Jun 25, 2008

PM says DPM Najib not linked to model's murder

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has refuted an allegation that he had received a written report from military intelligence over the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

“Of course I am concerned (over the allegation by Malaysia Today blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin). What Raja Petra did is unacceptable ... because what he stated is incorrect.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Tuesday denied that his deputy Najib Razak and Najib's wife were involved in the 2006 murder of a Mongolian model.

A prominent Malaysian blogger has linked the couple to the case.

Abdullah said that action would be taken against the blogger who made the allegations against Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, and who has already been charged with sedition over the issue.

"I don't believe that Najib and Rosmah are involved," the premier told reporters.

He described blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin's actions as "unacceptable".

"The Attorney General has told me that an investigation will be carried out and action will be taken against him," Abdullah said.

Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib, is currently on trial for abetting the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Two police officers from the Special Action Force (UTK), whose duties included guarding Abdullah and Najib, were also charged with the killing.

Raja Petra, founder and editor of the popular Malaysia Today site, last week lodged a signed declaration in court linking Rosmah to the case.

He has already been charged with sedition over an earlier article he wrote on his website, linking both Najib and Rosmah to the murder. If convicted, he faces three years in jail.

Najib, who is heir apparent to Abdullah, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the death of the 28-year-old Mongolian woman, whose body was blown up with explosives.

Abdullah dismissed Raja Petra's allegations that the premier had seen a military intelligence report on the murder that backed the allegations.

"No, I can't remember receiving anything. He can say anything but I have not seen it," Abdullah said.

Najib again rejected links to the case in May, telling parliament that they were "lies aimed at tarnishing my name".

"As a responsible citizen, I will say again that I have never known or even met this woman before. I pray that the court will continue to seek justice and uphold the law without any interference," he said at the time. - AFP/de

Jun 23, 2008

No-confidence motion against PM Abdullah fails to take place

Sabah Progressive Party's (Sapp) attempt to move a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi did not take place today as both Sapp MPs were missing in action from Parliament.

The duo - Sepanggar's Eric Enchin Majimbun and Tawau's Chua Soon Bui - left their seats unfilled all day in the House and they could not be located anywhere in Parliament.

KUALA LUMPUR: A planned no-confidence motion against Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi did not take place in Parliament on Monday.

The parliamentarians from Sabah who had planned for the vote did not turn up for the session. Instead, the sitting focused on a government motion on the recent fuel price increase.

The parliamentary session got off to a colourful start when four opposition MPs cycled to work in their suits and ties, protesting against the recent fuel price hike.

It provided an ironic start to the session, during which the government sought support from lawmakers on the subsidy restructuring that caused pump prices to jump over 40 percent overnight.

Tian Chua, opposition MP, Batu, said: "Whether we vote for no confidence or not, I think the people have lost confidence in the Cabinet. I think it's time for change."

N Gobalakrishan, another opposition MP, said: "One of the main reasons we are cycling is to let the rakyat (people) know that we know their hardship and we are with them."

Dismissing the opposition MPs' behaviour as childish, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz warned government MPs against voting for the other side.

He said: "If there's a vote and they make themselves present and they vote against us, we will take action against them."

A closely watched no-confidence vote planned by two Sabah MPs did not materialise when they failed to turn up.

"I am very sure because we have 140, even if the two of them jumped, there's only 84. Don't try to bring down this government by undemocratic means, wait for the next election," said Nazri.

From the looks of it, the opposition does not seem to have the upper hand in the numbers game yet, but the government is not taking any chances – all government MPs are given specific instructions to attend every single parliamentary session and any no-confidence motion must be rejected at all costs.

Kit Siang calls for emergency motion on Altantuya case

Veteran DAP leader and Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang has submitted an emergency motion to Parliament to debate blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s latest allegations concerning the Altantunya Shaariibuu murder.

In a recent statutory declaration, Raja Petra alleged that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's wife Rosmah Mansor was at the murder scene of the Mongolian national.

KUALA LUMPUR: Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timor) has submitted a notice calling for an emergency motion to discuss allegations by online news portal Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin over the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case.

In his notice, Lim said the credibility and legitimacy of the Government would suffer a mortal blow if the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and those named in the allegations remained silent on the matter.

Copies of the notice were distributed to reporters in the Parliament Lobby.

Lim repeated the statutory declaration by Raja Petra who claimed that he was reliably informed that three people were present at the scene when Altantuya's body was blown up.

"He (Raja Petra) said these three people have thus far not been implicated in the murder nor called as witnesses by the prosecution in the ongoing trial at the Shah Alam High Court.

"He was aware that it is a crime not to reveal evidence that may help the police in its investigation of the crime,” Lim said.

Jun 20, 2008

SAPP wins support in no-confidence against PM Abdullah

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Yong Teck Lee has received endorsement by SAPP supreme council for his call for a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - A rebel party in Malaysia's ruling coalition on Friday won the backing of members to press ahead with its no-confidence vote against embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

After a marathon session lasting more than six hours, top leaders of the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) endorsed party president Yong Teck Lee who Wednesday called for the no-confidence move against the premier.

"It is a decision reached by consensus after hearing all the views in the supreme council meeting. Majority of the supreme council members supported the motion of no confidence against the prime minister," Yong told reporters.

"The two SAPP MPs will support any vote of no-confidence against the prime minister in parliament or one of them will move the motion," he added.

Analysts said the unprecedented move compounded Abdullah's problems after disastrous March elections, and that it could trigger a ripple effect of dissent within the 14-party coalition.

Abdullah has been fighting for his political survival since the polls that saw the opposition win a third of parliamentary seats and control of five states.

A recent 41 per cent petrol price hike, which has triggered widespread outrage and public protests, has made Abdullah's position even more tenuous.

But political figures said the vote would not "see the light of day" when parliament reconvenes Monday because of parliamentary rules that make it easy for the ruling party to block the motion.

Analysts however said it would intensify the opposition campaign to win over disgruntled MPs from the ruling coalition in its attempt to seize power.

Yong criticised the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) for re-opening an old investigation related to allegations of corrupt practices when he was Sabah chief minister from 1996 to 1998.

"The action by the ACA on me is to deter others from taking the same stand as us. ACA is creating a situation of fear," he said. "Why investigate now when SAPP is moving a no-confidence motion."

Yong said the motive for his action was not greed as alleged but the failure of the federal government to ensure economic prosperity and security of his state on Borneo island.

There was an urgent need to resolve the growing problem of illegal migrants from the southern Philippines, he said.

Yong added that Sabah was entitled to 20 per cent of oil royalties to bolster prosperity, instead of the five per cent it currently receives.

On Thursday, Abdullah's supporters rallied behind him and the prime minister said he would continue to lead the government despite the attempt to topple him.

"I cannot afford to be distracted by issues that keep coming up. I have to be focused with what I have to do. When things like this happen, we have to deal with it," he said.

PM : I Cannot Be Distracted From My Responsibility

Video Link - BN: No action against SAPP

Barisan Nasional supreme council today resolved not to take action against Sabah Progressive Party until it gets an "official statement" for its planned no-confidence vote against the prime minister. The decision by the Barisan Nasional (BN) supreme council in not taking any action against Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), is made in the spirit of comraderies in the BN and based on party constitution, BN leaders said. Gerakan Acting President Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said the action did not mean that the BN was being lenient, but was made in accordance with party constitution, which stated that disciplinary action be taken against component parties, not individuals.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Thursday issues and criticism would not distract him from his duties and responsibilities.

He said the people had given sufficient mandate to the Barisan Nasional (BN) to form a strong government in the last general election.

"We should therefore not let ourselves to be distracted by issues that are bound to crop up from time to time. I have to focus on what I want to do.

"At the same time, when there are problems which we should tackle, then we should of course deal with it," he said when asked about his feeling in the wake of the statement by Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Yong Teck Lee Wednesday.

Abdullah said he had been long in politics and that in politics, such a thing was not new. "I have jobs to do... I cannot be just thinking about all the criticisms levelled against me.

"As politicians, we are used to being criticised but the most important thing is to remain focus on the job and not be distracted or bothered by it," he said after chairing a BN supreme council emergency meeting here.

When asked whether the political challenge to his leadership could affect the country's economic stability, Abdullah said, "we will have to manage our economy."

He said at the recent World Economic Forum on East Asia in Kuala Lumpur, several participants, including from the foreign media, had expressed their confidence to his leadership.

"They said that they are used to seeing political situations in countries around the world and that Malaysia is stable and the activities are still going on, the economy is going on, the administration is going on... so far so well.

"They told me, `You are managing what is already a very difficult issue... the increase in the (global) price of oil'," he added.

Jun 19, 2008

BN meeting to discuss SAPP betrayal

The Barisan Nasional supreme council will be holding an emergency meeting this afternoon to discuss Sabah Progressive Party's (SAPP) shocking betrayal yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: The Barisan Nasional Supreme Council will hold an emergency meeting at 2.30pm to discuss Sabah Progressive Party’s (SAPP) no-confidence motion on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The party had yet to decide if one of its own Members of Parliament would table the motion in the next sitting of Parliament on Monday, or whether the motion would be tabled by an MP from another party.

The Barisan Supreme Council emergency meeting would take place at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur at 2.30pm Thursday, Barisan secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said.

Reaction within Barisan ranks to SAPP’s announcement on Wednesday was varied. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the party can accommodate dissenting voices and didn’t think there was a need to expel SAPP from the coalition party.

“It’s their right to express their views,” he said.

However, other leaders came down hard, with Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam asking for SAPP’s expulsion, describing its motion as “undisciplined, undemocratic and irresponsible.”

SAPP’s unprecedented move was announced on Wednesday by party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee, who said the no-confidence motion could spark off a groundswell within Barisan in the peninsula, Sarawak and Sabah.

Sepanggar MP Datuk Eric Enchin Majimbun or Tawau MP Datuk Dr Chua Soon Bui could propose the motion, said Yong, who also revealed that he had met Parti Keadilan Rakyat advisor and de facto opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim twice.

Yong cited the “continued insensitive attitude of the Government towards serious issues in Sabah” as the main reason SAPP decided to move a motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister.

These issues included getting 20% oil royalties instead of the present 5%, the return of Labuan, poverty eradication, rural development, racial politics, illegal immigrants, crime and drugs.

He added that the people of Sabah were also suffering from high inflation because of recent “astronomical” and “unexpected” fuel price hikes, which was contrary to a Barisan election promise.

The SAPP blog is also running two polls on the matter.

The first is on whether its no-confidence motion was relevant at all. At press time, 590 had voted, with 559 (94%) saying yes.

The second, which began yesterday, was on whether SAPP should remain in Barisan. As at press time, 6,423 had voted, with an overwhelming majority (5,566 or 86%) saying it should leave Barisan and join the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance.

Only 195 or 3% urged it to stay with Barisan, while 662 (about 10%) wanted it to leave Barisan but remain unaligned.

PM says SAPP leader acted out of 'personal greed'

(Malaysiakini) Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Yong Teck Lee in declaring that his party has lost confidence in Abdullah's leadership, said the party's two MPs (Sepanggar and Tawau) would support a motion for a vote of no confidence against the prime minister in the Parliament sitting on Monday.

It is the first time in the history of the nation that a vote of no-confidence is to be moved against a prime minister.

Sapp has two parliamentarians - Dr Chua Soon Bui (Tawau) and Eric Enchin Majimbun (Sepanggar) - and four state assemblypersons. Majimbun, who is currently overseas, has expressed his support for the party's decision by signing the press statement.

Chua who was present at the party's 90-minute press conference in Kota Kinabalu, gave four reasons for backing the no-confidence vote.

They are:

  • No concrete actions have been taken on the issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah. "Our sovereignty is threatened," said Chua.

  • Sabah, being the poorest state, is greatly burdened by the sharp hike in petrol prices. The government has failed to provide "holistic economic solutions".

  • Sapp MPs would fail in their role as elected representatives as issues raised such as poor delivery systems, corruption, wastage of resources, lack of transparency and no sense of accountability are ignored.

  • People have lost confidence in the leadership of Abdullah. Sapp is of the opinion that if the top leadership can't perform, then Abdullah should make way for other able leader to take over.

In response to this, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi says Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Yong Teck Lee's latest action has been due to the fact that "I have not been able to satisfy his personal greed."

Meanwhile, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia says he has not received any notice from any party with regard to any motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"I have not received anything yet. No notice has been submitted to my office so far," he told Bernama Wednesday night.

He said any party could submit a request to table a motion based on two provisions under the Standing Orders.

The first is Order 27(1) which provides for a motion to be tabled by any member of Parliament (MP) on any specific subject but the MP must give a 14-day notice while the second is Order 18(1) when the House debates a motion of public interest deemed as urgent.

Unlike Order 27(1) where a 14-day notice is needed, Order 18(1) only needs a 48-hour notice or two clear working days.

This mean, whoever is planning to table the motion on Monday must submit the notice to the Dewan Rakyat speaker by tomorrow at the latest.

When asked would he accept such a requisition, Pandikar said any MP could propose a motion in the House provided it meets the provisions of the Standing Orders.

"Whether it is going to be accepted or not, I would have to look at it first before making a decision," he said.

Jun 17, 2008

Malaysian opposition says two govt parties may defect

Another Tsunami is coming soon?.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's opposition said on Tuesday that two political parties were considering defecting from the ruling coalition, which was hammered in March elections, to help it form a government.

The defection of one of the component parties in the Barisan Nasional coalition would be a major blow for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who has been fending off calls for his resignation since the polls.

Members of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) dismissed opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim's comments that they were on the verge of switching sides.

But Azmin Ali, vice president of Anwar's Keadilan party, said negotiations with the two parties were progressing well, and that there were also talks with lawmakers from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

"There's a strong possibility, and the discussion is still ongoing, not only with MCA but also with UMNO and other components of Barisan National," he told AFP.

"We've had a series of meetings with UMNO lawmakers. There's no way we will form any coalition with UMNO as a party, but we are more than happy to welcome any UMNO MPs who are willing to support the cause."

Azmin would not say how many UMNO lawmakers were interested in defecting, but he said the opposition already has the numbers to form a government though it wanted more time to ensure a smooth transition.

"It's going to be very soon, but certainly we need some time," he said, adding that the transition could be sooner than Anwar's stated deadline of mid-September.

Azmin said a recent 41 percent fuel price hike, which has triggered public anger and protests, had heaped further pressure on Abdullah by showing he could not manage the economy.

MCA secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan, whose party's fortunes plummeted in the general elections that saw the opposition claim a third of parliamentary seats, dismissed the claims as "preposterous and absolutely false".

"All 15 MCA MPs have contacted me to deny ever meeting Anwar, let alone jump ship," he told the New Straits Times.

"It is a lie. He leaks this 'claim' to the press, so that he can go to other Barisan Nasional component parties and say 'see, MCA has crossed over, you should join us, too,'" he said.

SAPP deputy president Raymond Tan said that despite its criticism of the government's performance in Sabah state on Borneo island, the party had no intention of leaving the coalition.

Azmin said the denials were predictable because of the "culture of fear, intimidation and harassment in Malaysian politics".

"So you have to appreciate their predicament, but our discussions with the component parties are very positive and progressing very well," he said.

Jun 13, 2008

Thousands protest fuel price hike in Malaysia

More than 1,000 opposition protesters marched through Malaysia's largest city Friday in the biggest public show of anger over the government's decision to dramatically raise fuel prices.

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 2,000 protesters marched through the Malaysian capital Friday in the largest of a series of demonstrations against last week's steep fuel price hike.

Led by the Islamic opposition party PAS, they called for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to quit over the decision to raise petrol prices by 41 percent.

"We want to show how unhappy the Malaysian public are with the oil price rise," said Salahuddin Ayub, PAS youth chief and organiser of the rally.

"The government has forced us to the streets to demand a reversal of this disastrous policy. This is more than a wake-up call for the PM," he told AFP.
"We want the PM to resign after this unacceptable rise."

The crowd, which congregated at an inner-city mosque after Friday prayers, had planned to march to the city's iconic Petronas Twin Towers where dozens of police were stationed in preparation.

But faced with a police blockade near the mosque, rally organisers changed direction and proceeded into the crowded downtown district, causing serious traffic snarls as they sat down at a major intersection to make speeches.

"Overthrow the policy" they chanted, as they called for the destruction of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

"We must support the people's rights to demand more help from the government because we are suffering from this price rise," said Siti Anisah, a 45-year-old clerk wearing a blue headscarf and traditional "baju kurung" flowing garments.

"I think there will be more protests because we definitely don't want to pay so much more. How do I feed my children? she asked.

There has been a handful of small protests organised by other opposition parties since the price hike, but activists say they are gearing up for a major demonstration on July 12 which they hope will attract 100,000 people.

Tun Mahathir : Arrest me if you have proof

Following the recent allegation revealed by Judge Ian Chin, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the police can arrest him if they had evidence on allegations that he had threatened judges.

LANGKAWI: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the police can arrest him if they had evidence on allegations that he had threatened judges.

“I have no power now. If they want to investigate, okay, fine. I can face it.

“If I am wrong, okay, they can arrest me,” he said upon his arrival at the Langkawi Airport here Thursday.

“They can investigate me. I want to know the truth,” he said.

Dr Mahathir was responding to a police report lodged against him by DAP chairman Karpal Singh following High Court Judge Justice Ian Chin's claim that the former premier had threatened to remove judges by referring them to a tribunal.

Justice Chin had alleged that Dr Mahathir had issued a thinly-veiled threat to judges during a Judges Conference on April 24, 1997.

Dr Mahathir said those in power now could do what they like.

He also said he would give a press conference on the Justice Chin issue on Friday.

Dr Mahathir had said in his blog that he was curious about what Justice Chin considered as “veiled threat”.

In Kuala Lumpur, former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said he could not remember speaking at any “boot camp” for judges and judicial officers in 1997.

“I remember addressing the Asean Law Conference in 1995 as deputy prime minister but I can’t recall attending any conference involving judges,” he said.

The de facto leader of PKR had been asked to shed light on the boot camp that was mentioned by Datuk Ian Chin in his startling disclosure in open court on Monday at the outset of hearing an election petition in Sibu.

Police plan crackdown on Friday fuel price demo

The police today said they will deploy up to 2,000 security forces to crack down on a planned street demonstration in the capital to protest recent fuel price hikes.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's police said Thursday they will deploy up to 2,000 security forces to crack down on a planned street demonstration in the capital to protest recent fuel price hikes.

City police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman said between 1,500 and 2,000 security forces will be deployed to stop the opposition conservative Muslim party PAS-led march in the capital on Friday.

"We will close several roads leading to the area if necessary," he said, according to state Bernama news agency.

Salahuddin Ayub, PAS youth chief said more rallies will be held in coming weeks to oppose last week's 41.0 percent fuel price hike, which raised petrol prices at the pump to 2.70 ringgit per litre (0.84 dollars per litre).

"We are protesting so that the government realises how badly the people are suffering with such a huge rise in fuel prices," he told AFP.

He said the expected 10,000-strong protest will begin at a city mosque after Friday prayers, before marching to the capital's iconic Petronas Twin Towers -- named after the state oil company.

"The poor are facing a nightmare having to deal with such a big fuel rise as the price of basic food like rice and flour have also shot up," he said.

The Keadilan party, led by opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim, was also planning a protest, aimed at gathering one million people in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, party spokesman Tian Chua told AFP.

He said the protest would go ahead "with or without a police permit."

"We are opposing the price increase because this is in the heart of every Malaysian," he said.

Several smaller street protests have erupted over the past week, including two in the northern manufacturing hub of Penang and several in the country's capital.

Opposition leaders have warned that they will keep protesting the hikes until the government reviews its decision.

Abdullah has said there will be no more fuel price hikes for the rest of the year and has implemented measures to help cushion the effects of the increase through cash rebates and cost-cutting measures. But critics say the moves are not enough.

Jun 12, 2008

Watchdog says Malaysia's corruption at critical level

Another indicator that shows Malaysia is indeed progressing very well. Malaysia BOLEH!?.

KUALA LUMPUR - Corruption in Malaysia has reached a critical level as the country falls in international rankings, a graft watchdog announced Thursday, warning the government to act or lose its competitiveness.

The UN's Asia-Pacific Human Development Report highlighted an International Country Risk Guide finding which saw Malaysia decline from a score of 4.00 in 1996 to 2.38 in 2006, with a lower score representing greater corruption.

"It is worrying because it is a business index which reflects on our domestic investment, foreign direct investment and confidence in the economy," said Ramon Navaratnam, country head of graft watchdog Transparency International.

"Corruption is at a critical level here," he said.

He said corruption in Malaysia was deeply entrenched in the negotiation of contracts.

Bribes were paid to government officials to speed up trade licences, for police protection and for loan transactions.

"Our economic structure, the way we do business here, needs to be reviewed, renewed and redesigned," Navaratnam said, warning that Malaysia could lose its competitive edge if it remained "complacent and inefficient."

"Malaysia can do much better if there is stronger political will to fight corruption. Given the rapid pace of globalisation and increasing economic competition among Asian countries, it's time to pull our socks up," he said.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was elected on an anti-corruption platform in March 2004, but opposition leaders say progress has been slow.

Following his government's recent drubbing in national polls he announced several measures to tackle corruption and reform what many view as a compliant judiciary.

A royal commission recently authenticated a tape showing a top lawyer brokering judicial appointments with the help of politicians during the
premiership of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Earlier this week, a senior judge said judges were indoctrinated and threatened with dismissal to pressure them into making pro-government decisions during the former premier's rule.

Jun 11, 2008

PM says no more fuel price hikes this year

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wednesday there would be no more fuel price hikes for the rest of the year.

Abdullah said that because Malaysians were still coping with the impact of last week's 41 percent fuel price increase, the government will absorb the cost of soaring crude oil costs.

"There will be no more fuel price hikes for this year," he said in a statement.

Malaysia, a net oil exporter, heavily subsidises petrol and diesel but said it was forced to implement the deeply unpopular price hike as the cost of subsidies would have ballooned to US$17 billion this year.

The government last week raised the price of fuel by 41 percent to 2.70 ringgit (0.84 dollars) per litre.

To ease the impact on motorists, it will give cash rebates of 625 ringgit for owners of small- and medium-sized vehicles, which will cost the government 5.0 billion ringgit.

Abdullah said the government would also pay salaries of government workers and officers fortnightly from August, to help them organise their expenses and cash flow to cope with the fuel price increase.

Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop warned Wednesday that if world crude oil prices hit 150 dollars in the short-term it could impact on the country's projected 3.1 percent budget deficit.

Testing times for Malaysia

Between the political brinkmanship of Mahathir, the chicanery of Anwar and the naivete of Abdullah, all eyes will likely turn to the UMNO party caucus in December when party hacks decide the political fate of Abdullah as their party president and leader.

JAPAN TIMES — The man who once gave lectures to the West and its leaders is back again regaling his captive Malaysian audience with his trademark rhetoric.

Those who have crossed swords with former Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohammad and are familiar with his unconventional combative style can attest that those confrontations, as unpleasant as they may have been, also had the unintended consequence of canonizing the man within his nation.

No better understanding of Mahathir and his methods is better enunciated than the insights he gives in a critique he wrote for TIME magazine in 1999 where he extolled the virtues of unorthodoxy.

As interesting and refreshing as the article was, its defense of his globally unpopular decision to impose capital controls to staunch the flow of funds out of Malaysia at the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1998 revealed within its subtext a man unafraid to defy conventions and willing to chart independent courses, even at the expense of being sneered at.

If truth has to first endure ridicule before it is opposed just so that it can become self-evident, Mahathir has clearly passed all of those three hurdles.

Just like in 1970 when he wrote "The Malay Dilemma," which documented the backwardness of the Malays over their habit of diluting their gene pool by intra-kinship marriages, a persona of unorthodoxy has always characterized the one-time Malay nationalist turned politician who exhibits an unusual display of courage in the face of adversity.

For someone who thrives doing the very kind of things politicians seldom commit for fear of being labeled politically incorrect, his recent resignation from the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) — the political party he headed for 22 years as president — is turning out to be a tipping point in Malaysian politics.

In urging the rest of the party faithful to break ranks and resign en masse, the move is calculated not only to force the ouster of the government but also to block the return from the political wilderness of another political foe, former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar, who was jailed in 1999 for corruption, is now perceived to be gunning for justice over his imprisonment, which he called a conspiracy at the highest levels of government.

Or, it could also be, as some have alleged, yet another "Mahathir way" of trying to deflect attention from a Royal Commission convoked to probe his involvement in a judge-fixing scandal during his stewardship of the country more than 20 years ago.

With most of Malaysia and Singapore, and to a lesser degree Indonesia, transfixed on what is rapidly turning into a political soap opera, there is no musing that all love is conceivably lost between the former premier, his anointed successor and the former deputy premier.

At the heart of Mahathir's grievance is a suspicion of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's plans to erase Mahathir's reputation by scrapping many of his economic projects. Should such an episode come to pass, Mahathir would almost certainly be left without a legacy.

The triumvirate and Caesarean-like court intrigues have no doubt seized imaginations.

Though it has not happened yet, the breakdown in party hierarchy spawned by the elder statesman's resignation and his success at getting some party hacks to heed his call have nevertheless reverberated with eerie echoes of the 1969 Sino-Malay race riots that were triggered a similar election debacle and left scores of people dead in the streets.

"You know the UMNO is in trouble when its party members start abandoning ship," a political scientist who chose to remain anonymous told Asia Times Online.

Acknowledging that he did not keep his promises in an election postmortem has also made Abdullah politically weaker. And those broken promises have included a failure to combat corruption, crime, rising racial tension and cronyism; a failure that the country's unified political opposition capitalized on to such tantalizing effect in the March 8 general elections.

The ruling Barisan Nasional, an omnibus grouping that lumps together the nation's ethnic Chinese and Indians under their respective political banners, not only lost 5 out of 13 states but was returned to office with the slenderest of parliamentary majorities at only 51 percent. For Abdullah such an outcome was a sobering moment because he and his team secured an unprecedented 90 percent of the popular vote in the previous election held in 2004.

Yet nothing could have been worse than in the non-consultative manner in which Abdullah raised fuel prices last week. A 40-percent hike in oil-producing Malaysia was perceived as "too high" and "too soon." The widespread street protests that gathered storm in the wake of the increases have every possibility of playing into the hands of the regime's political opponents. They will almost certainly weaken Abdullah's position.

Between the political brinkmanship of Mahathir, the chicanery of Anwar and the naivete of Abdullah, all eyes will likely turn to the UMNO party caucus in December when party hacks decide the political fate of Abdullah as their party president and leader.

As developments unfold with breakneck speed, the self-effacing emergence of Anwar and the Pakatan Rakyat Party's sterling success in securing 82 seats in the 140 seat Assembly in the March elections has no doubt left the country's chattering classes abuzz.

In 2005, Anwar told Singapore's TODAY paper of a 5-year time frame to becoming Malaysia's next prime minister. And true to form and design, he has assiduously been seeking defections from elected backbenchers to trigger an eventual collapse of the newly-elected government. A collapse that results in calls for fresh elections would be just what Anwar needs. Because he is immensely popular, and he knows it, he can handily translate the disaffection in his country into votes and assume the premiership he is seeking much sooner than the 5-year time frame.

With no one who can match him in charisma, oratory and perhaps in chicanery, there appears to be nothing that can stop Anwar, at least for now.

These are indeed testing times for Malaysia. As the country heads for headier days; political sclerosis of a kind never before seen before will feature prominently as Malaysia turns another page in its history.

Jun 10, 2008

Tan Sri Sanusi Junid sacked as UIA president - no reason given

Tan Sri Sanusi Junid today held a press conference near his residence to explain the circumstances leading to his sacking as Internation Islamic University (IIU) president

(Malaysiakini) Former Kedah Menteri Besar Sanusi Junid had last Thursday said he could be sacked from his post as International Islamic University (UIA) president as a punishment for quitting Umno.

At a press conference today, Sanusi revealed that he had indeed received a letter dated June 2 that his post in UIA had been terminated effective on that day.

According to Sanusi, he only received the letter yesterday. The letter, which was signed by UIA constitutional head Sultan Ahmad Shah, did not provide any reason for the abrupt termination.

“I have done nothing wrong and I have not used the post for my own political ends,” decried Sanusi in an 18-page statement.

He said that the contract for the university post, which pays a monthly allowance of RM5,000, is not due to expire for another two years.

Sanusi added that since he has close ties with the Pahang sultan, the termination could only come from the advice of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The former cabinet minister had last month quit Umno along with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad as a protest against Abdullah’s refusal to resign as party leader.

The duo had vowed to only return to the party after Abdullah had stepped down.

Following this, Higher Education Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin had hinted that Sanusi could be sacked if the former MB, who is a close Mahathir ally, had used his university position for “political purposes.

Jun 9, 2008

PM announces cost-cutting package after fuel hike

To alleviate consumers' woes amid the spiralling oil prices, the Anti-Inflation Council announced several measures aimed at softening the effects of the last Wednesday's petrol hike.

After chairing the first meeting at Putrajaya today, PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the council has decided that rebates to private vehicle owners via the post office will be expedited.

The government had initially set the rebate date for those who have already paid their road taxes in April and May as July 1.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia announced Monday a 2.0-billion-ringgit (US$612m) cost-cutting package aimed at softening the blow after an unpopular 41 percent fuel price increase.

"With all the cuts the government is making, we are expecting to save 2.0 billion ringgit annually," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a press conference.

"I understand the suffering of the people and I hope these measures can help them," said the premier, who was clobbered in March elections when voters punished the ruling coalition over rising prices.

Abdullah, whose position is now even more tenuous after last week's overnight fuel price hike, defended the decision which has sparked protests and public outrage.

"Although the government does not want to burden the people, tough decisions have to be made because it has a duty to guarantee that natural resources are used in an optimum way, not just now but for future generations," he said.

"The government is now taking measures to reduce the difficulties that result from rising prices."

As part of the cost-cutting package, official overseas trips will be limited, purchases of assets will be deferred, and the entertainment allowance for ministers will be cut by 10 percent, he said.

The government will continue to review planned "mega-projects", including major infrastructure plans slated to cost billions, and only those deemed essential will proceed.

There will also be a partial hiring freeze in the civil service and a 10 percent cut on services and supplies provided to the government.

Abdullah brought forward by two weeks the date for a cash rebate for owners of small- and medium-sized vehicles -- designed to partially offset the fuel price hike -- to June 14.

And in a bid to head off threats of closures by public transport operators, he said they will be allowed to buy diesel at the old subsidised rate.

Abdullah said Malaysia will also increase the threshold of the poverty rate, which currently stands at 691 ringgit in monthly income, so that more people can access the government safety net.

Malaysia cut fuel subsidies as the bill for this year was set to rocket to US$17 billion. Even after the hike to 2.70 ringgit per litre, the country's petrol is still among the cheapest in Asia.

But opposition parties argue that as an oil exporter, Malaysia did not have to take such a drastic step, and have vowed to mount a series of rallies culminating in a July 12 demonstration they hope will attract 100,000 people.

The government expects inflation to reach as high as 5.0 percent this year following the hikes, while growth is projected at a slower pace of 5.0 percent in 2008, from 6.3 percent last year.

Jun 8, 2008

Malaysia scrambles to soften fuel price blow as protests loom

PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he hoped the people would obtain the correct information on the global fuel price increase phenomenon so they could understand what the country was facing.

So do you really understand what the government is facing?.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's government scrambled Sunday to cushion the blow from a 41 percent fuel price hike, as activists planned more rallies to denounce the decision.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi urged angry citizens to understand the reasons behind the move, and said the government would do all it can to alleviate the burden on the poor.

"Each and every one of us has a role and responsibility in facing these trying times. As such, let's face this challenge together with resilience for the greater good of the nation and our future generations," he said.

"The government has held out for as long as possible to protect the people from fuel price increases," the premier said in the speech reported Sunday.

Abdullah was forced to cut fuel subsidies as the bill for this year was set to rocket to 17 billion US dollars. Even after Thursday's hike to 2.70 ringgit per litre (0.84 US dollars), Malaysia's petrol is still among the cheapest in Asia.

But Salahuddin Ayub, youth leader of the Islamic opposition party PAS, said that as a net oil exporter, Malaysia did not need to implement such a drastic overnight increase.

"We are really very sorry that it has to be this way but it seems the government led by Abdullah has been stubborn, and has not listened to the people," said Salahuddin.

"We will peacefully protest until the government does something to address this issue and review their decision," he added.

Salahuddin said the PAS and the Keadilan party led by opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim would mount a rally of 10,000 people next Friday at the capital's iconic Petronas Twin Towers -- named after the state oil company.

"There will be more protests across the nation in the coming weeks. Poor people are devastated as they are faced with this, while still grappling with the rise in prices of basic needs, like rice," he said.

A number of small street protests have already been held, including one on Saturday in the northern manufacturing hub of Penang, and Keadilan has planned another rally late Sunday.

Activists are planning a major public demonstration, which they hope will attract 100,000 people, in the capital on July 12.

Abdullah, whose standing has been in tatters since disastrous March general elections that gave the ruling coalition its biggest battering in half a century, has suggested measures to appease public wrath.

He said the government will shortly detail initiatives to improve public transport, cut costs at government departments, improve the safety net for the poor, and expand the list of controlled-price goods.

The government expects inflation to reach as high as 5.0 percent this year following the hikes, while growth is projected at a slower pace of 5.0 percent in 2008, from 6.3 percent last year.

Abdullah's coalition was punished by voters in March for failing to rein in the cost of food and fuel, losing a third of parliamentary seats.

"I think it's going to be a very damaging blow to him because there is no public confidence in his leadership anymore," said Lim Kit Siang from the opposition Democratic Action Party.

"The manner in which the hike was done, the high percentage, has further undermined public respect for the prime minister and his government," he told AFP.

Jun 6, 2008

Angry Malaysians protest against increased petrol prices

Led by opposition parties, protesters said they would not let up until the government reviews its decision and reinstates fuel subsidies

KUALA LUMPUR: Angry Malaysians took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur and the northern town of Ipoh on Thursday after the Malaysian government increased pump prices by 40 percent overnight.

Led by opposition parties, protesters said they would not let up until the government reviews its decision and reinstates fuel subsidies.

Malaysians who have relied heavily on government subsidies for many years are waking up to a new reality.

Even though Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi assured motorists on Wednesday that petrol will be sold at a 30 sen or 9 US cents discount to the prevailing market rate, protesters are still fuming.

Many could not comprehend why Malaysia – an oil-producing country – cannot continue fuel subsidies amid soaring prices and a slowing economy.

Teo Kin Teng, a translator, said: "We produce so much oil – import the poorer quality one and export our high quality one – why can't the government use the proceeds to subsidise the people? The increase is not making sense."

Some blame national oil company, Petronas, for not being transparent. Others are also unhappy with the US$195 or RM625 annual cash rebate for owners of cars with engines that are 2 litres and below.

Joe Yap, a sales representative, said: "RM625 divided by 12 is only RM50 a month. Every month we have to pay RM200 to RM300, so what's the subsidy?"

"I want to see how the road transport department returns the rebates to the people. It will be a big mess, I can assure you," said Teo.

PM Abdullah said cutting fuel subsidies will save the country US$4.3 billion and the money can go towards improving food security, including subsidising imported rice, flour, bread and cooking oil.

But many were not convinced.

R Ragunanthanan, a lawyer, said: "He's tempting fate. People are very angry. Paklah, please wake up. That's what I want to say, wake up now."

"24 hours before he announced this price increase, he said he would only increase it in August. Five years back, we elected for him and now this is what he's doing to us," said Yap.

Capitalising on this, opposition leaders are adding fuel into the fire.

Tan Kok Wai, opposition lawmaker, Cheras, said: "What about the government spending? Have they embarked on thrifty campaign on government spending?"

Tan Seng Giaw, another opposition lawmaker, Kepong, said: "We have to review because the reduction in the subsidy is too much."

The country's inadequate public transport system means a lot of people will still have to rely on their own vehicles to commute.

Analysts said Mr Abdullah is taking a huge political risk with this move, especially when inflation is set to exceed 5 percent this month.

Jun 5, 2008

Malaysian opposition plans protests against fuel price hike

Whie, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he hopes that the people of Malaysia will not take to the streets to vent their anger over the fuel price hike announced Wednesday, the Opposition groups said they would hold protests in Kuala Lumpur at 11.30am (0330 GMT) and in the northern city of Ipoh at 11.00am over the "unconscionable" increase.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's government faced demonstrations and public outrage Thursday over its decision to hike petrol prices 40 percent overnight, in a bid to curb its massive subsidies bill.

Opposition groups said they would hold protests in Kuala Lumpur at 11.30am (0330 GMT) and in the northern city of Ipoh at 11.00am over the "unconscionable" increase.

"The fuel increase is both economically inefficient and socially unjust," said Lim Guan Eng, secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party which is part of the opposition alliance.

"So long as rich companies continue to enjoy such fuel subsidies, especially the independent power producers, the fuel increase will be seen as both pro-rich and punishing the poor," he said in a statement.

The new pump price for petrol will be 2.70 ringgit (84 US cents) and 2.58 ringgit for diesel. Petrol previously cost 1.92 ringgit, among the cheapest in Asia.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's announcement on Wednesday evening triggered chaos across the country as motorists swamped fuel stations to fill up before the measure took effect at midnight.

Traffic snarls brought streets to a standstill in the capital Kuala Lumpur as up to 100 cars queued at each petrol station which still had fuel to sell, while many others said they had sold out and turned angry customers away.

Abdullah indicated that further increases were in the pipeline as Malaysia moves to completely abandon fuel price controls that would have cost US$17.4 billion this year -- about a third of the national budget.

"God willing I hope Malaysians will not demonstrate over this," he said, referring to fury over earlier hikes in a country where public transport is poor and most people are reliant on their cars.

Motorists who turned up at petrol stations Thursday to pay sharply higher prices to fill their tanks were uniformly furious over the decision.

"We can do nothing about this government increase -- we have to buy fuel, otherwise how can we go to work?" said 56-year-old engineer K. Letchumanan.

"For my family it's not so bad as we have two incomes, but the poor people will suffer."

Aminah Rahmat, a 46-year-old streetside vendor who had set up her food stall outside a petrol station, said she could already barely manage on her monthly income of less than 1,000 ringgit (300 dollars).

"The government does not care for our welfare, that is why they have made such a huge fuel increase," she said.

"How can I afford to pay so much to transport my cooked food to my customers? I will go out of business."

Bus operators said that a third of companies may have to close down and lorry firm said their rates would have to rise, in a move that will trickle down to higher prices for goods and services.

Abdullah is taking a major political risk in removing price controls as he attempts to recover from disastrous March elections that dealt the ruling coalition its worst results in half a century.

Rising prices of food and fuel were a major factor in the ballot, which has triggered repeated calls for the premier to stand down.

"It is not an attempt to be popular, we have to think in the best interests of the people," Abdullah said Wednesday.

Under a revamped subsidy system, drivers of smaller vehicles will receive a cash payment of 625 ringgit to offset the rising cost, equating to subsidising some 800 litres of fuel.

But economists said the subsidy cut was deeper than anticipated, and that the cash payment was not large enough to compensate for average use.

Abdullah said the price hike could suppress economic growth and drive up inflation as high as 5.0 percent this year, from current levels of 3.0 percent in April.

As part of the subsidy reform, industry and power producers will be charged higher prices for gas from July. Electricity tariffs will rise 18 percent for householders, and 26 percent for commercial and industrial users.

But there was good news for Thais and Singaporeans who will now be allowed to buy fuel at border petrol stations after a recent ban was lifted in view of the subsidy cut. - AFP/ir

Jun 1, 2008

Tun Mahathir outlines plan to oust PM without losing power

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's influential former premier Mahathir Mohamad urged disgruntled ruling party lawmakers not to defect to the opposition to oust the embattled prime minister, but to become independents.

In a de facto masterplan for toppling Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi without losing power, Mahathir said becoming independent lawmakers meant they could avoid opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim having a shot at the job.

Abdullah has come under intense pressure to step down since a humiliating setback for his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)-led coalition in March 8 general elections.

A three-party opposition alliance, unofficially led by 60-year-old Anwar, seized control of five states and a third of parliamentary seats.

Abdullah, however, insists he still has a mandate and will only discuss a transition of power to his deputy Najib Razak after party polls in December.

Mahathir urged UMNO lawmakers not to join opposition ranks in order to push Abdullah out but to become independent candidates instead.

"Say 35 of them come out (of UMNO), the government will collapse, the prime minister will have to resign and if Anwar tries to become the PM you don't give your votes to him," Mahathir said.

"If say Najib, if he has the guts, decides to step in and be the candidate for prime ministership, you can then give your 35 votes to him and he becomes the PM, no loss to anyone, except to Abdullah."

Mahathir, an 82-year-old veteran who resigned from UMNO two weeks ago, said he would not rejoin the party until Abdullah stepped down as party president and premier.

He has been campaigning to oust Abdullah, his hand-picked successor, after the coalition's poor electoral results earlier this year.

Anwar, for his part, has said he is confident of attracting enough defecting government lawmakers to topple Abdullah's administration, but Mahathir brushed aside that claim.

"I think it's a pipe dream," he said.

"He has the money but he is not likely to get the support for crossing over. Crossing over is very painful."

Tun Mahathir won't resign as adviser to Proton and Petronas

Despite no longer being an Umno member, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has no intentions of vacating his four government-appointed posts and prefers to be booted out.

PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he will not quit as adviser to Proton and Petronas voluntarily, adding that he prefers to be kicked out.

“If they want to take away my positions, they are welcome, as I am not dependent on them and not even if they give me RM15,000 a month. I am not interested. So anytime they say get out, I will get out, no problem,” he said.

Earlier when asked if he would relinquish the positions, he said: “It may be an option, if I feel that I have to do so. But I'd prefer if they kicked me out.''

Dr Mahathir also suggested that Umno MPs form an independent group instead of crossing over to the Opposition if they were dissatisfied with the present leadership.

He said crossing over to the Opposition was wrong, as they would be subjected to opposition policies.

“By forming a separate group, say at least 35 of them, this will cause the Government to collapse and the current Prime Minister will have to resign.

“Then if PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim tries to become the Prime Minister and if the votes go to him and then if Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have the guts to step in, the 35 MPs can give their votes to him.

“When he (Najib) becomes the Prime Minister, Barisan Nasional remains in power, and it will be no loss to anyone except to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,” he told a press conference after his speech during a forum “Suntikan Semangat Satria” here yesterday.

The event was organised by NGOs known as Minda Melayu Kreatif, Kelab Cinta Amanah Melayu and Arena PJS14.

He was commenting on Anwar’s claims that certain MPs from Sabah were expected to “jump ship” by Sept 16.

On whether Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor was a Trojan horse for his former party PKR, Dr Mahathir said: “He may be that (Trojan horse) but what I do know is that Anwar is anxious to be supported by Umno and he may want to join Umno at some stage, if he can become the Prime Minister.”