Asian Correspondent » Jeff Ooi Asian Correspondent Fri, 03 Jul 2015 08:50:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Anniversary: Chinese takeaway for Malaysia, pandas for Singapore Thu, 12 Nov 2009 08:20:50 +0000

Chinese President Hu Jintao has different ways of observing the anniversary of diplomatic links with two rival states across the straits. 

Challenging the feel-good media hype in Malaysia over the 35th anniversary of diplomatic links, China chose to contrast President Hu’s Tuesday visit to Kuala Lumpur with a significant economic agenda. Whereas, in observing the 20th anniversary of official links with Singapore, Hu said China would loan a pair of pandas to the host of the APEC meeting this year.

While mainstream media had positioned Hu’s visit as a reenactment of the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1974 by the late prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein, father of Malaysia’s current premier, China wrapped huge packages of government-to-government (G2G) business deals within a whirlwind stop-over, making Malaysia ever more dependent on the Chinese yuan.

Hu left for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Singapore after a 20-hour stay in Malaysia.

By employing the same strategy it successfully tested in Africa, that is gaining access to resource supplies in host countries in return for yuan-denominated aid for infrastructure, China will now bankroll transport and utility infrastructure projects in return for Malaysian palm oil and timber.

According to the memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed by the two countries in conjunction with Hu’s visit, China is to officially finance projects in the railway, bridge, water and energy sectors.The official speak for the deals is “strategic cooperations in all fields.”

As the icing on the cake, Malaysia gave a second banking licence to the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to expand its network in Malaysia. Banking is a hugely regulated industry in Malaysia and there have been protracted restrictions on the issuance of such licences, especially to foreign banks. The other Chinese bank operating in Malaysia is the Bank of China (BoC).

Commenting on the signing of the MoUs, Godrej International Ltd director Dorab Mistry said China being the world’s largest edible oil importer would continue
to be a very good buyer of Malaysian palm oil.

With an economy growing at least 6 percent annually since 1997, per capita consumption in China is expected to grow between 3 and 4 percent, and that requires the country to secure a continuous supply of natural resources to sustain its economy, Mistry added.

Over the years, booming bilateral trade has made China the second-largest market for Malaysia’s exports valued at RM46.8 billion (US$13.8 billion). On the other hand, Malaysia has now become China’s largest trading partner among Asean countries at US$53 billion (RM179.67 billion) last year.

Deals signed

Of the deals signed Tuesday, China will be involved in two infrastructure projects in the state of Penang, a state Hu visited in 2002 when he was China’s deputy president.

The two projects are the second bridge linking Penang and the mainland, and the expansion of the Mengkuang Dam for water supply to Penang and areas nearby.

For the second bridge linking Penang and the mainland, the credit agreement was signed by the Export-Import Bank of China, a state export credit agency, and Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd, which is assigned for the building of the superstructure for the bridge. The deal was inked in the form of a Preferential Buyer’s Credit loan agreement.

China Harbour Engineering Co (CHEC) and UEM Builders Bhd are the main contractors for the Penang Second Bridge, which is now delayed. The Chinese government is providing a US$800 million loan for the project.

Besides, Global Rail Sdn Bhd, a Chinese company, has been awarded a contract to co-develop a RM28 billion (US$8.2 billion) double-track railway that will link Johor Bahru, Malaysia’s southern exit to Singapore, to Gemas in the centrally-located state of Negeri Sembilan.

In addition, Malaysia will engage Chinese companies, whose names were not announced, for the construction of a pulp and paper mill and aluminum smelter in the East-Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Another MoU signed was for China’s Beijing Enterprise Water Group Ltd. to partner Malaysian on improving the country’s sewerage services.

On the financial sector, Bank Negara Malaysia signed a MoU with the China Banking Regulatory Commission on banking supervision cooperation in the area of financial regulatory initiatives between the two nations. This is seen as setting the rules of engagement to facilitate more inflow of yuan aid into Malaysia.

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Brain-drain impedes investment in Malaysia Tue, 10 Nov 2009 10:00:06 +0000

UPDATED VERSION. INVESTORS choose their centres of operations carefully, often by prioritising the proximity to human capital as a rule of thumb.

This investment requirement triggered a dilemma in Penang, which had recently lost out on a multi-billion ringgit foreign investment because it could not guarantee the adequate supply of experienced electrical and electronic (E&E) engineers.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is also a Paeliamentarian, recently told the House of Representatives that the state lost US$3 billion (RM10.2 billion) worth of foreign investment because it could not commit to supplying 1,000 engineers to the investors.

While rival political parties were swift to capitalise on the issue to criticise the Chief Minister for letting go a vast opportunity, the issue had exposed a new reality in Malaysia — the country’s position in global competitiveness.

It was imperative of Chief Minister Lim to clarify as Penang is considered as the country’s Silicon Valley. “I didn’t turn down their investment but they did not want to come because I could not give them a guarantee,” he was quoted in Singapore’s Straits Times as having told The Star recently.

This difficulty in getting bulk numbers of experienced engineers in specific fields was acknowledged by the Human Resource Minister today.

The Penang Chapter of the Institute of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) today said that of the 1,350 engineers on its register, only 260 were trained in the field of E&E.

Penang hosts major manufacturing plants that carry international marques in the E&E industry, including Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, and photonics player like Osram Opto Semiconductors and medical device producer B.Braun.

Last year, Penang obtained RM10.2 billion worth of FDI, in contrast to the national total FDI of RM46 billion.

Brain-drain vs. Brain-gain

To give the issue a perspective and a context, I was actually contacted by the Straits Times on the same issue in my official capacity as the Chief Minister’s Chief of Staff.

The issue we faced was that the specifications laid down by the potential investor from Europe were tough to be met with a guarantee.

It was a huge task to guarantee a steady supply of over 1,000 experienced E&E engineers in one go as most of them were currently employed in industries already entrenched in Penang.

I had grounded my observation based on supporting data from the state Human Resource Department and the Northern Chapter of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).

Nevertheless, I also indicated that by recruiting foreign talents — some suggested India for its English-speaking competency — to fulfil the headcounts required may be contradictory to the objective of nurturing our human resource capital in the long run.

More importantly, I attributed the shortage of experienced E&E engineers to the decades-old brain-drain — the exodus of good talents from Malaysia — to the benefit of neighbouring economies. This was somewhat supported by a sidebar story in the Straits Times on the same day.

According to the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) quoted in the story, there are 785,000 Malaysians who work overseas, and an estimated two out of every three among them are likely to be professionals.

The MEF added that of the Malaysian professionals who work abroad, 44 per cent are in Singapore and 28 per cent in other parts of Asia, with the rest residing in other parts of the world.

It appeared that the government was well aware of the brain-drain issue as in 2000, it had launched a programme aimed at wooing them back to the country with offers of tax and duties exemptions. Professionals targetted included doctors, engineers and IT experts.

However, response had been lukewarm. The MEF said only 770 respondents were approved since then, which translates into an average of 85 each year.

That probably prompted the same government to announce a brain-gain programme recently.

On October 23, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced in his maiden budget speech that said new incentives will be offered to attract foreign talents. Besides making it easier for them to apply for permanent resident status, visas would also be granted automatically to working and dependent expatriate family members within 14 days.

However, critics were skeptical of the success as things often boil down to salaries and expectations.

Shamsuddin Bardan, the executive director of MEF, which is an umbrella trade body for 4,000 private-sector employers, pointed out that it all boiled down to salaries.

He gave an example: A senior engineer working in the US could make about RM30,000 a month, compared to about RM20,000 in Malaysia. The pasture was greener elsewhere, hence the exodus.

On the political ground, the opposition has long highlighted the serity of the brain-drain effect. The hypothesis had been that Malaysian professionals ventured overseas due to  higher pay beyond Malaysia, and equal opportunity offered to the best talents irrespective of race and religion.

Meanwhile, the standard of the command of English among new entrants in the job market had been waning, largely due to the country’s education system that produced umemployable graduates.



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When Malaysia’s PM was caught in a 6-9 position Tue, 10 Nov 2009 03:18:51 +0000

SIX OR NINE? It must have been the most awkward moment for Malaysian Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister Najib Abdul Razak yesterday. He was made to look stupid on the rudiments of economics: The GDP growth rate.

Worse, he made the blunder at a congregation of knowledge workers who assembled for the MSC Malaysia Implementation Council meeting. When all faces blushed, multimedia took over to spread the big snafu that the PM’s speech-writers probably made, far and wide.

The case in hand was that, in earnest political posturing for a high-income generation that needed prime-pumping of enhanced per capita income in a short span, the PM boasted that Malaysia’s annual GDP growth would be sustained at 9 per cent year-on-year until 2020.

Nine per cent? I thought that was close to impossible because Malaysia had been tracking at 6.5 per cent when neighbouring economies were advancing at close to 10 percent during boom time in the last two years.

Nonetheless, SMS-bound news alerts were swiftly disseminated by pro-government media, and I received mine through The Star.

Hours later came the turnaround. A new batch of news alerts were transmitted to SMS subscribers. The PM was forced to revise downwards his target of annual GDP growth to 6 percent.

By then, digital records were adequately archived by the country’s major news providers like The Star and national news agency Bernama. All had quoted the PM’s blunder in pronouncing a 9 per cent GDP growth. It was so unrealistic a target that even senior editors at the newsroom business desks and government economic planners couldn’t reconcile.

Subsequently, PM Najib saw it pertinent to call an immediate press conference within hours of his speech earlier in the day to correct the errata. He was made to eat his words and reiterated that his government’s target was actually 6 per cent annual GDP growth. Quote:

“I didn’t say nine per cent, I said around six per cent as nine is not realistic. We have to achieve six per cent as we have to be realistic to achieve a higher growth rate when the economy has really recovered.

“We have not fully recovered from the recession. As you know, our economy depends on the export market. I’m not talking about achieving it now, I’m talking about post-recession,” Najib told reporters.

It was as recently as October 23, when the PM delivered his maiden budget speech in the Parliament, that Malaysians were told to brace for further tardiness of the economy as growth rate would still shrink 3 per cent this year. And that growth in 2010 would only be expected to recover to 2-3 percent, at best. While there had been no miracle turnaround in recent months, it was believed that the impact of the global economic downturn would still be heading to uncertain waters.

Even at 6 percent growth, there was no denying that Najib’s government had to redouble its efforts, besides identifying new growth areas from now until 2020 in order to make Malaysia a developed nation as envisioned by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1995.

In absolute terms, Malaysia needs to more than double its gross national income from US$7,000 (RM24,500) to at least US$17,000 by 2020 in order to qualify as a high-income nation according to World Bank classification.

However, the latest World Bank projections indicated that Malaysia’s near-term outlook continued to track at a slow recovery rate. The World Bank projected Malaysia’s GDP growth to contract 2.3 per cent this year, and grow by 4.1 per cent in 2010.

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Palm Oil: Human rights triumph over manufactured consent? Tue, 03 Nov 2009 04:34:16 +0000

GLOBAL human rights movement in protection of tribal minorities may have dealt a huge blow to gigantum economic forces in Malaysia.

The latest to come down under the pressure of human rights advocates is the palm oil industry.

According to an update on the website of Survial International yesterday, it was reported that the advertising regulator in the United Kingdom had banned an advertisement placed by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

The magazine advertisement claimed that Malaysian palm oil was ‘sustainable’ and contributed to ‘the alleviation of poverty, especially amongst rural populations’.

However, The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency banned the advertisement, ruling that those claims, and many others, were misleading and could not be substantiated.

Incidentally, the tribal minority highlighted as the victims of the palm oil industry profiteering is the Penan community in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, or a part of the forlorn Borneo remembered in its colonial history.

Over decades, the Penans had been fighting a losing battle to stop the massive chopping down of forests, their natural habitat, to benefit the timber-logging companies and to make way for oil palm plantations.

Advocates of the Penans’ human rights have been calling on the Malaysia government to halt deforestation activities and logging on the Penans’ land without their consent. But to no avail.

Meanwhile, palm oil has grown to make Malaysia the most dominant vegetable oil producer in the global market. On the flip of the coin, it has also become target of anti-tropical oil lobbyists, notably in the developed economies in the US and Euro Community, where inherent players in the edible oil market faced apparent threats.

Manufacturing of consent

In the face of such competitive environment, the palm oil industry and the Malaysian government employed a phenomenon well-described by Noam Chomsky in the 1980s: The manafacturing of consent using the media.

Numerous reactive measures were taken to counter the lobbyists’ manoeuvres, which included the hiring of public relations specialists in the US to address the issues of negative perception and allegations over the nutritional characteristics of palm oil produced in Malaysia.

Subsequently, MPOC was set up as a state-sponsored entity to take the lobbyists head on in their territories. Its regional offices are now present in California in the US, Brussels in the EU, Shanghai in People’s Republic of China, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Egypt.

Homafwever, the ban of the advertisement in the UK market may have taken a new nuance, in that manufactured consent to favour palm oil is now linked to violation of human rughts of a tribal minority.

In a statement issued yesterday, Survival International director Stephen Corry said: “Claims that Malaysian palm oil is green and people-friendly will not wash, especially with the Penan. The industry’s expansion onto their land is a disaster.”

Oil palm plantations and logging are destroying the forests the Penan hunt and gather in, and polluting the rivers they fish in,” Survival International said. “Without their forests they have difficulty finding enough food.”

In what looks like a public relations exercise by the human rights advocate, the statement carried a reaction on behalf of the Penans:

“Our people welcome the ban on the magazine advert by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. How come the advert claimed that palm oil helps alleviate poverty, when from the very beginning oil palm plantations have destroyed our source of livelihood and made us much poorer? A lot of people are hungry every day because our forest has been destroyed.”

Of late, the Penans had faced serious threats besides destruction of their natural habitat. There were cases of Penan young girls sexually assaulted without any justice given.

As a legislator, I have submitted a motion in the current sitting of the House of Representative in the Malaysian Parliament. The motion was cued under Motion No. 64 [Ref: PR-1223-U34075] which says:

“THAT the House shall acknowledge that reports relating to young girls of the Penan tribe in the territory of Baram, Sarawak, who are exposed to the threats of rape, violation of modesty and sexual torture perpetrated by the operators of timber logging warrant immediate attention, and efforts should be swiftly taken to summon the authorities to commit to providing them protection, and to mete appropriate punishment to the perpetrators who terrorised the Penans.”

Thus far, the Home Affairs Minister,who is entrusted to uphold public safety, had taken no action on the issue.

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Sending off the Nine Emperor Gods, Phuket Fri, 30 Oct 2009 06:39:32 +0000

THE NINE-DAY Nine Emperor Gods Festival, a Taoist ritual widely observed in Southeast Asia, features prominently in the tourist calendar of the Buddhist island of Phuket, Thailand.

The annual festival, stretching from the first to the ninth day of the Ninth Moon in the lunar calendar, is punctuated with strict abstinence of non-vegetarian diet among the devotees. That may be the reason Nine Emperor Gods festival is known in Thai as the Tesagan Gin, or simply, the Vegetarian Festival.



This year, the festival lasted from October 18 through 26. It was a carnival-like reception in Phuket, where about 35 percent of the population is Chinese.

Two colours ornamented the touristic island throughout the festival – white and yellow.



Those who participate in the festival, besides observing the strict vegetarian diet, will dress all in white. Banners and flags denoting the observance are presented in yellow materials, caligraphed in red letterings. Restaurants and make-shift food stalls adopt the yellow-red regime to indicate their offerings are compliant with the vegetarian practice.

Our tour guide mentioned that much of the ritualistic activities that signify the fulfilment of vows are conducted on the fifth and sixth days of the festival. It involves blessing-seeking by the devotees, blessing-giving by the deities through mediums in trance. Significantly, there is also redemption of vows in the form of mortification of the flesh by piercing the body, tongue or cheeks with skewers that are similar to the rituals inherent in the Indian festival of Thaipusam.

The only difference in such bodily mortification in Phuket is that the skewers often carry swords, banners, machine guns, table lamps, flowers and even bicycles.



By night, there are other forms of rituals at the the temples during the festival, like firewalking, blade-ladder climbing and boiling-oil bathing.

Landing in Phuket on the last day of the festival, I was showered with the opportunity to observe the grand send-off for the Nine Emperor Gods.

It was held at the city square of Phuket around 10pm. Mediums in trance representing the deities from 14 temples on the island took their cue for the finale. Thousands of devotees in white lined the narrow roads, with hundreds taking the march trailing the dieties.



A peculiar scene uniquely Phuket is the incessant rounds of fire-crackers that were let off for the entire procession that lasted almost three hours. Some of the fire-crackers were launched onto the path of the deities and the follower-devotees.

It was a risky sojourn as I joined many onlookers to only become targets of these bazookas of fire-crackers aimed at people who crossed roads. But it was fun and an eye-opener even for a person residing in this part of the world.


[ MORE, a set of 16 pictures are available on my Flickr. It was a 1-camera 1-lens outing that had put Nikon D3 and Sigma F/1.4 50mm to severe tests on the lens’ optical properties and thebody’s noise threshold. ]









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Parliament: 4Mbps line on a sleepy netbook Sat, 24 Oct 2009 04:38:14 +0000

I NEED to know who the Malaysian Parliament had engaged to install the computing facilities on the desk of each Member of Parliament at the start of this Budget Session.

The intention was noble but execution was third class, to say the least.

First, the kudos.

Bearing in mind that a vast majority of the 222-seat Lower House (Dewan Rakyat) are computer illiterates, and most of them are from the 140-seat Government’s bench, the computerisation effort is a step towards turning the e-idiots into a bunch of wannabes who will now look savvy in front of roving TV cameras.

At the very least, the first page that pops up on the screen, pre-booted by Parliament attendants, is to enable them to sign in their daily attendance. It’s a no-brainer as the MPs will be greeted with their respective mugshots, and a click-on-the-mouse is what it takes to secure their daily subsistence allowance as a federal legislator.

In terms of hardware being fixed assets of the Parliament, the 10-inch LCD screen is screwed to the MP’s table, effectively preventing theft. Affixed is a wired keyboard and a wired mouse.

However, to the net-savvy, and most if not all of the 82-seat MPs from the Opposition Bench truly are, of which I am one, the computing specs are entry level kits fit for kindergarten.

With all intents and purposes, the wired Internet connectivity is passable with 4Mbps on SDSL. But no doubt, the “best effort” corporate mentality of the ISPs will ensure that access speed to sites located beyond Malaysia’s border router snarls up a little.

There’s a 100Gb harddisk that is linked to no USB ports for external drive or flash memory or network printer. Neither is it equipped with a DVD-ROM drive though MPs are occasionally given documentary materials on CDs.

However, the unforgivable sin is an outmoded ATOM-chipset netbook-speed central processor that hangs the machines once over four Windows Explorer tabs are launched on the browser. It’s like pouring aircraft fuel into the tank that refuses to fire on all four cylinders.

Net net, you spent big money that only placed big, fat 222 white elephants in the hall.

Which IT consultants drew the specs for this mismatch? The way Malaysia goes, the MPs may have to wait out till the 2009 Auditor-General’s Report not due before next October.

So what we do? I have to shaft away the keyboard and the whole shebang that now occupy half of my workbench, and revert to my trusty HP Pavillion notebook, or sometimes the Vaio P25G, a netbook no doubt that drives faster than the Parliament’s new toys for the MPs.

Incidentally, the Prime Minister/Finance Minister punctuated his maiden Budget Speech by saying that Malaysia has to do catch-up in broadband adoption. “The current broadband penetration rate in Malaysian households is 26%, against 88% in Singapore and 95% in South Korea,” he said.

And, the last time the Speaker of the House remarked on my blog entry about him, he admitted that he was reading from a copy printed by the Parliament secretary.

I ain’t finished yet. I still need to find out who the Malaysian Parliament had engaged to install these flabby computers on each of our MP’s desk. Computer speaking, they made the strong weak in order to make the weak strong. No good.


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And now… 1Toilet Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:47:16 +0000

The list goes on for branding gurus of 1Malaysia.

This time, 1Malaysia’s product extension is where you pee.

The Terengganu state government will introduce a “1Toilet” policy in a move to liberalise education, The Star reports today.

Under 1Toilet, teachers – and even principals – will soon have to share toilets with their students… “and to mingle freely”, the country’s top-selling English paper says.

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Little-use chameleon Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:46:05 +0000

Even little-use chameleon is ever consistent — in changing colours whenever it suits the occasion.

Source: YouTube

I was just reading an Op-Ed without byline in Malaysian Insider about rhetoric and consistency of race-laced politicians.

As if it takes a chameleon to greet another chameleon, and for the chameleon to crawl the path of fellow chameleon, there is this piece in Malaysiakini on the same day, titled: The ‘chameleon’ will never reach Putrajaya.

If anything, the audio of the YouTube chameleon clip SFXly clicks.

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And now… Exporting 1Malaysia Banana Leaf Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:44:19 +0000

More headache for branding gurus I challenged on October 7.

From I Malaysia to 1 Region to 1 World… now they take 1 Malaysia Banana Leaf to London.

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PKFZ: Will it be censored in Parliament? Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:43:18 +0000

The PKFZ Scandal has caused Ong Tee Keat (pictured) to embarrass the BN government on (the lack of) good governance, and for him to be ultimately out-voted in the MCA EGM on October 10.

One of the key players in the PKFZ public spat with Tee Keat is the chairman of the BN Backbenchers Club (BNBBC), who is also the MP for Bintulu.

Both the BN men became the spices that made PKFZ a hot issue in and outside the media circles and their readers.

But, will it be as hot in the Parliament when it reconvenes October 19, when Tee Keat and Bintulu appear in the same august hall of legislature?

Chances, as far as the agenda for Day 1 of the coming sitting of the Parliament is concerned are extremely slim. PKFZ failed to feature on the agenda for Day 1, October 19. At least not the Top 12 questions that normally receive prime-time live telecast.

Here’s the Day 1 Agenda (Oral Question Time) issued by the Secretariat of Dewan Rakyat and received today:

QUESTION 1: Bangsa Malaysia – I People
MP: Dr Marcus Majigoh (BN-Putatan)

QUESTION 2: Economic impact on Malaysia in relation to the recent G20 Summit
MP: Dr Tan Seng Giow (DAP-Kepong)
MINISTER: Finance Minister

QUESTION 3: Shortage of skilled medical personnel in Sarawak
MP: Tiong King Sing (BN-Bintulu)
MINISTER: Health Minister

QUESTION 4: Ways to arrest negative image of MACC, Police and the Attorney-General’s Chamber.
MP: Anwar Ibrahim (PKR-Pematang Pauh)
MINISTER: Prime Minister

QUESTION 5: Current status for the defunct Bernama TV.
MP: Halimah Mohd Sadique(BN-Tenggara)
MINISTER: Ministerof Information, Communications and Culture

QUESTION 6: Breakdown of civil servants by race and possibility of hiring contract workers without prior consent from the Civil Service Dept (JPA)
MP: Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan)
MINISTER: Prime Minister

QUESTION 7: Is Program Kejiranan Lestari successful in handling social problems in Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang.
MP: Dr Mohamad Shahrom bin Osman (BN-Lipis)
MINISTER: Minister of Women Development, Family and Society

QUESTION 8: Has the government managed to regain control of Bernas which has now fallen into foreign hands?
MP: Haji Taib Azamudden bin Mat Taib (PAS-Baling)
MINISTER: Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry

QUESTION 9: Tense relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia.
MP: Haji Ismail bin Haji Muttalib (BN-Maran)
MINISTER: Minister of Foreign Affairs

QUESTION 10: Current updates for H1N1
MP: Fong Poh Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah)
MINISTER: Minister of Health

QUESTION 11: The 3-year Road Safety Campaign and possibility of including it into pupils’ curriculum.
MP: Lilah bin Yasin (BN-Jempol)
MINISTER: Transport Minister

QUESTION 12: Implication of delayed decision to control influx of illegal immigrants.
MP: Nasharuddin Mat Isa (PAS-Bachok)
MINISTER: Minister of Human Resources

I remember Kit Siang volleying 3 questions per day at Tee Keat to not let all stones unturned on PKFZ.

Thus far, MPs have yet to receive the PwC report on PKFZ with full appendix that Tee Keat promised us before the last Parliament sitting.

Come to think of it, I wonder, will Tee Keat still be Transport Minister when the Parliament resits?

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Isa is vindicated… and Samy and PR too Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:42:10 +0000

UPDATED VERSION, 6.20pm Oct 12. Mohd Isa Samad may measure a petite 5-feet-2 from the ground, he now stands taller than BN-Umno combined.

Without an official footing in national level politics, will Isa get his quid pro quo and be made a state Exco?

SOURCE: Malaysiakini, Oct 11, 2009

The record shows he has won the Bagan Pinang by-election with a 5,435-vote majority, defeating PAS candidate Zulkefly Mohamad Omar by more than doubling the margin of 2,333 votes BN-Umno scored during GE2008.

Significantly, BN-Umno managed to recapture the three voting centres that fell to PAS in 2008, namely Pekan Silliau, Ladang Atherton and Sua Betong. There is also obvious erosion of Chinese votes to the BN’s favour, notably in Kampung Bagan Pinang and Teluk Kemang.

Even the 40% block of postal votes, the key contention of a lop-sided contest, were solidly delivered to favour BN-Umno. The majority this time has increased to 2,920 votes from 1,891 in 2008. BN-Umno’s score in postal votes improved to 3,521 from 3,080 in 2008, while that for PAS worsened from 1,189 votes to 601 yesterday.

1 Malaysia, 2 Moral Systems

In a way, Isa is vindicated.

Despite his party having slapped him with a 6-year political jail sentence and later with a parole for proven money politics, he has been recycled, reused, and has survived the severe test of political resuscitation that Soi Lek failed to get.

Both Isa and Soi Lek have been exemplary examples of political taboos for many a Malaysian who despise moral decadence among public figures who hold and wield power while they last.

However, in Najib’s 1Malaysia, it’s glaring that Umno and MCA practise two different sets of moral compass for people who walk the corridors of power, and they are showered with different fate.

All these happened one day after the other within the last two days. I can expect Malaysians to debate this issue actively in the days to come — 1 Malaysia, 2 Moral Systems for communal politics.

Samy vindicated too

In another way, MIC chief S. Samy Vellu should feel vindicated too.

One day before voting in Bagan Pinang, on October 10, BN chief Najib Razak tried to subvert MIC — and by default plant a vote of no-confidence in Samy — by officiating the launch of another race-based political entity by the name of Malaysian Makkal Sakti Party.

According to MIC sources quoted in Malaysiakini, out of the 1,870 Indians who voted in Bagan Pinang, BN got a whopping 1,387 votes while PAS only managed 483.

Isn’t MIC still holding fort? MIC can now proclaim that with Samy at the helm, it is still the only power representing the Indians in Malaysia.

But other minor components in BN, minions such as Gerakan and PPP, are crying foul of the BN taiko‘s new crusading agenda — shape up or ship out.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS… The Bagan Pinang results are also a false vindication for the Pakatan Rakyat and voters who turned away from BN.

With Isa’s landslide win, they can safely say: ‘Umno has legitimised corruption’. But don’t forget the changing dynamics in bread-and-butter politics.

I have participated in 6 out of 8 by-elections and campaigned for PR in Peninsular Malaysia thus far, and I had been observing. It’s a lesson yet-to-be learned by many political hopefuls who are found in dereliction of their duties to reform the country.

In Bagan Pinang, the candidate was from PAS. I noticed DAP under the leadership of Negeri Sembilan chief Anthony Loke had gone all the way to provide ground support to the local PAS leadership which saw wobbly logistics playing haunt on them throughout the 7-day campaign.

DAP, through the initiative of its sole state assemblyman — Au Yong Tin Sin (Lukut) — in the 4-state-seat Teluk Kemang parliamentary constituency, had chosen a strategic, visible location along the Jalan Pantai trunk road to place its operation centre and bore all the costs incurred for manpower, and campaign essentials. PAS showed its appreciation by having the announcement of the candidate at the DAP Ops Room, and held the finale rally at the same premises.

Causal Campaigners vs Casual Campaigners

However, the same cannot be said of PKR in terms of ground presence and real logistics support. Most PKR leaders relied on the so-called magic of Anwar Ibrahim and offered their oratory skills at the ceramahs. Ground presence and campaign leadership were abundantly absent.

In Bagan Pinang, its a clear case of Causal Campaigners contrasting the Casual Campaigners among the PR component parties that decided the outcome. Some came for ceramah sight-seeing and treated themselves as mere “By-election Tourists”

Those outstation PR YBs — we have 82 MPs to count on nationally, and over a couple of hundred of state assembly persons on register — seemed to think that they don’t have to go work the ground to ensure a victory.

A handful of PR YBs used press statements, not even blogs in the digital age, to remotely campaign at large.

Many other PR YBs thought they needed just to show up only during the last laps of the campaign and to squeeze their ways onto the same stage that Anwar speak on the finale super rally — and steal a camera opportunity or two for good Press.

These free-rider PR YBs had better be prepared for more landslide defeats in their respective homegrounds, far worse than the one we saw in Bagan Pinang yesterday.

Mohd Isa Samad has just proved that there’s no replacement for consistent solid legwork on the ground to win the hearts and souls of the electorate.

Whether he made a pile for himself in between the money trains of development, or whether he should unfairly inherit a big stash of victory-guaranteed postal votes is entirely a different matter, though.

Fear of more Hasan Ali in PAS?

For now, PAS has to do some soul-searching to determine if the Hasan Ali factor in Selangor has contributed to the tremendous erosion of support to PR among the non-Malays/non-Muslims alike.

The Hasan Ali problem is like a pregnancy that grows and grows. A good midwife must be found to grab the baby soon. Confidence on PR as a viable option for the overhaul of Malaysian government will evaporate if more Hasan Ali are to rear his ugly face on the march to capture Putrajaya.

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Umno & The ‘Hainanese Jinx’ Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:40:47 +0000

The NST today runs an interesting story on the outcome of MCA EGM by Eileen Ng, titled: Party rejects ‘kangkung’ duo.

Interesting, it’s because of the paragraphs on some sort of tribal jinx, if Eileen’s story is anything to go by:

The EGM’s results showed that the biggest loser was Ong, whose loss set tongues wagging that the Hainanese jinx had struck again.

In the party’s long history, no Hainanese president had fared well. Tan Koon Swan’s reign as president in the mid-1980s came to an end seven months later when he was jailed for criminal breach of trust.

Ong, meanwhile, is a week shy of his one-year anniversary as president.

Screenshots takes no position on this, though.

Many a wish come true

To be frank, I have to salute MCA delegates for displaying a high degree of conviction to the democratic spirit and process in determining the fate of the party, and its leaders.

By their votes, both Tee Keat and Soi Lek have had their wish come true — Tee Keat will not have Soi Lek as his deputy, and Soi Lek can for sure die an MCA man.

But the biggest winner is Umno. The BN taiko can now remove a thorn in the PKFZ flesh without having to move a finger.

U, Must Not Oppose. Hadn’t Koon Swan learnt it well from Mahathir before?

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Restless October Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:38:39 +0000

This October is quite meaningful for me.

  • Screenshots will migrate to an international platform. The regular URL will point to another destination and function whereas the alternative URL will have a new role. It’s a new experimentation in my Internet journey. Suspense for now.
  • I will start a weekly Sunday column in Kwong Wah Yit Poh, the Penang-based top-selling Chinese newspaper with the highest readership in Northern Peninsular. This is also my first attempt at writing a regular column with a rusty command of Chinese, trying to connect with my core constituents over local and national issues.
  • I will revive the Ferryman ( 摆渡人 ) Chinese blog once the weekly Sunday column kicks in.
  • I had started a fortnightly Malay political column in Era Pakatan alongside my two comrades from PAS and PKR. It caters to a national audience to entrench our reach among the key clusters of supporters. The latest topic was to debunk the myth about Najibnomics.
  • I will facilitate a team of Penang State Exco members to network with the green technology industry and sectoral investors and financiers from Korea, and to learn and familiarise ourselves with the integrated solid waste management solutions practised there. This is the positive outcome of my self-funded visit to Seoul in August, precisely for the same purpose.
  • In conjunction with the trip to Seoul with the Excos, I will adjourn to a self-funded study tour of the no-tax, no-visa Cheju Island to learn how it is being positioned as a centre of IT/BT innovations for Korea, besides being the vibrant all-season destination for medical and eco-tourism.
  • I will perform another national duty for the Penang state to spearhead further development of the telecommunications and multimedia sector as a prime catalyst for growth towards an international-class city. This will certainly eat into my quality time with the family.
  • I will have the opportunity to witness and debate in Budget 2010 as a legislator when Parliament sessions resume October 19. Have been spending lots of time researching for my talking points lately.
  • I will continue to help in the Bagan Pinang campaign and, despite all odds, I earnestly hope to see an upset that gives victory to the underdog.

All in all, I pray that I will gain His compassion in guiding me to success, and keep me healthy and on-target while I try to perform my duties the best I could.

Gain some, lose some…

Regrettably, due to the hectic schedule, I had to skip the return visit to Jakarta for the Pesta Blogger Indonesia 2009.

Nevertheless, sampaikanlah salam ku, Indonesia.

Oh yes… I hope to upgrade my trusty Nikon D300 to D300s through a trade-in. It will continue to be my resident camera for long zoom, but it now comes with HD video recording. Launched in Amsterdam in late July, I was told auto-focus has improved tremendously.

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1Malaysia… ahmmm… 1Region… 1World Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:51 +0000

Barely have I exhausted the crass list of IMalaysia Ini & Itu, Najib now talks of 1Region and 1World.

He calls that the 1Malaysia concept for the world, and money must flow out of the country in perpetuity.

The Paris Price-tag: US$5 million (launching fund) and US$1 million annually (open-ended).

Objectives (Tersurat): South-South Co-operation.

Objectives (Tersirat): Instant international recognition can be earned bought nowadays.

What’s that pepatah Melayu again?

Kera di hutan disusu,
anak di pangkuan mati kelaparan.

Remember the story of Isrin Basitul I highlighted in Screenshots during my visit to Pitas and Kudat in Sabah with Professor Jeffrey Sachs last January?

Don’t let the door of hope shut on herLensaPress photo by Jeff Ooi

I am talking about Resource Curse, and I am thinking of the likely impact on the abject poor in Sabah and Terengganu despite having God endow them with petroleum for decades.

You mean the new thinking is to donate to UNESCO every year so that they can help our own people like Isrin in return? You mean charity must not start from home anymore?

You mean this is Najibnomics?

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Restless October Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:50 +0000

This October is quite meaningful for me.

  • Screenshots will migrate to an international platform. The regular URL will point to another destination and function whereas the alternative URL will have a new role. It’s a new experimentation in my Internet journey. Suspense for now.

  • I will start a weekly Sunday column in Kwong Wah Yit Poh, the Penang-based top-selling Chinese newspaper with the highest readership in Northern Peninsular. This is also my first attempt at writing a regular column with a rusty command of Chinese, trying to connect with my core constituents over local and national issues.

  • I will revive the Ferryman ( 摆渡人 ) Chinese blog once the weekly Sunday column kicks in.

  • I had started a fortnightly Malay political column in Era Pakatan alongside my two comrades from PAS and PKR. It caters to a national audience to entrench our reach among the key clusters of supporters. The latest topic was to debunk the myth about Najibnomics.

  • I will facilitate a team of Penang State Exco members to network with the green technology industry and sectoral investors and financiers from Korea, and to learn and familiarise ourselves with the integrated solid waste management solutions practised there. This is the positive outcome of my self-funded visit to Seoul in August, precisely for the same purpose.

  • In conjunction with the trip to Seoul with the Excos, I will adjourn to a self-funded study tour of the no-tax, no-visa Cheju Island to learn how it is being positioned as a centre of IT/BT innovations for Korea, besides being the vibrant all-season destination for medical and eco-tourism.

  • I will perform another national duty for the Penang state to spearhead further development of the telecommunications and multimedia sector as a prime catalyst for growth towards an international-class city. This will certainly eat into my quality time with the family.

  • I will have the opportunity to witness and debate in Budget 2010 as a legislator when Parliament sessions resume October 19. Have been spending lots of time researching for my talking points lately.

  • I will continue to help in the Bagan Pinang campaign and, despite all odds, I earnestly hope to see an upset that gives victory to the underdog.

All in all, I pray that I will gain His compassion in guiding me to success, and keep me healthy and on-target while I try to perform my duties the best I could.

Gain some, lose some…

Regrettably, due to the hectic schedule, I had to skip the return visit to Jakarta for the Pesta Blogger Indonesia 2009.

Nevertheless, sampaikanlah salam ku, Indonesia.

Oh yes… I hope to upgrade my trusty Nikon D300 to D300s through a trade-in. It will continue to be my resident camera for long zoom, but it now comes with HD video recording. Launched in Amsterdam in late July, I was told auto-focus has improved tremendously.

]]> 1
Bagan Pinang anecdotes… ( 3 ) Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:52 +0000

I was campaigning for PR-PAS in Bagan Pinang again last night.

This time, I related to a real joke just transmitted from Paris.

Umno chief Najib defended Mohd Isa, who was punished by Umno for money politics (read: corruption related to vote buying), by saying that his “crime” was merely a technical matter in the party.

“In our system, even a criminal gets a second chance,” he told a group of students at a hari raya open house in Paris yesterday.

However, in Malaysiakini, readers are saying technical or otherwise, a record of offence is still an offence.

More pungently, to date, Umno has not even cleared Mohd Isa of his crime.

BY THE WAY… The Star today reported that actress Michelle Yeoh and her fiancé, former F1 Ferrari boss Datuk Seri Jean Todt, flew in from Malaysia to attend Najib’s open house in Paris.

June 24, MCA vice president and Tourism Minister admitted that Najib’s government has allocated RM1 million for Jean Todt to spend over two years as Malaysia’s Tourism ambassador.

To add spices to the French-styled hari raya do, Altantuya’s father released a statement to coincide with Najib’s Paris trip yesterday.

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1Malaysia: Eroding brand equity? Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:52 +0000

Branding gurus must speak up if the current branding of 1Malaysia will erode its brand equity steadily.

What have we now?

1Malaysia F1 Team.

1Malaysia Amanah Saham.

1Malaysia Tony Fernandes.

1Malaysia Earthquake Fund for Asia.

1Malaysia Mat Rempits.

1Malaysia Lantern Festival.

But reality check: What we don’t have now for all Malaysians?

Sharing of national wealth, equitably.

Why has Najib been so totally silent on a number of socio-economic issues that have torn Malaysian fabrics apart, for example, the politics of poverty and equitable distribution of national wealth?

Currently, the bottom 40% of the Malaysian population only get to own 13% of the country’s wealth.

Whereas, the top 10% — you know who — have grabbed almost 40% of national wealth — and you know why.

Let us ask these, perhaps, as per Article 153 of the Federal Constitution

Where’s the 1Malaysia Budget for Race-Neutral National Talent Pool?

Where’s the 1Malaysia Trust Fund for Modernisation of National-type Schools?

Where’s the 1Malaysia Equal Opportunity Trust Fund for the Minority Bumiputras?

In fact, branding gurus shouldn’t sit still but to get Najib to answer one very core question: What’s your 1Malaysia all about after one full year of hot air and hogwash?

If the crass list of 1Malaysia ini, 1Malaysia itu goes on, will 1Malaysia Nasi Kandar be next?

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PKFZ: Many fingers crossed… many a sleep rudely disrupted Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:51 +0000

With this much awaited book, at last, I want to see the defining distance between “non-compliance with procedure” and “outright crime”. Nothing else should come in between the two.


Citizen-Nades‘ 5-year trail on the PKFZ Scandal is now being bound at the printers, and it will be available officially on October 15, just in time before Parliament reconvenes October 19.

Note: The book is available strictly via online purchase. Details on

Grab a copy!

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DAP Alternative Budget 2010 Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:51 +0000

The third Parliament sitting for the year will resume October 19, 2009, and PM cum Finance Minister Najib Abdul Razak will table his debut Budget on October 23.

We treat national budgetting very seriously. In view of that, my party, DAP, will be officially launching tomorrow our Alternative National Budget for 2010, themed: Democratising Malaysia’s Economy.


You are welcome to join us for the launch and the press conference. It will be helmed by DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng together with our Members of Parliament and state assemblymen.

Date: 7 October 2009 (Wednesday)
Time: 11.00 am
Venue: Rocket United Cafe (1st Flr), 18 Jalan SS2/63, Petaling Jaya

RSVP details here.

In the spirit of Pakatan Rakyat, our Alternative Budget will be forwarded to the coalition’s Top Leadership Council for consideration and adoption, and the views and opinions of our coalition partners will be taken into due account.

We also welcome Najib to borrow our budget proposals and make some last-minute changes to his Budget Speech to cater to the needs of Malaysians’ Malaysia.

For those who are interested, a copy of our Alternative Budget will be made available for download from the DAP website after the launch. Hard copy of the Alternative Budget can be purchased at RM15.

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Bagan Pinang anecdotes… ( 2 ) Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:53 +0000

Yesterday, I began campaigning in Bagan Pinang alongside PAS candidate Zulkefly Mohd Omar, Kit Siang, Penang DCM 1 Mansor Othman and the local DAP leaders.

Heard a new round of political jokes in Port Dickson. It’s about the dilemma of the Negeri Sembilan menteri besar, Mohamad Hassan.

Tolong PAS, Umno mampus.
Tolong Umno, aku yang mampus.

(If I help PAS, Umno will die.
If I help Umno, I’ll die.)

That’s because Mohamad Hassan is faced with a million-dollar question now: Should Umno candidate Mohd Isa Samad win, will he be made an Exco?

There are 10 Exco posts provided for under the state constitution, but Mohamad had only filled 8 vacancies after GE2008.

In theory, Mohd Isa can at least be made Exco No. 9, but Mohamad is tight-lipped when reporters posed him that question incessantly yesterday.

Mohamad made it into the second term as the Negeri Sembilan menteri besar with a much reduced majority in GE2008. The PR coalition has narrowed the gap into a 6-seat margin. Should Bagan Pinang fall, the BN majority will be further reduced to 4 seats.

So, the next headache for Mohamad is Umno No. 1, Najib, actually.

It’s too precarious for BN to sustain its effectiveness in the state with a slim majority while PR continues to make significant inroads. A replacement MB is on the card for Najib since Mohamad had never been his man of choice anyway.

“Mohd Isa can’t be returning to active politics at 59 without a quid pro quo,” pundits of Umno local politics said.

Whereas, Mohd Isa is a seasoned hand in local politics and in the running of the state as he had been a menteri besar for 22 years. It was only fate that Abdullah Badawi made him a federal minister after GE2004, and had his political career killed just months thereafter due to graft-related disciplinary action sanctioned by the party.

Upset is imminent

Thus far, Umno’s campaign machinery has yet to kick in full-steam, while PAS, too, is fumbling with basic logistics and still struggling to find a strong footing at the local grassroots level. Both opponents are neutralised on this same terrain.

However, how Umno’s internal squabbling is going to get more intense by voting day on October 11 will decide whether who will ultimately mampus in the race, Umno or Mohamad Hassan.

Noticeably, Mohd Isa was never the state assemblyman for Bagan Pinang though he resides there. Born in Melaka, his former constituency throughout his stance as the Negeri Sembilan MB was in Linggi.

For now, it’s a battle-ground like most Umno-held constituencies. Non-Malay voters comprising 31.5% of the electorates will be the deciding factor as the 63% Malay voters — inclusive of the 34%+ of postal votes — will give BN-Umno the upperhand advantage though a split-in-the-middle is brewing.

Furthermore, the racism-laced Umno campaign tactics had not gone down unnoticed by the Chinese (1,458 votes) and Indian (2,834) voters combined.

But given the intra-party conflicts within Umno, an upset is very much on the card.

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Bagan Pinang anecdotes Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:53 +0000

Just came back from the nomination for Bagan Pinang by-election. It’s a straight fight of ISA (BN-Umno) versus ZULKEFLY (Pas).

Heard two amusing things and saw one ugly face.

Taking the cue from a newscaster who announced that Umno had chosen I-S-A as the candidate, the popular Anti-ISA badges will be delivered in huge supply in Port Dickson. The Malay versions say: Mansuh ISA. Tak Nak ISA.

Meanwhile, efforts are being made to declare a particular room in a particular hotel of regency as a heritage site. ZZ… it’s a place to sleep soundly but to have lingering nightmares when awake.

The ugly? Racists reign again.

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CM Rotation Demand: PKR man denies Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:55 +0000

PKR’s Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Mohd Yusuff, who reportedly demanded for the Penang Chief Minister’s post to be rotated among all races, went through his own rotating door yesterday.

This time, he accused the press for fabricating a piece of false news, and blamed it on Berita Harian, the Umno mouthpiece he chose to talk to over the controversial suggestion.

“No, I did not make the rotation demand. I just talked about how Hari Raya was celebrated by all races,” he told vernacular newspapers China Press and Kwong Wah Jit Poh yesterday.

Damage has been done, nonetheless.

Karpal: “Don’t let PKR junior rock the boat”

Both Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider carried a public tick-off by DAP chief Karpal Singh on someone whom he called as a “minor official in PKR” to rock the boat using the party youth’s platform.

Karpal, who is the MP for Bukit Gelugor, questioned if Yusmadi had been given the “mandate” to speak for Anwar Ibrahim’s party, PKR.

As such, he wanted Anwar, who is the MP for Permatang Pauh and Opposition Leader, to step in and “clear the air” over this issue.

Karpal insisted that Anwar must “make sure that no minor official in PKR” makes any further claims that would strain the ties among the three PR partners.

Karpal also supported the stand of Penang DAPSY, DAP’s youth wing, and emphasised that since DAP had the majority in Penang, it deserved to be the chief minister of the state.

He pointed out that DAP had likewise not tried to demand for the Selangor mentri besar’s post because PKR deserved to hold it by having won the highest number of seats in Selangor in the general elections last year.

However, the Rashomon versions of the truth can’t be established as clearly as black and white.

Media sources told Screenshots that the Berita Harian story was a one-on-one telephone interview between Yusmadi and Berita Harian‘s Faiza Zainudin, a Penang-based journalist newly transferred to KL. Either one can deny to his/her advantage.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS… Instead of pressing the denial button, the right things for the PKR man to do are: ( 1 ) to proactively inform and clarify to all Pakatan Rakyat leaders about the “misreporting” before mistrust arises; and ( 2 ) to demand his right of reply from Berita Harian to make a retraction or a correction.

Or, the easiest, simply zip up the loose cannon.

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24-hr transfer for Penang Airport Immi chief Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:55 +0000

UPDATED VERSION. Screenshots was informed that Fatimah Binti Hashim, the Assistant Director of Immigration heading the operations at the Penang International Airport, has been transferred out on a 24-hour notice, effective October 1.

September 28, Screenshots highlighted the late arrival of Immigration officers at their work station that caused the delay for the scheduled passenger flight AK5052 timed for departure at 06.00am.

The blog entry, which called for the head of Immigration at the airport to bear full responsibility for the delay, was picked up and published prominently by Guang Ming Daily the next day. [ Read here and here. ]

The early morning Penang-Hong Kong direct flight on AK5052, which operates on every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, is immensely popular since service started on July 31, 2009.

On September 28, a total of 99 passengers and 6 crew members were held up as the Immigration officers did not show up on time to process their passports as late as at boarding time at 05.40am.

The Immigration officers reportedly showed up at 05.55am and the aircraft finally took off at 06.31am, causing unhappiness among the passengers, including foreign travellers.

Defensive state Immi head and factual errors

However, in his haste to react to Guang Ming Daily on the issue, the state Director of Immigration Abdul Rahman Harun (picture below) made several factual errors in his defensive stance.

Immi-Penang_AirAsia_090930.jpgRead his quotes in the Guang Ming story, here.

Revealingly, too, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) was quoted by Guang Ming as saying that the Immigration Dept’s “not-on-time” work ethics had occurred many times prior to the September 28 incident.

Evidently, Abdul Rahman is a stereotype of the “Deny-and-Blame-It-On-Somebody-Else” syndrome common among the civil servants.

Speaking to Guang Ming reporters, Abdul Rahman denied that his staff were late for duty, and blamed it on AirAsia for a communication breakdown that caused the flight delay.

And he slipped up further by giving the Press the wrong facts.

I don’t think I can take the nonsense from this Immigration chief, and I want to rebuke him point by point.

IMMIGRATION’S CLAIM: Abdul Rahman told Guang Ming that AirAsia had failed to update his office on the low-cost carrier’s flight time for all early morning dpartures.

THE FACT: However, the fact remains that AirAsia’s Penang-Hongkong direct flight AK5052 was designated as a Scheduled Passenger Flight on every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday of the week since the service took off two months ago on July 31, 2009. The Immigration Department had been duly notified in black-and-white and no daily notification from the carrier running scheduled flights are required once they are gazetted, and immigration support for all scheduled flights became a standard operating procedure (SOP).

In fact, the four weekly AK5052 flights on 1-3-5-7th days of the week was originally run on the Penang-Macao direct route since it was launched on March 1. However, the slots had since been taken over by the Penang-Hongkong flight to due demand and load factor. AirAsia now runs Penang-Macao on scheduled direct flights on the 2-4-6th days of the week, departing at 06.30am with flight number AK5072. Abdul Rahman being the state Immigration chief can’t plead ignorance over SOP matters.

IMMIGRATION CLAIM: Abdul Rahman claimed that the Immigration Dept at the Penang International Airport was only required to work from 06.00am to 10.00pm daily.

THE FACT: False. The Penang Airport was pronounced an international airport over three decades ago way back in 1977, and it has since grown into Malaysia’s second biggest international airports next to KLIA — running on a 24-hour basis, and in terms of aircraft movements and traveller volume.

For an airport to be ratified as an international airport operating around-the-clock, there must be 24-hour ground support in airspace control, airport management, CIQ services (Customs, Immigration & Quarantine), health services and security. Immigration is no exception as the Penang International Airport also handles cargo flights which normally arrive around 3.00 to 4.00am.

In fact, as the current state government is facilitating for more regional inter-city direct flights into Penang, more aircraft movements at the Penang International Airport are expected soon, and some may arrive and take-off in the wee hours.

Nevertheless, these critical services related to the operations of the international airport are allowed to stand down their staff during the lull hours of the day, with the provisio that they must immediately spring back into their respective work stations when situations like flight diversions occur.

IMMIGRATION CLAIM: Abdul Rahman also blamed that the September 28 delay of flight AK5052 was due to some passengers nabbed for carrying forbidden item.

THE FACT: Let’s call s spade a spade. The Immigration must adhere to its KPIs and not encroach into other authority’s jurisdiction.

The screening of forbidden items carried into the country or into the aircraft has never been the duty of the Immigration officers. For items with unpaid duties, the job belongs to the Royal Customs under the Finance Ministry. Whereas, for forbidden items such as drugs and weapons, the authority belongs to the Airport Security.

Abdul Rahman must be taught his KPIs to adhere to strictly clearing the travel documents of travellers who enter and exit the gazetted sovereign boundaries of the country. Nothing more nothing less.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS… Since the state Immigration chief serving in Penang is not hands-on and proven factually deficient, I will write to his ultimate boss, the Home Affairs Minister, and Najib’s KPI ministers to have his tenure reviewed. This has been reported in Guang Ming Daily today.

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In preparation for Bagan Pinang… Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:54 +0000

Poll strategists say the numbers must add up in planning for a battle… any battle

So I took a look at the winning chances for PR-PAS in the forthcoming by-election in Bagan Pinang.

Apart from the task to win over the 30% postal voters in the Army Town, we have to battle in wooing the 2,800 Indian voters too.

Facing off the pro-BN Indian clusters gathered from stats published in the Press, PR-PAS will be doomed:

  • MIC members: 2.5 million

  • M. Kayveas’ PPP: 1.5 million
  • T. Murugiah’s PPP: 157,231
  • IPF: 320,245
  • Makkal Sakti Party: 2.1 million
  • P. Uthayakumar’s Human Rights Party: 1.5 million
  • Hindraf supporters: 2.2 million
  • K.S. Nallakaruppan’s MIUP: 250,782
  • Kimma: 300,057

If you add them up, wow! There would be 9.5 million pro-BN Indian supporters — which add up to about 40% of the national population of 25 million — ready to be mobilised in Bagan Pinang, or in the next general election.

In what language do we teach our kids Maths and Science nowadays, I wonder?

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13 Immi officers removed from Penang Airport Thu, 08 Oct 2009 13:39:54 +0000

UPDATED VERSION. Computer records tell no lies — Not just one, but all 12 officers in the same shift plus their Head of Department are transferred.

Following the expose by Screenshots, more Immigration officers are to shape up or ship out of Penang International Airport for showing up late at their workstations and causing flight delay.

Tonight, the evening edition of Guang Ming Daily reported that a total of 13 Immigration officers stationed at the Penang International Airport are to be disciplined and transferred to the agency’s other offices in George Town and the Penang Port.

Little Birds told Screenshots that computer records indicated the first passenger bound on Monday’s flight AK5052 was only cleared by the Immigration at 05.57am, barely 3 minutes before the scheduled take-off time at 06.00am .

There could have been relaxed security procedure as the Immigration officers rushed through the border clearance process for the 99 passengers and 6 crew members within 12 minutes.

The last passport stamped for the flight was digitally captured at 06.09am, Little Birds said.

Transfers ordered by D-G, Putrajaya

Earlier today, Screenshots confirmed that Fatimah Binti Hashim, the Assistant Director of Immigration heading the operations at the Penang International Airport, had been transferred on a 24-hour notice, effective October 1.

Immi-Penang_Rahman-Harun_Guangming.JPGIt has now been confirmed that the 13 ordered on immediate transfer comprised assistant director Fatimah, and the entire shift of officers who were placed on the same duty roster with the handful of culprits who showed up late for work on September 28, causing the popular 6.00am AirAsia AK5052 direct flight to Hong Kong to be delayed by 31 minutes.

Penang state Immigration Director Abdul Rahman Harun (picture left), who evidently retracted from his defensive stance earlier, told Guang Ming that the directive for the immediate transfer was ordered by Dato’ Abdul Rahman bin Othman, the Director-General of Immigration stationed at Putrajaya.

In an another development, effective from today, the Immigration Dept will be running a 24-hour service at the Penang International Airport.

The round-the-clock service will be manned by three groups of 6 officers each, who will change shifts at 07.00 am, 03.00pm and 11.00pm daily.

For the record, Penang is the largest international airport outside KLIA in terms of aircraft movements and passenger and cargo volumes in the country.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS… I had dispatched immediate accolades to the Immigration Dept for taking swift action on the culprits.

I also suggested that all agencies involved in the front-line services at all international airports should rekindle customer-care and courtesy campaigns to enhance travellers’ perception about Penang and Malaysia.

Read it in Guang Ming online.

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