The cheek and chicanery of Shahrizat Jalil


Much has been written about the mismanagement of National Feedlot Corporation that most of you have already heard the gory details.

But let’s bring some perspective into this issue. Let’s remember  how we first heard about this issue.

It was the Auditor General’s report, not Pakatan Rakyat politicians who first highlighted this issue, calling the project a mess. Read more here.

Remember that the PKR folks just followed the dirt trail after that. And you know where it led; to luxury condos and luxury cars and whatnot.

When addressing the Wanita Umno hordes earlier this week, its chief Shahrizat Jalil was vociferous in her anger against those she said were attacking Wanita Umno.

Mistake #1. Who’s attacking Wanita Umno? It is you Shahrizat, whose conduct is in question here. You and your family. You say you are innocent of what is going on in NFC because that is your husband’s business and not yours? You must think we are all cows, with cowdung for brains.

So all the sleeve-pulling, angry rhetorics and this whole wanking exercise that was Shahrizat’s speech did not address the fundamental issue; How come her family got the project in the first place?

Mistake #2. Noh Omar, Muhyiddin Yassin and Khairy Jamaluddin all rushed to her defence, but not one of them addressed the question above.

Mistake #3. The cops, almost immediately after MACC passed the baton to them(saying this was not a graft issue), stated that  preliminary investigations showed there was no element of Criminal Breach of Trust.

But who’s going to answer these fundamental questions?

1) Under what criteria did Shahrizat’s family get the contract?

2) Who approved it and when? Was it when Muhyiddin was Agriculture Minister?

3) Why the purchase of a luxury condo in Bangsar, and the luxury car?

4) The RM83 million soft loan…who signed off on it and what was it meant for?

5) From where did the money come (83 million)?

6) Seeing that it is some kind of government allocation, are they allowed to spend the money on purchases totally unrelated to the cow business?

7) Is it the policy of the BN government to allow Ministers’ families to benefit from national projects?

8) If the National Feedlot project is a national project, then why is it allegedly supplying meat to fancy restaurants owned by Shahrizat’s family?

Why aren’t they addressing these questions? Even within Umno there is already discord over this matter. That means even to them, this issue is indefensible.

Without addressing these questions, I daresay Shahrizat is a liability come GE13. Already a backdoor Minister, it is unlikely that she will win at any seat she contests in.

 

 

A mammoth tower that makes Malaysians “bebel”


The Malaysian Minister of Tourism, Ng Yen Yen says the 100-storey Warisan Merdeka building will be a catalyst for spurring tourism growth.

I’m not sure what she’s smoking, but if it gave her that kinda rose-tinted outlook, I want some of that. There are very few things that one reads in the Malaysian media these days that give one a good feeling.

Forgive the high cynicism, but what the hell was the PM thinking when he announced this?

For readers who are familiar with Kuala Lumpur, the proposed site of the development alone would be cause for alarm.

Ok ok…i’m overwhelmed by sheer disbelief, and so many questions assail me at this point.

Let me start with Yen Yen’s contention first. She said it is good for tourism and domestic trade sector. Tell me, how many people come to Malaysia just to look at our skyscrapers, for us to justify spending RM5 billion on yet another one?

Malaysia is still (despite unbridled development) one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. How many countries on the Equatorial belt can boast that?

Culture, food and our rainforests (not necessarily in that order of importance) will continue to be the bigger crowd puller. The proposed new tower will not work its magic and and bring billions tourism dollars. It doesn’t really work that way.

In fact, Malaysians too travel globally with increased frequency, even more so with the coming of Air Asia. Tell me, would the Burj Khalifa in Dubai or the Taipei 101 tower be the major reason for you to travel there?

These are just concrete edifices that stand as a symbol of mankind’s ambition.

Petronas Twin Towers

Make no mistake though. I am mighty proud of the beautiful Petronas Twin Towers. I have taken numerous photos of it and whenever I come back from KLIA, the sight of the Twin Towers tells me “hey, you are back home.”

In the 10 years,  it has become an icon of modern Malaysia and a defining part of the Kuala Lumpur cityscape. But the  highest I have been in that building, is level 42, where the Malaysian Petroleum Club is. Most Malaysians only get to look at it from afar.

In fact, post construction, I think the highest anyone has gotten in that building were “Spiderman” Alain Robert and bunch of BASE jumpers before and after him.

Despite my fondness for the Petronas Twin Towers, I can’t summon the same kind of hope, optimism and positive vibe when it comes to the proposed Warisan Merdeka development, the centrepiece of which is this much-talked about 100 storey tower.

Need for such a project.

Many are jittery about this project, witnessed by some cautious statements in the media.

From the real estate standpoint:

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda) deputy president Datuk FD Iskandar Mohamed Mansor said the plan for the potentially high-impact commercial development must take into consideration demand and supply of office space in the capital city.

He said such a massive project should be approached with caution and proper feasibility studies before proceeding.

“Kuala Lumpur already has a focal point – the Petronas Twin Towers – and the question is whether it is necessary to have another one. Moreover, there is enough office space in the city. Additional space from the Warisan Merdeka and other projects, including the RM26bil Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD), may result in an oversupply of commercial property space,” Iskandar said. – from The Star Business. Read the full story here.

Pic from the Star.

Click the pic for a closer look. The proposed site is adjacent to both Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara.

The fears of a commercial property glut is not a new one. As far back as May, even without a hint of this latest mega project, OSK Research had already painted a gloomy forecast a space glut.

Traffic Nightmare

Has anyone noticed where the site of this proposed project is? The access/exit involve such such areas as Petaling Street, Jalan Kinabalu/Maharajalela and Jalan Hang Tuah, the last of which is not free from jams even after the opening of the elevated bypass.

Even from the construction stage, the traffic impact conjures up a nightmarish image.

But never mind that. We KL-ites have endured such things as the Monorail, LRT and KLCC construction before, not to mention the AKLEH elevated highway project.

In a Utopian scenario, this building would be filled with tenants. Let’s say even 80% of the building is occupied. Now, imagine the number of cars freshly introduced to the surrounding traffic grid. Can tahan meh?

One of the very few decisions of Dr M administration that  I  agreed with, was the removing of the civil service out of Kuala Lumpur.

That decision alone took out thousands of cars out of the immediate Kuala Lumpur traffic grid. That was a good thing to de-congest KL. Of course in the decade or so since, the corporates have moved in.

In 10 years time, this mega project alone will contribute thousands more cars (If point to point integrated public transport is not in place by then).

We could be looking at a dystopia worse than Mid Valley here.

And how is that good for business, or living ?

P.S. I know that the PM also announced the Greater KL MRT project expected to cost a mindblowing RM36 billion.

But then talk about integrating public transport has been around for a better part of two decades now, and such was red tape that the two LRT concessionaires could not even seamlessly link the what was (in pre-Syarikat Prasarana Negara times) known as the Putra and Star LRT lines.

And until today, there is still failure to provide point to point feeder bus service. This is crucial if you want people to leave their cars at home. If this was adequately handled, do you think we will need this RM36 billion “solution”?

Think about it.

Can racist rabble-rousing still work post March 8?


It just occured to me that two consecutive May 13s have taken place since the political map-changing Malaysian General elections of 2008.

Despite a record number of Parliament and State seats falling to the Opposition, there was a telling absence of widespread insecurity on the part of this country’s majority voters: the Malays.

Life was still the same in the streets. The makcik who sells nasi lemak in my predominantly Chinese neighbourhood still enjoys roaring business, her only troubles coming from the City Hall enforcement who wants to put an end to her illegal makeshift stall.

I have yet to lose any friends because of politics, Malay, Chinese, Dayak, Indian, Ceylonese, Kadazan or otherwise. The major disgruntlement was over how the establishment screwed the people over. But that was a complaint even I have.

You see readers, in the matters of civil rights, common interest, nation-building, economics and other sober goals, I ceased to see myself along the lines of ethnicity, if I ever did to begin with.

52 years after Independence, I guess Malaysians of different ethicities have ceased to be suspicious of each other on grounds of skin/race/religion. Except for the politicians and their likes.

Which is why it is baffling why a certain newspaper editorial still continues to fan the embers of racial sentiment.

Awang…oh Awang, you cannot be as dumb as to write this sort of drivel.

I take offence at the insinuation that my life here is at the behest of the kind people of Umno. I’m a child of this tanah air too. I was born here. I’d die rather than betray my country.

But if people don’t care for Umno, that should not be equated as anti-Malay. To say that is just plain stupid.

Why do people (Malays and non-Malays alike) hate Umno? You don’t have to be rocket scientists to know.

The excesses we have seen over the years just makes the bile rise. Again and again. The corruption, the crimes, the violation of trust, the abuse of power….I could go on.

It’s not that the Pakatan Rakyat is clean as a whistle. It’s just that the scale of excesses on the BN side of the fence is far more dirty, so dirty that anything looks white by comparison.

Look at this PKFZ scandal. RM10 billion ringgit! I can’t even fathom how much one billion ringgit looks like. And that much money is squandered through shady deals, inept governance, lackadaisical attitude to the taxpayers’ money and sheer negligence.

That’s what we are opposed to. The status quo is a horrible state of being, for this country, Awang! And this is what many Malaysians feel. I think I can quite safely assert that we have moved beyond seeing people along racial lines.

Zaid Ibrahim is a Malay too, last I checked. And yet he too finds it disturbing to read yesterday’s editorial.

Yes, I agree that thousands of the immigrants were granted citizenship in those early days after Independence. But post-1970 it was another story wasn’t it?

The system was such that the likes of Khir Toyo, whose father wasn’t a citizen here, could go as far as to become the MB of Selangor, but a friend of mine who has lived here since 1953, still can’t get his citizenship.

Why? With Indonesians, it is always “kita serumpun” isn’t it? You buta sejarah fellas actually forgot the Konfrontasi period? Remember Ganyang Malaysia?

And since you embraced the Indons and they started turning up here in droves to work and to settle down like Khir Toyo’s father, the numbers grew.

But today, you don’t treat them any better these days, do you?

In fact, Malaysia can be positively evil on immigrant workers and refugees. Yes, there are bad apples here and there but imagine without those immigrant workers, who would work your construction sites?

The poor blokes who died last week in Jaya Supermarket collapse are cases in point. Now they mati katak. I hope the government has the decency to send their bodies back to their homeland to be buried.

Another thing,  the part about kindness and generosity you guys at Utusan so readily associate with Malays certainly does not extend to the monsters that are in authority today. Monsters like those who tortured Kugan to death. Monsters like those who bombed Altantuya to pieces.

This government allowed for these heinous crimes to happen. This government screwed its own people by  allowing the folks in resource-rich state like Terengganu and Sabah to remain poor.

This is what we object to. Not Malays, not bumiputeras. Imagine guys, maybe RM10 billion could have built roads to Bario.

RM10 billion could have built several universities and funded hundreds of scholars, so our kids and sisters and brothers who aced their exams need not fight over university places or scholarships.

This is one of the real costs of corruption and of absolute power. And we all suffer in the end.

While the likes of Awang Selamat lament about the loss of status quo with such narrow, parochial views, the country is slowly sinking into the abyss. But of course Utusan doesn’t care. After all, it didn’t even bother running the story about the PKFZ fiasco.

Sorak la Awang. Jangan tak sorak. Kampung dah tergadai dah.

Media Crackdown Imminent?


I’ll bet my favourite nasi lemak bungkus that it happens.

This is February 2009.

In March, there is a power handover that signals the end of the Abdullah administration.

The “heir apparent” has has already sharpened his claws and is now straining the leash.

From what I hear, editors were told in no uncertain terms that their coverage of Kuala Terengganu elections would be monitored, and to expect payback if they “transgressed”.

Media coverage of even bread and butter issues in Pakatan Rakyat states are difficult because the powers that be objects to any positive coverage given the reps of the incumbent government.

Petty. Childish. Best ignored.

And yet such pettiness and childishness from those at the top of the power heap, can signal much anguish for the people. Not to mention the future of the country.

Tian Chua warns of a new media crackdown. Not surprising considering the rest of what’s written here.

For now the Home Ministry is concentrating on the Opposition rags. Never mind the equally mind-numbing, racist, rabble-rousing garbage written in the likes of Berita Hairan and Utusan Meloya.

Not long before the crackdown extends to the rest. The Star represents an interesting conundrum though.

On one hand it is ruling coalition-owned. On the other hand, MCA post-March 8 is a different animal altogether. Add to that the fact that it is headed by a former party outsider who has been putting his own praetorian guard in place.

Ong Tee Keat and the new MCA may not be on the same page as BN on all issues. This is sure to give The Star’s editorial policymakers a tough time.

What I’m trying to say is, The Star is not above a KDN warning. A painful Ops Lalang more than 2 decades ago is still not forgotten. Which is a sad predicament for the paper to be in. Because in the aftermath of last year’s election disaster, this was one paper that had tried to change and be more objective.

The Sun? I don’t know. I’m not so sure about this paper that tries so much to please the people but somehow sounds dodgy after a while. Some issues raised are valid, true enough, but the elements of “masuk bakul, angkat sendiri” is unbecoming of a news rag, know what I mean?

NST? Don’t read it enough to form an opinion.

Malay Mail is lost. Enough said.

Malaysiakini? Come on. This net paper is the opposite side to the mainstream media. The slant here is obvious.

Far less obvious is the business weekly’s The Edge slant, though I know which way they are inclined. Entertaining, insightful pieces are found here though.

Malaysia Insider tries outwardly to be objective, despite the initial “pro-Khairy” bad mouthing it suffer. The Nut Graph shows some effort, but suffers still from anonymity in a world dominated by giants like Malaysia Today, which is more of a news/view/gossip portal for every political goings on in the country.

I don’t read Mandarin or Tamil, so I can’t say much about Sin Chew, Nanyang, Tamil Nesan and the rest, but I don’t think any of them mentioned above can be assured of immunity from government persecution in the months to come.

This is a government that has long forgotten that it owes a duty of accountability to the people who elected it to power. Even March 8, 2008 have not cured them of their arrogance, the recent Perak ugliness suggests.

To me, it just reinforces the popular view that Umno and Barisan Nasional is a corrupt, evil caucus that has outlived its usefulness.

I’ll best another nasi lemak bungkus, that any candidate fielded by Pakatan Rakyat in the coming by-elections in Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang will win.

Simply because Umno is being Mugabe.

Bomonomics…Whaa…?


Bomoh. Defined by Webster’s Dictionary as witch doctor.

Economics. According to the Wikipedia folks….

Economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

kartun1

A local economics lecturer James Chin has come up with an interesting article in the Malaysian Insider to describe the supply side economics.

Here’s the link to the story, which incidentally talks more about the powers-that-be’s economics of convenience rather than bomoh/voodoo business.

Makes sense. After all bomoh/pawang and other sorts of witchdoctors, shamans and mediums (one of whom got swallowed by a python a decade or so ago, because he was small rather than medium) are part and parcel of life, not only in this region called Nusantara but also throughout the world.

In Malaysia, we had these bomohs feature in the most sensational murder trial of the 90s, the Mazlan Idris case. Well, I’m sure you all know that Mona Fandey, her hubby and their assistant were hanged for the gruesome, chop chop murder.

Motive? Money apparently. Money (or the mother of them all) was why the late assemblyman of Batu Talam went to these dodgy couple. Money was apparently why they killed him.

Bomohs also featured in the former Renong Bhd head honcho Halim Saad’s divorce case, and I read about it sometime ago not in the blogs or the gossip rags, but in the Asian Wall Street Journal. Now, I mention this here only because Halim Saad was once one of the captains of local economy. Once. Before the excesses started going public.

Familiar story? Yeah, it happens all the time.

Back to the main story, Bomohs have figured in everything Malaysian from elections to ensuring rain, or a sunny day or even ensuring a win on the football pitch. And we thought that Bolehland bookies were the ultimate fixers. Sheesh.

Anyway, sorry for being so cheong hay about the whole Bomoh business. I suggest you guys read the James Chin piece, written with a good dollop of cynicism.

Valuecap, policy flip-flops and our money


The Story: The Malaysian government is pumping RM10 billion into buying undervalued stocks in Bursa Malaysia. Announced by PM-in waiting and Finance Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday.

Who/What is Valuecap? This is what I picked up from the Khazanah Nasional website.

Valuecap (Valuecap Sdn Bhd)

Established in 2002, Valuecap is a fund management company which was created to invest specifically in the Malaysia equities market. Owned jointly by Khazanah, PNB and KWAP, Valuecap’s key mandate is to undertake investments in equities listed on Bursa Malaysia on a portfolio basis, based on superior fundamental investment research.

The Edgedaily is cautious in its examination of the issue. Note these paragraphs.

Valuecap, which was set up in 2002 to add liquidity and volume to the market, has met these objectives, according to Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, whose brainchild it was.

While analysts are in agreement that the market as a whole is undervalued and therefore presents opportunities for equity investments, several points should be clarified.

The first is whether Valuecap’s record of its return on investment matches the EPF’s benchmark. There is not much public information about Valuecap’s investment activities. However, currently, Valuecap is believed to have about RM4.9 billion worth of investments in 70 companies. And it has been reported that since its inception to September 2007, Valuecap has paid out a total of RM135 million in dividends. Better public disclosure will help to ascertain whether this passes the standard tests for financial performance.

A check with the registrar of companies shows that it is in the black and has assets of RM7.5 billion. So Valuecap has some value. But what is the return that EPF will get on the RM5 billion?

What the Trade Unions and the Opposition pols think about the whole thing, as Malaysian Insider reports it.

Md Nor Yakcop the second Finance Minister is optimistic about it.

Anwar Ibrahim said this.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the additional money was merely 1 per cent of market equity and would have no impact on the bourse which has plunged by more than 37 per cent this year.

It “serves no logical purpose other than to prop up some companies in the stock market,” he told reporters in Parliament.- Malaysian Insider.

The public’s view, as stated at Malaysiakini’s Vox Populi.

For perspective, this is an old press statement from EPF.

EPF Denies Involvement With Valuecap Sdn Bhd

The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) denies reports in today’s newspapers (November 20, 2002) which associated the operations of ValueCap Sdn Bhd with the EPF’s investments and two other state-run funds.

The EPF wishes to clarify that it has not appointed ValueCap Sdn Bhd to manage the EPF’s investment fund. The EPF also denies that its involvement in the KLSE is to shore up the stock market. The EPF’s investments are not used to bail out ailing companies.

The EPF invests in companies with sound fundamentals, long-term growth potential and competent management. The EPF is always prudent and professional in its approach when investing members’ savings. The Fund ensures that the investments are safe, not exposed to high risks and gives reasonable returns to its members for their retirement.

(DR. ROSLAN A. GHAFFAR)
Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Investment)
Employees Provident Fund

Date: 20 November 2002

I reproduced the statement above simply to juxtapose the differing position on this matter (bailing out ailing stocks) just 6 years ago.

Another thing to note is that EPF is a shareholder of KWAP (Kumpulan Wang Persaraan) which is in turn a shareholder in Valuecap. So the pumping in of RM10 billion is essentially from EPF to its own company twice removed, or something like that.

Here’s something I’d like to know though. Who will decide which undervalued stocks to salvage and which will be allowed to die when the excreta hits the fan big time next year?

It’ll be nice to have some transparency in this matter. Especially since word has it that Md Nor Yakcop was the guy who lost us RM4 billion almost overnight during the 1998 crisis.

We deserve answers don’t we? Especially since many more of us can claim to be affected, as the EPF contributors surely outnumber the number of taxpayers.

If things go bust, then will the govt use policies like raising the age of eligibility for withdrawal, so as to stop paying out. The sums we have individually are surely minuscule enough not to affect EPF’s liquidity, but I don’t put it past the authorities to gamble with our money, and then lose it, and then lie to us about it.

This is Malaysia. Transparency is a new kid that everyone in power looks at very suspiciously.

So I call on civil society to scrutinise this and play the role of pressure group to ensure we ordinary Malaysians are not raped, again.

The Truth Hurts…


but like the proverbial bitter pill, it has to be downed.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam says Umno is suffering from penyakit tua (old age infirmity).

Musa: Umno has lost its popularity

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno is in dire need of a drastic change and young blood with new ideas are the plausible solution, said former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam.

“I understand that the experience of seniors are needed for top posts like president or vice-president, but other than that, they should choose the younger ones,” he said.

Musa said the party had been raising the same issues which were raised 20 or 30 years ago, and bickering about emotional rather than substantial issues, such as the economy.

“Umno is already over 61 years old and is experiencing penyakit tua (old age sickness) which cannot be remedied by senior citizens but rather the younger generation with new ideas,” he said after launching the Bridges €“ Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace forum here yesterday.

Some noteworthy points here,

“It is important for Umno to realise that it has lost its popularity because of public opinion.

“The party has many problems that it cannot rectify, like corruption, accountability issues and abuse of power,” he said.

“The new generation will not accept wholesale what politicians are saying because they don’t accept the politicians,” he said.

Yes. Public opinion rejects the politicians’s words and opinions because they don’t accept the politicians. Not anymore.

Cases in point.

Mat Tyson. How can people accept a guy who has a track record that is less than mediocre, and sleazy to boot? Spiriting away a Sultan’s daughter and marrying her in Thailand (question of legality here, and how a high ranking state official can bypass existing laws). Backhanding the same wife at a public place. Getting caught in a foreign country with a large sum of cash. Same guy now wants to run as deputy president of Umno.

Mohd Ali Rustam. Any right-thinking Malaysian would reject this fella who, as late as last year, was said to have told PPP members, at their own event where he was guest of honour, to get out of Barisan, because “we don’t need you”. Rudeness and arrogance personified.

There is all these allegations implicating Najib Tun Razak, but since nothing was proven, it would be unfair to lump him here.

But Umno does have more than its share of Napoleons, far more than is healthy for any political party that was dominant. That is why Musa’s call for younger blood is more than timely. However, history has shown that the young ones who get to power are largely those who are beneficiaries of dynastic politics, or the yes men.

Neither are favourably viewed by the public. Najib, Hishammudin, Khairy Jamaludin and Mukhriz Mahathir, Noraini Ahmad are all beneficiaries of political legacies.

The one thing different about Mukhriz is that his rise in Umno was after his father left office, and that he suffered a lot too during Abdullah’s ascendancy. Lots of people feel for the underdog, and his firm and gutsy but unassuming ways got him acceptance among people who thought Khairy was an arrogant poseur.

Funny how neatly their roles are reversed now. Now his star is ascendant while Khairy’s is waning, as can be clearly seen from the number of nominations both got in the race for Umno Youth top position.

Dr Mahathir has got his wish.  Abdullah  will soon  step down , handing over to Najib Tun Razak the reins of the party.  The prevailing view now is that Dr M is back in power, with all the implications of that statement.

But of course the climate is now different. Five states are now under Pakatan Rakyat, not to mention most of Kuala Lumpur although it is federal territory. The global economy is crashing and recession is imminent.

Dr M’s backseat driving with his authoritarian style may not work anymore, whatever Umno might think. The two Chinese parties in BN just had elections and the climate there indicates a desire for a change in status quo. MIC? Oh, that one has been declared irrelevant already, hasn’t it?

Only Umno is resisting change in the real sense. Because that kind of change requires humility, an end to ketuanan politics, and a real desire for equitable and clean governance. No more fat cats.

Now if the fat cats can’t feed at the Umno trough, then they won’t be around. Perhaps it is better that way.

Reality check everyone. Is Najib, with Dr M as the navigator, going to be the one to spearhead that change? No, not if he wants to stay in power. The vultures will tear him down using whatever skeletons he might have in his closet.

The way I see it, it is status quo.