Archive for the ‘Press Freedom’ Category

Dinner: Reclaim PJ Parliamentary and State seats

May 28, 2007

Congratulations to the PJ Action Team for the successful dinner held in Sg Way (Seri Setia) a while ago.

Sec Gen Lim Guan Eng and deputy sec gen Chong Eng came all the way from Bukit Mertajam and Kota Melaka respectively to give the potential candidates in PJ their greatest support.

Other speakers tonight include Lau Weng San (PJ Action Team Chairman), Ean Yong Hian Wah (Selangor state chairman), Liew Ching Tong ( DAPSY leader), Thomas Goh ( PJ Action Team Treasurer), Tony Pua ( Economic Advisor to Sec Gen DAP), Rama ( Chairman of Kg Tun Razak ).

In my speech, I criticised the MCA local elected reps for not helping the residents and villagers. I also explained what has happened to my OSA case ( no fruther development) and the compensation I won from the case against the former IGP some six months ago was still not paid to me.

I did an opinion poll on the spot and to our delight, majority of the supporters said Yes to opposition cooperation; only 3 persons said No. I have no time to ask them why but I did use the opportunity to explain why we should get the opposition parties to work together.

In my speech, I explained why DAP leaders believe that the coming GE will fall in November this year ( NOV 25, to be more precise) or latest by March 2008. 

I also expressed my deep regret that the voters who lived in Jalan 4 and Jalan 18, Sg Way were fooled by Chew Mei Fun and Dr Wong Sai Hau in the 2004 GE. They were promised land titles immediately after the GE but guess what, their homes were all demolished by the authority in 2006. Both Chew and Wong did not even give it a fight. Not only that, they even failed to get the rightful compensation for many of them: No monthly rental subsidy of RM120 per family. No transport/ moving cost subsidy. No homes for second family…

But it’s too late for the residents who have trusted Chew and Wong. Chew has even gotten a promotion after the 2004 GE. There’s nothing the villagers can do except for voting against the two in the coming general elections.

Other speaker touched on issues such as mother tongue education, quality of tertiary education, freedom of religion, the importance of voters registration, rampant corruption and abuse of powers, increasing crime rates in PJ and Selangor, the restructuring of police force to fight crimes, the reasons for strengthening the DAP and other opposition parties, the NEP and income divide, the sexist Umno MPs ( we played the video clips of the relevant Parliamentary seating) and what should we expect  from a state assemblyman and Member of Parliament.

Everyone in the audience agrees with DAP speakers that Malaysia is not a better place to live after Abdullah has taken over from Dr Mahathir. We were all greatly disappoineted with the performance of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Congratulations! Yang Mulia Raja Petra

May 18, 2007

Top 20 Asian progressives

Who are the modernisers and reformers steering the region towards good business practice, transparency and management excellence?

Michael Backman
World Business

Other publications list Asia’s most influential, or its most powerful or richest, but World Business is more forward-looking than that. We have spotlighted the individuals driving Asia forward – those that are helping to bring about rules-based civil societies, or who are advancing the cause of better governance, be it in business or government. One of the greatest guarantees of freedom is the free-flow of information, debate and commentary, and so our list includes several who are integral to promoting debate where governments of the region seek to restrict it. Included are several prominent bloggers who risk their livelihoods to bring to the people of Asia commentary and opinion that is a matter of course in the West.

We have included some of the region’s prominent businesspeople, notable not only for their forward-looking approach but also for their philanthropy, which remains essential in Asia where governments for the most part lack sufficient resources to do all that should be done to take care of society’s most vulnerable. And there are some prominent legislators: Asia is home to some of the world’s most repressive regimes, but others, such as Vietnam’s current leadership, have shown a preparedness to ditch ideology in favour of improving their people’s welfare.

Some of the names will invite controversy: as administrator of Tibet, Hu Jintao was responsible for a crackdown in 1989 that saw hundreds of Tibetan protestors killed; Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad did not use his period of power to introduce greater transparency in government tendering or stamp out corruption in Malaysia’s police force; and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, leader of the Maoists in Nepal, led a bloody decade-long war against the Nepalese government. But it is our contention that these individuals are now helping to reform Asia, so that in future the region’s citizens will enjoy greater freedoms than in the past.

1. HU JINTAO, CHINA

Hu Jintao is the eighth General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and China’s paramount leader and president. The general rule of thumb has become that each new Chinese leader is less hard-line than the last and Hu bears this out. He succeeded Jiang Zemin in 2002 and to date has shown himself to be cosmopolitan, worldly and technocratic. He speaks relatively unaccented Mandarin, unlike most of his predecessors, underlining his urbane image.

Hu rose through China’s construction ministry, became involved in the Communist party and was introduced to a series of mentors who recognised his talent. He was appointed party chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1988, where he took a hard-line politically, instigating a crackdown in 1989 that saw the deaths of several hundred Tibetan activists. But at the same time, he liberalised cultural activities. This apparently paradoxical approach sums up his style: protect the Chinese state at all costs, but increase personal freedoms.

Since becoming president, one of Hu’s priorities has been the development of China’s poorer inner provinces to ensure a better distribution of the country’s economic advancement. Transparency in government decision-making has also increased – China’s news agency now publishes Politburo standing committee meeting details, and foreign journalists enjoy unprecedented access. Emphasis on GDP growth has lessened; instead, there is more concern with the quality of growth.

China’s foreign policy, particularly its cultivation of links with African and South American states, illustrates that under Hu, China is becoming more of a commercial player on the world stage and less of a political strategist for its own sake.

2. RAJA PETRA KAMARUDIN, MALAYSIA

Though more robust than that of Singapore, Malaysia’s media is nonetheless tame. All significant media outlets are sympathetic to the government, there is little investigative journalism and discussion of many issues is discouraged. The newspapers focus endlessly on crime and lifestyle issues, and Malaysians tend to buy them for their job ads and to find out what’s showing at the cinema. Increasingly, the serious reporting and commentary is done by bloggers, of which Raja Petra Kamarudin’s http://www.malaysia-today.net is the best.

Petra, a nephew of a former king of Malaysia, founded Malaysia-today in 2004 and works on it full time. The site now gets an astonishing 1.8 million hits on an average day, making it much more popular than any Malaysian newspaper. Malaysia-today plays an enormously important role in its attempts to keep the government accountable. It reports on ministers’ many business interests, nepotism and just about anything else that the government would prefer to keep quiet. Petra uses the site to denounce money politics, corruption and Malaysia’s endless fascination with race and race-based politics. A popular, ongoing series is the Khairy Chronicles, which provides an account of the doings of the prime minister’s young, unelected, but highly influential son-in-law.

Many reports have been made against Petra to the police, agents from Malaysia’s Special Branch have questioned him on several occasions and his computers have been seized. Recently, he reported how the government intended to use a nominee company to borrow $50 billion, in order to avoid recording the loan as government borrowing. He has also reported on a particularly grisly murder that appeared to implicate senior government figures.

3. LOU JIWEI, CHINA

Lou Jiwei has been appointed to head the investment agency that will manage $200 billion of China’s $1 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, which have accrued from inwards foreign investment and export earnings. Finance minister Jin Renqing said in March that the new agency will use “international best practices” and that “we will try to maximise profits and returns on our management of foreign exchange, guided by the principles of safety and risk management”. The agency will model itself on the Singapore government’s Temasek Holdings, but will be twice its size.

Educated and cosmopolitan, Lou’s reputation as a moderniser precedes his appointment to the agency. He has been at the forefront of reforming China’s economy for more than two decades and is a well-regarded technocrat. He spearheaded the reform of China’s financial services industry during his seven-year term as vice-minister of finance. A protege of the reformist premier Zhu Rongji, Lou was pivotal in redesigning China’s tax system and drawing up plans for a domestic bond market as the deputy head of the Shanghai Commission for Economic Regulation.

A computer programmer turned economist, he has always been a low-key policy specialist and perhaps represents the best hope for China’s troubled Communist party. As the party’s devotion to Marxist and Maoist ideology has waned, talent in running China’s increasingly sophisticated economy has become more important. Unlike many of his colleagues, Lou did not join the rallies in Shanghai’s People’s Park in 1989 in support of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. He prefers to use more official channels and consequently has been one of China’s most effective reformers.

4. NARAYANA MURTHY, INDIA

Narayana Murthy founded global consulting and IT services giant Infosys Technologies in 1981. He and a handful of other software engineers, who saw IT outsourcing’s potential, have almost single-handedly changed how the world thinks about India. In the space of one generation, the popular perception has changed from one of chronic poverty and over-population to one of technical sophistication and a country on the move. Of course, the reality lies somewhere in between, but this change in perception has been more important within India than outside, giving Indians a new confidence. Importantly, it has shown that India can compete on the world economic stage in a sector not assisted by government or hidden behind tariffs.

Murthy served as Infosys chairman for 20 years until 2002, and as executive chairman of the board and chief mentor from 2002 to 2006. The company expects revenues of more than $3 billion this year. He has been prominent in the fight in India for better corporate governance and was appointed chairman of the Securities & Exchange Board of India’s Committee on Corporate Governance in 2003,

He is a member of the advisory board of Harvard Business School’s Corporate Governance initiative. He is also on the board of directors of INSEAD and is an independent director of DBS, Singapore’s largest bank. In March, he became chairman of the Asia Business Council, and he joins Unilever’s board this month as a non-executive director. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours, and in December 2005 was voted the seventh most admired CEO/chairman in a global study by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In March, he denied that he was interested in running for the presidency of India.

5. NGUYEN TAN DUNG, VIETNAM

Nguyen Tan Dung was appointed prime minister of Vietnam in June 2006 after the retirement of his predecessor, Phan Van Khai. At 57, he is the first Vietnamese communist leader to be born after the August Revolution in 1945 and is Vietnam’s youngest prime minister. Like Khai, he is a reformer and a moderniser; he was appointed to carry on the economic reforms that have seen the economy grow at about 7% a year and permitted the country’s admission to the WTO in 2006.

Dung is a technocrat and is economically literate, but he is not the only moderniser in the government. Nguyen Minh Triet, who was appointed president when Dung was appointed prime minister, is also a reformer. And the third member of the power triumvirate, communist party chief Nong Duc Manh, is another keen moderniser with a strong preference for privatising state-owned assets.

Dung was appointed one of five deputy prime ministers in 1997; a year later he was also made governor of Vietnam’s central bank, the State Bank of Vietnam, where he pushed forward monetary reform and bank mergers, thus giving the country’s financial system a more stable foundation. On becoming prime minister, he nominated fighting corruption and developing the Vietnamese economy in a sustainable way as two of his priorities. On one of his first overseas trips as prime minister, Dung met the Pope at the Vatican in January, the first Vietnamese leader to do so.

Dung is overseeing Vietnam’s progress from a communist state to a more market-oriented country that is an active and mature participant on the world stage. He is firmly committed to carrying on the legacy of his recent predecessors – that of further openness and economic freedom.

6. MUHAMMAD YUNUS, BANGLADESH

Born in 1940, Muhammad Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank, which provides micro-credit loans to poor, would-be entrepreneurs who would otherwise be denied credit by the formal banking system. For his efforts, he and the bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Yunus is also the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the World Food Prize and the Sydney Peace Prize.

Yunus graduated in economics from Dhaka University, later obtaining a PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University. He first became interested in what later became known as micro-credit during the 1974 Bangladesh famine. His first loan – from his own pocket – was for $27 to a woman who made bamboo furniture. He soon realised that very small loans could make a big difference to poor people who want to start or expand a small business.

In 1976, the Grameen Bank started to make loans to poor Bangladeshis. It has since lent more than $5.1 billion to 5.3 million borrowers. More than 96% of loans are to women: they are more impoverished and have also proven to be more diligent repayers than men. Repayment is encouraged by lending to informal groups whose members act as co-guarantors. The success of the Grameen model has inspired similar efforts throughout the developing world and there are now micro-credit institutions in more than 23 countries.

Yunus announced in February that public pressure to intervene in Bangladesh’s violent and complex political arena had forced his decision to set up a new political party. The country has been ruled by a military-backed administration since 11 January, when the president declared a state of emergency and cancelled parliamentary elections.

7. MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, MALAYSIA

Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s prime minister from 1981 to 2003, was perhaps Asia’s most misunderstood leader. Mahathir had plenty of critics, but the country’s impressive development under his stewardship is undeniable. Also undeniable is his popularity among Malaysia’s minority ethnic groups, particularly the Chinese, who comprise about 30% of the population. Mahathir managed to persuade different ethnic groups to think of themselves as Malaysians, despite economic and education policies that favoured the majority Malay population at the expense of the commercially successful Chinese minority.

These policies helped to break the nexus between great wealth and (Chinese) ethnicity, thus making the Chinese less of a target politically in the event of unrest. Mahathir also kept a lid on Islamic fundamentalism, showing not just Malaysia but much of the Islamic world that economic progress and Islam can go hand in hand. Under Mahathir, the media and the judiciary lacked independence, but Malaysians enjoy far more political freedoms than the citizens of neighbouring Singapore.

Mahathir resigned as prime minister while still popular and at a time of his choosing. In retirement, he has emerged as a loud critic of the new administration, bringing to Malaysia a level of public debate that few would have thought possible. His regular interventions on policy issues have almost given Malaysia the strong opposition voice that it has not previously had.

He has attacked the government for not doing enough to tackle the widespread corruption, and has criticised the concessions given to foreign firms that invest in an economic zone in southern Malaysia. Even out of office, Mahathir continues to modernise his country.

8. LI KA SHING, HONG KONG

Sir Li Ka Shing has broken the mould. When most ethnic Chinese become big in business, it usually means they simply become even bigger traders of goods. But not Li. An immigrant from mainland China, he had his start making and selling plastic flowers. As he became more successful, he moved increasingly into providing services, albeit with infrastructure development – specifically, providing port services in Hong Kong, mainland China, India and elsewhere, and more recently becoming a worldwide force in telecommunications services.

By moving beyond the old cultural stereotype, Li has transformed his group of companies into one of Asia’s first home-grown genuine multinationals. He is admired around the world rather than merely in Hong Kong as an astute investor, and along the way has made himself the world’s ninth richest individual, with an estimated fortune of $23 billion. But he does not lead an extravagant lifestyle: the main indicator of his wealth and status is that he’s rarely seen without a large contingent of bodyguards.

Cheung Kong Holdings emerged in the early 1970s; today, the group operates in 54 countries and employs 220,000 people. In 1979, Li acquired Hutchison Whampoa, which became the vehicle for his electricity generation, ports and telecommunications interests. Li was an early investor in telecoms group Orange, before selling out to Germany’s Mannesmann Group in 2001 for a profit of more than $15 billion. In January 2007 Hutchison agreed to sell its 67% stake in Indian mobile phone operator Hutchison Essar to Vodafone for $9 billion.

Li has established the Li Ka Shing Foundation for charitable works and is a major donor to education and healthcare – he is believed to have given away more than $1 billion to date.

9. JAIME AUGUSTO ZOBEL DE AYALA, PHILIPPINES

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala is the head of the influential Ayala Group, one of the Philippines’ biggest business groups. Zobel studied economics at Harvard and has an MBA from Harvard. He is an intellectual, has a truly global outlook and is a strong promoter of the principles of corporate governance in a country that sorely needs them.

Ayala has interests in real estate, water supply, automobile distribution, banking and food production, and has a reputation for being prudent and conservative. Zobel serves as chairman of the family holding company, Ayala Corporation, the group’s mobile telephone operator Globe Telecom and the Bank of the Philippine Islands. He is also co-vice chairman of the Ayala Foundation, a leading corporate donor in the Philippines. The foundation has a US-based arm that encourages Filipinos to contribute to social development programmes in the Philippines.

The family’s sound management practice is exemplary by Asian standards. It does not have private business interests that run parallel with its listed companies, and so it is free of the conflicts of interests that bedevil many Asian family-controlled conglomerates. All Ayala businesses are listed or belong to a parent company that is.

The family is of Spanish descent, but under Zobel it has moved to open its management ranks to Filipinos of any ethnicity. Family members are involved in the group’s management only if they have the requisite professional skills. The group has raised its accounting practices to international standards, ahead of that mandated by the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Philippine GAAP.

10. SYED MOKHTAR AL-BUKHARY, MALAYSIA

Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary has built himself up from almost nothing to be one of Malaysia’s richest men. He has developed port facilities and an airport in southern Malaysia, as well as amassing interests in property, hotels, power stations, rubber plantations, banking, retailing and construction. His companies are run by professional managers throughout, rather than family members.

He dislikes publicity and is remarkable by Malaysian corporate standards in not using his shareholders’ money to buy a corporate jet, a helicopter or a fleet of Mercedes-Benz. He has no interest in personal aggrandisement. Instead, his great passion is his charitable foundation, the Al-Bukhary Foundation, into which he has poured millions to build mosques, schools and hospitals. The foundation has also built, stocked and runs the Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur, a world-class institution that puts Malaysia’s National Museum to shame. A modern Muslim, he does not believe that women should cover their heads or faces and feels that Islam should return to what it was once known for: commerce and the arts.

In late 2006, his MMC Corporation, together with a local partner, won an extraordinary $30 billion infrastructure deal in Saudi Arabia to develop a new industrial and commercial city. It’s a huge undertaking for any company, let alone a Malaysian one, and it represents how Al-Bukhary likes to do business. He is a strong promoter of Muslim cross-border investment and trading ties, in the same way that other commercial ethnic groups trade across borders.

Al-Bukhary is a breath of fresh air for corporate Malaysia and an inspiration to Muslims everywhere.

11. SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO, INDONESIA

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected president of Indonesia in 2004. To some, his presidency has been disappointing, but then it could barely be anything else. Indonesia’s problems are so enormous and intractable that the job is near-impossible. So why is Yudhoyono one of Asia’s top progressives? Largely because of what he’s not: he is not corrupt, prone to nepotism, administratively incompetent or an obsessive nationalist.

He has enormous personal integrity and has done a remarkable job in balancing Indonesia’s many conflicting interests in this the world’s largest Islamic country, but also one of its most ethnically diverse. A retired general, he is Indonesia’s sixth president but the first to have been elected directly by voters. He is an English speaker, in contrast with his immediate predecessor Megawati Soekarnoputri, a Jakarta housewife whose only political attribute was that her father had been president. Unlike other senior politicians’ children, Yudhoyono’s two sons are not in business. Each of ex-president Soeharto’s six children started one or more conglomerates, all dependent on government favours and concessions.

Yudhoyono earned a reputation as one of the army’s pro-reform officers in the last days of Soeharto’s regime. In the aftermath of Soeharto’s fall in 1998, Yudhoyono talked publicly about his ideas for reforming the role of the military and Indonesia more generally. His popularity rose, and he was made co-ordinating minister for politics and security. One of his first tasks was to remove the army from political life.

Yudhoyono’s time as president has been plagued by natural disasters, including the 2004 tsunami. Nonetheless, he has negotiated a peace settlement with rebels in the province of Aceh, and cut fuel subsidies twice in 2005.

12. RATAN TATA, INDIA

Ratan Tata is India’s most progressive businessman on several counts: he has expanded a family business into a well-run international conglomerate and has done so largely on behalf of charity – the principal owners of the Tata Group are a series of charities. The family’s activities (it has given millions to research, environment projects and schools), like those of the rest of India’s small Parsee community of which Tata is a member, have made it well-liked and admired, despite its wealth and ethnic minority status. The Parsees provide a valuable lesson to other rich business minorities on how to avoid persecution from an envious majority.

Tata joined the family business after graduating in architecture and structural engineering from Cornell University in 1962. In 1991, he took over as group chairman, ushering in a period of management rationalisation and greater investment in core activities that have allowed the group to expand to its current size – Tata Group has the largest capitalisation on the Mumbai stock exchange. The group bought Tetley Tea in 2000 for $421 million, the truck division of South Korea’s Daewoo for $102 million in 2004 and, in January, Europe’s Corus steel-making group for a massive $11.3 billion. Under Tata, the group has been at the forefront of India’s push to become the world’s biggest exporter of IT services.

Tata is on the board of India’s central bank and is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry. Among his other public and charitable roles, he also serves on the programme board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s India AIDS initiative. Tata has shown India that its companies can be world class, and he is arguably the country’s most important philanthropist.

13. WARREN LICHTENSTEIN, JAPAN/KOREA

A US citizen, Warren Lichtenstein is an activist investor and founder of Steel Partners, a New York-based hedge fund. The fund has stakes in more than 100 companies in the US, Japan and Korea. Lichtenstein is a demanding minority investor, who exercises shareholder rights to enforce disclosure and accountability from the companies in which he invests. Accordingly, he has been something of a shock to corporate Japan and Korea, in which minority shareholders are expected to know their place.

In Japan, many listed companies hold their AGMs on the same day to limit the number of meetings that investors in multiple companies can attend. Many companies have little interest in shareholder value and build up huge cash piles with no intention of returning funds to shareholders. This, and other sluggish practices, damages the reputation of the stock market and hinders the flow of new capital.

Lichtenstein targets cash-rich firms with market capitalisations well below net asset values, builds up a stake in them and then threatens a takeover unless they return their cash to shareholders. His targeting of several Japanese companies in 2003 impelled the boards of dozens of unrelated Japanese companies to pre-emptively increase their dividend payouts. In Korea, Lichtenstein teamed up with fellow fund manager Carl Icahn to launch a hostile takeover bid for South Korea’s biggest tobacco company, KT&G. Hostile takeovers are almost unheard of in Korea and the move created an uproar, but KT&G agreed to return $2.9 billion to shareholders.

Lichtenstein’s method of doing business has made him immensely wealthy, but he has also dramatically changed the behaviour of Japanese and Korean companies.

14. MAHESH, AJAY AND SHARAD AMALEAN, SRI LANKA

A Sri Lankan-based intimate apparel maker, the three Amalean brothers founded MAS Holdings in 1986. It is the largest supplier to Victoria’s Secret and other customers include Gap, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Reebok. In March 2007, MAS announced plans to launch its own brand this August.

The company has 17 plants in eight countries and 35,000 employees. But what’s remarkable about it is its home-grown corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme. Women comprise more than 90% of MAS’ employees and so the company established the Women Go Beyond programme to educate and empower its employees. A beauty, health and hygiene certificate is offered, and there are classes on reproductive health, domestic violence and traditional crafts. Nearby schools and hospitals are funded and scholarships are awarded.

MAS set up its plants in rural locations near villages so that women would not have to leave their families to find work, and all employees must be aged at least 18 (in contrast, Chinese factories can take on employees as young as 14). The company also invests in developing clear career paths: its Ready to Unleash programme aims to guide graduates into the company and on to management levels.

MAS has faced intense competition from China. The international Multi-Fibre Agreement, which ended in 2005, ensured that at least some of the West’s clothing and textiles were sourced from smaller developing countries. Since then, the Amaleans have shown that it is possible to compete with sweatshops in China by emphasising their CSR programme, which has made MAS a more attractive source for retailers with ethical buying policies.

15. JARUVAN MAINTAKA, THAILAND

Born in 1947, Jaruvan Maintak is Thailand’s auditor general and an iconic figure. A Catholic convert, she graduated from Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University and later completed an MBA at Michigan State University. She joined the office of the auditor general and in 2001 was appointed by the Thai Senate to be the auditor general. The manner of the appointment was controversial, however, and she did not appear to be then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s first choice for the position.

Jaruvan embarked on a series of investigations that embarrassed the government and a legal challenge was made to her appointment, which was upheld. Many interpreted this move as an attempt to silence her rather than concerns about due process. She refused to step down, saying she would do so only if the king assented. The king withheld his assent, thus embarrassing Thaksin and his government.

The military coup in September 2006, which had the implicit backing of the king, abrogated the 1997 constitution and most of the state organisations it established. The auditor general’s office was spared, however, and the new military government confirmed Jaruvan in her position.

The government made Jaruvan a member of its newly established Assets Examination Committee (AEC), tasked with investigating corruption involving projects approved by Thaksin’s government. Jaruvan threatened to resign if its scope was not expanded to include all cases of alleged irregularity, including the personal wealth of former cabinet ministers.

The AEC has since commenced several high-profile investigations and Jaruvan has shown no fear. Her dogged determination has attracted many enemies, but she has set new standards of accountability in Thailand.

16. LEE KIN MUN (ALIAS MR BROWN), SINGAPORE

Singapore has some of the world’s tightest media restrictions. Little genuine public debate is permitted and investigative journalism is largely non-existent. The role of the media is to report government announcements rather than to hold the government to account. And so Singaporeans are fed a bland diet of lifestyle articles, world news often slanted to show Singapore in a good light by way of comparison, and news about government policy. Not surprisingly, Singapore has one of the world’s most active blogging communities. Genuine debate, opinion pieces and news appear on many Singapore-related websites.

Lee Kin Mun has become one of Singapore’s most widely read and influential bloggers through his social and political commentary website, http://www.mrbrown.com. Lee also produces a satirical podcast called the Mr Brown Show, which averages 20,000 downloads a day. It is sophisticated and hugely funny – and a stark contrast to what is available on local government-controlled television.

Such is the popularity of Lee’s blog that he was given a column in the government-controlled Today newspaper in a measure designed to demonstrate that the government could tolerate a measure of public debate. However, the experiment ended abruptly after Li wrote a column on rising living costs. A government official complained that Lee had distorted the truth and Singapore’s prime minister claimed that Lee had made wild accusations.

Lee continues to publish and broadcast his satires and commentaries, providing Singaporeans with a vibrant and diversified media otherwise denied them.

17. ZETI AKHTAR AZIZ, MALAYSIA

The assertive and competent Zeti Akhtar Aziz was appointed governor of Malaysia’s central bank in 2000. Her appointment demonstrated to the world that being a Muslim woman in an Islamic country was not incompatible with either holding a position of real power or with south-east Asian traditions. She had held previous positions with the bank, including deputy governor, chief economist and head of the economics department.

Zeti was instrumental in advising the government to unpeg the Malaysian ringgit from the US dollar, as she had been in advising the government about implementing the peg in the first place. Many might have disagreed with the government’s decision to peg the ringgit in 1998 during Asia’s economic crisis, but few could argue with the competency with which it was carried out – Malaysia’s central bank is one of Asia’s most technically able and least corrupt.

Zeti has been prominent in the development of Islamic finance in Malaysia and internationally, such that the country is emerging as an important centre for Islamic finance, both in its practice and in developing the regulatory framework to support it. She studied economics at the University of Malaya, obtained her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and is published in the areas of monetary and financial economics, capital flows and macroeconomic management.

18. TARISA WATANAGASE, THAILAND

Tarisa Watanagase, the first female governor of the Bank of Thailand, the country’s central bank, was appointed to the post in October 2006; she also sits on the seven-member monetary policy board that sets interest rates in Thailand. She has been with the bank for 31 years (with a break at the IMF from 1988 to 1990) and is widely respected in the finance community not only for her technical skills, but also for her reputation as a fighter for central bank independence.

The attempts of previous prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to undermine the independence of most key state institutions was one of the contributing factors in the military moving against him in September 2006. The interim military-backed government’s appointment of Tarisa to head the central bank was a signal that it intended to adopt a hands-off approach. Similarly, it opted to reinstate the auditor general, who Thaksin had sought to remove, for similar reasons (see Jaruvan Maintaka).

Born in 1949, Tarisa gained a PhD in economics from Washington University. She joined the bank in 1975 and has had experience in each key division. Before her appointment to governor, she had been one of the bank’s three deputy governors and another woman, Atchana Waiquamdee, was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Tarisa’s appointment. The pair provide clear evidence of the prominent role that women are able to play in Asia.

19. DAVID WEBB, HONG KONG

David Webb runs one of the best websites devoted to corporate governance among listed companies anywhere – see http://www.webb-site.com. His commentaries on the misdeeds of many of Hong Kong’s listed companies are exceptionally well written, and are devastating in their forensic and careful analysis. Unfair related-party transactions between listed and privately held companies are a particular target of his; a recent post, for example, looks at Chinese oil company CNOOC’s attempt to force minority shareholders to approve more loans to a finance company set up by its state-owned parent.

Still relatively young, Webb is a former investment banker who moved to Hong Kong from London in 1991. He was corporate finance director of Barclays subsidiary BZW Asia, conducting equity issues and advisory mandates throughout Asia, until 1994, when he became in-house adviser to Wheelock, a local listed conglomerate, before retiring in 1998.

He made a small fortune from savvy stock investing and has devoted much of his time since to non-profit corporate governance advocacy work, most notably through his website, which has attracted a following among the investment community. He has become widely quoted on corporate governance issues in the Hong Kong and regional media. He holds small stakes in many companies in order to attend AGMs and hold directors accountable.

He was elected a non-executive director of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, which runs Hong Kong’s stock exchange, in 2003. Some were concerned that this would compromise his independence, but his withering and typically humiliating website commentaries have continued.

20. PUSHPA KAMAL DAHAL (ALIAS PRACHANDA), NEPAL

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, is the leader of the Maoist Communist party of Nepal. Born into a Brahmin family in 1954, he studied agricultural science at a Nepalese university and was inspired by China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1970s to become active in the communist movement in Nepal. He became leader of the Communist party in 1986 and after it splintered he emerged as the leader of the Communist party of Nepal (Maoist) in 1994. The party gave the government a list of 40 demands and threatened to declare war if the demands were not met. Between 1996 and 2006, the Maoists waged a bloody civil war, causing enormous damage to Nepal’s rudimentary infrastructure and costing about 12,000 lives. Both sides were culpable and engaged in appalling human rights abuses.

In February 2005, Nepal’s king sacked the elected government and took direct control of day-to-day affairs of state. In November 2005, Prachanda and an alliance of seven parties that had been elected to Nepal’s parliament in 1999 released a 12-point plan for co-operation. Key to the plan was a commitment by all sides to a multi-party democracy, press freedom and human rights. A ceasefire was agreed and, at Prachanda’s urging, the government of prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala stripped almost all powers and many assets from the king, a process that has occurred with surprising speed.

Prachanda’s talks with the prime minister have resulted in an agreement that the Maoists will enter a multi-party interim government, a new constitution will be drafted and both sides will disarm under international supervision. Nepal now has its first chance of peace in more than a decade and the possibility of real political reform.

Ijok: Lessons for the opposition parties

May 1, 2007

LATEST: Tan Sri Khalid will be going back to Ijok to thank the people for supporting PKR at 3.30pm today. The team will be led by PKR advisor  Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, party chief Datin Seri Wan Azizah, information chief Tian Chua and others. I have accepted their invitation to join the walkabout in Pekan Ijok and Batang Berjuntai.

The writings is on the wall. BN had won 92% of the Parliamentary seats in the 2004 GE and defeated the opposition in all the five by-elections (except for Batu Talam which was contested by an Independent). We need to find a winning formula to defeat BN.

BN has been able to win big because there was no true unity among the opposition parties. There’s no true opposition unity to face the the might of BN coalition. There’s no way to beat BN if the opposition parties could not work together effectively to face their common enemy-the Umno-led BN coalition.

Yes, the people of Malaysia suffer much under the current BN administration. They hope the opposition parties could work together to pose a real challenge to the mighty Umno-led BN coalition.

The people do know that BN is corrupt to the core. They know that BN leaders abuse their power to amass wealth for themselves. They were fed up with empty promises and very disappointed with the Prime Minister who could not walk the talk. But where is the alternative? 

Please bear in mind that only the well-informed voters and hardcore supporters vote for the opposition. Voters with pro-winner mentality (commonly called lalang, fence-sitters, the silent majority etc) would only vote for the winners (or potential winners).  They would never vote for the opposition if the opposition looked set to remain as opposition. But these voters with pro-winner mentality is not a small group. And we would not be able to win their votes without presenting them a winning formula.

 Please vote for Khalid !

It’s the duty and responsibility of the opposition parties to offer a winning formula for all to see. Politics of hope is an essential ingredient that we must provide for the voters. The opposition parties must project a winning position and work towards a winning agenda. We owe it to ourselves to do it. 

Yes, the opposition parties are having opposing views on the issue of religion. But that does not mean that we could not resolve or put aside our differences.

Malaysia is rotting slowly day by day. We are facing all kinds of problems and crises. We are also losing our pace to our neighbouring countries. The answer lies in a change of government. Only a change of government could get rid of these greedy and corrupt BN politicians. What could be more important than serving the larger intertest of the people by affecting a change of government?

Ijok is a good beginning for opposition unity. Top opposition party leaders and members in general have put in serious efforts to campaign for PKR. But we were facing various problems due to a poor uncohesive campaign machinery. I personally feel that Khalid could have done better or even made it if there were greater cooperation among the opposition parties. Only true opposition unity and cohesive machinery could destroy the BTF tactics (bribes, threats and frauds) launched by the corrupt BN coalition.

I strongly suggest DAP to openly team up with PKR, and PKR to team up with Pas. And DAP and Pas must at the same time declare that their common enemy is the Umno-led BN coalition. DAP and Pas may not be allies but we are certainly friends in the opposition. It’s only natural that friends in the opposition must put aside our differences for the benefit of the rakyat. We need to help each other to challenge our common enemy.

We will never be able to convince everyone to agree with the strategic partnership among the opposition parties. But politics is about taking risks. The fear of losing seats is something we need to overcome. The ruling class and those with vested interest will be all out to discourage the opposition from achieving true unity and full cooperation. In short, they fear  opposition unity. They know if the opposition really works together, they will eventually lose their grip on power.

Dear fellow Malaysians, there’s no point crying over spilled milk. Ijok is just a temporary setback. We must not lose sight and we certainly must not lose hope. Ijok is nothing compared to the real war-general elections.

The defeat in Ijok actually gives me hope. What about you?

Source: Malaysiakini

HAPPY Labour Day! Highest tribute to all workers who contribute towards nation-building and a peaceful and prosperous society.

Change the government if you want FOI Act

February 27, 2007
In my tele-interview with Malaysiakini, I said that declassification of toll agreements is only the first step. The coalition against the toll hike will continue to push for review of contracts and seriously consider buying back the highways and allow the people to use them free-of-charge. I also said that the Umno-led BN government is unlikely to adopt the Freedom of Information Act because they have a lot to hide from the people.

公布大道合约作为日后借镜
惟调低过路费才能纾解民怨

实习记者刘国伟
07年2月27日 早上11:12
调整字体大小:

尽管工程部长三美威鲁透露政府将在今年3月杪公开被列为官方机密文件的21份大道合约内容,但是反对党领袖皆认为,政府此举并不能根本解决私营大道过路费猛涨的问题。

日前三美在接受《新海峡时报》访问时表示,当他结束叙利亚的官访返国后,将会寻求内阁的同意以公布大道合约,而大道合约内容最有可能在3月杪公诸于世。

目前国内有21份大道合约,包括还在兴建中的大道工程如布城高速大道、大使路高速大道和关丹登嘉楼大道。

对此,民主行动党非政府组织秘书刘天球(左图)表示,政府公开合约充其量只能让民众了解合约内容,属于“治标不能治本”。

“我们有理由相信合约的内容对人民不利,所以公开合约只是让我们确定事实是否如此。然而要真正解决问题,还必须要求政府检讨合约,以修改不利人民的条款。”

他也希望敦促政府购回大道经营权,并调低大道过路费以减低人民负担。

公开合约能够了解问题症结

人民公正党全国宣传主任蔡添强(右图)也认同刘天球的言论。他向《当今大马》指出,引起民怨的根源不在于合约内容,而是过路费涨价。

“我们要质疑的是,为什么要付那么高的过路费, 政府愿不愿意公开合约只是其次的问题。”

他表示,只有取消大道过路费涨价才是真正的解决方法,这样才能抚平人民的不满。

行动党士布爹区国会议员郭素沁则指出,公开合约能够让人民了解问题症结,作为未来的借镜,避免过路费不合理涨价的现象重演。

国阵议员认为公开机率颇高

然而,民政党蒲种区国会议员卢永平(左图)却欢迎政府此举,认为公开合约能让我国的政治更趋透明化。

“至少公开合约后,我们可以了解及检讨,然后以理智的方式去解决这个问题,所以作为长远目标,我认为是应该公布大道合约。”

他相信政府将依据人民的需求,决定是否公开合约。

“我不确定公开合约的机率有多高,但是我相信公开合约是最好的举动。”

不过他也补充,若与其他国家相比,我国的大道过路费是最低廉的。

马华马六甲市区国会议员王乃志(右图)认为公开大道合约的机率颇高,因为首相阿都拉已在原则上同意此举。

“但是公开的程度及范围就很难说了,有可能是全面解禁,网上也可看到,也可能只让议员及内阁成员知道。”

王乃志也同意,公开合约并不能解决现有问题,但至少可以了解合约的“真相”,作为日后的经验或指导。

“问题的根源在于整个合约上,我觉得至少要先去了解,之后才能找到解决方法。”

大选前的造势来挽回选票?

刘天球及蔡添强不排除政府公开合约,是大选前的“造势功夫”,以期安抚人心及挽回选票。

刘天球也表示,政府公开合约只是做“顺水人情”,目的在于缓和人民对大道过路费涨价的怨气,也借此打造政府开明的形象。

“公开合约并没有损害政府利益,而且又能缓和人民的不满,同时在大选前塑造政府开明的形象,是一举两得的做法。”

刘天球也建议政府把合约上载至在网站,让更多人可以了解。

“不过,就算政府决定公开合约,我相信也是有限度的,并不会公布在媒体上。”

刘天球及郭素沁(左图)也一致认为,公开合约不算是“大选糖果”,充其量只是减低民怨而已。

“如果政府真的调低大道过路费,这才算是个真正的糖果。”

藉大道合约批执政党,反对党被指抹黑

针对公开合约是否旨在为大选造势,卢永平认为两者之间并没有直接关系。

王乃志则表示,凡是从政者都想赢取人民的欢心及信任,避免让人民受难,所以公开合约不一定是政府的“大选糖果”。

“难道反对党在大选前所讲的、所做的、所批评政府的,不是为了大选及获取人民的信任吗?”

他也强调,反对党针对大道合约的批评对执政党不公平,有抹黑政府形象之嫌。

推行《资讯自由法》机率不高

至于我国推行《资讯自由法》的可能性,郭素沁、刘天球及蔡添强皆认为机会不高,因为政府始终有一些不可告人的秘密,例如朋党关系及贪污的问题。

刘天球也表示,在现任执政党的任期下,推行《资讯自由法》的机会虽然不高,所以只能期待更换新政府后才能真正推行该法令。

郭素沁则认为,民间必须施加极大的舆论压力予政府,方能成功推行《资讯自由法》。

而令人惊讶的是,在接受询问时,某些执政党议员也赞成推行这项法令。卢永平就认为推行《资讯自由法》可以让人民获取更多的讯息。

“但是我觉得本国的资讯流通已经逐渐自由,如目前网际网络的资讯搜索。”

王乃志表示,虽然国会暂无推行《资讯自由法》的意愿,但是他个人却表示赞成及支持制定该法令。

“其实国外早有《资讯自由法》的存在,该法也区分政府机密与人民知情权,我觉得我国应该清楚列明这些分类。”

由34个非政府组织所组成的“全国资讯自由法联盟”(National Coalition for Freedom of Information Act)曾要求政府公布所有的大道合约、撤销对4名领袖的调查,同时制定《资讯自由法》来取代《1972年官方机密法令》。

有关联盟更在参考了世界各国的资讯自由法和执行经验后,在不久前完成了该法的草案。该联盟目前正在说服回教党吉兰丹州政府在州级制定此法令,而回教党副主席胡桑慕沙已表明,该党有意愿在吉兰丹制定此法令。

Say “No” to banning of Amir’s movie and Aru’s book

February 22, 2007
It’s a real pity that Malaysians were denied the opportunity to watch a movie by Amir and to read a book by Aru. Both Arumugam and Amir are towering Malaysians ( borrowing the word from AAB) . Both of them were well- known for their love for the Malaysian people and their bold, critical and fresh views on issues important to culture, education and history in this country.It’s Amir and Aru’s rights to present their views on such so-called sensitive issues. Banning such movies and books only goes to show that the authority has no guts to allow Malaysians to know the naked truth of these important historical events.

We urge the authority to lift the ban immediately.

Malaysiakini has the stories…

Another ‘communist’ movie banned

Feb 22, 07 4:34pm Adjust font size:
Local film-maker Amir Muhammad’s latest offering Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (known abroad as ‘Village People Radio Show’) has been banned for allegedly glorifying the struggle of the “communist united front”.Disclosing this on his blog today, Amir said the movie was sent to the Malaysian Censorship Board for approval on Jan 18 and the decision to ban it was made on Feb 12.The board cited seven reasons for this:

  1. The theme of the movie portrays the struggle of the ‘communist united front’ as something noble which deserves recognition.
  2. The film also shows that the Malaysian government had acted unfairly by not appreciating their struggle.
  3. The film carries the views and stories from the communist side alone regarding their stand and objectives of their struggle in order for society to feel sympathetic towards them and be appreciative of their actions.
  4. There are clear criticisms against the Malaysian government for offering a rehabilitation scheme which could not be accepted as opposed to the Thai government which offered them land, houses and basic amenities once they stopped being communists. The film also featured insults against the sultanate and Malays.
  5. The film also attempts to ridicule Tunku Abdul Rahman as the person who caused the Baling Talks to fail when in actual fact it was the communists who had refused to lay down their arms.
  6. Former communist members likened their struggle to that of Malay warriors who fought against the British such as Dato’ Bahaman, Mat Kilau, Tok Gajah, Dato’ Maharaja Lela, Tok Janggut and others. This is a distortion of historical facts.
  7. This film is not suitable for public viewing as its inaccurate facts touch on the sensitivities and painful memories of members of the security forces and public who were victims of the communists.

According to Amir, whose previous movie Lelaki Komunis Terakhir (The Last Communist) was also banned, has until March 10 to appeal.

Lift the ban

In an immediate reaction, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) condemned the ban and called for it to be lifted.

“The reasons given by the censorship board blatantly transgress Article 10 of the Federal Constitution’s guarantee of free speech. The right to criticise government policy and behaviour is a vital aspect of any democracy,” said its executive director Sonia Randhawa in a statement.

“Resorting to banning the movie, rather than engaging in the concerns raised there by the former communists, indicates insecurity and makes it increasingly difficult for Malaysians to assess and relate to this period of history,” she added.

She said lifting the ban on Apa Khabar Orang Kampung and its prequel Lelaki Komunis Terakhir would indicate that the government’s commitment to an open and transparent society is more than just rhetoric.

“CIJ is also concerned that banning locally made films encourages a culture of self-censorship among local film-makers, which is opposed to Malaysia’s policy of establishing itself as a ‘global centre and hub for communications and multimedia information and content services.’

“We urge the Internal Security Ministry to encourage local film production, regardless of politics, and to repeal the Film Censorship Act,” she added.

Apart from banning films, the government has recently banned 56 books deemed objectionable by the authorities.

Banned book’s author to file for judicial review
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz
Feb 22, 07 3:03pm
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The author of March 8 – which details the Kampung Medan clashes of 2001 – will file for a judicial review against the government’s decision to ban the book.K Arumugam is expected to file the suit with the Kuala Lumpur High Court tomorrow to seek damages for the proscription.Apart from media reports and personal research, March 8 also contains eye-witness accounts on the clashes that left six people dead and over 90 injured. The victims were predominantly Indians.

Contacted today, Arumugam’s lawyer Edmund Bon said it appears that the ban is aimed at ending public discussions and questions about the incident.

Arumugam’s book suggested that the incident was not a ‘racial’ or ‘internal’ conflict between residents of Kampung Medan as claimed by the authorities.

Challenging move

Bon argued that the ban infringes on the fundamental rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“They’ve breached my client’s constitutional rights to freedom of expression as well as the public’s right to information.

“Arumugam was not even informed of the ban but found out after reading about it in news reports. Plus, he was never given the opportunity to be heard before the ban was imposed,” he said.

Bon conceded that the attempt at a judicial review would be “challenging” given the wide discretionary powers held by the internal security minister under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

However, he said the attempt must be made for the sake of Malaysians’ right to record and know about their own history.

“As my client himself has said, this is a denial of history,” he noted.

March 8 was among 18 books banned by the Internal Security Ministry. The other books include Kamasutra: Apakah Kebaikannya (Kamasutra: What are its benefits) by Drs Munir Rahmat, Pengakuan Mangsa Rogol (A rape victim’s confession) by Ayu Mayangsari, Negara Tuhan (God’s country) by Tigga, The Origin of Species by F Susilohardo Basuki Hernowo, Islam and the West: A New Political and Religious Order Post September 11 by Robert Van de Weyer, and numerous others.

OSA threat: Orientaldaily calls for FOI Act

February 21, 2007
The local Chinese daily, in its editorial today, urges the Government to “take the bull by the horns” by passing the Freedom of Information Act in the Parliament. It says that ” to reveal the agreements of toll concessionaires is not sufficient and good enough”. Yes, BN must respect and recognise the basic rights of the Rakyat, including the right to know.It’s time for FOI, Mr Prime Minister.

直面問題:請訂立資訊自由法 – Wednesday, February 21, 2007

2007年伊始,巴生谷5條大道收費大漲,引起民眾譁然,隨即展開一系列的示威抗議,而在反對黨、許多民間團體及非政府組織不斷窮追猛打之下,工程部長三美威魯日前終于福至心靈地披露,首相已同意公開所有私營化大道合約,惟須先致函給大道公司征求同意,以及進一步獲得內閣通過,始能將合約內容解密。

華人農曆新年正酣,加上較早前媒體不斷對選舉日期捕風捉影、內閣放話將承認中國北大和清華的中文系學位等動作,此刻政府態度放軟愿為大道合約內容解密,很難不讓人理解為:這是一份充滿試探意味的政治紅包,選舉跫音確實已近。

經過多少人士的鍥而不捨,如今若說連這種「公諸于世」的法子都深獲好評,甚至被譽為貫徹政府打造廉正政治文化的典範,不但有過于矯情之嫌,更模糊了問題的核心。說到底,公開大道合約不過是當局面對民間壓力下的被動反應,相較于首相阿都拉不斷重複「時機一到,就宣布大選日期」,我們有必要指出,廢除官方機密法令,另訂資訊自由法,尊重人民「知的權利」,才能展現改革誠意與擔當。除此之外沒有別的,任何大費周章的解密或開封,都不過是顧左右而言他、迴避焦點的短線操作。

在民主國家裡,國民對政府政策的內容及執行的情形享有知的權利,也是必須被保護的基本權利,政府也有將上述資訊告知人民的義務。因此,要提升與維護民眾「知的權利」,不是譏諷反對人士為「街邊嬉耍的孩童」、「明知故犯」,而是得推動類似「資訊自由法案」與「陽光法案」的立法工作,將公共事務領域的資訊放在人民面前,促進民主社會的理性討論。

在法制國家中,涉及人民權利義務之法令,乃是引導政府施政、民眾生活及市場機能的規範基礎。基于「公開政府」(open government)之理念,政府機關的組織、決策與執行,都應力求透明公開,並接受公眾的監督。政府透過健全的公報制度,主動且有系統地為人民提供施政相關的動態資訊,具有滿足民眾知的權利的作用。

為保障人民「知的權利」,分享政府資訊,增進對公共事務了解,基于「資訊共享」及「施政公開」理念,當局應參酌瑞典、美國、加拿大、日本等國的經驗,理解施政公開化與透明化需要,儘速擬定政府資訊公開法草案送交國會審議。在這項原則下,當局應主動對國民公開各項資訊,刊載出版、于政府網站公布或其他足以使公眾得知的方式公開,絕非如三美威魯所言「把文件放在工程部辦公室,供有興趣者審閱」這般簡單。

隨著社會急速變遷及政府職能的擴增,民眾為參與制訂公共政策、監督政府施政作為、或是從事各項經濟活動,都有賴大量且正確之資訊,而政畦翱O各項資訊的最大擁有者,為達施政公開化與透明化,政府資訊公開乃成當前重要施政目標和首要條件。不過,政府資訊的公開必須兼顧國家機密,程序正義與民眾個人權利,但是這其中的定義不應由當局單方面主導。

總之,資訊公開旨在讓「潘朵拉的盒子」變成透明,而建立一套完善的政府資訊公開法制乃民主國家之必然趨勢,只有在民眾與政府之間資訊不對稱的情況改善后,才能透過民主機制,揪出幽闇之處的魑魅魍魎,朝清明廉正更進一步。

 

OSA threat: Gerak launched a new book on FOI

February 5, 2007
Keadilan leader Ezam Mohn Nor,PAS Youth chief Salahuddin Ayob, DAP Selangor Chief Ean Yong Hian Wah and BMC-OARAC chairman Tan Boon Wah were among some 50  political leaders and activists who gave their solidarity and support to us at the Bukit Aman PDRM HQ this morning.Ezam also took the opportunity to luanch a new book co-authored by him on the importance of Freedom of Information in this country . Ezam won his case when he was charged under OSA two years ago. He was set free by Judge KN Segara. Ezam is also the president of Gerak, an NGO committed to democracy and corruption-free society.

四反对党领袖武吉安曼录口供
辩称不知大道合约是机密文件

郭史光庆
07年2月5日 中午12:17
malaysiakini
4名反对党领袖今日在40名支持者的拥护下,于今早10时浩浩荡荡前往武吉阿曼警察总部,针对泄漏官方机密文件的案件接受警方问话。蔡添强(人民公正党宣传局主任)、卡立依布拉欣(Khalid Ibrahim,人民公正党总财政)、刘天球(民主行动党非政府组织局主任)和哈达蓝立(Hatta Ramli,回教党总财政)是因为在今年1月4日召开记者招待会,公布白浦大道的特许经营合约,而遭警方援引《1972年官方机密法令》盘问调查。不过,卡立在另外3名领袖抵达之前,已自行驱车进入警局,其他3人则在外头等待支持者聚集后方进入警局。警方只允许有关4人与他们的律师进入武吉阿曼警察总部,其他的支持者与记者只能在外等候。陪同他们一起接受盘问,以提供法律意见的四名律师则是哈尼巴迈丁(Hanipa Maidin)、西华纳森(A Sivanesan)、三苏依斯甘达(Shamsul Iskandar)和卡玛鲁希山(Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin)。

警方往蔡添强办公室和住家搜查

武吉阿曼警察总部盘问在下午1时45分左右结束,接着两名查案官即拉惹哥巴(ASP A Rajakopal )和苏海米道勿(ASP Abdullah Suhaimi Daud ),於下午时分前往位于吉隆坡十五碑的人民公正党党报《公正之声》总部的蔡添强办公室进行搜查。

在20分钟的搜查过程中,蔡添强全程陪同在旁,警方最终没有取走任何文件。在搜查过蔡添强办公室后,警方目前正前往蔡添强位于冼都住家进行搜查行动。

这四名反对党领袖与“反对大道收费起价联盟”成员,除了在有关的记者会上公布他们所持有的白蒲大道合约副本,也公开挑战政府公布其他大道的合约。有关的合约副本厚达200页,并附有工程部秘书长及Litrak大道公司负责人的签名及盖章。

他们指责政府在罔顾使用者利益的情况下,签署有关偏袒大道公司的合约,并揭露合约早已定下大道过路费的涨幅,不仅收费丝毫不受交通流量的影响,政府也无权重新检讨合约或调整过路费。

若这四名反对党领袖今日缺席警方的传召盘问,那么他们将会触犯官方机密法令之下的第11条文。

警方表示他们是根据一项在白沙罗警局所做出的投报,并依据1972年官方机密法令第11条文传召有关人士以录取口供。触犯有关条文者可能面对坐牢一年的惩罚。警方也要求这四名在野党领袖,携带一切有关白蒲大道合约大道合约的文件或副本,前来录取口供。

另一方面,其中一名律师三苏依斯甘达告诉《当今大马》说,他们估计今日的盘问将会耗费很长的时间。他也透露说,这四名在野党领袖将会辩称,他们并不知道白浦大道特许经营合约是一份机密文件。

根据《1972年官方机密法令》,部长及部长授权的官员可将任何官方文件列为机密文件,泄漏或拥有官方机密文件都当违法论,罪名成立可被判强制性监禁最少一年。

此外,这项法令也具有追溯权力,一旦部长将文件列为官方机密,法令能够追究在之前公布该文件的人士。

武吉阿曼前推介资讯自由新书

今早前往武吉阿曼为4人打气的其他反对党领袖包括回青团团长沙拉胡丁(Salahuddin Ayub)、公青团副宣传主任巴都希山(Badrul Hisham)和民主与反贪运动(Gerak)主席依桑(Ezam Mohd Noor)。

大多前往声援的支持者都是参与昨日第4场反大道涨价示威的参与者,他们在今早可谓是“在太岁头上动土”,在武吉阿曼大门前的公路上高举党旗,并向来往的车辆展示反对官方机密法令的布条与海报。

不过,除了在一旁拍摄支持者的政治部人员和维持交通秩序的警员,警方并未进行干预。

另外,民主与反贪运动也在武吉阿曼大门前,进行了一场别开生面的新书推介礼,推介该组织所出版的第一本著作-《马来西亚的资讯自由》(Freedom of Information in Malaysia,左图)。

这本厚达57页的英文书籍由依桑和另一名该组织领袖法妲(Fahda Nur Ahmad Kamar)联合撰写的书籍,叙述他们对马来西亚资讯自由状况的看法,包括依桑在坐牢期间的文章。

依桑曾经在2002年8月公开有关当时的马六甲首席部长拉欣(Rahim Tamby Chik)和贸工部长拉菲达(Rafidah Aziz)涉嫌贪污的调查文件,因而触犯《1972年官方机密法令》,被判入狱两年。但是高庭却在两年后却推翻之前的判决。

为新书进行推介的沙拉胡丁表示,这本书籍收录了依桑身为一名受害者的亲身体验和痛苦,也反映了人民要求资讯自由的心声。

批阿都拉食言,资讯自由每况愈下

依桑在推介礼上表示,尽管在2003年上台的阿都拉信誓旦旦,要展开有别与前首相马哈迪的施政方式,但是阿都拉政权之下的资讯自由却每况愈下。

“马哈迪执政时只有我一个人遭对付,现在却有4个人遭对付,情况更加糟糕。”

他补充,该组织也将把该书籍推介至国际社会,“我们要告诉全世界,资讯自由是马来西亚民主制度里的一项关键问题”。

他将在本月7日至10日前往韩国出席“5月18日纪念基金会”(May 18 Memorial Foundation)的国际顾问委员会会议,届时他将在借用这项国际平台,向出席的各国非政府组织代表推介该书籍。

欲获取此书的人士可以前往该组织位于格拉娜再也的办事处索取,或浏览该组织网站http://info.gerakmalaysia.org/index.php以获取更多详情。

Siasatan OSA: Empat pemimpin pembangkang hadir di Bukit Aman
Feb 5, 07 12:31pm malaysiakini
Empat orang pemimpin pembangkang hadir di Bukit Aman pagi ini bersama peguam masing-masing berhubung siasatan polis di bawah Akta Rahsia Rasmi (OSA).Keempat-empatnya – Bendahari PKR Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Ketua Penerangan PKR Tian Chua, Ketua Biro NGO DAP, Ronnie Liu dan Bendahari PAS Dr Hatta Ramli – diarah hadir di Bukit Aman hari ini berhubung pendedahan kandungan perjanjian konsesi tol.

Mereka akan disiasat di bawah OSA kerana mendedahkan kandungan perjanjian tersebut. Para peguam – Hanipah Maidin, A Sivanesan, Shamsul Iskandar dan Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin – turut hadir untuk memberi nasihat kepada mereka.

Pada 4 Januari lalu, mereka menunjukkan kepada wartawan salinan dokumen berhubung perjanjian konsesi tol bagi Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) yang dikendalikan oleh Litrak.

Menurut mereka, dokumen rahsia setebal 200 muka surat itu menunjukkan kerajaan telah menjamin keuntungan kepada syarikat konsesi.

Jika mereka gagal hadir hari ini, ia merupakan satu kesalahan mengikut Seksyen 11 akta tersebut.

Menurut polis, mereka akan menyiasat perkara itu mengikut Seksyen 8 akta berkenaan berdasarkan kepada satu laporan polis yang telah dibuat di Damansara.

Polis geledah

Mereka yang didapati bersalah di bawah akta tersebut menghadapi hukuman setahun penjara mandotari.

Peguam Shamsul memberitahu malaysiakini bahawa mereka menjangka sesi memberi keterangan itu mungkin memakan masa yang panjang.

Kira-kira 40 penyokong turut berhimpun di luar Bukit Aman. Keempat mereka selesai memberi keterangan pada jam 1.45 tengahari.

Kemudian, pegawai penyiasat ASP A Rajakopal bersama seorang lagi pegawai polis mengeledah pejabat penerbitan PKR, Suara Keadilan, di Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

Mereka mengeledah selama 20 minit tetapi tidak merampas sebarang dokumen.

Manakala sekumpulan lagi pasukan polis turut mngeledah rumah Chua di Sentul berhubung siasatan di bawah OSA.

阿都拉援引机密法令整肃异己
依占武吉安曼前推介最新著作
■日期/Feb 05, 2007   ■时间/06:58:49 pm
■新闻/家国风云   ■作者/本刊林宏祥
           

【本刊林宏祥撰述】前人民公正党青年团团长、现反贪污运动(Gerak)主席依占(Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor)今日上午在武吉安曼(Bukit Aman警察总部大门前,推介其最新著作《马来西亚的资讯自由》(Freedom of Information in Malaysia),并形容承诺变革的首相阿都拉巴达威治国方式与前任首相马哈迪并无差异。

依占说:(在援引《1972年官方机密法令》方面)马哈迪时代只对付我一个,但是阿都拉的时代却对付四个!

原订明日于反贪污运动办事处推介的《马来西亚的资讯自由》,为配合四名政治领袖因在今年14日公布白沙罗-蒲种大道(白蒲大道)的特许经营合约副本而被传召调查,提前今日先行推介此书的英文版。依占本身也将在本月7日至10日远赴韩国,迈开向世界推介此书的第一步。

民主行动党非政府组织局主任刘天球、回教党总财政哈达蓝立(Hatta Ramli)、人民公正党总财政卡立依布拉欣(Khalid Ibrahim)以及全国宣传主任蔡添强今日上午10时前往警察总部,接受调查。数十名支持者在警局外等候,并在大约三小时后,高喊烈火莫熄Reformasi)口号迎接他们步出警察总部

亲身体验恶法的残酷

回教党青年团团长兼吉兰丹州古邦阁亮(Kubang Kerian)国会议员沙拉胡丁(Salahuddin Ayub,右图)受邀推介此书。他说:依占不仅仅是以笔杆、思考来撰写此书,更是身历其境,以其经验来撰写这本书,献给所有脉搏因渴望自由而跳动的马来西亚人民!

依占在28岁时出任当时副首相安华依布拉欣的政治秘书,在安华大权旁落后,声称拥有六箱高官的贪污证据,轰动一时。他在1999116日,在该党党所一项记者会上,公开反贪污局调查国际贸易与工业部长拉菲达(Rafidah Aziz)以及前马六甲首席部长拉欣(Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik)的贪污报告,因而在《1972年官方机密法令》下被控。

20014月,依占在《1960年内安法令》下被逮捕与扣留。20028月,八打灵再也地庭宣判依占抵触《1972年官方机密法令》,监禁两年。依占于是从甘文丁扣留营搬迁到加影监狱(Kajang)。

莎亚南(Shah Alam)高庭在20044月听审依占的上诉,法官瑟加拉(K.N Segara)甚至在推翻地庭之前的判决时,指《1972年官方机密法令》161)(a)条文是没有意义的、可憎的、残酷的、专制的

无论如何,反贪局调查报告的两名主角拉菲达与拉欣并安然无恙,拉菲达至今依然是国际贸易与工业部长。

机密法令是执政党掩盖贪污工具

回顾过去,相对于罪状无所不在的《1960年内安法令》,《1972年官方机密法令》鲜少被用来对付异己。根据马来西亚人民之声(Suram)《1995年--1999年马来西亚民权与政治报告书》(Laporan Khas Hak Sivil dan Politik Malaysia),在资讯自由这一篇章,提及《1972年官方机密法令》时的例子尚停留在国家银行在1994年涉及马币300亿元的外币交易;以及巴昆(Bakun)水坝计划的内容。

在接下来的年度人权报告书中,依占的案例就成了主要的题材。

依占在这本与法律工作者法达(Fahda Nur Ahmad Kamar)合著的《马来西亚的资讯自由》一书中,就揭露连自己在28岁被委为政治秘书的委任状都属于机密,虽然他的委任仪式并非暗中进行。

这名多年来忠于安华、也是备受争议的年轻政治人物在书中坚称,有关法令多年来一直成为贪污滥权的庇护所,并呼吁制订自由资讯法令,保障人民的知情权。

蔡添强:我们相信自己是对的!

下午145分,刘天球、卡立依布拉欣、哈达蓝立与蔡添强步出警局。蔡添强向群众发言时坚称他们所做的一切是正确的,并认为涉及公共利益的课题不应在《1972年官方机密法令》下被遮掩。

他说,警方暂时没有告知后续行动,因此无法预知接下来的发展。无论如何,两名警官在下午三时前往蔡添强办事处与住家搜查,寻找白蒲大道合约副本,惟无功而返。

 

Free Trade Agreement:We need your time and action on 3 Jan 2007.

December 28, 2006

 The NGOs in Malaysia were very busy and often bogged down by too many burning issues at hands thanks to weak leadership of this man on the left. We were forced to spend our limited resources, energy and time on campaigning against numerous Umno-led Barisan Nasional government policies and privatisation projects concerning the rights and wellbeing of the rakyat…incinerator in water catchment area, illegal high-tension transmission towers in residental areas, unequal treatment of mother-tongue education, press freedom, freedom of religion, judiciary and police reforms, privatisation (read price increase) of water, healthcare, tolls, fuels…and now FTAs.

On the surface, bilateral FTAs are fair and square to the two nations committed to the agreement. Both countries can buy and sell whatever products and services between them on the same set of rules and conditions. It’s a level playing field so to speak. But the problem lies in the unequal strength of the two countries. Just like a 5 footer with a body weight of 60 kg has to fight with a 6 footer of150kg in the boxing ring. Yes, they both have to compete under the same set of rules and conditions. But even a child can tell you that such a fight is lopsided and unfair to the weaker opponent.

In theory, Malaysia can sell our computers and sofwares to the Americans. The Amricans , like wise, can sell their computers and softwares to Malaysians. But what kind of computers and softwares we could offer to the consumers in America? If we allow government procurement to be free up, is there a Malaysian company that can compete with the US giants, whether in the US or back home?

The minute we enter FTA with America, Malaysians would not be allowed to buy generic drugs anymore.Can our patients here afford to buy the patented drugs which were much more expensive?

Many countries  have suffered badly after entering FTA with US. Mexico, Australia, Latin America and Singapore, just to name a few. For instance, some 2 million farmers in Mexico lost their jobs because they could not compete with the American farmers.

So, we need AAB to gives us a report on the pros and cons of entering FTA with America. Malaysians have a right to know how much we will gain and how much we will lose if we sign the FTA. We will then decide whether we should support or reject the FTAs. That’s in the interest of all Malaysians and the Umnio-led BN Government has no right to keep us in the dark before signing the FTA with America.

The AAB administration must be condemed for signing a lopsided FTA with Japan quietly without consultation with the rakyat and the Parliamentarians. They now wanted to rush into agreement with the US, again without consultation with the rakyat and the Parliamentarians. Minister Rafidah Aziz has not bothered to respond to the coalition of NGOs despite of numerous requests for meeting and dialogue.

Here’s a campaign which need your participation. Your participation will certainly make a difference.

GABUNGAN RAKYAT MEMBANTAH FTA US-MALAYSIA

www.jerit.org  

Dear Friends of NGO, Community Organizations and Concerned Individuals The Malaysia -US Free Trade Agreement talks  is proceeding to the 4th round of negotiations, which will take place from the 8th -12 January 2007 in San Francisco US.

Despite numerous letters and memorandums sent on our concerns, the government has not addressed our concerns. The government is just pushing through the talks very fast without getting feedback from the civil society, unions, NGOs, parliament members and the people of Malaysia.

In this process, the Malaysian citizens or the parliament are not aware what is being negotiated and what we are trading off. We are not even sure whether they have done their cost and benefit analysis as they claim to have done and what is the outcome.

If the FTA is signed next year, Malaysians are going to face more economic problems, increase in medicine prices, job losses, local industry unable to compete with US companies and the list goes on. (To know more: www.ftamalaysia.org)  

Thus in order to intensify our campaign and also to pressure the government to stop and listen to us, a NATIONWIDE FAXING CAMPAIGN is being planned on the 3rd of January, 2007 

The Coalition Against FTA is urging all NGOs, community organizations and concerned citizens to fax in their protest letters against the Malaysia-US FTA on the  3rd January 2007 to the Prime Minister’s office and Dato’ Rafidah’s office. Fax in as many protest letters as you can, if possible please get each member of your organization to fax in the protest letter to the PM’s office and Dato’ Rafidah’s office. A sample letter has been included for your reference.  

Details of the campaign:  Date: 3rd January 2007 Time: 8am-5pm  

We in the coalition hope that you will give full support for this campaign.

Let’s JOIN FORCES TO OPPOSE THE MALAYSIA-US FTA which is going to TRADE AWAY OUR LIVES AND RIGHTS.   If you have further inquiries please call Kohila: 0192275982. Please mail us a copy of yr protest letter to jerit2002@gmail.com  Thank you.  

Kohila

Gabungan Rakyat Membantah FTA US-Malaysia     

Sample letter of protest  

Letter Head Organisasi 

Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi        

Perdana Menteri Malaysia                                      

Pejabat Perdana Menteri,                                        

 Blok Utama, Bangunan Perdana Putra,                             

 Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan,                       

62502 Putrajaya                                                        

No Faks: 03-8888 3444                                                        

Y.B. Dato’ Seri Rafidah binti Abd. Aziz

Menteri Perdagangan Antarabangsa & IndustriKementerian Perdagangan Antarabangsa

Tingkat 14, Blok 10Kompleks Pejabat Kerajaan, Jalan Duta,50622 Kuala LumpurNo Faks: 03-6201 2301 

HENTIKAN RUNDINGAN US-MALAYSIA FTA DENGAN SEGERA  

Kami/Saya _______________ dari _________________________ ingin menyuarakan bantahan   kami terhadap tindakan Kementerian Perdagangan   Antarabangsa dan Industri yang akan meneruskan rundingan Perjanjian Perdagangan Bebas , Amerika Syarikat – Malaysia( US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement) yang akan berlangsung pada 8hb Januari hingga 12hb.Januari ,2007,  di San Francisco, US.  Pada 8 Mac, 2006, Kerajaan Malaysia dan Amerika Syarikat mengumumkan niat untuk memulakan rundingan perjanjian perdagangan bebas dua hala (FTA)..

Kami berpendapat rundingan ini dijalankan secara  gesa-gesa demi menyelesaikan rundingan secepat mungkin, untuk mengambil kesempatan “fast track authority” Presiden US yang akan berakhir pada pertengahan 2007.   Kami menyedari bahawa skop rundingan meliputi banyak sektor yang amat penting kepada rakyat Malaysia yang boleh memberikan kesan terhadap pekerjaan dan jaminan keselamatan makanan, akses terhadap ubatan yang lebih murah, ketahanan industri domestik dan penyedia perkhidmatan, daya maju firma dan ladang kecil dan seterusnya kedaulatan negara.   Kami amat terkejut apabila mendapati bahawa rundingan penting seperti ini dijalankan dalam keadaan paling tidak demokratik dan tidak telus. Tidak terdapat penelitian Parlimen terhadap apa yang dipersetujui, walaupun dasar dan undang-undang sedia ada ditukar atau diubah suai untuk memenuhi kehendak Amerika Syarikat. Begitu juga tidak terdapat ruang untuk penyertaan atau maklum balas awam dalam proses ini walaupun kehidupan rakyat biasa akan terjejas. Ini juga bertentangan dengan komitmen kerajaan pada masa ini untuk ketelusan dan akauntabiliti. 

Kami juga menyedari bahawa terdapat bantahan di seluruh dunia berhubung dengan FTA Amerika Syarikat sepertimana yang dialami oleh negara-negara di Amerika Latin dan yang terbaru adalah di Thailand. Kami juga tahu bahawa dalam FTA yang telah dipersetujui dengan Amerika Syarikat, komitmen oleh negara membangun telah melangkaui kewajipan dalam WTO. Ini amat tidak adil dan tidak wajar.  

Maka kami menuntut supaya :  

1.       Kerajaan Malaysia harus membuat Penilaian Kos- Faedah Komprehensif Malaysia –US FTA ini dari semua aspek dan hasil kajiannya   harus diumumkan kepada rakyat  Malaysia.

2.       Minit    Perundingan Dan Isu Perbincangan Diantara Amerika  Dan Malaysia  Dalam Perjanjian Ini Mestilah Diumumkan kepada Rakyat Malaysia .

3.       Suatu Mekanisma Maklumbalas Dan Komen diwujudkan untuk membolehkan Rakyat Biasa Menyuarakan Kepentingan Dan Kebimbangan Mereka   Mengenai   Implikasi  Us-Malaysia FTA

4.       Perbincangan Yang Lebih Telus Dan  Direpresentasi Oleh Pelbagai  Pertubuhan Rakyat  , Badan  Bukan    Kerajaan , Pertubuhan Hak Asasi , Suhakam , Parti Politik , Kesatuan Pekerja  Mesti Diadakan  Dengan    Segera Untuk Menerangkan  Perkembangan Perundingan Dan Menerima Maklumbalas Daripada Wakil –Wakil Tersebut.

5.        Sehingga Kerajaan Melaksanakan Tuntutan –Tuntutan Seperti   Diatas , Segala   Perundingan Susulan  Dengan  Amerika   Mengenai   US-Malaysia  Free Trade  Agreement  Hendaklah Ditangguh .  

Pada masa sekarang, memandangkan kurangnya ketelusan dan akauntabiliti dalam rundingan yang kini sedang berjalan dan kemungkinan besar hasil yang berat sebelah dalam rundingan FTA Amerika Syarikat-Malaysia, kami menggesa kerajaan supaya menghentikan dengan segera semua rundingan yang selanjutnya berhubung perkara ini. Sehingga Penilaian Kos-Faedah Komprehensif dilakukan, dan diumumkan kepada orang ramai dan dibuka untuk penelitian Parlimen dan orang ramai serta mendapat maklum balas dan mendapati memberikan manfaat kepada rakyat Malaysia, rundingan Malaysia –US FTA harus dihentikan dengan segera.  

Yang benar   

Still no KDN permits for all Chinese newspapers

December 22, 2006

2007 is merely 9 days away but I was alerted by friends working in the media that none of the Chinese newspapers have received their KDN permit.

Every year, the Home Ministry will keep the Chinese newspapers in great suspense by delaying the issuance of permits.

What is so difficult for the Home Ministry to issue the annual printing and publication permits? Is this one of the tactics employed by the Home Ministry to intimidate the Chinese media?

Malaysians by now should know that almost every single English and Malay newspapers in the country are directly owned and controlled by Umno or MCA. Majority of the Chinese papers are owned by pro-establishment tycoons who are connected to MCA and other Barisan Nasional component parties. But these papers are relatively having more freedom in reporting news if you campare to the Malay and English ones( The Sun is an exception). These Chinese papers were subject to tight scrutiny of the Umno-led Government and the chief editors of these Chinese dailies often receive calls and directives from ministers or senior officials. They were often asked to tone down or even black out certain news and issues. The recent exaample was the toll hikes. Najib has forewarned all media not to highlight the issue before Samy Vellu announced the new toll fees for the 5 highways in Klang Valley the next day. Samy told the reporters not to ask any questions throughout the press conference. They just have to report what he has got to say.

Little wonder that most of the mainstream newspapers in the country now only print news that their political masters wanted you to read. More and more people are now going to the Net instead of waiting for their morning newspapers.

Bravo !!! Karam Singh of TV3

December 8, 2006

 Karam Singh cited the “Raja Zakaria” case as one of the examples why he believes the resoration of local council elections would be good for the people. DAP launched a year-long campaign (Restoration of local government elections) in 2005 as we believe that such exercise allows the people to keep the local councils accountable to the people. The present system fails to work as all coucilors were elected by their political masters and they feel that they were not accountable to the rakyat since they were elected by them. Bravo, Karam Singh!

Malaysiakini has the story…

TV personality calls for local council polls

Soon Li Tsin
Dec 8, 06 6:57pm


The poor state of affairs concerning local councils has reached a stage where it can only be overcome with the return of local council elections, one of the panelists at the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) dialogue programme with media noted.Broadcast journalist Karam Singh Walia told participants at the dialogue entitled ‘The media’s role and human rights’ in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that he had witnessed and heard testimonies of poor management by the local councillors.

“These little Napoleons are supposed to be the front line men of the Barisan Nasional goverment. But they have time and time again failed miserably to deliver on a fair and civil administration,” Karam said.“A promise was given that local council elections would be put back in place after the May 13, 1969 riots were over. Until today, that has remained an empty promise,” he said.

Karam said local council elections should be brought back to stop the mismanagement of local authorities and the appointment of unqualified councillors.

“I say this in my own personal capacity and not as a TV3 journalist that if we bring back elections for councillors at all local councils in this country, it’s going to make our lives better, protect the environment and a lot of people will be happier,” he said.

He pointed out that local councillors who fail to perform could be voted out in the next election and qualified candidates like doctors, engineers and architects can be brought in.

‘A lucrative job’

Karam cited several examples of local councillors who have failed to deliver amongst them Port Klang assemblyperson Zakaria Mohd Deros, recently involved in
a controversy over his illegally constructed mansion.“How did a railway-gate keeper become a millionaire so quickly? He can even afford a big car and Gucci sunglasses and was the Umno division head for 22 years. Where’s the transparency?”

Karam also highlighted the RM40,000 spent by the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) for a training stint for their councillors in Genting Highlands.“They could have held it in their MPS hall. The money saved could be used to set up a clinic in the outskirts or to pave roads that are used by thousands of people,” he lamented.

“Who are these councillors? They are people who have no inkling about government administration. I was told by former councillors that being a councillor is a lucrative job because they get money from setting up small companies and getting tenders,” said Karam.

Other panelists at the dialogue included International Movement for a Just World president Dr Chandra Muzaffar, Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan and Sisters in Islam programme manager Norhayati Kaprawi.