Sunday, January 18, 2009

A threat too far

A threat too far
19 Jan, 2009

If it was just Umno that threatened the Chinese this can be accepted as ‘normal’. But when MCA joins the gang of thugs to also threaten their own community, this is something the Chinese find hard to stomach.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

“I need guys who can drink like a fish and not fall down,” I told Bernard. “So make sure we get the hardcore drinkers to Kuala Terengganu. The Chinese will never trust anyone who does not drink.”

It was exactly two weeks that we spent in Kuala Terengganu -- from the eve of Nomination Day until the day after Polling Day. It was not a lot of money we spent, though, just about RM25,000 in all. But then that is because we never had to pay for our beer and liquor. Our Chinese hosts would refuse to accept our money and appeared very offended when we insisted we pay.

Okay, not everyone drank. Even some Indians in the group did not drink a drop in spite of them having a reputation of being ‘terror drinkers’. In fact, Bala would not even drink Coke. He only drank plain water or, once in awhile, green tea.

Nevertheless, seeing that we had about 20 rooms, twin-sharing, there were certainly enough in the gang to do us proud and to stand up to the heavy-drinking Chinese loggers and saw-millers without falling down drunk before the witching hour.

“PAS is going to win big,” said my ‘drinking partner’ who was not only pissed drunk but quite pissed that I had a Coke glass in my hand and was refusing his constant ‘harassment’ to ‘drink with me’.

“Hey!” I kept reminding him. “Just being in this pub is already an offence. I could get arrested. You want me behind bars or what? Imagine how Umno would go to town with the news tomorrow when the newspaper headlines report ‘Blogger RPK caught drinking in a pub in Kuala Terengganu’. They will crucify me.”

“Okay, okay, I understand. You are forgiven. But I still don’t like drinking with someone drinking only Coke.”

“Never mind about me. My friends are drinking. They can drink my share.” In fact, Bernard more than drank my share. He probably drank three people’s share. Anyway, being a Muslim was a convenient ‘excuse’ not to drink. The others were never allowed a half-empty glass. Our Chinese friends from Kuala Terengganu kept topping up the glasses of our Blogging Team until no one knew any longer how much they had drunk.

“You do not need the Chinese votes,” my Chinese friend went on. “PAS is going to win big without the Chinese votes.”

This statement troubled me and I asked my Chinese friend who was facing great trouble tying to remain standing to explain what he meant.

“PAS is going to win big. The Malays will swing to PAS. You just watch. So you do not need the Chinese votes. The Chinese can vote BN.”

“I don’t think we should look at it that way,” I told my friend with a discouraged sound in my voice. “Every vote counts. We need the Chinese votes.”

My Chinese friend probably detected that I was perturbed and he downed his glass before explaining further. “We Chinese know that PAS is going to win. The Malays are going to swing to PAS. So you can win without the Chinese votes. The Malay votes are enough to give PAS the win.”

“Okay,” I replied. “But even if PAS can win with the Malay votes why can’t the Chinese also vote for PAS?”

“PAS is already going to win by at least 2,000 votes even if the Chinese vote BN. So why worry?”

“Okay, I understand. But what’s wrong if the Chinese also vote PAS and make the win 5,000 instead of 2,000?”

“We Chinese don’t want to be blamed for Umno’s loss. Let the Malays vote PAS. PAS then wins on the Malay votes. The Chinese will vote BN. Then Umno can’t blame the Chinese for their defeat. The Chinese voted BN and PAS won with the Malay votes, not the Chinese votes.”

I could see his logic here but I did not like it. “What if the Chinese vote BN and BN wins, PAS loses.”

“No way man. PAS will win. The Malay swing is big. It is safe for the Chinese to vote BN. PAS will still win.”

“But why?” I asked. “Why do the Chinese want to vote BN when you support PAS?”

“We support PAS. Look, my friend over there gave PAS RM1 million in the last general election.” He pointed to the chap at the end of the bar and signalled him to come over.

“We have no problems with PAS. We prefer PAS to BN,” his friend added. “I was the one in the Chinese newspapers who held up the can of beer in front of the PAS markas in Wakaf Tapai. You remember or not?”

Yes, I remembered that episode. I think it was in the 2004 general election. But Umno went to town with the whole thing and distorted the issue. They said that PAS is hypocritical about Islam and is allowing liquor in the state.

“Okay, what if PAS loses and they lose because the Chinese voted BN?”

“No way. PAS will win. If PAS is going to lose then we Chinese will vote PAS. But we know PAS will win. So no need for the Chinese to vote PAS. Let PAS win on the Malay votes. We Chinese can then say we voted BN but BN still lost. And it is because of the Malays and not the Chinese that PAS won.”

I suppose this is Chinese ‘logic’ and I have come to understand how the Chinese mind works. Cari makan is very important to the Chinese and must come first. They can’t risk their cari makan by being seen to be supporting the opposition. This was, after all, a bunch of Chinese towkays that I was taking to. They are flush with money and became rich not by being seen as anti-government.

By the end of the two weeks I realised that PAS would have to depend on the Malay swing, not the Chinese votes. The Chinese would give us enough votes just to keep BN in check. At best we can expect 40% to 45% votes from the Chinese. They will make sure that the majority of the Chinese vote for BN just so that it can be seen that more than half the Chinese support the government. But it will not be more than that.

Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, made this very clear to the Kuala Terengganu voters on Saturday, one week before the by-election. “We know who you vote for,” said Rosmah. “If you vote for the opposition we will know.”

The message Rosmah was sending to the Kuala Terengganu voters is that your vote is not secret and the government will know if you voted for PAS or BN. That is not true, of course, but who would want to take that risk in case it is?

The Terengganu Menteri Besar, Ahmad Said, was more blunt when he told the Chinese. “If you are nice to me, then I will be nice to you. If you are not nice to me, then I can be ten times more not nice to you.”

This was a veiled threat if ever I did see one and the message was simple: if you vote for PAS then expect my wrath. And everyone knows Ahmad Said would not hesitate to engage in fisticuffs, even during a State Assembly meeting, as Wahid Endut, who was once a victim of Ahmad Said, can testify.

The 8,000 Chinese voters in a state with a population of more than one million Malays do not need too many ‘messages’ to understand what lies ahead of them if they vote for PAS. And the 8,000 police personnel positioned all over town, practically laying Kuala Terengganu to siege, makes matters more dicey. Why the need for a police-to-Chinese ratio of one-to-one?

What the Chinese were telling us was not comforting but something we could not quarrel with. The Chinese were being threatened. They were being told that they vote for PAS at their own peril. If they know what is good for them then they must vote BN.

The Chinese got the message loud and clear. And they also knew that PAS was going to win just on Malay votes, even if the Chinese voted BN. Okay, if the Chinese vote BN then PAS is going to win by a 2,000-vote majority. And if the Chinese vote PAS then the majority is going to be 5,000. But is it worth the risk just to increase PAS’s majority from 2,000 to 5,000?

I had to concede that the Chinese are going to ‘play safe’. “But just promise me one thing,” I told my Chinese friend. “If PAS can’t get the Malay swing will the Chinese then vote PAS?”

“If PAS can’t win without Malay votes then we Chinese will vote PAS. But PAS will win, you watch, so no need for the Chinese votes. Let us vote BN and then we can put the blame on the Malays when PAS wins.”

The story does not end here though. On Sunday morning, the Blogging Team did a door-to-door walkabout to personally thank the Chinese voters before we came home to Kuala Lumpur. Some had tears in their eyes. “Kita menang,” many told me. Yes, ‘kita menang’, not ‘you menang’. It was a win for them as well as far as the Chinese were concerned.

Many who were wet with tears while hugging me tightly probably did not vote for PAS. They could not due to fear of retaliation. But it was still ‘we won’ for them. And they will tell their comrades all over Malaysia that they voted for BN mainly because the government threatened them. 8,000 Chinese voters in a state of more than one million and with 8,000 armed police surrounding the town did not offer them too many options.

But the Chinese will remember this. They will remember how Umno threatened them in the Kuala Terengganu by-election on 17 January 2009. And it will be payback time come the next general election. You can threaten 8,000 Chinese when your numbers are more than one million. But try doing this in states where the Malay-Chinese population is almost balanced.

Umno ‘won over’ the Chinese in Kuala Terengganu. But it was with a gun at the head. And the Chinese will never forget this. And neither will we. I was hoping that the Chinese were right. I was hoping that the Chinese can safely vote BN and that PAS will still win just on the Malay votes. On hindsight, the Chinese were right of course. Much to my relief that is exactly what happened, though I would have loved a 5,000 majority instead of just 2,631.

In the short-term, Umno ‘won’ the Chinese votes. But the ‘win’ was gained through the barrel of the gun. This is not the best way to win because, in the long-term, the Chinese will want to ‘pay back’ Umno for threatening them in the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

And that will be when Umno discovers they have won the battle of Kuala Terengganu but they are going to lose the war, the bigger battle for Malaysia. And MCA too will suffer. If it was just Umno that threatened the Chinese this can be accepted as ‘normal’. But when MCA joins the gang of thugs to also threaten their own community, this is something the Chinese find hard to stomach. MCA is supposed to serve the Chinese. In the Kuala Terengganu by-election, MCA was the voice of Umno to help threaten the Chinese.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Beautiful women more likely to cheat due to hormones

Beautiful women more likely to cheat due to hormones
Fri, Jan 16, 2009
Reuters

IT'S not easy being beautiful.

And if you are easy on the eyes, it's apparently even harder to remain faithful.

A new study has revealed that beautiful women may be more likely to have affairs because of a sex hormone linked to attractiveness and flirtatiousness.

Oestrogen, the so-called female hormone, affects fertility and has been shown to make women dress more provocatively and show more thrill-seeking behaviour.

Dr Kristina Durante of The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues found that young women felt more attractive when they had high levels of an oestrogen known as estradiol, and they acted on those feelings.

'Women with higher estradiol reported a greater likelihood of flirting, kissing and having a serious affair with someone other than their primary partner and were marginally more likely to date another man,' DrDurante's team wrote in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.

'Results provide support for the relationship between physical beauty and fertility and suggest that women high in reproductive health engage in opportunistic serial monogamy - being open to affairs and moving on to a new relationship if a higher-quality mate becomes available.'

The high-oestrogen women also reported more sexual behaviour - especially outside of a relationship, although it was not linked to one-night stands.

'Our results are consistent with the possibility that highly fertile women are not easily satisfied by their long-term partners and are especially motivated to become acquainted with other, presumably more desirable, men,' the study concluded.

Mugabe takes a holiday in Malaysia as Zimbabwe crumbles

Zimbabwe is dying
By Bob Herbert

HARARE, Jan 17, 2009 — If you want to see hell on earth, go to Zimbabwe where the madman Robert Mugabe has brought the country to such a state of ruin that medical care for most of the inhabitants has all but ceased to exist.

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is now the lowest in the world: 37 years for men and 34 for women. A cholera epidemic is raging.

People have become ill with anthrax after eating the decaying flesh of animals that had died from the disease. Power was lost to the morgue in the capital city of Harare, leaving the corpses to rot.

Most of the world is ignoring the agony of Zimbabwe, a once prosperous and medically advanced nation in southern Africa that is suffering from political and economic turmoil — and the brutality of Mugabe’s long and tyrannical reign.

The decline in health services over the past year has been staggering. An international team of doctors that conducted an “emergency assessment” of the state of medical care last month seemed stunned by the catastrophe they witnessed.

The team was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights. In their report, released this week, the doctors said: “The collapse of Zimbabwe’s health system in 2008 is unprecedented in scale and scope. Public-sector hospitals have been shuttered since November 2008.

“The basic infrastructure for the maintenance of public health, particularly water and sanitation services, have abruptly deteriorated in the worsening political and economic climate.”

Doctors and nurses are trying to do what they can under the most harrowing of circumstances: facilities with no water, no functioning toilets and barely any medicine or supplies.

The report quoted the director of a mission hospital: “A major problem is the loss of life and fetal wastage we are seeing with obstetric patients. They come so late, the foetuses are already dead. We see women with eclampsia who have been seizing for 12 hours. There is no intensive care unit here, and now there is no intensive care in Harare.”

“If we had intensive care, we know it would be immediately full of critically ill patients. As it is, they just die.”

Mugabe’s corrupt, violent and profoundly destructive reign has left Zimbabwe in shambles. It’s a nation overwhelmed by poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and hyperinflation.

Once considered the “breadbasket” of Africa, Zimbabwe is now a country that cannot feed its own people. The unemployment rate is higher than 80 per cent. Malnutrition is widespread, as is fear.

A nurse told the Physicians for Human Rights team: “We are not supposed to have hunger in Zimbabwe. So even though we do see it, we cannot report it.”

Mugabe signed a power-sharing agreement a few months ago with a political opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, who out-polled Mugabe in an election last March but did not win a majority of the votes.

But continuing turmoil, including violent attacks by Mugabe’s supporters and allegations that Mugabe forces have engaged in torture, have prevented the agreement from taking effect.

The widespread scepticism that greeted Mugabe’s alleged willingness to share power only increased when he ranted, just last month: “I will never, never, never surrender ... Zimbabwe is mine.”

Meanwhile, healthcare in Zimbabwe has fallen into the abyss. “This emergency is so grave that some entity needs to step in there and take over the health delivery system,” said Susannah Sirkin, the deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.

In November, the primary public referral hospital in Harare, Parirenyatwa Hospital, shut down. Its medical school closed with it.

The nightmare that forced the closings was spelled out in the report: “The hospital had no running water since August of 2008. Toilets were overflowing, and patients and staff had nowhere to void — soon making the hospital uninhabitable.

“Parirenyatwa Hospital was closed four months into the cholera epidemic, arguably the worst of all possible times to have shut down public hospital access. Successful cholera care, treatment and control are impossible, however, in a facility without clean water and functioning toilets.”

The hospital’s surgical wards were closed in September. A doctor described the heartbreaking dilemma of having children in his care who he knew would die without surgery. “I have no pain medication,” he said, “some antibiotics, but no nurses ... If I don’t operate, the patient will die. But if I do the surgery, the child will die also.”

What’s documented in the Physicians for Human Rights report is evidence of a shocking medical and human rights disaster that warrants a much wider public spotlight, and an intensified effort to mount an international humanitarian intervention.

Some organisations are already on the case, including Doctors Without Borders and Unicef.

But Zimbabwe is dying, and much more is needed. — NYT


Mugabe takes a holiday in Malaysia as Zimbabwe crumbles

13 Jan, 2009

HARARE, Jan 13 — While the people of Zimbabwe struggle with cholera, hunger, hyper-inflation and violent repression, president Robert Mugabe has decided to take a month-long holiday.

The 84-year-old leaders wife, Grace, has been accused of withdrawing £60,000 (RM330,000) from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to pay for the trip to their family home in Malaysia.

Thirty days after Mr Mugabe declared the cholera crisis over, the UN has revealed the death toll is still soaring with 1,778 confirmed dead.

Many people remain weakened and impoverished by one of the worst periods of pre-harvest hunger in years and 90 per cent of pupils are not attending school.

Most teachers are now on indefinite strike, meaning a charity set up last summer to pay school fees for impoverished pupils is now using its funds to feed youngsters and their families.

One child Educated Horizon has taken under its wing is 14-year-old Chipo. She had been selling tomatoes during the day and her body to truck drivers by night for 20p (RM1) a time.

The teenager from Chivhu, 100km south-west of the capital Harare, said: “I have two young sisters who look up to me, so I have to work hard. Whatever little money I get will help.”

Educated Horizon now feeds her family to keep her off the streets. London-based volunteer Herbert Dzinotyiweyi said, “We used to have the best education system in Africa. We were the lucky ones. How is the economy going to recover without an educated population?”

Mugabe’s spokesman defended his actions. He said the president was not so much on holiday but on leave to reflect on the Zimbabwean crisis. — Metro

Friday, January 16, 2009

Two-pronged route to better health

Two-pronged route to better health
Fri, Jan 16, 2009
New Straits Times

By Kasmiah Mustapha

THE next time you are at the doctor's office, be sure to ask about health screening packages.

Today almost every medical centre offers medical packages tailored to an individual's needs, age and gender. Basic health screening includes a complete physical examination, chest x-ray, urine and blood tests, and an electrocardiography (ECG) test.

With a simple blood or urine test, the doctor is able to detect whether you are at risk of kidney problems, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. The test can also determine if you have a healthy liver or high blood sugar level.

Prevention is better than cure, both in managing our health as well as in reducing the financial burden of treating an affliction.
Treatment for chronic illnesses such as diabetes can be long and costly. To make matters worse, it can lead to other related diseases if diagnosed at a later stage. Early detection is crucial and one of the ways is through frequent health screenings.

Kelana Jaya Medical Centre consultant physician and gastroenterologist Dr Abdul Malik Jamal Buhari says a health screening should be done at least once in a lifetime, if you are not in the high-risk group. Those between 35 and 40 years of age should undergo it once a year or once in two years.

"If you are in the high-risk group, such as having a family history of heart problems or diabetes, do a blood test every three to four months. But even if you are not at risk, it is advisable to have a cholesterol and blood sugar level screening every year.

"If you do not wish to go for the more advanced packages, the basic is good enough to detect these diseases. You can opt for the complete screening later if you feel that you need to know more."

The basic screening test includes a full blood count to detect the level of red and white blood cells, fasting blood glucose and fasting cholesterol levels, liver and kidney functions, and a urine test. A patient can opt for cancer marker tests and a HIV test.

The fasting blood glucose test helps detect if the patient is diabetic. If the blood sugar level is more than seven mmol per litre, than he or she is a diabetic. However if the level is between five and seven mmol per litre, it is considered borderline diabetes, which needs to be monitored.

"The normal blood sugar level is below 5.6 mmol per litre. If the blood test is done randomly, without the person fasting for 10 hours before taking the test, the normal level is 7.8 mmol per litre."

The blood test can also detect cholesterol levels - low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Total cholesterol level should not be more than 5.2 mmol per litre.

"However, we look at LDL and HDL levels individually to detect if the person is at risk. It's best to have low LDL and high HDL."

LDL - also known as "bad" cholesterol - can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries and form plaque (a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries). This condition, known as atherosclerosis, can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

In contrast, the high level of HDL - "good" cholesterol - protects against heart disease. It is believed that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its build-up.

Dr Abdul Malik says the LDL level should be below 3.4 mmol per litre. For a diabetic, it must be below 2.6 mmol per litre. Those who have both diabetes and heart disease, or have suffered a heart attack, must ensure their LDL level is at or below 1.8 mmol per litre.

The liver function test detects levels of ALT and AST enzymes in the organ. High levels of these enzymes are proof of liver damage likely caused by fatty liver and hepatitis C, among others.

"We are seeing more cases of fatty liver now brought on by obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. The worrying fact is that many may not realise they have problems with the liver as there are no early symptoms and it is hard to detect."

Fatty liver is one of the most common forms of liver disease and is known to lead to critical conditions. If steps are not taken to control the risks, it can lead to cirrhosis, which can be life-threatening.

Dr Abdul Malik says those who have fatty liver may suffer from cirrhosis in the next 10 to 20 years.

"The number of Malaysians who are obese and diabetic is increasing. If they don't take care of their condition, they will eventually have fatty liver."

A blood test can also be done to detect certain types of cancer such as breast, uterus, ovary, liver, pancreas, colon and stomach.

"The test is about 50 to 60 per cent accurate. But you need to discuss it with the doctor if you want it. It is the same with the HIV test. Doctors have to seek permission from the patient. It is unethical to do these tests without a patient's consent."

Some health screening packages include a stress test to assess the condition of the heart. It is also called the treadmill ECG to determine cardiovascular fitness levels and if there is adequate blood flow to the heart during increasing levels of activity while the patient is running on the treadmill.

While health screenings help with early detection and treatment, it is also important that the person changes his lifestyle even if the screening does not detect any abnormalities, says Dr Abdul Malik.

"Exercise and eating healthily are important to better health management," he emphasised.

This story was first published in the New Straits Times on Jan 13, 2009.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Want to lose weight?

Want to lose weight?
Listen to what Dr Robert Young has to say in this CNN interview.

Anwar renews pledge

Anwar renews pledge
Jan 07, 2009
AFP

KUALA TERENGGANU - MALAYSIA'S opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has renewed his vow to seize power from the ruling coalition, as the two sides lock horns for a key by-election.

Mr Anwar has laid low since failing to meet a self-imposed September 2008 deadline to unseat the Barisan Nasional government, after general elections that saw the coalition handed its worst results in half a century.

The opposition alliance is now hoping to reinvigorate itself with a win in the Jan 17 by-election in north-eastern Terengganu state, which is seen as a referendum on the political mood since the March 2008 national polls.

'I want to say that we in the alliance are determined to topple the Barisan Nasional coalition,' Mr Anwar said at an opposition rally here late Tuesday that drew some 10,000 supporters.

'For a start, I will help our alliance candidate from PAS obtain a big victory,' he said on the seafront of the state capital Kuala Terengganu.

Top figures in the alliance - Mr Anwar's Keadilan as well as the Islamic party PAS and the Democratic Action Party that represents ethnic Chinese - stood shoulder-to-shoulder to dispel signs the partnership is under strain.

The partnership of three ideologically divided parties is intent on putting its differences aside for the by-election, which will be contested by PAS candidate Mohamad Abdul Wahid, 52.

The ruling party Umno (United Malays National Organisation) is fielding deputy home minister Wan Ahmad Farid, 46, for the vote, which will indicate whether it has lured back support since the general elections.

Mr Anwar had said he would topple the government by mid-September with the help of defecting lawmakers, after elections that saw the opposition gain five states and a third of parliamentary seats in unprecedented results.

But that deadline came and went and the promised mass defections from the Barisan Nasional never materialised.

His momentum stalled in October when Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi agreed to stand down in March, defusing public anger at the government's handling of the economy and failure to introduce promised reforms.

The government is now exploiting bickering within the opposition, but Mr Anwar said the alliance was united despite disagreements over issues such as a PAS call for the introduction of Islamic 'hudud' law including the stoning of adulterers. -- AFP

MCA man jailed for offering bribe to Singapore cop

Wednesday January 07 2009
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MCA man jailed for offering bribe to Singapore cop

SINGAPORE, Jan 7 — A Malaysian community leader initially fined S$15,000 (RM36,000) for offering a bribe to a traffic policeman was yesterday sentenced to jail for six weeks following an appeal by the prosecution.

Justice V. K. Rajah, handing down the jail term at the appeal hearing, stressed that the courts should take a firm, no-nonsense approach towards attempts at graft.

Any attempt to bribe a police officer will bring on a jail term, and if the bribe is accepted, both parties can expect “uncompromisingly stiff custodial sentences”, he said.

It is the way to go if the integrity of the police force as a pillar of society is to be upheld.

Rajah added that the jail term meted out to Lim Teck Choon, 56, took into account mitigating factors raised by his lawyer. He would otherwise have been jailed two to three months.

Lim, who has business interests on both sides of the Causeway, is a member of the MCA and the party's deputy chairman in the town of Kampong Jawa in Johor. A philanthropist, he regularly donates money to temples and an orphanage; in 1988, he donated a building for a school.

A traffic police officer caught Lim making an illegal U-turn on Woodlands Road and driving against the flow of traffic for 50m.

While waiting for a vehicle to take Lim back to the police station, Sergeant Pah Wenxiang tried to defuse the tense situation by starting a conversation.

Lim told the police officer that he owned a few plantations in Malaysia and knew high-ranking officials.

During the conversation, he abruptly asked Pah in Mandarin: “Why want to do this? Be enemy? You should let me go. We can be friends. Next time you come to Malaysia, I will take care of you. Still got good things.”

He also made a gesture that the officer took as an offer of money.

When the sergeant told him it was an offence to bribe a police officer, Lim backed off on his offer.

Lim initially contested the charge of offering a bribe, but pleaded guilty on the second day of trial and was fined S$15,000.

He was also fined S$2,500 and banned from driving for six months for dangerous driving.

The district judge acknowledged that a jail term was the norm in graft cases but felt a more lenient sentence was justified in this case.

She reasoned that Lim offered the bribe only after the officer struck up a conversation with him, and had not persisted with the offer once the police officer rejected it.

The prosecution filed an appeal.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Jwee Nguan argued that the district judge had no grounds to depart from the sentencing norm of a jail term for such offences.

Rajah, saying there should be a clear framework of rules for situations like this, agreed that the district judge had erred in “applying an intricately nuanced sentencing approach to what is a plain and unmistakeable case of attempted corruption”.

In this case, it was incorrect to conclude that Lim's culpability was reduced just because the officer had initiated a casual conversation.

Rajah said it appears that Lim had assessed the situation and taken a measure of the officer before making his offer, thinking that the policeman might be vulnerable once his guard was down.

Lim's lawyer asked for the sentence to start on Feb 1 so that Lim can spend time with his family for Chinese New Year. Rajah agreed and granted bail of S$30,000.

The prosecution appealed against the fine for the graft charge. — The Straits Times

Ordered by phone to kill

Ordered by phone to kill

Jan 07, 2009
AFP

MUMBAI, INDIA - MILITANTS who attacked Mumbai were urged to kill their hostages in cold blood and fight to the death in the name of Islam, according to transcripts of intercepted telephone calls made public on Wednesday.

In one exchange, one of the two attackers who stormed the luxury Oberoi-Trident hotel was told to 'inflict the maximum damage' and to 'kill all hostages, except the two Muslims' they were holding.

'We have three foreigners, including women,' the attacker identified as Fahadullah said.

'Kill them. Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire,' he was told.

The transcript then said the two attackers were heard to tell the two Muslims to step aside and order the hostages to stand in a line. Gunfire was heard then cheering.

Details of the attackers' conversations, allegedly with their six 'Pakistan-based handlers", are contained in a dossier of evidence that India says 'unmistakenly' points to elements in Pakistan being behind the attacks.

The document, obtained by The Hindu English-language newspaper, also shows items recovered in the aftermath of the attacks, in which 165 civilians and security service personnel and nine of the 10 attackers died.

As well as Pakistan-made weapons and global positioning systems with co-ordinates of a sea route from Pakistan, it includes items such as pickle, washing powder and shaving cream manufactured across the border.

Much of the detail has emerged piecemeal since the 60-hour siege ended on Nov 29, including claims that the banned Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba trained, equipped and financed the operation.

Islamabad has angrily rejected allegations from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the attacks had the support of some 'official agencies' and that Pakistan was using terrorism as an 'instrument of state policy'.

According to the transcripts, one of the two attackers at the Nariman House Jewish cultural centre was told: 'Brother, you have to fight. This is a matter of prestige of Islam.

'Fight so that your fight becomes a shining example. Be strong in the name of Allah... Brother, you have to fight for the victory of Islam.'

A separate call added: 'Keep in mind that the hostages are of use only as long as you do not come under fire because of their safety.

'If you are still threatened, then don't saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages, immediately kill them.' The caller went on: 'If the hostages are killed, it will spoil relations between India and Israel.' An attacker replied: 'So be it, God willing.'

Five hostages, including a rabbi and his wife, were later found dead with the two militants.

The Net's new dangers

The Net's new dangers
Wed, Jan 07, 2009
Daily Xpress/Asia News Network

Alarm bells were triggered yesterday by the rising danger of the Internet and chatline services for young users. The warning came from the Mirror Foundation's IT-Watch Centre, which grouped its findings into four threat categories.

The first is peeking-tom clips, which made the headlines last year with cases like the blackmail video of a gang rape of a Matthayom 1 schoolgirl. The phrase "aep tai" (sneak filming) was used in 4 million searches per month last year, the centre said, adding that "aep tai" forums got an average of 100,000 hits per month.

The second threat comes from Internet chat programs and phone chatlines, which have been used by adults to lure young girls into sex, or to rob them. The centre found that 12 girls went missing after using these services last year, three more than the previous year.

Networking site Hi5, with a fast-growing and mainly young membership of more than one million Thais, is the third threat. Alongside campaigns of personal abuse and slander, there is evidence that the site is being used by people to groom youngsters for sex.

Last in the Mirror Foundation's danger list is Thai youths addiction to computer games - both online and off. With 23,000 gaming cyber-cafes registered, Thailand has been named second after Japan as Asia's most game-addicted country. The warning comes after the incident last year in which a Mathayom 6 schoolboy who killed a Bangkok taxi driver claimed that he was copying the action in his favourite game, Grand Theft Auto.


Top 10 online games

1. Audition

2. Special Force

3. DOT-A

4. Luna Online

5. Pucca Racing

6. Freestyle Casual

7. Cabal Online

8. Ragnarok Online

9. Perfect World

10. Hip Street

Top 5 offline games

1. Pro Evolution Soccer

2. Need for Speed

3. Prostreet

4. Grand theft auto 2

5. Red alert

Health nuts

Health nuts
Wed, Jan 07, 2009
The Straits Times

Love nibbling on nuts but worried that they are unhealthy? Not necessarily so, say the experts.

The United States Food and Drug Administration says that eating 1/3 cup or 42.5g of nuts a day as part of a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ms Lilian Liang, a dietitian from the department of nutrition and dietetics at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, says that nuts are rich in proteins, vitamins (folic acid, niacin and vitamins E and B6) as well as minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and potassium.

She says nuts can be consumed daily, but should be done so in moderation.

Choose those that are raw or unroasted, unsalted and without honey or sugar coatings. They can be eaten as a snack or as part of a main meal such as with salads.

However, take note of the saturated fat content as saturated fats - unlike their unsaturated counterpart - are similar to animal fat and contribute to low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is the bad cholesterol which leads to a higher risk of stroke and heart disease when they clog up the arteries.

Nuts contain a combination of both unsaturated and saturated fats, so do remember not to overeat them.

marglee@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times, on Jan 1, 2009.

Day 1, Round 1: Pakatan Rakyat

Day 1, Round 1: Pakatan Rakyat
7 Jan, 2009

The Chinese have no qualms that the outcome of the Kuala Terengganu by-election rest in their hands. But would they take that bold step of giving the seat to the opposition? Day 1 of the campaign is too early to determine this.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Pakatan Rakyat was clearly the winner on Day 1 of the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Nomination Day saw an estimated crowd of 30,000 to 40,000 Pakatan Rakyat supporters against only 5,000 to 7,000 for Barisan Nasional. In spite of the mainstream media spin that reversed the figures, pictures speak a thousand words and the five pictures below tell all.

At 9.30pm, Anwar Ibrahim addressed an estimated crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 people, mostly all local Kuala Terengganu folks, at Ladang, not far from the Bloggers Operations Centre in Kuala Terengganu. Amongst those who also spoke at this Ceramah Perdana were Lim Kit Siang, Haji Hadi Awang, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, and Mustaffa Ali.

Simultaneously, the Bloggers and a few DAP national leaders graced a dinner that was attended by more than 500 local Chinese residents. We went from table to table to shake the hands of the guests and saw many familiar faces amongst the crowd. The support of the Chinese was most overwhelming, and if the dinner crowd last night is a reflection of the Chinese support for Pakatan Rakyat, then the results of the 17 January 2009 by-election may yet pull a surprise for Barisan Nasional.

But this was only Day 1 and Round 1 of the campaign. We still have 11 more days and 11 more rounds to worry about. An early victory may just be a sign of Pakatan Rakyat winning the battle, but not necessarily that it is winning the war. Ultimately, it is winning the war that counts. You can win ten battles but the victor will be determined by whomsoever wins the war and not whomsoever wins the many battles along the way.

Today’s campaign will be door-to-door. Anwar Ibrahim will be officiating the Parti Keadilan Rakyat operations center at Gong Kapas and will visit 18 kampongs around Kuala Terengganu after which he will be doing a walk-about at the main bus stop and the wet market at 11.00am. The Bloggers will be covering the walk-about and we hope to upload the pictures later today.

Intelligence agencies and the BTN have informed Umno that it has lost Day 1 of the campaign and that efforts must be stepped up to ensure a Barisan Nasional victory. They realise they would not be able to win on a level playing field, so expect the Dirty Tricks Department to launch a series of dirty campaigns later today. What they have planned is not known yet other than they are not confident of victory and therefore need to resort to dirty tactics to turn defeat into victory.

The Chinese voters are fully aware that the Malays are delicately split 50:50 and that it will be the Chinese who will determine the victor. They have been told that the are the Kingmaker but the million dollar question is whom does the Chinese want as their ‘king’ representing them in Parliament as their Member of Parliament.

One issue raised by the Chinese is that they are not too confident that PAS is capable of running the state. Unlike PAS Kelantan, PAS Terengganu is not that sharp, laments the Chinese. And five years of PAS rule from 1999 to 2004 has proven this.

This has to be countered with the argument that the Kuala Terengganu by-election is not about choosing a new state government. The voters will just be sending ‘their man’ to Parliament and not voting to form a new state government. The Chinese must be reminded that the present state government will remain intact even if the opposition wins the Kuala Terengganu parliament seat.

The Chinese have no qualms that the outcome of the Kuala Terengganu by-election rest in their hands. But would they take that bold step of giving the seat to the opposition? Day 1 of the campaign is too early to determine this.

Nevertheless, as in any election, local issues are usually the determining factor. Are the Kuala Terengganu Chinese happy with their government? Do they feel that Umno and Barisan Nasional are just too arrogant and need to be cut down to size? Is it time to send a message to the ruling party that it can no longer take the Chinese for granted and continue insulting them, call them pandatang, threaten them with ‘another May 13’, and ask them to ‘go back to China’ every time they open their mouths and express unhappiness? These would be the factors that will decide which way the Chinese will vote on 17 January 2009.

I now need to go hit the streets and do a walk-about in Chinatown. We will update you with the latest events as they develop. Till later and stayed tuned as we report from Ground Zero in Kuala Terengganu.

THE PAKATAN RAKYAT CROWD

THE BARISAN NASIONAL CROWD


Perception will decide the outcome

Perception will decide the outcome
7 Jan, 2009

"We lost not because the opposition was strong, but because we fought among ourselves," Najib told party workers who had arrived in the Terengganu capital in droves to help in the campaign.

Zubaidah Abu Bakar, The New Straits Times

UMNO is tying up the loose ends as its candidate filed his papers to contest the Kuala Terengganu by-election under the ruling Barisan Nasional banner.

While 46-year-old Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh is embroiled in a personality battle with five-term Wakaf Mempelam Pas assemblyman Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut, there lies a big task for the Umno leadership to settle some "internal problems".

Weaknesses, which could affect the election machinery's momentum, have to be repaired fast. Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is leading the BN charge in the by-election did not mince his words in his "must win" message, asking Umno leaders to set aside their differences and make themselves more appealing to voters.

An unknown independent candidate, Azharudin Mamat @ Adam who has also joined the fray in the three-cornered fight has been described by political analyst Professor James Chin of University of Monash Malaysia, as "a joker candidate looking for his five-seconds of fame" and is almost certain to lose his deposit.

Chin's counterpart from Universiti Utara Malaysia Professor Mohamed Mustafa Ishak believes there are disgruntled sections in Umno and they might give their votes to the independent candidate instead of spoiling their ballots or abstaining.
"It's worse for Umno if the votes go to Pas instead."

Umno has acknowledged that not all of the over 25,000 party members in Kuala Terengganu had voted for the late Datuk Razali Ismail last March.

This could have contributed to the 685 votes independent candidate Maimun Yusuf secured in a three-cornered fight. The other candidate was Pas vice-president Mohamad Sabu.

Chin said the battle in Kuala Terengganu was between Umno and Pas, and since their candidates were so different, some voters would vote according to how much they like the candidates.

"One is offering the office of a deputy minister if he wins while the other is offering a kampung-style politician."

A greenhorn in electoral contest as compared to Wahid's unblemished records since 1990, Wan Farid who has been criticised as having little grassroots experience, needs a lot of polishing of his public relations skills in this short period.

He has been trying very hard though since being declared the BN candidate, and was even coached by "experts" on how to approach people -- from putting on smiles like a model in a toothpaste advertisement to giving light pats on the backs and shoulders of voters.

"My next challenge is to retain the seat for BN," said Wan Farid after being declared the BN candidate yesterday.

Thousands of BN party workers had an earful from Najib when they gathered at the Islamic Civilisational Park on the eve of nomination day.

Najib made it very clear that he wanted to see more coordinated campaign activities between the state Umno and the Kuala Terengganu division, which Wan Farid chairs.

The Umno president designate does not want a repeat of the 2008 general election and Permatang Pauh, where internal bickering was the cause of BN's poor performance.

He wants to win in this highly unpredictable contest so that Kuala Terengganu will be remembered as the beginning of BN's recovery.

"We lost not because the opposition was strong, but because we fought among ourselves," Najib told party workers who had arrived in the Terengganu capital in droves to help in the campaign.

While opinion polls conducted for both the ruling and opposition alliance indicated a win could go either way by 1,000 votes, an Umno insider claims that BN was at this point the underdog despite it defending the seat it won by 628 votes less than a year ago.

"Ground reports say that BN is trailing with its popularity among voters at slightly over 40 per cent.

"It is a concern as surveys among traders at Pasar Payang showed that the majority is still not with BN," he said.

Still reeling from the last general election in which it lost power in five out of 13 states and its two-thirds majority in Parliament, BN is hoping to show it has won back support with promises of reform and a new leadership come March.

To the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat, Kuala Terengganu is a chance to show its support is holding up amid claims that the fragile marriage of convenience between Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Pas and DAP is already cracking up.

In reality, it does not matter a whole lot who wins since no government will fall because of this one seat. At the most Pakatan Rakyat would raise its tally to 83 in Parliament and BN still rules the country.

"It's more to do with people's perception that this by- election is really a referendum on Najib and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

"Najib because he is prime minister-in-waiting and Anwar to prove himself after the Sept 16 fiasco from last year," said Chin.

Still, it will not be correct to use Kuala Terengganu as a barometer to gauge support for BN and Pakatan Rakyat if the outcome is solely based on popularity of candidates.

The battle of Kuala Terengganu

The battle of Kuala Terengganu
7 Jan, 2009

Currently, I still stand by my earlier forecast of PAS winning the Kuala Terengganu by-election with a majority of at least 5,000 votes. I will let you know as we go along if this forecast changes.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

At 5.00pm today, some of us Bloggers will be meeting the PAS leaders at their HQ in Kuala Terengganu to discuss how we can assist in the by-election campaign. Nomination Day, thus far, shows that PAS appears to have the solid support of the locals. However, we shall be cautioning the PAS leaders in ensuring that we don’t menang sorak, kampung tergadai. This translates to winning the cheering but losing your home, or, more accurately: winning the battle but losing the war.

Whatever the mainstream newspapers reported today, don’t you believe it! PAS saw a crowd of 30,000 to 40,000 supporters. And the crowd was wall-to-wall -- from the Stadium Negeri, where the nomination papers were filed, right up to the old penyu round-a-bout, where the penyu no longer lives. Most importantly, the crowd was mostly local folks and their dressing, sarong just below the knee, and Terengganu slang was so distinct there was no doubt about them being locals. I mean, only locals would shout “Hancur, hancur…….hancur bee eng” and “Menang, menang……menang Pakatang.”

Umno, however, saw a crowd of only 5,000 or so, plus-minus. In fact, there were more police stationed in Kuala Terengganu -- 6,000 according to what was reported -- than Umno supporters. Sources from inside the Umno operations centre put the figure at 7,000 supporters at the most and, according to these same inside sources, 80% were from outstation. We were told Umno brought in their supporters in 80 buses -- so these figures would certainly tally. At least Umno and we agree on this issue.

It was heart-warming to see the PAS supporters carrying DAP flags. And the Chinese, in turn, were carrying PAS flags. Even the Chinese ‘dragon’ had a PAS flag in its mouth. If you were to say that PAS supporters have feelings of animosity with DAP with regards to the Hudud issue, and that the Chinese are unhappy with PAS about this same issue, you could have fooled me. Whatever the top leadership of the two parties may be saying, the mood on the ground is that the Hudud issue is a non-issue.

Sirens were wailing non-stop as the Barisan Nasional ministers zoomed all over town escorted by police outriders. You would not be faulted for thinking that the US President was in town. In contrast to this, the Pakatan Rakyat ministers -- like the Menteri Besar of Selangor, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim-- humbly made their rounds without any fanfare and walked the streets to shake hands with all and sundry.

It seems the Umno people have some old scores to settle with their party. I was told, in the last election, a lot of money was promised. However, as soon as the election results came in, the person holding the money disappeared and those promised this money were never paid. I will not reveal the name of the place or else Umno may quickly go there to settle their old debts from March 2008.

I met some Umno people last night to feel them out and it looks like they are not too happy with the choice of candidate, Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh. They feel he is the wrong choice of candidate and is carrying too much baggage. He and his brother’s links with Patrick Lim and the scandals involving the oil royalty or Wang Ehsan are a huge handicap and something they are unable to counter.

The PAS candidate, Abdul Wahid Endut, however, has no issues and Umno is hard-pressed in coming out with something to use against him. He is too clean, lamented the Umno chaps, so there is nothing we can use against him. How to defeat him when he is squeaky clean and our candidate is so tainted, sighed the Umno chaps.

The Kuala Terengganu by-election is no longer just a by-election. It is not about choosing the Member of Parliament for Kuala Terengganu. It is a proxy war between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. It is a national-level battle being brought down to the ground to the streets and villages of Kuala Terengganu.

The Kuala Terengganu by-election is also about making sure that Najib Tun Razak meets his Waterloo in Kuala Terengganu. Many Umno people feel, if Barisan Nasional loses Kuala Terengganu, it will reflect on Najib and raise the question of whether the people have rejected him as the next Prime Minister. It is almost like Najib’s career will be made or broken depending on how Umno performs in Kuala Terengganu.

The Public Prosecutor’s office in Kuala Terengganu has been put on a 24-hour alert and some prosecutors have been told to sleep in the office. According to what we have been told, they expect to arrest some opposition people over the next 12 days, and if that happens they want to speedily charge them for whatever crimes the police may say they have committed. This is not about speedy justice but more to get them off the streets and remanded for two weeks until after the election when they can no longer do harm to Umno.

More from Kuala Terengganu later as and when new developments unfold. Meanwhile, stay tuned as we bring you the latest from ground zero. Your Blogging team based here in Kuala Terengganu will be hitting the streets later today to meet the voters and to talk to them about what we are all in Kuala Terengganu for. We shall impress upon them the need to send a message to Barisan Nasional that the 8 March 2008 Tsunami, and the repeat performance in the Permatang Pauh by-election, is still strong and still very much alive.

Yes, we are not facing a by-election in Kuala Terengganu. It is a national-level battle fought by proxy in the once sleepy town of Kuala Terengganu but now bustling with activity. And, just like in Permatang Pauh where the voters gave Anwar Ibrahim two out of three votes or 66.66% of the votes to demonstrate their next choice of Prime Minister, the Kuala Terengganu voters will be asked to do the same thing to send Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a ‘no to Najib as the next Prime Minister’ message.

Currently, I still stand by my earlier forecast of PAS winning the Kuala Terengganu by-election with a majority of at least 5,000 votes. I will let you know as we go along if this forecast changes.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Netizens mourn blogger's death

Netizens mourn blogger's death
Tue, Jan 06, 2009
The New Paper

THEY did not know her.

Yet, dozens of netizens found they could empathise with Miss Shandy Sim, a 30-year-old bank manager who blogged about her six-month battle with cancer.

Sadly, her story ended last week with the post: 'Shandy passed away this morning. We were all beside her when she left us peacefully.'

Her brother, Mr Edmund Sim, 28, a banking executive, had written this to inform those who had been following Miss Sim's online account of what turned out to be her last weeks.

She died of cervical cancer on 26Dec.

Mr Sim told The New Paper on Sunday that his sister was much loved by family and friends, with 80 mourners turning up for her funeral on Tuesday.

More than 10 strangers also sent condolences through the blog and text messages to Mr Sim.

The end came just six months after a cancerous mass was discovered on Miss Sim's pelvis. In June, she began feeling pain in her left leg.

Mr Sim said: 'Initially, she thought it was aching muscles as she had gym sessions. She had a healthy lifestyle and never drank or smoked.

'Only when her leg swelled up did we go for a medical check. By then, doctors said her cancer was at Stage3.'

What followed were four days of crying as the illness ended Miss Sim's hopes of having children.

Soon after being diagnosed, Miss Sim, who was single and lived in a Tanglin condominium, set up a blog on her fight with cancer and her optimism that she would win the battle.

The blog, at http://shandysim.blogspot.com, touched the hearts of many netizens because of its positive attitude towards life and death, said her brother.

Titled 'Adventures of Radioactive Girl', the blog details her experiences while undergoing chemotherapy.

Despite the pain and discomfort, Miss Sim still managed to inject humour into her posts.

In one post, she wrote that she had lost a lot of weight after chemotherapy, ending the post by saying, 'Am waiting for Marie France Slimming Centre to endorse me. hehehe.'

In another, she wrote about losing control of her bladder while on heavy sedatives.

'My mum and aunt had put me in these amazingly huge diapers. I totally hate them. Not that I don't have a choice about wearing them. I can live in the loo. Haha,' she wrote.

Before getting cancer, Miss Sim was a high flyer in a bank, becoming a branch manager at the age of 25. She earned enough to holiday in London every summer and drive a Saab car.

Mr Sim said his sister had a passion for her job.

He said: 'She was very much like the young executive - full of confidence and passion for her job and life. My sister enjoyed working where she felt important and her contribution to the company was never left unnoticed.

'Never once did I hear her say she was tired from working.'

Menopause

Miss Sim also went through early menopause as her reproductive system shut down.

In one entry, she quipped: 'I am most probably your youngest menopausing friend.'

Her blog gained a following, so much so that fellow cancer sufferers offered to visit her in the National University Hospital, saying they understood what she was going through.

As the cancer spread through her body, Miss Sim became too weak to update her blog and her brother took over from 20Oct.

Even then, her family wanted those who came to visit to project a positive attitude by wearing brightly coloured clothes and avoiding solemn expressions.

By mid-December, doctors told Miss Sim's family to be mentally prepared to lose her as the cancer had spread to more parts of her body.

She died on the morning of Boxing Day, surrounded by her family.

This article was first published in The New Paper on Jan 4, 2009.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nick Vujicic

What do you do when you fall down?


A very crucial battle looms

A very crucial battle looms
5 Dec, 2008

In predominantly Malay Kuala Terengganu, the Chinese hold a vital hand. And while a local candidate is all-important, the election stakes go all the way up to Putrajaya.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Suhaini Aznam, The Star

KUALA Terengganu is just one parliamentary seat awash in monsoon rains. Winning or losing will make no difference to the lie of the land. Rather, it is a moral fight.

At stake is the reputation of prime minister-elect Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. At national level, this by-election is his first leadership test - and he knows it.

“We cannot lose this election and then just three months later, have him succeed as party president (and therefore Prime Minister) uncontested,” said state Umno Youth information chief Razali Idris, 42.

But on the ground, voters were busily debating the merits of that all-important candidate.

The people of Terengganu set great store in having an approachable MP on whose door they can knock at all hours of the day and night. Since March, Umno has learnt the hard way that it can no longer field any old face and draw voters on the strength of its party brand name.

So while Umno announced its candidate almost a month before the Jan 17 polling day – in part to allow time for Umno rival camps to cool down and rectify any attempts to sabotage party efforts – PAS decided to wait it out.

Under the watchful eye of 14 truckloads of General Operations Force police brought in to ensure calm, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang named five-term Wakaf Mempelam state assemblyman Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut as its flag bearer in front of some 3,000 party members in a packed indoor stadium on Jan 1.

It was a last-minute switch because Abdul Wahid was not even on the original shortlist of four possible contenders.

At 52, Abdul Wahid is part of the second echelon that will eventually inherit the party under a different political equation. He is a Hadi loyalist, unlike the shortlisted front-runner, Batu Burok assemblyman Dr Syed Azman Ahmad Nawawi whom Razali claimed was already bringing “unsur unsur Anwar” (vestiges of Anwar) to PAS, referring to PKR advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Unlike Anwar’s landslide victory in Permatang Pauh last August, this by-election has no ready icon. So candidates are crucial. PAS had conducted a house-to-house random survey in the three state constituencies of Wakaf Mempelam, Ladang and Batu Burok soon after the Election Commission announced the by-election in early December and found that 80% of the households named Dr Syed Azman as their preferred candidate. The eleventh-hour change of plans could well have been hatched at an afternoon meeting at Abdul Hadi’s home in Rusila, just hours before the announcement was made.

People in Terengganu like friendly, humble leaders who would not hesitate to invite them for a teh tarik. Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, 46, having been away a great deal as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s political secretary and later as deputy minister, does not quite fit this bill. Even the owner of an Umno warong passed on “hearsay” that Wan Ahmad was “a bit aloof”, while the PKR Youth officials for Ladang were whooping in joy, anticipating a walkover.

It is an image that Wan Ahmad was trying hard to dispel as he handed out footballs and cut school boys’ hair on his meet-the-people rounds. His advantage is that having been named early, he can go about on his soft campaign long before nomination day on Jan 6.

State PAS treasurer Abdul Wahid, on the other hand, may be an old hand in local politics but is not well-known outside his own state constituency. First impressions of Abdul Wahid are of “a down to earth, kampung man” – an image that served him well in Wakaf Mempelam but might not quite cut it on Parliament’s national stage.

Razali is relieved that PAS chose Abdul Wahid to carry its torch.

“At the state assembly, Abdul Wahid just talks about Umno khianat, Barisan khianat (Umno treachery, Barisan treachery),” he claimed. “Had Syed Azman been the candidate, Umno would have had to work extra hard.”

Given the current nationwide mood for change, even Umno supporters like taxi driver Ismail Salleh, who hails from the PAS stronghold of Marang, thinks that having a bit of Opposition is good so that the Government “would not get too comfortable”.

Development is an old Umno staple and Kuala Terengganu, now a city, has grown tremendously in the past two decades. If Umno is toying with the idea of luring voters with even more development money, well, it might just work in Terengganu where people have long lived in poverty.

Bound by feelings

By comparison, Kelantanese have a tradition of being financially independent, said Ismail, who had once distributed fertilisers there.

“They have no scruples about taking the (Barisan) bait but leaving the hook untouched. Not so in Terengganu, where people are still bound by feelings of terhutang budi (gratitude),” said Ismail, who together with other taxi drivers had each received about RM10,000 in government assistance.

Pak Awang the beca rider too, was convinced that there was nothing wrong in supporting those who had helped out during floods and other hard times.

“When PAS ruled (1999-2004), everything was given to cronies,” he claimed.

Arithmetically, however, PAS has the upper hand, having won three of the four state seats in the last general election. Only Bandar went to MCA.

Nevertheless, state PAS deputy commissioner Datuk Wan Muttalib Embong considers PAS the underdog, by virtue of the Barisan having won Kuala Terengganu by a 628 vote margin last March. So PAS is far from complacent. The week before nomination day, everyone was still calling the odds at 50-50.

Terengganu’s 88% Malay voters have very decided political opinions but unlike their Penang cousins, are rather more reticent in voicing these to strangers.

Nevertheless, locals easily identify eateries by their political leanings.

When searching for the PAS headquarters, a smiling seamstress told me: “Don’t bother asking there, that’s an Umno kedai; the warong across the street is a PAS hangout.”

Political identity stretches even to the ubiquitous handphone - blue means Barisan, green for PAS.

With such clear demarcations by party affiliation, it is the fence-sitters who will swing the day.

Umno is going on a direct-to-voter campaign.

“There will be no huge rallies except for the Prime Minister or his deputy,” said Razali.

“Ministers will not be dragged here and there. They have been assigned specific areas and ballot boxes. If everyone does his job, Barisan officials will be able to meet each voter at least once.”

Umno members make up 40% of Kuala Terengganu voters.

“The reason we lost last March was that not all Umno members voted Umno,” said Razali tersely.

“But even if every Umno member votes Umno this time, we still cannot win the by-election. We still need the fence-sitters.”

From its “war room” of wall charts, events on the board and detailed breakdown of past results, PKR too is targeting this wavering 20% of blue-green voters.

“Anwar had instructed us to work as if we are the ones standing in this election” said state PKR Youth head Fariz Musa, whose team is throwing themselves wholeheartedly into staging large night rallies, complete with personal attacks on Wan Farid.

A decisive component of these fence-sitters are the 8,787 (11.4%) Chinese voters, most of them concentrated in the Bandar and Ladang urban state constituencies.

Soft approach

PAS is approaching them with a soft touch – in keeping with the state’s gentler culture. Three doctors were giving free blood pressure and sugar level health checks under a tent next to a kedai makan.

“The Chinese like this. They then go and buy their own medicine from the Chinese medicine hall,” said Hanafiah Mat, head of the Terengganu PAS Supporters Club.

Hanafiah is comfortable that the Chinese seem to be leaning towards PAS this time.

“Most are retailers who have suffered from the price rise in consumer goods forced on them by wholesalers. But as shopkeepers, they cannot sell their goods because locals cannot afford to buy them,” he said.

“The Chinese are also grateful to PAS for reverting to the name Kg Cina when we came into power, after the Barisan had changed it to Jln Bandar,” he added.

More specifically, no party is fielding a Chinese candidate this time to split the Chinese vote.

“The Chinese in Terengganu tend to follow the Malays. They speak like locals, boleh beri salam (pronounce the Muslim greeting of peace) and identify with their Malay neighbours,” said PKR Ladang branch chairman Abu Bakar Kasim.

Not everyone is as sanguine. Nor should anyone take the inscrutable Chinese vote for granted.

“The Chinese are the silent voters,” noted Meru assemblyman Dr Abdul Rani Osman, one of the PKR volunteers manning the makeshift health clinic.

“You cannot gauge where their votes will go. At most, a few would say “kuih bulan” (mooncakes – referring to PAS’ party symbol) before thanking you for your services.”

By the political countdown, it is early days yet. Much can happen in two weeks.

Already, there is a hint that this is not going to be a simple straight fight between the blues and the greens. Come nomination day on Tuesday, local politicians expect to see at least a five-cornered fight, with Umno tacitly backing a clutch of Independents to split the Opposition vote.


Molested, then told to forget it

Molested, then told to forget it
Jan 06, 2009
New Straits Times / Asia News Network

KAJANG, MALAYSIA: When Cecilia Lee was molested by a medical attendant at a specialist centre, she lodged a police report.

Then, the management of the specialist centre allegedly did the unthinkable, adding insult to injury.

It allegedly demanded she withdraw her report, saying "certain parties" would be bribed so that her case would be forgotten if she did not.

The 25-year-old engineer, however, lodged a second report at the district police headquarters.

Lee had gone to the specialist centre in Cheras on Dec 30.

She was ushered into the X-ray room at 3pm where she was told to remove all her clothing except for a singlet and her panties.

She was then given a cloth to cover her body and told to lie on the examination table.

Lee claimed that while she was lying on the table, the attendant pushed up the cloth, pressed his fingers against her genitals and then pulled down her panties.

When he left the room, she dressed hurriedly and left.

She claimed that before she could leave, the attendant had the nerve to thank her for her cooperation and bade her a good day.

She related the incident to a friend who then took her to lodge the police report.

City Criminal Investigation Department chief Senior Assistant Commissioner II Ku Chin Wah confirmed the report, saying the suspect had been released on bail after his statement had been recorded.

A week after the incident, Lee went back to the specialist centre for a physiotherapy session. After the session, the doctor informed Lee that the management would like a word with her.

"The management asked me to describe what had transpired and I did.

"They then informed me that the attendant had met them and a lawyer had been engaged for him," Lee said yesterday.

"The management said the attendant had a wife and children to support and wanted me to drop the charges.

"They claimed that certain parties would be bribed to ensure that the case was forgotten if I did not withdraw the charges."

Alarmed and feeling threatened, Lee lodged a second report at the Kajang police headquarters on Sunday. -- New Straits Times / Asia News Network

The dark horse of Kuala Terengganu

The dark horse of Kuala Terengganu
2 Jan, 2009

I will support PAS in Kuala Terengganu as a show of good faith and to demonstrate that we have bigger fish to fry. Then I am going to grab PAS by the balls and kick their arse like there is no tomorrow.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Raja Petra Kamarudin

No one expected it to be Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut. The names bandied about were Mohamad Sabu (popularly known as Mat Sabu), Wan Abdul Muttalib Embong (a wealthy lawyer), Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi (PAS State Assemblyman for Batu Burok) and Mustaffa Ali (populary known as Chikgu Pah and the Warlord of PAS Terengganu). But not Wahid Endut, the PAS State Assemblyman for Wakaf Mempelam.

So it is going to be Wahid Endut then. This will be the PAS candidate for the Kuala Terengganu by-election on 17 January 2009. And what will this do to PAS’s chances? The Chinese bookies have placed odds on PAS winning the by-election even before the candidate was known. Is that now going to happen or have the odds been revised?

I, too, have placed a ‘friendly bet’ (no money involved, just drinks) on PAS. And while many have given PAS a mere few hundred votes, or at the most 2,500 votes, I have gone utterly bullish and betted on a 5,000-vote majority for PAS on the basis the candidate was going to be Mat Sabu. If it was any other candidate, I would have reduced my majority drastically and it wouldn’t have been 5,000 votes. But it’s now too late to change my bet.

No one thinks I am going to win the bet though, even if Mat Sabu is the candidate. Many also bet on PAS but they don’t think it can be as high as 5,000 votes. They think I am crazy and am giving PAS too much confidence by betting on a 5,000-vote majority. I am not sure if I will win the bet but I will certainly camp in Kuala Terengganu over the two weeks from Nomination Day to Polling Day and will go all out to campaign for PAS to make sure I will not be poorer by RM500 or so by having to pay for drinks all around.

Before I go on, those of you who would like to contribute a small amount to the Kuala Terengganu by-election effort can do so by sending some money to Tabung Dana Pilihanraya at CIMB Islamic, bank account number 1449-0000017-10-4. I know many will not be able to make it to Kuala Terengganu but you can make up for this by smoking one packet of cigarettes or by drinking one glass of beer less and, instead, send the equivalent amount to the ‘Kuala Terengganu war effort’.

Let’s raise RM1 million for Kuala Terengganu and help in the effort to cut Barisan Nasional’s racism and arrogance down to size. And even if you give just RM10, this RM1 million can be raised easily and in no time at all with no great dent to your pocket. Let’s do it people!

On 28 December 2008, I wrote, in this same column, an article called Issues versus personalitieshttp://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/16408/84/). No mention was made of Wahid because he was not in my list pf possible candidates. Neither was he in the list of the New Straits Times, The Malaysian Insider, or even A. Ghani Ismail, the veteran political analyst -- as the three items below show.

Even PAS leaders were taken by surprise and many are expressing despair at the choice of candidate. To be fair to Wahid though, there is nothing wrong him. He carries no baggage as such. For that matter, Mat Sabu, Mustaffa Ali, Wan Muttalib and Dr Syed Azman carry more ‘baggage’ than Wahid does. It is just that their ‘strong points’ can offset the ‘baggage’ they carry. But baggage they still do carry, nevertheless, although not serious enough to pose any problems.

Wahid is not known outside the state like the four ‘contenders’ and we really can’t label him a ‘national leader’. But ‘less known’ also means ‘less controversy’ and, in the same process, less enemies. And this is how I would sum up Wahid.

Sometimes, however, we need some controversy. ‘Less controversy’ does not necessarily mean ‘less problems’. It can also translate to ‘lower profile’ and therefore less people will know the candidate. But does this really matter? Wahid may be unknown outside Kuala Terengganu, unlike the other four, but it will be the Kuala Terengganu folks who ultimately decide who to vote for and not those from the other states or from the Pakatan Rakyat coalition partners like DAP and PKR.

I have said this before and I will say it again. There is not one PAS. There are many PASess. There is PAS Kelantan, PAS Terengganu, PAS Kedah, PAS Perak, PAS Selangor and PAS Pusat. And the many PASess do not tick as one. This is not something new. This has always been so. And that is why we hear conflicting and opposite ‘noise’ from each faction of PAS -- which at times can be quite confusing to those who would love to like and trust PAS but can’t quite figure out how to do so with the ‘mixed signals’ PAS is sending out.

This may sound terrible to those who are used to the Barisan Nasional culture of control from the centre. In Barisan Nasional there is only one coalition, the one that Umno controls. And no one can deny that Umno decides everything and no one within Umno or from the other coalition members can go against what the top Umno leadership wants -- that is final, no negotiations on the matter.

In Pakatan Rakyat this does not apply though. PAS, DAP and PKR have their own views of things. We can’t say that any one party calls the shots in Pakatan Rakyat. So, in that sense, there is no ‘boss’ in Pakatan Rakyat. Even Anwar Ibrahim is not able to control the motley crew, as would be no other way of describing them. Then, within PAS, DAP and PKR, there are again different factions. Even internally, within PAS, DAP and PKR Selangor, there are many factions, as the recent goings-on in Selangor have shown. PAS, DAP and PKR Selangor appear to have many internal problems and much dirty linen has been aired in public.

Those who are used to seeing a strong hand from the centre when it comes to Barisan Nasional just can’t imagine a credible opposition with Pakatan Rakyat having so much inter-party and intra-party ‘disunity’. And this is not just inter-party and intra-party ‘disunity’ at national level but at state level as well. Many have said that Pakatan Rakyat is ‘disintegrating’ and that the opposition coalition will not last. And the proof is all around -- and as far as they are concerned this can’t be disputed.

As I always say, you see the half glass of water as half full or half empty, depending on how you see things. Barisan Nasional is also fragmented. But the Barisan Nasional glass is half full while the Pakatan Rakyat glass is half empty. But is not the half empty or half full glass equally half a glass of water? Why the different yardsticks when comparing Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Rakyat?

The fact that no one party controls Pakatan Rakyat the way Umno controls Barisan Nasional may not be good for the opposition coalition but is certainly good for the people. This means Pakatan Rakyat, or any one member in Pakatan Rakyat, will never have the political hegemony like in Barisan Nasional. No one party in Pakatan Rakyat is too strong. So no one party can become the boss or the gangster warlord.

And the coming Kuala Terengganu by-election has demonstrated this. Neither DAP or PKR calls the shots in Pakatan Rakyat. And neither does PAS. In fact, PAS can’t even call the shots in Terengganu. PAS Terengganu, not PAS Pusat, decides what happens in Terengganu. And, as much as DAP, PKR of PAS Pusat may have their own idea of things, what PAS Terengganu wants and not what the others want is what matters in Terengganu.

You can choose to be dismayed at PAS Terengganu’s choice of candidate for the Kuala Terengganu by-election or you can choose to celebrate. The way the candidate was chosen shows no one is the boss or is in complete control. What the people on the ground want is what matters. Other opinions do not count.

Okay, PAS Terengganu has spoken. They want Wahid as their man. I never for one minute thought it would be Wahid. No one, in fact, thought so as well. But I will campaign tooth and nail for Wahid, never mind if I think that is not the best choice or that it was not my choice. If that is PAS Terengganu’s choice then that is good enough for me.

I will look at the big picture. And the big picture must not be about personalities. It must be about issues. And the issue is we need to continue sending messages to those who walk in the corridors of power that enough is enough. Barisan Nasional has been racist and arrogant for far too long. 50 years is enough. This racism and arrogance must end. And the message must be sent through denying Barisan Nasional the Kuala Terengganu parliament seat.

Politicians understand only one message. And politicians are concerned about only one thing -- winning the elections. If they fail to win then they eventually get the message.

8 March 2008 was one message we sent Barisan Nasional. The Permatang Pauh by-election was the second message. But both messages fell on deaf ears. So we must, yet again, send them another message. And this message must be to deny them the Kuala Terengganu seat. And we have to keep sending messages as long as they remain deaf. That is the only way and no other way.

So, meet you in Kuala Terengganu. If you can’t go then at least send PAS some money to help them finance the by-election. And let’s kick Umno into the South China Sea like we kicked them into the Indian Ocean in the Permatang Pauh by-election.

Sure, I too don’t agree with much of what PAS is doing and saying. I too feel that PAS needs to address matters involving civil society and that they are not doing enough in this area. But I will support PAS in Kuala Terengganu as a show of good faith and to demonstrate that we have bigger fish to fry. Then I am going to grab PAS by the balls and kick their arse like there is no tomorrow.
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When Pas spiritual chief Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat jumped the gun and announced last week that Mohamed Sabu alias Mat Sabu was his choice as candidate for the Jan 17 Kuala Terengganu by-election, he was trying to use his stature to stampede the party into NOT choosing a candidate from the conservative Ulama group led by president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

Nik Aziz is now alligned to the party's Erdogan faction, who has thrown its lot behind Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader who has close ties with the Turkish leader. And Mohamed, considered a moderate, is more acceptable to the Erdogan faction.

Herein lies the dilemma before Pas — pick Mohamed, the popular, seasoned campaigner but an "outsider" in the state and face a possible defeat or place the bet on a local boy but a respected Ulama and still face defeat.

It is a Catch-22 situation for the Pas leadership.

Supporters of Hadi are saying a veteran Pas leader like Terengganu Pas commissioner Datuk Mustafa Ali or his deputy Datuk Wan Abdul Muttalib Embong, both locals, stand a better chance against an Umno/BN candidate. DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang has also spoken up for Mohamed, saying he was a good candidate and that the party would work hard to win over the Chinese voters, who form 11 per cent of the electorate of about 80,000. Lim's preference for Mohamed is because the latter is a moderate, and has worked with DAP and human rights NGOs like Suaram and BERSIH over numerous issues ranging from urban squatters to human rights abuses.

Mohamed's supporters — both in Pas and in the opposition ranks — believe that if he is selected it would be easier to woo the crucial Chinese voters who, in the event Malay votes are split equally between Pas and Umno, would be the kingmakers. It is also easier for the DAP to campaign for Mohamed and more difficult to back Mustafa or Wan Muttalib, who are hardliners and leading conservative voices in Pas. Both are also lesser known to the Chinese community compared with Mohamed.

These are considerations the Pas leadership is weighing.

The dilemma is compounded by the fact that the voting trend in Kuala Terengganu since the 1986 general election shows that an "outsider" gets fewer votes compared to a local. Pas leaders estimate that about 2,000 votes will stray from Pas if an outside candidate like Mohamed, who is from Penang, is fielded as the candidate. As evidence they point to the fact that although the majority of voters voted opposition in the state seats in the Kuala Terengganu constituency in the March 2008 election, the votes for Mohamed in the parliamentary election saw a 2,000 vote shortfall.

This means the 2,000 voted for Pas but not for Mohamed.

"We blame these discrepancies on the 'local-outsider' factor," said a top Pas leader requesting anonymity. "It sounds stupid as we are all Malaysians but it is a known fact that local candidates have an edge over non-locals."

There are larger issues besides the "local versus outsider" issue. Much of this has to do with the Hadi and his vision of the party, Islam and Malay society. Terengganu is Hadi's home state and he wants to play the key role in the by-election battle and play it his way, Pas insiders said.

"He wants to lead and win and does not want others overshadowing his lead," insiders said referring to both Anwar and Lim as possible individuals who could take the limelight away.

Hadi also feels, they said, that the Malays are finally turning to Islam and to Pas for leadership and direction in the face of uncertainties in Malay society since the March 8 general election. "He sees opportunity here for Pas and for Islam to lead the way for the Malays at a troubled time... not any other idealogy," they said.

Malay society, they said, has been roiled by Umno's constant harping on the loss of Malay supremacy and attacks on Anwar as a traitor. "All these and other issues have confused and raised fears among the Malays."

"Even the Malay Rulers are re-exerting themselves… Pas leaders believe the conditions are now right for Malays to return to Islam and they want Pas to play the ultimate role as protector and guide for the future," they said.

In this context, supporters of Hadi say, the by-election is crucial for them to show that Islam and Pas is the way forward for the Malays. (Baradan Kuppusamy, The Malaysian Insider, 9 December 2008)

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Will Pas pick Batu Burok State Assemblyman Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi as its candidate for the Kuala Terengganu by-election? He is a popular figure among voters -- at least according to two opinion polls conducted recently.

One involved 700 voters. When asked whom they preferred as the Pas candidate, 82 per cent picked Syed Azman, the former Kuala Terengganu Member of Parliament, over vice-president Mohamad Sabu and state Pas commissioner Datuk Mustaffa Ali.

More than 20 per cent of the 622 respondents in the other poll also wanted Syed Azman as the candidate. Next was Mohamad Sabu, followed by Terengganu Pas deputy chief Wan Muttalib Embong and Mustaffa.

On Wednesday, on his return from the haj, Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said Pas would consider all views, including those of bloggers and those in poison-pen letters, to determine the candidate for the Jan 17 by-election as the right choice was "the single most important aspect in facing Barisan Nasional in the by-election".

Party spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat had suggested that Mohamad Sabu be re-nominated and this will be taken into account despite opposition from Terengganu Pas Youth that Mohamad Sabu is not a local. Parti Keadilan Rakyat and DAP leaders are also in favour of Mohamad Sabu being fielded despite his failed debut in March.

But these are just names being bandied about. The Pas central committee is expected to decide on a candidate at its meeting in Kuala Terengganu on Sunday. The names will then be submitted for endorsement by the Majlis Syura Ulama or Consultative Council of Religious Scholars before an announcement is made on Jan 1, 2009.

"Sunday's meeting will deliberate on the nominations for the candidacy from Terengganu Pas," said deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, who is the by-election director.

On the other side, the list of prospective Umno candidates keeps getting longer as party members await an announcement from deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the menteri besar's official residence tomorrow. Umno is said to be wooing independent religious speaker Wan Sohor Leman, an International Islamic University lecturer, although Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Ahmad and senior state education officer Mohd Zuber Embong remain popular bets.

But several local Umno and Pas leaders are sceptical since most of Wan Sohor's family members, who reside in Ladang, one of the three state constituencies under Pas in Kuala Terengganu, are known to be Pas supporters. The by-election is shaping into a possible multi-cornered contest but the main bout will be between arch-rivals Umno and Pas. (New Straits Times, 19 December 2008)

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While the Barisan Nasional will have against her the stubborn inflation resulting from the fuel price-hike that was clearly a bad boob, for the Pas it is a challenge against Terengganu’s parochial thickness if the party chooses again to field Mohammad (Mat) Sabu for the January 17 by-election.

Unlike in Kelantan where many “outsiders” have won in elections running as Pas’ candidates, the same does not hold true in Terengganu. Even the brand new Pas Secretary-General failed in his bid to breach the difficulty in the 8 March polls. He contested in Besut.

Mat Sabu lost on 8 March 2008 by 628 votes in Kuala Terengganu because he was not a domicile. There’s no other reason that can explain why the “imported candidate” had lost as narrowly as he did.

Kuala Terengganu is a hard place for the BN to win too. Voters gave three from four state seats within the federal constituency to Pas, with the total votes exceeding the BN take by 2,283, meaning Mat Sabu ought to have won.

But if the Pas were to opt for Wan Muttalib Embong instead, or Dr. Syed Azman Syed Ahmad who won in Batu Burok (Kuala Terengganu), the BN, which is likely to choose the educationist, Zuber Embong, or the CEO of the Religious Council, Alwi Mohamad, will have to fight tooth-and-nail to keep the parliamentary seat in this by-election.

Kuala Terengganu passed from the BN to Semangat 46 in 1990 and then to Pas in 1999. It can go either way once again, the BN being sadly depressed by the general disenchantment arising from the out-of-control prices of goods and mainly of foodstuff. Prices of foodstuff kept going up in Malaysia after the prices of fuel at the stands were reduced since the price of oil had gone down from the record of USD 147 to below USD 36. There’s no way for the government to explain this sad failure without making voters cry foul louder than otherwise.

On the brighter side in Kuala Terengganu are the facts the present state government was chosen by the palace and the sultan will be chairman of the Terengganu Investment Authority where RM 10 billion of the state’s sovereign fund shall be deposited.

Sultan Mizan, who is presently the Yang Dipertuan Agong (Malaysia’s King), is highly respected in the state for himself and not merely as a constitutional ruler. He and his household have conducted themselves beyond a mist of reproach. The sultan is above party politics, of course, but the gist of the fact he chose the present state government against the wishes of the Prime Minister is a big plus for the BN.

The previous Terengganu state government had been cruelly mangled by federal intrusions that introduced the jinxed “Typhoon Cup”, said businessman, Syed Muhammad, a grandson of the famous savant, Tok Ku Paloh. Like the cherry on the cake, this year’s Typhoon Cup was held while Kuala Terengganu was flooded.

In a recent move the state government was seen to have weeded out the poorer performers in the state capital, paving a path for a more efficient team to finally commercialise and industrialise oil-laden Terengganu instead of being dependent on tourism. The tourism binge had been a follow-through of the Monsoon Cup. It gave Kuala Trengganu a classy fa├žade of a crystal mosque and a miniature Taj Mahal, some jobs and a face-lift. Those artifacts on Pulau Wan Man off Kuala Terengganu did draw more than 1.5 million sightseers this year.

But how all that would improve the state’s human resources and lead into a sustainable economy after the oil and gas are gone, is beyond easy reach of sensible minds. Is Terengganu too primitive to be thinking half as loud as Dubai? Is it true Terengganu’s ship-building industry is quite recent and found only on Pulau Duyung opposite Kuala Terengganu?

Ocean-going ships of three to five masts were built in various locations of Terengganu from as early as the 14th century according to available records and chances are, the ship-building had been there several centuries earlier.

Terengganu was the second Malay kingdom on the Peninsula after Patani and it was already a Muslim country long before Islam reached Malacca with the conversion of Parameswara in 1411.

Trengganu was ahead in this maritime region with a strong ship-building industry, gold mining and metallurgy, silk and fabrics that still survive as batik and songket, and agriculture and fisheries.

Terengganu was an industrial leader in the region, and probably the leading ship-builder in the whole of Nusantara even after Aceh began building her large ships of war in the 16th century under IskandarMuda and Iskandar Thani, and then when the woman, Malayahati, was Laksamana (Admiral).

Hence people in the coastal state have asked where has the will puffed to deter setting sail for the gone-glory?

The Malay Archipelago (The Spice Islands) remained the largest contributor to the world GDP even during the initial encounter with the Occident before widespread colonization was forged by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824. Kuala Terengganu was a ship-building and industrial port that was looking eastwards during those times when China was a big maritime power.

Now, after decades of oil-wealth, it does sound ludicrous to be busily gearing Kuala Terengganu into a tourism hub, spending billions on glassy enchantments in the murk of the muara (river mouth) while the people are left without understanding even how a tungsten-bulb is made.

It is certainly time to change the direction of government in Terengganu and this is what is being accomplished, beginning with the sultan’s intervention following the 8 March elections.

There’s an air of expectation in Terengganu. Will that translate into a larger-than-normal winning number of votes for the BN on January 17 is what’s left to be seen. (A. Ghani Ismail, http://naningku.blogspot.com/ 19 December 2008)

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EDITOR’S NOTE

To those who wish to donate to the Kuala Terengganu by-election effort you can bank in the money to the following bank account:

Tabung Dana Pilihanraya
CIMB Islamic
Bank account number: 1449-0000017-10-4