Monday, April 30, 2007

Bloggers United Malaysia Gathering 2007

If you're interested to hear from bloggers why they blog on socio-political issues, as well as if you're just interested to network among bloggers regardless of their persuasion, there will be a gathering on May 19 at the Lakeview Club in Subang Jaya. There will be a panel of speakers like Marina Mahathir, Jeff Ooi, Tony Pua and Ahirudin Attan and more. Food buffet style will also be served. All for only RM30 per head. Please register early so that the organizers can plan the buffet size as well as seating. More details can be found at See you there!

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Check your voter registration status!

Do not take for granted that your name will forever stay in the electoral roll (and I am not talking about your name being in the roll 20 years after you're dead)! Check with regularly. If you find your name struck off the list, i.e. the system cannot find your name in the database, the only thing left for you to do is to re-register.

I am not joking. I personally know of 2 persons whose names have been inexplicably struck off the list. They voted in 2004, and yet they realized recently their names have disappeared from the roll.

The EC is a most unfair and corrupt body unable to correct itself. We just have to play around the rules and be vigilant.

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As expected, the mainstream media dooms PKR

As expected, the pliant and castrated mainstream media is painting a picture of gloom and doom for PKR and Anwar based on a simplistic reading of the Ijok by-election results. But then, what else can you expect from papers which are used more for spins than having intelligent (instead of insulting the intelligence) analysis of issues, or even basic fair reporting? Check out my previous post in this blog, as well as James Wong's analysis in Malaysiakini.

Below is a Straits Times (Singapore punya, not the NST) report on this matter:

30/04: Media paints bleak outlook for opposition
Category: General
Posted by: Raja Petra
The Straits Times

THE Barisan Nasional (BN) win in Ijok on Saturday was described by Malaysian media yesterday as a serious setback for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's party and a rejection of race politics.

In a front-page commentary in the New Sunday Times, its adviser Kalimullah Hassan said the result showed that the people of Ijok did not believe the wild promises of Datuk Seri Anwar.

'They were entertained by the skilful hand and vocal techniques of PKR and master magician Anwar Ibrahim,' Datuk Kalimullah, a close confidante of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, wrote.

PKR refers to Datuk Seri Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

The Star's political columnist Joceline Tan said the result showed that it was difficult for Datuk Seri Anwar to shake off his past.

'For every lump of mud he threw at the Barisan, bits of it flew back at him,' she wrote.

The mass-selling Mingguan Malaysia carried a headline on its front page yesterday speculating that this could be the end of PKR.

The report noted that the BN victory had dashed PKR's hopes of using Datuk Seri Anwar as a trump card in the next general election.

'Throughout the campaign, Anwar did not help the PKR candidate Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim much. Instead he was more interested in raising issues about himself, national matters, and slamming the country's leaders, especially Datuk Seri Najib Razak,' it said.

In his column, the Star's senior editor Wong Chun Wai noted that the win was also a victory of sorts for Deputy Prime Minister Najib, who was the main target of Datuk Seri Anwar's attacks.

In another commentary in the NST, writer Abdul Razak Ahmad wrote that the Chinese and Indian support for Barisan remains strong, and that some Malay ground lost in 2004 had been recaptured.

'As a mainly Malay but healthily multi-ethnic seat which is typical of up to 70 per cent of Parliament and state seats in the country, the outcome in Ijok will be handy as a rough gauge on how the national electorate will behave in coming elections,' he said.

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Ijok Aftermath

At last, one of the fiercest by-elections has ended. After 9 days of campaigning where we see the entire might of umno being concentrated in one area, plenty of intimidation and threats plus physical assaults (starting from nomination day itself to the actual election day), PKR lost by 1850 votes to BN. This difference in votes is an increase of 201 votes compared to 2004. However, voter turnout is the highest ever in by-election history at 83.08% (10,195 out of 12,272). This compared to 76.17% (9,411) in 2004. PKR obtained 4,034 votes ( compared to BN's 5,884. Incidentally, both candidates seemed to have obtained about the same number of increased votes (about 500 each). Details of the result can be read here.

Courtesy of Malaysiakini
Frankly speaking, I am a bit disappointed with the results. I was there in the evening of the election day (Sat 28 Apr) and the first sight that greeted me in Ijok was the 2 buses allegedly carrying phantom voters from Perlis being held at the Ijok police station. Apparently there was some fracas between PKR supporters who have received a tip off about the buses and rushed to stop them, and the pemuda umno stormtroopers who of course will try to deny that the buses were ferrying phantom voters and are just cooks from Perlis. You can read more here. My personal belief is that phantom voters do exist and umno has been using them in elections. Since many of the key PKR leaders have been umno leaders before, it is very likely they themselves have utilized the same tactic before when they were running election campaigns for the other side. Ironic as it seems, one needs a "crook" to catch another. Coupled with the fact that the electoral roll is full of literally dead people and other questionable entries (like few hundred names registered to a non-existing address), it is really not inconceivable for people to be brought in from elsewhere, use IC of dead people or what not, and cast their vote in favour of the ruling party. There were also plenty of cases of people who found that somebody else have voted on their behalf. For more details of irregularities (some nothing more than cheating), check out BERSIH which is a coalition calling for clean and fair elections in Malaysia.

After a light dinner I and a few party friends proceeded to the Dewan Orang Ramai Batang Berjuntai to listen to the results being announced. I think it was sometime around 8.40pm when the last polling station results were in and the final result was announced. My first impression listening to the earlier polling station results was that the Chinese areas seem to have again voted for BN. But after going through the breakdown of the official figures, it seems that the Chinese this time has indeed swung their votes to PKR by quite a huge margin compared to 2004. The Indian votes remain strongly BN. The eye opening results to me was that the Malays seem to have swung from their 2004 support for PKR. But upon closer inspection, other than Jaya Setia where BN garnered almost double the votes garnered by PKR, the difference in votes in the other Malay majority areas still remain close. What's more, the spoilt votes in these areas are averaging about half of the majority. Some other eye openers:

- in one of the streams in Indian majority Batang Berjuntai Utara, some 142 of 500 ballot papers given out was never returned. Considering that the majority in this area is 384, one wonders what those 142 missing votes might have been.
- in Pekan Ijok which is a Chinese majority area with few Indians, PKR has gained a lot compared to 2004 and only lost by 21 votes. This compares to Batang Berjuntai Selatan where it is also a Chinese majority area but with a sizeable Indian population and PKR lost by 123 votes.

After digesting the results, and thinking through it for 2 nights, I take the position that it is not all that gloomy for PKR specifically, and the opposition in general. These are the reasons:

- the Chinese voters who reflect a semi-urban to urban outlook (many of them do work in the Klang Valley and return home during the weekend) do seem be discontented with the existing socio-political climate, and are showing it through their votes. As long as the climate do not change significantly for the better between now and the coming General Election, most likely we will see continuing support from these group for the opposition's message and cause.
- considering the amount of money and various projects which have been promised (remains to be seen if they will ever be delivered), and the full might and resources of umno pouring into the area (especially in the Malay majority areas), they don't seem to have made much headway. Only in Jaya Setia where there have been cases of PKR operation centers being forced to close down overnight have they seem to gain back the support of the voters. In all the other Malay majority areas the difference in votes is slim and with spoilt votes making up some half of the difference. I take heart that the Malay voters in such a semi-urban setting do seem to understand that such crass vote-buying is to be abhorred in their culture, and they seem to understand the big picture issues being delivered by PKR.
- the level of violence and intimidation in this closely fought Ijok by-election, which is almost unheard of in Machap, shows the real fear of umno and gang that they could lose this seat. It is also telling that despite proddings from journalists, the umno top leaders have consistently refused to predict the level of win. This is very unlike Machap or Batu Talam where they were so confident to the point of throwing majority figures around. Despite whatever they try to say, their actions show very clearly that they see PKR as their threat. All the more so when they realize PKR, and to a certain extent PAS, can get the crucial votes from the Malays who are the traditional supporters of umno. It is encouraging, in a sense, to see that such politics of threats and intimidation do not seem to work that well this time to swing more Malay and Chinese votes over to BN.
- the Indians in estates and such cannot be faulted to vote for BN considering the dire straits they're in. As I have mentioned before in my earlier post, vote buying in the form of RM100 or RM200 given to the mostly destitute families are really life savers, and being in most cases simple folks they can only be most grateful to this seemingly charitable act. In Ladang Tuan Mee, there were allegations some 200 sewing machines were given out to families. I, for one, would not blame them for feeling immensely grateful to the folks who gave these out, and in turn voted for them. The only way out of this vicious trap is perhaps through education. But that would mean working among them outside of the usual election campaigning periods because it is patently clear that during election times, it is virtually impossible for any other groups to get near them considering the way MIC "shields" these people.

There is reason to be optimistic considering the points above. The discontment of urban and semi-urban voters with the present administration does seem real and being translated to votes (at least in the case of Ijok). The opposition parties must take heart of this observation and continue to work their messages through to these voters. The types of messages, and delivery of them, must be fine tuned further in preparation for the coming General Election which will be very near indeed (I am confident it will be called between Nov 07 and Mar 08). The most important thing is that PKR, DAP and PAS must work out something that will give voters an undeniable impression that they are united in going against BN, and have clear policies and agenda for a better Malaysia. The sticky point remains to be the relationship between DAP and PAS. But for the sake of the country, that really have to be resolved or worked out soon. If the opposition can make clear breakthroughs in the various urban and semi-urban areas, it is already a good first step of a longer journey to slowly convince, persuade and educate the rural voters. Even Tun Dr Ismail believed (The Reluctant Politician, p. 160) that the process of truly uniting the various races in Malaysia can happen, but not overnight. But 50 years have passed since Tunku Abdul Rahman first led Malayans to shout "Merdeka". PKR, DAP, and PAS really should take up Tun Dr Ismail's challenge now and slowly convince and persuade Malaysians of all walks in life that a new, truly united Malaysia where all will be seen as Bangsa Malaysia is possible and can be made real. After all, the Ijok results of 2004 and 2007 upon closer inspection do give that glimmer of hope.

(James Wong Wing On has a similar kind of assessment as well. You could read it here in Malaysiakini.)

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Nat Tan's article about shaping Malaysian realities

Quite a good article by Nathaniel Tan on why he, and for that matter you and me, should think hard and decide if we want to continue to be a cynic. This is also good material to back up my earlier post on the importance of being counted in our imperfect democracy. The following is an excerpt from Malaysiakini. I strongly recommend that you subscribe to Malaysiakini for access to all their articles and opinion pieces. It's only RM150 a year! Support a freer press in Malaysia!

Shaping Malaysian realities
Nathaniel Tan
Apr 26, 07 1:51pm

Like any Malaysian, I have a simple choice.

I can work to make my country a better place as best I know how, or I can leave things to run their course.

Perhaps things will turn out fine with or without any contribution from me; or perhaps the popular notion that no one has the ability to change Malaysia for the better is true, and nothing I ever do could possibly have any significant impact whatsoever.

How can we objectively determine whether Malaysia is worth fighting for, or whether it is a burning ship, bound to rot at the bottom of the ocean?

The simple answer is – we can’t.

Commentators and analysts predict the future at great length, but if any one of them had any significant track record of accuracy, they would be very rich fortune tellers, and not political pundits.

So if no one can accurately tell me whether my country as the potential to change for the better, how do I know that working for it is worth my time and energy?

Again, I don’t.

Leading change

I have learnt however, that while cynics despair of positive change, leaders don’t speculate about the future, they shape it.

To a cynic, existing reality is but the shackles by which they are eternally bound. To leaders, reality is nothing but clay waiting to be moulded.

We can choose to be cynics, and fester in indulgent despair; or we can choose to have vision, and stop at nothing to make that vision a reality...

(for the rest of the article, click here)

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For Dr M, losing Ijok is but one state seat

Dr M has spoken again, and this time he is giving tacit approval to the people of Ijok to vote "wisely" to teach the government a lesson. Below the Malaysiakini report:

Send signal to the 'rotten' government
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz
Apr 26, 07 10:53am Adjust font size:

The Ijok state seat by-election this Saturday is the right time for the voters to shatter the government’s propaganda that all is well, said former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

While he did not outrightly called on the 12,000-odd Ijok voters not to back the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, he nevertheless urged them to vote wisely this Saturday.

“If you don’t think (about) what you are doing, you don’t use your vote intelligently, then of course, you are to be blamed,” he told malaysiakini yesterday.

“Unless you send a signal to the government that, ‘Look, if you don’t behave yourself, you may not get my vote at the next election,’ then the government will say, ‘You see? The people are voting for us. We are doing well,’ he said.

He added that if the Ijok voters got swayed by the by-election goodies in the form of new development in the state constituency, they will only have themselves to blame if a ‘rotten’ government is voted in.

“If you vote (BN) because you get a lot of money or because you get a lot of projects, you may get a rotten government which uses money in order to buy your vote,” said Mahathir...

(for rest of article, please click here)
Of course, Dr M never talk about something without a reason behind it. So far in his attacks against the incompetencies of the Abdullah administration, the effect has so far only reverberated throughout the cyber world. Blogs and websites have been the main channel where a lot of similar dissatisfaction are being articulated, and spread. Such widespread discontent (albeit within cyberspace) is, in a way, validating Dr M's belief and message that Malaysians are increasingly getting frustrated and disillusioned with the current administration, and support for Pak Lah is reducing by the day.

However, since internet penetration is still pretty low in Malaysia, the present administration could always argue that Dr M is sorely mistaken and his attacks on them will only serve to strengthen the people's support of the government. The effect on the ground outside of cyberspace is still pretty much uncertain. We really do not know if the widespread discontent among netizens are flowing down to the normal Malaysian on the street and kampung. With this in mind, one would believe that in Dr M's mind, perhaps a real life lesson for the Abdullah administration in the form of voters rejecting BN in Ijok will vindicate his attacks and accusation. After all, BN losing Ijok in the immediate bigger scheme of things is but just one state seat with no impact to the BN's current control of the state of Selangor.

Raising the spectre of developmental politics on the scale of what is being seen in Ijok as corruption and vote buying, and asking Ijok folks not to be bought could be a signal that he is still sore from the fact that umno members were easily bought with a mere RM200 to not vote for him as a delegate. Regardless, especially after putting aside the fact that he used such tactics as well when he was PM, his reminder and warning on such corruption is timely and Malaysians should realize how such corruption is ultimately damaging to the nation's eocnomy and growth.

Of course, looking further into the future, perhaps Ijok turning to PKR would also signal hope that Malaysians are willing and able to give a new brand of politics, that of multi-culturalism, a chance to hopefully change their lives for the better. However, that really remains to be seen. The General Election result would be a much better gauge if that trend would gather momentum, or it will die a premature death. Perhaps Ijok voters could show the rest of Malaysia that maybe it is time to think out of the current political box we're forced into by BN, and pave the way forward. I may be day dreaming, but hey, plenty of great things that have happened started with somebody dreaming of the possibilities.

To see Malaysiakini's recorded interview with Dr M, click here. Malaysiakini TV is free.

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MCA's way of campaigning

There have been questions raised by various quarters of the Chinese community as well as political analyst regarding MCA's existence - is it now a social and welfare ogranization, or is it a political party which is supposed to be the No. 2 in the ruling coalition. These are relevant questions because the way MCA is behaving is increasingly reflective of the usual social and welfare groups, and is far from being a ruling political party (albeit subservient to umno) which is supposed to make policies. Cases which reflect such behaviour; the cupid club outings to matchmake single Chinese Malaysians, Lifelong education, and lately parading our poor badminton All England doubles champion in front of Machap folks, as well as concerts by singers and artistes in Batang Berjuntai. MCA perhaps should take serious look in the mirror before accusing DAP and PKR as bankrupt of ideas.

Courtesy of Malaysiakini - An MCA concert in Batang Berjuntai

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Anwar on the issue of his 1987 decision

Updated! I guess it is inevitable that MCA and people who are sore with Anwar (for whatever reasons) will dig up his decision in 1987 to appoint assistant principals to Chinese schools as one reason why he cannot be trusted, even when he has supposedly buried the hatchet with Chinese educationists. Below an excerpt from Malaysiakini, reporting his press conference in PJ this morning:

Anwar ‘will not defend’ 1987 decision
Andrew Ong
Apr 25, 07 4:59pm

Opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, a former education minister, has answered critics over his contentious move in 1987 to appoint assistant principals to Chinese-medium schools when they did not speak Mandarin.

Anwar, who held the cabinet portfolio from 1986 to 1990, said the decision was meant to bridge the communication gap between Chinese-medium schools with the ministry because many school administrators were weak in the national language, Bahasa Melayu.

“My purpose was to smoothen the process of administration, but there were problems in execution (of the move). I accept that,” admitted Anwar.

However, he also said he would not defend his decision.

He has been the focus of attacks by MCA and which have intensified in the Chinese press with the progress of campaigning for the Ijok by-election on Saturday...

(for the rest of the article, click here)
My take on this issue?

I am perhaps too young to recall the 1987 incident, but that decision was a precursor to Operasi Lalang when more than 100 people, mostly seen as anti-establishment (political parties, religious groups, social movements, etc.), were detained under the notorious ISA. The MCA and Gerakan were up in arms with the Chinese educationists objecting to this decision and had a demonstration showing their displeasure. This was followed by an even bigger rally headed by Najib who was the Umno Youth leader then, threatening to bathe their keris with Chinese blood for daring to challenge a decision made by the Umno government. The rest, as they say, is history. The police swept in, throwing people who in some cases weren't even remotely linked to the hot issue into detention. The Star, Sin Chew, and one other paper were banned, and were never the same again.

I would say Anwar's position as Education Minister then would be the most accountable for such a decision. But is that, and perhaps many other questionable decisions he has made while in power, good enough a reason to dismiss him entirely, regardless of the fact that the issues he is raising are patently valid and descriptive of the rot we're seeing, and the vision of his vehicle the PKR is at least a more viable plan compared to the current unworkable one by BN in terms of bringing our nation to the next level? You may remember him for the questionable decisions, but I also remember him for tabling a much more punitive and wide ranging Anti Corruption Act in Parliament, stopping the controversial Bakun Dam which is proving to be an environmental disaster, as well as voicing out his concern for Guan Eng's incarceration in one of his talks with students in the UK. Just as people can dismiss Dr M as a hypocrite for articulating issues which clearly he could have prevented when he was PM, does that mean we also dismiss the valid issues he's bringing to the table? Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Somebody told me much as Anwar is perhaps using us to fulfill his plans, we and the opposition is also using him to fulfill what they have not been able to all this while: a united opposition front with credible leadership and coherent policies. I am a pragmatic man, and if realpolitik dictates that Anwar is the best possible option now for us to break the hegemony which is umno, then so be it. As someone else have said, "You need a guai* to fight a guai!". There is really no point in continuing to look back into history, digging up this and that to find plenty of excuses to back up your personal dislike of a person, yet offering no real viable alternative. I, for one, really could not see anyone else who would have the means, will and energy to bring together DAP, PKR, and PAS to fight the umno juggernaut. If he is unacceptable due to whatever personal reasons, then really there is only one choice: continue with the umno hegemony. Forget about DAP winning the Malay votes, forget about PAS winning the non-Malay votes. And PKR be damned because they're supposedly all about Anwar only.

As much as I would have some reservations about Anwar, I really do not see much options. I cannot see how the current BN government (which is for all intent and purpose run by Umno) can guarantee my beloved nation will not become a basket case considering the level of mismanagement that is going and the lack of will to solve the really critical issues that is dividing Malaysians more and more along racial and religious lines. The policies and ideologies being firmed up by DAP and PKR are the ones I believe will resolve most of the problems we're facing. My choice is obvious and clear. I would rather see Anwar as PM than Pak Lah, Najib, or any of the existing Umno leaders.

Of course, like in anything in life, all decisions have risks. There will be a risk that the opposition would be equally bad or worse. But the current Umno government is already bad enough, and getting worse, and any choice which gives me a 50% chance that it will turn out better would be be a no-brainer.

Uncle Kit during his ceramah in Ijok on the night of Apr 26 has come out in defence of Anwar. There will be some who will accuse him of being opportunistic for doing this, but enough of the past, let's move on! Excerpts of a Malaysiakini report on this:
Ex-ISA detainee backs Anwar over policy
Beh Lih Yi
Apr 27, 07 1:17pm

Ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim has received support from an ‘unusual source’ in the wake of criticisms over a contentious education policy he mooted while in government which subsequently led to the infamous Operasi Lalang in 1987.

Speaking at a ceramah in Selangor’s Ijok last night, veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang openly backed Anwar, arguing that the former education minister should be credited for showing regret for what he had done.

Lim was one of the 119 politicians, social activists, unionists, Chinese educationists and religious missionaries rounded up under the massive crackdown. He was detained for one-and-a-half year without trial under the Internal Security Act.

The crackdown took place after tensions ran high in the country over the government’s decision to send non-Mandarin speaking senior officers to Chinese primary schools in 1987. Anwar was then the education minister.

The BN has harped on the issue in their election campaign in Ijok - about 50km northwest of Kuala Lumpur - where the Chinese voters are accounted for about 20 percent out of the 12,272 voters.

‘Bathe keris with Chinese blood’

At the ceramah held outside a Chinese restaurant last night, Lim said there are only a few people who are qualified to comment on the matter.

“I believe I am one of them because it resulted me to ‘eat curry rice’ (detained) for the second time. Do you think (BN Chinese-based parties) MCA or Gerakan are qualified? They are all accomplices in that!” said Lim in his trademark fiery oratorical style.

“Anwar has regretted for what he had done then. Shouldn’t he be given credit for it?” he asked the 400-odd crowd in Mandarin, who responded him with a loud ‘yes’.

“Has Umno, MCA or Gerakan regretted for what they did then? Who was the main culprit then? It was the Umno Youth chief then Najib Abdul Razak - the man who is leading the by-election campaign in Ijok now,” the DAP supremo added.

“He (Najib) had made the most extreme statement where he wanted to bathe the keris (Malay dagger) with Chinese blood. Why nobody asks him to apologise? Where is MCA and Gerakan? Do you think they dare to ask Najib to apologise?” thundered Lim...

(for the rest of the article, click here)
Below also is the reproduction of Uncle Kit's letter on the matter:
27/04: 1987 Ops Lalang and Chinese primary school crisis

Will Cabinet own up to historic wrongs?

Lim Kit Siang

Veteran Chinese educationist Sim Mow Yu has said that Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser and former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should apologise for what he had done over the 1987 Ops Lalang mass arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the controversy over dispatching of staff unversed in Mandarin to hold senior posts in Chinese primary schools.

As one of the Ops Lalang ISA detainees served with a formal two-year detention order and incarcerated at Kamunting Detention Centre, Sim is most qualified to speak up on these subjects.

The Ops Lalang detention was my second ISA detention, which lasted 18 months as compared to 17 months in my first ISA detention in 1969-1970.

DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng and I were the last two of the Ops Lalang ISA detainees incarcerated in Kamunting Detention Centre to be released in April 1989 – serving the longest Ops Lalang ISA detention after all the other 49 Ops Lalang detainees had been earlier released from Kamunting in various batches.

Anwar has admitted that he was wrong in 1987 in the dispatch of staff unversed in Mandarin to become principals and senior assistants of Chinese primary schools which resulted in the subsequent Ops Lalang mass arrests.

Anwar has now taken a stand on mother-tongue education which is in accord with justice and fair play for mother-tongue education in plural Malaysia as well as the higher national interests of enhancing Malaysia’s international competitiveness, which should be commended and supported.

However, are all the current Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders who had been collectively responsible for the 1987 Ops Lalang mass arrests and controversy over dispatch of staff unversed in Mandarin to senior posts in Chinese primary schools prepared to follow the example of Anwar and admit that what they had done twenty years ago were wrong?

Such Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders would include the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the Gerakan chief and Minister for Energy, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, the MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and the Minister for International
Trade and Industry Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz.

Najib was in 1987 the Umno Youth leader and what he did in 1987 was even more infamous than the keris-wielding incidents involving the current Umno Youth leader, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in the context of extremist and communal demands in utter disregard of the rights and sensitivities of all races in a plural nation.

What did Najib do in 1987? A Government White Paper entitled “Towards Preserving National Security” tabled in Parliament on 23rd March 1988 recorded that in an Umno Youth rally led by Najib on 17th October 1987, banners bearing strong words were displayed, including one which said: “SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD”.

Are MCA and Gerakan leaders prepared to ask all Umno and Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders to emulate Anwar’s example and admit that they had acted wrongly in the crisis of 1987?

Is the next Cabinet meeting prepared to end the historic wrongs in 1987 by adopting a formal Cabinet decision to openly and publicly admit that what the various Barisan Nasional component parties led by Umno had done in that year in these two episodes had been wrong?

Are the other Barisan Nasional component parties and leaders prepared to demand that both Najib and Hishammudin admit that they were wrong – the former for the “SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD” slogan at the Umno Youth rally in 1987 and latter for the keris-wielding at Umno Youth general assemblies in circumstances threatening the multi-racial fabric of our nation?

*guai, cantonese for ghost, or hantu

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Life as a refugee in Malaysia (Pt 3)

The 3rd part of a series of real life stories of refugees in Malaysia, published by Malaysiakini. I am reproducing it here to raise public awareness on their plight. The first two parts were posted earlier. I hope Malaysiakini can understand my doing this.

Life as a refugee in Malaysia (Pt 3)
Apr 25, 07 2:47pm

I grew up in Chin state in the west of Burma. Things were very difficult for my family because – like many people – we were frequently forced to work for the military. My parents had a small farm but it was hard to make a living. They were often made to work on military construction projects, so were not able to farm the land. People who refused to do military labour were arrested.

When I was about 15, we moved to Rangoon, the capital of Burma. I went to college there and started studying for a degree in psychology, but after two years the authorities closed the university down because of student demonstrations. When I found out that the Bible School offered some courses in counseling, I decided to continue my education there. The university opened again two years later and I considered going back, but in the end decided that it wasn’t actually worth it. I could see that many of my friends from the Chin ethnic group simply found it impossible to get a job, even with a degree.

There is a huge amount of discrimination against Chin people – if you are not from the Burmese ethnic group it is extremely difficult to have a career. You have to convert from Christianity to Buddhism if you want to move up.

In 2003, I became Youth Director at a church, doing community work and providing counseling for kids and young adults. The church was illegal in the eyes of the government and we had to be very careful. More and more Chin people started moving from Chin state to Rangoon, so our community was growing all the time.

The problems started in 2004, when I took a group of kids on a camping trip to the countryside. One of the kids was run over by a military motorbike. The law says that if a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, the driver has to pay the medical costs. When the military refused to pay, I wrote a letter to complain that nobody was taking responsibility. They almost arrested me. The Church pastor advised me not to take things further because he was worried about my safety. The military took my address in Rangoon, but let me go home.

The following year, I wanted to run a residential activity camp for kids in the church. The Church leaders were worried, because they knew that the military were watching the building.

On the second day of the camp, I went out shopping to get some supplies. Whilst I was out, the military raided the building and arrested the Church pastor and four others. Somebody managed to call me and tell me what had happened. They told me to hide, because the military knew that I was involved and had my address. I hid at a friend’s place for a week, during which time the military went to my family home and threatened my mum.

I just didn’t know what to do. If I turned myself in, I could face a lifetime in jail. But I felt extremely worried for the others that were still in custody.

Flee the country

I went to the senior pastor for advice. He said that he would negotiate to get the others out, but that I should flee the country. I phoned my mum – she was crying all the time and couldn’t really say much, but she knew that the best thing would be for me to leave.

I went to the lorry depot, found someone who was driving to the south of Burma and paid him to let me hide in the back. It was terrible. The journey lasted four days. I took nothing with me except the clothes I was wearing. I couldn’t even take an ID card, in case I got caught.

We arrived at the Thai border in the middle of the night. I found an ‘agent’ – people who make a lot of money by smuggling refugees across borders and he agreed that he would help me at a price of US$700. I didn’t have enough money with me, so I called my parents and they sent the money through the bank.

There was a group of about seven of us trying to get into Malaysia – all from Burma. We walked for four hours through the jungle to cross the border, and were then taken by boat to a place where we waited for about four days. Finally, we were put in a car and driven straight to Kuala Lumpur. They dropped me off here, in the centre of town, very close to a community centre that has been set up by a group of Chin refugees.

The Chin refugees in Malaysia are a very close community and we help each other. At first, a friend let me sleep in his living room. Now I have a room.

I found work at a restaurant, earning RM3 an hour. I worked for about 10 hours a day, most days a week, so made about RM700 a month. That’s less than half what a Malaysian would earn for doing the same job.

After that I started teaching Chin refugee kids, who are not allowed to go to school in Malaysia. Many of them were just sitting inside all day doing nothing, so we rented a flat and set up a small school. I taught Maths, English and the Chin language. We had about 60 kids back then in 2005 – now there are about 300!

Now I spend most of my time working for the Chin Refugee Committee as a volunteer community worker. Many people are not registered with UNHCR – the UN organisation responsible for ensuring the welfare of refugees. The Malaysian government has put a limit on the number of refugees that UNHCR is allowed to register as refugees, so registration has been extremely difficult since the beginning of 2006.

This puts many people in a dangerous situation. Many don’t go to the public hospitals because they don’t have any documents and are scared of being reported to the police. In emergency situations, I have to act as a go-between to get the paperwork for them. If someone needs urgent medical care, we have to get a letter from one of the doctors working for a charity such as MSF or Acts, take that to UNHCR, and get a letter from them confirming that the patient is a ‘person of concern’.

The other very big worry is that people without documents – and sometimes even people who do have documents – can get arrested and put in detention centres and even prison. That’s what happened to me last October.

Police raid

At 2am, when we were all asleep, there was a bang on the door. We were being raided by the police. They made all of us go outside into the car park, where they had gathered together all the foreign people found during a number of raids around the neighbourhood. Then they checked if we had documents – about 40 out of the 400 people there didn’t.

They put those of us without documents into a vehicle and took us to a detention centre about three hours outside Kuala Lumpur. We were only allowed to take our shirts and trousers inside, and didn’t have contact with anyone for two weeks.

There were about 400 people sleeping on the floor of a hall. We didn’t have mats and it was extremely crowded. There were only four toilets and four showers for that number of people. For me, the worst thing was not being allowed to have a toothbrush for 14 days! We were given terrible food: just rice with some old fish and no vegetables.

Eventually we were taken before a judge, but there was no interpreter from Malay to Burmese. I said that we could just speak in English, but the judge refused. We were given a court date for a month’s time, and told we would have to go to a criminal prison in the meantime

The prison was a whole different experience – there was a very different type of person in there compared to the detention centre, including drug addicts and murderers.

There were 10 people in each room and we had to sleep on the floor. My friend got very sick, but when we asked the guards to see a doctor they at first refused. We spent a whole night on the floor, with him very ill with a high fever. Later he did see a doctor and was given treatment for malaria.

When we went to court a month later I pled guilty. UNHCR told me not to, but I just couldn’t stay in the jail any longer. My health had deteriorated – I had a very bad cough and a numb leg. I couldn’t sleep. I knew that if I pled guilty they would deport me, so at least I would get out. If I pled not guilty, I might be in there for a long time.

On 29 December, I was deported to the Thai border along with about 80 other people, 15 of them Chins. The immigration officers just dropped us in the jungle.

There were human trafficking agents already waiting there. I told everyone to stick close together because I have heard stories about what these agents do to people who have no money. Men can be sold as slaves into the fishing trade and women can be sexually molested.

The agents asked us who could pay to be taken back into Malaysia. I called the Chin Refugee Committee on the phone and they agreed to pay for seven of us to be brought back to Kuala Lumpur, at the cost of RM1,500 each. We were put in a car and driven back to exactly the same place where I had arrived almost two years before.

Now I have a debt of RM1,500 to pay back to the Chin Refugee Committee. I am paying it off bit by bit. I spend my days working very hard to get people released when the same thing happens to them – most days I am at the police station or at UNHCR trying to get the right documents for other Chins to be released from detention centres.

I finally have a date for an appointment with UNHCR – it will be on Nov 10. They have already given me a letter to say that my application for being given formal refugee status is being processed.

I don’t want to have to fight all the time just to have a life. Even though I am satisfied with my situation at the moment, I can’t spend my whole life volunteering and doing paperwork – I want to build my own life. My time will come, but I just don’t know how long I will have to wait.

This is the last of three articles in conjunction with the release of a report by Doctor Without Frontiers (Medecins Sans Frontieres).

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Revoking broadband licenses in Malaysia

I was curious when a colleague mentioned this yesterday and I found this on Malaysia Today:

25/04: Broadband licenses debated in Malaysia
Category: General
Posted by: Raja Petra
Opposition urges Malaysia not to revoke wireless broadband licenses

(AP) -- An opposition leader on Tuesday urged the Malaysian government not to revoke licenses of seven wireless broadband Internet providers, warning that such a move would be a blow to investment in the industry.

Communications Minister Lim Keng Yaik earlier this month said the licenses may be canceled because the frequency on which they operate is interfering with transmissions of the recently launched Measat-3 communications satellite and its Earth station.

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang warned the move would throw some 400 workers out of their jobs and scuttle investment plans for about $85.7 million over the next two years.

He said the seven companies -- Airzed Broadband, Atlas One, EB Technologies, Maxis Communications, NasionCom Holdings, Telekom Malaysia and Time dotCom -- had already invested more than $114 million on their operations, and it would be unfair to have their investments go to waste...

(for the rest of the article, click here)
I really do wonder if the minister has properly thought through the sticky problem before jumping to a conclusion. Maybe he is facing undue pressure from the interested party. However you see it, it just doesn't make sense to revoke licenses for seven companies who have been operating and providing the broadband service since 2003 just because in the midst of it all some oversight happened and an interested party decided to shoot a satellite into space operating in a frequency that clashes with these operators.

We're not even sure who we should be pointing the finger at (favourite tactic of Malaysians) considering the government is the one that controls the frequency blocks, and yet they couldn't seem to prevent two different services (one video/tv while the other more general internet broadband) from working in the same frequency band. It is even more ridiculous when one of the suggested workarounds is to force the seven companies to use Measat-3 for their service. Why would the government want to create another situation of a monopoly when we have competition now? Lim Kit Siang who raised this in Parliament further pointed out that the capacity of Measat-3 is but only a fraction of the total broadband capacity of the companies, so it really boggles the mind why the minister would want a "solution" which is worse than the current.

Let's hope sanity would prevail over the minister and his officials. We really can't afford to make decisions which are solely to protect the interests of particular companies when there is a much bigger benefit to protect the interests of all Malaysians. Unless, of course, this is part of the conspiracy theory that the government is purposely limiting broadband penetration so as to keep the majority of Malaysians in the dark. After all, losing the monopoly on information is one of the reasons why the present administration is panicking over the influence of bloggers and websites.

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Why you should and must vote

I've argued with various people on the need to vote, but I think Elanor Tan's treatment of the issue has done a very good job. Check out her Apr 23 post:

23 April 2007
Vote - Defeating the Defeatist Tendency

My ‘Why Malaysia Needs More Governance and Less Corruption?’ and the subsequent ‘Vote for Change?’ posts attracted many comments (for Arrested Development’s standard that is…) which are interesting, persuasive and worthy of lengthier discussions.

Unfortunately, I can only respond to some of them briefly here.

Evolution Analogy:

Cantab used evolution as a parallel to election and the danger of transitioning into a bad equilibrium through voting just for the sake of political competition. He ended by saying:

Bottom line: if we want change, WE have got to make it. Not cross ballot papers while hoping real hard someone else does the dirty work.

I fully agree that if we want change, we have got to make it work ourselves. But voting IS part of the set of actions that we could be pursuing in catalysing a change...

(for the rest of her post, please click here)
Another young and smart blogger, John Lee at Infernal Ramblings, has an article which deals with a related issue, namely that of political apathy and involvement.

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More anticipation of a snap General Election

DAP has see it fit to propose an amendment to their constitution to allow for a postponement of election of office bearers end of this year in preparation for a snap General Election. Anticipation is high on the ground that Pak Lah facing numerous pressure and the increasing "feel-bad" factor is not going to wait until close to the end of his 5 year term to dissolve parliament. I have seen speculated dates of a General Election ranging from July 07 to Apr 08. My gut feel, following the recent EC Chief's call to Malaysians to register by Aug 08 to be eligible to vote in the next GE is between Dec 07 and Apr 08.

Anyway, attached below the press statement by Sdr Lim Guan Eng, the Secretary General of DAP, with regards to the constitution amendment:

Win or lose for BN in Ijok, DAP expects early polls this year and would be holding a Special Congress on focusing on polls preparations and amending the party constitution at a Special Congress on 6 May 2007 to give powers to the Central Executive Committee (CEC) to postpone party elections

Press Statement
by Lim Guan Eng

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Some see the outcome of the Ijok by-election, which Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim may win, as an important barometer of whether there will be early general elections. DAP sees that win or lose, BN have no choice but to call for early polls. If BN loses, then general elections must be called as early as possible to prevent PKR from gathering momentum from such a victory. Even if BN wins, BN would find it difficult to resist calls for early polls to take advantage of the “feel good factor” generated by such a victory and get over with the general elections.

DAP will be amending the party constitution at a Special Congress held on 10 am Sunday 6 May 2007 in the Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur to postpone party elections due at the end of this year to enable the party to focus on preparations for the coming general elections. Party elections at both the national and state levels are due at the end of this year and the proposed constitutional amendments give powers to the Central Executive Committee (CEC) to postpone party elections for a period of 12 months. Notices for the Special Congress has been issued to all qualified delegates in accordance with the party constitution.

Both the Elections Commission (EC) and BN leaders have given strong indications of general elections after the lavish 50th Merdeka celebrations on August 31. In a bid to add 4.9 million new voters, EC Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid gave a time frame of voters to register by August this year if they wish to be on time to vote in the next general elections.

BN leaders like UMNO Youth President Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein Onn has even stated a few days ago that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wanted the party’s election machinery to get ready for a general election, which can be held any time. Apart from these hints, there have already been orders by BN wakil rakyats for the printing of T-shirts and posters.

Presently the DAP party constitution does not give powers to the CEC to postpone any national or state party elections for even a week. Should general elections be called during the party national congress or state ordinary conventions, then the party has to proceed and can not act illegally by deferring party polls. The CEC feels that this would hamper our preparations for the general elections and at two meetings on 20th March and 17 April, the CEC decided to hold a Special Congress to amend the party constitution with powers to postpone party polls.

The CEC will seek the endorsement of the delegates in the Special Congress to amend Clause VIII(1) of the DAP Party Constitution by adding the following clause at the end of the sentence:-

“The Central Executive Committee shall have the powers to postpone the Party Congress, State Ordinary and State Annual Conventions for a period not exceeding 12 months should their convening fall on a date within two years of the date Parliament shall, in accordance with Article 55(3) of the Federal Constitution, stand dissolved.”

Prime Minister expected to come down personally to campaign in Ijok by-election

With so much at stake, BN must achieve a victory at all costs to put it in pole position when early polls are held. For this reason DAP expects the Prime Minister to personally go down to campaign during the last day in Ijok. BN and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has learned a bitter lesson from the Machap by-election where they failed miserably to make DAP’s candidate lose its deposit. Without the Prime Minister coming personally down to campaign, BN not only failed to increase its majority but had its majority reduced.

With all indications pointing to early polls, DAP must fully use our limited resources and gear up for election preparations. Apart from amending the party constitution, the Special Congress would also focus on discussing the election strategy, key electoral issues, planning and preparation expected of party leaders as well as how to fulfill the aspirations and increasing demands of the electorate. Other issues expected to be discussed include the direction of the party in the coming general elections and the extent of co-operation between DAP and PKR’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

There must be a sense of urgency in the party at all levels from the national, state and branch to start mobilizing election machinery and operating fully. Just like studying for examinations, success in elections is determined not in the final days of any examination or election campaign but in the many months of careful preparation beforehand.

* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP

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This is what you get from Umno Youth thugs

From Jeff Ooi's blog, where he and Paul Choo, the photographer who was injured when some 20 odd Pemuda Umno thugs swarmed around Tan Sri Khald (the PKR candidate for Ijok by-election), his helpers, and 2 photographers: Jeff and Paul.

Courtesy of Jeff Ooi
Time for Malaysians of all colours and political persuasion to make a stand regarding this pathetic degradation of political culture in the ruling party: do you want a group of thugs such as these who could potentially become future leaders, or do you want them charged to the maximum in a court of law to tell certain umno goons who encourage such gangsterism in no uncertain terms that Malaysians won't be intimidated by such thuggery? Already we have seen how the ruling party has no qualms in ordering our police force to disrupt and halt the opposition ceramahs according to their whims and fancies. Are we to sit around and do nothing while we can see umno youth is fast forming a youth militia along the lines of The Hitler Youth?

It is time for Malaysians in general, and Ijok voters in particular, to make a stand and be counted.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A hilarious blog I stumbled upon...

Great humourous blog which uses pictures to cleverly capture the truly bodoh happenings around our boleh-land. Check out the Mob's Crib!

Courtesy of Mob's Crib

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Toyota is close to beating GM as No. 1

From Reuters:

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T: Quote) took a step closer to unseating General Motors Corp. (GM.N: Quote) as the world's biggest automaker, outselling its U.S. rival by around 90,000 units in the first quarter.

Both auto giants reported record sales for January-March, but Japan's top carmaker inched past Detroit-based GM as it ate into the struggling icon's market share on its home turf...
For so long GM, which has been bleeding money like there's no tomorrow, was always considered No. 1 in the world because of their car sales (and that also mostly in North America). Now Toyota (which is the car manufacturing leader in every other aspect) is ever more closer to unseating GM from the top position which it has held for 76 years. It's about time Toyota is properly recognized as the No. 1!

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After the PDRM, the EC is also involved now?

This is getting crazier...only in boleh-land Ijok can we have such a thing. Anyway, the problem of the accuracy and dignity of the electoral roll has been around for a long time, and despite numerous complaints backed with documentary evidences, the EC has see it fit to continue playing their lackey role to umno. Below the Malaysiakini report on the electoral roll for Ijok:

PKR: Thousands of Ijok voters ‘missing’
Soon Li Tsin
Apr 24, 07 4:46pm

Alarm bells are ringing within Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) following its discovery that “thousands of names” are missing from the 2007 electoral roll to be used for the Ijok by-election on Saturday.

Information chief Tian Chua expressed concern that names in the current roll do not match those of the 2004 electoral roll.

“We have gone through the list and they are not there. Either all the people have all left Ijok or we have been given a completely different list. It’s quite bad. The numbers run into thousands (of people),” he told malaysiakini...

(for the rest of the article, click here)

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They are stopping PKR's ceramahs now in Ijok!

Wow! Talk about being low down, dirty, pathetic, and outright despicable! Since they can't win the people over with their vote buying and stupid concerts, now they're getting the PDRM (that's the police) to "help" in their campaign by stopping PKR ceramahs around Ijok! Wow! This has got to be the first! Excerpts from Malaysiakini below:

Police halt opposition ceramah
Beh Lih Yi
Apr 24, 07 3:43pm

The police stopped three ‘ceramah’ (talks) by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Ijok last night claiming that they were illegal gatherings.

In the first incident, policemen, including members of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), barricaded a road leading to a PKR ceramah in Taman Pancaran, Bestari Selatan.

The ‘ceramah’ was to be held at a PKR member’s house at around 9.30pm and the opposition party’s advisor Anwar Ibrahim was among those slated to give a speech. However, the police blocked the road as early as 8pm.

There were about 10 police trucks stationed near the venue.

Some 50 metres away, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak was addressing about 200 people at a Barisan Nasional (BN) function.

(for full article, click here)
It seems that the police also stopped two other ceramahs in Batang Berjuntai and Sg Darah, and the common thread among these three places? Najib was scheduled to appear in BN functions near the same location.

Talk about "fairness" in running the elections when the EC's first statement on this was that police permits were required (supposedly as per the Elections Offences Act). If that is the case, why the other PKR ceramahs which do not have police permits were not stopped? This has been disputed by Latheefa Koya (PKR Youth Leader and lawyer) who said the Elections Offences Act does not stipulate any such rule. To digress a bit, the Act does state clearly that "treating", the act of dishing out food and drinks by candidates for the purpose of canvassing votes, is punishable. Anyone want to warrant a guess as to what action was taken against the MCA candidate during the last Machap by-election?

(Source: Oriental Daily, pp A7)
So, other than paid goons to intimidate, threaten and assault people of different political persuasion, it seems like that is not enough and they have to call in the PDRM to do more of their dirty job for them.

Below some responses of locals to this pathetic attempt (quoted from Malaysiakini):
“I don’t know why the police are doing this if they want to be fair. We just want to listen to what they (opposition leaders) have to say, BN will lose support (if they do such things),” said 39-year-old electrician A Balakrishnan.

“The locals are frightened because they are not used to this kind of atmosphere,” added the Batang Berjuntai resident.

Estate worker Tioh Jioo Hin, 24, (photo) who had come to the ‘ceramah’ with his father, accused the authorities of practicing double standards.

Pointing to the BN ‘ceramah’ being held nearby, he said: “See, they have placed chairs all over the place and people can’t even walk past [...] but we don’t even have chairs here (at the PKR ‘ceramah’) and still got chased away.”
Hopefully these dissatisfactions will turn to votes for PKR.

Malaysia Boleh indeed!

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Umno getting desperate in Ijok?

From The Sun today:

Maria J. Dass
The Sun

The Barisan National (BN) is leaving nothing to chance in Kampung Jaya Setia within the Ijok constituency.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced a special RM3.5 million allocation from the Prime Minister's Department for seven mosques, 16 suraus and six schools for the constituency.

"Although there has not been any request for these but we feel that we need to do this as a sign of the BN's commitment," he said during a ceramah in Kampung Jaya Setia...
Looks like Najib is banking on Malaysians' inability to differentiate between the government and a party trying to contest a seat. But never mind lar, since these are not vote buying according to the EC chief.

It is a sign of desperation perhaps that they see it fit to announce plenty of election sweeteners which we simply do not know (I for one will say it will never see the light of day) if they'll ever be able to be implemented. The buildings promised by Najib will take at least 2-3 years to build even when on a fast track basis. So, Kg Jaya Setia folks really should take these promises with a huge dollop of salt.

Anyway, in the same article hear what Khir Toyo has to say about Khalid, the PKR candidate:
"Division heads in this area also tell me he is a very stingy man and if he has RM10 million, I will cut off my small finger if he uses his money for Ijok," said Najib, adding that it was difficult for the public to meet up with an important man such as a "Tan Sri".
Wow! Would we see Khir Toyo donate his personal RM10mil fund as well for "development" in Ijok? May be Khalid should cut off his small finger if Toyo will be as generous with his own money as he is with taxpayers' money. Also, can I just call your mobile phone number pasted on big posters around PJ to make an appointment to see you Datuk Seri Khir? I'm pretty sure a Datuk Seri such as you will be much easier to meet up with compared to a Tan

Malaysians really need to ask themselves if this is the kind of leader they want to keep voting into office till 2054.

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The deplorable conditions refugees face in Malaysia

It is ironic that we, a country formed mostly from descendents of immigrants, somehow treat immigrants (legal, illegal, as well as UNHCR registered refugees) like they are nothing more than annoying insects to be mistreated at will, killed as if their lives are worth less than the soil we walk on. While our government sees it fit to keep condemning the alleged or proven tortures and mistreatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, we are surprisingly and oddly oblivious to the equally, if not more, horrendous condition of our very own immigration detention camps. People seem to forget that one of the longest running court trial involving Dr Irene Fernandez, director and co-founder of Tenaganita, is precisely over such horrendous condition. The government, instead of acknowledging the problem, choose to clamp down hard on the tireless people who care enough to dig up these issues.

Irene Fernandez, for example, was charged with "publishing malicious false news" and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. This when countless of Bangladeshi immigrants who went through hell in those camps were called as witnesses. It seems to be a common affliction among Malaysians that when something is wrong in this country, the first thing to do is always deny, then point fingers at someone or something else, and then go after the whistleblowers. What progress are we talking about when we can't even have a culture of responsibility and accountability? As of today, if I am not mistaken (please update me if I am wrong), Dr Irene is still waiting for her appeal to be heard.

Malaysians always seem to miss the trees for the forests. In their legitimate concern with the increasing crime rates recently, only about 2% of incidents can be directly attributable to foreign workers. It is symptomatic of the blame culture among Malaysians: when something happens it is always someone else's fault. And because the foreign workers or immigrants are, so to speak, at the lowest level of the Malaysia social rung or food chain, they are convenient scapegoats for all the troubles we face. They are not asking for much, leaving their faraway homes in search of a better life (just like some of us who go overseas to find jobs, albeit in a much better condition). All they are asking for is some appreciation for their immense contribution to our economy (our buildings are practically ALL built by them, our estates are fast being worked upon only by them, and our factories have big numbers of immigrant employees), and to be treated as human. The plight of the refugees are the worst since the Malaysian government has seen it fit not to recognize the UNHCR registration. Perhaps it's time we start treating these people like fellow humans, and not like insects.

I am reproducing the following real life stories of Burmese refugees, published in Malaysiakini on 23 and 24 Apr 2007. For the sake of raising awareness among Malaysians on the plight of our fellow human, I hope Malaysiakini will not sue me for this:

Life as a refugee in Malaysia (Pt 1)
Fatima and Jalaludin
Apr 23, 07 2:33pm

We left Myanmar in 2003 and worked for a short while in Thailand. But we were scared that the police might catch us, so we decided to come to Malaysia. We found an ‘agent’ - someone who knows how to get people over the border – and he drove us into Malaysia. We hid in the back seat of the car.

At first I worked at a construction site in the jungle near Alor Setar. Then we came to Kuala Lumpur and found a place to live near a wholesale market. We share it with quite a lot of other people from Myanmar – people come and go but there are normally about six of us living in the place.

Our daughter is two and Fatima is nine months pregnant with our second child. We have a small room for the three of us and we share the kitchen, toilet and shower with everyone else.

Fatima stays in the flat most of the day, washing, cleaning and cooking. I found work at the wholesale market, making roti bread outside a restaurant.

In 2005 we went to UNHCR – the UN organisation responsible for the welfare of refugees – to ask to be registered. They gave us both a letter that confirmed we were persons of concern to UNHCR.

In November last year, I was working at the restaurant when there was an immigration raid. I wasn’t worried because I had the letter from UNHCR. But even though I showed it to the immigration officials, they took me to the police lock-up. I stayed in detention for a month.

Finally they told me that there would be a court hearing. I phoned Fatima and she contacted UNHCR to ask them to come. But unfortunately they didn’t show up.

Detention centre

When they read my name in court, they said that I was an ‘undocumented Indonesian’. I told them that they were wrong – that I am from Myanmar and not Indonesia, and that I had given my papers to the immigration official. But they said that there was no record of the document. I was sentenced to three months in Semenyih detention centre.

I was also lashed with a whip as a punishment. It was extremely painful. I couldn’t walk afterwards. I was bleeding but they didn’t give me any medication. I just had to lie down until I could walk again.

At the detention centre, everybody slept on the floor. There were about 400 of us. When they turned out the lights it was impossible to sleep because it was so crowded.

They gave us very little rice and we didn’t even eat twice a day. There were seven toilets, but some of them were not working and they were in a bad condition. When the water ran low, we were not able to shower.

When people got sick, they just gave them a Panadol. Two if they were lucky. There were weekly medical clinics, but it was up to the guards to decide who was allowed to go and who not.

I was released from that place recently. I was worried, because I have heard many stories about what happens to people when they are deported. If you are handed over to the Thai authorities, and they hand you over to the Burmese authorities, you might be killed.

Sixty of us were put in two buses and driven north to the Thai border. It was about 11 o’clock at night when we arrived. The immigration officers told us to get of the bus and cross a stream. On the other side, there was a group of people traffickers waiting for us, armed with sticks and metal weapons. Some of them were Malaysians, others were from Thailand and Myanmar.

They made us sit down on in lines of five. Then they asked us who had friends who could pay for us to go back into Malaysia. About 20 people raised their hands to say they could pay. We were separated from the rest of the group and taken to one side.

Beaten up

I didn’t really see what happened to the others, but I heard people being beaten up. As my group left, they were making the people who couldn’t pay walk one by one along the jungle path – I don’t know where they were going. Maybe to be sold or killed.

The human traffickers called the number that I had given them of my friend back in Kuala Lumpur. They asked him if he could pay RM1,600 he said yes. Then I was put in a car with eight other people and driven to Kota Bahru.

There were local Malaysians waiting there to take us in cars back to Kuala Lumpur. Once we got here, we were locked up in a block of flats and they called our friends to come and pay for our release. My friend came with the money and I was allowed to go.

I saw my wife and daughter for the first time in three months.

Now we are in a difficult situation and I am very worried. I owe my friend RM1,600, but I no longer have my letter from UNHCR so I am scared to go back to work. I don’t know how to get another document from them. The judge told me that if I get caught again in Malaysia I will be lashed four times a day and will have to spend a year in prison.

Fatima is due to give birth in two weeks. She has been going to a clinic run by MSF every week for the last two months for check-ups.

She will deliver at the government hospital, but I don’t know how we are going to pay the hospital costs.

Article courtesy of Doctor Without Frontiers (Medecins Sans Frontieres [MSF]).


Life as a refugee in Malaysia (Pt 2)
Mee Chung
Apr 24, 07 10:33am

I grew up in a small village in Mon state, which is in the east of Myanmar. My mum and dad had a small farm and grew rice.

My older sister got married and had two children. But she found it very hard to make enough money to survive, so she came to Malaysia with her husband in 2004. They left the children with my parents, so that they could be looked after.

I was scared of staying in my village. The military sometimes came and harassed people, especially women on their own. My parents were very old, and were worried about my safety, since I didn’t have a brother or husband to protect me. So I decided to run away to Malaysia.

I took a fishing boat with 15 other people and we travelled along the Myanmar coast to the Thai border. We came with someone who knew the route. When we got to the border, we had to climb a mountain and walk through the jungle for about four hours. I didn’t have anything with me apart from the clothes I was wearing and some money.

When we got into Thailand, we travelled to Koh Samui, a tourist island where many westerners go on holiday. I worked in construction, helping to build hotels. My job was mainly carrying cement, stone and wood. I slept in a small container with three other girls. I worked very hard and was exhausted. After a month, I called my sister and asked if she could help me come to Malaysia.

I found an ‘agent’ who said he would take me for RM1,100. I had to pay him half before leaving Koh Samui and pay half when I got there.

First we went from Koh Samui by boat and then travelled by motorbike and car across the border. Finally the man put me on a train - I had to be very careful at the train station because there were lots of police around.

Fall from balcony

I arrived in Malaysia in August 2005. At first I had a job working in a cake shop. I slept there, too. But I couldn’t speak Malay and people were very hard on me. In the end I had to leave. I moved in with my sister and her husband - they have been helping me.

One day last October I was hanging up washing on the balcony. A piece of clothing fell off the washing line and I leant over the balcony rail to try and get it. But I lost my balance and fell through the corrugated iron, all the way down to the floor below.
I lost consciousness for a few moments, then I was screaming with pain. The people who live downstairs found me, and four of them carried me back upstairs. Someone called my brother-in-law and he came to help me.

First he called the Chinese medicine man, who did some traditional massage on my back. But that just made it more painful. I was in agony and was very confused. I was just lying on my back, unable to move.

I was really worried, because I had no money to pay for medical care. I told my brother in law that I couldn’t go to hospital because I had no documents, and was scared of getting reported. People had told me that if you go to hospital without documents you are arrested. I had never tried to get official documents from UNHCR, because I didn’t know how to.

Eventually my brother-in-law called the community leader who represents the Mon people in Kuala Lumpur. He called Medecins Sans Frontieres and the doctor there wrote a referral letter saying that I was an emergency case.

I was taken into hospital straight away and they operated on me. I had two fractured vertebrae and a fractured foot. The operation cost a lot of money, which MSF paid. I would never have been able to pay for it myself. I had to stay in hospital for a month afterwards.

When I came home I couldn’t walk without crutches. Now I have to wear a brace every day - I have had it for four months and I have another eight to go.

My back is still quite painful and I can’t get up by myself. My sister is helping me a lot.

This is the second of three articles in conjunction with the release of a report by Doctor Without Frontiers (Medecins Sans Frontieres).

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Dr M apologizing? He thinks not...

My inaugural post in this blog was about the Bernama report regarding Dr M apologizing to the PM about the ownership of the Perth mansion. Well, Sufi Yusoff, personal aide to Dr M, has clarified in a letter to The Star that Dr M was not apologizing to the PM, but was apologizing for the factual errors of his statement. And I quote:

It is quite evident from the transcription that Tun had apologised for the factual errors that he had made.

In this case, unfortunately what appeared in The Star’s report is therefore factually inaccurate.


for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
So, to the mainstream press of Malaysia, please spare us the spin. Such spin only serves to confirm further the deplorable, ball-carrying behaviour that is inflicting you guys.

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MIC's tactic in keeping their votes

I mentioned this in an earlier post where a group of students were threatened by MIC members for doing a survey in an estate in the Ijok constituency. Malaysiakini has the report:

Shock for students conducting poll survey
Wong Yeen Fern
Apr 23, 07 2:15pm

The youth-based Youth for Change (Y4C) came up against aggressive response while conducting an election-related survey at an estate near Ijok, where a by-election will take place on Saturday.

The group, which had conducted similar surveys in Ijok town and Bukit Badong, was attempting to get the views of Tuan Mee Estate workers as to whether they were receiving sufficient information about the by-election.

However, the 40 students led by convener Lee Khai Loon, were threatened with trouble if they did not stop “disturbing” the workers.

(for the rest of the article, click here)
It is no wonder the poor Indian Malaysians in the various estates seem to continue voting for MIC/BN considering the very short end of the stick they've been getting all this while. If they are openly threatened attempting to find out the other side of the story, or if other people are being threatened attempting to tell the other side of the story, why would we think these Indian voters would have voted otherwise? If we continue letting this politics of threat and violence to continue we can be sure our Indian Malaysian citizens such as the ones in the estates will continue to suffer abject poverty, and have no options other than the lies being perpetuated by these MIC thugs. Azly Rahman in his Malaysiakini column today attempts to describe more on this disturbing and dangerous trend. Malaysians of all races and political persuasion really have to ask themselves if this is the kind of "leaders" we want in our society, and if we really do trust them with the wellbeing of this nation.

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Revathi on Al Jazeera English

An SMS I received yesterday regarding repeats of the documentary "Everywoman" on Al Jazeera English in which 15 minutes were devoted to talking about the issue of apostasy in Malaysia. However, it turned out to be a mistaken time (9.30pm Sunday Apr 22) and subsequently another SMS was received with the new schedule of repeats. However, my friend who attempted to catch the 12.30am (Apr 23) repeat noticed that the program wasn't even "Everywoman". Are we seeing the censors hard at work again? In case you do not know, Revathi is an Indian Malaysian woman brought up as a Hindu, but was recently snatched from her family to be placed into the Ulu Yam Religious Rehabilitation Center on allegation that she is in fact a Muslim (to read more, click here and here).

Below is more information from Haris Ibrahim's blog:-

Revathi on Al-Jazeera

Revathi is the Malaysian presently detained for rehabilitation at the Ulu Yam Rehab Centre.

Al-Jazeera carried a 15 minute documentary on the ‘Everywoman’ segment last Friday, 20/4/2007 at 7.30pm.

Text messages were flying around yesterday announcing a repeat of the programme at 9.30pm. This, it turned out, was incorrect.

This is the information I have received as to the dates and times the the documentary will be aired again on the ‘Everywoman’ segment.

Today (23/4/2007) - 11.30am and 5pm

24/4/2007 - 1.30pm

25/4/2007 - 10.30am and 3.30pm

26/4/2007 - 2.30pm

Don’t really know how reliable this info is so i suggest you check through the ‘future programmes’ mode on Astro in respect of the ‘Everywoman’ segment on channel 20.

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My little walkabout in Ijok

Sunday (22 Apr) came and I was feeling pretty restless. So, decided to suit up in my riding jacket, put on my helmet, and ride off towards the current hotspot where all the media limelight is shining upon. Where else but in the small towns of Ijok and Batang Berjuntai! Took me an hour or so because I made the wrong turn on the Sg Buloh-Ijok road (I was heading towards Kuang and Kundang instead), called up some people I know and I had to backtrack. Finally, arrived when I start seeing posters everywhere (mostly BN punya lah).

By the time I ply the road close to Ijok town, whatever resurfacing job has been done. Only a certain section of the winding (nice!) road through oil palm estates is resurfaced. The rest of the road seem reasonable enough a condition. But the cynic in me was wondering if the resurfacing was called off due to major complaints of traffic congestion by people traveling around the area. Maybe they're worried the complaints may turn into lost votes...heheh! Anyway, the road from Ijok to Batang Berjuntai seems to see heavier traffic than usual. One can see humongous black SUVs with dark tinted glasses, and most of the time with expensive vehicle number plates, thundering down that stretch to and fro. No prizes for guessing which side of the political fence these guys are on. Once in a while you'll hear siren blasting about when "Mini-stars" such as Najib and Samy decides to ply the roads themselves (of course, with at least 3-4 other cars filled with menacing looking bodyguards, plus 2 police cars, plus 3-4 police outriders, plus 2 UTK outriders (these are the ones dressed up all in black, and riding black bikes). Looks like the rude and arrogant behaviour of forcing people off the road (even when there is a huge jam caused by closing off a certain section of the Ijok-Batang Berjuntai road to...what else but resurface!) is not unique to the bustling city of KL.

Anyway, the sheer number of BN posters and baloons and banners makes one wonder how many millions are being poured into this constituency, and we're not talking about the RM36mil announced earlier by Selangor MB Khir Toyo, who incidentally has said he will adopt Ijok as his own if they win. I wonder what his own constituency in Sungai Panjang will think. Well, at least he didn't follow Samy's declaration of staying in Lunas should the BN loses (and they did lose to PKR) during a by-election there in 2000. Back to banners and posters...every umno state seem to have their own action center (or Bilik Gerakan), and it seems every 500 meters or so there will be at least one BN Bilik Gerakan regardless run by umno or one of the other parties. Surprisingly MCA seems to be playing a very minor role in this by-election. I could hardly see their presence anywhere save for a little night "concert" which they're organizing in Batang Berjuntai town itself (MCA seems fond of asking singers, artistes, and badminton players to help them campaign). By and large 90% of the Bilik Gerakan I see in the area are umno run. I am not the least surprised since Ijok is predominantly Malay (51.8%) and that is where PKR is targeting the votes.

Do remember that in 2004 PKR won the Malay votes quite handsomely, and there is no clear indication that pattern would change. The kingmakers would be the Chinese votes, concentrated mainly around the Ijok township as well as Batang Berjuntai township. My feeling after walking about the pasar petang, and noticing the number of cars flooding out of Ijok at night, is that PKR's chance could be slightly more than 50-50. The identification of Ijok as a semi-urban seat could not be far off as it takes only 30 minutes to reach Shah Alam using the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, as well as perhaps 45 minutes to Sg Buloh and Kepong. The stream of cars I followed on my way back from Ijok seem to indicate (at least anecdotal) that quite a number of people there work in the Klang Valley, but returns to the area during the weekend. Hopefully the groundswell of dissatisfaction that is growing in the urban areas will permeate into the ballot box this Saturday through these people.

Back to my walkabout in Ijok...for the first time I have to agree with the servations of people in which the BN workers look most intimidating. I am not talking about the older folks (I saw a lot of senior Indian uncles who are BN supporters and they look gentlemanly enough), but the younger ones who in their BN uniforms, tshirts, or bush jackets, really look like some samseng gang ready to beat the daylights out of anyone they like. In fact, other than the incident of bottle (thank God they were plastic) and stick throwing during the nomination, none other than Tan Sri Khalid (the PKR candidate) and 2 other photographers (one is Jeff Ooi, and the other not named) were threatened and almost assaulted full scale by young BN workers. In fact, the un-named photographer did get injured when his glasses were smashed by using a plastic bottle. More interesting stories, including the forced overnight closure of two PKR operation centers can be read at Jeff Ooi's blog. Ronnie Liu speaking during a night ceramah that same day alluded to a case where a group of students who were going into estates to seek voter views were openly threatened by the MIC MP for Cameron Highlands S. K. Devamani to leave. Hearing and seeing all this confirms in my mind on why KJ and his Putera Umno seem so intent in recruiting the Mat Rempits. It is clear they will have no problem playing the "goons" role very well when ordered to do so. No wonder why KJ sees it fit to behave like one as well, complete with gesturing, during the by-election nomination (click here to see the pics). Violence and physical intimidation seem to be the preferred tool of the ruling party when facing by-elections (anyone wanna bet it's the same for general elections as well?). The question for Malaysians really is whether they see this culture of violence (from none other than the ruling party) as acceptable, never mind the fact it is an intensely contested seat. If we Malaysians are supposed to pride ourselves as courteous and friendly, we really have to examine if this kind of political culture is something we want to see and allow continuing.

I had the good fortune of meeting up with a group of Bandar Mahkota Cheras residents-turned-activists who are fighting hard to get the ready-built interchange linking their township with the Grand Saga Cheras-Kajang Highway. You can read more about their effort here and here. Oh yeah, they managed to get Parthiban, the MIC candidate, to endorse their appeal to remove the barriers on the interchange. In fact, he even said in a loud voice that if it was in Ijok he would have already opened it up! Anyway, we went around Batang Berjuntai town and noticed the deplorable housing that our fellow Indian Malaysians have to live in. The wood in most cases were almost rotting, with holes visible everywhere. Ironically you would see that it is these houses which would have BN posters plastered all over their walls. Seeing the abject poverty makes you realize why to these desperate and marginalized groups a simple gesture of vote-buying like RM100 or RM200 would have been a windfall. I realize they really can't be faulted for continuing to vote for BN as a token of appreciation for the small sum really is, in a way, a life saver to them, never mind that it only happens during election times. The more cruel thing is that the ruling party seems to see it fit keeping these poor people in their desperate position because they have the most to gain at the ballot boxes if they could continue to falsely convince them only BN can give them goodies.

Which brings me to the night ceramah. There was quite a number of speakers in the chinese restaurant directly across the Ijok bus station. Anwar was the first speaker and I admit that was the first time I've heard him talk. I didn't catch the first part of his speech I was having dinner elsewhere, but towards the end he was talking about the need to stop thinking that only Malays can help Malays, Chinese helps Chinese, Indians help Indians, Iban helps Iban, etc. Something he has consistently been talking about ever since the PKR policy themes start to take a more concrete form. The other speakers from PKR such Sivarasa Rasiah, Fuziah Salleh, Cheah Kah Peng all talk on common themes which are economics, education, and healthcare. Perhaps that is a prelude to what PKR's platform will be in the very near future, and hopefully, moving forward. Ronnie Liu and Ng Suee Lin (DAP state assemblyman for Sekinchan) were there speaking, as well as Dr Wan Azizah who made a short speech after presenting a donation to some Chinese education fund (the Lim Lian Geok Foundation), represented by Chinese educationist Loot Ting Yee (known fondly among people as Cikgu Loot). Dr Lim Teck Ghee of ex-ASLI who was embroiled in the research result of bumiputera equity figure of 45% fiasco was there as well (I don't know if he was speaking as I left during Cheah Kah Peng's hokkien speech). The crowd in ceramahs are usually quite a responsive lot, but, as Anwar pleaded towards the end of his speech, we have heard enough claps, we have heard enough cheers, we have heard enough shouts of approval. It is time to translate these favourable responses to the one thing that counts - votes!

Finally, decided to ride back home (taking the Guthrie Corridor Expressway took me about 30 minutes only!). My take away from my short walkabout? As I've mentioned above, this by-election is going to be very close. I would reckon a slightly better than 50-50 chance for a PKR win based on the general feeling of dissatisfaction among the Chinese voters who will be king makers. The Malays areas, if remains unchanged from 2004, would again see a 50-50 split, with slight advantage going to PKR. One PKR member was alluding to a 70% target, which will be very interesting indeed, and augurs well for the future of PKR among Malay voters, if they can achieve it. The Indians remain a big challenge. Not so much because they're unable to understand the concerns of the nation, but I guess abject poverty dictates that survival concerns is the top priority. Coupled with the ugly tactics of MIC using goons to "defend" the Indian areas from campaign workers from PKR and DAP, one could understand the difficulty our fellow Indian Malaysians have in getting the other side of the story which would at least help them make a much more informed choice than the current quandary they're in. Plenty of hardwork remains to work among them, but I believe this will make the greatest impact in terms votes if they could get true assistance from the opposition and NGOs rather than the false hopes being rained on them all this time by BN. Make no mistake, Ijok at the end of the day is really about the war between Anwar and Pak Lah/Najib (Pak Lah is nowhere to be seen...maybe he's busy dozing off), between the multi-racial politics of PKR and the racial politics of Umno (and its subordinate parties in the illusionary coalition called the Barisan Nasional). It will be most interesting to see if the Ijok voters will dare make a stand that perhaps after 50 years of dominant racial politics, a new and fresh approach needs to be taken...for the future wellbeing of this nation.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Anwar raises the temperature in Ijok

Last night Anwar raises the temperature a bit more for Najib in Ijok. Via Malaysiakini:

Anwar increases attacks on Najib
Beh Lih Yi
Apr 21, 07 5:29pm

Believe it or not - Anwar Ibrahim is now anxiously waiting to be sued!

And he is hoping that Najib Abdul Razak would take the initiative as this would enable him to expose more in court of what he knows about the Mongolian murder case.

Last night, the opposition icon continued his attack on Najib by 'inviting' the deputy premier to initiate a lawsuit against him for linking the latter to the murder case of a Mongolian national.

“I prefer him (Najib) to sue me because I can go to court then and speak more about the matter,” Anwar told a crowd of about 400 at a dinner in Ijok - where a by-election is being held.

(for the whole article, click here)
There has been plenty of speculation (rightly or wrongly) on Najib's supposed involvement in the gruesome murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu. Perhaps it is inevitable granted the following:

- Abdul Razak Baginda, the man being charged for abettment to murder, is known as belonging to Najib's inner circle, and is instrumental in arranging recent defence procurement for the Ministry of Defence (in which Najib is the minister).
- Two other men being charged for murder are members of the UTK (Special Action Unit) in charge of protecting Najib and his immediate family.
- The woman officer who was initially implicated in the murder, but surprisingly was let off without any charges, is the bodyguard of Najib's wife Rosmah.
- The issue of various large sums of commission money paid to various companies linked to Abdul Razak and Najib.

With the story so convoluted with links more than my car's timing chain, I, for one, am not the least surprised that our DPM would be dragged into the whole mess. Coupled with the surprising turn of events in the courts when the hearing which is supposed to be heard in March 2008 was suddenly brought forward to June 2007 instead (and with a change of a judge to a judicial commissioner to hear the case), anyone would have been suspicious of the entire thing (unless of course you don't care at all).

Anwar has been consistently raising the issue of questionable military procurement commission as well as the gruesome murder, and suggesting in a rather strong manner Najib's alleged involvement in all these. So far Najib has see it fit to keep quiet about the matter until that day during the Ijok by-election nomination day when somehow, for the first time, he decided to talk about the murder (read more here as well), albeit very briefly. His threat to sue Anwar for linking him with the murder is what Anwar is so gleeful about now. Just like what Malaysiakini's Steven Gan has said about relishing the opportunity of facing Sarawak's CM Taib Mahmud in court, Anwar couldn't seem to wait for that day as well.

Personally, I don't think Najib will be that foolish to take Anwar's bait. What I do believe, however, is that things may not be what seem (as in most thing political in Malaysia) and there will be more fireworks coming our way in the near future. At least all these "conspiracies" add some spice into our otherwise boring country.

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