Thursday, November 29, 2012

The President's Speech

Predictably, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak  delivered a fierce and highly-charged speech at the opening of the party's general assembly in PWTC this morning.

Firing the troops for war, as it were.

His voice was two decibles higher, I think.

Umno must win and be given the mandate to lead. In order to do that it has to be strong. So let's cut the chase -- stop all this politicking and sabotaging. Step in line, be disciplined, be loyal
 if you want to win this war.

The dynamics and demographics of Malaysia has changed -- so Umno has got to win the hearts and minds of not just the Malays but the non-Malays -- the rural and urban rakyat. The young. The fence sitters and the new 2.9 million new voters.

Umno is the rakyat's champion and together with its coalition partners -- is the choice for a better future for the rakyat,

It was not lost on so many people when the secretary-general (who spoke just before Najib) ended his speech with "Hidup Umno, Hidup Barisan, Hidup Malaysia!".

And then the party president ended on the same note.

My imagination, perhaps. But didn't it use to have "Hidup Melayu" in the past?

He certainly set the tone.

Here is the full text of Najib's speech..

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Umno's Biggest Challenge..

THE Umno general assembly this time will be the last before the general election. I'm saying it because analysts said the same thing of the party general assembly last year. But there was no general election.

This assembly is therefore crucial. Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has already made it clear ahead of the assembly that Umno has to show not only to the Malays but the rest of the country that it is stronger and more solid now to face the general election.

"What is this general assembly about? Simple, it is about the general election and it is about making sure Umno remains in power," a senior Umno leader  told this blogger...

Najib has been in full gear the past three years touring the country, going to the ground to meet the people and at the same time implementing the government and economic transformation programmes. Besides fulfilling his international engagements, including buttressing relations with the US in 2010.

This is the final home stretch for Umno. Now it is up to Umno delegates to take it up from there.

Some Umno leaders this blogger spoke to said they hoped the Umno president will be forthright in his address which will set the tone for the assembly,

"I think his forthrightness will be appreciated", said former Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

"It is a bitter medicine that we have to swallow. At this time, he has to be cruel to be kind. For Umno, it is make or break. We have to regain our lost ground", she added.

In previous assemblies, the party president had always called for the party to close ranks, to be united, to put party interst above self and so forth.

After 1999, when the party  faced losses in the general election,  a recurring message had been reform reinvention, re-engineering, renewal, rejuvenation and revival.

Political observers and analysts had a field day making their assessments -- protest against Anwar Ibrahim's sacking, rejection of Umno by Malays and so forth.

But in 2004, Umno and the BN swept the general election with a landslide victory and increased popular votes.

This was after Tun (then Datuk Seri) Dr Mahathir passed the premiership to Tun (then Datuk Seri) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Again analyses abound -- feel good factor, Pak Lah being the benign face of Umno, rejection of PAS Islam,  endorsement of Umno's moderate brand of Islam, Pak Lah's promises to fight corruption and so forth,

BN won 198 of the 219 seats in parliamnent with Umno 109, increasing its number from the last elections. MCA and MIC too gained a few more seats.

PAS won only seven (Opposition leader Hadi Awang lost his parliamentary seat), DAP got 12 and Keadilan lost four of the five seats contested (Dr Wan Azizah Ismail was the sole Keadilan MP in parliament).

Then, four years on, it was a drastic change, a shocking scenario.

In 2008 general election which everyone calls a political tsunami, the  BN lost five states.  It won 140 of 222 parliamentary seats - (Umno 79, MCA 15, MIC 3 and Gerakan 2).  Keadilan won 31, PAS 23 and DAP 28. With a total number of 82, they quickly cobbled up a "pakatan".

So many factors conspired to bring down the BN. Many said the oppositon won by default because the BN was arrogant,  because of the son-in-law (Khairy Jamaluddin who is Pak Lah's son-in-law), Hindraf and so forth.


It is no different this time. Najib's message is for Umno to be stronger and more united. But circumstances are not the same.

After the devastation in 2008, it is not, and cannot be,  business as usual for Umno although Umno, pointed out an observer, had always delivered. It is clearly the strongest component in the coalition.

"We are facing a different Malaysia. Umno cannot be rallying for the Malays only. It should appeal to the non-Malays as well. More so now, with MCA and MIC in a weakened position," said a senior Umno leader.

Najib has set the tone since he took over as PM and party president.

"He is the face of Umno and he is the face of the BN. He is a popular leader. Anywhere he goes, people support him. He has convinced people that he is the leader and the champion of Malays and non-Malays. If this were a  prime ministerial race, he will win. But I cannot say the same about Umno," said a senior MCA leader.

The rest of the country will be keenly following -- as always -- proceedings in the Umno general assembly which begins on Thursday at the Putra World Trade centre in KL.

 Malays and non-Malays will want to know what Umno is made up of, Has it reformed? Is it sensitive to changes in the country.

For one thing, Umno has got to convince the Malays-- who are so divided that it is the only party that can represent and protect their interests. And we're not talking just about rural Malays but also those in ubran areas.

For another, Umno has got to strike a balance -- promoting Malay interest but at the same time convincing non-Malays that it is also there for them. That is a just party for all.

"The history of Umno is one of inclusiveness, as evident since we achived independence when the Malay leaders invited the non-Malays to be part of the Malayan government in power-sharing and guaranteed their rights and interests.

"People have forgotten this and the opposition has exploited this and have kept smearing Umno with a racist label, relentlessly pushing that perception.

"This is the time for Umno to remind Malaysians that the party looks out not just for the Malays but everyone else, that proposals and propositions in the assembly translate to national policies for everyone's interest," said an Umno veteran.

Umno should be reminded of the 2006 general assembly when it for the first time it was telecast live.

Passionate debates on driving the Malay agenda spooked non-Malays who perceived them to be extremist.

All said and done, post assembly, Umno leaders and members have got to work hard for Umno to be returned to power and for the mandate from the rakyat.
They have to reach out to the people because that was how PAS, DAP and PKR did it in 2008.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Truce In Gaza

After eight days of fighting --punishing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and a barrage of Hamas rocket fire on Israel -- a ceasefire was invoked.

So far 161 Palestinians, including 71 civilians, 37 of whom were children, were killed. Thousands others were injured.

On the Israeli side,  two soldiers and four civilians, were killed and dozens others wounded by rockets fired into residential neighbourhoods.

So far five Israelis and 162 Palestinians including 37 children children were killed.  Thousands of Palestinians were injured.

But how long the Egyptian-brokered truce will last remains to be seen. But for now, let's hope everyone abides by the truce.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It Is Not A War. It Is Murder...

says author Noam Chomsky

Chomsky Statement on Israel's War on Gaza

Prof. Noam Chomsky
November 17, 2012
(WASHINGTON DC) - The following statement by Noam Chomsky indicates a different stand toward Israeli aggression than Prof. Chomsky has revealed in the past:

"The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas. It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace.

The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.

Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war.

 It is not a war, it is murder.

When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like, it's not defense.”

Israel. Murderer.

Who is Doing the Killing in Gaza? Noam Chomsky and Others Challenge World's Media

(LONDON) - The degree of terror felt by ordinary Palestinian civilians in Gaza is barely noticed in the media, in stark contrast to the world's awareness of terrorised and shock-treated Israeli citizens.

WHILE COUNTRIES across Europe and North America commemorated military casualties of past and present wars on November 11, Israel was targeting civilians.

On November 12, waking up to a new week, readers at breakfast were flooded with heart rending accounts of past and current military casualties.

There was, however, no or little mention of the fact that the majority of casualties of modern day wars are civilians.

There was also hardly any mention on the morning of November 12 of military attacks on Gaza that continued throughout the weekend.

A cursory scan confirms this for Canada's CBC, Globe and Mail, Montreal's Gazette, and the Toronto Star. Equally, for the New York Times and for the BBC.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) report on Sunday November 11, five Palestinian civilians including three children had been killed in the Gaza strip in the previous 72 hours, in addition to two Palestinian security personnel.

Four of the deaths occurred as a result of Israeli military firing artillery shells on youngsters playing soccer. Moreover, 52 civilians had been wounded, of which six were women and 12 were children. (Since we began composing this text, the Palestinian death toll has risen, and continues to rise.)

Articles that do report on the killings overwhelmingly focus on the killing of Palestinian security personnel. For example, an Associated Press article published in the CBC world news on November 13, entitled 'Israel mulls resuming targeted killings of Gaza militants,' mentions absolutely nothing of civilian deaths and injuries. It portrays the killings as 'targeted assassinations.' The fact that casualties have overwhelmingly been civilians indicates that Israel is not so much engaged in "targeted" killings, as in "collective" killings, thus once again committing the crime of collective punishment.

Another AP item on CBC news from November 12 reads 'Gaza rocket fire raises pressure on Israel government.' It features a photo of an Israeli woman gazing on a hole in her living room ceiling. 

Again, no images, nor mention of the numerous bleeding casualties or corpses in Gaza. Along the same lines, a BBC headline on November 12 reads 'Israel hit by fresh volley of rockets from Gaza.' Similar trends can be illustrated for European mainstream papers.
News items overwhelmingly focus on the rockets that have been fired from Gaza, none of which have caused human casualties. What is not in focus are the shellings and bombardments on Gaza, which have resulted in numerous severe and fatal casualties. It doesn't take an expert in media science to understand that what we are facing is at best shoddy and skewed reporting, and at worst willfully dishonest manipulation of the readership.

Furthermore, articles that do mention the Palestinian casualties in Gaza consistently report that Israeli operations are in response to rockets from Gaza and to the injuring of Israeli soldiers. However, the chronology of events of the recent flare-up began on November 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay.

Then, on November 8, a 13-year-old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IOF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event.

We, the signatories, have recently returned from a visit to the Gaza strip. Some among us are now connected to Palestinians living in Gaza through social media. For two nights in a row Palestinians in Gaza were prevented from sleeping through continued engagement of drones, F16s, and indiscriminate bombings of various targets inside the densely populated Gaza strip.

The intent of this is clearly to terrorise the population, successfully so, as we can ascertain from our friends' reports. If it was not for Facebook postings, we would not be aware of the degree of terror felt by ordinary Palestinian civilians in Gaza. This stands in stark contrast to the world's awareness of terrorised and shock-treated Israeli citizens.

An extract of a report sent by a Canadian medic who happened to be in Gaza and helped out in Shifa hospital ER over the weekend says: "the wounded were all civilians with multiple puncture wounds from shrapnel: brain injuries, neck injuries, hemo-pneumo thorax, pericardial tamponade, splenic rupture, intestinal perforations, slatted limbs, traumatic amputations. All of this with no monitors, few stethoscopes, one ultrasound machine. …. Many people with serious but non life threatening injuries were sent home to be re-assessed in the morning due to the sheer volume of casualties. The penetrating shrapnel injuries were spooky. Tiny wounds with massive internal injuries. … There was very little morphine for analgesia."

Apparently such scenes are not newsworthy for the New York Times, the CBC, or the BBC. 
Bias and dishonesty with respect to the oppression of Palestinians is nothing new in Western media and has been widely documented. Nevertheless, Israel continues its crimes against humanity with full acquiescence and financial, military and moral support from our governments, the U.S., Canada and the EU.

Netanyahu is currently garnering Western diplomatic support for additional operations in Gaza, which makes us worry that another Cast Lead may be on the horizon. In fact, the very recent events are confirming such an escalation has already begun, as today's death-count climbs. The lack of widespread public outrage at these crimes is a direct consequence of the systematic way in which the facts are withheld and/or of the skewed way these crimes are portrayed.

We wish to express our outrage at the reprehensible media coverage of these acts in the mainstream (corporate) media.

We call on journalists around the world working for corporate media outlets to refuse to be instruments of this systematic policy of disguise. We call on citizens to inform themselves through independent media, and to voice their conscience by whichever means is accessible to them.  

Hagit Borer, U.K.
Antoine Bustros, Canada
Noam Chomsky, U.S.
David Heap, Canada
Stephanie Kelly, Canada
Máire Noonan, Canada
Philippe Prévost, France
Verena Stresing, France
Laurie Tuller, France

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Salam Maal Hijrah!

To my Muslim friends ..

Selamat Menyambut Awal Muharram..

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Deepavali!

Have a happy Deepavali.....

Friday, November 09, 2012

It's About Saving Lives, Stupid!

LET me tell you about a country that has devised a tool to catch criminals in the act of breaking the law, writes Rita Sim (columnist with the New Straits Times)

This tool enables enforcement authorities to track down wrongdoers in many locations, punish them and effectively reduce deaths of innocent people.
For some reason, however, there are people opposing the use of this tool. They say that the tool will "burden" the criminals.
They say that there should be signs put up to alert wrongdoers about the tool, so that they can avoid them (and go on to commit the same atrocity elsewhere, presumably).
The country is Malaysia. The tool is the Automated Enforcement System (AES) and the "criminals" are drivers who speed on the road and run red lights, putting themselves and other road users in danger.
As for those opposing the AES? They are the usual suspects -- political players who see the potential to cause disruption and cast doubt on the project by making opaque statements about "having the people's best interests at heart".
I couldn't agree with her more. And not because she's my old school mate. Because she is right.
All that I have read and heard is from people attacking the project because it went to the BN's cronies, and that they don't want to enrich the cronies. 
And some petty issues about unsuitable locations of the cameras. Really petty.
What's your problem? You don't speed, they don't get rich.
As for the poor locations -- oh. just get over it.
Honestly, I don't care who got the project. Someone or other will get the project. Crony, cronies. Or not.  
By the way, that word "crony" is so overused and misused.
So, get your politics out of the equation.
Never mind that AES  will discourage people from speeding. Isn't that a good thing?
Statistics have shown that most fatal accidents were caused by human error which really, means speeding and recklessness.
And for heaven's sake, you have a state assemblyman Chang Lih Kang (PKR-Teja) smugly refusing to pay seven fines totalling RM2,100 which he claimed were issued under the AES.
Wow. What a hero!
And then you have Mahfuz Omar (Pas) instigating people to not pay the fines and that he would get 100 lawyers to help the people.
Wow. What a hero!

The number of fatal accidents in the country is alarmingly high. Everyone should be concerned.
I'm sure we all are - except for some idiotic people bent on playing politics.
It seems  most Malaysians want or need to blame someone.
Poor enforcement, poor roads ..poor everything. Never themselves.
So, just blame the weather-lah.
We have good roads, you can't deny that. We can improve on enforcement. 
But when enforcement is stepped up,  the very people who cry "bribery" and "corruption" are the very people ready to give "duit kopi".
In this scenario I always believe that no giver,. no taker. And you should always report corrupt officers.
The truth is, generally speaking, most Malaysians are horrid and nasty people behind the wheel or on the motorcycle.. They are inconsiderate, they blithely and cavalierly and knowingly break the law - like running the traffic lights, making illegal turns or u-turns and mostly speeding, even on neighbourhood roads.

And motorcyclists are another story altogether. They follow no rules.

We should worry that one day we will all be so immuned to grisly accidents, that we don't care, until of course, it happens to our family.
So, enough already. If it can help save lives,.why don't we just give AES a chance?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama Re-elected for Second Term.

 "Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come." - President Barack Obama - acceptance/victory speech, Nov 6, 2012.

President Obama won re-election for a second term, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney, with broad support from women, young voters and minorities in Democratic strongholds and key battleground states.

He notched the decisive 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College with victory in swing state Ohio,  and a later in another swing state -- Virginia which gave him 303 electoral votes.

Romney obtained 206.

Read Obama's victory speech HERE.

And Romney's concession speech HERE.

Undoubtedly, it was a very tight race. And as Obama said "a long campaign is now over".

It has been described as a grueling campaign  that set the stage for the Nov 6 showdown.

More than USD1 billion was poured into the campaign - by far the most expensive. 
 The presidential election officially kicked off in January 2012. In the run-up, three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debates were held.

Obama's win over the electoral colleges was sizeable.

There was a broad range of interesting analyses of the outcome. One of the points made was that Romney won mostly the white vote and fared poorly among African Americans and minorities. 

A study of the results also showed that he lost the youth vote by a huge margin.

One analyst said that had there been a high percentage of white voters in some of the states, Romney would have won.

One concluded that race factored signifcantly in the election.
Expectedly, some Republican leaders are now talking about "reinventing" the party, that they must now look at the "changing demographics" states that have a sizeable number of non-white ethnic groups such as Latinos, Asians and African Americans.

The elections over, both sides will be conducting a post-mortem. But more importantly, Obama has a gargantuan task before him --  fixing the economy at home and, foreign relations.

And facing a house divided (with Congress held by Republicans, and the Senate, Democrats.)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Han Suyin (September 12, 1917 – November 2, 2012)

Eurasian author Han Suyin whose real name was Rosalie Elisabeth Kuanghu Chow died on Nov 2 at her home in Lausanne, Switzerland. She was 95.

She was best remembered for her best-selling semi-autobiographical novel “A Many-Splendored Thing".

Bapak had an entire collection of her books, one of which, for me stood out. It was  "And The Rain My Drink", a  novel she wrote when she was married to Leon F. Comber, a British officer who worked in the Malayan Special Branch in Johor after the World War Two.
Han Suyin's pseudonym was Elizabeth Comber.

Some people believe that the book - a vivid depiction of  pre-independent Malaya - was also semi-autobiographical as Han Suyin used to work at the Johor Bahru General Hospital during the Emergency.

Here is The Washington Post article on her death.