Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is Najib in a tail-spin?

Is Najib in a tail-spin?

By Dr. Dzukelfly Ahmad

NOV 30 — Najib Razak must be trembling. Nothing could be more terrifying to a premier than the prospect of losing a general election. For Najib, that is an understatement.
Worse still, he will go down in history as the “appointed” prime minister of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government that eventually lost its uninterrupted power to the opposition. That is indeed extremely scary. Losing is, thus, not an option for Najib.
But Najib’s penchant for flip-flopping is almost ingrained in his demeanour and style of leadership. Blaming it on “nature” is contrary to the “consistency” of the second prime minister of this nation.
Beyond just flip-flopping, this writer would now have to believe that Najib hasn’t got what it takes to bring this ailing nation out of its unending doldrums and despondency.
Najib doesn’t quite understand, or at least doesn’t exude understanding of the “change process”, much less a passion and a commitment to see it through. That is even more distressing, to say the least.
Indeed, Najib has actually failed grasp the fact that, without “reformation”, the hope for “transformation” is a merely an illusion.
His revulsion for the word “Reformasi” could very well be his greatest “blind-spot” for the need to undertake genuine fundamental and structural reforms before he could ever hope to see a “Transformation”, both in the economics and political sphere.
In the same vein, without the “real reform” in the New Economic Model, Najib’s Economic Transformation Programme and Entry Point Programmes are in fact a large-scale, anti-cyclical Keynesian pump-priming from Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Mahathirnomics”.
Najib’s failure to incorporate “real reform” in the NEM is the stifling factor has disabled the nation to propel into a higher performing economy with a concomitant higher income per capita.
Perkasa, contracted by Najib’s party, continues their vitriolic racial slurs. Never has religious understanding taken a worse beating. The major-ethnic-and-religion-under-siege narrative is evidently “laughable”.
He could talk in London, New York and Washington of opening up the public space and moderation in Islam when in fact the hollowness of his pronouncements is what we as Malaysians have to live with.
On the back of his oft-repeated mantra of “Government Transformation”, the colossal losses as evident by the Auditor-General’s report remained unabated, to the disgust of many a tax-payer. The endemic leakages remain agonising.
Critical examples of fiscal mismanagement such as Shahrizat Jalil’s National Feedlot Corp’s meltdown stood as a testimony. The impunity with which cronies live off government funds whilst BN ministers, Najib included, call for austerity and a “rationalisation” on subsidy, is a cardinal sin.
Millions have been spent on international consulting firms that went on an orgy of image building rampage. Fresh in the minds of many is the shocking revelation that RM55 million of tax-payers’ money was used for expensive propaganda to glorify Najib, his government and his policies, screened on international channels like CNN, CNBC and BBC.
Najib must stop his fervour for “window-dressing” — the illusion something is being done when nothing of consequence is being accomplished. Never mind the bicycle-ride, on the bus, breakfast with the new social media Facebook-Twitter friends, etc. But beyond those, nothing much were achieved.
He has almost perfected the art but failed miserably on the “real reforms”. With genuine “reforms” constantly side-stepped, “transformation” is a far-cry. That’s deplorable.
Has Najib’s grandstanding of September 15 come to naught? The much-hyped political reforms, promised by Najib to bring us into a new era of the “best democracy’, have exploded in the face of the rakyat as a sham to democratisation.
The rakyat were promised that the internal Security Act (ISA) would be revoked and they were jubilant. Their joy was short-lived, however, when it was later revealed that two other laws would replace the ISA, retaining the obnoxious detention without trial.
The same undemocratic features of the ISA will now come under a new rubric, gravely disappointing the rakyat and further deepening their distrust and disgust towards Najib.
The infamous “revolutionary” Bill ensued and what was supposedly to be a “giant leap” for the nation. The rakyat were promised democratic freedom of assembly without the need for police permit. They were again ecstatic until they realised that the Peaceful Assembly Bill was in fact to deny their democratic right to assemble.
It wasn’t meant to be a Peaceful Assembly Bill — it is a Bill against the Freedom of Assembly. The Bill imposes many unjust restrictions and conditions. Organisers and all participants are subjected to heavy penalties. It is clearly meant to discourage bona-fide dissent and protests from ever taking place.
The entire civil society and the opposition are united against him. Najib has a few options: to withdraw the Bill, to refer it to a Parliamentary Select Committee, or to simply blame it on others. Granted, his choice is obvious.
A gathering of disgruntled lawyers marched yesterday from the Lake Gardens to Parliament in protest against the Peaceful Assembly Bill, which has made a huge mockery of the fundamental liberty as enshrined in the Federal Constitution in Article 10.
With Bersih 3.0 so real in the horizon, it only takes Hindraf 2.0 to be back on stage to trigger for Najib a disastrous tail-spin reminiscent of event preceding the 12th general election.
His worst nightmare would still be his party’s dissenting warlords, whom he has to appease and cajole in the on-going general assembly.
Is an “Umno Spring” ever plausible on the verge of the 13th GE looming closer? Another long deferred reform has again to take a back-seat.
The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is Freedom truly Free?

After reading so many reports and articles on the Peaceful Assembly Bill especially with accusations being cast on both sides of the political divide, I believe that we have to go back to the root cause of the issue and examine it in a holistic and pragmatic manner. 

Trampling on our rights

First we must go back to the fundamental question as to whether the law, specifically Malaysian law, really stifles dissent and tramples on human rights. 

Indeed, we have examples of Ministers using their discretionary authority under the law in cases where there is no probable cause. Therefore that would lead us to believe that power was abused. 

Examples include the detention of a reporter, Raja Petra Kamarrudin and Teresa Kok under the draconian Internal Security Act, as well as the extra-judicial declaration that "Bersih" T-shirts are illegal as they represent an illegal organisation. 

I would submit that the examples I cited above represents a disproportionate response to the actual situation. This leads to awkward explanations afterwards which include the "She was detained for her own protection" and "because it represents an illegal activity" type of reasoning. Hardly impressive. 

There is no doubt that the current Barisan Nasional government has a history of abusing their powers under the law in order to preserve their own affair. However, by branding their discretion at making these arrests "to protect national interest and public property", many people as members of the public are led to believe by the Mainstream Media that the response was correct and proportionate. 

Bersih 2.0

The rally that truly triggered the necessity to call into question the Police Act provision on illegal assemblies was indeed Bersih 2.0. 

The 9th July 2011 is a day which would truly go down in infamy. Dubbed "709", we witnessed how the police doused the public with chemical-laced water and tear gas. Retreating into Tung Shin Hospital provided no respite when the Federal Reserve Unit decided to shoot the water into the compound. 

A rally to call for Free and Fair elections, which was entirely peaceful, was turned violent by police manhandling protesters. Protesters forced to disperse by violent means could have potentially created a stampede and it is only by the grace of God that there were not more casualties. 

Being in amongst the crowds, I believe how the FRU and police responded was truly disproportionate, although many quarters claimed they exercised a considerable amount of restraint. As a person who ingested tear gas into my system, I would beg to differ. 

But what was worse than the actual FRU and police crackdown, was the complete cover up of the Mainstream Media. The government went all out to deny the public the truth, and published their own version of events. This is despite an enormous amount of photographic and video evidence, which were posted in real time as the event occurred. 

So perhaps the true question to ponder is that, despite promised reforms in the law, including the repeal of the ISA and introduction of the Peaceful Assembly Bill, what is the check and balance to prevent Ministers from abusing their discretion under the Acts or issuing extra-judicial proclamations? 

Section 27 of the Police Act

The law causing the most amount of controversy is section 27 of the Police Act 1967 which deals specifically with illegal assembly. Under the draconian law, it was seen as a serious inhibition of any kind public assembly and gave the police the power to detain persons involved without a warrant (s27(6)). 

Holding a demonstration requires a police permit, and the senior district police officer has the absolute discretion to approve or deny the permit. Additionally under subsection 2, they can cancel the permit at any time. Police also "may do all things necessary for dispersing them and for arresting them". The scope of this provision is massive, which would protect the police from any allegation of brutality. 

There is no doubt that this section has to be abolished. It is fundamentally unconstitutional as it contravenes Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees the right to assemble peaceably. After a huge amount of pressure, the BN government appeared to relent by tabling the Peaceful Assembly Act. 

Truly a reform?

After a lot of condemnation from the Bar Council and Opposition MPs, we have to examine whether or not it should be called the "Anti-Assembly Bill" or "Illegal Assembly Bill" as proposed by some quarters. 

Notice of the assembly was proposed to be 30 days, which has since been revised to 10 days, after Myanmar's assembly bill which specified a 5 day notice period put us to shame. Under the Police Act, no time period is specified. However the need for a police permit is eliminated. I would take this development to be a good thing. 

However, let's look into the more contentious part of the bill. The fines of RM10,000 for participation in what is deemed as an illegal assembly, the prohibition of children at gatherings, limits in proximity to public places, places a complete ban on street demonstrations and the same scope of power given to the police as under section 27 of the Police Act. This throws up a lot of issues which would potentially cripple the freedom to assemble as under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. 

Firstly, the fine of RM10,000 is clearly to deter anyone from coming to a protest or demonstration. Who can afford to be RM10,000 out of pocket? So, even if the cause is legitimate and of national concern, if the police uses their discretion to prohibit the assembly, the citizen is penalised heavily as a result? 

The prohibition of children is contentious as gatherings are supposed to be peaceful, and families would bring their children along with them. Penalising the parents for bringing their children along, rather than leaving them at home alone would be another reason for people to avoid protests. Additionally, there is the question of enforcement. When tear gas and chemical laced water are fired, would the police round the children up first? Unthinkable. 

With the list of restricted places so extensive, it appears that protest cannot happen unless you are out in the countryside! The government would say that this is to protect the interests of the people, but basically it is to give the police an excuse to accuse the group of being in a prohibited area, and thus have the authority to disperse the assembly. This would be especially true of any ceramahs held by the Opposition parties, and would affect whoever is in Opposition in future.

No to Street Demos

However, the one thing that riles up opposition MPs more than anything else, is the prohibition of street demonstrations, and that police are afforded the same scope of powers under the Bill. This would mean that Bersih 2.0 would be handled in exactly the same way under the new law as the old. For many, this is unacceptable.

Not everyone agrees with street marches, demonstrations or protests, but to place a complete ban on it would contravene the spirit of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Even our courts agree, as found in Cheah Beng Poh & Ors v Pendakwa Raya [1983] 1 LNS 65. The High Court Judge Hashim Yeop A Sani opined the following:

“The court as guardian of the rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution is always jealous of any attempt to tamper with rights and liberties. But the right in issue here i.e. the right to assemble peaceably without arms is not absolute for the Constitution allows Parliament to impose by law such restrictions as it deems necessary in the interest of security and public order. In my view, what the court must ensure is only that any such restrictions may not amount to a total prohibition of the basic right so as to nullify or render meaningless the right guaranteed by the Constitution.” 

In the case of Sivarasa Rasiah v Badan Peguam Malaysia & Anor [2010] 3 CLJ 507, Federal Court Gopal Sri Ram opined the following:

“Now although the article says ‘restrictions’, the word ‘reasonable’ should be read into the provision to qualify the width of the proviso… The correct position is that when reliance is placed by the State to justify under one or more of the provisions of Article 10(2) of the Federal Constitution, the question for determination is whether the restriction that the particular statute imposes is reasonably necessary and expedient for one or more of the purposes specified in that article.”

Therefore the BN government cannot impose a complete ban on street protests unless they are willing to run afoul of the constitution.

Law vs Freedom

So is there a need for a law to govern Article 10, or shall we just leave the law as it is? I believe that we certainly have a need for a law to govern this. However, does making a law impinge on our ability to exercise our rights as per the constitution?

The issue of peaceful assemblies has certainly been a contentious one in our country, and most recently we saw 300 people gathering in KLCC park in protest of this very bill. But is it correct to allow an absolute freedom? Some argue that societies with sufficient maturity should not have their rights infringed upon by legislation.

However, I would liken this to removing all the lines, traffic lights, zebra crossings and speed limits on our roads. Now people are truly free to drive on the road, but would you dare? True freedom has boundaries. That way, we know the parameters to operate within.

Therefore, a Peaceful Assembly Bill is certainly essential. However, does the current piece of proposed legislation do us justice? I would submit that it does not. Laws must give space and act as guidelines, but not to the extent that it is stifling.

What are the main issues? One is public security, and the concern that a protest may turn violent. Where this is indeed the case, the burden of responsibility should lie on the shoulders of the culprits and the organisers. What this would do is that protestors would be able to self-police in order to avoid such incidents from occurring.

How about public order? This is where the police come in. If it is indeed a street protest, the police can cordon off the route and ensure that order is kept by escorting the procession to their final destination. This would ensure that there is no damage done, and the peace is kept. Traders along the way may experience a small interruption, but a business blackout like during Bersih 2.0 would not occur.

I believe that our Prime Minister is serious about making Malaysia “the world’s best democracy”. However, Malaysia as a member of the United Nations Human Rights council should surely be held to a higher standard. 

On Tuesday, lawyers from the Bar Council and others will march to parliament. Najib has a golden opportunity to do the right thing. Heed the voice of the people and make the appropriate amendments.

Written for Free Malaysia Today


Also published on:

Malaysia Chronicle (
The Malaysian Insider (

Mydin’s response to ‘Kedai Rakyat pulling a fast one’

This is me being roasted by Mydin. Probably have to do a bit more research into the allegations made by Tony Pua to see if the allegations made were true:

Mydin’s response to ‘Kedai Rakyat pulling a fast one’

November 25, 2011

FMT LETTER From Ameer Ali Mydin, via e-mail
KR1M would like to respond to several issues raised by Douglas Tan in his article, ‘Kedai Rakyat pulling a fast one’. Our products are generic products. There are no advertising cost, no frills on packaging, and produced by local suppliers and manufacturers.
As a result, we are able to save advertising charges and bring down the cost and by selling at a very small margin, KR1M products are 30%-50% cheaper against popular brands which are mostly international brands. In fact, KR1M generic products when compared to other hypermarket generic products of similar quality are also much cheaper.
On the question of the number of outlets,KR1M has already opened seven outlets, there will be a total of 25 outlets by year end 2011 and 60  will be opened in year 2012.  Therefore, by year end 2012, there will be in total 85 KR1M outlets all over Malaysia.
On the open tender process, KR1M is not privy to how the decision was made. We can only guess that as Mydin being the largest local retailer with experiences in wholesale and retail, coupled with existing supply chains, and willing to open KR1M on a CSR basis, we were chosen to run the KR1M stores operationally.
No KR1M products are more expensive than the current market price of similar quality products. We would appreciate if actual products can be highlighted and not just shoot from the hip.
At our press conference on Nov 14, we stated very clearly that Tony Pua has maliciously compared KR1M generic products with Carrefour Big Savers products of different quality when rightfully he should have compared KR1M generic products with Carrefour brand products and when compared correctly, all KR1M products are much cheaper.
It defies logic on why Tony Pua has never replied nor clarified nor disclosed why he did this.
When conducting promotions, retail stores usually have a budget to work with, in bringing down the promotional prices.  These are usually applied within a certain promotional period and many a time, for a short duration only.  After the promotional period is over, prices will rise up again and back to normal. For KR1M products, prices are maintained low at all times to ensure that it benefits the Rakyat. So, it defies logic again on how Douglas Tan can compare say, two days paranormal offers with KR1M prices which are maintained long-term. Let us be fair here.
Prices of other popular brands are determined by their respective manufacturers. There is a RSP set determined for the products. It is not true as per what was mentioned by Douglas Tan that generic labels are associated with lower quality products. Generic products are priced cheaper as what I have mentioned earlier as there are no advertising costs and no frills on packaging.
It baffles me as to whoever gave you the idea that generic products are of lower quality. Please read up the meaning of generic products before you make such assumptions and in this case, allegations.
Generic brands have been available in the market for a long time even in the US and other developed countries and are well-received as the prices are low and helps their citizens to save.  It is just like how hypermarkets came out with their respective House Brands. I just do not understand why when we are trying to adopt the good practice from other developed countries, we receive so much objections and cynical remarks from fellow Malaysians even though it is for a good cause.
I also fail to understand why, despite Tony Pua shouting at every corner in wanting to help “poor Malaysians”, he does not want to pass the test results to the Ministry of Health which any responsible citizen should do for the improvement of mankind? More so, being a MP.
We have thus far no issues on our procurement department which maintains the highest  standard, as stated above. Tony Pua’s assertions and allegations are unfounded.
On the claims that RM40 million was spent to renovate 31 stores at a cost of RM1.3 million per store,  may we know how Douglas Tan arrived at the figures? KR1M would love to give him a contract to do all our renovations and assets purchases, if he can even do the smallest KR1M outlet at RM70,000. Please do not say things based on assumptions or know nothing about without doing proper homework.
RM40 million has been allocated by the Government to set up KR1M stores all across the country. The amount is used for renovations only fit-out works such as tiling, ceiling and lighting installation, painting, cashier counters, display racks, signboard, equipment such as chillers and freezers, computer systems, CCTV and Point Of Sales (POS) System.
Please be informed that the cost to set up a new KR1M outlet is between RM250,000 to RM750,000 depending on the size of the store which are from 1,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet. So, it is estimated that 85 outlets at an average cost of RM470,000 would utilise the total budget of RM40million.
Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) was formed to ease the burdens of the low income earners in the urban areas. The operational aspect of KR1M is being handled by MyMydin, the team that specialises in mini-market concept store operations, which Franchise is open to Malaysian entrepreneurs who want to embark on retail business.
The whole concept of MyMydin operations now has become a benchmark to all other mini market operators. The idea has been accepted by the public and its credibility is proven by the increasing sales record in all of its stores.
In addition to that, other mom-and-pop stores are also widely called upon to sell KR1M products in their existing shops so that consumers can reap more benefits by having more KR1M products available in other mom-and-pop stores.
I do not see how KR1M’s presence can be a threat to mom-and-pop stores, but instead complement their business. There is no subsidy involved in goods being sold in KR1M.
Why appoint Mydin to operate these stores? Mydin has been appointed as the operator and administrator of KR1M to ensure the existence of KR1M in the country will serve the Rakyat with the hope of lightening the cost of living.
Mydin has 54 years of experience in the wholesale and retail business, and therefore, it is well established in terms of personal retail management and state of the art supply chain management systems. Mydin is the only homegrown hypermarket which realised the idea of creating KR1M was brilliant, and a great way to incorporate it into Mydin CSR programme.
Mydin has also proven to be a role model and a champion by giving IKS and PKS suppliers and manufacturers the opportunity to grow big and be successful in the retail market. Such opportunities are rarely given by other foreign operators as their objectives are merely to reap profits from our beloved country.
We feel everyone and anyone can ask to do this. There is no monopoly here. The willing operator would have to show its ability to run the KR1M outlets on a CSR basis. We would, of course, be more than happy if other local retailers such as Econsave, 99 Speedmart and Sunrise would offer to do KR1M outlets.
Please let us not be so naïve and ask the foreign hypermarkets as this would also result in them controlling our modern retail trade in small formats.  As you should be aware, foreign hypermarkets already control more than 50% of modern retail trade currently.
There are no extravagant costs involve, therefore, taxpayers need not to be worried. As this is a CSR programme, the operator is obliged to absorb certain costs involved when operating KR1M outlets.
The products have not failed on any Malaysian standards set by the Ministry of Health as they have been in the market even before the 1Malaysia brand came about and has been widely accepted by consumers. All of the manufacturers of these products have been in the market for many years and are very reputable.
I’m sure the ministry has been conducting many check across all brands to ensure the safety of  consumers is not compromised in any way and the 1Malaysia brand has and will always give priority to acceptable quality and great low prices to give great savings and overall benefit to the Rakyat.
To date, we have only unfounded, unsubstantiated allegations by Tony Pua. If he can so kindly provide his test reports to the ministry, I’m sure they will take appropriate action.
It appears that making false, unsubstainted allegations is the easy part for Douglas Tan. The difficult part is for him to justify the allegations, unfortunately the damage to the IKS Suppliers and KR1M is already done.
KR1M hopes that Douglas Tan will be more of a responsible journalist and as he claims “is an active member of the DAP but does not let it define his opinions”.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Najib's Orwellian doublespeak on reforms

Najib's Orwellian doublespeak on reforms
COMMENT Orwellian doublespeak is alive and well.

Its present-day nabob is Najib Razak, Malaysia’s reform seeking but repression augmenting prime minister.

He said in mid-September he wanted that abomination - the Internal Security Act 1960 - pared down to nothing so that the country becomes the “best” democracy.

It was hard to fathom what the contours of that superlative democracy would be when some members of his praetorian guard were saying things that were at odds with the seemingly liberal spirit of the PM’s Malaysia Day serenade. 

NONEThe public had fair reason to wonder over what to expect because ministers - the wacky Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and the gauche Hishammuddin Hussein - had let on that detention without trial will ever be part of the warp and woof of Malaysia’s security laws.

Detention without trial is the resort of countries which face adversaries who wage asymmetrical warfare.

Planes commandeered by sharp object-wielding passengers who then crash them into skyscrapers, and detonating bombs in underground trains, are some of the dangers.    
Malaysia does not face such existential dangers.

Just about the only threats to national tranquility emanate from slightly comic fire breathing types who threaten selected ethnic groups to stay indoors when major demonstrations are being planned, or warn of mass conversions from the country’s official religion.

Even so the police do not take these types too seriously.

Mimicking Singapore

When not focusing their energies on beating up suspects - some even unto death - or chasing and shooting to death underage drivers out on a lark, they prefer to tackle epigones of an ideology that has all but disappeared in the world after the collapse of a wall in Europe more than two decades ago - and that, too, seeing to it if the pitiable lot could be charged for rebellion against the king!

Now, the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 proposes that discontented types among the population apply to give the same force 30 days’ notice of intent to engage in symbolic expression of their disgruntlement in public places barring a slew of venues - notably, places of worship - where people tend to congregate.

NONEIn eerie imitation of measures used south of the Causeway to stifle dissent, this Act allows of fines for up to RM20,000 for offenders against the 30-day requirement notice to the police. Hit offenders in the pocket a la Lee Kuan Yew may be the idea here.

The PM describes the proposed legislation as “revolutionary” and a “giant leap” for the betterment of Malaysian democracy.

If Kim Jong-il of North Korea were to allow his son to succeed him and then describe his country’s succession system as the perfection of a democratic people’s choice - that would be par for the course, given hallowed practice in nations of that ilk.

But approximations of this sort of dictatorial behaviour from scions of former prime ministers of ostensibly democratic countries are quite beyond the pale.                

To say one thing intently, but mean the opposite delusively - that was George Orwell’s warning in the late 1940s on where political discourse was heading in places where leaders are more interested in gaining and holding power than in the proper ordering of public affairs.

Pak Lah, too, wanted to reform

Najib’s careen into Orwellian doublespeak territory comes after two-and-a-half years of dropped hints that he intends to do things differently from predecessor Abdullah Badawi.

Well, Abdullah, too, wanted to reform - the police force, especially - when he took over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but then got cold feet and backed off.

But at least he did not cover his retreat in the jargon of doublespeak: he just kept quiet.

Najib, however, professes to reform, announces to fanfare areas he intends reforming and then unveils a farce and calls it “revolutionary.”

The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 is confirmation, if that be needed, the administration of Najib Razak is headed nowhere, perhaps the final confirmation of the evident bankruptcy of Umno-BN after 54 years of rule, its balances overdrawn and its credibility cashiered.

It only awaits the electorate’s recognition of this reality at the 13th general election.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them. It is the ideal occupation for a temperament that finds power fascinating and its exercise abhorrent.

From (

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NFC: No cow sense at all!

One of my father's favourite expressions is "use some cow sense!" which basically means "use your brain!". As a result, I found it highly appropriate for me to use in this article. It is remarkable to see how Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and her family utterly capitulated under the tirade of dirt dug up against them.

First we hear of the RM250 million National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) project awarded to the family of the Women, Family and Community Minister Shahrizat, who had no experience of breeding cows at all. Then there is a damning report from the Auditor General who reported that since 2010, the NFC has fallen short of its breeding target by 41%.

The public outcry was predictably loudest coming from the opposition, PKR in particular. They demanded to know how they got into this mess in the first place and proceeded to dig further. That is when they realised that they struck political gold and at the same time, opened a massive can of worms for the Barisan Nasional government.

Inexcusable scandals

PKR obviously wanted to dig deep for evidence of cronyism and fund misappropriation. It was simple logic. When so much money is dispensed for a project which the Auditor General (AG) declared to be "a mess", where did the money go actually? They followed the trail to Bangsar, and the purchase of a RM10 million condominium using NFC funds. Cue the beginning of the "Cowgate" scandal.

The deathly silence on the part of Shahrizat and family further compounded the feeling that this was tantamount to an admission of guilt. Naturally Sharizat crying out that she was victimised as the former head of Wanita Umno did not earn her many supporters, as it was clear that she was using the tactic as a scapegoat.

Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin wading into the debate with another insanely far-fetched explanation that the purchase of the condominium was a good investment just did not help. But we have to ask, why did he get involved at all in the first place? What's in it for him?

For a man who is embroiled in controversy over "Kampung Buah Dada", you would have thought that he would have kept silent! Obviously, Khairy can take even more of a public bashing. Is this an act of self-sacrifice for the party? Only time will tell.

After this the second condominium unit surfaces. Where does it end?

The cover up

What was remarkable about this incident was that it turned into a bipartisan affair. BN backbencher Bung Mokhtar called for Shahrizat to hand in her resignation, which was met with a chorus of approval from the opposition MPs.

However, the cabinet members stepped up to the plate to say that it was not fair. Leading the defence of his cabinet colleague is Muhyiddin Yassin, who said that there was no need for her to step down as she was not directly involved with the NFC itself.

This should not come as a surprise to us, as BN are always so good at avoiding issues, passing blame around and use less popular members as scapegoats so they are able to continue plundering and pillaging. Only crooks protect other crooks. When all else fails, hire a lawyer.

The press conference

The belated press conference called by NFC director Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail, who is also Sharizat's husband, created suspicion from the offset, when all alternative media and Chinese language press were barred from participating. Is it the inability to handle probing questions or fear of his words being twisted? Perhaps. Nevertheless the exclusion only worsens the

He explained to the BN friendly papers that the NFC was on track and that they need more time to deliver results. There were a couple of issues with the answers provided. The government target of 8,000 heads of cattle is not a breeding target but a slaughter target.

Although they did raise 8,016 heads of cattle, the issue the AG raised was that only 3,289 heads were delivered, which is well short of the target. The entire premise of the NFC project in the first place was to supply beef to the market. As a result, the Key Performance Indicator should obviously be the number slaughtered not raised.

Additionally, he tried to claim that they were receiving RM70,000 a month for the condominiums. When I asked a couple of developers and real estate agents, they scoffed at the possibility of being able to obtain such a high rental.

The income they get may be in the form of guaranteed yield over 2 or 3 years in which most developers offer as an incentive to purchase the property. However, this turns out to be no more than a glorified discount. Anyone who can pay RM70,000 a month would we well within their means to purchase their own property!

The logic of it all

After all of the articles in the online and print media about the scandal, I doubt I need to venture further into all of its sordid details. Wanita PKR has launched a national wide campaign to file police reports against five individuals considered to be instrumental to the epic failure of the NFC including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Najib has been accused about lying to parliament, and Muhyiddin apparently does not see anything wrong with using public funds to purchase property.

However, let us take a look deeper into to the whole issue and the futility of it all. The question has to be asked as to why we needed the feedlot in the first place. The government would claim that it is to supply more halal beef into the Malaysian market. Nevertheless there are a couple of important questions that need to be asked:

1.     Farms in Western Australia already supplied beef which have received international halal certification to many countries in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia. However, Jakim has not approved this. Is Malaysia truly more Islamic than Saudi Arabia so as not to recognise the Halal certificate? If not, why are we unable to accept the beef?

2.     What is the point in importing Australian cows at great expense and import the feed as well? There is a massive difference in the quality of Australian beef and the so-called Gemas 'Gold' cattle, and I would presume that this is down to the massive change in climate and environment. Why short change the Malaysia public with sub-standard beef which costs more than 

3.     If this is an issue of sovereignty, why can’t the government just acquire a farm in Australia and send people from Malaysia to run it? The NFC ran losses of RM7 million in 2009 and RM11 million in 2010. This amount would have comfortably paid for the living and lifestyle expenses of the staff required, as last time I checked, cows pretty much take care of themselves.

4.     If this is an issue about slaughtering the cows according to Jakim’s standards, why not just import the cows and slaughter them locally to Jakim’s satisfaction? This would be far most cost effective than the current method as we still have to import cattle anyway!

5.     Was this project to stimulate the national economy or the agricultural sector? If so, why are local farmers not benefiting from this project instead of awarding this to a company with Ministerial connections that has never bred cattle before? 

Grab and run

What we are seeing now is nothing short of a day-light robbery. We can see the system is rotten to the core, with scandal after scandal surfacing. However, the NFC saga may be the straw that finally broke the camel's back.

It is clear that Najib is not interested in reforms but more interested in making cosmetic changes to policies just to retain power. His alphabet soup including the NRKAs, NEMs and the ETPs count for nothing if he allows his cabinet ministers to run wild with the nation's money, and gives his deputy license to display arrogance in telling off the public for not believing their version of the story.

With the MACC and the police silent about this, there is a definite reluctance in the air to probe this issue. The difficult questions are now being asked, and this is the greatest benefit of the strong Opposition we have today. It is clear that despite suffering the worse electoral defeat in history back in 2008, BN have not learnt a single thing. In fact they got worse, and expected to get away with it.

Pakatan Rakyat has a golden opportunity now to frame themselves as a credible government. Public sentiment and anger is high, and another season of protest votes may favour PR in the coming election. However, they must work hard and work fast. Malaysian politics is fickle and the landscape changes quickly. If they miss the boat now, it may be a long time for it to come around again.

An FMT Exclusive

A good whacking for MCA, its leaders

A highly complimentary and encouraging letter from a retired journalist published on Free Malaysia Today. It is fantastic to be praised especially by a respected member of the journalistic community, and he also deserves recognition for all his contributions to the media world.

Thank you Jackson Ng for your kind words!

A good whacking for MCA, its leaders

November 21, 2011
From Jackson Ng, via e-mail
As a retired journalist, I found it a pleasure to be given the opportunity to read FMT columnist Douglas Tan’s piece titled “Empty vessels make the most noise”.
After some 30 years of writing and editing in the print media, I must say it is one political analysis that is of quality that I have read in a very, very long time.
It is crispy and straight to the point, devoid of rhetoric.
Yes. I totally agree with Douglas that (I add: most) of the MCA leaders are gutless con artists pandering to the demands of Umno just to ensure that they still get a slice of the pie.
In the first place, how do you expect a scandal-tainted and shameless MCA president like Chua Soi Lek to really represent the Chinese community and look after our interests.
The moment he and his other cronies raise a legitimate issue against an Umno leader, like the cowgate fiasco, the police or MACC files will be opened to put them where they belong.
Isn’t this simple enough for the majority of Malaysians to understand why the Barisan Nasional (BN) component party leaders are political eunuchs?
The digital era has transformed the environment into a borderless information world.
The problem with BN leaders is identical to dinosaurs that once ruled the planets. They refused to evolve, adapt and change with the times.
They continue to take the people for granted, ever assuming the majority of Malaysians are fools and lack intelligence.
They have acquired this syndrome because of more than 50 years of rule without real and effective opposition.
Winning two-thirds of the majority in Parliament in 11 consecutive general elections have given them a blind sense of power over the people.
Their stubbornness, as reflected in their continuous use of irrelevant religious and race issues, is hastening the end of their political life.
In this digital world, the people are much more informed and thus, are able to rationalise and judge better for themselves. One cannot continue to just preach but not deliver.
Former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a case in point. You must really walk the talk or heed what Douglas had started off in his analysis with the adage: Silence is golden.
If you cannot walk the talk, just don’t open your mouth. Speak only when you are prepared to walk the talk.
However, circumstances are such that tainted politicians are politically crippled and can never deliver or walk the talk.The moment they do that, they end up in prison bars.
So, Malaysians, please wise up against the champion pretenders before it is too late.