Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ceramah @ SS2 Chow Yang

I just got my hands on these pictures...

Umbrellas all around the field...

And that's me completely soaked still shaking the hands of well-wishers!

This ceramah was held on Thursday, 6th March next to the SS2 Chow Yang pasar malam. It was certainly a wet evening as rain started and stopped umpteen times. However, about 10 minutes before I spoke, and I was the last speaker for the evening, it started pouring absolutely cats and dogs! It rained often during the campaign period, but that evening at Chow Yang was certainly the heaviest.

It was my shortest speech in my entire election campaign - probably 5 minutes or so, so as to ensure that the crowd doesn't have to keep standing in the rain. Of course, there's self interest involved - if everyone gets sick, then they can't go to the ballot boxes on Saturday! ;-)

The fact that I actually spoke was due to my being extremely touched that the large crowd actually continued standing in the heavy rain to wait for me to speak... and I had to tell everyone to go home early and return the next evening for the grand finale at SS2 the next evening.

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it was all worthwhile in the end ;-)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Finance Minister II: Were You Lying?

During the election campaign period, despite turbulence in the global economy, particularly in the United States, despite economy all around the world - UK, EU, Singapore and Hong Kong - cutting growth forecasts, the Second Finance Minister, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop insisted that the economy will grow at between 6% to 6.5% in 2008 as forecasted in the 2008 Budget announced by the Prime Minister in September last year.
The country's economy is projected to grow at between 6% and 6.5% this year, Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said. He said the projection was based on the unexpected growth of 7.3% during the last quarter of 2007.
In less than a month after that, Nor Mohamed has done a total about turn.
...Nor Mohamed said the 6.5% growth target would be “difficult to achieve". I think the 6.5% level is difficult at present but around 6% or slightly lower is possible,” he added.
Doesn't this further demonstrate that the promises and declarations made by Barisan Nasional leaders cannot be trusted at all? While he was cocksure previously, now he even leaves room for growth rate below 6% with the disclaimer "slightly lower is possible". If even the second Finance Minister can provide misleading statistics to Malaysians, then certainly, there is every reason to be suspicious over all their "feel good" economic pronouncements.

This was clearly in response to the recently released Bank Negara projections on the Malaysian economy whereby the economy is only expected to grow between 5% - 6%.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shahrir Samad Taking Bold Steps Forward?

It is indeed refreshing to find the new Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, Datuk Shahrir Samad taking the bold step of dismantling price control mechanism in Malaysia, particularly since it will be deemed as an unpopular move as it will be perceived as more price increases in the forthcoming months.

In an earlier report, he has even stated that he "will turn everything inside out" to make things better in the country.

It may appear counter-intuitive but untenable price controls have resulted in severe shortages of cooking oil, wheat flour and other essential goods for the past few years. In other words, the rakyat will not enjoy the benefits of price controls anyway, if the goods are not available to be purchased at those prices.

For example, despite being a price-controlled item, condensed milk cannot be found in any of our local markets for the simple reason that at the controlled price, no supplier is able to recover their cost from selling the product. Instead, what we have is an inferior product substitute - "condensed sweetened creamer", which is sold at much higher prices.

Similarly, the construction industry has responded positively to the proposed changes as it was impossible for the builders to purchase steel and cement at the "controlled" prices of RM2,419 per tonne and RM10.95 respectively. Instead, contractors are forced to purchase these goods at grey market prices which are significantly higher than even competitive market prices, rendering the price control mechanism completely counter-productive.

These articifial price controls also resulted in unrealistically low inflation rates in the country, such as 2% for the year 2007. This is because up to 60% of the products measured are "controlled" items despite them either not being available altogether, or available only at grey market prices. As a result, distortion is created in the market as wage increments of Malaysian workers are often tied to Malaysia's official inflation index, which results in shrinking real wages.

However, the Government should remove price controls by implementing two other key policy measures which will ensure that prices will not be artificially manipulated upwards and the poorer segment of the population will not be unjustly burdened.

Firstly, as price control are removed, competition between suppliers must be increased. Without competition between suppliers, it is easy for say two or three licensed producers of a certain controlled product to collude and mark up prices unfairly. Only with greater competition from local and foreign suppliers, can the people and business secure the relevant goods, whether cooking oil, flour or cement at market competitive prices.

Secondly, it is important for the Government to measure the impact of the change in prices for the poorer segments of the Malaysian community and design measures to assist them in meeting the higher cost of living. Savings from subsidies of these controlled items - flour, cooking oil, fuel etc. must be channelled directly to those from the lower to middle income group.

The DAP has proposed in our 2008 Budget that these funds be channelled directly into the workers' EPF savings, and reforms be made to the workers contribution rate to enable higher disposable incomes for the target group to meet the challenges of inflationary pressures.

We certainly look forward to more progressive policies from Datuk Shahrir Samad and we hope that constructive policy suggestions from DAP can be taken into account in the policy formulation process via the set up of parliamentary select committees for each Ministry.

The Sun has covered the above issue in today's copy of the paper ;-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3Cs of New Politics: Competition, Co-operation & Convergence

I spoke at the 3rd instalment of The Star post-elections forum with the key theme being what Malaysians can expect in the light of the political tsunami that swept across Peninsula Malaysia in the recently concluded General Elections.

I must say, political analysts all over the world who are interested in Malaysia, have never had it so good, so much to discuss and debate about over the overhaul of politics in Malaysia.

The Star gave the forum extended coverage here (on what the panelist discussed) and here (on the sensitivity of amending the constitution). And credit where its due, the coverage was certainly fair. Only little quip was the fact that I reportedly quoted the example of BN amending the constitution to protect the rights of the Sultan here, which I didn't.
He pointed out that the Barisan Nasional Government had amended the Federal Constitution many times over the last 50 years but the changes were to protect the rights of the Sultan, uphold Islam and interests of the ruling coalition to consolidate its position.
Other than that (which I'm not fussed about), the overall paragraph reflected what I said in response to the former Health Minister, Datuk Chua Soi Lek's caution that amending the constitution "is a very sensitive question. Please don’t treat changing the constitution like a joke."

My very short 15 minutes "thesis" during the forum was what I termed the 3Cs of New Politics in Malaysia - Competition, Co-operation and Convergence. And to me, the most mentally intriguing and exciting aspects of the 3Cs is the multi-faceted and multi-layered levels in which the 3Cs apply.

You can also view the video of my take, courtesy of The Star here.

Without attempting to write a 5 page essay, I'll try to summarize what I said here.


You'll get two levels of competition. One between the loose coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS (which I'll term "Barisan Rakyat (BR)" although it's not a formal coalition for convenience) versus the BN government. You'll get an element of competition in the Dewan Rakyat where the opposition members forms more than a third of the parliament. But more importantly, there's a competition of governance between states run by BR versus the federal government by BN.

If DAP succeeds in making Penang a model state for governance and economy, then it'll certainly add pressure to the BN government to do the same at the federal level or they may just lose more seats in the next elections.

On the other hand, there'll also be healthy competition between the BR parties for they each have states in which the respective party leaders get to set the agenda - Penang (DAP), Selangor (PKR) and Kelantan/Kedah (PAS). Each will try to prove to the rakyat that they are competent in governing the states and will not want to lose out to the other in terms of promoting policies which will ultimately benefit the rakyat.

The clear winners of this competition will be the rakyat, for competition will shift from ADUNs from BN parties competing to outperform each other in terms of how much wealth they can accumulate whilst in power, to actually focusing on the interest of the people, as they now realise (some belatedly) that they can be unseated.


Questions will definitely be raised on how the newly formed BR coalition will co-operate with one another, particularly given some of their conflicting ideologies. Will we be able to focus strictly on common grounds such as justice and good governance and not get distracted by other issues? Even from an economic policy stand point, there are differences between DAP and PKR such as on the treatment of subsidies.

But more interestingly, is the question of co-operation between the BN federal governments and the BR controlled state governments. While in the past, BN could afford to marginalise the states of Kelantan and Terengganu (when it was in PAS hands) as they were contributing little to the overall Malaysian economy, BN doesn't have such options when dealing with the economically powerful states of Penang, Perak and Selangor. Attempting to "kill" these states, will just be acts of chopping off one's nose to spite one's face (i.e., self-defeating).

Instead, I see an era of forced co-operation, to ensure that both the states and the overall Malaysian economy continues to move forward. The strategy then for BN and BR is the "spin" to convince voters that the "growth" in the coming 4 to 5 years are attributed to their policies and not the opponents.


It is widely acknowledged that the mainstream media (MSM) were overwhelming pro-establishment while the online and other alternative media tends to be anti-establishment. Some MSMs went clearly to the extent of painting surreal pictures of the state of the government and Malaysia, but at the same time, certain (not all) online sites also propagated information which were clearly misleading.

This elections has proven the influence of the Internet, not only directly on voters who have access to Internet in the urban centres, but also the fact that information on the Internet can be channelled even to the pakciks and makciks in the kampungs via secondary points of information e.g., children studying in cities or persons of influence in villages who'll pass on information at coffee shops.

As a result, we're likely to see not only competition (between print and online media), co-operation (e.g., Star setting up online news portal) but also convergence. Credibility becomes critical. As the print media (some anyway) realise that their papers are no longer in sync with the pulse of the nation, they will have little choice but to realign their editorial slant to be much more balanced between alternative views. Similarly, should some of current portals which enjoy a huge readership not strengthen their journalistic integrity, then it may just suffer the same fate as the print media today, in the next general elections.

And finally, there's the question of convergence in terms of recognition by the various ethnic groups in Malaysia as Malaysians, as opposed to the racially divisive politics of the past, as epitomised by race-based parties in BN. At the surface level, there appears to be a breakthrough when Malays began voting for DAP while Chinese voted for PAS. However, I would certainly put in a word of caution as voters in Malaysia appeared to be voting more against BN, then for BR parties. With a little permitted exaggeration, for some seats previously held by BN, even if you had placed a cow as a opposition candidate, the cow would still have won!

Hence it may be too early to conclude on racial convergence in the current elections. What is more, the winning parties in certain states are restricted via "royal advice" against appointing non-Muslim deputy menteri besars, with some even asked to form the state executive committees (excos) based on specific racial make-ups.

While setbacks are only to be expected, I certainly hope that over the next 4-5 years before the next general elections, the BR parties will play their part to ensure that racially divisive politics can be further reduced, and the rakyat will be asked to vote for a candidate based on merit, i.e., his or her ability to serve all Malaysians regardless of race and religion.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Short of Experience?

Plenty of questions have been raised on the ability of DAP to administer an effective and efficient government, given our "lack of experience".

I believe that our leaders have all been providing great replies to the above question, as shown by DAP Secretary-General, now Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng as well as the plucky DAP state assemblywoman for Subang Jaya, Hannah Yeoh.

In The Star a few days back, Guan Eng was questioned by readers - "Without any experience working in the state or Federal Cabinet, how do you expect to run the state?" The reply was straightforward.
When we talk about experience, I always say that I don't have experience in corruption and misappropriation of funds. So it is with that attitude – that if we are honest and have a sense of integrity, we have the ability and capability to do it.
During the campaign period, Hannah Yeoh who won the Subang Jaya state seat in Selangor by a massive 13,851 votes, admitted "she was young and inexperienced in politics, but she drew cheers when she said she was 'clean'."
"Yes, I do not have experience. I do not have experience in corruption."
So the next time you hear me say the same thing, you know who I "copied" it from. ;-)

Friday, March 21, 2008

All Set?

The English media is a little kinder once the elections are over. ;-) In addition to the article reproduced below from The Star Metro edition yesterday, I've also been invited to speak at a forum organised by The Star and the Asian Centre fro Media Studies on "New Politics in Post-election Malaysia".

The forum is to be held in The Star auditorium on Monday 10.30 am, but it has been fully booked since the first day it was advertised in the papers on Wednesday, attracting some 500 attendees. And I had thought that given that it was a work day, attendance might have been on the low side! ;-)

Other speakers include Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye (Former Bukit Bendera MP), Datuk Nur Jazlan (Pulai MP), Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek (Former Labis MP), Charles Santiago (Klang MP) and Datuk Wong Chun Wai, managing editor for The Star. It should certainly be interesting ;-)

Pua all set for his new responsibilities

STEPPING into his Damansara Utama service centre in his trademark crisp white shirt and toothy smile without any signs of fatigue, Tony Pua looks set to take on his new responsibility as Petaling Jaya Utara (PJU) MP.

(No sign of fatigue? You've got to be kidding! - Tony ;-))

Pua garnered 37,851 votes in the 12th general election to beat incumbent Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun by a majority of 19,972 votes.

“Yes, we’ve been getting a lot of emails and calls about faulty street lamps and clogged drains. Some are more serious, like constant flooding,” said Pua. Most of the complaints are local council issues and he is not about to jump the gun in tackling these issues.

“We (including Damansara Utama and Kampung Tunku assemblymen Lau Weng San and Dr Cheah Wing Yin, respectively) want to deal with it in a more systematic approach,” he said.

To tackle the problems at the root, they would be compiling a list to be brought up during a meeting with PJ mayor Datuk Roslan Sakiman early next week.

“After all, we’re not here to replace local councils,” he said.

There are also bigger issues like the misuse of land where trees have been cut down without prior approval. Pua feels that these abuses have to be checked, but not independent of an overall state policy that would ensure more transparency and accountability.

“Instead of solving problems on an ad hoc basis, we have to look at why these problems happen every other month and how to resolve them,” he said.

He is hoping to work together not only with the DAP assemblymen but also with MPs and assemblymen from other parties like the PKR.

“It’ll take a few meetings to get everyone onto a single track. I think everyone has the same objectives but there are differences in approach,” he said.

As far as accountability and transparency were concerned, Pua said that while some laws have to be amended, some were already in place.

“For example, if the local councils refuse to publicise their full accounts, it’s up to the MPs and assemblymen to apply pressure to put up the account books for inspection. If you haven’t done anything wrong, there’s nothing to hide,” he said.

While the roles of the MPs and assemblymen are to apply pressure to the local councils to be more accountable, he feels that putting civil society members into the local council works better because they would be more public-spirited.

The ultimate objective is to have local council elections.

“We hope it would be as soon as possible but, realistically, it’ll be between the second to the fourth year. We want to do it before the next elections for the simple reason that that would be our key performance [indicator],” he said.

Being a fresh face in parliament does not bother Pua.

“As long as we can bring in the right set of professionals to help us with policy making and so on, the core values of the government will remain intact. We want a government with integrity, honesty and one that is accountable to the public,” he said.

For now, there is only one DAP service centre in PJU but there are plans to set up more.

“We’ll try to share resources so that we don’t end up attending to the same complaints. There should be coordination,” he said.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Can't get enough of coffee shop political discussions?

Well, my ex-journalist friend, Oon Yeoh and fellow co-blogger on Education in Malaysia, Ong Kian Ming (PhD student on political science at Duke University) have started the "RealPolitik" podcast series to discuss various issues in Malaysian politics.

The 3rd and latest instalment deals with the ascent of Royal activism in Malaysian politics.

The royalty has been asserting itself in four states - two controlled by the BN and two controlled by the Opposition. Why is this happening and is it a good thing?

Oon has a trans-pacific discussion with Kian Ming about this very intriguing topic - check it out here or Oon's blog here. ;-)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DAP Economic Policies

Many have been asking us, now that DAP is leading the government in Penang and part of the government in Perak and Selangor, what are the economic policies which we plan to implement in these states.

Some may be aware of the "Malaysian Economic Agenda" promoted by Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Similarly, details of economic policies promoted by the DAP is encapsulated in the 2008 Malaysia's Alternative Budget launched in September last year.

It's a 54-page document, so if you are just interested in the key highlights (3 pages), read on. ;-)

The proposed DAP 2008 Malaysian Budget focuses on the twin challenges of globalisation and our high dependence on oil and gas resources. With increasing competition from other developing countries and the rapidly evolving technology markets, it is critical that Malaysia puts in place a system which will be able to exploit the opportunities provided by, and at the same time mitigate the negative impact resulting from globalisation. At the same time, a 40% dependence on government revenue from the oil and gas sector is of serious concern, especially in the light of oil reserves which will last for only another 2 decades and Malaysia becoming a net oil importer by 2011.

This Budget will also serve as a distinct departure from the current administration's New Economic Policy (NEP) which is driven by race. The underlying rationale and approach to our Budget is the “Malaysia Economic & National Unity Strategy” (MENUS) which will be based on performance, competence and needs of all Malaysians.

Therefore it is imperative for the Government to build new capacities for the future to ensure that our productivity increase is more than sufficient to replace declining contribution from the oil and gas sector. At the same time, we will strengthen our social security system to ensure that the poor, less fortunate and under-privileged are not left behind in our pursuit for excellence. The wealth of natural resources on our shores must be shared equitably to make sure that everyone gets to benefit and taste the fruits of our land. We must also shake off our habit of designing world-class blueprints, only to fail miserably in their implementation. The DAP will put in place a robust system to improve productivity and competitiveness of the government's delivery system.

Finally, we will utilise responsibly all fiscal measures and tax instruments to ensure that the country does not bury itself in debt and to avoid expenditure on mega-projects which are unlikely to bring significant benefits to the population. Our policies are designed to make ourselves competitive relative to our neighbours as well as to nurture dynamic innovative and entrepreneurial Malaysians.

The key policy measures proposed in the Budget include:
  • Legislating the use of oil and gas revenue to ensure that a substantial portion of the revenue is spent on education as well as research and development to build the necessary economic capacity for Malaysia, to ensure that the increases in productivity and innovation will more than compensate for the expected decline in oil revenues. It is proposed that 50% of oil and gas revenues be invested in human capital and research and development, while another 25% be used to strengthen the social security for Malaysians who are in need. Legislating the utilisation of funds will also prevent the mis-allocation of resources to bailout failed projects or other non-productive sectors.

  • Hence, RM43.3 billion is allocated for education and training, accounting for 26.3% of the overall 2008 Budget. The focus of the expenditure will be to enhance the qualitative elements of education instead of the quantitative elements. RM3.2 billion has also been allocated for Research & Development.

  • RM13.6 billion is allocated to improve the quality of the nations transportation infrastructure, particularly the public transport system. The bulk of the increase goes to development expenditure for transportation, which will increase from RM7.3 billion to RM9.5 billion. Key attention is given to the 3 highly congested urban centres – the Klang Valley, Penang Island and Johor Bahru. A blueprint for the “Valley Circle” rail network will also be developed to improve inter-suburban connectivity, by-passing the congested Kuala Lumpur city centre.

  • Barisan Nasional's policies of guaranteeing highway toll concessionaires as well as independent power producers (IPPs) extraordinary profits with grossly unequal contracts with little or no risks to the latter are the clearest cases of the Government failing to protect public interest. The impact of these policies are increasingly felt today with rapidly rising toll rates and energy prices. It is hence imperative that the Government renegotiate these contracts to protect the interest of the public within a 6 month period. In the event whereby no significant headway is made in the negotiations, it is proposed that the Government move to acquire the assets of these entities. The resultant savings will then be passed on to consumers or be diverted to other public interest projects, such as the public transport system.

  • When the Government launched the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project 10 years ago, it promised to make every effort to grow and support local MSC status companies. However, despite the rhetoric, the Government being the largest consumer of information technology services in Malaysia has not given preference to these companies. It is therefore important that in this proposed budget, Malaysian MSC status companies be given specific preference in tendering for the Government IT-related contracts to help nurture these companies into successful regional players.

  • As part of our philosophy, no person or community in need, irrespective of race or religion will be denied the necessary government assistance. In line with this, the DAP will implement “FairWage”, a policy which serves to improve the livelihood of low wage earners above the age of 35, which will at the same time incentivise employers to provide increased employment opportunities. A “Malaysia Bonus” of up to RM1,200 will be granted to Malaysians with income not more than RM3,000 per month. In order to assist the elderly above the age of 60, many who are having problems making ends meet, those qualified will enjoy an the “Senior Malaysian Bonus” of up to RM1,000. These bonuses are channelled into their respective EPF accounts.

    The FairWage policy and Malaysian bonus will cost approximately RM9.3 billion to administer.

    It is part of the proposed programme to share the fruits of the nation's wealth, particular from the oil and gas sector with all Malaysians in need. In the longer term, more assistance programmes will be carried out in this grant-based mechanisms which are means tested instead of via subsidies which are distortionary in their impact, and often disproportionately benefiting the wealthy.

  • One of the core pillars of MENUS is that all Government contracts should be tendered in an open, competitive and transparent manner. All qualified companies shall be provided with equal opportunities to secure Government supply contracts and projects. To prevent overwhelming disruptions to the current system, this policy, free from race-based requirements, shall be implemented on a gradual basis, commencing with projects or supply contracts sized above RM10 million for 2008. In view of the challenges brought by globalisation, all tenders shall be made competitive, open and transparent by 2015. Assuming a conservative 10% savings is achieved via the new tendering system, this will result in absolute savings in excess of RM5 billion per annum in conjunction with quality improvements.

  • The transformation of the Malaysian economy into one that is knowledge-based will not succeed without the critical ingredient of innovation and entrepreneurship. Therefore it is proposed that the Government set up a new RM250 million seed fund, STARTUP where we will act as a matching co-investment fund with reputable private investors who will assist in the mentorship of the start up companies. To encourage private investor participation, losses incurred by such investments shall be tax deductible from the investors' individual or corporate income tax. To further boost entrepreneurship, start-ups shall enjoy full tax exemption on their first RM200,000 chargeable income for each of their first 3 years of assessment.

  • Government revenue from small medium enterprises which constitutes more than 99% of all enterprises in the country has clearly declined with the dependence on oil and gas revenue. To revitalise the SME sector, and to assist many SMEs whose counterparts in many countries in the region enjoy significant tax advantages, it is proposed that the tax rate for SMEs on their first RM5o0,000 chargeable income be reduced to 18% from the current 20%. In additional a new partial tax exemption threshold will be set at RM200,000 and taxed at 12%. This means that a SME with a chargeable income of RM900,000 will be taxed at an effective rate of 18%, in line, particularly with its competitors across the causeway in Singapore. This measure will help make Malaysian SMEs to be more competitive and at the same time attract more SMEs to set up business in Malaysia, creating more employment opportunities.

  • DAP is proposing a 1% reduction of the top tax bracket to 27%. More importantly however, there will be a revision and a simplification of the progressive tax brackets which will result in significant reduction in taxes by all. Most importantly, to assist Malaysians to cope with the rise in living expenses, particularly in urban areas, the first RM15,000 chargeable income will become tax exempt, with the subsequent RM15,000 taxed at 7%. Currently, only the first RM2,500 is tax exempt while the next RM2,500 is taxed at 1%. Based on the new tax structure, a married worker with RM3,000 pay per month, a full-time housewife who looks after 2 young children will pay no taxes, whereas under the previous tax structure, he will be expected to pay between RM55 to RM445 depending on his insurance premiums and medical expenses for his family, including parents.

  • The rate of global climate changes is accelerating and it has become absolutely necessary for Malaysia to play its part in protecting the environment. Hence, a “Green Tax” is to be implemented in 2010 whereby a “carbon tax” is charged at RM25 per tonne of CO2 equivalent, with the exception of methane emissions from the agricultural sector as well as special exemptions for carbon intensive businesses which adopts global best practices on emissions. In addition, a 5% severance tax shall be imposed on the extraction of metals and forestry products in the country. However, companies which secure certification from The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited certification bodies will be granted the severance tax exemption for promoting responsible management of the forest.

  • As a part of our new source of revenue as well as to negate the rent-seeking culture, the approved permits (APs) current issued for free by the Ministry of International Trade & Industry to a select pool of “businessman” shall be auctioned to the highest bidders instead.

    Based on an estimated 70,000 APs issued per annum and a conservative RM25,000 market price, the auction will provide an additional RM1.75 billion to the government coffers.

  • Women will also benefit significantly with the proposed extension of paid maternity leave from 60 to 90 days if they have worked for at least 180 days prior to delivery with the employer.

    Their pay will be shared equally by both the employer as well as the government. This together with other measures proposed in the Budget will play their role in strengthening the bond between the mother and child, promoting strong family values, while at the same time, encourage more women to join the workforce. As at 2004, Malaysian women participation in the work force stands at 47.3%, significantly below that of our neighbours, Singapore and Thailand at 53.9% and 64.2% respectively.

  • Finally, this budget represents a budget which seeks active involvement from the civil society. Instead of attempting to tackle all issues on its own, which the government will not be able to competently and effectively, sizeable grants will be made available to specialist non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to promote, educate and run various social causes and programmes. RM240 million has been set aside as partial or full grants for NGOs to pursue environmental causes, eliminating poverty, promote healthy living, managing women issues or assisting the disabled, to be disbursed over the next 5 years.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Local Government Elections

It's time to get rid of political patronage.

It is a little sad, but unsurprising that within days of getting elected, I have received calls on how I can use my influence to appoint city or municipal councillors. There were of course those who were genuine about making positive changes to local city council, but quite clearly, there were those seeking political favours in exchange for support.

I spoke a little about the above in my interview with Malaysiakini here.

I can imagine the type of calls, my recent elected colleagues must be getting as well from others on the same issue. This only strengthens my resolve that the law to enable local government elections must be drafted, debated and passed by the states in which DAP plays a role before the next general elections. And I'm glad DAP is taking the lead by emphasising on the need to bring back local government elections, particularly in Penang where the DAP-led coalition government is steaming ahead.

We must overcome whatever "grey" areas which are in conflict between the state and federal laws.

Only with democratically elected local councillors, will they be directly accountable to the people, instead of to the party which "awards" these positions. And more importantly, only then will they make decisions on behalf of the city council which are in the interest of the rakyat, instead of the interest of the political masters, personal or otherwise.

Certainly, I campaigned strongly for a democratic local government during the election period and I'll certainly do my best within the Parliament and within the Party to ensure that the voters will get the fair deal they deserve from the local councils.

And in the interim, while awaiting for local council elections, we will push for openness, transparency and competition in all local council accounts as well as tenders. We want to transform local councils from one beset with the culture of secrecy (something to hide) to one which engages the electorate.

Wish me luck! ;-)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pak Lah At It Again

On the day before elections was held, the honourable Prime Minister threatened the Chinese community that if we voted opposition, Chinese representation will be reduced in the Cabinet and as a result, Chinese interest will not be taken cared of by the Government.
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reminded the Chinese community that if they gave the DAP their votes, they will end up not having any representation in the Government.

“You have to decide if you want a louder voice in Parliament or representation in the Cabinet where they can be more effective in representing all communities,” the Barisan Nasional chairman said.

He said if the Chinese did not have representation in the Cabinet, their requests would not be heard.
The statement was deplorable from the fact that some time ago, Pak Lah insisted that he was the Prime Minister of all Malaysians. It appears that he was deceiving Malaysians then for the above statement clearly showed that he's only looking after the interest of a certain race or community for he comes from UMNO.

Malaysians voted with couraged and was certainly not cowed by the threats made by the Pak Lah led government. However, like Ong Ka Ting, Pak Lah hasn't learnt the fact that he is meant to be a prime minister for all Malaysians, instead of just one race.

Today, again in The Star, Pak Lah warned Guan Eng, newly annointed Chief Minister for Penang over his proposed economic policies to take Penang forward.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was warned by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi not to make statements that could stoke racial tensions.
“The (Penang) state government must not try to create an atmosphere which can cause racial tensions,” warned Abdullah, who is also head of Penang Umno.

He also said that the new state government in Penang should not marginalise the Malays, who are the minority in the state, and other minority groups like the Indians.

“Do not marginalise the Malays. I want to ask Lim Guan Eng what his plans are for the Malays in Penang What are his plans for the Indians in Penang? What are his plans for other minority groups in Penang?”
Should Pak Lah not be asking, what does DAP plan for Malaysians in Penang, instead of "Malays in Penang"?

Here's some excerpts of the speech by Guan Eng in Penang 2 days ago:
...we will run the government administration free from the New Economic Policy (NEP) that breeds cronyism, corruption and systemic inefficiency. We will implement an open tender system for all government procurement and contracts. We will also practice transparency by uploading information of such tender bids in an internet portal to be set up in future for public access.

Instead, we strongly advocate a stakeholders’ economy for all – irrespective of race and religions – and based on the principle of shared prosperity in an equitable manner.


We subscribe to Integrity and Transparency in our governance. Government procurement will only be awarded through open tender, and priority will be given to Penang-incorporated contractors. An online portal will be set up to publish the list of qualified contractors, and the tendering process and relevant details, for public scrutiny.

Similarly, the Chief Minister, State EXCO members, Speaker and Deputy Speaker together with the respective heads of Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang and Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Jaya will be required to publicly declare their personal assets.
Now, which bits of the above policies seek to marginalise any particular community in Penang? PKR, our coalition partner in Penang, has also been calling for NEP to be replaced for the past 2 years or so, are they also marginalising Malays?

Who exactly then, is desperately stoking "racial tensions"?

Perak Uncertainty

Hi all,

The party and myself have received thousands of sms'es, emails and blog comments over the last day or so with regards to the situation in Perak, and in particular over the statement by Sdr Lim Kit Siang on behalf of the DAP Central Executive Committee (CEC).

I'm not privy to all the details as I'm not part of the CEC. However, I have faith that circumstances may have dictated the type of response issued. More importantly, I do hope that we do not get so blinded by victory that we are ready to sacrifice everything else just to get rid of Barisan Nasional.

Kit Siang has nothing to benefit from making the statement he did. But I can assure you that should a party decide to implement policies which are detrimental towards a multi-racial and multi-religious society in Perak over the next four years, the DAP will be crucified, often by the same people who are giving Kit Siang hell at the moment.

It should be noted that PAS has only 6 seats in Perak. The DAP has made it known earlier that we were happy to accept PKR nominee for MB. Why is PAS adamant on MB post? Should they be equally gracious in conceding the position to the wishes of the other 2 parties with more seats?

DAP wants to be part of the new government. But we need to do it on the right footing.

It should be noted that the MB holds immense power in the state and if the ground rules aren't cut properly, then we will all suffer for the next four years.

Yes, the entire episode could have been better managed by all parties involved. But for many who placed the entire blame on Kit Siang, I thought it was not only unfair but also misguided.

I have trust and faith the Perak government issues will be resolved in due time. A couple of days delay to ensure a smoother 4-5 years of government would certainly be a worthwhile wait.

Monday, March 10, 2008

They Just Don't Get It

After a humiliating defeat in the hands of the opposition, particularly by DAP for MCA, the President of MCA, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting still doesn't get it.

A page 8 report in the New Straits Times today had the headline "Ong: We'll continue to work for Chinese".

At the rate it is going, MCA will become obsolete possibly within the next decade.

What has "RACE" got to do with it? When we are elected by the people, we serve ALL Malaysians, and not just "one" race. The race-based politics of Barisan Nasional component parties will spell their death knell in the years to come and unless they come out of their shell, DAP can certainly look forward to a better performance in the next General elections.

DAP stands strongly for Malaysians First, and not instead, the divide and rule policies of Barisan Nasional component parties.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Thank You Malaysians!

Thank you Petaling Jaya, Thank you Malaysians!

The people has spoken overwhelmingly and we at the DAP look forward to serving you with all our hearts.

I've received countless sms's and emails (not to mention tens of Facebook messages) of congratulations, as well as kind words of encouragement. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all friends and supporters for the encouragement! ;-)

I'd also like to apologise if I can't respond to every sms or email as I can tell you that my phone is jamming and hanging and re-booting (it takes forever) so often due to the sheer volume of calls and sms's coming in. There are also literally hundreds of emails I've received! ;-)

Do know that I will be getting on with work even today as we have unexpected won not only a large number of seats, but also the Selangor, Perak and Penang state government. Now I have to think about how we can come up with consistent and constructive policies as the governing party to make these states the most forward looking states in the country. (Assistance from talented Malaysians willing to serve in Government to make a positive change welcome).

Thank you, thank you once again for being part of history in the making! Carpe Diem!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Teresa for Tony Pua

Ceramah Friday - SS2/63

Donate to DAP for PJ here.
This is a picture of the crowd in Penang, courtesy of TVSmith.
Do you think our crowd tonight could reach this size?
We have our permit, so, rain or shine, we'll be there.
We have confirmed a good line-up of speakers, with more to come.
So please invite your friends and family who are still undecided. We need their vote!

Ceramah SS2
MJ Cafe, SS2/63
(near the morning market and Waisikkai, behind Hong Leong Bank)

Speakers (so far):
Tony Pua
Lau Weng San
Dr Cheah Wing Yin
Haris Ibrahim
Teresa Kok

hopefully, this ceramah marks the end of one era, and the beginning of a new era
We need to translate the huge attendance to votes.


Videoclip - Ceramah At Taman Mayang

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Ceramah at Taman Mayang

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Dr Azmi Sharom: Who Shall I Vote

From Malaysia Today

Who to vote for then? Well for one thing, it won’t be for the politician who promises to clean up the drains of Petaling Jaya. That’s not what my MP or my State Exco Member is supposed to do. That is the job of the Local Authorities.

Dr Azmi Sharom

My eight year old boy and his nine year old cousin were in deep conversation last weekend. Very serious stuff because they chased me out of the room and demanded privacy. It turns out that they wanted to establish a political party and they were writing their manifesto. After a bit of poking around, I found out that the manifesto is pretty much limited to one point: my nephew wants to be Prime Minister. My son on the other hand does not seem to have any idea what is going on.

Normally, this would be the time when I make a, oh so witty, comparison between the 12th Malaysian General Elections and the exploits of two primary school boys. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything and I just put this little anecdote in because, well, I think it’s cute and funny and I know the rest of this article won’t be.

So, elections are here again and on Saturday, I shall be going to the polling station with that merry tune running in my head. You know the one; mari lah mari, pergi mengundi, jangan lupa kewajipan, pada negara.

Who to vote for then? Well for one thing, it won’t be for the politician who promises to clean up the drains of Petaling Jaya. That’s not what my MP or my State Exco Member is supposed to do. That is the job of the Local Authorities, in my case the Petaling Jaya City Council and I have nothing to do with those guys. I should of course. I should have the right to vote for the men and women who deal with such important matters like my huge contributions to the MBPJ football team via all those parking fines I’ve paid. But I don’t.

Now the candidate who promises me that he will try to reintroduce Local Authority elections, he will have my attention. But really, wild dogs roaming the streets and poor street lighting should not be what an MP is primarily concerned about. They are elected so that they can be part of the law-making machine we know as Parliament and they have bigger issues to fry, like corruption, the state of the judiciary, governance, racist supremacy ideology, fundamental freedoms, etc.

Ideally, I would look at the individual candidates and try to figure out where he stands. But this is not very practicable because these candidates are not really individuals; they are the human faces of their political parties. So, what about the parties then? Perhaps I can find one that matches how I think. Frankly, I don’t think there are any that truly reflect my values and aspirations.

Besides, aren’t the constituencies arranged in such a way that one party is more likely to win anyway? When one looks at the way our electoral system is managed, when you can win almost forty percent of the votes and yet only get ten percent of the seats, it is easy to get cynical. Does this mean that voting is a waste of my time? Indeed not.

Elections are a cog in the machinery that is democracy. They are an important cog, but just a cog nonetheless. Of course it is nice if the candidate you choose wins, but even if he or she does not, there is still reason to vote. Because Malaysia uses the first past the post system and because each constituency is not equal (some constituencies are tiny and so each vote counts more), there is a tendency to view everything in terms of seats won.

Of course this is important, because a party without a two-thirds majority has much less freedom to do what it wants to. A major factor here is the ability to change the constitution. Without a two thirds majority a ruling party does not have the freedom to change our main source of citizens’ protection according to their whims. Of course the number of seats won is important.

However, personally I think the percentage of votes is the true indicator of what the people think and want and it is just as important as the number of seats won. This is because the battle for democracy does not happen only once every four or five years. It takes place every single day. And knowing that a large group of the population feel that issues like good governance, honesty, integrity equality and civil liberties are important gives momentum and strength to that day to day battle.

It is with that thought in mind that I will go humming and skipping to the polls, come Saturday. And no matter what the results are on Sunday, I know one thing for sure, if democracy and human rights are important to me, then the quest to ensure my country respects both will continue on Monday, as it will for as long as I draw breath. The only thing that elections determine is who makes up government. Whether we are free or not, is up to us the people to fight for. Always.

Fong Po Kuan Rocks SS2

Ceramah Thurday - SS2 Chow Yang Pasar Malam

6.03.08 (Thurs)
Ceramah SS2, Restoran OK (the other end from Kayu Nasi Kandar)

Tony Pua
Lau Weng San
Dr Cheah Wing Yin
Teng Chang Khim [blogs here]
Yap Swee Seng (Executive Director, Suaram)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wednesday Ceramah

Donate to DAP for PJ here.

5.03.08 (Wed) 8.00pm Ceramah SS4D/2
Restoran Maharia Banana Leaf
(this is along LDP on the opposite side of the road from St Ignatius Church)
Tony Pua
Lau Weng San
Dr Cheah Wing Yin
* Others TBC

5.03.08 (Wed) 8.00pm Ceramah SS1
HT Auto Sound and Accesories
no 54E, Jln SS1/22 (the shops near Kg Tunku school)
Tony Pua
Lau Weng San
Dr Cheah Wing Yin
* Others TBC

also, please take note that our final briefing for polling agents will be conducted tomorrow at DAP Damansara 55, Jln SS21/1A

Question time: PJ Utara's Tony Pua vs Chew Mei Fun

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the Malaysiakini interview in video format

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Videoclips of the SS2 Ceramah

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You guys really amaze me. In spite of the rain, you still stayed and listened. I am truly humbled.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ceramah Tuesday 4th March

4.03.08 (Tues) 8.00pm
Ceramah SS3
Siong Pin Restaurant, 30 SS3/31
Tony Pua
Lau Weng San
Dr Cheah Wing Yin
V. Gayathry (Executive Director, CIJ)
* Dr Tan Seng Giaw (tentative)

Question time: PJU's Chew vs Pua

Clogged drains and potholes may be the concern of many voters in the mixed Petaling Jaya Utara (PJU) constituency but what are the candidates’ stand on national issues?

As election debates are rare in this country, Malaysiakini pitches 12 questions to opposing candidates to allow readers and voters to gauge their respective stand on several hot button issues.

For this round, we pit Barisan Nasional’s incumbent Chew Mei Fun against DAP’s ‘boy wonder’ Tony Pua Kiam Wee in the ‘battle royale’ for the PJU parliamentary seat in Selangor.

Chew still appeals to many voters based on her two-term service track record but pundits predict Pua will deny her a victory by riding the wave of a discontented lower and middle class.

The diverse PJU constituency has 76,618 voters comprising of 76.60 percent Chinese, 15.20 percent Malay, 7.40 percent Indian and 0.8 percent of others.

Chew Mei Fun vs Tony Pua Kiam Wee

1. Will you support the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)?
Chew (left): Yeah, I do agree with the setting up of the IPCMC.

Pua: Absolutely. The reason is very simple. We need to increase the credibility of the police force, we need to ensure that the police treat all victims as innocent until proven guilty. The police needs to be (subjected ) to laws themselves. There have been too many cases where the police have been abusing the laws in order to extract, say for example, confessions of the victims.

2. Will you support the implementation of local council elections?
Chew: There (are) many ways to make sure that local councils perform and from what I know the government is looking into the method of appointment of councillors.

Pua: Absolutely. That is one of our platform in this campaign. The reason why MPs and state assemblymen in Malaysia are forced to do some of the work of local councils is simply because local councillors are not effective. They are not effective because they are not accountable to the public and (as such) they do things according to their own personal vested interest. So local council elections can be introduced so they will be accountable to the people and if they are not, they can be booted out in the next elections.

3. Will you support that Petronas' accounts be made public?
Chew: I thought they already have their annual report. I thought the annual report is actually the accounts for (listed) companies to disclose to everybody.

Pua: Absolutely. I think it is important because Petronas controls a huge amount of wealth of the nation. Oil resource of the country belongs to the people and Petronas being the agent that manages the oil wealth of the country must be transparent for the people in order to show that the money has been invested and reinvested and distributed fairly.

4. Will you support the idea of retaining subsidies of oil and other essential items?
Chew: Yes, I think so.

Pua: I think the subsidy system at this point in time needs to be readjusted as such that it benefits the poor and marginalised more and less so the wealthy. So for example the subsidy system in existence benefits more of the wealthy because they use the product more, then it is an unfair allocation of resources.

So we believe in a system whereby grants are given directly to the poor and to the lower middle income to cope with the rising price increases. They are targetted and controlled, you won't find leakages. For example our subsidised diesel being sold by fishermen from Malaysia to Indonesian fishermen. So that is the problem with the existing subsidy system and those need to be resolved.

5. Will you support universities to be autonomous or agree to the abolishing of the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971?

Chew: I think university students to concentrate in (their) studies is something (that) they should focus on. But if there (are) weaknesses in the Act, then (there is) no harm to review and do some adjustment or some amendment.

Pua: I subscribe to the policy that the UUCA must be abolished. It does not make sense for the university to restrict the thoughts and inquiry of the students. Students must not be taught to think only in a certain way or prevented from being politically active for being politically active actually increases their awareness and critical thinking as well as their analytical skills to enable them to be more adaptable to the global environment when they graduate.

6. Will you support the idea of an Islamic state being established in Malaysia?
Chew: Under the constitution, everybody has freedom of religion. Islam is just the official religion, that's all. But Pak Lah (Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) has already said that we are not an Islamic state and we go according to the constitution. The most important thing is according to the constitution. I think we are a secular state if you ask me.

Pua: Absolutely not. We believe that a multiracial and multicultural country such as Malaysia has to provide protection to all religions such as the freedom of worship. We believe that the best form of government to protect all religions including the official religion is actually a secular state.

7. Will you support the setting-up of the Inter-faith Council or a Non-Muslim Affairs Department?
Chew: The (BN) manifesto already answers your question.

Pua: Yes, certainly. I think the more we understand each other's culture, religion and practices, the more we are able to live in harmonious terms with one another. When there is a lack of understanding, chances of conflict and misunderstanding would be a lot higher.

8. Will you support the call that the Anti-Corruption Agency be placed under Parliament?
Chew: I think we need to make sure the ACA carry out their work fairly and (transparently) and make sure that they actually take action to investigate whatever, whoever (that are) involved with corruption. If you ask me, in my own opinion, yeah, I agree but this depends. Any how the government still needs to study and many of the issues (are) not that straightforward.

Pua: Yes. I think it is silly for the ACA to be placed under the Prime Minister's office because then it is subjected to tampering, instructions and lobbying by the PM's office. So under the Parliament which is elected by the people, it should have greater independence.

9. Will you support the idea of abolishing the Internal Security Act (ISA)?
Chew: I think the ISA somehow on some occasions does work like what happened in America. Before that they didn't have ISA and after the 9/11 (attacks), they now have their own. That's why this all depends and (it's) very subjective.

Pua: Yes. It is a draconian law for the simple fact that you are detaining people for months and years without access to fair trial. I think that breaches the natural laws of justice founded since ages ago. Everybody should be given a fair day in court if they are charged as terrorist, then they must be proven to be terrorists before they are jailed for a long time.

10. Will you support public assemblies being held without needing to apply for police permits?
Chew: I think police permits is a must in order to make the situation under control and everybody must be responsible.

Pua: Yes I do but on condition. I accept that no permit needs to be required but in the interest of public safety the police needs to be informed and it should be given sufficient time for preparation to ensure that traffic is orderly, the crowd is well controlled and well behaved but they are there to see through a peaceful assembly rather than to prevent a peaceful assembly from happening.

11. Will you support the idea of fixing a minimum wage for workers?
Chew: Yeah, why not? I mean there are so many levels [...] that it is not so straightforward to fix a minimum wage. But for those lower income (groups), I think we should, just to draw them (out) from poverty.

Pua: I think we support an idea whereby there must be a fair wage for workers and I think in order to not place a higher burden on employers it is important for the government to step in to ensure that these workers who are having wages below that of a reasonable level are subsidiesed additionally to make sure that they make sufficient monthly income to make ends meet.

12. Will you support the idea of abolishing the New Economic Policy (NEP)?
Chew: I thought the NEP has already ended. The most important thing is that we must make sure that [...] you can actually help one particular race but in the expense of the other race. Everybody must be given a chance to have their own business and work together to create a win-win situation.

Pua: Absolutely. We believe that the NEP as it stands today favours the rich, wealthy and influential particularly from the bumiputra community. It does not benefit the bulk majority of the bumiputras as well as the non-bumiputras in this country. So inequality in the country has been increasing rapidly and only with opposition and it's replacement with a policy that focuses on merit and needs, will the equality be reduced.

Monday Night - Back at MJ Cafe SS2!

Donate to DAP for PJ here.

3.03.08 (Mon)
Ceramah SS2 (MJ Cafe, SS2/63)* Near the morning market location, behind Hong Leong Bank

Tony Pua
Dr Cheah Wing Yin
Lau Weng San
Fong Po Kuan
Raja Petra Kamarudin

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Urgent - Polling Agents and Counting Agents Required

Donate to DAP for PJ here.

we received news over the weekend that the counting for both parliament and state will be done at the same time.
In the past, the counting would be done one after another, and the counting agents would be availabe to watch the process. But now, with this change, we are trying to figure out how to manage it, especially when we're so short of people.

so, once again, this is an urgent plea for more volunteers.

We've put up two additional training sessions, and we hope to get more volunteers to help us with this process.

The DAP team for PJ will be conducting training these next two days.
Mon 8:30pm
Tue 8:30pm
DAP Damansara office @ 55-M, SS21/1A

read Lulu's entry for further information

Chew denies smearing Pua's rep

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Sunday March 2, 2008


PETALING JAYA: PJ Utara parliamentary seat (P106) incumbent Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun has denied smearing the reputation of opposition candidate Tony Pua (DAP).

“I did not mention any names in my speech so why should he (Tony) feel slighted?” Chew said at a press conference.

Barisan's Chew had allegedly labelled Pua a "self-claimed economist" and that his decision to sell his Singapore-listed IT company was that of a "bubble economist" during a campaign speech in Kampung Chempaka recently.

In response, Pua had written a statement demanding an apology from Chew, saying the allegations were defamatory and inaccurate.

“I deserve the right to pursue legal action for what she has said. She should apologise,” he said. “We will wait for her response.”

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Youtube Uploads Of The DJ Ceramah

In spite of the rain, the rakyat still came.

if you have taken or seen other ceramah videos, please leave the link on the comments page.


Ceramah Saturday - 1st March

Donate to DAP for PJ here.

8:00 pm

Damansara Utama
Restaurant Kiong Hing
55, SS21/1A
this is on the ground floor of the DAP Damansara office.
Tony Pua
Dr Cheah Wing Yin
Lau Weng San
Other speakers to be confirmed

Polling Agent and Counting Agent Training
There will be 3 sessions today
1. 3pm - Mandarin
2. 6pm - English
3. 8:30pm - English

We still need polling agents and counting agents.
If you can, come for the 6pm training [more parking space at that time], have your dinner in DU then go for the ceramah at 8pm.

Thank You