20 February 2014

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Huffington Post

Most democracies achieve political legitimacy from a popular perception of effective and upright governance. Malaysia’s self-described “best democracy in the world” is looking increasingly tarnished these days, following the recent election and return to power of its long-ruling Barisan National party. As President Obama plans a long awaited trip to Malaysia in April he should be aware of the toxic mix of racial politics being fomented by the Malaysian ruling party.

Despite losing the popular vote, the BN triumphed again in the country’s 2013 elections, disappointing a growing opposition that had high hopes after a strong performance in 2008. The entrenched political hierarchy, instead of being humbled by its near defeat, is attempting to strengthen its hold on the country and its institutions, ignoring the need for change. Its autocratic insistence on adhering to past practices of repression, racism, corruption and cronyism have led observers to qualify its system of government as semi, quasi or limited democracy.

In the latest World Press Freedom index, Malaysia has hit an historic low, ranking 147 out of 180 countries, reflecting the government’s increased repression of media freedoms by suspending publications that dare to criticize the Prime Minister, denying licenses to media outlets, censoring publications and restricting access to information.

The declining popularity of the Naijib Razak government is reflected in the increasing popularity of Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Rakyat coalition which is calling for ending the erosion of democracy in Malaysia. The fact that Ibrahim’s party won the popular vote is an indication that the current electoral system is due for reform based on the principle of popular sovereignty, not on the basis of a selective franchise. In Malaysia all votes are not equal, with the apportionment of seats to states not based on their populations, with the result that rural votes have more weight than urban votes.

Restoring public confidence in the Electoral Commission and election process will be crucial to a healthy and mature democracy that will be responsive to the interests of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. The BN insists that Malaysia is a democracy simply because it has had regular elections with the latest being the 13th instance of electing a government by the ballot box. But democracy demands more than just elections. Protection of civil liberties and political rights, the freedom of the press and the right to assemble, checks and balances, transparency and accountability are all as important as process.

In the complex plural society of Malaysia, with its highly educated generation of young people, it is therefore inexplicable that the government should recently choose to inflame religious tensions by forbidding Malaysian Christians from using the word “Allah.”

About 2.6 million Malaysians are Christians and have long complained about discriminatory policies that favor Muslim Malays. The Prime Minister glibly praises Malaysia as a multi-ethnic melting pot, yet fails to protect the rights of minorities to worship as they see fit. The ban on Christians using the word Allah — which has been in Malay translations of the Bible for 400 years — is seen to be pandering to extremists from a right-wing fringe of the ruling party. Several independent United Nations human rights spokesmen have called on the Malaysian government to rescind the ban and secure the right to freedom of expression of Christian publications, instead of exacerbating tensions within religious minorities in the country.

The controversy is a symptom of a deeper unease as the country is becoming increasingly polarized along ethnic and religious lines. Instead of building the idea of a Malaysian nationality, the present government seems to have retreated into divide and rule divisive sectarian politics. In contrast, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim advocates a common identity based on universal citizenship and his message of inclusive and pluralist democracy has a particular resonance at a time when Malaysia is struggling to live up to its legacy as a pluralistic and open society.

Anwar Ibrahim recently announced he would be contesting for a state assembly seat in Selangor, Malaysia’s most prosperous and ethnically diverse state. Many believe once elected he may assume the position of Chief Minister, giving him a platform on which to resolve some of these contentious issues and confront the racially charged rhetoric emanating from the ruling party. If he does succeed in the upcoming election instead of headlines reading “Death of Democracy in Malaysia,” we will begin to see a resurgence of optimism as the underlying shift in political attitudes in Selangor bring about a renaissance for democracy in the nation.

20 February 2014

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Perkembangan Pelik di Kajang, SPR Harus Minimakan Ruang Manipulasi

Satu perkembangan yang pelik telah berlaku di sekitar Kajang apabila pasukan pemantauan Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) telah mengesan beberapa bas persiaran menurunkan warga asing di hadapan KTM Kajang pagi ini.

Apakah ianya satu kebetulan apabila ribuan warga asing dipercayai warga Myanmar hadir ke Kajang dengan beg besar seolah-olah baru masuk ke negara melalui KLIA.

Dalam perkembangan yang sama, adakah kehadiran warga asing ini turut berkaitan dengan kelewatan melampau tarikh pilihanraya kecil yang jatuh pada akhir Mac dengan alasan yang tidak masuk akal?

SAMM tidak menolak kemungkinan kelewatan tarikh PRK ada kaitan, demi persiapan lebih rapi untuk penipuan pilihanraya kecil N25. Usaha SPR untuk menggunakan senarai pemilih yang baru (Mac 2014) juga agak meragukan.

SAMM turut menggesa supaya SPR meminimakan ruang-ruang manipulasi antaranya dalam soal jumlah pengundi awal yang begitu ramai.

Menjadi persoalan, mengapa SPR menggunakan petugas dari pengundi DUN Kajang? Mengapa tidak SPR memanggil petugas dari sekitar Bangi, Semenyih dan Cheras untuk menjadi petugas pilihanraya?

Jika SPR memanggil pengundi Kajang sebagai petugas maka ia membuka ruang manipulasi dengan peningkatan besar jumlah pengundi awal. Ini sepatutnya boleh dielakkan.

Sebagai sebuah badan yang tercalar teruk menafikan demokrasi dalam PRU lalu, SPR harusnya terarah untuk menjadi lebih bersih bagi mengembalikan keyakinan orang ramai. Namun pemerhatian SAMM setakat ini, SPR tetap tidak berubah dan tidak punya usaha yang nyata untuk perbaiki kelemahan. SPR terus diperkudakan pemerintah.

Sebelum ini SAMM telah mendesak pihak SPR memperinci anggaran perbelanjaan RM1.6 juta untuk PRK Kajang yang disifatkan agak tinggi. Ia ekoran operasi SPR yang kerap menggunakan orang tengah dalam pelbagai urusan secara tidak langsung berlaku ketirisan dan pembaziran.

Akhir sekali, SAMM menyeru kepada orang ramai dan semua aktivis demokrasi agar turun ke Kajang untuk memastikan pilihanraya kecil kali ini berlangsung dengan bersih dan adil. Harus diingat, Inilah ‘turning point’ bagi pihak Barisan Nasional maka tidak mustahil penipuan terbesar dalam sejarah bakal berlaku di Kajang.

Sekian,

che’GuBard
Pengasas
Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM)

19 February 2014

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Program Bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim di N25 DUN KAJANG

19 – 23 FEBRUARI 2014

19 FEBRUARI 2014 – RABU

1) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah & Pelancaran Jentera

Lokasi : Lot 688 Kg Sg Sekamat, Batu 13, Jln Cheras, Kajang (3.017248,101.782159)

21 FEBRUARI 2014 – JUMAAT

1) 1.00 tghari – Solat Jumaat

Lokasi: Surau Saujana Impian, Kajang (3.007895,101.788328) (selepas Tesco Kajang)

2) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Pentas AMK bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim dan Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang

Lokasi : Tapak Pasar Malam, Taman Delima, Batu 13 Jalan Cheras, Kajang (3.012727,101.779011)

22 FEBRUARI 2014 – SABTU

1) 8.00 – 12.00 mlm – Santai Bersama Komuniti India & Pelancaran Jentera

Lokasi : No 1, Jalan 1, Taman Kajang Baru, Sg Jerlok, Kajang (2.995884,101.806029)

2) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Pelancaran Jentera DM Sg Kantan dan Ceramah Perdana

Lokasi: Pusat Komuniti Kg Sg Kantan (berdekatan padang permainan) (2.994813,101.793992)

23 FEBRUARI 2014 – AHAD

1) 10.00 pagi – Kuliah Dhuha

Lokasi: Pondok Zakaria, Kampong Batu 10 Jalan Cheras, Kajang (berdekatan kompleks penghulu) ((3.058903,101.777685) )

2) 1.00 – 2.30 ptg – Santai Bersama Komuniti India

Lokasi: Bersebelahan Kuil Mariamman, Taman Delima, Batu 13 Jalan Cheras, Kajang (3.018663,101.778705)

3) 3.00 ptg – Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim bersama teman-teman lama

Lokasi : Kolej Darul Hikmah, Sg Ramal, Kajang (2.974156,101.76025)

4) 5.00 – 7.00 ptg – Sepetang Bersama Anak Muda, Raikan Perlawanan Futsal

Lokasi : Padang Futsal Kg Bkt Dukong, Kajang (exit Sg Sekamat)

5) 7.30 mlm – Solat Maghrib dan Interaksi Bersama Jemaah

Lokasi: Akan dimaklumkan

6) 8.30 -11.00 mlm – Pelancaran Jentera PRK Komuniti Cina

Lokasi: Taman Berjaya, Sungai Chua, Kajang (pusat komuniti) (2.983467,101.779112)

7) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Pelancaran Jentera DM Kota Cheras dan Ceramah Perdana

Lokasi: Padang Surau Nurul Aman, Taman Damai Jaya, Cheras (3.061839,101.767321)

PEJABAT DATO’ SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM

19 February 2014

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The New York Times

SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.

The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.

One reason is the anti-intellectualism in American life, the kind that led Rick Santorum to scold President Obama as “a snob” for wanting more kids to go to college, or that led congressional Republicans to denounce spending on social science research. Yet it’s not just that America has marginalized some of its sharpest minds. They have also marginalized themselves.

“All the disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public,” notes Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and now the president of the New America Foundation.

There are plenty of exceptions, of course, including in economics, history and some sciences, in professional schools like law and business, and, above all, in schools of public policy; for that matter, we have a law professor in the White House. But, over all, there are, I think, fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.

A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away.

“Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research,” said Will McCants, a Middle East specialist at the Brookings Institution. “This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine qua non for academic success is peer-reviewed publications, then academics who ‘waste their time’ writing for the masses will be penalized.”

The latest attempt by academia to wall itself off from the world came when the executive council of the prestigious International Studies Association proposed that its publication editors be barred from having personal blogs. The association might as well scream: We want our scholars to be less influential!

A related problem is that academics seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals — or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep readers at a distance.

Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian who writes for The New Yorker and is an exception to everything said here, noted the result: “a great, heaping mountain of exquisite knowledge surrounded by a vast moat of dreadful prose.”

As experiments, scholars have periodically submitted meaningless gibberish to scholarly journals — only to have the nonsense respectfully published.

My onetime love, political science, is a particular offender and seems to be trying, in terms of practical impact, to commit suicide.

“Political science Ph.D.’s often aren’t prepared to do real-world analysis,” says Ian Bremmer, a Stanford political science Ph.D. who runs the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, one-fifth of articles in The American Political Science Review focused on policy prescriptions; at last count, the share was down to 0.3 percent.

Universities have retreated from area studies, so we have specialists in international theory who know little that is practical about the world. After the Arab Spring, a study by the Stimson Center looked back at whether various sectors had foreseen the possibility of upheavals. It found that scholars were among the most oblivious — partly because they relied upon quantitative models or theoretical constructs that had been useless in predicting unrest.

Many academic disciplines also reduce their influence by neglecting political diversity. Sociology, for example, should be central to so many national issues, but it is so dominated by the left that it is instinctively dismissed by the right.

In contrast, economics is a rare academic field with a significant Republican presence, and that helps tether economic debates to real-world debates. That may be one reason, along with empiricism and rigor, why economists (including my colleague in columny, Paul Krugman) shape debates on issues from health care to education.

Professors today have a growing number of tools available to educate the public, from online courses to blogs to social media. Yet academics have been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, it was TED Talks by nonscholars that made lectures fun to watch (but I owe a shout-out to the Teaching Company’s lectures, which have enlivened our family’s car rides).

I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!

19 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

The Kajang by-election has triggered a crapshoot.

With something like three weeks to go to nomination day, the campaign is already awash in the hogwash that tells you the silly season’s here – earlier than usual.

By now we well know that any contest in which the stakes are high and PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim is involved tends to attract mad hatters, like moths to flame.

It’s not that Anwar is a contributor to the crap; it’s just that he’s so unfailing a cause for the emission of the drivel that tells you the madding season has begun.

Presently, the most prolific peddler of poppycork is former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Even at an age that is supposed to bring on a mellow equanimity, the scent of Anwar can be counted on to make the octogenarian Mahathir’s nostrils twitch, like a tapir’s when browsing for food.

As gleefully as a hog after truffles, the former prime minister the past few weeks has dug up every unthinking cliché about Anwar for regurgitation without aid of the rhetorical contrivances that can render the jaded the gleam of wit.

Anwar, the agent of America; Anwar, the sly dodger of court action; Anwar, the PM-aspirant who’s barely MB material; Anwar, the sexual deviant but pretender to Islamic rectitude; Anwar, the justice exponent but hidden repressor of liberty; Anwar, the apparent meritocrat but latent promoter of nepotism; Anwar, the bogus financial czar and tool of the IMF and World Bank; Anwar, the public Islamist but covert Jew lover, and so on and so forth.

The range of these defamations must want to make Anwar say with the poet Walt Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I’m large, I contain multitudes.”

But the only multitudes that matter these days are the ones that turn up for his stumps on the election circuit.

From Permatang Pauh to Pasir Gudang, from Kajang to Kota Kinabalu, the attendances at the opposition leader’s ceramah have not receded. And this is what appears to give his adversaries sleeplessness.

Anwar’s decision to go for a seat in the Selangor legislature has given his ally turned adversary Mahathir the insomnia that can cause memory loss.

Echoing Liow

Last week, Mahathir, taking the cue from MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, blamed Anwar for Operation Lallang.

Operation Lallang, launched in October 1987, involved the detention of over 100 politicians and social activists and the banning of several newspapers in what has come to be regarded as one of the darkest chapters of Malaysian history.

Anwar was education minister at the time while Mahathir was both prime minister and home affairs minister.

Mahathir has previously tried to dodge responsibility for that episode by claiming that it was the police who had insisted on the repression, conveniently forgetting that the Internal Security Act only allowed for detentions under the signature of the home minister.

If Mahathir’s disclaimer of responsibility is taken at face value, then it meant that at the time of ISA arrests, Malaysia was a police state, not a parliamentary democracy.

With regards to Operation Lallang, Anwar’s links extended only to the fact that his ministry was responsible for the placement of non-Mandarin speaking personnel in government-aided Chinese schools.

The decision led to protest demonstrations by Chinese educationists. Umno Youth responded with a menacing display of chauvinism. Tensions ran high and the government reacted with a spate of detentions and newspaper bans.

Last week, newly elected MCA chief Liow, in his first foray into Kajang, which seat is likely to be contested by his party, reminded Chinese voters that it was Anwar’s actions that had led to Operation Lallang.

Mahathir, 88, promptly seconded Liow’s view until Anwar countered by saying that he was in charge of the education portfolio and not home affairs under whose imprimatur the ISA arrests occurred.

Under pressure from DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, who was the opposition leader in 1987 and who tartly reminded Mahathir that he had signed the detentions orders as home minister, the ex-PM admitted responsibility, citing advanced age for his memory lapses.

However, a retentive memory for old canards was at work when Mahathir, pressing the attack against Anwar, trotted out all the hoary old charges against his nemesis, from western tool to latent sexual predator.

He sounded like a stuck record, spinning endlessly in the grooves of a discredited past.

This is what gives Mahathir and his ilk goose pimples: while their target, Anwar, is taken up with what to do about the future, they are reflexively fixated on the past.

That is why, for the latter, the Kajang by-election is a crapshoot while for their adversary it is the signpost to a better future – for Selangorians, at least.

19 February 2014

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TMI

Maka ramailah orang memperleceh Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, kerana dia percaya imigresen Jepun dipengaruhi oleh anasir pro-BN atau pro-Najib sehingga menyekatnya masuk ke negara itu.

Dia terpaksa balik bodoh sahaja ke tanah air.

Mungkin justeru kes fitnah yang dikenakan kepadanya menyebabkan kerajaan Jepun melarangnya masuk.

Dia ke Jepun untuk bercakap tentang Islam dan demokrasi yang dikendalikan oleh NGO Jepun sendiri.

Sejak dia keluar daripada sekolah Sungai Buloh, sudah beberapa kali dia masuk ke Jepun, tiada apa-apa sekatan.

Sebelum pecah isu Kajang ini pula, dia dilarang masuk, dan kerajaan Jepun gagal memberi alasan.

Apabila dia mengesyaki anasir tertentu dari negara ini mempengaruhi Jepun, ramailah jurubodek Umno dan kerajaan Najib mempelupuh Anwar sebagai orang yang gelojoh mempolitikkan apa saja demi kepentingannya dan politiknya.

Bagi mereka, Anwar adalah orang yang paling tidak berguna, dan logiknya geng anti-Anwar itulah wargenegara kita yang paling berguna, paling benar dan tiada cacat.

Tentulah Jepun ada alasan kukuh untuk melarang Anwar masuk.

Anwar sekadar menyatakan bahawa Jepun tidak pernah antinya dan merasa ajaib apabila tiba-tiba dilarang masuk.

Tentulah pihak tertentu di Jepun terkeliru.

Tiba-tiba datang orang dari Jepun yang berkaitan dengan jemputan ke atas Anwar itu meminta maaf kepada Anwar atas tindakan imigresen Jepun yang dikiranya memalukan Jepun dan rakyat Jepun.

Tindakan kerajaan Jepun itu dibantah oleh orang Jepun.

Lalu mereka menganjurkan satu majlis lain, meminta Anwar jangan serik untuk ke Jepun lagi.

Mereka meminta Anwar memberi jaminan akan hadir juga pada tarikh yang mereka tetapkan itu, dan Anwar pun bersetuju untuk ke Jepun semula.

Apa terjadi kepada tempelak konco anti-Anwar tadi?

Dalam kes di imigresen Jepun ini, Anwar dimalukan dan menjadi mangsa penindasan.

Penindas jelasnya ialah imigresen Jepun.

Masyarakat Jepun malu menjadi pihak yang menindas dan bangun membela sesiapa saja yang dirasakan ditindas dan tidak diberi layanan yang adil.

Dalam kes Anwar ini, rakyat Jepun mengeluarkan belanja datang ke Kuala Lumpur, meminta maaf kepada Anwar.

Habis duit mereka untuk menebus malu itu. Tiada apa ertinya duit dibandingkan rasa malu dan jati diri.

Apakah bagi orang Malaysia, kejadian ke atas rakyatnya bukan satu penindasan dan tidakkah ia sengaja memberi malu kepada rakyat kita?

Jika Malaysia sebuah negara bermaruah dan rakyatnya merdeka dan bermaruah, maka ia tidak akan benarkan sesiapa dengan sesenang itu memalukan rakyatnya.

Jangankan ketua pembangkang di Parlimen dimalukan, hatta seorang Orang Asli yang tidak pernah bersekolah dan tidak tahu memakai kasut pun jika dimalukan, maka bangsa yang bermaruah mesti mengutuk penindasan dan tidak menafikan keadilan.

Itulah bezanya Jepun dengan orang kita yang separuh masak maruahnya. Jepun benci kepada penindasan, sekalipun terhadap orang asing.

Tetapi ada orang di Malaysia bukan sahaja tidak peka kepada keadilan dan penindasan, suka pula Anwar ditindas.

Adalah benar Anwar banyak menyusahkan Perdana Menteri dan kerajaan Malaysia.

Dia penentang ulung Umno dan BN, tetapi bukankah dia rakyat kita dan ketua pembangkang yang diiktiraf oleh Parlimen?

Ketua pembangkang adalah Perdana Menteri menunggu. Maka suka pula rakyatnya ditindas.

Mungkin kerajaan tidak terasa untuk membelanya, kerana itu adalah masalahnya.

Tetapi janganlah jadi bangsa yang setuju kepada penindasan, sekalipun terhadap orang yang kita benci.

Apa yang terjadi adalah, rakyat Jepun mengajar kerajaannya dan jangan kata ia tidak mengajar maruah rakyat Malaysia yang separuh masak!

18 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

The BN “remains the main enemy” in the Kajang by-election even though Zaid Ibrahim has decided to join the fray as an independent candidate.

Expressing this view at a press conference today, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim said he does not underestimate the strength of the BN in the contest for the state seat on March 23.

“I think the issue is the enormous machinery, funds and (use of the) media by the BN,” he said.

“I think we have to be realistic enough to … accept the fact that, once they announce the candidate, the BN will go full fledged into a massive campaign and we would have to deal with it.”

Anwar, who will be contesting in the by-election, added Zaid had a right to contest according to democratic practices and it was up to the people of Kajang to decide.

However, Anwar questioned the apparent flip-flopping by Zaid (right) who had initially supported him to become the next Selangor Menteri Besar.

“I read two weeks ago he supported me to become menteri besar then two weeks after that, he now does not support me to become a state assemblyperson.

“How to become menteri besar without first becoming a state assemblyperson?

“He is a lawyer, perhaps he can answer, ask him,” said Anwar.

Zaid, who last Sunday announced his candidacy, said a vote for him would be a vote to retain the current Selangor Menter Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.

Since then, netizens have highlighted Zaid’s contradictory stances, pointing a posting he made on Twitter on Feb 2 which read: “Anwar Ibrahim made the right decision to become menteri besar. The tiger must face a lion only then the rakyat will be comfortable”.

Anwar had in recent weeks hinted he may replace Abdul Khalid as the state’s new chief executive but has to date refused to clearly confirm the matter.

Sudden entry

Yesterday, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution questioned whether Zaid was being proxy for Umno with his sudden entry into the contest.

The remarks appear to have piqued Zaid, who lashed out at Anwar on Twitter.

“PKR’s Saifuddin (right) says Umno is behind me, that I am a plant. That’s trademark Anwar. Always humiliate your opponent. Truth is, I am not (a plant).

“Anwar behaves like he is invincible and can walk on water. But he knows Kajang is different. He can ridicule me but he is scared!” Zaid said in a series of postings.

However, Anwar brushed aside the criticism, saying that he would not be so busy in Kajang if he was being overconfident.

“I never said I am invincible or overconfident or otherwise I won’t be seen there day after day.

“In politics, we cannot make assumptions that people will support us without engaging them.

“So I accept the criticism and in several dialogues and speeches I have responded when clarification is asked,” he said.

On BN’s side, the seat is traditionally contested by MCA but the federal ruling coalition has yet to announce its candidate.

Nomination day for the Kajang by-election is set for March 11 while polling day is fixed for March 23.

18 February 2014

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TMI

The number of Malaysians declared bankrupt last year is expected to exceed 20,000 as the rising cost of living and hikes in prices of goods and services put a strain on spending, said Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic).

Citing statistics from the Insolvency Department, the opposition leader revealed that 16,306 people, or an average of 1,812 a month, were declared bankrupt in the first nine months of last year.

In the same period, more than 27,432 bankrupt petitions were filed in the courts.

In contrast, 19,575 people, or an average of 1,631 people a month, were declared bankrupt in 2012.

“It is clear that the average number of monthly bankruptcies from January to September last year is 11% higher than the same period in 2012.

“I anticipate when the full data for 2012 is published, over 20,000 bankruptcy cases will be reported due to the increase in the price of goods and cost of living,” Anwar said at a press conference at the PKR headquarters today.

The Insolvency Department is expected to release the additional data from October to December 2013 next month.

Anwar said data from the Central Bank also showed that banks had disbursed a “record number” of personal and credit card loans last year amounting to RM139 billion, compared with RM124 billion last year and RM67 billion in 2006.

He also noted of the total bankruptcies reported in 2012, 48.4% were Malays, 33.2% Chinese and 14.1% Indians.

He expressed shock that 21% or 4,100 of them were below the age of 34 years and that failure to make timely repayment for cars, housing and credit card loans were among the purported reasons for the bankruptcies.

“Most Malaysians, especially Malays, are faced with financial hardship due to the escalating rise in living costs compared with the rise in incomes.

“As a result, they were forced to supplement their daily expenses either through personal loans or credit cards, which then exposes them to the risk of bankruptcy due to the higher interest rates offered by these loans,” he said.

Malaysians are struggling with rising cost of goods and services after Putrajaya cut subsidies for petrol and sugar as part of its subsidy rationalisation programme to tackle the government’s chronic budget deficit.

Many people participated in a New Year’s Eve rally at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur to protest against the price hikes. Following widespread unhappiness over the rising cost of goods and services, Putrajaya announced early this year it had formed a cabinet committee to address the issue.

18 February 2014

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The Nation

In Tunisia, secularists and Islamists produced a landmark constitution — without Western interference.

Tunisians have shattered the dogma that citizens of the Arab world must either accept a secular authoritarian status quo or submit to Islamist authoritarian rule.

When Tunisians rose up in peaceful protest from December 2010 to January 2011 to oust former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, they inspired Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians to take to the streets against their own autocratic leaders. None of the uprisings in any of those countries have ended in anything resembling democracy. Even in Egypt, the country whose path has most closely followed Tunisia’s, the secular/Islamist divide has led to bloodshed and trauma.

But in Tunisia, politicians with vastly different agendas managed to come together to approve a new constitution, with 200 out of 216 votes, on January 26.

“To avoid violence, Islamists should be integrated into the political system. The policy of eliminating and ignoring the Other has never been effective,” says Mohamed Bennour, a spokesman for the social-democratic Ettakatol party, which went into coalition with the Islamists. “A large part of [the Islamist party] Ennahda rejects the Other, but so do many members of the secularist parties.”

The new Constitution is not secularist, but neither does it impose an Islamist state. It combines many of the progressive values of the previous regime with more democratic rights and freedoms. The right to free healthcare and free education is guaranteed. Equality between the sexes is preserved; the legal system will not be derived from Sharia; torture is outlawed; and there’s a greater separation of powers than in the past. As far as religion is concerned, the Constitution remains ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations, but that was the price of consensus. Many battles have been left to fight another day.

“I think so far we succeeded to find this common ground between Islamists and secularists,” says Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Ennahda party. “We have to look for a marriage between the two models.”

The birth of Tunisia’s democratic republic was all the more symbolic in that it occurred in the very same week that Egypt lurched ever further into military dictatorship, with the army giving its blessing to Field Marshal Abdul-Fatteh el-Sisi’s likely presidential bid.

“I think this sends a very powerful message,” says Rory McCarthy, a doctoral candidate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, regarding the new Constitution. McCarthy, who is researching Islamist activism in Tunisia, adds: “Particularly when violence and instability have gripped the other Arab Spring countries.”

Tunisia’s exceptional success is at least partly attributable to the fact that it has never drawn the same degree of attention from the outside world as most other countries in the region. While the uprisings in Libya and Syria were quickly internationalized, Tunisia’s uprising and subsequent political transition have been overwhelmingly organic. The small North African nation has neither vast amounts of oil or gas, nor a shared border with Israel. Multinational oil executives were not working behind the scenes to better mold the contours of the new republic to suit their own interests. “I think the West has shown incredible double standards in the way it’s said it has tried to promote democracy in the Middle East,” McCarthy observes.

Two other significant factors easing Tunisia’s metamorphosis to democracy have been its deep history of progressivism and its strong institutions. Though the founder of the post-independence republic, President Habib Bourguiba, was no democrat, his development model allowed for the emergence of a sizable educated middle class that is arguably one of the preconditions for democracy. Women’s rights likewise took a great leap forward with Bourguiba’s 1956 Code of Personal Status, and those gains have been consolidated this time around, with some additions. For example, gender parity in Parliament is enshrined in the new Constitution, meaning Tunisian women—conservatives and liberals alike—will continue to play a larger role in political life than in most Western countries.

Bourguiba also had the foresight to keep the military small and well away from politics, a tradition that has been mostly respected. While Egyptian citizens have been conditioned to regard the military as their savior, Tunisians praised their army for its neutrality in the chaos of early 2011.

Tunisia broke decisively with the strongman-led police state of the country’s past in large part thanks to the work of the civilian commission that drafted the road map for the first stage of the transition. Political scientist Alfred Stepan of Columbia University has described the 2011 commission led by legal expert Yadh Ben Achour as “one of the most effective consensus-building bodies in the history of ‘crafted’ democratic transitions.”

* * *

The transition has not been without serious, even wrenching tensions. When two Tunisian secularist parties agreed to an alliance with the Ennahda party after the October 2011 elections for Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly, many denounced them as traitors. The troika brought together Ennahda, which had won just over 40 percent of the seats, with Mustafar Ben Jaafar’s Ettakatol party and the Congress Party for the Republic (CPR), founded by Moncef Marzouki. What followed were two of the most politically jarring years in Tunisia’s post-independence history.

While the Ennaha party was able to retain all of its MPs, its coalition partners shed members frustrated by the subordinate role their parties played within the alliance. The CPR started with twenty-nine MPs; today it has only eleven. The Ettakatol party fared slightly better, losing seven out of twenty seats.

The much-maligned troika finally had its moment in the sun on January 27, when outgoing Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, a member of the Ennahda party, was joined by his secularist allies, Speaker Ben Jaafar and President Marzouki, to put their three signatures to the new Constitution.

The mood in the Assembly was one of shared victory. After more than two years of conflict, frustration and sometimes ridiculous moments, the Assembly finally had something to be proud of. Marzouki, who has often been derided for his political awkwardness, was looking particularly cheerful as he gave the V-for-victory sign after signing.

“Those who called us traitors are in the process of reconsidering their analysis,” Bennour says. He notes that joining the alliance was a difficult choice, but it has been crucial to “saving democracy,” in his words, paving the way for a consensus by helping keep dialogue open. At the same time, the troika’s political opponents played an undeniable role in shaping the final document, waging a lengthy power struggle to win major concessions.

“The troika is finished—it’s a mess,” says Mongi Rahoui, head of the leftist Popular Front. Like many secularists, he criticizes the troika for using the Ben Ali–era system of patronage to its own advantage rather than reforming it. There were many accusations of interference in the judiciary; magistrates protested an attempt by Ennahda MPs to pass legislation they perceived as undermining judicial independence. The opposition argued that the government was firing regional governors to replace them with appointees based on their loyalty to the movement, just as Ben Ali had done.

The troika also mishandled the ongoing social unrest in the volatile marginalized regions, with key figures in the Ennahda party accusing union leaders and leftist activists of manipulating strikes and protests to wage what they disparaged as a “counterrevolution.” Tensions were high throughout 2012, rising even more after security forces violently suppressed protests over social injustice in the northern town of Siliana in November 2012.

The anti-government anger erupted after the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a grassroots leader and lawyer, on February 6, 2013, outside his home in Tunis. A radical secular leftist, Belaid had been a fierce critic of the Islamists and was at the forefront of the uprising against Ben Ali. The killing led to some of the biggest nationwide protests in the country’s history, with demonstrators calling on the troika to step down.

As a result, the first Ennahda prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, did resign. When the party’s Ali Larayedh, who had been interior minister in Jebali’s government, became the new prime minister, it was perceived as a further provocation by many in the opposition. Larayedh had clashed publicly with Belaid in the months leading up to his death and was seen as having been responsible for the violence in Siliana.

An even deeper political crisis was triggered by a second assassination on July 25, 2013, this time of opposition MP and Arab nationalist Mohamed Brahmi. The troika, the opposition argued, was clinging to power that it no longer legitimately held. The Ennahda party, meanwhile, heavily influenced by the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, derided the protest movement as a plot to force it from office.

But Rahoui, one of the most outspoken secularist MPs, explains that the opposition was able to win important concessions in the Constitution only thanks to its decision to take the battle outside the Assembly. The final version was improved in several respects compared with a draft from June 2013, he says: judicial independence and freedom of speech were reinforced; accusing someone of apostasy was outlawed; and changes were made to the structure of the constitutional court. “It’s true that the power was tilted in favor of the fundamentalists, but the democratic forces were able to unite, little by little,” Rahoui says. “We were able to change the Constitution to one that reflects the diversity of Tunisian society and is an expression of Tunisia’s pluralism.”

* * *

Today, excitement over the constitution is tempered by economic hardship. Newly acquired political freedoms are widely perceived as having come at the price of economic stability and security. Unemployment has risen from 13 percent in 2011 to 15.7 percent by late 2013, and ordinary Tunisians are also hurting from rising food prices. “Tunisia is in a grave crisis, and the Constituent Assembly is one of the causes,” says Beji Caid Essebsi, who served as interim prime minister in the months leading up to the 2011 elections. Essebsi argues that the Islamists’ coalition partners failed to use their full clout to make the Ennahda party stay within the limitations of the mandate it had won.

But others stress the ground that Ennahda has been willing to cede—even when faced with resistance from its own base. Ghannouchi, the Islamist leader, is credited with having overcome opposition within his own movement to the process of national dialogue. “Now the vast majority of Ennahda are satisfied with the concessions made by the leaders of Ennahda, but in the beginning this satisfaction was not very widespread,” Ghannouchi says. The Ennahda leader’s political astuteness allowed him to build support within his party for a process some other prominent Islamists condemned as caving in unnecessarily to secularist pressure.

“[Ghannouchi] has members who are less reasonable,” Essebsi acknowledges. “I think that now he has gained control over things.”

Yet the differences within Ennahda persist. McCarthy cites several examples of dissension during January’s debates over constitutional amendments. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the most conservative Islamist MPs oppose democracy, he adds: “I think Ennahda regards democracy as a guarantee—a way to prevent another wave of repression, as we saw under Ben Ali in the 1990s and 2000s.”

With the Constitution’s passage seeming to mark at least a temporary détente between Islamists and secularists over questions of national identity, many Tunisians are hoping their politicians will now begin to address the social inequalities that sparked the uprising in the first place.

18 February 2014

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PRESS STATEMENT

18 FEBRUARY 2014

Peningkatan Jumlah Muflis dan Pinjaman Peribadi, Manifestasi Kesempitan Hidup Rakyat

Statistik Jabatan Insolvensi Malaysia terkini menunjukkan bahawa semenjak bulan Januari hingga September 2013, seramai 16,306 orang telah diisytiharkan muflis atau purata 1,812 orang setiap bulan. Pada tempoh yang sama juga, sebanyak 27,432 petisyen kebankrapan telah difailkan di mahkamah. Statistik selebihnya, iaitu untuk Oktober hingga Disember 2013 bakal dikeluarkan pihak Jabatan sekitar bulan Mac 2014 nanti.

Pada tahun 2012, sejumlah 19,575 orang telah diisytiharkan muflis atau purata sebanyak 1,631 orang telah muflis setiap bulan sepanjang 2012. Jelas, kadar purata bilangan muflis bulanan pada Januari hingga September 2013 sebanyak 1,812 adalah 11% lebih tinggi berbanding kadar purata bulanan 2012 sebanyak 1,631. Sekiranya data untuk keseluruhan 2013 dikeluarkan nanti, saya menjangkakan bahawa lebih daripada 20,000 kes muflis akan dilaporkan untuk 2013 akibat kenaikan harga barang dan kos sara hidup, kesan daripada pengurangan subsidi.

Fenomena muflis ini bukan sahaja tertumpu kepada Semenanjung Malaysia, bahkan telah menular ke seluruh negara, terutama sekali di kawasan bandar. Merujuk kepada kenyataan akhbar (Utusan Malaysia 2 Disember 2014), Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Hjh Nancy Shukri; Kuching, Miri dan Sibu, masing-masing telah mencatatkan sebanyak 6,925 , 4,058 dan 2,557 kes-kes muflis.

Statistik Jabatan Insolvensi Malaysia untuk 2012 juga menyebut bahawa daripada jumlah muflis tersebut, 48.4% adalah berbangsa Melayu, 33.2% Cina dan 14.1% India. Mengejutkan juga bahawa sebanyak 4,100 (21%) adalah berumur di bawah 34 tahun. Antara penyebab utama muflis yang dilaporkan adalah kegagalan membayar pinjaman kenderaan, perumahan dan kad kredit.

Angka Bank Negara juga menyatakan bahawa pada tahun 2013, bank-bank di Malaysia telah mencatatkan jumlah tertinggi (semenjak 2006) untuk pinjaman peribadi dan kad kredit iaitu pada jumlah RM 139 billion berbanding RM 124 billion (2012) dan RM 67 billion (2006).

Boleh dirumuskan bahawa rakyat terbanyak, terutama sekali bangsa Melayu, sedang berhadapan dengan kesempitan kewangan akibat kadar kenaikan kos sara hidup yang lebih tinggi daripada kadar kenaikan pendapatan. Akibatnya, rakyat terpaksa menampung perbelanjaan harian samada melalui penambahan pinjaman peribadi ataupun kad kredit yang akhirnya mendedahkan mereka kepada risiko untuk menjadi muflis kerana terdedah kepada kadar faedah yang tinggi.

Penambahan pinjaman sebegini adalah disebakan oleh penyusutan pendapatan lebihan akibat kenaikan kos sara hidup dan bukannya semata-mata disebabkan oleh kegagalan rakyat menguruskan kewangan peribadi.

TUJUH KEUTAMAAN SETEMPAT KAJANG YANG BAKAL DIBERI PERHATIAN KHUSUS

Saya berpeluang mendekati penduduk di Kajang sejak beberapa minggu lalu untuk mendengar sendiri masalah dan harapan mereka. KEADILAN juga telah membuat satu kajiselidik dengan pengundi berdaftar di Kajang untuk mengenalpasti isu-isu setempat yang wajar mendapat pembelaan.

Saya berpuashati bila mana maklumbalas yang saya dapati semasa bersua muka dengan penduduk disahkan oleh kajiselidik yang dijalankan.

Dapatan utama dari pengalaman saya berinteraksi dengan penduduk menunjukkan bahawa tiga perkara utama yang memerlukan perhatian segera di Kajang adalah soal keselamatan penduduk akibat jenayah yang makin meningkat, masalah kesesakan trafik dan soal kebersihan setempat serta kesihatan.

Ini bertepatan dengan kajiselidik yang menyenaraikan keutamaan isu-isu setempat seperti berikut (% menunjukkan jumlah responden yang bersetuju ia isu yang paling utama untuk diberi perhatian):

1. Keselamatan dan jenayah – 42%

2. Kesesakan trafik – 38%

3. Pengurusan sampah dan kebersihan – 30%

4. Masalah sosial – 20%

5. Bantuan kepada keluarga berpendapatan rendah – 16%

6. Pengurusan gerai penjaja dan peniaga kecil – 12%

7. Perkhidmatan Majlis Perbandaran Kajang – 11%

Saya akan terus mendekati penduduk Kajang untuk berbincang mengenai harapan dan kaedah yang boleh digunakan untuk menyelesaikan isu setempat ini. Saya yakin bahawa jalan yang terbaik ialah dengan melibatkan masyarakat setempat dengan memberdayakan mereka menguruskan hal ehwal masyarakat setempat.

Saya juga telah berbincang dengan Institut Rakyat supaya satu kajian perbandingan khusus dibuat serta merta untuk mengkaji amalan terbaik (best practices) yang digunapakai di tempat-tempat lain dalam menangani beberapa masalah yang perlu diberikan keutamaan di Kajang. Hasil dari kajian itu akan dibentangkan dan dibincangkan bersama penduduk supaya kita dapat menggembleng tenaga semua pihak untuk menjadikan Kajang selamat, bersih dan lancar.

Sudah tentu isu-isu nasional yang mendesak seperti kenaikan harga barang, peluang pekerjaan, perumahan yang diluar kemampuan rakyat dan gaji yang tidak meningkat memerlukan pembelaan berterusan.

Saya berharap usaha yang berterusan untuk menyelesaikan tujuh keutamaan setempat yang saya gariskan akan melonjakkan Kajang sebagai salah sebuah bandar satelit terbaik di negara ini.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

18 February 2014

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TMI

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim says his former mentor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was afraid of him becoming Selangor menteri besar.

“It seems that everything is Anwar’s fault. Ops Lalang is also my fault even though the prime mminister at the time was Dr Mahathir, not me,” said Anwar at a ceramah last night in Taman Impian Murni, Kajang.

Anwar was a deputy prime minister from 1993 until his sacking in 1998 over allegations of sodomy and corruption. The former finance minister once had a close relationship with Dr Mahathir that turned sour over disagreements at how best to run the country.

Eventually, Anwar turned from Dr Mahathir’s staunch ally to his greatest critic.

“If this is not enough, now suddenly I am said to be pro-United States. He also tries to pit PAS and PKR, too. All this is proof that he is afraid that I may become the Selangor menteri besar,” he said hours after the country’s longest prime minister had suggested yesterday that Anwar was an American stooge.

Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia would suffer the same fate as Middle Eastern countries which were now pro-US after undergoing “regime changes”.

“If you want a pro-US government here, vote for Anwar,” he told reporters yesterday morning.

Last week, Dr Mahathir had suggested that Anwar played a “key role” in the Ops Lalang security crackdown of 1987 by virtue of being a member of the administration.

Last night, during his hour-long ceramah, Anwar said Dr Mahathir could anticipate that Pakatan Rakyat’s charge to Putrajaya had gone up several notches with his expected presence in the Selangor administration.

Although the crowd was small, Anwar dazzled them as he had been doing since he started stumping for the Kajang seat.

Anwar drew laughter when he introduced himself as the “TV3 and RTM’s number one star”.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, who also spoke earlier at the ceramah, said Dr Mahathir was doing his best to stoke distrust among the Pakatan Rakyat allies.

He said it was odd that the former prime minister was “suddenly concerned about Selangor PAS’s situation in the state even though the Islamist party had been a victim during Dr Mahathir’s time in government”.

“This is Dr Mahathir’s dirty tactic, Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) like to get PKR, PAS and DAP to fight. Since when was he ever interested in PAS’s wellbeing?”

Khalid said PAS would not be swayed by Dr Mahathir and Umno’s tactics.

“PAS will support Anwar in Selangor. We will continue to be his friend,” he said.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, PKR Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin, deputy Selangor speaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, PKR Kuala Langat MP Abdullah Sani and DAP Kepong MP Tan Seng Giaw also spoke at the ceramah.

The Kajang by-election is being called following the surprise resignation by PKR’s Lee Chin Cheh.

The unforced resignation has fuelled talk that Anwar plans to join the state assembly for the purpose of removing current Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim from office.

The Election Commission has set March 23 as polling date for the Kajang by-election, the country’s third since the general election last May.

16 February 2014

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Program Bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim di N25 DUN KAJANG

16 – 23 FEBRUARI 2014

16 FEBRUARI 2014 – AHAD

1) 12.00 Tghari – Ramah Mesra Bersama Komuniti Kristian Kajang

Lokasi : Dewan Gereja Holy Family, Jalan Gereja, Kajang

17 FEBRUARI 2014 – ISNIN

1) 5.00 – 7.00 ptg – Sepetang Bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Rumah YB Dr Norlela Ariffin (Lot 11351, Jln Melor 3, Fasa 3, Sungai Kantan Kajang), Kg. Sungai Kantan, Kajang

2) 7.30 – Solat Maghrib dan Interaksi bersama Jemaah

Lokasi: Surau An Nur, Taman Indah, Sungai Jerlok, Kajang

3) 8.00 – 12.00 – Sambutan Tahun Baru Cina Wanita DAP Kebangsaan

Lokasi: Gelanggang Bola Keranjang, Kg. Sungai Chua, Kajang

4) 9.00 – 12.00 malam – Ceramah Perdana

Lokasi: Padang Pusat Komuniti Kg Sg Kantan, Kajang

19 FEBRUARI 2014 – RABU

1) 7.30 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah & Pelancaran Bilik Gerakan DAP

Lokasi : Taman Kota Cheras, Batu 9 Jalan Cheras, Kajang

2) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah & Pelancaran Bilik Gerakan

Lokasi : Kg. Sungai Sekamat

21 FEBRUARI 2014 – JUMAAT

1) 1.00 tghari – Solat Jumaat – Surau Saujana Impian, Kajang

2) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Pentas AMK bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim dan Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang

Lokasi : Tapak Pasar Malam, Taman Delima, Batu 13 Jalan Cheras, Kajang

22 FEBRUARI 2014 – SABTU

1) 8.00 – 11.00 mlm – Santai Bersama Komuniti India & Pelancaran Jentera

Lokasi : Taman Kajang Baru, Sungai Jerlok, Kajang

2) 8.00 – 11.00 mlm – Forum Maulidul Rasul

Lokasi: Sekolah Agama Raudhatul Ilmi, Taman Kantan Permai, Kajang

3) 9.00-12.00 mlm – Ceramah Perdana

Lokasi: Kg. Sungai Kantan, Kajang

23 FEBRUARI 2014 – AHAD

1) 10.00 pagi – Kuliah Dhuha –

Lokasi: Pondok Zakaria, Kampong Batu 10 Jalan Cheras, Kajang

2) 1.00 – 2.30 ptg – Santai Bersama Komuniti India

Lokasi: Bersebelahan Kuil Mariamman,
Taman Delima, Batu 13 Jalan Cheras, Kajang

3) 5.00 – 7.00 ptg – Santai Bersama Penyokong Bolasepak Selangor

Lokasi : Perkarangan Stadium Kajang

4) 7.30 mlm – Solat & Tazkirah Maghrib

Lokasi : Akan di maklumkan kemudian

5) 8.30 -11.00 mlm – Pelancaran Jentera PRK Komuniti Cina

Lokasi: Taman Berjaya, Sungai Chua, Kajang

6) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah Perdana

Lokasi: Taman Kota Cheras, Batu 9 Jalan Cheras, Kajang

PEJABAT DATO’ SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM

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