Friday, May 30, 2008

Walk and Talk for Media Freedom

(Click to enlarge)

Make yourself free this Sunday. A Walk for Media Freedom is being organised by media activists, including Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Writers Alliance for Media Indepdence (Wami), National Alliance of Bloggers (All Blogs), and BENAR, a cyber group for "free and fair media".

A Talk on Media Freedom will be hosted by the National Press Club (NPC) and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) where Senator Zaid Ibrahim, the de facto Law Minister, is scheduled to give a talk on Media Freedom at the National Press Club in Jalan Tangsi. Breakfast will be served.

Date: Sunday June 1, 2008
Walk: 9.30 to 10.15 a.m. at Dataran Merdeka.
Talk: 10.30 at National Press Club, Jalan Tangsi.

For details check out Rocky's take on this, here and the BENAR website, here.

UPDATE at 3.45 p.m. 30 May 2008: After discussions with the police, organisers have advised that the gathering at Dataran Merdeka to walk to the NPC is OFF. Members of the public are advised to proceed straight to the NPC instead.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Win-Win Decision

(Horsburgh Lighthouse: Click to enlarge)

I have always believed that it was more of a dispute over "territorial waters" than just over a few rocks and hard places in the middle of the ocean.

Malaysia has always been suspicious of Singapore's motives and intentions. Yesterday's International Courts of Justice decision to award sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh a.k.a. Pedra Blanca to Singapore by default and the adjacent Middle Rocks to Malaysia must have put paid to Singapore's "territorial ambitions", if she had any. For Singapore, this simply means that their navy gun-boats cannot now prevent Malaysian fishermen from fishing in an indeed fertile fishing grounds where they have done for centuries, or commence reclamation works in the area without consulting Malaysian authorities.

Singapore can now rightfully claim ownership of the island, conveniently referred to as "Horsburgh" by us mariners and maintain and operate the Horsburgh lighthouse until doomsday, in the interest of navigational safety. Coincidently, Singapore is also currently operating and maintaining by treaty at their own costs, the lighthouse on Pulau Pisang, off the west coast of Johor. This is perfectly acceptable for Malaysia, since Singapore collects a major portion of "light dues" from merchant ships passing through both the Malacca and Singapore Straits.

A truly win-win situation indeed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Samy O Samy

My friend Alex Thiagarasan (photo) is an angry man. A Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) party stalwart and the current Klang Division head, he blames the poor showing in the recent elections by Barisan Nasional in general and MIC in particular to only one man - party president Samy Velu. "BN lost many important ethnic Indian votes because of Samy," he said.

Malaysiakini has also recently reported, here, that the MIC central working committee (CWC) was contemplating sacking their Klang division chief Alex Thiagarasan over scathing comments made against Samy that was carried by the New Straits Times. Alex had called Samy a “dictator" and “judge, jury and executioner” and faulted the latter over the party’s troubles of late.

At a press conference in Klang this afternoon, Alex said he had lodged a police report yesterday against Samy Velu for abuse of power and corruption involving millions of ringgit in Maika Holdings and TAFE College, among others. He also distributed a 15-page report on "The Cover-up in the Telekom Shares Scandal" alleging cheating and misuse of huge amounts of public funds and shares for the benefit of Samy's immediate family and cronies. He hopes that the police will act on his report and bring the culprits to justice.

Alex is also resigned to his fate that the party will now probably take action against him. Although he has been approached by the Opposition, he says he will stick with MIC but will try to get rid of the "liabilities" at the top, even if it means going on a nationwide crusade for this purpose.

"I am already finished, so what have I got to lose?" he said.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pulau Batu Puteh

Last night I was invited to dinner by the minister of information Dato Ahmad Shabery Cheek at his posh office suite in Angkasapuri. Also in attendance was minister Tan Sri Muhammad M. Taib who was there for a live interview on RTM1. Other guests include fellow bloggers Datuks A. Kadir Jasin of the Scribe and Ibrahim Yahaya of Dunia Tiger, Rosli Ismail of Agenda Daily and Steven Gan of Malaysiakini. Rocky of Rocky's Bru couldn't make it for some reason.

(I must admit that I felt rather a bit out of place since I was the only non 'ex-journo' blogger invited).

The dinner was to brief us members of the 'alternative media' on the latest developments in the 28-year old dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh a.k.a. Pedra Blanca or simply known as Horsburgh to us mariners. We were informed that RTM will broadcast live tomorrow from the International Courts of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands where the final decision by the panel of judges will be announced.

Datuk Shabery believes that whatever the outcome, Singaporeans in general will not be overly concerned because they consider this more of a "government to government" issue. For Malaysians on the other hand, it is more of an emotive "people to people" issue. Win or lose, it may lead to some negative repercussions. He seeks our assistance to help diffuse the situation if the need arise.

I have strong feelings and have blogged on the subject before. Read it, here.

I now get the feeling that we are going to lose Pulau Batu Puteh to the kiasus down south, but sincerely hope that I am wrong here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Son Also Rises

Young Mukhriz Mahathir would appear to have hammered in the last nail in his father's "coffin" yesterday when he declared , here, that he will not join his father in quitting UMNO, especially in light of all other UMNO MPs appearing to be solidly behind the beleaguered PM. "I understand and agree with the action that my father had taken because the action he has taken is due to his love for the party," he said.


If filial piety is not one of his strong points, then being delusional and to keep missing the woods for the trees will not help his fledgling political career either.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Swan Song

(Source: Malaysiakini)

The silver Swan, who living had no Note,
when Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
"Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise"
- Orlando Gibbons, The Silver Swan

In a breaking news, Malaysiakini reports, here, that former UMNO president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today announced that he was quitting UMNO with immediate effect and urged other members to emulate him. "I will only come back to the party when there is a change in leadership," the ex-premier said. However, he has asked these members not to join other political parties.

Well, he has jumped ship, which is clearly sinking into deep and murky waters and hoping that his other misguided and delusional ship mates will join him. Lets hope the sharks don't get him first.

He also probably must have thought that this was going to be his last hurrah, but it may just turn out to be his swan song instead.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Where the buck stopped

(Source: Malaysiakini)

On board a ship there is usually only one captain. He is "God", empowered to marry you and bury you, should you happen to die at sea, that is. In other words, the buck stops with him and no amount of excuses shall exonerate him from bearing the ultimate responsibility for the safety of his ship and crew.

Now that the Royal Commission of Inquiry report, here, on the VK Lingam tapes affair is out and the rogues galleries of so called "conspirators" are on the front pages of the news media, I do not particularly care for a witch hunt. But to all the apologists out there, remember that everyone should be held accountable for their actions in the past and present. While we point fingers here, there and everywhere, lets not forget to call to account the one man who, if its all true, should bear the final responsibility, i.e., where the buck stopped.

Any guiding force for future better governance has to be built on the foundation of what is just and right, not on what is convenient or politically expedient. Those who are found guilty should of course be made to pay the price.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And now, a word about jumping ship ...

(Source: Wikipedia)

RMS Titanic: They all said she was unsinkable. But when she sank, it was unthinkable*.

Anyway, what do you do when your ship is sinking? You jump ship. No two ways about it and we seamen have absolutely no qualms about this since it is for the common good. So if any particular 'unsinkable' SOS (Ship of Shame) is set to founder, then why not indeed. A sea captain would encourage his men to abandon ship, even to clamber aboard the enemy's if it is simply a matter of personal survival and after taking everyone's interests at heart. This is also the most practical thing to do and a captain doesn't really need to go down with his ship ... thats simply passé these days.

Morality? Integrity?

Dammit sirs, don't patronise me.

(Read Once the defections start, there's no stopping in today's theSun, here)

*This reminds me of the joke about the doctor who had his stethoscope on a young girl's chest when he said,"Big breaths, now".

"Yeth," she said, "and I am only thixteen!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

That was the week that was

Quite frankly, I was getting pretty cheesed off with the current political developments in the country.

First there was the arrest on sedition charges and subsequent release on bail of Malaysia Today's Raja Petra Kamarudin. Then there was DAP's Karpal Singh who have just found out that only Malays are privileged to 'insult' the royals in this country. This was followed by a PM who is yet to decide whether to make public the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam tapes affair. And finally, to really take the cake was his predecessor who insists that the tape was used by Anwar Ibrahim for the purpose of blackmail, quite forgetting that the latter was in prison when the recording was made. Sheesh.

Anyway, early this morning, on the anniversary of absolute mayhem in the country exactly 39 years ago today, my fellow committee members of Friends of Kelana Jaya Park (FoKJP) and I, together with the staff of the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) planted some 300 trees around the 3 lakes in the park, known as the Taman Tasik Bandaran Kelana Jaya. The "1 staff, 5 trees" tree planting campaign was organised by MBPJ and officially launched by the new Selangor ADUN for Seri Setia, YB Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

(Above photo with FoKJP exco. From left: Yap Pak Sum, Tuan Syed Khalid, YB Nik Nazmi, Haji Harun, Musa Mohd., yours truly)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Raja Petra Arrested

Malaysiakini reports, here, that Malaysia Today news portal webmaster Raja Petra Kamaruddin was today charged under Section 4(1) (c) of the the Sedition Act, a rather repressive law introduced by the British in 1948, at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court over an article, "Let's send the Altantuya murderers to hell" which he wrote recently. He is the first Malaysian blogger to be charged under this Act and has thus become a legend of sorts.

The article allegedly implied that deputy prime minister Najib and his wife Rosmah were involved in the killing of a young Mongolian woman named Altantuya who was blown to pieces with military C4 explosives by police personnel. The murder trial is currently ongoing at the Shah Alam High Court.

Earlier, Raja Petra was given the runaround when he reported as instructed at 08.30 a.m. at the KL Magistrate's Court when he received a phone call from the police at about 10.20 a.m. asking him to go to the PJ court instead. He has claimed trial, set for October 6 2008, but refused to pay bail of RM5000 as a matter of principle on a claim that he is a victim of "political persecution". Plans are already afoot to initiate a public fund-raising “Save RPK Campaign” at RM1 per person to raise enough money for posting bail.

A draconian law like the Sedition Act clearly has no place in a democratic society. Unlike defamation law, one cannot defend oneself from a charge of sedition on the ground of truthfulness. That the State has chosen to charge RPK for sedition rather than simple criminal defamation points to the need for a thorough revision of our media laws as demanded by a civil society.

I find it ludicrous that although 'Pete' has written many allegations against the IGP, the police, the AG, and also about the Khairy Chronicles, SCOMI and the PM's son Kamaluddin etc., he has never been charged with sedition or even libel. But when he writes an article about Najib and Rosmah, in which he has raised several pertinent questions on facts of the case already within public domain and backed by sworn court testimonies, he gets the book thrown at him.

These are without doubt tactics of intimidation and fear, but we Bugis are a hardy lot. May Allah give RPK courage. Truth and Justice may yet prevail.

(Poster courtesy Mob's Crib)

Monday, May 05, 2008

PKA - House-cleaning

TheSun daily today front paged a report by R. Nadeswaran and Terence Fernandez that Port Klang Authority (PKA) will undertake a house-cleaning exercise and go back to basics to what it is supposed to be – a regulatory body and safeguarding its revenue. Read it here.

Newly-appointed chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng, a former three-term Selangor state assemblyman for Subang Jaya, said a revamp of both the PKA and the Port Klang Free Trade Zone (PKFZ) boards is in the pipeline, and it is learnt that Westport’s Gnanalingam has also tendered his resignation from the latter. For starters, a firm of auditors will be appointed to go through the entire accounts and activities of the PKFZ. Lee said the selection of an international firm* (which he will announce at PKA’s first board meeting today), is to ensure that it is independent and free from interference while conducting its audit. “People have no confidence in the ACA (Anti-Corruption Agency) or PAC (Public Accounts Committee), so this is the best option,” he said. Asked if wrong-doers will be named and shamed, Lee said: “I will recommend that the findings of the audit be made public and in case of impropriety, that the law takes its course".

Since port operations had been privatised, Lee said, the PKA should focus on its original objectives. He said that he had been informed of other activities of PKA, including property development and other projects. The authority had entered into a JV agreement to develop a huge parcel of land where bungalows for senior managers was situated. The buildings were demolished but it has since joined a long list of abandoned projects. Plans are also afoot to utilise its large land bank in Port Klang for development in a bid to raise money for the PKFZ.

“But more importantly, the focus will be on getting to the bottom of how costs escalated to RM4.6 billion – far above the original RM2 billion,” Lee told theSun yesterday. “However, we have to move forward because so much has been invested and priority will be making PKFZ a viable venture by ensuring that its occupancy is at acceptable levels and providing professional services to clients,” said Lee, adding that one way to go was by making PKFZ more high-tech and capitalising on its proximity to Westport. He also revealed that PKA is looking for a suitable candidate to lead the management team and that the person will not be a political appointee. “On the contrary, meritocracy will rule,” said Lee, adding that the candidate will not be limited to locals.

“I am certain that with Datuk Ong Tee Keat at the helm, I will have a free hand in running the port as he is a no-nonsense person and is as adamant as I am to get to the bottom of the PKFZ issue,” said Lee, a qualified accountant whose appointment was announced by the transport minister on Friday. “I am well aware of the challenges and pitfalls but I am prepared to fulfil my duties transparently and effectively.” Lee, however, opined that PKFZ was a bad idea to start with. “Tariffs worldwide are going down, so how is PKFZ going to be attractive to investors? With the worldwide economic downturn, manufacturing sectors are also being relocated to China, India and Vietnam,” said Lee.

In the meantime, a 'little bird' told me that Nadeswaran may be getting a visit by some denizens of Bukit Aman this morning ... and we are all still talking about press freedom. Sheesh.

*Update at 1800hrs: It is learnt that Pricewaterhouse Coopers Malaysia has been appointed to go through the entire accounts and activities of the PKFZ.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Journalistic Freedom

Both Gerakan acting president Dr Koh Tsu Koon and MCA president Ong Ka Ting had issued statements noting the impact of the Internet and the need for media law reforms. Koh said Gerakan supported Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar’s suggestion that the practice regulating newspapers through an annual printing permit application process be relooked. Opposition leader Dr Wan Azizah had also questioned the police move to haul up celebrated blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin for interrogation on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, although he was later released without his statement taken. Read the Malaysiakini reports here, here and here.

Indeed, the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act and the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) is necessary for a free media so that democracy can flourish in Malaysia.

To celebrate World Press Freedom Day and to allow our journalists to carry out their work without fear or favour, BENAR, a civil society initiative that took root in the People's Parliament, in collaboration with the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), will be launching their BENAR campaign immediately following their forum on Press Freedom at 2 p.m today.

Date: 4 May, 2008
Time: 2 p.m.
Venue: Annexe, Central Market, Kuala Lumpur.

All are welcome.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

PKFZ - Independant Audit

The Star online reports today, here, that transport minister Ong Tee Keat has announced that an independent accounting firm will be appointed to conduct an overall audit on the accounts of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project. However, Ong said that the audit is not a probe on any party relating to handling of the accounts in PKFZ and the name of the accounting firm will be announced next week.

The minister had previously promised to reveal how the RM4.6bil soft loan to the PKFZ was spent after costs of the project were said to have ballooned from RM1.845bil. "The audit is necessary for PKFZ to make a fresh start. There have been many reports criticising PKFZ as a ‘white elephant’ and a scandal," he said. “This is a grave accusation when nothing conclusive has been proven yet.”

Ong also named Lee Hwa Beng, the losing MCA candidate for my Kelana Jaya parliamentary seat (I did not vote for him) as the new Port Klang Authority chairman. An accountant by training, it is hoped that Lee would do his best to clarify the PKFZ's accounts, although I do question the MoT's motives in fielding a people's reject to do a man's job.

But lets give the guy a break. It would be interesting to know which accounting firm has been selected. Lets also hope that this isnt just another PR exercise.

Friday, May 02, 2008

B.U.M. 2008 Report

Yesterday, 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserted the individual's right to "receive and impart information and ideas through any media", some 150 Malaysian bloggers and friends got together at the Lake View Club, Subang Jaya in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day and May Day to discuss the role of blogging in Malaysia. The forum was also aimed at looking into the role bloggers can play in society. An impressive turnout of the national press corps and TV were there to cover the event.

Read the Malaysiakini and Star online reports, here and here.

The afternoon session, chaired by well known blogger Zorro with the theme 'Fostering a Civil Society' started off with speaker Rocky's Bru blogger Ahiruddin Atan, followed by former High Court judge Dato Syed Ahmad Idid (photo), University Malaya law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom, Dr Lim Teck Ghee from the Centre for Policy Initiatives and editor Jacqueline Ann Surin. Jeff Ooi of Screenshots took part in the conference via a pre-recorded video clip. Everyone agreed that the perception of bloggers in this country changed drastically after March 8 with the PM's acknowledgment that he had made a serious mistake by ignoring blogs critical of the government. Dato Syed Ahmad wistfully noted at the end of his speech that he may not have to quit his job after his whistle blowing act 12 years ago, had blogs existed then.

The evening session which was followed by a sumptuous buffer dinner, was moderated by organising chairman Desiderata Chong and discussed the topic "The Fifth Estate (Bloggers) as Agency for Change". The speakers were Selayang MP William Leong, Sun editor R Nadeswaran, human rights lawyer Haris Ibrahim of the People's Parliament and Malaysia-Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin. Raja Petra in particular, quoted media baron Rupert Murdoch as saying that "by 2030 there will be no newspapers as everything will be online. So The Sun, NST, Star and everything else are in a sunset industry!"

By any standards, the event was a huge success.

Update: As I write this, I just received an SMS from a friend that 6 policemen are now in Raja Petra's house to confiscate his PC and laptop in connection with the Altantuya murder case. He is believed to have been summoned to report for questioning at Bukit Aman tomorrow morning.