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Foong Li Mei brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).
REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”
ISA shaved for political edge
Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib’s words overshadowed his actions in the matter of the controversial new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) which replaces the Internal Security Act (ISA). Najib’s proclamation that the ISA was abolished ‘because it didn’t help [the BN] politically‘ confirms where our premier puts his foot – exactly on the groin of Basic Human Rights.
Anti-ISA movements Suaram and GMI caution that Sosma offers little safeguard. The clause that prohibits politically-motivated detention is very general, and does not prevent misuse by the authorities. Based on official records, no-one has even been detained under the ISA for political reasons. Instead, detentions have been justified by “trumped-up charges like trying to orchestrate a riot to topple the government”. But Najib has just implicitly admitted that the ISA has indeed been used to silence political foes, saying that “if you put someone in under ISA, it doesn’t kill them politically. Instead, it enhances their political career.”
Sosma joins a long list of new legislation – some rammed through Parliament rather hastily in the wee hours of the morning when most of the nation is asleep– following the PM’s announcement last year to transform Malaysia into a more democratic and open nation. Unfortunately, Najib’s legal reforms are on-the-spot bouncing rather than forward leaps, as succinctly captured by Ding Jo-Ann in The Nut Graph.
Is the newly-announced National Harmony Act, set to replace the Sedition Act, another flat note in the hollow tunes of BN’s promise for change? Politicians can play the Pied Piper all they want, but bear in mind that the music only has an effect on those too young (or too cheese-drawn) to vote. Mature minds would only march to a solid, consistent rhythm of rights-respecting policies.
Najib claims BN is a government that “responds to the wishes of the people”. Will the coalition then be as responsive when it comes to answering questions on its integrity?
The PM has remained tight-lipped on the allegation that he had a hand in awarding the RM1.18 billion Ampang LRT extension project to George Kent Berhad, a company that had failed the technical evaluation. PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli showed documents to back-up the allegation, and warned that George Kent’s lack of expertise will endanger lives. On top of that, the company also quoted a higher price than “far more experienced bidders”.
Inexperience was also not a stumbling block for the daughter of former Chief Secretary to the Government and current Petronas chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan. Suzi Suliana Mohd Sidek and her business partners were awarded the ‘lion’s share’ of lucrative feed-in tariff (FiT) solar-power contracts, despite none of them having any solar power generation know-how. MPs Tony Pua and Nurul Izzah Anwar want Malaysian renewable energy authorities to clarify if there is any favouritism involved.
Pakatan’s bailout or MCA’s blunder?
In accusing the Selangor state government for overpaying for a piece of land in a debt-recovery exercise, MCA’s Datuk Chua Tee Yong may find the ground shifting under his feet.
Talam, now known as Trinity Corporation, denied that it sold land to the Selangor state government at above the market value. Charging that Chua’s statements were “not wholly accurate”, the company said that the plots of land were valued at RM935 million, but the transacted price with the Selangor state was “only at RM877 million”. Furthermore, this transaction had been approved by the Securities Commission.
While PJ Utara MP Tony Pua conceded that Selangor did pay more than market-value to Talam Corporation Bhd for a leasehold plot at Bestari Jaya, he stressed, and it is normal practice for transactions of this nature, to look at the entire package rather than individual lots. Overall, Selangor actually paid the troubled property developer less than market value for the acquisition of 13 plots of land.
Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has challenged MCA to show how Selangor had abused funds of RM1 billion in the alleged bailout. Khalid jeered at the inconsistencies in MCA’s allegations, and declared that the state government would take legal action against the party.
A key civil servant instrumental in BN’s controversial takeover of Perak in 2009 has pledged his loyalty to PAS. Abdullah Antong Sabri, the former Perak state assembly secretary claimed that he had “no choice” during the takeover and was only carrying out his duties when issuing orders favourable to BN lawmakers.
Was Abdullah acting under pressure, or was he trying to curry his federal bosses’ approval when he issued those orders? His role in the overthrow of the Pakatan state government elected by Perak voters underlines the importance of civil servants being neutral and impartial when carrying out their duties.
In choosing a government to drive the nation forward, let us not forget that a well-assembled vehicle of civil servants with integrity and honour is needed.
Threat angers more than scares
Fear tactics did not scare political analyst Dr Ong Kian Ming, who was threatened by thugs at his doorstep. In his account of the incident to The Malaysian Insider, Dr Ong suspects that the harassment was meant to intimidate him for his involvement in Bersih-related activities. Nonetheless, Dr Ong vowed to press on with his varied work such as on the problems of the electoral roll, analysing the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and also writing political commentaries.
REFSA stands in solidarity with Dr Ong, as well as all who have been threatened in their struggles for a better Malaysia. Thugs take heed – an attempt to scare one ignites the wrath of many. After all, if there is one thing Hollywood taught us, it is that the underdog always gets the crowd’s support.
Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.
It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!