Monday, April 14, 2014

'Crisis Brings Out The Best In Hisham', Sunday Star, 13 April 2014

'5 Tahun Kepimpinan Najib', Pena DrSiva, Utusan Malaysia, 10 April 2014

'Analysts Claim Alliances Can Split Party', The Rakyat Post, 11 April 2014


PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has announced he is teaming up with party vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar and PKR strategist Rafizi Ramli for the party elections.

By Sean Augustin
Forming alliances in the run-up to party elections could worsen the internal schism in the party, political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said, although PKR rejects the theory.
The Universiti Sains Malaysia professor said that it would have a negative impact on the party in the long run.
“It won’t solve the bickering, unless PKR comes together after the elections,” he told The Rakyat Post.
Sivamurugan was commenting on outgoing PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail’s announcement that he was teaming up with vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar and PKR strategist Rafizi Ramli for the party elections.
PKR had been plagued with stories about Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali being at odds with each other.
Some quarters have claimed that the bickering led to the “Kajang Move” which would have seen de facto leader Anwar replace Abdul Khalid after the Kajang state seat was vacated.
Anwar, was however, barred from contesting after the Court of Appeal overturned his acquittal earlier last month for sodomising his aide in 2008.
Anwar’s wife, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail subsequently replaced him as candidate and won the Kajang by-election.
Sivamurugan, however, said even if the divide in the party grew wider due to alliances formed, it would not be similar to what happened to Umno in 1987 which saw ‘Team A’ and ‘Team B’ created during its election and even led to a court case.
This was because unlike PKR, he explained, the factionalism in Umno came from the top.
Fellow political analyst Professor James Chin, meanwhile, pointed out that camps in political parties were a natural phenomenon and factions were something that could not be gotten rid of.
“It would still be there regardless of the announcement made.”
Chin said the reason Saifuddin made such an announcement was merely to inform supporters.
PKR Deputy Secretary-General Darell Leiking, meanwhile, said while it might look like a form of factionalism, it did not mean the party was divided.
With the party practising a one man, one vote system, the Penampang Member of Parliament explained that it was natural for people who felt that they could work together to form a group.
“It’s like in a classroom where you would have different cliques, but you would unite when competing with another classroom.”
He added that once the dust had settled after the election the “disappointed” and “exalted” sides would converge to face the Barisan Nasional.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Is Hishammuddin Hussein, Voice Of Malaysia On Flight MH370, Headed For The Top?', South China Morning Post, 30 March 2014


After a brush with death and addressing world's media on flight MH370, Hishammuddin Hussein's personal journey may yet take a dramatic turn
Illustration: Craig StephensWhen Malaysia Airlines flight 370 went missing, the country's defence minister and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, may have recalled his own brush with death.
Just last year, a helicopter he and his family were travelling in toppled over onto its side after landing at a site in Kuala Lumpur.
Strong winds were blamed. No one was hurt, but the incident left the minister dazed.
The 52-year-old would surely have never imagined that almost a year later, he would be behind efforts to co-ordinate more than two dozen nations to crack the biggest mystery in modern aviation history.
Hishammuddin has also become the face of Malaysia to the international media.
When the Boeing 777 went missing on March 8, Prime Minister Najib Razak initially turned to civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, an unknown civil servant, to hold the fort.
But after a series of blunders, the former air traffic controller was promptly replaced by Hishammuddin as the man to handle the intense global scrutiny at the daily press conference.
It was no easy task. Information about the flight and its possible fate came at a snail's pace and to make things worse, some of the statements were soon after retracted, leading to confusion and contradiction.
This fanned the flames of anger in Beijing - two-thirds of the passengers on the flight were Chinese nationals.
And all this took place under the relentless gaze of the modern 24-hour news operation and its incessant demand for information.
But as talking heads on television channels and angry relatives continued to attack the credibility of Hishammuddin and Malaysia over their jittery handling of the crisis, there could be a surprising twist in the tale.
Despite the controversies, the saga may unwittingly provide the extra impetus Hishammuddin needs to become the next prime minister of Malaysia, Southeast Asia's third-largest economy.
"If all these relentless foreign [media] attacks persist, Malaysian people may indeed rally around him as a reaction," said Oh Ei Sun, who was political secretary to Najib when he became prime minister in 2009.
"Domestically, it has actually enhanced his credentials as most locals perceive him as doing reasonably well under very tough circumstances."
Local reporters covering Hishammuddin's daily press conferences emphatically say there isn't anyone else in the Malaysian cabinet who could do a better job of handling the crisis. One of them, who works for a popular newspaper, said: "If you have met any of our other ministers, you will know why. Najib is the only one that can maybe do equally well, but probably not better."
And it's not just the Malaysian media that holds this view. A taxi driver, who wanted to be known only as Tan, said: "The government here is no good and there is always a lot of corruption.
"But Hishammuddin is not corrupt and he isn't embarrassing Malaysia on television. He is doing his best, I can see."
Malaysians are also favourably comparing Hishammuddin's handling of the MH370 crisis with his previous poor performance dealing with the country's biggest security threat of recent times, when a group of armed Filipino rebels who claimed allegiance to its former rulers invaded Sabah last year claiming the Malaysian state belonged to them.
"He wasn't good and there was much criticism from locals back then," said Sivamurugan Pandian, of the School of Social Sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia.
"Now he's so much different and it's true that most Malaysians feel he is doing a good job."
Oh, who worked for Najib for two years, explained why there is an apparent dichotomy in terms of foreign and local perceptions of how Hishammuddin is handling the flight crisis.
"I think this is mainly because the foreign media is more used to confronting specialists who know the subject matter by heart and not politicians who depend on prior briefings, especially when it comes to press conferences. The local media, on the other hand, are mostly used to 'reporting' and not 'critiquing'.
"The local audiences are also more easy going [so] they might think what Hishammuddin has been doing is adequate enough," said Oh, now a senior fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
Hishammuddin's tilt at the premiership is still far from assured. Even though he beat the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad last October to become one of the three vice-presidents in the dominant party in Malaysia's ruling coalition, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), it will take more than just popularity to become prime minister.
"Umno politics is not so much about being popular. It is about clever distribution of largesse to various interest groups in Umno, which in turn would usher in political support," said Oh.
"So far, it appears that his [rivals] are doing quite well on that score."
But Malaysia is no stranger to producing surprising political results. In the early 1970s Mahathir Mohamad didn't attract very favourable odds as a prime ministerial contender. He went on to hold the post for 22 years from 1981, making him Malaysia longest serving premier.
Pundits also thought it was unlikely that Abdullah Badawi would one day become the leader of the country before his six years as premier from 2003.
However, Hishammuddin has his fair share of controversial baggage that's weighing him down. In 2005, he waved a keris ( a Malay sword and symbol of Malay nationalism) while giving a speech at the Umno assembly. This angered the Chinese and Indian communities in the country who saw the gesture as a form of racial politics.
Then in 2009, when a Hindu temple was to be relocated to a Muslim majority area, some Muslims protested by marching with the severed head of a cow, a sacred animal in Hinduism.
Hishammuddin - the then the interior minister - defended the actions of the protesters.
Yet Hishammuddin does have a lot going for him on the political legacy front.
The social-media savvy minister, who recently quoted US hip hop musician Puff Daddy's lyrics on Twitter, is a cousin and close ally of Najib. His grandfather, Onn Jaafar, founded Umno and his father, Hussein Onn, was prime minister.
If that isn't enough to propel him to the political elite, he is also married to a princess from the state of Pahang.
Oh said: "Like Najib, whose father [Abdul Razak Hussein] was also a prime minister, Hishammuddin too is imbued with a sense of purpose of stepping into his dad's shoes as prime minister.
"But unlike cool-headed Najib, Hishammuddin has a more impetuous temperament. Like most shrewd politicians, if need be, he could get things done quickly."
Glimpses of his impatience have surfaced at the daily flight MH370 press conferences, but they have been rare. Even when asked silly questions, he has answered with good humour.
During a particularly enthusiastic media scrum, a calm Hishammuddin said to the crowd: "Guys, if you are going to behave like this, then you are going to get nasty visuals beamed all over the world. And then you are going to blame Malaysian officials for that. That is not fair."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Kenapa PKR Gagal Hilangkan Deposit Calon BN?', Free Malaysia Today, 27 Mac 2014


 | March 27, 2014 FMT
Dalam mana-mana PRK, bukan mudah untuk menghilangkan wang deposit (calon lawan)
Chew Mei FunPETALING JAYA:  Kejayaan PKR dalam pilihan raya kecil (PRK) kerusi Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Kajang sudah dijangkakan namun kegagalan mereka untuk meningkatkan majoriti undi menarik perhatian ramai pihak.
Walaupun calon yang diletakkan PKR ialah presidennya sendiri iaitu Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, namun kemenangan mereka ini tidak besar mana ertinya kerana undi kaum Cina, walaupun hanya sekitar 7%, telah kembali kepada Barisan Nasional (BN) – MCA.
Apatah lagi, Lee Chin Cheh, penyandang jawatan ADUN Kajang yang melepaskan jawatan pada 27 Jan lalu, memenangi kerusi tersebut dalam Pilihan Raya Umum-13 (PRU13) Mei lalu dengan majoriti 6,824 undi, jumlah yang agak besar jika difikirkan apabila dia menang dalam pertandingan enam penjuru ketika itu,
Untuk rekod, Wan Azizah terpaksa dipertaruhkan PKR setelah penasihat parti tersebut Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim hilang kelayakan untuk bertanding ekoran didapati bersalah oleh Mahkamah Rayuan pada 7 Mac kerana didapati meliwat bekas pembantunya Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan pada 2008 lalu dan dikenakan hukuman penjara lima tahun.
Chin Cheh melepaskan jawatan untuk memberi laluan kepada Anwar dalam strategi yang digelar ‘Langkah Kajang’ yang direncanakan oleh pengarah strategi parti, Rafizi Ramli.
Langkah Kajang itu, jelas Rafizi, merupakan usaha untuk mengukuhkan pentadbiran parti dalam negeri terkaya di Malaysia tersebut dan untuk menjadikannya batu loncatan Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ke Putrajaya, selain daripada usaha menangkis isu perkauman dan agama yang didakwa dimainkan oleh Umno dan sekutunya bagi melemahkan pentadbiran PR di Selangor.
Langkah Kajang ini juga dikatakan bertujuan untuk menggantikan tempat Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim dengan Anwar, kerana dikatakan sering membelakangi parti dalam membuat keputusan. Malahan Anwar sendiri memberi bayangan perkara itu akan terjadi.
Walaupun menerima tamparan besar apabila Anwar hilang kelayakan untuk bertanding, namun jika dihitung hari dari tarikh perletakkan jawatan Chin Cheh dan hari pengundian PRK Kajang Ahad lalu, ianya merupakan satu tempoh yang lama, 54 hari sebenarnya.
PKR pula sejak awal-awal lagi sudah mendekati rakyat Kajang melalui program-program mereka disana untuk menjustifikasikan ‘Langkah Kajang’ itu.
Dalam kempen mereka di Kajang, PKR menyeru supaya pengundi Kajang memilih calon mereka, malahan turut menyeru semua pengundi untuk menghilangkan deposit pertaruhan calon BN, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun dari MCA.
Bagaimanapun, PKR gagal berbuat demikian, dan tidak dapat dinafikan Mei Fun sedikit-sebanyak berjaya memberikan tentangan yang baik, apatah lagi jika difikirkan partinya kini hanya mempunyai tujuh kerusi parlimen dan 11 kerusi DUN di seluruh negara!
Keputusan PRK Kajang baru-baru ini menyaksikan Wan Azizah menang dengan 5,379 undi apabila meraih 16,741 undi manakala lawannya, Mei Fun pula meraih 11,362 undi
Wan Azizah dan PKR juga harus diberikan pujian. Disaat Umno mendabik dada bahawa orang Melayu masih bersama mereka dan BN, PRK Kajang kali ini menunjukkan bahawa perkara itu bukanlah satu realiti, setidak-tidaknya di Kajang.
Malah, undi orang muda kepada PKR di Kajang juga berjaya dipertingkatkan. Jika trend ini berterusan, mungkin ia dapat diterjemahkan dalam PRU yang akan datang.
Pengarah Komunikasi PKR Fahmi Fadzil berkata walaupun gagal menghilangkan deposit pertaruhan calon BN, PKR masih mampu berbangga kerana sokongan dari semua kaum masih kuat kepada PKR, terutamanya dari orang muda.
“Saya rasa trend sebenarnya yang lebih penting untuk kita amati ialah pengundi muda sebab merekalah penentu dalam PRU yang akan datang,” katanya apabila dihubungi FMT.
Sementara itu, penganalisis politik  Prof Madya Dr Sivamurugan Pandian berkata banyak perkara yang menyumbangkan kepada kegagalan PKR menghilangkan deposit pertaruhan Mei Fun itu seperti pertukaran calon mereka sendiri di samping keputusan BN meletakkan calon yang disifatkannya berbeza.
“Jika kita perhatikan dalam mana-mana PRK, bukan mudah untuk menghilangkan wang deposit (calon lawan) jadi tak tahu kenapa mereka war-warkan sebegitu,” katanya.
Namun, Sivamurugan berpendapat peningkatan undi orang muda kepada PKR dalam PRK Kajang baru-baru ini tidak boleh dijadikan penanda aras bagi kejayaan di masa depan.
“Kesetiaan parti pengundi muda tidak seperti pengundi-pengundi lama dimana mereka setia kepada satu parti. Pengundi muda lebih melihat kepada isu,” jelasnya.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

'Kajang Move' Could Be Reason Voters Stayed At home', The Rakyat Post, 23 March 2014


IT was past noon and leaders from MCA and Parti Keadilan Rakyat were  already experiencing tense moments, worrying what effect a low voter turnout would have on their respective party’s winning chances.
They became more restless upon learning that the turnout only stood at 60.85% at 3pm.
When it climbed to 67.04% an hour later, many silently conceded it impossible to reach anywhere near the 88% turnout achieved in last year’s general election.
True enough, when polling stations closed at 5pm, the Election Commission announced that the voter turnout was 72%, even much lower than the 79.9% recorded in the 2008 general election.
The EC, too, did not see this coming since it had earlier projected a turnout of 80%.
Something is definitely not right as the voter turnout in Kajang was also much lower than in the last two by-elections in Kuala Besut and Sg Limau, which were both in the range of 80-90%.
The lowest voter turnout in by-elections held after the 2008 general election was during the Penanti state by-election, in which BN did not contest, at 46.1%.
Politicians from both sides had cause for worry as they had put in a lot of hours to campaign for their candidates and all of this would have meant little should voters decide not to come out and cast their ballots.
They were also aware that a low turnout would mean fewer votes cast, which also would mean that the votes of those who had stayed away for reasons known to them, could have tipped the balance either way.
The weather was bright and sunny and vote-wooing and campaigning had not stopped throughout the day.
In fact, supporters outside polling stations, like those lining part of Jalan Semenyih outside Kajang High School, even outnumbered the voters, who trickled into the school compound.
Was voter fatigue the reason why eligible electors decided to stay away?
Perhaps voters are not happy that the by-election was engineered by PKR as a tactical move to strengthen the party’s position in Selangor and to use the Kajang polls as a springboard to Putrajaya?
Or was it simply because to them, whoever won would not change the PKR-led state government?
Hopes go unfulfilled
Whatever the real reasons are, PKR president Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s hopes of increasing her winning majority from what was achieved by former assemblyman Lee Chin Cheh went unfulfilled.
This was although the percentage of total votes recorded was higher, giving Pakatan Rakyat leaders bragging rights that the Opposition coalition had been successful in turning the Kajang polls into a referendum on injustice, judicial fraud and extremism.
PKR’s initial analysis of the results showed support for Pakatan Rakyat had increased from 56.8% to 59.5%, which the party attributed  to a swing in support from Malay youths.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had dismissed voter fatigue as the cause of the low turnout due to the long period between the seat falling vacant on Jan 27 and polling day.
And while Ibrahim Suffian, from independent pollster Merdeka Centre, believed Umno supporters did not go all out to vote in numbers, another analyst, Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, said protests against the Kajang Move could be a reason.
 ”Maybe some voters did not feel it was important to vote since the outcome does not in any way change the state government.
“Those who reside outside Kajang also did not return to vote,” said the academician from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.
A Selangor-based Chinese community leader, who attended public rallies organised by both BN and Pakatan Rakyat, did not rule out the possibility that the fence-sitters had opted not to vote.
He believed some were fed up with the unusual aggressive campaigning by both sides.
Voters could be bored with too much politicking during the 12-day campaign period.
This could hold true since only 70% of Malaysian voters are traditionally categorised as “committed voters” who would cast their votes by any means possible because they were either members or supporters of political parties taking part in the election.
The remaining 30% are fence-sitters who vote based on issues and personal experiences. Under normal circumstances, they are less eager to participate in the electoral process.
There is also the element of political alienation where voters feel they are  powerless and meaningless, not fully understanding the value or importance of their vote in an election.
All these had attributed to Wan Azizah having to contend with a reduced majority — 5,379 votes in the straight fight with MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun.
Wan Azizah garnered 16,741 votes to Chew’s 11.362.
In last year’s general election, PKR’s Lee Chin Cheh won the Kajang seat with a comfortable 6,824-vote majority in a 6-cornered fight against BN’s Lee Ban Seng and four independents.
Lee won 57% of all votes. He resigned without giving a good reason, triggering the by-election in the constituency of 39,278 registered voters, with Malays making up 48%, followed by the Chinese at 41% and Indians at 10%.

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