BY FARISH A. NOOR
OVER the past few months Malaysia has witnessed a number of popular demonstrations over the rise in prices of highway tolls.
What has angered many ordinary Malaysians, however, was the recent revelation that the Malaysian government had signed an agreement with a Malaysian company, Linkaran Trans Kota, marking yet another toll concession between the government and a private company. As highway toll prices skyrocket all over the country, the average Malaysian consumer now finds himself increasingly constrained by rising costs of everyday goods and services. Moreover, thousands of Malaysians today are forced to commute from the various satellite townships that dot the urban landscape of the country to get to work in their offices in the cities. Yet on January 1, the toll rates on five of the country’s major highways were raised from between 30 to 70 per cent, infuriating many. As such, a rise of toll prices would invariably affect thousands of ordinary Malaysians whose consumption power has been reduced as a result.
Malaysia is threatening to end free trade talks with the United States if it is asked to break an energy development deal with Iran.
A US legislator has raised concerns about Malaysia’s $16bn (£8bn) deal to develop Iranian gas fields and build liquefied natural gas plants there.
The US is Malaysia’s biggest trading partner and free trade talks between them began in June last year.
Malaysia’s prime minister says he will not bow to pressure from Washington.
The United States assured Malaysia on Wednesday it was not trying to dismantle the Asian country’s affirmative-action policies that favor ethnic Malays as part of the countries’ free-trade negotiations.But the United States was seeking greater transparency in Malaysia’s government procurement to try to reach a free-trade agreement (FTA), Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
The majority of Malaysia’s population are ethnic Malays. They provide the bedrock of the ruling party’s hold on power and a large share of government contracts are reserved for them.
The following is a translation of Turkey’s Hurriyet Newspaper :
Malaysian Prime Minister here to see his boat
17 Dec 2006
Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmed Badawi arrived in Bodrum yesterday to see his boat which he ordered four months ago. Badawi arrived in Bodrum at 1.30 am with a private jet that belongs to Malaysia Airlines.
The head official of Milas, Bahattin Atci, and Malaysian businessman Ananda Krishnan, who is the sixth richest man in Asia, welcomed Badawi. Kamil Sezgun, who is the director of Kobra Yachting and Tourism Ltd Co, was also present.
Badawi and his friend Krishan went to Gokova for fishing with a luxury motor yacht belonging to Kremala Holding, which was brought over here from Malta. The luxury yacht “Obsessions” is 40-meter long, made in the Netherlands and the captain of the yacht is Cavit Kabak. The yacht was anchored in Milta Marina.
Badawi said he loves Bodrum and south Aegean and the Mediterranean so much. It’s a great pleasure for him to be here fishing and resting on the line (horizon) that connects blue and green (ocean and land).
The boat will cost 8 million dollars
The boat is made of Akaju, Maun, Sipo and Brimanya’s tree which is imported from South Africa. It is expected to be completed in 16 months. Some 60 people are involved in the construction of the boat. The boat will be delivered after 12 months (since he ordered it four months ago). The capacity of the boat is for 14 people and the length is 44 meters. The boat will cost 8 million US dollars.
The Prime Minister’s threat, reported in the New Straits Times on Jan 10, contradicts his promise to uphold an open, transparent and accountable government. His latest threat to take action against whistleblowers casts doubt on the sincerity of his call to the people to tell him the truth.
The public has a right to know the content of the agreement between the government and highway builder LITRAK. The government, as the trustee of tax payers’ money should recognize, and not criminalize, this right.
Little access to information and poor explanations from the government only aggravate public dissatisfaction. The lack of transparency can also decrease people’s faith that the government is acting in the public interest, rather than in particular or sectoral interests.
We urge the Prime Minister to immediately make public all the highway concession agreements and translate his pledge of transparency to people by enacting a Freedom of Information Act, through a parliamentary select committee to review all media-related legislations.
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)
Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS)
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
For more information please call FOI Coordinator Yi Xing at 03 4023 0772
Opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday questioned the integrity of Malaysia’s purchase of Russian warplanes, and asked the police and the anti-corruption agency to probe the deal.
Malaysia ordered 18 Sukhoi SU-30MK planes in 2003, the first of which was originally due for delivery in 2006. Malaysia has yet to receive the aircraft.
The $900-million deal includes a plan to put a Malaysian astronaut into space and palm oil sales to Russia.
IMT Defence Sdn Bhd, a privately held Malaysian firm headed by former cabinet minister Mohd Adib Adam, was the agent for the deal, local media have reported.
The role of Mohamad Adib surfaced in March 2005 after a director of the company filed a legal suit to prevent his dismissal.
Mohammed Zainuri Mohammed Idrus claimed he was being sacked to prevent him from exposing the details of the Sukhoi deal.
Anwar, former deputy prime minister until he was arrested in September 1998 and thrown in jail after he challenged then premier Mahathir Mohamad, said IMT was set to receive $108 million, or 12 percent of the purchase price, as commission.
Anwar claimed he has evidence to prove commissions were paid, but said he could not disclose it.
“Why do we see a pattern of questionable agents being appointed in procurement deals worth billions of ringgit by the Ministry of Defence?” he asked.
“Ultimately, we want to know: Who are the real beneficiaries of these dubious defence deals,” he told a news conference.
IMT officials were not immediately available for comment. A press secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also the Defence Minister, said he had no immediate comments.
Anwar said appointing an agent in such deals was uncommon in Malaysia.
“Normally, in major contracts or procurement of weapons or military hardware, it’s either government-to-government or between the government and the manufacturer,” he said.
Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Agency director of investigation Mohd Shukri Abdull was attending a meeting and was not immediately available.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came to power three years ago on an anti-corruption platform, but Anwar said the incidence of graft was only increasing.
“All the small issues are dealt with in the media but the big ones, there is an effort to cover them up. This is worrying and questions the integrity of the government,” he said.
In his other allegation, Anwar said the central Bank Negara had lost 33.8 billion ringgit in forex speculation from 1989-1993, but that it managed to recoup 2.5 billion ringgit in 1990.
Malaysians ‘mudah lupa’ (forget easily) that is all I can say.It would be dangerous for the opposition to latch on to Dr Mahathir Mohamad purely because he opposes the government. We must ask why he is opposing the government – is it because he wants to make Malaysia more democratic? Is it because he wants to make the police force more professional? Is it because he wants the judiciary to be independent? Is it because he believes in equality for all Malaysians? Continue reading
Malaysia’s only ethnic Chinese chief minister has a political headache — the state he governs is too much of an economic success.The northern state of Penang, Asia’s first Silicon Valley, is the country’s biggest magnet for foreign direct investment this year and has its lowest poverty rate, the envy of other states.
But for Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon, there is a racial tinge to the envy surrounding Penang, a state where ethnic Chinese form a very slim majority in a country dominated by majority Malays.