May 30, 2010

Tun Mahathir agrees subsidy must go but says it must be done gradually

JOHOR BARU: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad fully supports the Government's plan to reduce subsidy but feels it should be introduced gradually while efforts must be made to increase the income of the 'rakyat' to lessen the impact of the resulting price hike.

The former prime minister said people must accept the fact that prices of commodities such as oil were going up.

"The price of oil during my time was USD30 (RM98) per barrel while now it is USD80 (RM263) and it has even reached USD140 (RM460) at one time.

"I feel that it is more realistic if the price of oil is increased gradually until it reflects the market price as the Government has manage to maintain the price without any significant increase all these years," he told pressmen after launching the MAYC veteran card here Saturday.

Dr Mahahtir said it was important not to raise the price drastically to prevent from the people feeling the pinch. "The subsidy should be reduced gradually so that the pain is not too strong.

"The government must ensure the people's income is increased as well," he said.

He said Malaysia was considered quite fortunate as prices of items and commodities were relatively cheap compared to other countries adding that even the price of oil in Bangladesh was more expensive.

Asked whether his visit to the new Johor state new administrative centre in Kota Iskandar, located within Iskandar Malaysia on Saturday, signified his support for the economic region, Dr Mahathir said he agreed with the concept of having a special area developed for economic purposes.

"However, I questioned whether it will bring benefit to Malaysia.

"If it can be proven that it can bring benefit to Malaysia, then I will support," he said.

Dr Mahathir was one of the biggest critics of the project when it was launched during his immediate successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration.

When asked on whether he still wished for the crooked bridge linking Johor Baru and Singapore to be built, Dr Mahathir said yes but declined to comment further.

May 28, 2010

Foreign worker limit affects locals, says Tun Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — The Najib administration’s decision to restrict the entry of foreign workers has also affected job opportunities for Malaysians, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

The former prime minister said the absence of low-skilled foreign workers has impacted the manufacturing industry, resulting in locals losing their jobs.

He said he has been approached by businesses seeking for the restriction to be eased.

“A Japanese corporation has been facing problem because foreign workers are hired to do jobs that do not require skills, [are] lowly paid and do not attract locals,” said Dr Mahathir in a blog post last night.

“Our workers work in the higher level to process the work done by the workers below them. When there are no lower level workers, initial works cannot be done,” he added.

Dr Mahathir said such a scenario would cause businesses to shut.
“When they do this, Malaysians will also lose their source of income. The same problem can be seen in Langkawi, too. Restaurants and duty-free shops do not have workers anymore,” said Dr Mahathir.

“I believe Malaysians are not that cruel to let businesses and local workers to suffer losses just because they don’t like to see foreign workers here,” he said.

Early last year, the government started banning the hiring of foreign workers in the manufacturing and service sectors, in a move to prevent locals from being laid-off.

Malaysia now has approximately 1.9 million foreign workers spread across sectors such as manufacturing (39 per cent), construction (19 per cent), plantation (14 per cent), housemaids (12 per cent), services (10 per cent), and with the rest in agriculture.

The contributing countries by rank are: Indonesia (50.9 per cent), Bangladesh (17.4 per cent), Nepal (9.7 per cent), Myanmar (7.8 per cent), India (6.3 per cent), and the rest from Vietnam.

Last month, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had announced that the government plans to reduce the number of foreign workers to 1.5 million in three years.

Tun Mahathir - Vell Paari must show proof

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s son Vell Paari must give clear proof that Umno was behind the Gerakan Anti-Samy Vellu (GAS).

Dr Mahathir said he was not representing Umno in asking but he had said long ago that one must not overstay one’s welcome, which was one reason why he himself had stepped down.

“Samy Vellu had served longer than me. He has established a record and one should be satisfied with that record,” he said after the 5th Malaysia Conference on Healthy Ageing yesterday.

Vell Paari, an MIC central working committee member, claimed that Umno was supporting expelled former MIC Youth deputy head V. Mugilan in the campaign to oust the MIC president.

May 27, 2010

Tun Mahathir tells Samy Vellu not to overstay

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today that embattled MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu should leave.

“I’m not representing Umno. But long ago I have said that one must not overstay his welcome. That was why I stepped down,” said Dr Mahathir, who stepped down as prime minister in 2003 after being in power for 22 years.

“He has served longer than me and he has set record. I think with that kind of record he should be satisfied,” he added.

On the accusation that Umno was trying to politically assassinate Samy Vellu, Dr Mahathir said those who made the accusation must provide evidence.

“He has to give convincing evidence that Umno is involved,” said the former Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman.

Samy Vellu has been under pressure to step down after expelled MIC deputy Youth chief V. Mugilan launched an anti-Samy Vellu campaign called GAS.

Mugilan, who plans to hold a large gathering this weekend to force Samy Vellu to resign, has been accused of working for Umno.

Samy Vellu’s son Vell Paari had also alleged that Umno is behind the move to oust Samy Vellu, an accusation that was dismissed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who described Vell Paari as insolent.

The accusation was also repeated by MIC Youth chief T. Mohan, who had asked the party to reconsider its position in BN.

Samy Vellu, who took over the MIC presidency from the late Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam 31 years ago, had promised to step down “seven or eight months” before his term expires in March 2012, to pave the way for his deputy Datuk G. Palanivel to become the president.

The plan, however, was opposed by Mugilan, who wanted Samy Vellu to leave by the end of the year, which resulted in his sacking.

Apart from Mugilan, three CWC members — K.P. Samy, Kumar Amman and V. Subramaniam (or Bharat Maniam) — have been sacked for questioning Samy Vellu’s retirement plan.

May 21, 2010

Wain: Tun Mahathir caused country’s woes

PETALING JAYA, May 21 — The author of a hot-selling political biography on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said many issues hampering Malaysia had come from the ex-prime minister’s tenure.

Former Asian Wall Street Journal editor, Barry Wain, whose book “ Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times (Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific)”, sold 4,000 copies in just two weeks added that he does not see any broad changes being brought about by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“I argue that a lot of problems in Malaysia stem from Dr Mahathir’s rule,” said Wain in an interview yesterday, during a reception to celebrate the launch of the book. “Issues like corruption did stem from when he was in power. Lack of leadership, abuse of the NEP (New Economic Policy), problems that exist today.”

Wain, who was a Malaysia correspondent from 1977 to 1979 and has been in Asia for 38 years, said it was “quite obvious” that Malaysia has fallen behind other countries because of abuse of the controversial race-based NEP and that he was still waiting to see substantial reforms.

“I don’t see any broad changes at all,” said Wain of Najib, who is the country’s sixth prime minister and son of the second premier, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

Wain noted, however, that during the middle of Dr Mahathir’s tenure, Malaysia was one of the fastest-growing developing economies. And with 10 years of GDP growth above nine per cent, there was not a sense of concern at that time over where the country was heading under Dr Mahathir.

The reason why Malaysia was still lagging behind advanced Asian economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan even after all the rapid growth, according to Wain, was that the fast economic growth masked problems such as cronyism and the merging of politics with business.

“The great influx of cash hid that Malaysia was becoming uncompetitive,” he noted.

The book is a result of two-and-a-half years of research and interviews spread out over three years.

Wain also refuted reports that Dr Mahathir had seen a draft of the book before it went to print.

“That’s not the case,” said Wain. “I would never agree to an interview (with Dr Mahathir) if he imposed a condition to see the book before it goes to print.”

The book was launched in Asia in December last year but the Home Ministry only approved it for sale in Malaysia last month, which led to many Malaysians buying the book in Singapore or downloading pirated copies from the internet.

Due to the success of the book, another 5,000 copies are being printed for Malaysia and the book’s distributor, UBSD Distribution Sdn Bhd, expects sales to hit 10,000 by the end of the month, a high figure given the non-fiction nature of the book and its price.

“This is the first time that bookshops lined up at the warehouse to get the book,” said UBSD executive director Christopher Toh.

It is learnt that Malaysians had previously crossed the Causeway to Singapore to buy the book at bookshops in the island republic.

May 19, 2010

Tun Mahathir : Punish all in Sime Darby fiasco

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said action should be taken against all those involved in Sime Darby Berhad’s cost overruns for the Bakun project and not just chief executive Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid.

PETALING JAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has claimed that the cost overruns in the Bakun project were almost RM1.8bil and said the responsibility for the Sime Darby fiasco should be shared.

"The Bakun hydro project was given to Sime Darby and a Chinese partner at RM1.8bil. Now, the CEO has been dismissed because of cost overruns in the project, amounting to RM900mil.

"But I believe, and Sime Darby can correct me, the overruns are more than that because the Government has already compensated Sime Darby with about RM700mil.

"So the total cost overruns would be almost equal to the bidded price of RM1.8bil. The price has been doubled," Dr Mahathir wrote in his blog, chedet Wednesday.

"How come the bid is so low? I would think the engineers would know that they would not be able to build at RM1.8bil. Who are the consultants in Sime Darby? How come they okayed such a low cost for the project?" he asked.

He said the responsibility for the overruns should be shared: "Is it only the CEO who was responsible? Who are the others who were involved with the project and failed to see that the cost overruns were very high and the project has been delayed by almost three years.

"I think responsibility should be shared. I was told of this cost overrun and delay three years ago," Dr Mahathir wrote.

Meanwhile, Sime Darby chairman Tun Musa Hitam told a news portal Wednesday that he would quit if required to, in wake of the conglomerate's huge first-quarter losses.

"When I have made my own assessment, if necessary, yes, I am prepared," he said.

He added, however, that it was up to the shareholders to decide whether board members should also be made to resign.

Last week, the board asked president and group CEO Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid to take a leave of absence, prior to the expiry of his contract in November this year.

This came after Sime Darby reported RM964mil in cost overruns from projects, including the Bakun dam project, racked up during his tenure.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said last week there would be no cover-up of any weaknesses or losses at Sime Darby.

The cost overruns were discovered by a board work-group assessing the corporate governance and performance of Sime Darby's energy and utiliies division.

May 17, 2010

DAP wins Sibu by-election

SIBU, May 16 — The DAP pulled off a surprise win in the Sibu by-election today, defeating Barisan Nasional’s (BN) SUPP by 398 votes in a hard fought race, official results show.

DAP 18845 votes
BN 18447 votes
Independent 232 votes

DAP won with majority 398

BN had earlier been expected to retain its Sarawak stronghold but lost despite the best efforts of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The Sibu vote is seen as a bellwether for the Sarawak state elections which must be called by next year.

Today’s result is significant in that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has snapped a streak of successive defeats to BN in recent by-elections.

The count now is 8-3 in favour of PR in terms of wins in by-elections held since Election 2008.

Today’s result is also a setback for Najib who had personally campaigned for BN and had placed his own reputation on the line.

Najib has been counting on Sabah and Sarawak as BN’s fixed deposit, but today’s result shows a major swing from 2008 when BN won the seat by more than 3,000 votes.

Today’s result also raises two thorny issues — how to deal with the Tan Sri Taib Mahmud factor and whether to push for state polls which sources say had been slated for October this year.

May 14, 2010

Tun Mahathir against nuclear plants in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is against building nuclear plants in Malaysia because of the dangers posed from spent nuclear fuel, saying its disposal would have an adverse effect on public safety.

The Malaysian Insider reported yesterday that Putrajaya has identified Pahang, Johor and Terengganu as the possible states for a proposed nuclear power plant due to the availability of remote locations that are close to water sources, in line with international rules.

“Personally, I am against nuclear power plants and anything that involves nuclear except for medical use because the scientists have not yet understood the power of nuclear material,” the former prime minister told reporters here today.

“Once you activate the uranium or whatever, you cannot deactivate it. So we have a problem of nuclear waste which is accumulating throughout the world. In America, you paid the Red Indians money in order to bury the nuclear wastes in their reserves. That is not very good,” he added.

Energy, Green Technology, and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin recently announced a proposal to set up a nuclear plant has been approved and that the plant would start operating from 2021, with plans to use it as an alternative energy source by 2025.

A nuclear plant typically needs an efficient cooling system. Most plants are designed to include the visually familiar cooling towers — which look like giant chimneys — and some use sea-water to cool down the water used in the steam turbine.

An essential part of a plant are its nuclear safety systems which ensure that it is possible to shut the reactor down, keep it deactivated, and prevent the release of radioactive material during emergency events.

The handling of spent nuclear fuel is more critical compared to fresh fuel, as after nuclear fuel rods are spent, they will be stored for about five years in a spent fuel pool on site.

The spent rods will then be stored in another on-site dry storage, before being transported elsewhere for storage or recycling. There are bigger risks when transporting or storing nuclear fuel rods because they will still be radioactive for more than a hundred years.

However Dr Mahathir said further studies need to be conducted on activated uranium before the country seriously considers building a nuclear plant.

“So until we understand more about the science of activated uranium. I think we shouldn’t use and that is my view but of course if the government wants to use then I cannot stop them. Duringmy time, I had already stipulated that no nuclear power plant will be used and built in this country,” he said.

He added Malaysia is already facing problems with the disposal of ‘amang’ from tin mines.

“In Malaysia, we do have nuclear wastes which the public are not aware of. We have to bury the amang, the by-products from tin mining in Perak. It is not radio-active but it is not good to handle. They activate it because they wanted to use it for color TV but then color TV used other materials for the TV screen.

“This resulted in excess of activated amang and we had a problem in trying to get rid of these amang and buried it in Perak, deep in the ground with concrete. But still the place is still not safe to go and they have about one square mile that is dangerous,” he said.

Studies have shown that tin plants processing amang, or tin tailings, have known to have radiological risks. The process of using large volume of water used to separate the concentration of amang has been associated with giving rise to radiological environmental problems.

The processing plants in Malaysia are also exempted from licensing by the Atomic Engergy Licensing board which result in the plants from being regulated properly and increases the risk of abuse by the operators.

There are currently 113,700 hectares of former mining land in the country.

May 10, 2010

Tun Mahathir : Malaysia is not a totalitarian state

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today dismissed Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) claims that the country was a totalitarian state, pointing out that the pact had been able win in elections and form state governments.

But Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister admitted that governance would have been easier if he was a dictator.

“In Malaysia, the opposition said that we are a totalitarian state because we have had the same party ruling the country since independence but we have seen that the opposition have the chance to win at all levels of election and they are also able to form governments.

“So this is proof that Malaysia is a democracy because the opposition can actually win,” he said at the Malaysian Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (MAICSA) 50th anniversary lecture here.

Dr Mahathir said that democracy is a “great system” because it allows the public to elect and reject leaders at the polls but he felt that modern democracy has made governing difficult because many groups are claiming for their rights.

“People keep adding other things to democracy and make things very difficult. Over time, it has been rights of the majority, minority rights, human rights, and women’s rights. Everyone claiming for their rights has made governing difficult,” he said.

Dr Mahathir noted that being a dictator would have solved the issue of governance.

“If I had been a dictator then governance could have been easy. I could have just declared a decree and faced no opposition. But having accepted the democratic, one has to handle governance carefully. A lot of people are lined up against you.

“There will be people quite anxious to take over and willing to do gymnastics. There was a time when I was nearly toppled but fortunately I won by 43 votes so Tengku Razaleigh didn’t have the chance to be PM,” he said.

He also said that Malaysia’s democracy should not be influenced by Western values.

“I brought up a very nice chap who was very religious and groomed to be my successor. He wanted to be everything quickly as possible so he plotted against me. He did something which was not acceptable by us but very acceptable in Europe and the US. I don’t know what but you can guess what it is.

“In certain democracies, it is acceptable that marriages can be between man and man. They ask why should marriage only be between man and woman? I don’t think we should entertain that type of democracy in our country,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also urged the public to be more critical of the current administration.

“In some countries, the appointments of the Cabinet members are vetted by the members of Parliament.

“Unfortunately in Malaysia, we do not question whoever is chosen by the prime minister to be members in the Cabinet. We are very docile people, even we don’t question when there is something wrong. We keep very quiet and will complain very softly to your friend and will not say it loud. This is because by being very critical, it will affect you,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also stressed the importance of Barisan Nasional regaining its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

“During my time, we emphasised that we need for the government to have a strong majority. We must get a two-thirds majority so can we govern the country without being hampered by the opposition too much.

“They can obstruct you but they will not have the power to frustrate you completely. If you want to do something like when we had to amend the constitution to free the people from the royal family or rather by a raving Sultan,” he said.

He added that two-thirds majority in Parliament was important for balance of power in Parliament.

“Having two-thirds majority is important because it balances the power of dissent on the part of the opposition and the power of the government to carry out its job as the governing coalition. As prime minister, I have always been able to get the two-thirds majority,” he said.

BN, led by former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority in Election 2008.

May 7, 2010

Tun Mahathir tells UMNO to put Malays first

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad articulated today a widely held sentiment in Umno — that going after the Chinese vote is risky and unproductive.

Instead, he appears to suggest in a posting on his blog today that Umno should first ensure that Malay interests are taken care of, especially in the face of what he called “attacks by the Chinese.”

“We hear a lot about demands by Chinese extremists questioning the provision of Malay special rights in the constitution, demanding an end to the NEP, [a] reduction of quotas for Malay students. They even say the Malays are also ‘kaum pendatang’ or immigrants. An article even claims that there is no such thing as a Malay race.

“Umno remained silent. In fact when an Umno member said that the Chinese and Indians are descendants of immigrants, he was suspended by Umno. It seems to many Malays that Umno is incapable of countering the attacks by Chinese extremists against Malays,” wrote Dr Mahathir.

His latest remarks are expected to put more pressure on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who has been pushing his 1 Malaysia agenda to unite the country.

But while Najib has had mixed results in reaching out to Indian voters, the results of ten by-elections since Election 2008 showed Chinese voters have now become a solid vote bank for Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Dr Mahathir warned today that Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) risked losing Malay support if they continued to introduce “Chinese-friendly” policies and abolishing affirmative-action measures under the New Economic Policy (NEP).

“The BN must remember that in the 2008 election it lost a lot of seats. Where it won the margins are very small. If a few hundred Malays decide not to vote BN, even the seats that it had won would be lost in the 13th General Election.

“Umno and the Government are facing a dilemma. In trying to win over the Chinese with allocations and abolishing New Economic Policy provisions, the BN will lose Malay support as indeed it did in 2008. On the other hand no matter how the Government try to satisfy Chinese demands, the Chinese have clearly rejected the BN,” said Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir also justified the existence of Perkasa as a reaction by Malays to what he suggests were the increasingly strident demands of Chinese voters.

“Perhaps it is because Perkasa appears to be racist that the Chinese are against BN. But Perkasa is not BN. Also the Chinese parties in BN are facing a crisis.

“What is happening now is that Malays are forming Non-Governmental Organisations because of Chinese attacks against the Malays and Umno seems unable to defend them.

He said that groups like Perkasa feel that they have to rebut “racist” statements by the Chinese.

“And when they do they are labelled as racists.”

May 4, 2010

Tun Mahathir joins call to reveal oil blocks pact

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today joined the opposition’s call to the Najib administration to reveal the agreement on ceding an oil-rich area in the South China Sea to Brunei.

The former prime minister last week accused his successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of signing away rights to oil earnings worth up to RM320 billion to the sultanate for Limbang in Sarawak. Abdullah has denied the charge.

“Wisma Putra should make public the full contents of the agreement signed last year. When we give up what belongs to the people really, the people have a right to know,” Dr Mahathir wrote in his weblog today.

The maverick politician has clashed with Abdullah after handing over power in 2003, quitting Umno and only returning when Datuk Seri Najib Razak took office in April 2009.

“After all, Abdullah’s government made a point about being transparent, implying of course that the previous government was not transparent. So let us see transparency in this decision to surrender the people’s heritage. If as it is claimed we have not lost much, let us know how much is not much,” he said.

Dr Mahathir, an adviser to Petronas, said he was glad the national oil company will take part in the exploration and production of the two blocks “we surrendered to Brunei”.

“That still does not mean we will get much out of the deal.

“At the present price of US$83 per barrel (RM249), one billion barrels would yield US$83 billion or RM249 billion. Forget the likelihood that the oil price would increase in future, how much would we get from Petronas’ involvement in the production,” he said.

He also questioned what happened to the RM270 billion that Petronas paid to Abdullah’s government.

“His apologists will say that I am being petty, that I lost billions too. But concern over a total of over RM500 billion not accounted for or lost cannot be considered petty.

“The Malaysian public is very forgiving. When my questions are met with ‘elegant silence’, that is the end of the story,” he added.

Other opposition leaders have also asked Najib to explain the situation but the prime minister said the deal will be a “win-win” situation for both Malaysia and Brunei.