Archive for September, 2010

Spot the difference

Branson calls for open competition in Malaysia

The Star – 27 Sept. 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – British billionaire Richard Branson said Monday that Malaysia should split up and privatize large government-owned companies to increase competition and woo foreign investors.

Branson, whose Virgin Group is a shareholder in a Malaysia-based long-haul budget airline, also said political issues such as the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim have damaged Malaysia’s reputation among foreign investors.

“A lot of your companies are run by the government,” Branson told a business conference. “It will be better if you privatize, break up big companies into smaller companies for them to compete with each other.”

“It will be better if Malaysia can be more liberal and open. It will attract more people to invest,” he said, when asked how Malaysia can lure foreign investment under an economic plan unveiled last week that seeks $444 billion of investments over the next decade to lift the country to developed nation status.

The Malaysian government retains an ownership interest in most key industries, which gives it the final say in corporate direction despite opening highways, telecommunications, electricity, airlines and autos to private investment since the 1980s.

Large government-linked companies are significant providers of essential services and employment, and account for more than a third of stock market capitalization. Such corporations are also key beneficiaries of government contracts and privileges, drawing criticism of unfair playing field for others.

Budget airline AirAsia has long complained of unfair competition with national flag carrier Malaysia Airlines. Branson’s Virgin Group has a stake in AirAsia’s long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X.

Turning to politics, Branson said Anwar’s second sodomy trial is negative for Malaysia’s image with investors.

“Not in a major way but it’s definitely a thorn in the side of Malaysia’s otherwise very good reputation,” he said.

“This has gone on for a long long time. It looks bad overseas. If you are a bold leader, you should get rid of things like that which damages your reputation,” he said, without elaborating.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, is on trial for sodomizing a former male aide.

He insists the government concocted the charge to sideline him after his opposition alliance made unprecedented gains in 2008 polls. The government denies conspiring against Anwar.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sodomy, a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia. It is the second time Anwar has been accused of sodomy. He was imprisoned for six years starting in 1998 for sodomy and corruption. The sodomy conviction was later overturned.


Iklim pelaburan: Richard Branson selar sikap Anwar

Oleh WAN NAJIB WAN DAUD (Utusan Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR 27 Sept. – Bilionair dan usahawan terkenal dunia, Sir Richard Branson menyelar sikap bekas Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sebagai perosak kepada imej dan iklim pelaburan negara.

Beliau yang juga pengasas Kumpulan Virgin berkata, iklim pelaburan Malaysia di peringkat antarabangsa amat menggalakkan tetapi beberapa isu perlu ditangani agar tidak menjejaskan reputasi negara di kalangan pelabur asing. – Utusan


Branson says Anwar trial ‘damages’ Malaysia

By Yow Hong Chieh (The Malaysian Insider)

September 27, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has called on the Malaysian prime minister to intervene in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, calling the issue “a thorn” in Malaysia’s otherwise good reputation.

“If you’re a bold leader, you should get rid of things like this which are damaging your reputation,” he said today at the “Dawn of the New Decade: Alternative Investments in Asia” conference here.

“This has gone on for a long, long time. It looks bad overseas.”

While Branson did not think Anwar’s Sodomy II trial was causing foreign investors to shy away from Malaysia in any major way, the mercurial entrepreneur nonetheless said more people would want to invest in Malaysia if it were more open and liberal.

He added that it was incumbent on the prime minister to address the “damaging” trial as good leaders looked after their citizens well, much like how good employers take care of their employees.

Branson was speaking at the “Dawn of the New Decade – Alternative Investments in Asia” forum in the capital hosted by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). He went on after MIDA Director-general Datuk Jalilah Baba gave her address.

Anwar, the 62-year-old PKR de facto leader, is charged with sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, at Unit 11-5-1 of the Desa Damansara Condominium in Jalan Setiakasih, Bukit Damansara here between 3.01pm and 4.30pm on June 26, 2008.

The former deputy prime minister has denied the charge, describing it as “evil, frivolous lies by those in power” when the charge was read out to him. He is charged under section 377B of the Penal Code and can be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years’ jail and whipping upon conviction. The trial is taking place 18 months after Anwar was charged in court in August 2008.

Anwar was charged with sodomy and corruption in 1998 after he was sacked from the Cabinet and was later convicted and jailed for both offences.

He was freed in September 2004 and later resurrected his political career by winning back his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat in a by-election in 2008, which had been held in the interim by his wife.

He had earlier led the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, to a historic sweep of five states and 82 parliamentary seats in Election 2008.

Anwar’s Sodomy II trial will resume on October 14.

Humour in SeriousMalaysia

As many of us know by now, cartoonist Zunar was detained yesterday for having published a cartoon book, Cartoon-O-Phobia, which seemed to have rattled the authorities.


 At the time of writing, police investigation is still going on.

This episode not only affects Malaysia’s status as far as media freedom is concerned, but also puts the country one notch down in the sense-of-humour scale — and this ain’t funny.

An evening with JT

It’s a Sunday evening, and a time to sneak out, although temporarily, of the world of hate, racism, corruption and deception among other awful things — to listen to some soothing songs of James Taylor, the American singer-songwriter who got his major musical breakthrough in 1970 with his ‘Fire and Rain’ number.

Below are a few of his memorable songs. Have a good evening.

One is the loneliest number

Three Dog Night is an American band that made it big in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s with their hits such as ‘One’, ‘Easy to be Hard’, ‘Liar’, ‘Pieces of April’ and ‘Old Fashioned Love Song’.

Although these hits are oldies from the present perspective, a few of them have contemporary relevance as they seem to be able to capture to some degree certain political moments of today’s Malaysia.

For instance, the much touted slogan ‘1Malaysia’. Unless it is adequately spelled out – and backed by concrete action to give substantial meat to this very concept – it would only let itself be vulnerable to ideological assaults from various groups in society, particularly those that perceive the concept as being ‘too inclusive’ for their collective comfort. Thus, if this slogan is left being just that, then its initiators may well find out that the One affixed to Malaysia can be the loneliest number they’ve ever dreamt of.

Indeed, 1Malaysia doesn’t sit well with remarks and actions that are racist in nature in recent months. Facts have been distorted, fiction manufactured by those people bent on championing ethnic exclusivity at the expense of national unity and mutual respect.

To be sure, there are, of course, some groups that have distanced themselves from those ‘exclusive-mentality’ collectives, while there are certain groups of people who are still indecisive and wondering whether it’s worth their while to distance themselves from this pack.

Worse, lies and liars are persistently pursuing to gain respectability in the mainstream of Malaysian life.

The truth about Malaysia’s MSM

In his latest outburst, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz reprimanded the Utusan Malaysia for not giving support to UMNO president Najib Razak, particularly in relation to the daily’s backing of the controversial Perkasa and ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad.

He also reminded the vocal Malay mainstream newspaper that it should behave like many other mainstream dailies, particularly The Star (owned by MCA), that is, not only do they know who their real bosses are but also support their bosses’ actions and policies.

Nazri also attempted to draw a parallel between the above mainstream newspapers and party organs such as the Harakah and Suara Keadilan, which, according to him, toe the party line.

There are two things that need to be said arising from the Nazri statement: firstly, he only reaffirms the contention by many media observers and political analysts all this while that dailies such as the Utusan Malaysia and The Star are indeed owned by the component parties of the BN coalition. This is where the factor of editorial influence, if not control, by the political parties concerned comes in.

And secondly, there is a vital difference between the said mainstream newspapers and the party organs: the dailies pretend to be the newspapers that reflect and represent the interests of the ordinary Malaysians while the party organs, by their very definition, rightly prioritise the interests and concerns of the respective political parties.

Given this situation, it is no surprise that many ordinary Malaysians have abandoned the mainstream dailies because of their questionable credibility and consequently have opted for the online newspapers (and other forms of new media), which they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be socially responsible and exercising some degree of investigative journalism.

To be sure, the credibility of most of the mainstream newspapers cannot be simply enhanced by mere persuasion or cajoling from government leaders in calling on the ordinary folks to embrace the mainstream dailies because they claim these dailies are more trustworthy. Credibility, as many journalists worth their salt would tell you, is normally built over many years of fair, free and responsible journalism.

There’s no racism here, assures Chua

MCA president Chua Soi Lek, touched by the apparent distancing of UMNO leadership from the right-wing Perkasa recently, assured MCA members in particular and the public in general that UMNO leaders aren’t the racist types who would champion Malay supremacy.

In other words, whoever has that negative perception of UMNO, a dominant partner of the BN coalition, is indeed one who has a troubled figment of imagination.

See here  for Chua’s statement on this matter.

Eid Mubarak

To fellow Muslims, I wish you Eid Mubarak, and Selamat Hari Raya Idilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

To my non-Muslim friends and cyber visitors, have a good holiday.

Burning books and bridges

An unknown American Christian pastor, Terry Jones, and his tiny band of followers in Florida reportedly plan to burn copies of the Holy Quran on 11 September supposedly to remind the world of the atrocities perpetrated by a group of militant Muslims nine years ago on American soil.

Hence, this campaign is meant to fight ‘radical Islam’, says the author of a book provocatively titled, Islam is of the Devil.

To put it simple terms, this plan is not a clever thing to do because you don’t get to understand, let alone solve, a problem by burning a holy book such as the Quran. If anything, it only shows the shallowness of the minds of those who plan the burning.

Equally important and serious, this burning desire to show downright contempt for the Islamic faith and the Holy Quran would only invite angry responses from the followers of Islam, some of which can be violent. Not that I condone violence committed by radicals from all faiths, including Islam.

To be sure, to burn the Holy Quran is as sacrilegious as burning other holy books revered by their respective followers. And it is also no less desecrating than burning down a church or other houses of worship.

This proposed burning would also provoke deep concern and anger among Muslims in general at a time when they are celebrating the end of their fasting month of Ramadan.

Needless to say, this plan, if carried through, would also mean that the pastor and his followers are burning, not building, bridges in a world where there is already a yawning gap of understanding and suspicion between Islam and the West.

I do hope and pray that common sense and decency would eventually prevail.

Charge of the light brigade

Like everything else in contemporary Malaysian life, this piece requires a caveat before I can really begin to write without being painfully misunderstood or, worse, getting myself into trouble by having some serious-looking blokes lodging a police report against me. 

I am saying this because I am reminded of the reported case of a Malaysian blogger, writing by his cyber name of Hassan Skodeng, who got himself into trouble for having written a satirical piece or parody about the powerhouse Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). He is to be charged in court today (Sept. 2, 2010) under Section 233(1)(a) of the Multimedia and Communications Act 1998, for allegedly “creating and spreading lies with the malicious intent to hurt others.” If found guilty, he is punishable by imprisonment up to a year and/or fine of RM50,000 or less. No laughing matter here. 

According to a news report in The Star today (Sept. 2, 2010), Skodeng’s article asserted that TNB would be suing WWF for organising an ‘Earth Hour’ campaign, which was costing the corporation ‘millions in unrealised revenue’. 

To be sure, I am not trying to make light of this case as it does appear that the authorities concerned have taken this supposedly satire rather seriously. Come to think of it, perhaps there’s a blessing in disguise from this episode in that satires are finally taken seriously by people who matter — instead of being merely dismissed as balderdash.

For the rest of the article, see here.

September 2010

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