourhood throws a party.

But do I have a choice? Not really. As always, people will move to the city in search of better opportunities. More roads will be built. More condos will be built. More babies will be born.

So the squatters of Kg Buah Pala may protest the demolition of their houses. And they may rally others to assist them in going against the flow.

I sympathise. I really do.

But at some point, even Kg Buah Pala will have to make way for 'progress', whether you like it or not.

Money being splurged to boost image of Najib administration

From The Malaysian Insider:

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — The Malaysian government is continuing a Barisan Nasional (BN) tradition of spending big bucks to get positive publicity for the administration overseas.

The Malaysian Insider understands, however, that some senior government officials are not pleased that the Najib administration is considering spending large amounts to buy good publicity.

A number of companies, including renowned international public affairs and media relations company Apco Worldwide, are pitching for a new round of government-related work believed to be worth some RM20 million.

The contract has not been signed yet but the administration is understood to be leaning towards giving Apco Worldwide a big pay day.

It is understood that the services of Apco Worldwide was brought in by Omar Mustapha, the close aide of the PM who was recently embroiled in controversy over his proposed appointment onto the board of national oil company Petronas.

Typically the scope of work for companies like Apco Worldwide will involve getting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Malaysia onto slots on major news channels such as CNBC and CNN.

Bylined articles in foreign newspapers such as the one which Najib wrote for the Wall Street Journal when he took office are also targeted.

There will also be a lobbying element, especially in the United States which has traditionally been sympathetic to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Najib’s recent telephone conversation with President Barack Obama was a major coup for the foreign experts already working in the PM’s office.

It is understood that the Najib administration is also working hard to secure an official visit from the US president to Malaysia, as this would boost the PM’s international image and undermine Anwar’s influence in Washington.

Apco Worldwide is understood to have had an official based in Najib’s office since the early days of the administration.

Apco and other public relations specialists from the United States have also been helping Najib craft his 100 days strategy.

This includes his 1 Malaysia message and other key platforms of his administration.

While the results so far of the foreign public relations firms have been mixed, some senior government officials are understood to be unhappy with their further involvement, especially if it comes with an escalation in costs.

But supporters of these foreign public relations teams point out that they also work to neutralise the opposition’s impact outside Malaysia by reaching out to opinion makers in countries deemed important to Malaysia.

Najib is not the first prime minister, however, to have used expensive foreign help to boost his image and that of his administration.

Tun Abdullah Badawi also used a foreign-based public relations firm to help project a positive image of himself as a progressive Muslim leader, and Malaysia as a modern Muslim nation.

The Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad administration had used disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

My Take On Kg Buah Pala

The MACC murder has definitely distracted public attention on this issue.

Yet (or perhaps because of that), it appears that the issue is resolving itself, though not necessarily in the direction I would like to see it go.

I'm not even going to be too hard on the previous Barisan Nasional government in Penang for selling out the Kg Buah Pala squatters without their consent.

The fact is, I have come to accept that sort of behaviour from anything associated with UMNO.

And only after we have completely evicted these Napoleons from their thrones and survived the next few years of the aftermath resulting from poor decisions can we start expecting accountability from the Pakatan Rakyat government.

But progress is progress. And without mincing words, Kg Buah Pala is blight in the face of Penang. I doubt it is the only one, and I'm sure there are plenty of others, but it could certainly make way for fresh apartments.

Frankly, I think the villagers are just afraid of change, because if the reports are right, the compensation offer to squatters residing at Kampung Buah Pala is pretty decent and notch up from what they currently live with.

The agreement offered each family one 850 sq ft house worth RM75,000, an RM1,000 relocation payment and RM750 a month for rental subsidy for a period of 36 months until the houses were constructed.

For residents not interested in this package, the cooperative offered one-off payments of RM90,000 per family.

Really, if I lived in a squatter settlement, I would like to find myself decent lodgings. Even if my ancestors had dwelt there for 5 generations.

Obviously, both sides of the political divide would like to gain brownie points with both the Kg Buah Pala villagers and Malaysian citizens alike.

So both have gone through great extents to allow the villagers/squatters to remain.

Obviously, the fact that they are Indians makes this a fragile issue, considering how insensitive the Barisan Nasional government has been with the demolishment of temples in the past.

I have no doubt that my opinion is not something that people are going to like me for.

My approach is rather hardline, but really folks, you can't go through life forever hugging trees and bunnies. Or squatter villages.

Friday, 24 July 2009

On The Issue Of Politicising

People go to strange lengths for comic relief. I read the NST. (On occasion, not all the time. Even *I'm* not that perverted.)

And there was one particular "letter" from a supposed reader that made me shake my head with disbelief:

TEOH BENG HOCK’S DEATH: Games for politicians

I don't know who this dude is - if he really exists or has been planted as an agent provocateur.

Now some of you may have read Haris Ibrahim's piece on politicising Beng Hock's death and the subsequent rebuttal by Nathaniel Tan.

At some point, while this incident has certainly been in Pakatan Rakyat's favour, we must admit that Teoh Beng Hock was a political aide - he was neck deep in politics.

And those who are angry and call for justice are his personal friends, colleagues and comrades.

I personally have met Ronnie Liu - the "senior Selangor exco member from Pakatan Rakyat who "barged into the offices of the MACC" and "screamed at the security guards, banging on doors with his fists".

Ronnie Liu is passionate and caring. I can understand why he acted such. Heck, if I had a friend or colleague treated that way by anyone, I'd do more than barge into offices and scream at stupid security guards. Trust me.

The MACC should have allowed Teoh's family to see his body with the presence of their lawyer. But MACC refused, for reasons they refused to divulge.

Everyone knew there was foul play going on and if they weren't incensed about that, I honestly don't know what's wrong with them.

I hope this CALVIN SANKARAN of Bukit Mertajam doesn't exist. But if he does, I hope there are no more like him.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The 41

Zorro tells us that "the business at hand is the 41 henpecked...oopppsss, handpicked elite lumped into some fancy-named committees that form the cog and wheel of the current government’s mellifluous spanking new anti-corruption machinery."

I join both YB Jeff Ooi, MP for Jelutong and CPI chief, Lim Teck Ghee in calling for the resignation of these 41:

Anti-Corruption Advisory Board members
Abdul Hamid Mohamad
Amar Hamid Bugo
Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan
Mohamed Jawhar Hassan
Simon Sipaun
Zaiton Zawiyah Puteh
Rashpal Singh Jeswant Singh
Yong Poh Kon
Anwar Fazal
Dr Khoo Kay Kim
Chelvarajah Ramasamy Reddiar

Special committee on corruption
Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad
Razali Ibrahim
Abdul Rahman Dahlan
Dr Tan Seng Giaw
Salahuddin Ayub
Zamri Yusuf
Armani Mahirudin

Complaints committee
Mohd Nor Abdullah
Muhammad Mohd Noor
Wan Abdul Wahab Abdullah
Chooi Mun Sau
Ravindran V Muthu

Operations review panel
Dr Hadenan Abdul Jalil
Cecil Abraham
Nik Mohd Hasyudeen Yusoff
Walter Sandosam
Aminah Pit Abd Raman
Md Hamzah Md Kassim
Dr Syed Noh Syed Ahmad

Corruption consultation and prevention panel
Ramon Navaratnam
Dr Abdul Rahman Embong
Dr Zainal Abidin Abdul Majid
David Chua
Wong Chun Wai
Kamaruddin Zakaria
Nordin Kardi
Prof Dr Ishak Tambi Kechik
Azman Ujang
Anis Yusal Yusoff
Robert Phang Miow Sin

Already Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said, “I do not want to resign, as I believe in fulfilling my duties. As the Prime Minister appointed me, I have an obligation to serve in the true spirit of a former civil servant.” Not Amen, but ahem to that.

Remember these names, people.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sign The Petition For Beng Hock

I've wondered a number of times if signing petitions actually make a difference.

But I decided that now is not the time to second guess. I will stand up and demand justice for the young man whose life was cruelly snatched from him.

Not just for him. For his family and loved ones, too. And those whose lives can be saved in the future because of the message our indignance sends to the careless MACC and other government authorities.

Honestly, I don't care if they establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate. It won't make a difference - there will be a cover-up, anyway.

But I want the MACC director's resignation and an unconditional apology from the foul-mouthed Nazri Aziz. We need to send the message that we're angry and won't put up with such garbage.

Go sign this petition. You can make a difference too.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

Not only was Teoh Beng Hock going to be married, he was also expecting a child.

In Malaysia (and probably in other conservative holes on this planet), two pieces of paper are of paramount importance in a child's life.

One is its birth certificate. The other is the marriage certificate belonging to its parents, without which its father will be deemed unknown unless he shows up at the registrar's office to have his name imprinted.

In this case, we know that's not going to happen.

PUTRAJAYA: Soh Cher Wei may not be able to register Teoh Beng Hock as the father of her child.

National Registration Department public relations officer Jainisah Mohd Noor said the marriage certificate of the child's parents must be forwarded to register a child.

In the case of a child born out of wedlock, the father has to be physically present before the registrar to have his name included in the document.

Jainisah pointed out that it was not possible for the department to register Teoh's name as the child's father as there was no provision for such a process.

"In this case, when the child is born, the baby's birth certificate will only carry the mother's details.

"The child will also carry the mother's surname," Jainisah told the New Straits Times yesterday, adding that any changes to the existing procedures of registering a child would set a precedent.

Soh, 28, had said she would go ahead to legalise Teoh as the father of her unborn child.

She had also said she would give her child the Teoh family name, although she was unsure how to go about it as the marriage plans were shattered following his death.

Soh, a teacher, also said that she would discuss solemnising her marriage according to traditional Chinese rites with Teoh's family after the funeral.

The status of the child was among the main concerns raised by Teoh's family as the couple had yet to register their marriage.

Now there are legal reasons why these requirements were set.

A woman can claim that any man is the father of her child and the onus would be on the man to prove that it isn't his, especially if he was wealthy and connected - a celebrity or public figure (which is usually the case).

To avoid such a hassle, a marriage certificate or the man in question being physically present would put rest to it.

But no one has any doubt as to whom the father of Soh Cher Wei's baby is. In fact, even Teoh's family appears to have claimed the child as well.

So it would be a simple matter for the National Registration Department (NRD) to sort it out.

But for now, they're dragging their feet with excuses.

You know why? Some time in the future, they will relent, but it will seem like such a huge effort on the part of the authorities (in this case, BN) to settle this case.

And everyone will be brimming with gratitude and appreciation for the NRD and the government for finally allowing the baby to 'legally have a father'.

People will forget that this situation would never have existed, should Teoh Beng Hock never have been hurled off the window at Plaza Masalam.

Time heals wounds. But sometimes, for the wrong reasons.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Don't Let His Death Be In Vain

Time to make your voice heard.

He was someone's son, someone's other half, someone's father, someone's friend, someone's political aide...

Justice for Teoh Beng Hock
Venue : Stadium Kelana Jaya
Date : 19 July 2009, Sunday
Time : 4.30pm
Attire : Black

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Rats Desert The Sinking Ship

Hardly surprising, really.

With the death of Teoh Beng Hock, it's probably a suicide mission (no pun intended) to be affiliated with Barisan Nasional.

More so if you're the running dog.

So Chua Jui Meng is taking a walk. And PKR appears to have embraced him with open arms.

If you ask me, PKR is infiltrated by ex-UMNO already. An additional supply of ex-MCA wouldn't make a huge difference.

Friday, 17 July 2009

He Jumped Off The Roof

Yeah right. And my name is Mighty Mouse.

The notion that he jumped off the roof is just as ludicrous as expecting the public to believe that Teoh Beng Hock would voluntarily choose to sleep overnight in the very same place he was interrogated.

He had a big day ahead of him and he takes a nap at the MACC headquarters? Spin me another one, for the love of God; this one is too stupid to be swallowed.

But just when you think the situation couldn't get more insane, the mother of all idiots, Nazri Aziz opens his mouth, saying, "Then he should have gone home (instead)....and how would we know that he would jump out of the building?"

Folks, obviously someone thinks we are really stupid.

This was a political aide who had nothing to hide. Not an MB with a Balinese-style house worth RM24 million, not a Prime Minister in-waiting who had affairs with a Mongolian model cum translator, not your average Barisan Nasional crook with a hundred corruptions to his name.

Just a simple 30 year old who was due to be married the next day.

But that's the whole issue, isn't it?

Pakatan Rakyat has obviously been showing up all the inadequacies and misdemeanours of Barisan Nasional in recent days.

It's not a difficult feat. Barisan Nasional is obviously steeped in corruption and crime.

So this is probably what happened: the MACC was ordered to find dirt on Pakatan Rakyat. At all costs.

Unfortunately (for BN), it looks like those affiliated with Pakatan Rakyat are actually clean. I find it hard to believe, but at this point, I think it's safe to say that Pakatan Rakyat hasn't got its hands dirty yet.

Unbelievable. And I thought all politicians were like dirty diapers.

So the MACC had to resort to desperate measures. I think there are two possibilities.

Firstly, it's possible that they tried to dangle Teoh Beng Hock from a window to intimidate him. But instead of merely scaring the crap out of him, they went and dropped him.

Secondly, it's possible that they tortured him using all methods and went too far, resulting in his death. That would explain various reports that there was no blood at the scene. He was planted there to look like he had taken a tumble when he probably died some time earlier.

And that would explain why they absolutely refused to let the family lawyer be present to identify the body. They have plenty to hide. Oh, they do.

It's evident at this point that Teoh Beng Hock's death is shrouded in mystery. Watch the video to get more insight on what the family lawyer says.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Role Model For Unity

I shouldn't do this to myself. I really shouldn't.

But I have this streak of masochism and against my better judgement, every now and then I click on a link that I know is going to lead me to a Bernama site.

This one made me cough a biscuit up my nose.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 (Bernama) -- European countries see Malaysia as a melting pot of many cultures and a role model for unity and diversity, said Malaysian Ambassador to Belgium Datuk Hussein Hanif.

These qualities were much needed in the world today and in the years to come, he told Bernama in an interview in Putrajaya recently.

"They (European countries) and the world see Malaysia very positively, because we do not discriminate our citizens and people with different religious beliefs live in relative harmony and unity," he said.

Absolutely. No discrimination at all - no political and economic privileges to any particular group - no sir!

In fact, no one in Malaysia would dream of body-snatching dead Punjabis or Hindus and giving them Muslim burials.

Why, perish the thought!! We live and breath religious harmony and unity!

Hussein, who strongly supports the 1Malaysia concept espoused by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, said despite some "new media" trying to discredit Malaysia, once foreigners travel to this country, they would know how safe and amazing Malaysia was.

No shit, sherlock. It's a really safe place - especially in police lock-ups. You know you can sleep safe and expect to wake up bright and chirpy when the Malaysian police are there to protect you.

It's even safer in the streets, more so if you're in your car and you stop by to observe some policemen near a public protest.

You'd never have your car door kicked, the passenger door window screen hit or get forcibly dragged out of your car. No way.

This would spur them to appreciate Malaysia even more, he added, indicating that Malaysia had "dotted the world map with lots of outstanding achievements."

Outstanding, I'm sure. Like making roti-canai and teh-tarik in space? Or a world record for the most number of citizens tear-gassed and sprayed with chemical-laced water?

I sincerely wonder what this dude is smoking.

Because I'd really like a huge dose of denial and escapism once in a while to keep me going.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Body-Snatching And Illegal Burials

I've lost count. This country has elevated body-snatching into an artform.

I remember documenting one case of body snatching by the authorities but I know there are plenty more out there.

Now there's yet another one:

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Sikh family lost a court battle Monday in Muslim-majority Malaysia for the right to cremate one of their relatives after officials said the man had converted to Islam years before his death.

The family of Mohan Singh has been fighting Islamic authorities for custody of his body after Mohan, 41, died of a heart attack on May 25.

Officials from the Islamic government department of central Selangor state insisted Mohan converted to Islam in 1992, but the family said he practiced the Sikh religion until his death.

God have mercy on us all.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

NYT On Affirmative Action

Malaysia Dilutes Its System of Ethnic Preferences

BANGKOK — Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, announced Tuesday a major rollback in the system of ethnic preferences that has defined the country’s political system for almost four decades.

The new policy would severely weaken a requirement that companies reserve 30 percent of their shares for ethnic Malays, the country’s dominant ethnic group.

The 30-percent rule was once considered politically untouchable, and Mr. Najib described the change in policy as a “tricky balancing act.”

Malaysia has long given ethnic Malays and members of other indigenous ethnic groups — known as bumiputra, or sons of the soil — political and economic privileges. But that system has come under strain amid growing resentment by minority groups and poorer Malays.

The government offers bumiputra discounts on houses, scholarships and other perks. But some benefits, like government contracts and stock-market allocations, have been beyond the reach of working-class Malays.

Anger among Chinese and Indians, the country’s main minority groups, over the ethnic preferences was perhaps the main reason that the opposition made large gains in elections last year that nearly dismantled the governing coalition led by Mr. Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organization.

“We want to be fair to all communities,” Mr. Najib said in a speech in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. “No one must feel marginalized.”

Mr. Najib’s success in rolling back the ethnic preferences will depend in large part on his ability to hold together his coalition and fend off a resurgent opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim, a former finance minister.

Mr. Anwar, who leads a diverse group of opposition parties, has promised to undo the system of ethnic preferences.

By positioning himself as a reformer, Mr. Najib, who came to power in April, appears to be calculating that he can stave off opposition advances and be seen as an agent of change.

“The world is changing quickly, and we must be ready to change with it or risk being left behind,” he said Tuesday.

The change would leave some ethnic preferences intact and come with caveats. But it would dilute one of the most important components of what is known as the New Economic Policy, introduced in 1971: the requirement that companies listing on the stock exchange sell 30 percent of their shares to ethnic Malays.

That requirement was scrapped for companies already listed on the stock exchange and reduced to 12.5 percent for initial public offerings. The requirement will remain in place for “strategic industries” like telecommunications, water, ports and energy.

Mr. Najib also said he would lower barriers for foreign investors. The government would eliminate a special vetting process for foreign companies wanting to invest in, merge or take over a Malaysian company, he said.

“The global economic crisis is amplifying the need to be a preferred investment destination,” he added.

Malaysia’s trade-dependent economy is expected to contract by 5 percent this year.