Sunday, October 12, 2008

People just Khan believe it!

I also " Khan" believe it.

Wow it seems that old man still very much rules in Malaysia, from Tun M to Tun D.........

Will Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta -Jones be the next Datuk?........

My kepala really pusing now.........


MALACCA: The conferment of Datukship on Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan has stirred up a controversy. Politicians, professionals and the man on the street are hotly questioning the wisdom of the move.

Some commented that the actor did not deserve the award as “he hardly knows where Malacca is” and asked whether he had promoted Malacca in his songs and movies.

SMSes received by The Star also hit out at the move, saying such awards should be given to local artistes.

Bollywood Datuk: Shah Rukh Khan is the first movie star from India to be conferred a Datukship.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the decision to confer the title on the actor was suggested to Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Mohd Khalil Yaakob by former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin recently.

Daim said it was a means to promote Malacca and the actor had shot a movie scene here several years ago.

The movie One 2 ka 4 was shot at the A Famosa Resort in Alor Gajah in 2001.

“This resulted in many people visiting Malacca. The award was given in recognition of this,” Mohd Ali said after the investiture ceremony in conjunction with Khalil’s 70th birthday celebrations.

Shah Rukh Khan was given the Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka (DMSM) which carries the title Datuk.

Scores of fans gathered at the Dewan Seri where the investiture cere­­mony was held yesterday to catch a glimpse of the actor. He, however, did not attend the ceremony.

Mohd Ali said Daim was making arrangements to bring the actor here to receive the award in a special ceremony.

Businesswoman Fatimah Tahir, a huge fan of the star, said she was stunned to hear that he had received a Datukship.

“I thought the award is given to those who have contributed towards Malacca’s development.

“I wonder whether Shah Rukh Khan even knows where Malacca is,” said the 40-year-old from Taman Melaka Raya.

Lawyer Nizam Bashir from Ujong Pasir here also questioned the decision to award Shah Rukh Khan as he had not seen the actor promoting Malacca in his songs or movies.

“I am happy for him but does he even know he is getting the award?” said Nizam, 35, adding that it would be more meaningful if deserving local artistes were given recognition.

The local artistes who received the Darjah Seri Melaka (DSM) award, which does not carry any title, were singer Goh Eng Boon, popularly known as Andre Goh, comedian Jantan Osman also known as Ali Mamak and 60s singer Mariam Ahmad.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said he was not against deserving people being awarded the Datukship but priority should be given to local artistes.

He noted that if Shah Rukh Khan deserved the award, then so should Hollywood stars Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones who shot the movie Entrapment against the backdrop of the Twin Towers in 1999

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No reforms as long as Dr M is around, says Zaid

ye ye......he is worst than the old man in Singapore.........


KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will not be able to institute any crucial reform as Prime Minister as long as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is around, claimed former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

“The 2004 election manifesto is history,” said Zaid who had been appointed minister specifically to work on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s promise to reform in stitutions of government, improve accountability and transparency, and strengthen the Rule of Law and independence of the Judiciary.

“Najib is smart and articulate but to change the course of Umno, he has to be brave and why would he take such a risk.

“Second, even if he wanted to, he would not be able to do it with Dr Mahathir around,” he said.

Asked whether that was because he thought Dr Mahathir was powerful or had a strong influence on Najib, Zaid - who resigned from the Cabinet recently after journalist Tan Hoon Cheng, Member of Parliament Teresa Kok and news portal editor Raja Petra Kamarudin were arrested under the Internal Security Act - said:

“He (Dr Mahathir) has a large group of friends, otherwise the Prime Minister (Abdullah) would not have been ‘thrown out’ just like he wanted.”

“Mahathirism was all control, control, control. He has a strong influence on the top Umno leaders who had to choose between doing his bidding or facing his wrath.

“So many in Umno are bound to the old, making it difficult to abandon old values and principles.

“Especially when if you allow for more democracy, you lose some control.

“I don’t see it (major reforms) happening but I hope that Najib will prove me wrong, for himself and for the country’s sake.”

On his recent comment that Najib has never talked of reforms, when asked why a deputy prime minister would need to do so when the agenda is set by the Prime Minister, he replied: “Yes, but after the Prime Minister talks, shouldn’t the deputy strengthen it with his own comments?”

Mahathir May Return to Center Stage

Again? Oh No!!!!!!!!!!

Analysis by Baradan Kuppusamy

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 (IPS) - Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s planned stepping down in March 2009 may well see a return to the authoritarian rule familiar to Malaysians during the 22-year iron rule of his predecessor Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

For one thing Abdullah will be handing over power to his deputy Najib Razak who has been waiting in the wings ever since Mahathir retired in November 2003.

"Mr Najib is a carbon copy of Dr Mahathir and we fear in his rise to power a possible return of iron-fisted rule and intolerance for dissent and curbs on the political opposition," said a diplomat with a European mission, on condition of anonymity.

Najib an economist by training has vast experience in government and politics but has always been in the shadow of Mahathir and Abdullah.

His views and policies on dissent, human rights and the political opposition are relatively unknown.

Critics said Najib’s rise to power would also see the return of Mahathir to political centre stage, probably as a tenured advisor to the government.

"I welcome the departure of Abdullah and am ready to give advise to the new government," Mahathir told local reporters after confirming that Abdullah was leaving.

Abdullah, who failed to carry out the major reforms he had promised in 2004, has promised to implement at least three reforms before he leaves in March but civil society activists are not excited by his promise.

Abdullah said he would not abolish the draconian internal security act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial, but will see to the setting up of an independent commission to select judges, an independent oversight commission to curb police corruption and abuse and place the Anti-Corruption Agency under an independent commission and give it more bite.

"He should carry out these reforms in the short time he has," veteran opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang told IPS. "If he is serious and if he gets cracking we will cooperate with him and he would be assured of a permanent legacy and will be remembered well."

Although Abdullah failed to carry out the promised reforms he remained a well liked figure among the people who understood that he could not act because he was under siege from within and outside.

"While most Malaysians welcome Najib, they also feel sad that Abdullah is leaving," said Ramon Navaratnam, a former senior finance ministry official who is now the president of Transparency International, Malaysia.

"He was a most likable and affable leader but he was rather unhurried about his job. He delayed reforms and was indecisive and that got him into trouble with the people," he told IPS. Although Abdullah’s decision to leave has settled the succession battle in his ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party it is unlikely to end the larger political battle between a resurgent opposition led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim and a considerably weakened Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.

Political analysts say the tussle would worsen because Abdullah's choice, Najib Razak, and the iconic opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, are arch-rivals for political power.

Abdullah rose up the ranks of UMNO but was well liked and in the shadows during the 22 years when Dr Mahathir held sway. Dr Mahathir had said last year he picked Abdullah as a "temporary substitute" to hold the seat for Najib.

"Abdullah would be remembered as a pleasant man who simply did not have the skills or the gumption to rule," said a Chinese newspaper editor who declined to be identified. "He tried to please everybody and in the end failed to please anybody."

Najib was only 22 when he entered politics after the death of his father, revered second prime minister Abdul Razak, in 1976. He became the country's youngest minister two years later.

But his standing has been damaged by links to the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman with whom he allegedly had an affair. Anwar also accused him of receiving kickbacks on defence deals he had handled.

Najib denied the allegations and swore on the Quran that he had never met Altantuya Shaariibuu, a former model who was blown up with C4 explosives.

Reacting to the developments Anwar said it would be an "unmitigated disaster" for Malaysia if Najib became prime minister. "Najib has given no indication of his commitment to judicial reform and corruption. These are issues that the Malaysian people expressed deep concerns over," he said.

"Malaysians fear that under Najib democratic freedoms will be curtailed and the use of draconian laws such as the ISA would be extended," Anwar said. He also referred to "unanswered questions" over alleged defence contract kickbacks and the Shaariibuu murder.

"He [Najib]takes over at a very difficult time for Malaysia, with political and economic turmoil on the rise and with all previously accepted norms now under attack," said Navaratnam.

"He has the experience and UMNO backing, but he is under a cloud over the Mongolian affair," he added. "His performance as national leader would be affected unless the controversy is cleared up.’

Foreign diplomats say Najib's immediate tasks included getting a grip on the sliding economy, reassuring foreign investors and easing rising ethnic tensions.

"He really has some big and complex issues to deal with," said the European diplomat.

It doesn’t pay to be a nice guy

Sad isn't it Datuk Kali?
One ever says there are two dirtiest thing in this world and politics is one of it. Once you in the game you have to accept the cruelty of this game.

Anyhow it is not always pleased to see a grumpy old man who supposed retires from politics long time ago but still wants to interfere in Malaysia's politics.

One is wondering when is this old man going to shut up?


IT was not an easy decision for Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to make.

Particularly when the democratic norm — as practised worldwide, save perhaps in Zimbabwe and countries like that — was that he led the party that won by a comfortable 58-seat majority and, therefore, he was the winner.

But in Malaysia, the democratic norm is to win by more than a two-thirds majority, thus having the ability to amend the Constitution whenever you want, and using that legitimacy to make even unpopular decisions as much as you want. Using that principle as a basis, Abdullah had failed.

He lost four states more than previously.

He lost the two-thirds majority by eight seats and, therefore, he had lost and should resign.

What was the choice before him? He could fight to defend the presidency of Umno but that would have come at a cost. An already fractured party would have become even more split.

And for Abdullah, who has always been loyal to Umno, that was not an option. So, despite much pressure from his ranks, he decided not to hand his successor Datuk Sri Najib Razak a party more racked with internal dissension than he could. He decided to retire.

For Umno and for the Barisan Nasional, he made the right decision.

And by making that decision, he learned the hard way. In Umno, loyalty to the leader has one important caveat and that caveat is “as long as you are powerful”. For as long as he was powerful, the Umno ranks, especially those in the supreme council, would bend over backwards to be seen as loyal.

But the moment the chips were down, they would abandon the “sink - ing ship” and run to where they saw the power shifting. And so it was with someone he trusted, like his vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who was among the first to call for his resignation. When Muhyiddin saw that the supreme council seemed to be backing Abdullah for the so-called transition programme which would see him in office until June 2010, Muhyiddin backed off, in deference to the party and his “loyalty ” to the party.

But when Umno lost the Permatang Pauh by-election, Muhyiddin once again saw an opportunity and chose Singapore in which to express no confidence in his prime minister, the man who appointed him international trade and industry minister.

As with Muhyiddin, also sneaking away were people who had backed Abdullah to the limit, even when his decisions were perhaps worthy of more critical analysis and opposition.

People like Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who, perhaps, should realise that March 8 showed that Malaysians, including Malays, are not impressed with kris-waving leaders.

It has happened before. To a man like Tun Ghafar Baba who did not have a mean bone in his body. To people like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Tun Musa Hitam. And to people like Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

To the ordinary man with ordinary assumptions of what loyalty means, what happened to Abdullah would be seen as treachery. But in his world, it’s called realpolitik.

To be fair, Abdullah paid the price for the wrong decisions he made, for the promises he could not fulfil. After the March 8 general election, his position had become untenable.

He took responsibility for it. Yet, all those who had backed him previously conveniently slunk away, allowing all the blame to be heaped on one man — Abdullah.

But yes, that’s politics. Not much honour there, as we all know, no matter what your stripe.

Still, it is an exercise in behavioural science to try to fathom how different the political lexicon is from that of ordinary folk.

Take for example Abdullah’s predecessor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He says he is happy for Umno that Abdullah is quitting and that “Umno can now be rebuilt”.

In ordinary circumstances, that would mean that Dr Mahathir loves Umno and cares for Umno.

In the same breath, Dr Mahathir described Najib as “incompetent” and says he is “not impressed with Najib’s performance as deputy prime minister now”.

And why is Najib incompetent in Dr Mahathir’s view? Because Najib “did not have his own stand and was always following Abdullah’s advice”.

If anyone has forgotten, Dr Mahathir backed Musa as his deputy when he became prime minister in 1981. He chose Ghafar as his deputy when Musa quit over “irreconcilable differences” with him in 1985.

Dr Mahathir backed Anwar in 1993 when that ruthlessly ambitious man who would later become his nemesis took on Ghafar in what was one of Umno’s most corrupt party elections. When he sacked Anwar in 1998, he chose Abdullah as his deputy.

Five years later, Dr Mahathir said he was retiring and that Abdullah was ready to succeed him. Dr Mahathir chose Abdullah — as he did Musa, Ghafar and Anwar. And barely months later, Dr Mahathir started the attacks on his successor, just as he had on all those he had chosen and thrust upon Malaysians before.

Almost his whole family got in the act. His sons Mukhriz and Mokhzani and his associates made numerous unsubstantiated and slanderous allegations against Abdullah and his family, friends and aides. Even Abdullah’s late wife, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, was not spared Dr Mahathir’s sharp tongue.

And just before the general election, he publicly urged Malaysians not to give the BN a strong mandate.

And when the BN indeed failed in that, Dr Mahathir urged Najib to fight Abdullah. Then he asked Muhyiddin when Najib refused (for which Dr Mahathir called him a coward).

One has to go back to Dr Mahathir’s 1996 Umno presidential address to see what he thought of Muhyiddin.

(Muhyiddin lost his bid to be re-elected vice-president that year.) But today, he backs Muhyiddin for Umno deputy president.

What will he say about Muhyiddin when Muhyiddin does not listen to him any more? When everything he tried failed, Dr Mahathir quit Umno. And he says he loves Umno.

Dr Mahathir has not been charitable to many people. His family and close friends are perhaps the exception.

When he was not attacking the United States, Margaret Thatcher, the West, the Zionists and the Jews, George Soros, Singapore and currency speculators, it was his own Umno members, the Malays “who forget easily” (Melayu mudah lupa), non-governmental organisations and the judiciar y.

At least Dr Mahathir believes that no one is perfect. Well, almost… One thing Najib will not have to worry about is a predecessor breathing down his neck slandering him, his cabinet, his party colleagues, his family, aides and friends. Because, for all his weaknesses, Abdullah is a decent, religious man.

Hopefully, Dr Mahathir will also give him a break. Perhaps the only person who can rival Dr Mahathir in invective and tenacity to condemn others is, ironically, Anwar, his onetime protégé-turned-nemesis.

Najib will have enough on his hands trying to fend off Anwar. If there is one thing Najib should learn from the politics of the last three decades, it is that he must have competent, able people who will give him frank and honest views and back him fully when he makes the right decisions and stick with him when the chips are down.

Reform still needs to be done. And Najib must do it. It will also be inevitable that many will clamour for the old ways to remain, but the truth is Malaysians rejected the old ways on March 8.

Najib must accept that if he is to succeed in revitalising Umno and the BN. It was not the pull factor of the opposition that made people vote for them. It was the push factor of a BN and Umno which just refused to change.

No more racism and religious bigotry, even at the lowest levels, no more cuddling up with businessmen already charting their paths to Putrajaya, no more shadowy awards of contracts and licences other than on merit.

Like it or not, Najib has to make unpopular decisions because the rot set in long ago... long before Abdullah became prime minister.

Abdullah could not, and did not, make the changes that people expected of him. For that, he paid the price. That is the way it should be.

There are two other lessons that Najib can learn from Abdullah. One, that the openness and freedom Abdullah allowed cannot be turned back; and two, that it does not pay to be a nice guy in politics.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dr M says Khairy will beat Mukhriz

When the old man still wants to interfere, we know that there is something not right with Malaysian politices......

Hey, Tun, can't you just let them fight fairly?

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today hinted that Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin would employ undemocratic methods to ensure his victory for the highest position in the Youth wing in March.

Dr Mahathir, in his latest blog posting, was commenting on the complaint by Khairy that he was prevented from meeting Umno Youth members while campaigning.

"I don't know whether people have heard about the thief who cried 'thief!'. Well the thief got away because people who are not very intelligent went chasing in the opposite direction. The highly educated thief then walked away with his booty," said Dr Mahathir.

"I would advise him not to be disheartened. There are so many other ways of influencing Pemuda than meeting them. I will not enumerate them as he will know how to use these other ways," said the former Prime Minister.

He added that Khairy, who became Umno Youth deputy chief in 2004 when he won uncontested, would easily defeat Jerlun MP Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir during the party election.

Dr Mahathir blamed Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein for Khairy's victory four years ago.

"Apart from Umno Youth chief Hishammuddin Hussein who gave other possible candidates a tongue lashing, telling them in no uncertain terms that they must not contest the position because it was reserved for the Prime Minister's son-in-law, others suspected of having ambitions to contest for the post received phone calls from family members of the PM and other influential supporters not to do anything to spoil the ambition of this first-time Umno member with absolutely no track record from winning uncontested," he added.

On Sunday, Khairy told reporters that he is contesting on his own merit and hoped that Umno Youth delegates would evaluate him based on his personal credibility and strength.

"I got down to the ground, I became director of the by-election machinery... I conducted programmes and various others things on my own initiative and this will not change whether Pak Lah or Datuk Seri Najib is the president. I will continue with my work as a leader of the young generation in Umno," said Khairy.

Flip-flops made Abdullah a flop

I am quite pity with Pak Lah. I believe he has the sincerity to change this country but somehow due to the wrong advise by his 4th floor think-tanks (my guess) and the damage done by TUN Mamak who seems retired but still have a big ambition to see this country run what he likes .........
By Baradan Kuppusamy

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is set to announce the end of his career as national leader tomorrow, had a rather plain and unexciting career as an inoffensive, unambitious and likeable man who was promoted into power by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had wanted a plodding short-term successor.

Abdullah is leaving largely because of the huge damage done by his former benefactor turned nemesis, and by the rejection of his half-hearted reforms and other failures by voters at the March 8 general election.

He leaves behind dreams unfulfilled, his reforms unrealised, his grand economic corridors in limbo and his friends and political supporters unguarded and exposed.

It is a heavy price to pay for indecisiveness — the key character of his five-year-old administration that is best described as a "flip-flop" — a phase made famous by the country's blogging community.

Abdullah first came into the public eye as a young, long-haired man often pictured sitting near luminary Tun Abdul Razak after the riots of 1969. Some of the black-and-white photographs issued by the Information Department capture the young Abdullah's intense admiration for Razak.

Abdullah was assistant secretary in the Public Services Department when he was selected as assistant secretary to the National Operations Council that was headed by Razak to rule the country following the suspension of parliament.

He was later made the director-general of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1971 and deputy secretary-general in 1974. He left government service in 1978 to pursue a political career and was elected Umno supreme council member in 1981, and Umno vice-president in 1984. He was in the wilderness after backing Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah during the 1987 Umno crisis but was brought back by Dr Mahathir in 1991 as foreign minister, a post he held without stepping on Dr Mahathir's toes, until 1999.

Abdullah made a name for himself as a technocrat in the 1970s and 1980s at a time when Malay society valued technocrats as people who could off-set the Chinese dominance of the economy.

It was the time when dozens of government corporations were set up to help Malays catch up — from the modernisation of fisheries and agriculture to helping them pack, transport and market their produce.

It was that time when the evils of the "middle men" were a key concern of Umno and people like Abdullah, who excelled in committees and understood the bureaucracy, made a name in the momentum sparked by the need to "catch up."

Abdullah managed to make a name and enjoy an impact in Umno without actually putting his name to any major, transformational policy — a true mark of a committee-man.

Later on as prime minister, Abdullah formed dozens of task forces on issues and many of these were headed by his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak until it became a joke.

After Abdullah was made Education Minister and then Defence Minister in the mid-1980s he was considered prime minister material but other big names stood in his way i.e. Tun Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Although Abdullah sided with Tengku Razaleigh in the 1987 crisis, he did not challenge Dr Mahathir and because of that and his inoffensive character, he was rehabilitated and returned to the Cabinet in 1991 a year after the climatic 1990 general election that saw the BN narrowly defeat the Gagasan Rakyat opposition coalition.

It was Abdullah's bland, inoffensive nature which had a calming effect on Umno and saw him promoted to the deputy Umno presidency to fill the vacuum left by the sacking of then Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The same qualities saw to it that Abdullah was selected by Dr Mahathir as Umno president when he decided to quit in 2003.

Another reason to pick Abdullah as successor at that time was the fear of a resurgent fundamentalist Islam which many at that time believed would soon overwhelm the country.

It is interesting that the man who made a name as a technocrat in the 1980s, successfully reinvented himself as an Islamic scholar by the later 1990s to become a later day champion of moderate Islam.

He even formulated his own moderate brand, Islam Hadhari, to counter Pas. Everything came together — fear of fundamentalist Islam, Abdullah's father figure and promise of reforms, the departure of Dr Mahathir — to give Abdullah the biggest ever political mandate in 2004.

But after that he relaxed, eased into a stupor and exhibited his panacea — indecisiveness.

"His ineffectiveness came to a point where many people just could not believe their eyes. It is as if he really believed by not deciding, the pressing problems would go away," said a leading human rights lawyer.

The same voters who had welcomed him in overwhelming numbers in 2004 turned against Abdullah on March 8, sending a clear, unambiguous signal that his time was up.

He will be remembered as a pleasant man who simply did not have the skills nor the gumption to rule despite winning the biggest mandate in history and occupying the most powerful office in the country.

Monday, October 6, 2008

06-10-2008: Oil: End of a bull run for now?

Down down down , the oil price now which is trading at US$89.32 also cannot escape the fate of downturn............

By Lim Shie-Lynn (theedgedaily)
KUALA LUMPUR: With global economies faltering on signs that the US is slipping into a recession, analysts’ expectations are high that oil prices will continue to fall due to slowing demand globally and a strengthening dollar though some are still hawkish about the commodity’s strength over the longer term.
RAM Holdings Bhd’s group chief economist Yeah Kim Leng (pic) said the softening in demand for oil had also spread to developed and emerging markets. “The bearish sentiment had spread to fast growing economies of BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), where the energy demand was previously the highest.
“In the event that the US financial woes are prolonged despite the US$700 billion (RM2.4 trillion) bailout relief for troubled banks, there would be further weakening in demand for oil from the US and this would impact the price of oil,” Yeah told The Edge Financial Daily.
He also said oil prices could tumble to US$90 a barrel and below before the end of the year. “Looking at fundamental factors, oil prices now could be in the range of US$60 to US$80 a barrel. While oil prices may experience short spikes, the upward price pressures would be offset by slowing demand,” he said.
However, he said oil prices could regain its footing on any decline in the greenback. A decline in the US currency often attracts investors to buy commodities as a currency hedge.
Crude oil for November delivery fell nine cents to US$93.88 a barrel at 2.45pm on the New York Mercantile Exchange last Friday. Prices have dropped 36% from the record US$147.27 a barrel reached on July 11.
Some analysts said oil prices were likely to remain at current levels in the short term, as the market would be focused on reduced demand over supply constraints.
“There would not be strengthening in oil prices in the immediate term. The dollar has strengthened and it is likely to be gaining strength,” Jupiter Securities head of research Pong Teng Siew said. While oil prices were likely to recover, Pong said it was unlikely to see a strong bull run as it did in the previous quarters. Merrill Lynch, in a recent report, slashed its oil price forecast to US$90 a barrel from US$107 a barrel. It warned that in the “unlikely” event of a synchronous global recession, oil prices could fall to as low as US$50 a barrel. Nonetheless, the investment bank also said the end was not in sight in the commodity supercycle. It predicted that once economic activity recovered, the demand for oil would strengthen and reassert upward pressures on prices.
“Energy and commodity demand growth is a secular investment theme that probably has decades to run. “Barring massive gains in energy efficiency in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economies over the next few decades, strong emerging market demand growth will likely require a substantial increase in global oil supply growth,” it said.

RPK, Rakyat are with you

Raja Petra sedition trial starts

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 The editor of Malaysia”s best-known anti-government news portal went on trial today for sedition for allegedly implying the deputy prime minister was involved in the murder of a young Mongolian woman.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, 58, who denies the allegation, is already in jail in a separate case under the Internal Security Act, a law that allows indefinite detention without trial.

The two cases against Raja Petra, who runs the popular Malaysia Today news site on his blog, have provoked an outcry against the government, with detractors accusing it of misusing the judiciary to crack down on critics and suppress freedom of speech.

“They are penalising him twice … It’s double jeopardy. But his spirits are up,” said Raja Petra’s wife, Marina, at a district court where the frail-looking activist, wearing flip-flops and sporting stubble, was brought in handcuffs in a police van for the trial.

If convicted, Raja Petra, popularly known as RPK, faces up to three years in jail.

About three dozen supporters gathered outside the court, wearing T-shirts bearing slogans such as “I am with RPK,” “Free RPK,” and “No to ISA.”

The sedition charge stems from an April 25 article titled “Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell” that Raja Petra posted on his website. It allegedly implied that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, were involved in the 2006 killing in Malaysia of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old Mongolian interpreter. Both have denied involvement.

Two policemen have been accused of killing her and destroying her body with explosives in a jungle clearing. Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib, is charged with abetting the murder. The trial of the three men is under way.

The prosecution contends that Abdul Razak had the woman killed because she pestered him for money after he ended an affair.

Five months after Raja Petra was charged with sedition, he was arrested on Sept 12 under the Internal Security Act for publishing articles that the government says created racial tension in this multiethnic nation. He is being held at the Kamunting detention camp.

Some of Malaysia’s most popular blogs offer strongly anti-government commentaries and present themselves as a substitute for mainstream media, which are controlled by political parties or closely linked to them.

The government estimates there are more than 700 Malaysians who blog on social and political issues. AP

Zaid attacks race politics

Bravo Zaid....I salute your determination. You are the man with principles and definetly Malaysia need more politicians like you.....

By Leslie Lau, Consultant Editor, Malaysian Insider.

Amid widespread speculation over his political future, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has criticised his own party Umno for contributing to race relations problems.

He also urged Umno to engender a more fair-minded administration, and lead the Malays towards having better race relations with non-Malays.

Speaking to the mass-circulation Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily in his most extensive interview since resigning as a member of the Cabinet recently, Zaid also called for more open debates over “sensitive issues”.

He also pointed out that the results of the March general election were a clear message from the people that they wanted change, but the government had failed to change.

The former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who resigned in protest against recent Internal Security Act arrests, said he had joined the government for the wrong reasons.

“I became a minister for the wrong reason. That reason was reform, but I have failed.

“I thought they would no longer use the ISA. I thought the government would be more open to the rule of law and the constitution, but I was wrong.”

There has been, in recent weeks, intense speculation over the political future of Zaid, but the Umno man did not address the issue in his interview with the Chinese-language daily.

But he was highly critical of the “culture of fear” in Malaysia, which he appeared to blame on Umno and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

“When we face an issue we cannot discuss it, we cannot debate it. We only use fear or we take to the streets. That is not the way things are done in a mature society,” he said.

He said the leadership style of “those with political power” had resulted in race relations being a sensitive issue even after 50 years of independence.

The former minister said race politics had been constantly used because it was easy to get support that way.

“Umno feels that it is a party needed by the Malays. Umno leaders keep telling the Malays that they are constantly in danger and therefore need Umno.

“They always feel that only they know what is good for the Malays.”

He said there was no need for “real Malays” to feel any fear or insecurity.

The real question, he said, was that too many people did not understand or respect the historical fact that for the last 100 years, the Malays, Chinese and Indians have contributed to nation-building.

He said Malaysia’s status today as the 19th largest trading nation in the world was due to the contributions of all races.

Zaid also felt that under today’s circumstances, a “May 13″ race riot is not likely to happen again.

“I am not afraid of the Chinese being smart, because I too am smart. We keep talking about the Chinese having more shops and how we should be worried. The fact is we should not be worried. We should think of how to catch up,” he said.

He added that it was no longer necessary for “one party to represent one race” anymore.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ismail Kassim knows Malaysian politics better than most

Do you agree with Ismail Kassim?

Oct 5 - Many people believe that Malaysian politics is on the verge of a major change, with the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat taking power from the ruling Barisan Nasional.

But Ismail Kassim, 65, is not holding out for it.

On the political battle between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat that is playing out across the Causeway, the former Straits Times' Kuala Lumpur correspondent says that the most optimistic scenario is that the race-bound structure of politics will change and give way to
multiracialism and a two-party system.

'The opposite would be that things will continue as usual,' he said.

'I think, to me, it is more likely to stay the same, or maybe get slightly better, because the fundamentals of Malaysian politics haven't changed much. If you look at it, the main problem that is affecting race relations and alienating people from the ruling front is religion. This
will not go away even if Pakatan Rakyat takes over.'

While more than a decade has passed since he left Malaysia as a Straits Times correspondent in 1995, the retired Singaporean journalist has kept abreast of political developments there.

For more than 20 years, he reported almost all the major events in the country and interviewed almost every politician and social activist of any note. He won the inaugural Asean Awards in the field of Communication in Bangkok in 1987 for his coverage of Malaysian politics.

He has now woven his experience of covering Malaysian politics into a 314-page book titled A Reporter's Memoir: No Hard Feelings. It will go on sale later this month.

While the book does not touch on the Malaysian political scene now, it does provide insights into the key players who are still around. One example is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the opposition coalition, who is portrayed in the book as someone ruthlessly ambitious, with good
public relations skills and a flair for the dramatic.

Knowing his character, Mr Ismail believes Mr Anwar is now bluffing when he says he has enough defectors from Barisan Nasional who will join him to form a new government.

The self-published book also documents his life as a former teacher, soldier, reporter and unionist.

A Malay with Indian-Chinese roots, Mr Ismail came from a middle-class family. His father was a clerk in the Postal Services Department (now known as Singapore Post) and his mother was a housewife.

He, his four brothers and three sisters grew up in government quarters in Anthony Road before moving to a double-storey terrace house in Monk's Hill Terrace.

He stumbled into political journalism 'accidentally', although his interest in the field was sparked when he was a student at Raffles Institution.

Back then, the school was in Bras Basah Road, and instead of going home after classes, he would occasionally walk to the United States Information Service Library near Clifford Pier to pore over Life and National Geographic magazines. As he flipped the pages, he fantasised
about becoming a foreign correspondent one day.

In 1961, however, he went into teaching. He did his pre-university studies on his own in 1965, and obtained his Higher School Certificate (the equivalent of today's A levels) the same year. He enrolled at the then University of Singapore two years later.

In 1972, after completing his Master of Social Sciences (Political Science), he joined New Nation, an afternoon tabloid which ended its publication in 1982.

He began writing a regular column on politics - first on Malaysia, then on the region, and later on international affairs - which propelled his career and helped him to carve a niche as a political commentator.

'At that time, there were things happening in Malaysia, so I thought, what better topic? Nobody was writing about Malaysia then,' he recalled.

For a couple of years, he was an armchair critic, relying on regional newspaper reports and his political science knowledge from his university courses to get by.

In 1975, he was sent on his first assignment to Kuala Lumpur to cover an Umno Youth division meeting to protest against the jailing of their leader, Datuk Harun Idris.

He recalled how he had finished his interview with the leaders at midnight and had to write his story in the dim light of a third-rate hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang, which was a red-light district at that time.

The report turned out well, and from then on, he started making lightning visits to Malaysia to do stories.

When he was transferred to The Straits Times in 1982, he continued to report from Malaysia, living out of a suitcase in one hotel after another for several years before finally settling down in a rented apartment.

By 1993, he had covered at least 12 Umno annual general assemblies, four general elections, umpteen by-elections, racial tensions and all sorts of crises, so much so he almost became 'a little emotionally involved', he said.

Cheong Yip Seng, who was the editor of New Nation and The Straits Times when Ismail was still with the papers, told The Sunday Times: 'His best work during his journalistic career with us was his coverage of Malaysia. He's a very well-regarded observer of the Malaysia scene. As a
journalist, he was serious, he wrote well and he wrote with insight.'

During his time in Malaysia, he also began to feel what he calls in his book 'the winds of Islamic religious fervour'.
More and more women in Malaysia were voluntarily covering up their heads with the mini-telekung, a kind of shawl that covers up everything except the face, while their male counterparts opted for a loose gown called the jubah.

It made the self-confessed religious sceptic wonder if the spirit of the religion was giving way to its form.

'Religion can be a force for good. But it can also be a double-edged sword. Some followers may think that everyone has to pray to God in one way and those who don't do it are wrong, and they force people to practise the way they do,' he said.

By the early 1990s, work had started to take a toll on him. He also grew 'a little bored' with Malaysian politics. So in 1995, just three months before his 53rd birthday, he ended his illustrious journalism career.

He went on a six-week tour in Europe and returned to live in Kuala Lumpur.

But a year later, he decided to return to Singapore for good as he knew he would 'never be happy as a Malaysian'.

'I am someone who cannot keep my mouth shut when I see something disagreeable happening. In Singapore, as a citizen, I have the right to express my opinion at any time on any issue. I cannot do it in Malaysia, even if I become a permanent resident or a citizen,' he said.

The bachelor bought a three-room HDB flat in Marine Parade and lives modestly on his savings.

In between learning Mandarin and qigong, he took 10 months last year to work on his memoir. The first draft was completed in December.

Asked if he has any plans to write another book, he said: 'At my age, I don't want to think too much. I still love to write but I will take things one at a time. If I get inspiration, I may write a book on qigong.'

While some may see a contradiction between Islam and qigong, Ismail thinks otherwise.

'If you look at the broad picture, there is no conflict. Qigong deals with the present world, while religion deals with the next world,' he said.

'The basic principle of qigong is the belief in qi, which means universal energy. Qi does not discriminate against anybody; whether you are Malay, Chinese or Indian, it's freely available. Everybody can learn how to cultivate qi. There is a saying: Religion divides, spirituality unites. I
must add that qi also unites.'

Felling Wall Street's Pain,From Manila to Paris

When this financial turmoil sweeps, no one will be spared. Some even say that the this will be the worst financial turmoil in the history.....

So are you ready?

OCT 5 - Nearly 5,000 miles from Wall Street, Dmitry Zhiltsov's recruiting agency is bleeding clients, as investment banks that once hunted Russia's financial wizards succumb to the US meltdown. Flipping on the morning news, he wonders: Who will fall today?

He watches the real estate market, too. If housing prices dive in his hometown of St. Petersburg, and his business dries up and banks limit lending, who will pay his $3,000 (RM10,200) monthly mortgage?

"It's like I'm ... waiting for the collapse," he said by telephone from his kitchen, a few blocks away from the shore of the Baltic Sea.

Transactions gone sour in a compact corner of Manhattan have triggered a historic government rescue plan for the world's biggest economy and poisoned global finance, disrupting markets that trade everything from sugar to credit.

Many ordinary people from Algiers to New Delhi have watched Wall Street degenerate on TV as if it were a gruesome spectator sport, its casualties limited to American homeowners and investment bankers. But it is also taking a toll on lives less clearly linked to what's gone wrong.

In Zhiltsov's kitchen, his wife Yulia cooks their two sons porridge while he scans Russian news channel Vesti-24, CNBC, CNN.

"The banks, the brokerages, that's what I'm looking at," since they are his main clients, he said.

He's watching U.S. companies, multinationals - and Russian firms. Moscow's financial markets and booming companies have swooned in recent weeks, partly under the avalanche of bad news in New York.

A continent away, Hong Kong homemaker Elaine Law's world is swooning, too.

She's had a hard time eating and sleeping lately, and says she even contemplated suicide out of fears about the fate of her family's $70,800 savings in a financial instrument linked to Lehman Brothers.

The investment bank's demise three weeks ago set the wheels in motion for the $700 billion U.S. government bailout that the House approved Friday.

"We were very confident about the market. Who would have thought it would dive and a big bank like Lehman would collapse?" asked Law, 59.

As world financial markets grew more sophisticated in recent years, more and more regular households shunned basic savings accounts and entrusted their money to complex and promising investments whose risks few non-specialists understand.

Last year, Law and her retired civil servant husband bought something called an equity-linked note issued by Lehman through Citibank (Hong Kong) Ltd, she said.

But two things went wrong.

The note's value was linked to the performance of two major Chinese banks in the Hong Kong stock market. Those banks' stocks have tanked, diminishing the value of the investment.

Then Lehman crashed, and now Law is unsure whether she can recuperate what money remains when the note reaches maturity next month.

"We've already started to buy and eat cheap," Law lamented. Her husband cannot work because of chronic illnesses. "How are we going to save up that money again?"

Regulators have received more than 3,500 complaints related to Lehman Brothers investment products in Hong Kong, where the outstanding value of Lehman-related products amounted to about $2 billion.


Jobs, too, are falling prey to the U.S. financial crisis, as far away as the central Philippine city of Cebu.

Michael Basubas's furniture export company in Cebu, which depends mainly on U.S. customers, has slashed his 200-strong work force to 80 since last year.

"Housing in the U.S. has been affected by the subprime mortgage crisis ... so there are no houses where we can put our furniture," Basubas said.

His company's furniture wholesaler clients in the U.S. are struggling to sell their goods, and would rather hold on to their cash instead of slow-moving inventory.

Orders at his company, Diamond Cane International Inc., have nearly dried up, forcing Basubas to retrench workers and close one of his two factories and cut services of at least 30 of its 40 subcontractors.

Before the financial crisis hit, the Philippine export industry was already reeling from high oil prices that have driven up production costs and from the appreciation of the peso against the U.S. dollar.

Basubas, who has been in the business for 22 years, calls this "the worst time."

His company's yearly sales were between $2.13 million and $4.25 million in the past, but he said "we will be happy if we hit 50 million pesos ($1.06 million) this year."

He said exporters are banking on a change in the U.S. administration to perk up demands for their products, but expect that "from now until mid-next year, it will really be tough times."


Tough times are also on the menu for Xavier Guimard, who manages a brasserie in the city of Compiegne in northern France.

He sought a loan earlier this year to buy the business from the longtime owner.

But that was just as credit markets were tightening along with bank's loan requirements, and he says he was turned down by his bank Credit Agricole because he didn't have enough capital.

The owner, lacking a buyer for the business, plans to shut down the restaurant Dec. 31 and sell the property to the city government. His dream of ownership down the tubes, Guimard will soon be out of a job, too.

"It was not a good time" to ask for a loan, he said. "I didn't want to believe the headlines about ... crisis and all that." - AP

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Teresa Kok and the supremacist minority

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Wan Hamidi.....

Commentary by Wan Hamidi Hamid

OCT 2 — Teresa Kok must be wondering why some Malays are adamant in portraying her as a Chinese chauvinist, villain of peace and enemy of Islam. With her impeccable record as the most hardworking wakil rakyat and the Member of Parliament with the highest majority votes in the country, she must be at a loss to fathom the attempts to assassinate her character.

From the blatant lies that she had opposed the azan (the Islamic call to prayer), to her wearing a skirt inside a mosque, the Seputeh MP has to live through the nightmare of racial politics almost on a daily basis.

Despite repeated denials of the azan issue — for which she was detained under the draconian Internal Security Act for seven days — Kok is still being chastised by some quarters linked to Umno, including the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia.

For the three-term MP, who is known among her close friends as a devout Catholic and a staunch believer in multiracialism, the detention without trial-ISA was not enough for her detractors. After her release, some extremist elements threw a Molotov cocktail into her parents' house.

To make matters worse, a whole lot of text messages were sent around justifying the violent act. The saddest part of the story is that some Malays actually believe that Kok is guilty of insulting Islam — which she is not.

The problem is those who believe the lies probably read one particular newspaper that is prone to promote racial supremacy. There are other Malay-language newspapers with higher circulation than the one espousing racist tendencies, yet they are not keen on resorting to false news. They seem to know the danger of playing up baseless racial accusations.

So what gives? Despite the many possible answers, it is likely that Umno, particularly in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, which suffered one of its worst election defeats, is venting anger in the only way some of its leaders know — racism.

Already many Barisan Nasional component parties are unhappy with recent racial episodes.

Now that the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has left BN and Gerakan is mulling a similar move, the situation is critical for Umno-led BN. The fact that Umno is more concerned with its leadership transition, thus ignoring its partners, is likely to be a push factor for component members in the federal ruling coalition.

The tussle for the top leadership in Umno is expected to bring out the nastiest and dirtiest of tactics, especially when the party divisional meetings – the real backbone of Umno – begin next week.

As reflected during the branch meetings of the last three months, Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy, was the keyword among the grassroots leaders and members. Although top leaders have defined it as the struggle for the betterment of the Malays, others took it literally to mean the superiority of the Malays over other Malaysians.

This is especially true in the case of Teresa Kok when attempts to demonise her, despite being based on slander, continue to spread among the racist political element of the usually moderate and fair-minded Malays.

To this racist minority, Umno hegemony is their game, never mind that the basis of BN is racial harmony. They couldn't care less about muhibbah so long as their supremacist definition of the Malay is accepted by all.

Their only problem is that they are in the minority. Even Kok acknowledges it. She knows many more Malays accept her, not only as an MP or a Selangor state executive councillor, but also as a fellow Malaysian.

But spending a stint under the ISA and suffering the trauma of her parents' home being fire-bombed is not an easy experience to live with. She is hoping that more Malaysians, especially the Malays, speak up against racism and those who perpetuate the dangerous trend.

Even in high places she has good Malay friends. Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim quit the government in protest against Kok's arrest under the ISA and has even written an open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to abolish the cruel law.

Kok has always been a popular figure with the Malay grassroots in the Klang Valley.

Immediately after she was released from the ISA, she attended a number of breaking-of-fast ceremonies, including at the Cheras Baru mosque, the one which she was accused of going into wearing a skirt.

The truth of the matter is the event was organised outside the mosque and Kok was wearing a long skirt covering her knees, similar to skirts she wears in Parliament, the Selangor state assembly and her state government office. She did not even enter the mosque.

But racists with agendas do not let facts get in the way of a good distortion in their favour. It's never too late, however, for some of these people to reflect on the good month of Syawal to ask for forgiveness from those who have been wrongly accused.

Maaf zahir batin.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Balik Kampung

World property market slide worsens

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2008

As financial markets tumble, the world’s housing markets have continued to slide during the year to end-Q2 2008.

Inflation-adjusted house prices fell in 21 out of the 33 countries for which there is up-to-date published data.

= more than 1 percentage point increase in house price change
= less than 1 percentage point decrease in house price change
= more than 1 percentage point decrease in house price change
compared to same period of last year
Source: Various series, data descriptions and sources here

The Baltics, the US, the UK and Ireland led the global decline during the year to end-Q2 2008, the latest date for which comprehensive global statistics are available.

The biggest house price declines took place in Latvia, previously a leader of the global house price boom. House prices in Riga have fallen by 21.23% in nominal terms during the year to end-Q2 2008, and 33.08% in real terms.

Prices in Estonia’s Tallinn fell during the year by 11.02% in nominal terms, and 14.06% in real terms.

Quarterly data suggests that things are getting worse, with declines in inflation-adjusted house prices over the quarter in all except 9 of the 33 countries tracked. Latvia’s Riga saw the largest quarterly decline during Q2 of 2008, with average dwelling prices falling 5.20% in nominal terms, and 8.16% in real terms.

While quarterly data are subject to seasonal variations and are thus less reliable, the slide suggests that the situation is worsening.

Dramatic downturns

Since last year, there has been a dramatic turn-around in the world’s housing markets. Only 5 countries out of 33, at this stage last year, had seen y-o-y declines in house prices in real terms. This year’s total is 21.

Even in countries which have continued to record house prices rises over the past year such as China (Shanghai was up 36.32% y-o-y in nominal terms at the end of Q2 2008, 27.28% in inflation-adjusted terms), transaction volumes have fallen sharply, suggesting that buyers are now nervous.

While property markets in some regions such as the Middle East apparently remain in boom, it is hard to confirm this by reliable data. With the exception of Israel, none of Middle East’s property registries, statistical institutes or central banks publish good data on housing markets.

A final thought: It seems interesting that Slovakia’s house prices are still accelerating, having risen 32.20% this year (a rise of 25.57% in inflation-adjusted terms), as against a rise of 20.47% y-o-y to end-Q2 2007 (a rise of 17.56% in inflation-adjusted terms).

Clearly, the boom in Eastern Europe is not entirely finished. There have also been strong price increases in Monaco, Montenegro and Albania, although no official house price statistics are available.

= more than 1 percentage point increase in house price change
= less than 1 percentage point decrease in house price change
= more than 1 percentage point decrease in house price change
compared to same period of last year
Source: Various series, data descriptions and sources here

Rescue efforts

The efforts to rescue the world’s housing markets are becoming increasingly global.

In the US, the authorities are seeking a US$700 billion “mother of all bailouts” package to purchase almost all of the country’s bad mortgage debt in an effort to unfreeze the nation’s credit markets.

In the year to end-Q2 2008, house prices in major US cities fell 15.4% (18.9% in real terms) from a year earlier, according to the Case-Shiller house price index. It was the sixth consecutive quarter that the house price index dropped year-on-year.

In the UK, the stamp duty exemption has been raised to £175,000 from £125,000 for houses purchased from September 2008 to September 2009. The government also unveiled a £1 billion package to assist first time home buyers and households struggling with their mortgage payments. In Sept. 2007 Northern Rock, one of UK’s largest lenders was bailed by the Bank of England.

In the year to end-Q2 2008, house prices in the UK fell 6.33% (9.77% in real terms) from a year earlier, according to Nationwide.

In Spain, the government released a €3bn rescue package. Certain real estate investment companies were given tax breaks to rent out unsold new homes for a fixed period.

In the year to end-Q2 2008, house prices in Spain rose 2.00% (a fall of 2.49% in real terms) from a year earlier, according to official statistics (which are widely believed to understate the problem).

In Ireland, the 2009 budget will include a "stimulus package" providing assistance to first-time homebuyers.

During the year to end-Q2 2008, house prices in Ireland fell 9.65% (13.92% in real terms), according to official statistics.

In South Korea, the government is set for tax breaks and easing restrictions on construction.

In the year to end-Q2 2008, house prices in South Korea rose 4.94% (a fall of 0.88% in real terms), according to official statistics.

Thailand and Indonesia are mulling the relaxation of foreign ownership limits to lift their housing markets.

During the year to end-Q2 2008, house prices in Indonesia rose 5.60% (a fall of 4.18% in real terms), according to official statistics.

Good Suggestions Bursa Malaysia, Nazir Razak !!!!!!

At last, there are some good suggestions coming from Bursa Malaysia and Nazir Razak. They intend to ask government to relax shareholding requirements. Volume traded in Bursa Malaysia has seen record low volume traded nowadays and hence we are not surprised to see stock brokers facing tough working environment......

Bursa Malaysia must open up .....otherwise it may become a history soon.......

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 - Bursa Malaysia, the former Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, has asked the government to relax shareholding requirements that mar the market's attractiveness, industry officials say.

The requirements - which stipulate minimum bumiputera shareholdings - are said to be making local companies with overseas assets reluctant to list locally, and driving a growing number of them to go private or list overseas.

Thirty per cent of a listed company's equity must be set aside for bumiputeras, but this is not really being contested.

The main point of contention is that should a company top-up its capital base - say, through a rights issue - regulators can demand that bumiputera equity be restored to 30 per cent if it has been sold down. This has always been a concern because shareholders rightfully complain about earnings dilution.

The bourse wants the rules changed so that once a company is listed and the 30 per cent bumiputera equity requirement is met, it should no longer be subject to any top-up conditions.

Industry officials say Bursa Malaysia also wants all sale moratoriums to be abolished. At present, bumiputeras cannot sell their shares inside a set time. This disadvantages them in bear market conditions, whereas non-bumiputeras face no such limitation.

The officials also say Bursa has suggested that if there is no or insufficient take-up of bumiputera shares, these shares should be offered to the public instead of being placed in escrow, as they are now.

They point out that the current bear market has made it extremely difficult to find investors, as few shares trade above their initial public offer price.

According to them, only two of the past 12 listings have traded above their IPO price.

The 30 per cent condition originated with Malaysia's New Economic Policy, implemented many years ago after race riots.

The policy was originally slated to expire in 1990 but has been extended to 2020. It seeks to bridge economic disparity between bumiputeras and richer non-Malays by discriminating in favour of bumiputeras.

The original aims of the NEP were to eliminate poverty irrespective of race and to restructure society so no race would be identified with a specific economic function.

This was to be achieved through targets - specifically, 30 per cent bumiputera ownership in every sphere of society, from employment and occupation to house ownership and corporate equity.

Securities industry officials say Bursa Malaysia's proposals to ease bumiputera shareholding requirements will be considered by the country's Economic Planning Unit. It isn't clear if any of them will be approved, as similar suggestions have been made many times in the past. But this time the suggestions come from an arm of the government, which will carry more weight.

Also, the proposals are backed by powerful ethnic Malay businessmen including Nazir Razak, chief executive of investment bank CIMB and younger brother of Finance Minister and soon-to-be prime minister Najib Razak. - Business Times Singapore

Can we see a better October 2008?

We pray, we hope, we wish.........

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri........

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 - The story of Malaysia mired in political uncertainty is old news, but the line-up of political events this month has raised expectations that some stability could return to the country.

October marks the start of election season for Umno, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Gerakan - three of the major components of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

And it is also in this month that Parliament will reconvene, providing a make-or-break opportunity for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to seize power through defections.

By the end of the month, Malaysians could have a clearer idea of the country's direction, after nearly seven months of leadership tussles since the March general election threw the power balance off-kilter.

It will come as a relief as political fatigue has set in and fears over the economy have heightened. More than 50 per cent of respondents in a recent survey cited economic issues as their biggest worry.

"The government has been unable to respond to the economic crisis with even a basic plan of action," said Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in a recent statement.

The most-watched event this month will begin on Oct 9 with Umno's 191 divisions starting their annual meetings to make nominations for top posts in the party. Party elections will be held in March.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who has indicated early retirement, has pledged to announce by then if he will contest the Umno presidency. By convention, the Umno president is also Malaysia's prime minister.

If he does not, it will mean a handover of power to his deputy, Najib Razak, by March. But if he does contest, it could mean more turbulence for Malaysia. The general consensus is that he will not stand but until he makes this clear, the tussling will continue.

Even now, there is talk that Abdullah's supporters want the premiership divorced from the Umno presidency. This means that Abdullah may remain prime minister, but such a move is highly unlikely to be acceptable.

The prolonged uncertainty has prompted three divisions to declare that they will nominate Najib for the top post, a signal to Abdullah that he may not make the 58 nominations needed to contest.

Oct 9 is closely watched as Abdullah's decision will have a bearing on the battle on another front - the war being waged by Anwar.

The opposition leader, who has repeatedly threatened to seize power through defections, will himself face a deadline of sorts when Parliament reconvenes on Oct 13 after a six-week recess.

He had challenged Abdullah to hold an emergency parliamentary session to face a vote of confidence. The PM has refused. But when Parliament reconvenes, Anwar will come under pressure to produce his defectors. His repeated failure to do so has already prompted some Malaysians to question his credibility.

"Anwar's credibility has already been hit, but he's a cat with nine lives," said political analyst Ong Kian Ming.

If Parliament reopens with the prospect of Najib becoming premier by March, it will make it more difficult for Anwar to achieve his ambition. A greater clarity about BN's future leadership will convince some of his claimed defectors to wait and see.

Gerakan, which has two MPs, may also pipe down on its threat to leave the coalition. It is not clear if president Koh Tsu Koon was serious when he said the Chinese-based party was not ruling out the possibility of switching alliances, but clearly his strong words were also geared towards his party's Oct 11 election.

Speculation is rife that he may face a challenge from a younger leader who will take a stronger line against Umno's increasingly sharp Malay rhetoric, as it seeks to regain voter support. The tone of its delegates' conference will provide clues to Gerakan's future direction, especially over the level of pressure from the grassroots for a pullout from the BN.

There is no similar threat from the BN's biggest Chinese party, MCA, which will hold its own election on Oct 18, but expect tough rhetoric from the delegates.

The presidency is being contested between the outspoken Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat and former Health Minister Chua Jui Meng.

October has all the hallmarks of a politically eventful month for Malaysia. By the time it ends though, things could be much more settled than they have been for some time. - The Straits Times