Mar 31, 2010

Tun Mahathir : PM Najib needs to press reforms

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Malaysia’s influential former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today the country’s current prime minister had yet to live up to promises, and urged him to forge ahead with pledged reforms.

A vocal government critic who led the push to oust his immediate successor and usher in Datuk Seri Najib Razak as premier in 2009, Mahathir also defended an affirmative action policy that favours the country’s Malay majority. Najib has pledged to roll back Malay privileges in a new economic model he released yesterday.

“One year is not enough (for an assessment), you are just learning to be a prime minister really,” Mahathir, 84, said in an interview on the sidelines of an investor conference.

“Najib has just released his economic policy, we need to see whether the performance is as good as promised.”

Najib took office in April last year pledging reforms to rejuvenate investment and reverse 2008 election losses suffered by the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for 52 years.

But his government has delayed the introduction of petrol and electricity price rises, road toll increases and a goods and services tax in a series of decisions that has undermined market confidence in his ability to deliver economic reforms.

That, Mahathir said, was no way to oversee change.

“I think that is a very bad way of doing things,” he said. “You make a decision, then you have to implement it, but before making a decision, you should think very carefully about it.”

Mahathir served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and still plays a major behind-the-scenes role in national politics.

The country’s next general election is due by 2013, but may be called as early as next year.

Analysts say that although Najib faces an opposition riven by divisions, he is wary of upsetting the Malay majority, the core of support for his United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party, mainstay of the ruling coalition. Many Malays could be hit by the proposed tax and subsidy reforms.

Najib announced a new economic model (NEM) yesterday to hoist the country’s trade-dependent economy to the ranks of developed nations by 2020 through liberalisation and a greater focus on services.

But doubts remain on how far he can succeed in overcoming a potential political backlash in rolling-back the four-decades old affirmative action policy favouring Malays.

Since taking office, Najib has rolled back parts of the old policy, ending requirements for a 30 per cent Malay equity ownership in some economic subsectors.

Signs of resistance have begun to emerge with the formation of a Malay rights group Perkasa (Strength) at the weekend.

It is not clear whether Perkasa enjoys widespread support, but Mahathir presided over its launch and he told Reuters the prime minister should take account of its demands.

“Try to do something to reassure them (Perkasa) and explain why the government is doing certain things,” he said.

“If they can accept your explanation, well and good, but if not it is important to take seriously their feelings of unhappiness.”

Ethnic and religions tensions have increased in the mainly Muslim but multiracial country following a court ruling allowing the use of the word “Allah” by Christians.

A rising tide of Islam also saw three Muslim women caned for the first time under strict Islamic laws, while another was sentenced to caning for drinking beer.

Mahathir presided over some liberalisation measures to the New Economic Policy (NEP), the reform plan of the time often criticised as an impediment to investment.

His changes allowed, for instance, 100 percent foreign ownership of some factories and he called for “adjustments” to be made, provided they did not increase income disparities between Malays and the wealthier ethnic Chinese community.

“The mechanism for implementing the policy is going to be very important if it is done correctly, I think even Perkasa would accept it,” Mahathir told Reuters. — Rueters

Mar 29, 2010

Tun Mahathir hopes MCA members will accept Dr Chua as leader

PUTRAJAYA, March 29 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad hopes that the MCA members will accept the election of Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek as party president.

“The members have expressed their choice and I hope that the whole MCA will accept it. The loser must accept it and the victor must also accept the loser as part of the MCA.

“God willing, MCA can run smoothly,” he told reporters after closing the “Bicara Negarawan” programme here.

He was asked to comment on the election results yesterday which resulted in victory for Dr Chua, beating former president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting and incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat with a 68-vote majority.

Asked whether the sex scandal which involved Dr Chua would burden the party, he said the decision showed that the party members had put the issue behind them.

“If the members are mature, they have to accept the decision of the majority as in any democracy,” he said.

Asked on the possibility that others may not accept the result in the context of strengthening the party he said: “We may not be able to accept but it’s not our party.”. — Bernama

Mar 28, 2010

Chua is new MCA President, Liow Deputy President

KUALA LUMPUR: Former MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek won the president's post with a slim 68-vote majority today, edging former number one Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting and incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat in the party's elections.
Dr Chua, 62, polled 901 votes to Ka Ting's 833. Tee Keat came in third with 578 votes.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai clinched the deputy president's post when he garnered 1,171 votes to beat former vice-president and fellow Cabinet minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha by 65 votes. Kong had obtained 1,106 votes.

For the four posts of vice-president, sole woman contender Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen had the highest number of votes - 1,528, followed by former vice-president Datuk Donald Lim (1,469), Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung (1,202) and Central Committee (CC) member Gan Ping Sieu (also 1,202).

Today's victory is a pleasant one for Dr Chua, who had to battle the two heavyweight rivals but showed that he remains popular in the party despite many upheavals.

On Jan 2, 2008, he quit his Cabinet post and MCA vice-presidency after admitting that he was the man in a widely circulated sex video.

In the October 2008 party elections, he defeated former secretary-general and Ka Ting's brother, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, for the party's second highest post.

He was involved in a leadership tussle with Tee Keat when he was sacked in August last year for tarnishing the party's image because of the sex video.

He was reinstated as a party member by an extraordinary general meeting which also passed a vote of no-confidence in party president Tee Keat.

Subsequently, he was reinstated as deputy president by the Registrar of Societies, who in turn relegated Liow, who had filled the deputy president's post by then, back to vice-president.

Dr Chua buried the hatchet with Tee Keat to forge a "greater unity" plan but continued to face resistance from Liow and his supporters, including Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong and Wanita head Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who continued to push for fresh polls.

On March 4 this year, he resigned with 21 other CC members to pave the way for the fresh polls today, his second resignation in two years.

A total of 2,315 of the 2,377 eligible delegates voted today, the highest ever turnout in the party's history.

A total of 101 candidates contested the posts of president, deputy president, vice-president (four) and CC member (25) in this party polls, which were last held in October 2008. -- BERNAMA

Mar 27, 2010

Tun Mahathir to PM Najib: Listen to Perkasa

(Malaysiakini) Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamed today told his successor Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to open his ears to the voice of Perkasa and other Malay NGOs.

"I would like to remind the current leadership to listen to the Malay NGOs. They represent the Malays. He should be mindful of the Malays for they are his constituents. They hold the votes (in their hands)."

Speaking while officiating the inaugural Perkasa general meeting at PWTC in Kuala Lumpur today, Mahathir echoed Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali's earlier speech, warning of dire electoral consequences should Najib fail to listen and address the needs of the Malays.

He also reiterated what former minister Azmi Khalid told Malaysiakini prior to the Perkasa's meeting today, which was attended by 4,000 people.

"The Malays are flocking to Perkasa because Umno has failed to promote and fight for the Malay cause."

Several times during his speech, Mahathir also rejected critics' view of him being a racist.
"I am not a racist," he said, and repeatedly stressed, "I am a son of Malaysia."

'You can't clap with one hand'

At a press conference after the opening ceremony, Mahathir lashed out at his former deputy and present Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his many conspiracy claims.

"If he cannot defend himself, he calls it conspiracy. It is as if everyone is hatching a conspiracy against him (Anwar).

"When I was in power last time, everyone knew there was a conspiracy to topple me. As my number two, he never said anything about it, but he used others to say things."

Asked to comment on Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's vocal views and recent appointment as advisor to Kelantan over the oil royalty issue, Mahathir dismissed the matter.

"This is a free country, he can say what he likes.They (Kelantan in appointing Razaleigh) can do what they like, but they can't do anything if they clap with one hand (without the federal government's cooperation)."

Mahathir also accused Kelantan MB Nik Aziz Nik Mat of colluding with those behind the Sept 16 takeover bid when the latter advised Bayan Baru MP Zahrain Hashim not to release embarrassing details about his former party.

"If he asked not to reveal, he must be in league with them."

Tun Mahathir says Perkasa champions Malay rights due to weak UMNO

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — Malay rights movement Perkasa is fighting for the community’s rights now because Umno is not doing its job, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

He defended non-governmental organisations (NGO) like Perkasa existence as necessary if the ruling coalition is unable to protect the country’s main community.

“Why were there no Malays NGOs in the past, only now? I say there are so many now because there is an erosion of confidence in Umno as a protector of their fate,” the outspoken Dr Mahathir said when opening Perkasa’s first annual general meeting here today.

“They are of the opinion that if Umno cannot protect them, they must protect themselves,” he added, drawing loud applause from the floor.

Dr Mahathir observed that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government was being bombarded by loud demands from all quarters for a bigger slice of the economic pie, which distressed the Malays who were worried about their position.

“I’m not saying the government is one-sided but weak. The reality today is the support for Umno and Barisan Nasional is not as strong as it was during Tun Razak’s time, or Hussein Onn’s or even mine,” the fourth prime minister said, referring to his predecessors.

But Dr Mahathir who rule from 1981 before retiring in 2003, said he was confident the present prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, will be able to reverse the tide in Umno’s favour.

“I am confident Najib’s leadership can change things. But Najib must listen to the complains of other races, but he must not forget the conplains of the Malays,” the 84 year-old added, reminding the prime minister that the “Malays are his constituents”.

He said that as long as there was imbalance in the treatment accorded to the Malays, there would be no equality among the races in the country.

Dr Mahathir wrapped up his speech by hoping that Perkasa may soon be disbanded.

“For now, a Malay NGO like Perkasa is needed, not to thump their chests but to determine the success of the Malay fight; a fight that does not create any loss for other races but for Malays to claim their rights.

“We want a win-win result. We don’t want to take everything for ourselves but for all to succeed,” he said to a standing ovation.

Tun Mahathir opens Perkasa's AGM

KUALA LUMPUR: The inaugural annual general meeting of the Malay--based Perkasa has been opened by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Putra World Trade Centre here.

In his opening speech, Dr Mahathir said the sudden mushrooming of Malay non-governmental organisations reflected Umno’s weakness in defending the rights of the Malays.

He added that NGOs like Perkasa will cease to exist when Umno regains its strength to defend the rights of the Malays.

He is confident that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will succeed in returning Umno to its glory.

Dr Mahathir also advised Najib to listen to the grouses of all races including the Malays and take appropriate actions to rectify the situation.

He also called on those who claimed that the non-Malays are marginalised to provide the statistics on the actual number of Malay graduates and percentage of Malays who owned posh homes.

The new economic policy, he said, was not created to rob other races of their share in the economic pie.

Under the new economic policy, the government implement measures to expand the economic pie to benefit all races, he said.

Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali, in his opening speech, hit out at the Pakatan Rakyat for dividing the Malays and for failing to defend Islam.

Mar 26, 2010

Matthias Chang loses suit against Amex

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court on Friday dismissed lawyer Matthias Chang’s suit against American Express (M) Sdn Bhd for breach of contract and defamation.

Justice Noor Azian Shaari dismissed the suit after considering the evidence and and submissions by both parties, and found that the plaintiff had failed to prove his claim against the credit card company.

Chang had filed the suit against American Express in 2002, after his credit card had been suspended.

He was the first witness of the case, which began Thursday.

On Thursday, Chang, who was previously the political secretary to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was cited for contempt of court after a spat with Justice Noor Azian.

He was fined RM20,000 in default of one months’ jail, and was ordered to pay the fine within a week.

Counsel Manjit Singh represented Chang in the suit, while Zainur Zakaria acted for him in the contempt proceedings and Prakash Menon appeared for American Express.

Mar 25, 2010

Tun Mahathir's ex-aide arrested, fined RM20,000 for contempt of court

KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ex-political secretary Matthias Chang was arrested and cited for contempt today after he walked out of his defamation suit against American Express.

He was fined RM20,000 and given a week to pay up or face a one-month jail sentence.

The 60-year-old lawyer, who claimed the giant charge card company had caused him to suffer public shame in an incident eight years ago, caused a stir in the Kuala Lumpur High Court here this morning when he suddenly walked out of the witness box while being cross-examined.

According to a lawyer who witnessed the commotion, Chang suddenly stood up and refused to answer further questions from the defence .

The lawyer who asked not to be named said Chang started abusing trial judge, Justice Noor Azian Shaari, and accused her of bias and said he would lodge a complaint against her with the Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi.

“He then said, ‘I’m going to walk out of court’,” said the lawyer.

Noor Azian immediately ordered Chang remanded for “contempt in the face of court”, based on Article 52 of the Rules of the High Court 1980.

The contempt proceedings were heard separately by the same judge in the afternoon.

Noor Azian told Chang that she would not cite him for contempt if he apologised for his earlier outburst but he refused.

“I have nothing to say,” Chang told Noor Azian, in what was seen as another snub to the judge, when she asked if he had anything to say in his defence.

She then fined Chang RM20,000 for the offence and told to pay the amount within one week or be jailed for one month in default.

The judge also warned Chang she would strike out his claims for defamation if he failed to turn up tomorrow morning for the rest of the proceedings. She released him after that.

Chang had first sued American Express for defamation in 2002, claiming he was humiliated after his charge card could not be read during an official trip to Antarctica with Dr Mahathir.

He served as the ex-PM’s political secretary between June 2001 and October 2003, when Dr Mahathir retired.

Chang’s lawyer for the defamation suit was Manjit Singh, but he later switched counsel to Zainur Zakaria.

Lawyer Prakash Menon represented American Express.