Archive for February 15th, 2012

15 February 2012

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“The Palestinian right to statehood remains the Arab people’s foremost cause.”

From WSJ
By ABDULLAH BIN HUSSEIN

Amman

A year has passed since the Arab Spring began to change our region, showing the determination of Arab men and women, especially youth. But a key issue remains unresolved: peace between Palestinians and Israelis. This month, in Amman, the parties sat across the negotiating table for the first time in 16 months. What message will the United States now send to them and to the people of the region?

I’ve heard it said that with all the regional change and uncertainty, there’s no point in restarting talks right now. This “wait-and-see” argument joins a long line of false excuses for why the parties can’t get negotiating. A changing region doesn’t preclude a settlement, it demands one. It is now, not tomorrow, that a settlement can show that political processes of negotiation and agreement can deliver what people want. It is now, not next year, that young people, Arab and otherwise, need to see the U.S., Europe and the rest of the democratic world mean what they say about justice for all.

Make no mistake about it: The Palestinian right to statehood and their cry for justice and a homeland free of occupation remain the Arab people’s foremost cause. In Jordan, the “final-status” issues—including borders, refugees, security and Jerusalem—are at the heart of our priorities. This means making real the promise of a viable, independent, sovereign Palestinian state, as part of a two-state agreement that resolves all final-status issues and guarantees security for Israel.

The two-state solution is supported by the U.S. and the rest of the Quartet (the European Union, the United Nations and Russia), and it is at the core of the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted unanimously by the 2002 Arab Summit in Beirut. Ours was an unequivocal statement of the Arab world’s commitment to a neighborhood of peace and acceptance, opening the way to a comprehensive settlement that would end the conflict, meet the Palestinians’ right to freedom and statehood, and give Israel acceptance and security. This Initiative was endorsed by the entire Muslim world—57 countries—and remains a cornerstone for peacemaking in the Middle East.

Yes, substantive negotiations are difficult. But what is difficult today may be next to impossible if we fail this time. In three months, the Arab Peace Initiative will have been on the table for 10 whole years. Meantime, Israel has continued to build settlements, particularly in Jerusalem, a flash point for global concern. Threats to holy sites, or efforts to change the city’s character by driving out Arab Muslim and Christian Jerusalemites, could stop peace for decades to come.

This coming spring, a new government will take office in Egypt. Momentous events are unfolding in countries such as Syria. People are raising questions about how they will be governed, and there is a feeling that everything hangs in the balance. In this environment, settling the region’s central conflict, a crisis in East-West relations for more than three generations, will show that the outside world can and will help us as we build a more just and optimistic future. It will place more weight on the balance in favor of moderation everywhere. If we stop trying, we leave our fates too much to chance, and leave the field to the extremists.

What is frustrating is that the components of a final agreement have been addressed in numerous rounds of negotiations over two decades. Still the parties, and by extension all of us, are failing to cross the finish line. This month’s launch of exploratory talks in Amman can now lead to substantive negotiations—first on borders and security, to resolve the issue of settlements once and for all, and then on remaining final-status issues. The Quartet has set a timeline to wrap up an agreement by the end of 2012. But it can’t happen unless we all build the environment for success. U.S. support is pivotal.

Across the entire Arab world, people are demanding freedom, dignity and hope. In Jordan we have charted our course through an irreversible, inclusive and evolutionary process of political, social and economic reform. Regional peace must be part of this future—for Palestinians, for Israelis, for all. There have been too many failed attempts. Can we all do it this time?

Abdullah II is king of Jordan.

15 February 2012

Pendapat

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DEMI RAKYAT

17 Februari 2012 (Jumaat)
1) 5.00 ptg – Hi-Tea di Felda Bukit Damar, Lancang

2) 7.30 mlm – Makan Malam di Restoran New Horizon, Kuantan

3) 9.00 – 12.00 malam – Ceramah Perdana 1 – Parlimen Paya Besar
Lokasi : PASTI Mahkota Aman, Batu 11, Jalan Gambang, Kuantan

4) 9.00 – 12.00 malam – Ceramah Perdana 2 – Parlimen Pekan
Lokasi : Markaz PAS, Kampong Mengkasar, Pekan

5) Penceramah :
i) YB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
ii) YB Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad
iii) YBhg Dato’ Fauzi Abdul Rahman
iv) YBhg Ustaz Suhaimi Saad

15 February 2012

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From VOA

Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, says he expects the Malaysian government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to call early elections within months despite one more year for the government’s term in office to run. Anwar says the opposition is pegging its hopes of winning control of the government, for the first time in six decades, on policies promoting economic reforms.

Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, is predicting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will hold elections within months, well ahead of the end of the goverment’s full term in office in March, 2013.

Anwar, speaking to reporters in Bangkok, pointed to recently announced government income support programs as a sign the governing coalition parties were preparing the people for a national vote.

“I would assume that the elections are just around the corner. We had a discussion among the opposition coalition yesterday – most of them are not too convinced that the election will be very soon. But I told them – and I think it will be much sooner than later. But it’s tough for us because the campaign period will be one week – the shortest in the world,” he said.

Prime Minister Najib, who came to office in mid-term in 2009, has triggered this speculation of early elections in recent months.

Former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has warned the ruling UMNO coalition to allow more time to boost support especially among the Chinese minority before holding elections.

Anwar said the opposition would be offering the people major economic reforms, including an end to programs that in the past led to affirmative action policies – known as the New Economic Policy – that provided the majority ethnic group, the Malays, with education, housing and employment preferences.

“So the [opposition] economic policy clearly states that we have to dismantle what we consider as obsolete race-based New Economic Policy to replace it with the Malaysian Economic Agenda which promotes growth, which has to bring back Malaysia into a growing vibrant economy, more competitive able to attract – as in attractive destination for investments,” he said.

Anwar said Malaysia had fallen behind on the regional economic ladder over the past 20 years as other countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and more recently the Philippines, captured a larger share of foreign investment, growth and competitiveness. He said if he won the election his government would also look to address corruption, assist the poor and the marginalized communities.

The governing United Malays National Organization – UMNO – which has led Malaysia since independence in 1957 has been facing increasing challenges from the opposition parties over recent years, especially in state elections.

Under Anwar the opposition made strong gains in national elections in 2008.

Anwar, a former finance minister under Prime Minister Mahathir, has faced a long political battle after he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption in 1999 and another nine years for charges of sodomy.

But a federal court in 2004 quashed the second conviction and he was released. In January this year the Court again acquitted Anwar on a second sodomy charge. The Malaysian prosecutors are appealing the verdict.

15 February 2012

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From Forbes

Recently acquitted in a controversial sodomy trial, Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim is again in hot water, this time over remarks supportive of Israel, a no-no for many of his Muslim voters. Both his allies and enemies have demanded that he retract his comments to the Wall Street Journal. This is yet another distraction ahead of possible elections later this year. As a former deputy prime minister, Anwar knows a thing or two about campaigning. He knows that the vote could make or break his multiracial opposition coalition, which won five out of 13 states in 2008 but faces a tough climb to pull off a federal parliamentary majority. Speaking Tuesday night at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Anwar said his coalition was anticipating a snap election in May or June. But his personal view was that it could come sooner. “I assume an election is just around the corner,” he said. He joked that he could read the mind of the ruling coalition. “I used to be one of them.”

Indeed, Anwar was a go-to guy for Western investors in the 1990s, before Malaysia’s miracle economy ran aground and bankers moved onto greener pastures. Ambitious Anwar was turfed out in 1998 by vengeful premier Mahathir Mohamad, who has used the latest controversy to smear Anwar as a trojan horse for Jewish and American interests. This is standard fare in Malaysia’s right-wing media, which hews closely to the government line and is either state-run or controlled by political parties. This is the same media in which the election campaign will be waged, though online news channels have replaced the mainstream media among wired youth. Yet television and radio remain popular in rural areas where key seats will be fought and won. “We’re talking about an election without any access to media,” Anwar complained.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who took power in 2009 and has struggled to revive Malaysia’s economic potential, has taken his own potshots at Anwar. Asked Tuesday about his policy on Malaysia’s lack of diplomatic relations with Israel, Anwar refused to answer directly, instead talking up reconciliation between Palestinian factions. “The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people must be respected. To my mind, this has not happened.” Last month he told the WSJ, “I support all efforts to support the security of the state of Israel.” Yes, that was the line that got him in trouble. Now the spiritual leader of the conservative Muslim party in Anwar’s coalition has demanded that he either retract his statement or sue the WSJ. Anwar joked repeatedly during his talk about being a ‘Jewish agent’, raising his eyebrows at the apparent absurdity.

However, he omitted to mention that he had used the same smear against Najib in 2010 over the hiring of public relations firm APCO, which Anwar called an Israeli front. He was censured by a parliamentary committee for remarks made at a press conference concerning APCO’s work for Najib. To critics, this is classic Anwar: serving up one message for an international audience and another for his Malay-Muslim base. Yet the notion of Anwar as a Jewish agent is risible. As he pointed out, he flew to Bangkok after spending three days in Qatar where he met representatives of Hamas and Fatah, amongst others. As a former Muslim youth leader inspired by Islamic revolution in Iran, Anwar has his ‘brotherhood’ bona fides.

Coincidentally he spoke in Bangkok on the day when a group of Iranians detonated explosives in what Israel has called a failed terrorist plot against its diplomats. Southeast Asia may seem remote from the sectarian and geopolitical tensions of the Middle East, but its politics and security can’t be separated from the wider world. Should Israel bring the fight to Iran, more ripples can be expected. And more Malaysian politicking.

15 February 2012

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From Reuters

A scandal centred on cows and luxury condos raises the chances that Malaysian elections will be delayed and highlights Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stuttering efforts to reform the corruption-prone Southeast Asian nation.

“Cowgate,” as it has inevitably been dubbed, is providing rich fodder for the opposition as it digs up dirt on a publicly funded cattle-rearing project that it says was used as a personal fund for the family of one of Najib’s ministers.

It is not the first corruption scandal to hit Najib and his long-ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), but the farmyard connection makes it a potentially damaging one because rural Malays – the bedrock of UMNO’s support – may relate to it more easily than to more obscure financial matters.

“The cow issue is God-given,” Zuraida Kamaruddin, the head of the women’s wing of the opposition People’s Justice Party, told Reuters following a speech at a recent rally, which she punctuated with the occasional “moo” for comic effect.

“This time we have real evidence that proves their mismanagement.”

The family of Women, Families and Communities Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil is accused of using 250 million ringgit ($83 million) in soft government loans meant to develop the cattle project to buy luxury apartments, expensive overseas trips and a Mercedes.

Meanwhile, the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project was found by the auditor-general to have done little to reach its initial goal of making the country 40 percent self-sufficient in beef production by 2010.

Najib last month froze the assets of the NFC, which is under investigation by Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission. With fresh allegations appearing almost daily on the country’s lively Internet news sites, the scandal adds to growing temptations for him to delay elections that must be called by April 2013.

The 58-year-old son of a former prime minister had been expected to call the polls around April, before a looming global slowdown risked hurting Malaysia’s trade-dependent economy.

But with the U.S. economy showing signs of recovery and the euro zone not yet imploding, he may feel he can wait and hope for the scandal to blow over while recent government handouts to poorer families take effect.

Gross domestic product figures out on Wednesday are expected to show Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy slowed in the last quarter of 2011 but still grew at a brisk annual pace of 5 percent.

The risk for Najib is that the scandal could balloon further or set off other allegations of graft, implicating other members of his government and giving a further boost to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar was acquitted on sodomy charges last month, leaving him free to campaign.

The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition is expected to hold on to its parliamentary majority after historic gains by the opposition in 2008. But the NFC scandal adds to the difficulty Najib faces in recapturing the coalition’s once impregnable two-thirds majority and winning a mandate to keep up with his tentative reforms.

That could set off an internal power struggle, with many expecting Najib’s more conservative, less reform-minded deputy Muhyiddin Yassin to launch a bid for the UMNO leadership.

“There are people within UMNO who don’t want any change at all,” said a Kuala-Lumpur-based fund manager who asked not to be identified. “If Muhyiddin comes in … he’s an old fashioned sort of politician and the market won’t react well.”

FADING REFORMS

Malaysia, once mentioned in the same breath as South Korea and Singapore as an Asian “tiger” economy, has mostly disappointed since the region’s financial crisis of 1997 as it struggles to revamp an economy centred on commodities and low-end manufacturing. Corruption has worsened, with the country sliding to 60th in Transparency International’s global ranking of graft perceptions last year compared to 33rd in 2002.

Najib has reached out to Malaysia’s middle class as a reformer, promising to replace repressive security laws and wean the country off a race-based economic system that has alleviated poverty but increasingly stunted growth, fuelled corruption and turned off foreign investors.

But he has watered down or backtracked on many of his key pledges, encountering opposition from within UMNO and its network of corporate interests that benefit from the system of ethnic Malay privileges.

Najib announced a significant overhaul of the system in 2010 named the New Economic Model (NEM), most of which has not been implemented.

“The NEM is not only dead but has also been effectively buried under a new avalanche of preferential policies and contracts that run against the open, transparent and accountable system promised,” said Lim Teck Ghee, the director of Malaysia’s Centre for Policy Initiatives.

Cowgate is a gift for critics who say little has changed on Najib’s watch since 2009 other than the rhetoric.

In the first major red flag over its operations, the auditor-general said in a report last year that the NFC had failed to set up a network of satellite farms and produced less than half of its target of 8,000 head of cattle by 2010.

Whistleblowers, the opposition and Malaysia’s irreverent blogosphere then took up the baton. The opposition has cited accounting and property documents, the authenticity of which has not been disputed, showing that around 62 million ringgit was spent by family members on — among other things — several up-scale apartments in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, land and a $180,000 Mercedes.

The NFCorp company that runs the centre is undeniably a family affair, which critics say epitomizes the cozy relations between UMNO and well-connected families and businesses. Its chairman is Mohamad Salleh Ismail, Shahrizat’s husband, and all three of their children are directors.

Shahrizat has denied any personal wrongdoing and has filed a defamation suit against two opposition members, including Zuraida. Wan Shahinur Izmir Salleh, Shahrizat’s son and NFCorp’s chief executive, has said the company was allowed to use the loan at its discretion and that the properties were bought to earn rental income.

Even some UMNO members are not convinced by the explanation, however, and have called on Shahrizat to quit. Influential former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has added his voice to calls for her dismissal.

“It looks ugly,” said Shahrir Abdul Samad, an UMNO member of parliament for the southern state of Johor and a former cabinet minister. “This was an opportunity for him (Najib) to show he could handle a crisis.”

15 February 2012

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Malaysiakini

Jawatankuasa Pilihan Parlimen (PSC) mengenai pembaharuan sistem pilihan raya di negara ini dimaklumkan bahawa semakan audit yang dijalankan ke atas daftar pemilih mendedahkan wujudnya jumlah amat besar pengundi yang meragukan.

Mimos Bhd, sebuah syarikat teknologi milik penuh kerajaan yang membuat semakan audit itu pada taklimatnya kepada PSC berkata terdapat kira-kira 200,000 pengundi yang mencurigakan.

Menurut ahli PSC Anthony Loke (kiri), taklimat telah diberikan oleh Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif Mimos, Abdul Wahab Abdullah semasa mesyuarat dua jam, semalam.

Turut hadir semasa mesyuarat dan taklimat berkenaan adalah pengerusi PSC Datuk Seri Maximus Johnity Ongkili.

Loke berkata Mimos pada taklimatnya memberitahu pihaknya mengesan 820 kes di mana terdapat lebih daripada 100 pengundi yang menetap di alamat yang sama.

“Selain itu, kami mendapati 1,259 kes di mana antara 51-100 pengundi tinggal di alamat yang sama, 3,254 kes di mana terdapat antara 21-50 pengundi tinggal di alamat sama, dan 6,002 kes yang melibatkan antara 11 hingga 20 pengundi di rumah sama.

“Tempat-tempat ini termasuk kem tentera,” katanya kepada Malaysiakini.

Turut dipertikaikan adalah alamat yang mencurigakan di mana pengundi didaftar dengan alamat yang tidak lengkap ataupun tidak sah. Sebagai contoh, katanya: “Tiada alamat atau rumah 62, Lembah Pantai dan E6, Seputeh”. (more…)

15 February 2012

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Malaysiakini

Kerajaan BN tidak pernah memberi sokongan secara konsisten terhadap perjuangan Palestin tetapi sebaliknya dasar negara selama ini sebenarnya berkiblatkan dasar Amerika Syarikat dan Israel terhadap negara itu, kata Setiausaha Agung PKR, Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

Sehungan itu, beliau membidas Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, yang sebelum ini mendakwa ketua pembangkang Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim “bersifat talam dua muka” kerana menyatakan sokongannya terhadap usaha-usaha melindungi keselamatan Israel.

“Apakah Najib perlu diingatkan bagaimana layanan kerajaan Malaysia terhadap pemimpin negara Palestin yang sah dipilih secara demokrasi pada pilihanraya 25 Jan 2006?” soalnya dalam satu kenyataan media, lewat malam tadi.

Sebagai dalilnya, Saifuddin Nasution berkata Malaysia pada Mei 2006 telah menjadi tuan rumah Persidangan Negara-negara Berkecuali (NAM) tetapi anehnya kehadiran Dr Mahmoud Al Zahar selaku Menteri Luar sah kerajaan Palestin yang dilantik oleh Perdana Menteri Ismail Haniyeh telah dibelakangkan.

Sebaliknya, menurut beliau Putrajaya mengiktiraf Farouk Qadummi iaitu bekas Menteri Luar Palestin (sewaktu kerajaan Fatah sebelum pilihan raya 25 Januari 2006). Malah, pada persidangan tersebut Qadummi dijemput berucap sebagai wakil rasmi kerajaan Palestin.

“Hal ini tidak sukar difahami kerana PM Ismail Haniyeh dan Dr Mahmoud ALZahar adalah pemimpin Palestin yang mewakili Hamas yang pada kacamata Amerika Syarikat dan Israel adalah satu kumpulan pengganas.

“Hakikat bahawa Hamas menang pilihanraya secara bebas dan demokratik tidak sama sekali mengubah pendirian Amerika Syarikat dan Israel terhadap Hamas yang telah berjaya membentuk kerajaan Palestin yang sah.

“Amerika Syarikat dan Israel tidak mengiktiraf kerajaan Palestin pimpinan Hamas. Adalah menjadi pengetahuan umum Amerika Syarikat dan Israel lebih bersikap lunak terhadap kumpulan Fatah yang tewas pilihanraya,” katanya.

Pulaukan NAM

Menurut Saifuddin Nasution lagi, Dr Zahar yang kecewa dengan layanan Malaysia kemudiannya memulau persidangan NAM tersebut.

Beliau kemudiannya menemui pimpinan PAS termasuk timbalan presiden ketika itu Nasaruddin Mat Isa. Dr Zahar turut mengutuk tindakan kerajaan BN itu kerana menjemput Qaddoumi dan menganggap keputusan itu sebagai sesuatu yang tidak dapat diterima oleh kerajaan Palestin.

Malahan, kata beliau, Nasaruddin pula kemudian mengeluarkan kenyataan mengecam kerajaan Malaysia sebagai ‘biadap’

“Insiden tersebut memberikan bukti jelas bagaimana tidak konsistennya dasar kerajaan Malaysia terhadap Palestin. Insiden ini menjadi bukti bahawa dasar luar Malaysia terhadap Palestin sebenarnya berkiblatkan dasar Amerika Syarikat dan Israel terhadap Palestin.

“Insiden ini mengesahkan Kerajaan Malaysia tidak dapat membezakan antara kerajaan sah yang dipilih oleh rakyat Palestin dengan pemimpin Palestin yang ditolak dan tewas dalam pilihan raya.

“Hanya kerana Amerika Syarikat dan Israel tidak mengiktiraf kerajaan Palestin pimpinan Hamas pada ketika itu maka Malaysia juga akur. Bukankah fakta ini dengan sendirinya menolak kenyataan Najib sebaliknya mengesahkan bahawa dasar kerajaan Malaysia terhadap Palestin sebenarnya tidak konsisten?” soalnya.

Najib semalam diminta mengulas kekecewaan dan kebimbangan Perdana Menteri Palestin Ismail Haniyeh yang disampaikan ketika pertemuannya dengan Nasharuddin, selaku Pengerusi Pentadbiran Yayasan al-Quds Malaysia di Kuwait, baru-baru ini berhubung kenyataan Anwar mengenai Israel itu.

Pendirian berbeza

Menurut beliau ketua umum PKR itu sering membuat pendirian berbeza terhadap pendengar yang berlainan dalam isu.

Anwar, sebelum ini pada wawancaranya dengan majalah Wall Street Journal (WSJ) dilaporkan berkata beliau menyokong usaha menjaga keselamatan Israel. Pada masa yang sama, pada wawancara itu, Anwar turut menegaskan bahawa kepentingan sah rakyat Palestin juga mesti dilindungi.

Kenyataannya itu mengundang rasa tidak senang pelbagai pihak termasuk Majlis Syura Ulama PAS yang juga selari dengan pendirian parti itu supaya tidak mengiktiraf negara Israel dan mahu Anwar menarik balik kenyataannya itu ataupun menyaman majalah itu jika laporan berkenaan adalah tidak benar.

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