Archive for October, 2008

Chor Chee Heung – another deputy minister who did not know what he was answering in Parliament?

Yesterday, Parliament was presented with the spectacle of a Deputy Minister winding up on behalf of his Ministry in the 2009 Budget debate when he was totally out of his depths – Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop on the current controversy over the billion-ringgit 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopters.

As a result, both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to subsequently make supplementary statements outside the House to salvage the damage caused by Abu Seman in his “atrocious” parliamentary performance.

Immediately after lunch break yesterday, I had stood up in Parliament to ask Abu Seman the reason for three different sets of figures for the Eurocopter deal, firstly, RM1.604 billion he mentioned in the House; secondly, the RM1.1 billion cited by the Defence Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Abu Bakar Abdullah as reported in the media on 17th October 2008; and thirdly, the RM1.67 billion given by the Prime Minister-cum-Defence Minister on Tuesday, October 29, 2008.

When I had first pointed out the difference in the deputy minister’s figures with the Defence Ministry secretary-general, Abu Seman was clearly caught by surprise and I had to ask him whether he read newspapers last Saturday which reported Abu Bakar’s statement.

On the three sets of different figures, Abu Seman tried to wriggle out of the question by claiming that foreign exchange fluctuations factored in the differences in figure. Read the rest of this entry »


PAC Chairman Azmi – out to whitewash Eurocopter deal or get to bottom of new defence scandal

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Datuk Azmi Khalid has confirmed my worst fears about his suitability as head of the parliamentary watchdog committee as he had undermined his own credibility by claiming that the technical aspects of the billion-ringgit Cougar EC725 Eurocopters were “above board” and “professionally carried out” when the two-hour parliamentary debate on the subject yesterday proved completely otherwise.

The Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop admitted in Parliament yesterday that the Eurocopter deal was sealed without conducting physical evaluation on the helicopters – no test flights were done nor were there any factory visits.

Outraged, I rose up in the House to flay the government for trifling with the lives and safety of RMAF personnel who would have to use the helicopters, by failing to comply with its own tender requirements for the helicopters to replace the Nuris, which clearly stipulated that the short-listed aircraft bidders would have to undergo stringent documentary as well as physical evaluation.

In response to my query, Abu Seman said three of the seven bidders for the international open tender for the utility helicopters capable of search and rescue and capable of being upgraded to combat search and rescue aircraft had been short-listed but he refused to name the three aircrafts concerned.

This is clearly a gross defect amounting to criminal negligence in the technical aspects of the Eurocopter selection, getting Malaysia into the Guinness Book of Records and making us the laughing stock of the world as a country which procures expensive and sophisticated aircrafts without any test flight or physical evaluation – despite this being clearly stipulated as one vital criteria in the tender process! Read the rest of this entry »


Race And Islam

By Farish A. Noor

It is odd, to say the least, that after more than fourteen centuries there remain some people who claim to be Muslims but who still have not internalised the universal values of Islam. Odder still that there remain those who on the one hand can embrace Islam’s universal claim of brotherhood (and sisterhood), but still cannot get around to understanding the simple idea that Islam and racism do not mix.

Evidence of such discrepancies can be found pretty much everywhere these days: It has, sadly, become the normative cultural norm in so many Muslim societies today that those who are fair are better off and given the privileges that they feel is the natural right of all light-skinned people. It is also interesting to note that Muslims tend to rejoice whenever a white American or European converts to Islam, but seem less enthusiastic in their recognition of the fact that thousands of Africans and Asians are converting to Islam every year.

Furthermore when it comes to governance and politics, it remains painfully clear that some Muslims still place blood and race above competency and merit till today; and that despite their profession of faith they remain embedded in the stagnant mode of racialised thinking that operates on the basis that some races are better than others.

One such case has popped up recently in multi-culti Malaysia, where a row was sparked off by the nomination of a Chinese woman – Low Siew Moi – as the head of a state institution linked to the economic management and development of the state of Selangor, the PKNS. Despite the fact that Low Siew Moi was selected by the Chief Minister of the state, Tan Sri Khalid, on the basis of merit; some quarters chose to publicly disagree with her appointment on the grounds that the Malay-Muslims of the state would object to the appointment. But objection on what grounds? On the basis that she is a Chinese woman? Read the rest of this entry »


Eurocopter deal – shameful episode in Parliament

Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusof was literally grilled in Parliament for over two hours over the billion-ringgit 12 Cougar EC725 Europter helicopters deal as he was totally at sea and unable to answer the most elementary of questions, such as

(i) Why three sets of different figures for the 12 Cougar helicopter deal – RM1.1 billion given by Defence Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Abu Bakar Abdullah; RM1.67 billion given by the Prime Minister-cum-Defence Minister; and RM1.604 billion stated by Abu Seman Yusof in Parliament today;

(ii) Why no physical evaluation or test flights for the short-listed helicopters; or as I said in Parlaiment, getting Malaysia into the Guinness Book of Records as probably the only government in the world to order sophisticated and expensive aircrafts without any test flight although such physical evaluation for the short-listed tenderers was one of the conditions specified in the tender docunment.

Abu Seman was dumbstruck when asked both questions and was unable to give any sensible reply. It was a most shameful episode in Parliament.

It has to be left to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to try to immediately repair the damage created by the deputy Defence Minister by answering these two questions outside Parliament, as in the following report Read the rest of this entry »


Syed Hamid Albar vs. Hindraf on Indian marginalization

by H Lee

So Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar – in a decision, as he puts it, of self-sacrifice for the sake of protecting society – has banned Hindraf.

Similar home ministerial valour must have been present when he chose to detain Raja Petra, Teresa Kok, Tan Hoon Cheng and hundreds of others under the ISA.

Many Malaysians have expressed their outrage at the latest cruel and callous act of repression against a civil group which has highlighted the continuing plight of marginalised Malaysian Indians.

I would like to examine an aspect: the assertion that Malaysian Indians are not marginalised and are actually doing better than Bumiputera Malaysians, and thus, they have no grounds to feel
aggrieved, let alone angry. This is a cynical and specious claim.

We should first take note of the often ignored fact that the Malaysian Indian community is diverse, stratified and complex. Like any other. Read the rest of this entry »


Procurement of 21 police helicopters shelved

After the shelving of the RM1.67 billion 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopter deal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the next project being deferred is the purchase of 21 police helicopters for the Royal Malaysian Police.

This was revealed by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Amirsham Aziz just before Parliament ended at 10 pm last night, after I had asked him during his winding-up speech on the 2009 budget what are the other projects which are being shelved because of the global financial crisis to enable the government to reallocate public expenditures.

The police request for 21 new helicopters was revealed by the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan in August, as reported in the following report of Utusan Malaysia on 13th August 2008:

21 helikopter awasi perairan

LABUAN 12 Ogos – Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) akan menambah 21 buah helikopter bagi meningkatkan kecekapan operasinya terutama di dalam mengawasi perairan negara, kata Ketua Polis Negara, Tan Sri Musa Hassan.

Menurut Musa, cadangan untuk membeli helikopter itu telah diluluskan oleh Kabinet baru-baru ini dan kerajaan akan memutuskan pembelian aset tersebut kemudian. Read the rest of this entry »


Tunku Aziz: PKNS staff shouldn’t interfere

Oct 29, 08 1:09pm

Staff at the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) should respect the menteri besar’s prerogative in appointing a non-Malay to head the state agency, said DAP vice-chairperson Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim.

“I hope the menteri besar’s decision is respected by all and the PKNS staff will focus on doing their work professionally instead of questioning the prerogative of the state government to appoint the most suitable person for the post,” he said in a statement today.

Tunku Abdul Aziz was commenting on protests by six staff bodies against the appointment of the corporation’s deputy corporate affairs and accounting manager Low Siew Moi as acting general manager. Read the rest of this entry »


How did RM1.1 billion Eurocopter deal balloon to RM1.67 billion even before issue of LOI?

The Prime Minister-cum-Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced yesterday that the defence procurement of 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopter helicopters had been put on hold until better economic times – making history of the shortest-lived multi-billion ringgit defence deal between the issue of Letter of Intent (LOI) and its cancellation.

He has created more queries about the Eurocopter deal now put on hold, which must be answered either by Abdullah in the Defence Ministry reply in the budget debate in Parliament beginning today as well as the subject of the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the Eurocopter deal, including:

1. Abdullah said that the Eurocopter deal is worth RM1.67 billion and not RM2.3 billion. This figure is also at variance with the price quoted by the Defence Ministry secretary-general Datuk Abu Bakar Abdullah who said last week that the tender price of the Eurocopter helicopters was RM1.l billion. How did the RM1.1 billion Eurocopter deal balloon to RM1.67 billion even before the issue of LOI?

2. Abdullah contradicted Abu Bakar as the latter had said that Eurocopter bid was selected in preference over the other six tender bids because “the company had a complete tender offer that obtained the highest marks based on technical evaluation, an offset package while also being at a reasonable price”. Read the rest of this entry »


PAC Chairman Azmi should withdraw from PAC Eurocopter Inquiry because of “close proximity”

Datuk Azmi Khalid, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), should personally withdraw from the PAC inquiry into the RM2.3 billion 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopter deal because of his “close proximity” to the Executive as two-term member of the Cabinet until seven months ago.

Azmi’s background as a two-term Cabinet Minister under Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would be important considerations to the Prime Minister why Azmi is regarded as politically suitable, stable, reliable and trustworthy candidate as PAC Chairman although from the perspective of established parliamentary conventions in mature democracies, these same factors would be regarded as precisely the reason why he is not suitable or qualified for the post.

In fact, in mature and developed parliamentary democracies, the Chairman of PAC is invariably from a senior Opposition MP, and not an MP from the administration, let alone a person who had just been a two-term Minister under the Prime Minister-of-the-day.

Credibility is greatly stretched for anyone to believe that a two-term Minister would be prepared to be very zealous to conduct a no-holds-barred PAC investigation into any major government irregularity or impropriety like the RM2.3 billion 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopter deal – especially as Azmi was a Minister in the original Cabinet decision of 18th July 2007 to phase out the Nuri fleet of helicopters after the latest Nuri helicopter crash the week before.

As the maxim goes, justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. Any hint of conflict-of-interest whether arising from “close proximity” as a two-term Cabinet Member of the Prime Minister-of-the-day or other reasons should be avoided at all costs. Read the rest of this entry »


No Umno/MCA/Gerakan/MIC MP to emulate Billy Abit Joo?

Is there not a single Umno, MCA, Gerakan or MIC MP (including Minister/Deputy Minister) in Peninsular Malaysia who dare to emulate Sarawak BN MP, Billy Abit Joo (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) to support a parliamentary debate on the review of the Internal Security Act (ISA) – and if so, why do they want to get elected into Parliament?

Barisan Nasional MPs from whichever component party cannot remain blind, deaf and dumb to the increasingly widespread and popular demand from all sectors of Malaysian society for review and repeal of the draconian Internal Security Act, which stands as a symbol of the lack of democracy and rule of law in the country.

Yesterday, October 27, was the 21st anniversary of the Operation Lalang mass ISA arrests in 1987, with 13 MPs among 106 persons arrested under the infamous detention-without-trial law.

If the BN MPs suffer from amnesia of history of what happened two decades ago, they cannot be unaware of the blatant and scandalous abuse of the ISA only last month when the ISA was used against the latest trio of ISA victims – Sin Chew senior reporter Tan Hoon Ching, DAP MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin on completely baseless grounds. Read the rest of this entry »


On or off, PAC inquiry into RM2.3b 12 EC725 helicopter deal must go on

Yesterday, The Malaysian Insider reported that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had decided over the weekend to “cut out the EC725 military helicopter contract” when the government “reviewed its expenses in light of falling revenues from crude oil and palm oil and slowing economic growth for the next few years”.

Today’s Bernama carried a more qualified report, “Govt yet to discuss helicopter purchase”, quoting a government source as saying that “In the wake of the global economic crisis, the government will have to discuss further whether to go ahead with the purchase of new helicopters to replace the ageing Nuris in the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF)”.

The government source said the discussion will need the involvement of the Defence Ministry and the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who is the Defence Minister.

The source said the procurement of the new helicopters was only at the letter of intent stage (LOI) and no letter of award (LOA) had been made to any party.

Regardless of whether the RM2.3 billion 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopter deal is on or off, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry into the deal, fixed for two days on Wednesday and Thursday, must be held as scheduled as larger issues are involved concerning national integrity and proper billion-ringgit defence procurement process. Read the rest of this entry »


Deepavali greetings – 3 Makkal Sakti wishes

Deepavali wishes to Hindu Malaysians and all Malaysians – Makkal Sakti so that good can triumph over evil in our motherland.

For the second consecutive year, Malaysian Hindus as well as Malaysians generally will be celebrating Deepavali in a somber mood.

Malaysian Deepavali this year has again made international news particularly in India over the arrest and release of P Vwaishhnnavi, the six-year-old niece of detained Hindraf leader P Uthayakumar, her mother K Shanti, as well as the Deepavali-eve release on bail of ten persons after two days in police custody, over Vwaishhnnavi’s attempt on Friday to submit a letter to the Prime Minister in Putrajaya appealing for the release of the five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Malaysian Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar cannot be more wrong when he said in a recent Malaysiakini interview that he has got the support of peace-loving members of the Indian community for the government’s ban on Hindraf. Read the rest of this entry »


BN MP who signed petition revealed

BN MP who signed petition revealed
Andrew Ong
Oct 25, 08 5:16pm

Billy Abit Jol is the sole Barisan Nasional MP to have signed the petition urging the prime minister to prioritise the debate on the Internal Security Act when Parliament reconvenes on Wednesday.

The petition signed by 85 MPs – 81 from Pakatan Rakyat, three independents and one from BN – was delivered to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s office yesterday morning.

Billy Abit is a five-term MP for Hulu Rajang and vice-president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak.

His signing of the petition was revealed by Ipoh Timor MP and DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang when the latter officiated the DAP Jalong branch this morning. Read the rest of this entry »


RM5 billion EPF funds to ValueCap – nation-wide protest

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that the government would inject RM5 billion from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to double the size of the highly-secretive government fund, ValueCap Sdn Bhd to RM10 billion to prop up the stock market.

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) President, Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud has rightly come to the forefront to condemn the government’s move to boost up ValueCap to support the local stock market using RM5 billion from EPF, “as the provident fund is the custodian of the workers’ money and not some sort of ‘automated teller machine’ for the government”.

This is the second government attempt to raid the EPF to support ValueCap to prop up the stock market since the idea of ValueCap was first mooted by the Mahathir administration at the end of 2002 to shore up the stock market and bail out ailing companies. Read the rest of this entry »


Parliament – don’t vote single ringgit for RM2.3 billion Eurocopters without PAC/parliamentary approval

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid has said that the Defence Secretary-General Datuk Abdu Bakar Abdullah will be among those called to assist the PAC to scrutinize the Eurocopter deal.

It is no exaggeration to say that this will be the most important investigation in PAC history, as for the first time since Merdeka 51 years ago, a major government contract – the RM2.3 billion 12 Cougar EC725 helicopter deal to replace the Nuri helicopters – will hinge on the report of the PAC following its scrutiny into the Eurocopter deal.

This is the only implication of the Cabinet decision at its meeting last Friday (17th October 2008) giving “the green light” to the PAC to investigate the Eurocopter deal.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in Pekan on Sunday that at his suggestion, the Cabinet “has agreed” to the PAC scrutiny as “it was better for the PAC to inquire into the deal”.

Najib said: “The PAC can make its own conclusion of the purchase after studying the various issues involved in the deal.” Read the rest of this entry »


Books and politicians

By Hafidz Baharom
[email protected]
The Nut Graph

WHAT’S the difference between a book and a politician?

This was a question posed to me recently by a close friend after having one too many beers. Somehow, the mind gets more creative when it’s intoxicated.

Well, I said the first major difference was that I find books interesting to read. From Bill Maher’s New Rules to Lewis Black’s Nothing’s Sacred, political satire is definitely alive in Western comedy. Heck, these books are even selling well.

On the other hand, I view the Malaysian politician as someone with minimum knowledge and memory, but who can outspew a rabid spitting camel.

Take the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Jerai, Datuk Paduka Badruddin Amiruldin. Recall the 2007 Umno general assembly, during which delegate Zaleha Hussin implied that the uniforms for Air Asia’s women flight attendants were a tad skimpy.

I’m not sure if it was plain idiocy or whether he was merely gatal, but our dear Badruddin agreed: “Yes, we can see a tunnel under her skirt.” Perhaps if he was at a bar after a few shots of vodka, I’d understand. But to be sober at the Umno general assembly and say this in front of the media? Read the rest of this entry »


Another White Elephant for Putrajaya?

by Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
Subang Jaya,

RE: Putrajaya monorail report and Putrajaya Corp. bus purchases

When it was announced in early 2008 that the government was taking another look at the Putrajaya monorail, it could hardly have come at a better time. This was in late April/early May, and I had just finished participating in the Majlis Bajet Consultation 2009. My experience trying to get from Persiaran Putrajaya (the site of the Finance Ministry) to Putrajaya Sentral was ironic. Though the bus fleet had improved (in terms of size) information about bus services and bus shelters was still non-existent on the main island.

My comments about the poor infrastructure for the bus services and the lack of demand to justify a monorail would strike a chord with many people. They agreed with me about the irony of investing millions of RM to build a monorail instead of investing a few thousand RM to build bus shelters that could be enjoyed by many.

Now that the report on the monorail has been completed it would be very interesting to hear what it has to say. Sadly, the government is keeping quiet about the report. Read the rest of this entry »


Only one BN MP signs petition for debate on ISA

Only one BN MP signs petition for debate on ISA
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz
Oct 23, 08 4:19pm

One Barisan Nasional member of parliament was among 76 other MPs who signed an opposition-initiated petition calling for a debate of the review and repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in the Dewan Rakyat when it reconvenes after the Deepavali break.

Revealing this today, Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) said while it is “historic” that as many as one-third of all MPs inked their support for the debate, the signatures did not reflect the public pronouncements of several top leaders of Barisan component parties who have called for a review of the preventive detention law.

“I am disappointed that up until now, only one Barisan Nasional MP has been willing to support this letter to the prime minister (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi), as this is not a commitment to abolish the ISA… but only a call to debate whether the ISA should be reviewed or repealed.” Read the rest of this entry »


Will CJ Zaki vindicate all doubters or prove them wrong by bold leadership of judicial reforms?

Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi’s appointment as Chief Justice of the Federal Court is the most controversial appointment of the head of the judiciary in the nation’s 51-year history.

Never before in Malaysian judiciary had the possible appointment of the new head of the judiciary been marked by more widespread reservations and public objections than Zaki’s elevation as Chief Justice, because of legitimate concerns about its adverse impact on fumbling efforts so far to restore national and international confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Read the rest of this entry »


The RM2.3 billion 12 Cougar EC725 helicopter deal should be suspended until the outcome of PAC scrutiny

When the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in Pekan on Sunday that the Cabinet had agreed that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) scrutinise the acquisition of the Eurocopter EC725 helicopters to replace the aging Nuri helicopters, it raises the serious question whether the Prime Minister-in-waiting fully understands and respects the principle and practice of parliamentary democracy and the doctrine of separation of powers.

In a country truly founded on parliamentary democracy, where the Cabinet is answerable to Parliament and not vice versa, the question of the Cabinet approving a parliamentary scrutiny of an Executive decision would not have arisen – as this is the unquestioned right and prerogative of Parliament in the discharge of its tasks to exercise check-and-balance on executive power.

As the PAC has decided last Wednesday to scrutinise the three mega-scandals highlighted by Pakatan Rakyat in the 2009 budget debate, the RM5 billion Maybank purchase of Bank International Indonesia (BII) at five times the book value, the RM2.3 billion defense deal for 12 Cougar EC725 helicopters and the awarding of the RM11.3 billion high-speed broadband contract to TM Bhd, is Najib suggesting that the Cabinet would only agree to the PAC scrutiny of the Eurocopter deal but not the two other mega-scandals?

Furthermore, what does Najib mean when he said the Cabinet has agreed to the the PAC scrutiny of the Cougar EC725 helicopter deal?

Last Friday, the Defence Ministry secretary-general Datuk Abu Bakar Abdullah issued a totally unsatisfactory statement to claim that the decision to procure the Europcopters was done following proper procedure and was not influenced by any party, as no satisfactory answer had been given to queries as to why the full technical evaluation process had not followed standard international practices and lacked transparency. Read the rest of this entry »