Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pah Lah practices double-standard

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had decided that no action would be taken against the New Straits Times (NST) over the publication of a cartoon strip that had in a way offended Muslims.

At first I decided to ignore the controversy but after reading Kalimullah Hassan's article in Sunday Times and being asked by my friends to comment, I decided to do so.

Two reasons were given by Abdullah for not taking action against the NST:-

1. The newspaper did not carry the controversial caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that had sparked outcry throughout the world, and
2. NST had apologised unreservedly over the issue.

Abdullah said the issue was considered over as the newspaper had expressed regret over what had happened.

I beg to differ with Abdullah. I am disappointed that he practices double-standard.

Abdullah, in his capacity as Internal (Home) Security Minister, had earlier suspended Sarawak Tribune indefinitely and Guang Ming Daily's evening edition for two weeks for reproducing images containing the controversial caricatures.

Yes, the NST did not publish the said caricatures but it publish the Wily Miller Non Sequitur syndicated cartoon in its edition of Feb 20. It showed a street-artist sitting on a chair next to a sign which read: "Caricatures of Muhammad while you wait." A box caption stated: "Kevin finally achieves his goal to be the most feared man in the world".

The cartoon was indeed insensitive and insulting to Muslims. To us, the name Muhammad refers to our Holy Prophet. The box caption was further insult when it stated that Kevin (the street-artist) achieved his goal to be the most feared man in the world. Feared by the Muslims, that was the message.

Kalimullah defended the newspaper by saying that it did not publish the caricature, so it did not offend nor was insensitive to Muslims. What a joke!

In his teens, Kalimullah was involved in the so called Islamic dakwah (propagation) movement, the India-based Tabligh. I knew he was not serious in that activity for when in his 20's and 30's, as a journalist he was a different man.

He had also served as press secretary to former deputy prime minister Ghafar Baba but only for a short period when he had to vacate the post. He was not cleared by the police. Why?

Before migrating to Penang from Kroh, Perak, he was involved in "importing" clothings including fake jeans from south Thailand for sale in Malaysia, Penang included. Could this be the reason why he was not cleared by the police?

When he was attached to Singapore's Straits Times, he was seen as an important "link" for he was closely associated with Abdullah. That could be the reason why certain quarters described him as working for the Singapore government or in clandestine world, a spy. Could this be another reason why he was not cleared by the police?

Abdullah was responsible for appointing Kalimullah as chairman of Bernama, the national news agency and when Abdullah Ahmad (Dollah Kok Lanas or DKL) was removed as NST editor-in-chief, Kalimullah was appointed by Abdullah to head the Umno-linked newspaper.

Kalimullah removed Ahmad Talib as group editor of NST in favour of Hardev Kaur and brought in Brendan Pereira, his pal from Singapore's Straits Times as editor and when Hardev retired, she was replaced by Pereira. Hishamuddin Aun, a Berita Harian journalist, was promoted as editor-in-chief over more senior editors.

NST's "unwise" decision (to quote information minister Zainuddin Maidin) to publish the Non Sequitur strip was made under the leadership of Brendan Pereira, as group editor of NST and Hishamuddin Aun as editor-in-chief, both are Kalimullah loyalists.

Could the "close" relationship between Kalimullah and Abdullah had influenced the Prime Minister's decision not to take action against the NST?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Akeekah - an act of thanksgiving

We reached home (Kuala Lumpur) before dusk after leaving Penang island at about 2.30 pm on Saturday. We were in Penang to attend the "akad nikah" or solemnization of marriage at the state mosque of Sharifah Ruhil Amani, daughter of Syed Omar bin Ali Aidid and a Yemeni youth from Mukalla. Syed Omar is my second cousin.

The following day we attended the wedding reception of Isa Adam Yee, son of Datuk Dr Adam Yee and Datin Dr Sharifah Mariam Aidid at the Pilgrims Management and Fund Board complex, Bayan Lepas.

Among others, we met Datuk Dr Syed Yusof Idid, who is my cousin uncle from Kedah, Datuk Seri Yusof Latif, Datuk Azmi Merican, Datuk Syed Mohamad Aidid, retired teacher Ismail Ibramsa, Dr Syed Alwi and wife Sharifah Hamidah and Isa Adam Yee's family members.

We left the reception to return to Kuala Lumpur with my elder brother Syed Faiz and his wife Sharifah Maznah. As stated in my earlier posting, we would be attending a small thanksgiving feast my brother's grand-daughter Sharifah Jannah at her maternal grandparents house in Kelana Jaya on Sunday. Jannah's proud parents are Syed Ahmad Fazli and Kharisa.

Akeekah refers to the animal sacrificed, popularly on the seventh day after the birth, as an act of thanksgiving to Allah for the blessing of a child, whether male or female.

The person who does akeekah for his child has to invite people to come and eat it, in his house or wherever, or he can distribute the meat raw or cooked to the poor and to his relatives, neighbours, friends, etc.

For the record, there is a difference of scholarly opinion concerning the ruling on akeekah, with there being three different views.

Some say that it is obligatory, some said that it is mustahab (recommended) and some say that it is Sunnah mu'akkadah (a confirmed Sunnah). The majority of scholars said that the latter is the most correct view.

Normally, for a boy two sheep which meet the conditions for sacrifice should be slaughtered, and for a girl one sheep. The sheep should be slaughtered on the seventh day, but it is permissible to slaughter them at any time.

And Allah knows best.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Taking the road to Penang again

I will be taking the road again to Penang this Friday with wife Aishah and son Firdaus.

On Friday we will be attending the engagement of cousin Syed Omar bin Ali Aidid's daughter at Kampung Syed, Burma Road after the Friday prayers. Syed Omar is the grandson of Syed Abdullah bin Mohamad bin Zain bin Mohamad (Puteh) Alhabshee.

Syed Abdullah was responsible for "saving" the Kampung Syed wakaf (endowment) land from being sold by his elder brother Syed Noh. Syed Mohamad (Puteh) Alhabshee was also the father of Syed Noh a.k.a. Habib Noh, popularly referred to as the saint of Singapore (Wali Keramat). PLEASE NOTE: Syed Noh or Habib Noh, the saint of Singapore, was the grand uncle of Syed Noh (same name), the elder brother of Syed Abdullah, who wanted to sell the wakaf land.

Syed Abdullah decided to hand over the administration of the property to the then Muslim and Hindu Endowments Board (now known as Islamic Religious Council while a separate entity looks after Hindu-owned endowment assets) after consulting and on the advice of Penang-born Kedah magistrate Syed Mohamad Idid.

Syed Abdullah was the last officially appointed trustee as stated in a written trust deed of Ku Pahmah binti Ku Zainal Abidin, widow of Syed Mohamad (Puteh) Alhabshee. A month before his demise in 1950, when he left for Johor to attend to family matters, he appointed his cousins Syed Abbas bin Abdul Rahman Alhabshee and Syed Salleh bin Hashim Alsagoff as trustees.

On Saturday we will be attending the wedding reception of Isa Adam Yee, son of Datuk Dr Adam Yee Abdullah and Datin Dr Sharifah Mariam binti Syed Hassan Aidid at the Tabung Haji complex, Bayan Lepas. Isa is the grandson of the late Tan Sri Syed Hassan Aidid of Ayer Itam, Penang.

After the reception, we will hit the road back to KL with my elder brother Faiz and his wife Maznah. On sunday we are scheduled to attend the "akekah" ceremony of Faiz's grand-daughter Jannah at Kelana Jaya. Jannah's parents are Syed Ahmad Fazli bin Syed Faiz and Kharisah, both working with Petronas, the national oil corporation.

Thai Muslim lawyer named as Asia's top human righst defender

A Thai Muslim lawyer, who was killed by government officials in 2004, was named Asia's top human rights defender by a regional rights watchdog.

Somchai Neelapaijit was 53 when he was killed. When he was last seen alive 23 months ago, Somchai had publicly accused police of torturing four of his Muslim clients while in custody.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Defender Award named Somchai recipient of a Human Rights Defender Award in recognition of his tireless efforts to bring justice to victims of human rights abuses in Thailand, for which he ultimately sacrificed his life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Zam versus Kali - what is going on?

During his maiden press conference as the new information minister, Zainuddin Maidin or Zam was not happy when he was asked to comment on criticism made against him by former editor-in-chief and currently deputy chairman of the New Straits Times Press Group, Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan or Kali.

Zam described the article written by Kali (NST Feb 16) as "rubbish" and refused to comment.

Kali wrote that Zam's appointment, perhaps, was made because of his journalistic background in the Utusan Melayu Group(Malay language media organisation with links to Umno). For the record, the NST group is also linked to Umno.

What Kali trying to say was that Zam's appointment was certainly not made on other factors such as loyalty or his political credentials and capability to perform.

Since Zam's elevation as deputy information minister, Kali claimed that he (Zam) has had an uneasy relationship with senior executives of some of the mainstream media. I wonder which mainstream media Kali is talking about and to my knowledge only the NST, then headed editorially by Kali.

Kali wrote that it was ironic that just a day before his appointment was announced, Zam sought, in a closed-door Umno information bureau meeting, the sacking of the top editors of the NST group. If it is a closed-door meeting, how did Kali obtained his information? Who was the whistle blower?

But, according to Kali, bureau chairman Muhammad Muhamad Taib, brushed aside Zam's proposal by saying that Zam had chosen the wrong forum to vent his hostility on the media. Kali went on to disclose that a senator from Johor and a state assemblyman from Kelantan embraced Zam's views.

I am in full agreement with Kali on the point that Zam has had run-ins with other media executives, partly because he sees himself as editor of the Malaysian media. There is no such position, Kali added. In fact, when Zam was deputy information minister, my friends in the news and current affairs unit of Radio-Television Malaysia (RTM), for obvious reasons described him as chief editor.

Several Umno leaders were not happy with Kali for leaking "closed-door meeting" details to the public. They said that action should be taken no matter if such person or persons were seen as "close" to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

As a friend of both personalities, I wonder what is going on. It is no secret that Kali was air-dropped by PM Abdullah as editor-in-chief of the NST although there were senior editors in the daily that were loyal and better qualified to head the newspaper. It is sad that in Malaysia, senior appointments in the news organisations are decided by the political elites.

Kali, whose parents were Pathans, migrated to Penang from Kroh, Perak and when he was in his teens, he joined the Indian-based Islamic missionary, the Jamaah Tabligh. He used to follow this missionary group to visit houses in my kampung in Burma Road calling on us to go to the Kelawai Road mosque for a religious talk.

When he was in early 20s, he joined the National Echo newspaper in Penang as a reporter before joing the Star, the NST, Singapore Straits Times and a foreign news agency.

I notice a huge different in Kali as a young Jamaah Tabligh follower and later as a a journalist. From preaching Islam to ......

As for Zam, we were neighbours in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur in 1971. I was squatting in my elder brother's rented house along Jalan Raja Uda while Zam stayed in his rented single storey house in Jalan Raja Muda Musa.

A few years later, we met again in Penang. Zam was then the bureau chief of Utusan Melayu and I was attached to the national news agency bureau office.

Zam, a constitutional Malay of Indian Muslim parentage, hails from Kuala Kedah and was seen as Dr Mahathir Mohamad's loyalist.

UN human rights envoy to visit Myanmar

United Nations human rights envoy on Myanmar (Burma) Serghio Pinheiro was wrapping up a two-day visit to Indonesia Tuesday (Feb 21), ahead of a planned visit by Presiden Bambang Yudhoyono to Myanmar.

Pinheiro, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, met with Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda, former foreign minister Ali Alatas as well as Indonesian law makers.

Indonesia and the other Asean countries has urged Myanmar to take tangible steps towards democracy and make good on its promise to reform.

President Yudhoyono's visit would come as Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar is trying to agree a date to visit Myanmar on behalf of Asean countries.

Syed Hamid is supposed to visit Myanmar as an envoy of Asean to check on its progress towards democracy. Asean signalled its impatience with Myanmar, a member of the grouping, at its annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur last December.

Schoolkids ask Thai PM to quit

A group of some 100 students from 30 schools called on Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign, just after four of the Prime Minister's fellow party members urged the same.

The students, according to The Nation daily, called themselves the Fellowship of Secondary Students for Democracy. They said Thaksin was the source of all problems affecting Thailand now.

The students said that if Thaksin did not resign by Feb 26, the group would gather signatures of secondary school students nationwide to tell him to step down.

Earlier Tuesday (Deb 21), four Thai Rak Thai party members urged their Prime Minister to quit, breaking rank for the first time.

Thaksin had earlier said he would dissolve parliament and force new elections if political pressures on him become too strong, but that he will not resign.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Malaysia wants US to close Guantanamo Bay

Malaysia believed that it is better for the United States to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba following the disclosure of it becoming a torturing camp.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said the US itself had admitted the offences committed against the detainees there.

The United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan had called for the detention to be closed down but the US refused to do so.

Who on earth can tell the most powerful nation in the world what to do and what not to do? If the US decided to do something and the rest of the world disagreed, let it be.

Take the Hamas recent victory in Palestine's parliamentary elections as example. The US is not happy although it is pushing for democracy in the Middle East. Israel is with the US, so much for democratic freedom and human rights.

As chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), Malaysia is spearheading efforts to extend financial aid to Palestine.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said he had spoken to some leaders of the OIC about it after the Israeli government decided to stop payment of about $50 million a month in tax money, collected on behalf of the Palestinians, to the Palestinian Authority.

The Americans too had asked for the return of some US$50 million in aid meant for infrastructure projects in Gaza as it did not want the money to be used by a Hamas-led government.

Mahathir denies paying lobbyist to to meet Bush

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad denied that the Malaysian government had paid US$1.2 million to American lobbyist Jack Abramoff to arrange his meeting with George Bush in May 2002.

Dr Mahathir said the meeting with Bush in the White House was arranged by Heritage Foundation, a US think tank, to discuss issues related to Washington's foreign policies, Bernama news agency reported Monday.

He said he was informed that some people paid a sum of money to lobbyists in America but he did not know who they were and it was not the Malaysian government.

Abramoff is being investigated by the American authorities on charages of misconduct for allegedly taking a payment even though the White House had stated the meeting was fixed through the correct channel. The Western media had in the past accused Malaysia of paying lobbyists to make the meeting happen.

Dr Mahathir said he agreed to have the meeeting with Bush on the urging of the Heritage Foundation and he had believed it would benefit Malaysia to discuss American foreign policy with the US leader.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cosmetic Plastic Surgery is not new in Malaysia

Newly appointed Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said beauty services such as cosmetic plastic surgery will be made a new tourism product for Malaysia.

He said women preferred to seek such services elsewhere rather than in their own countries and he is hoping to promote cosmetic plastic surgery and other beauty services as tourism products.

Could some one tell Tengku Adnan that cosmetic plastic surgery is being carried out in a private hospital in Penang for some years now. In fact, it is getting popular with foreign patients-cum-tourists such as from Australia, Taiwan and several European countries.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired a special documentary on the subject in 2004 focusing on the cosmetic plastic surgery-holiday package in Penang island. It is attracting clients from all over the world.

So what is new Tengku Adnan? Tourism is big business with substantial returns and Malaysia is blessed with beautiful sceneries with rich flora and fauna heritage to be preserved and conserved as its main tourism product.

Tengku Adnan is now in a position to help conserve and preserve Malaysia's national heritage such as the planets's oldest tropical rainforests, the mangrove swamps, the green and majestic highlands and miles of sandy beaches. These are Malaysia's tourism products.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of greedy and environmentally unfriendly developers (politicians included) destroying the gift of God in the name of development. Please put a stop to it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lenggor Man - the Malaysian "Bigfoot"

A wildlife protection society in the Malaysian state of Johor said it has "scientific evidence" to prove the existence of "Bigfoot" whose reported sightings recently in the Johor jungles have excited the world's media.

Not just one "Bigfoot" but a whole colony of the giant, hairy creatures which the society named "Orang Lenggor" or "Lenggor Man" as was spotted near a river by that name.

In a despatch from Johor Baharu, Malaysia's southern city north of Singapore, national news agency Bernama quoted the Johor Wildlife Protection Society secretary Tay Teng Hwa as saying that "we will make public the evidence soon."

He said a member of the society had studied the creatures for six years and interacted directly with the colony.

Tay claimed that the adult creatures were between 10 and 12 feet tall while their children were six to seven footers. Seventy per cent of the Orang Lenggor have a human appearance but the rest resemble apes.

Earlier reports quoted several quarters as claiming that the creatures were between 10 to 30 metres tall, which is hard to believe.

Tay told Bernama that the society decided to reveal its discovery because foreigners armed with sophisticated equipment were entering the Johor tropical rain forests to track down "Bigfoot" without the knowledge of the state authorities.

The "Orang Lenggor" had a covering of black hair on their bodies when they were young but the hair gradually turned brown as they grew older, Tay said and added that they like to eat fish and fruits.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The M'sian Cabinet - half-baked or recycled?

Three days after Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi announced minor changes to the Cabinet, voices of dissatisfaction and frustration continues to fill coffee houses, recreational clubs and food stalls in the state capital, Kuala Lumpur.

A Kuala Lumpur UMNO divisional leader, eyeing a deputy minister's post but was frustrated when he was left out, described the new line-up as a "recycle cabinet". He was referring to the inclusion of Kuala Lumpur UMNO chief, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Sarawak politician, Effendi Norwawi.

Effendi, who sold his interests in the second national private tv network, NTV7 to Media Prima, the UMNO-linked company that runs private stations TV3, TV8, two radio stations and the New Straits Times Press group, rejoined the Cabinet at the request of Abdullah. He was sworn in as a member of the Senate on Thursday.

Effendi's wife, actress Tiara Jaquelina, broke the Malaysian record for film production by spending RM20 million (US$5.4m) on the love epic Puteri Gunung Ledang. Effendi ended up by having to service bank loans.

Adnan was dropped from the lineu-up when Abdullah announced his first Cabinet in 2004 while Effendi opted-out when he was moved from the popular agriculture portfolio to "special functions".

Abdullah defended his Cabinet line-up. He was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that "I have confidence in them (the ministers). All can perform and will get the job done."

He said his new Cabinet comprises performers who will get the job done and he had retained ministers who performed.

My question is did Dr Shafie Salleh, the Higher Education Minister and Dr Leo Michael Toyad the Tourism Minister did not perform to his expectations? If not, why were they dropped?

The two together with Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Dr Rais Yatim were the best qulified academically with PhDs.

Dr Shafie, who had served as deputy finance minister under Dr Mahathir Mohamad and previously headed the National Civic Bureau, a specially set-up unit to brainstorm freshly recruited civil servants, university graduates and students to be "pro-government", said that he was not surprised but was hopeful to be retained as minister.

I am quiet familiar with Dr Shafie and can testify that he is a workaholic. Unfortunately, coming from the civil service, he lacks the style and charisma of a politician. He is honest and loyal to whoever is the boss.

I believed that he was dropped because he did not renew the contract of Malaysian Technology University's vice-chancellor Prof. Dr. Mohd Zulkifli Mohd Ghazali. The contract was later renewed on the instruction of the Prime Minister. Dr Shafie failed to realise that Dr Zulkifli is the younger brother of the chief minister of Perak state, Tajol Rosli, a staunch supporter of the prime Minister. Dr Zulkifli is pro-establishment and popular with the varsity's students and academicians. I could not think of other reasons why Abdullah dropped Dr Shafie from his cabinet.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Singapore supports Thailand for UN post

Singapore reaffirms its support for Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai's candidacy for the United Nations Secretary-General post.

The island republic's foreign ministry spokesman said today the announcement of South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon's candidacy for the post will not affect Singapore's support of Surakiart's candidacy.

ASEAN countries are expected to back the Thai candidate although two other Asian candidates are also vying for the post. Besides Korea's Ban and Thailand's Surakiart, Sri Lanka has also named diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala as its candidate for the post.

Incumbent UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan's second five-year term expires on Dec 31 and Asian countries believed it would be its turn next.

However, the United States and its European ally, Britain, were not in favour of rotating the post according to a region. So far, Australia is keeping mum, maybe Prime Minister Howard is awaiting instructions from George Bush.

Malaysian PM to monitors ministers' performance

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said today that the performance of all the cabinet ministers will be constantly monitored to ensure that they do their job. He said the monitoring would be done by a special committee that would report each minister's performance to him.

He told his ministers to work hard and if they could not perform, they could quit. But, I would like to point out that quitting is something very rare in Malaysia even if the minister is found guilty of abusing his powers or corruption, he will try his best to keep his job and will not resign.

On the cabinet reshuffle announced on Tuesday, Abdullah said the change in portfolios of three ministers was aimed at giving them exposure.

Nuke trail traced to M'sia

Japanese newspaper The Daily Yomiuri reported today (Wed Feb 15) that Tokyo's Metropolitan Police has found that a 3-D measuring tool, which was illegally exported by Mitutoyo Corp and discovered in Libya, was first sold to a Malaysian firm with close ties to a Pakistani scientist suspected of establishing an international black market for nuclear materials.

The Kawasaki-based precision toolmaker is being investigated on suspicion of exporting products without government permission in violation of Japan's Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law.

The device was found in a Libyan nuclear development research facility at the time of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections between DECEMBER 2003 and JANUARY 2004.

As widely reported in 2004, the tool was initially shipped by Mitutoyo to Scomi Precision Engineering (SCOPE), in Dec 2001.

I wonder whether this piece of news will appear in the Malaysian newspapers on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The media and unhappy politicians

Of late the Malaysian media has become more strident in its reporting and has itself become the target of unhappy politicians who want the government to stop media attacks on ministers and the state authorities.

Cabinet ministers "affected" by the media exposure want the government to be stricter in monitoring the mainstream media. It seems that various laws governing either directly or indirectly the media such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), The Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Media and Printing Press Act are not enough. Or maybe they did not realise that most of the so called mainstream media are either under the direct or indirect control of politicians associated with the ruling coalition government.

It is undisputed that all news organisations are governed by all the applicable laws of the locality, state, and nation.

Works Minister and leader of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a member of the ruling coalition government, riled by reports on problems with highways and bridges under his ministry's supervision, had decided not to react to such reports anymore.

What the media trying to do is to venture into investigative reporting. One or more reporters go out on a story, usually after receiving a tip from the desk (news desk), a reader or some other source, and come up with significant information that would not ordinarily have been developed through regular or official sources.

I am for investigative reporting but there is no conceivable way in which a newspaper can bid for the respect and favour of its community and avoid risk, controversy, and sometimes a bitter struggle for survival.

While the role of the news media as watchdogs in the governmental processes is the most familiar and the most celebrated, the thrust of public service journalism today is in the direction of such growing areas as civil rights, consumerism, inflation, health protection, and the war on poverty.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the USA once said that the guarantee of free speech does not permit a citizen to raise a false cry of "fire" in a crowded meeting hall and escape punishment. Nor may a political leader incite to riot because there is a constitutional guarantee of free assembly. No newspaper, similarly, may abuse its guarantee of freedom by sending its delivery truck through traffic lights or refusing to pay its employees.

Freedom comes with responsibility, accountability and most importantly sincerity.

The Malaysian Cabinet

The Cabinet reshuffle as announced by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on Tuesday (Feb 14 Malaysian time) received lukewarm reactions. As usual, most welcome it (but God knows what is exactly deep inside their hearts), but hardly any criticism. This attitude is known here as "political patronage".

But one thing is certain - the cabinet is far too large for a small country like Malaysia.

Malaysia is a country with an estimated population of 24 million. It is a constitutional democracy with a bicameral parliament consisting of the Dewan Rakyat or The House of Representatives and Dewan Negara or The Senate.

The Dewan Rakyat consists of 219 elected members who hold office for a period of five years. The Dewan Negara consists of 70 members (Maximum) of which 44 are appointed by the King on the advice of the government (Prime Minister) and 26 members are "elected" by the 13 State Legislative Assembly, where each state is represented by two members.

For a country like Malaysia to have a total of 90 members of the administration is much too big. Of the total 90 - 32 are members of the Cabinet including the Prime Minister, another 39 are deputy ministers and 19 are parliamentary secretaries.
India, with a population of over one billion, maintains a smaller cabinet.

It is a waste of public fund considering the fiscal allocation needed to retain them including the unpublished perks. As the popular saying goes...Malaysia Boleh!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The return of Ku Nan and Affendy Norwawi

Well finally it materialise. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi today announced his much awaited Cabinet re-shuffle. Was it a surprise? Yes to some but not so to me.
Apart from Kadir Sheikh Fadzir (see my earlier posting), another leader who failed to retain his UMNO supreme council seat, Higher Education Minister Dr Shafie Salleh was dropped. He was replaced by Minister In The Prime Minister's Department, Mustapha Mohamed. Mustapa's portfolio (economic affairs) is now in the hands of Affendy Norwawi, the former agriculture minister. His Sarawak colleague Adenan Satem is also dropped to pave the way for him to play a more important role in Sarawak state politics. He is tipped to be the next Chief Minister of Sarawak. Home Affairs Minister Azmi Khalid takes over Adenan's portfolio while Radzi Sheikh Ahmad moves from PM's Department to Home Affairs.
Tengku Adnan Mansor has return to the Cabinet as Tourism Minister in place of Leo Michael Toyad who was dropped. Another UMNO leader from the Federal Territory, Zulhasnan Rafique is promoted as minister in the Federal Territory Ministry while deputy information minister, Zainuddin Mydin moves up to full minister in the same ministry.
The surprise..well Pak Lah decided to retain Rafidah Aziz saying that he needs her expertise and experience to lead Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
The announcement finally put a stop to speculations and rumours being circulated by UMNO members and the press.
As stated in my earlier posting, Pak Lah has his own style and it is not easy to read his moves. May Allah gives him strength and courage to lead the nation.

Informarion minister resigns

Hardly 24 hours after my posting on the cabinet re-shuffle, flamboyant Information Minister Kadir Sheikh Fadzir has resigned (Tuesday Feb 14 in Malaysia).
Kadir was expected to be dropped (some quarters would describe it as being sacked) by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi in the re-shuffle together with Home Affairs Minister Azmi Khalid and maybe International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz.
So it is better to resign than to be sacked.
Kadir's days in the federal administration are numbered after he failed to defend his UMNO supreme council seat in the party polls last year. (UMNO is the main Malay political party leading the Barisan Nasional co-alition government)
Kadir was first appointed a minister by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in May 1999, when he took on the Arts, Culture and Tourism Minister portfolio. Prior to that, he served as deputy ministers in various ministeries.
Kadir was born in Tawar village, Baling, Kedah State in 1939. His parents were Indian Muslims. So he is not a Malay by birth but a constitutional Malay.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The long wait for cabinet re-shuffle

Almost all Malaysian news media got it wrong. Politicians got it wrong. Rumour mongers got it wrong. Yes, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is hard to read, difficult to predict and not easy to understand.
Even journalists who claimed or said to be close to the PM or his aides, both active or "retired" to the corporate world, wrongly predicted the time and personalities "involved" in a so called cabinet re-shuffle. Journalists from the New Straits Times (NST), The Star, Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian and the various vernacular newspapers (Mandarin and Tamil) all got it wrong.
A year passed by, months went by and days after days they are waiting and still waiting for the PM to re-arrange, replace and appoint members of his governing executive council called The Cabinet. The media "predicted" that this or that minister is to be dropped and they even name names of "new faces" to be roped in by Pak Lah, the Prime Minister. Some were bold enough to link Pak Lah's "powerful young politician and trustworthy son-in-law" Khairy Jamaluddin or KJ as their source. To them KJ is the man trusted and consulted by Pak Lah and is a reliable source of information. What a pity. They are wrong. Their predictions and speculations were wrong. KJ, who is the same age as my first-born son, is not Mister Know All. It is an insult to Pak Lah to potray KJ as that "influential and powerful". Of course KJ is happy to be placed in such a position especially as more and more UMNO (the main Malay ruling party headed by Pak Lah) aspiring politicians, wants to be seen or to be associated with him, to be labelled as Pak Lah's men. They are hoping for something (reward) for their "loyalty". What a shame! Well.. like it or not that is UMNO politics - the artificial political patronage of the Malay elite. I say artificial because most of them are like frogs - jumping from one place to another especially to a place where there are plenty of insects to eat. They will voice their undivided support and loyalty to a particular leader who is in a position to award and reward them, they will immediately abandon him when he is unable to do so. Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad can testify to it. No wonder more and more young Malays are voicing their support to "alternative" Malay-based party. Who knows...a change may be for ther good of the country.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Danish firm scores giant deal in Malaysia

In the midst of demonstrations and protests against Denmark in several Muslim countries over the drawings of cartoons of "Prophet Muhammad" by Jyllands-Posten, a newly established Copenhagen based Danish firm, Denmark Solar Industry (DSI), is to build several factories in Kemaman, Malaysia. The factory contract is worth 179 million DKK and will produce solar panels.
DSI is expected to build around 10 factories which will produce almost everything that has to do with solar energy including solar cells and components used in security or street lighting.

Meanwhile, on Friday (Thursday in the US), some 5,000 people held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Danish embassy. The demonstration was spearheaded by the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), the main Muslim opposition party in Malaysia.
PAS president, Hadi Awang submitted a memorandum to Danish ambassador Borge Pedersen demanding that the government of Denmark and the newspapers concerned offer an apology to Muslims.

Abdullah Badawi wants efforts to foster Islam-West ties

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was quoted by the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) as saying that bridgebuilders between the West and the Muslim world must be multiplied to destroy the walls erected by those who are well bent on keeping them apart. He said the bridgebuilders must be developed through the family, education, the media and tens of thousands of men and women who could be critical of the weaknesses and wrongdoings of one's civilisation and at the same time were empathetic towards the other civilisation.
Delivering his keynote address at the International Conference on "Who Speaks for Islam? Who Speaks for the West," at Kuala Lumpur, Abdullah added that when the bridgebuilders reached a critical mass, their collective power would become so overwhelming that it would destroy the walls erected by those who were hell bent on keeping Islam and the West apart.
At that point, he said, when the bridgebuilders reign supreme, the people of the West will speak for Islam and the Muslims will speak for the West.
Both sides must start to curb the extremists in their midst and put a stop to the mockery of any religion or the sacrilege of any symbol held sacred by the faithful.

Is Abdullah Badawi getting weak?

Of late, I notice that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi (Pak Lah) is somewhat loosing control of things. Even local daily The New Straits Times had beaten the gun more than once. One or two ministers were in a hurry to announce Cabinet decisions or actions to be taken which by nature of it's portfolio, would be done by the Prime Minister.
What is going on? Pak Lah's deputy and PM-in-waiting Najib Tun Razak is very quiet lately, Why? Could it be his political strategy?
On the international front, Pak Lah was also slow to react on matters concerning Islam and the Muslim community. As chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), he should be more sensitive to global issues affecting the Muslim community and be bold enough to issue statements on behalf of the OIC.
It would be a different scenario if Dr Mahathir Mohamad is in charge.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The drive to Penang and the food

My trip to the north states, on Saturday Jan 28, started on a slow pace due to the long breaks in conjunction with the C hinese New Year, the Muslim New Year and the Federal Territory Day. Traffic was heavy on the North-South Highway. My wife and I left Kuala Lumpur at noon. The drive from the city to Jalan Duta toll plaza was surprisingly smooth. Less than five minutes after the toll plaza, traffic was heavy and it took nearly two hours to reach Sungai Buloh and I was about to give up and wanted to exit at Sungai Buloh to return to KL but was persuaded not to do so by the wife. It took another three hours to reach the Simpang Pulai (Ipoh south) toll plaza. Normally, I would be in Penang but not on this particular day. From Ipoh the drive to the Juru toll plaza in Province Wellesley, Penang was nearly two-and-a-half hours and we proceeded to the Bujang Valley in Merbok, Kedah and was at the Villa Alhabshee at about 8.30 pm.
On Sunday, we drove to Alor Star and had lunch at cousin Sharifah Hasnah's house. We were met by her husband Syed Ibrahim, son Sofian and daughter Alia. After lunch, Ibrahim and Alia accompanied us to visit the ailing Puan Sri Sharifah Maznah, 81, wife of retired Supreme Court judge, Tan Sri Syed Agil Barakhbah. The Tan Sri was happy to welcome us. I had a very educational conversation with him on several subjects including on the migration of Hadramis from Yemen to the Malay world. Later in the day, we drove to Bukit Kayu Hitam just to see whether it was affected by the security problems in south Thailand. I noticed that the border town was rather quiet - less crowded as it normally was on week-ends. On second day of Chinese New Year, we drove to Penang island and was glad to notice that traffic was not heavy on the Penang Bridge but it was bumper-to-bumper from the island to the mainland. We were at home in Penang for seven wonderful days enjoying the Bangkok Lane mee mamak, Kayu nasi kandar at Penang Road, celur-celur or satay rebus at Padang Brown, roti naan at Kasim Mustaffa, Pulau Tikus, pasembur at Gurney Drive....and home cooked meals. Penang is certainly the food paradise of Malaysia. I am looking forward for another drive to Penang later this month. My nephews Fazli and Muzri were also in Penang. They drove from KL on Monday. They were accompanied by Fazli's wife, Kharisa and their first born baby girl, Jannah. It must be a bit sad and lonely for grand-parents, Faiz and Maznah, when their only grand-child (so far) left for KL on Saturday but it give them the opportunity to travel to the city at least once a month to be with Jannah.