Sunday, June 8, 2014

Eyeing the Rocky road for PAKATAN - Joceline Tan

THE grainy photograph of Datuk Seri Hadi Awang in a blue hospital gown and giving what looked like a high-five has been making the rounds on Facebook.
But Hadi was probably waving because he is not the high-five type. The PAS president was almost unrecognisable without his trademark kopiah and glasses and it was also the first time that anyone had seen his legs which looked rather fair.
Hadi, according to his long-time political secretary Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, has recovered but doctors in the Istanbul hospital wanted him to be completely stable before he flies home.
“His appetite has improved, he can also joke now,” said Dr Samsuri who was with his boss in Istanbul.
Hadi, 66, was attending a conference in the Turkish city when he experienced chest pains, the preferred euphemism for a heart attack.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak immediately instructed the Malaysian Ambassador in Ankara to take care of Hadi’s needs and Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also telephoned to wish him well.
There has been a groundswell of prayers and good wishes for the PAS leader.
Friends of Barisan Nasional, a Facebook fan page, gave thanks to Allah for Hadi’s recovery and posted a picture of Hadi on the hospital bed. The post drew 18,000 likes and hundreds of well-meaning comments plus a few cheeky ones like, “Thought he had a phobia for blue coloured clothes.”
Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob flew in on Wednesday to see Hadi. It was quite a thrill for party members to finally have a Mentri Besar who has the energy to arrive in Istanbul at 5.30am, spend the day with Hadi and take the evening flight back to Malaysia. Ahmad or Datuk Mat, as he is known, has become the man to watch in PAS for several reasons. First, is the fact that the hudud law initiative is coming from his government in Kelantan. That has lent him an image as a champion of the faith.

Ahmad: Emerged as a champion figure.
Second, is his sense of conviction. The young Turks in PAS want a leader who can put the party back on their Islamist path instead of bowing to the secular demands of their partners.
They think Ahmad has those qualities and they liked it when he put DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud in her place and asked her to learn about hudud before opening her mouth on Islam. He also rebutted DAP leaders for blaming the Teluk Intan defeat on the hudud issue.
The blame game over Teluk Intan is still going on and a political pattern has emerged after six by-elections since May 5.
The first five by-elections were basically about the rival coalitions defending and holding on to what they had. Teluk Intan was the first time an incumbent lost to the challenger. More significantly, the loser is the most powerful Chinese party today while the winner is a party everyone had given up for dead.
The other thing is the plunging voter turnout. The turnout for the Kuala Besut and Sungai Limau by-elections was 80% and 85% respectively, just slightly lower than in the general election.
The turnout for Kajang, followed by Balingian, was around 72%. It plunged to 56% in Bukit Gelugor and 67% in Teluk Intan.
Kajang was the “turning point by-election”. The electorate, inside and outside Kajang, was turned off by the way PKR manipulated the electoral process to suit Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s agenda.
The Kajang Move was not the new politics they had been promised and damaged the image of Pakatan. It opened the eyes of many, especially that of the urban intelligentsia and younger cohort, to the fact that unprincipled politicians can be found on both sides of the divide.
The cannot-be-bothered attitude was repeated in Bukit Gelugor although possibly for a different reason. Passing a seat from father to son is okay for the opposition diehards but it is so old politics.
The cynicism among the swing group or fencesitters who had made such a difference in the general election is growing although they are still not with Barisan.
Teluk Intan was a warning of what can happen when voters are taken for granted. An over-confident DAP decided to experiment with a Malay candidate just as Chinese phobia over hudud law was building up. The result was that only about 60% of Chinese turned out to vote.
Sin Chew Daily recently listed a string of reasons for the loss of confidence in Pakatan. In Selangor, the reasons included the massive salary hike for elected representatives, the Bible seizure, the power struggle in PKR over the Mentri Besar post and the water crisis.
Pakatan’s image in Penang, according to the Sin Chew Daily report, was affected by the Chief Minister’s Mercedes Benz issue, interference in press freedom and the hike in water tariffs. But the push for hudud law takes centrestage.
“The hudud issue is a wake-up call. Many voters don’t know who to trust now,” said a businessman who owns a chain of restaurants in the Klang Valley.
The Chinese were attracted to Pakatan’s sales pitch of new politics and change. They thought they could play ball with PAS, that PAS would be more reasonable than Umno. They did not understand that issues of religion are non-negotiable for PAS.
The spectre of hudud law is playing on the psyche of many non-Muslims even though they are still unclear of its implications.
The Chinese had complained that MCA could not control Umno. But they can see now that DAP, despite having the most number of parliamentary and state seats, are just as helpless.
There is a Chinese slang phrase for this - 2x5 or 5x2, it still adds up to 10. It basically means that both sides are no different.
“All this while, they said PAS would not implement the Islamic State. But they have gone against their election promise,” said the above restaurateur.
PAS politicians have insisted that, apart from the Buku Jingga, PAS had an election agreement to cooperate with DAP while reserving its right to champion the Islamic State.
The manifesto stated that their cooperation was premised on the Welfare State concept of PAS as well as DAP’s concept of justice in accordance to the Federal Constitution. This was qualified by the statement that, “PAS reserves the right to champion the Islamic State on its own accord.”
The manifesto carried the distinctive signatures of the two top guns of PAS and DAP.
Penang Barisan chairman Teng Chang Yeow claimed that the manifesto had misled the voters.

Teng: Pas bent on hudud from the start.
“What it basically means is that PAS’ position on the Islamic State was clearly stated from the beginning. That’s why Pakatan is unable to stop PAS from going ahead with hudud,” said Teng.
It also explains why DAP has resorted to the “blame Umno” tactic.

A sample of the irrational stuff coming from top DAP leaders:
* Hudud is a trap set up by Umno
* Only Umno can stop hudud
* Umno is instigating PAS to implement hudud
* Non-Muslims must pressure Umno on hudud
* MCA has failed to stop Umno from supporting hudud.
It is pretty amazing that DAP is blaming Umno when it is PAS who is pushing for hudud law. This sort of illogical rhetoric is insulting to the people’s intelligence and there will be some backlash in time to come.
Do people buy this twisted logic?
“I think even the opposition diehards don’t believe it but they go along with it,” said the above restaurateur.
The thinking class sees through it and their disenchantment has translated into voter apathy and disinterest. Hence, the low voter turnout in the recent by-elections.
There have been so many uncanny coincidences in politics the last few months. For instance, MH370 disappeared in the early hours of March 8, the day associated with the 2008 political tsunami.
Karpal Singh, famous for his “over my dead body declaration” on hudud law, was killed in a road accident just as the issue erupted.
He was convicted of sedition involving the Perak Sultan shortly before his death and it did not escape notice that the tragedy happened at the Perak stretch of the highway.
Then, the Sultan of Perak passed away at the most crucial stretch of the Teluk Intan campaign. The coincidences have been mind-boggling. It is the stuff of kopitiam chatter although no one can quite connect the dots.
But, as they say, what goes around comes around.
Hadi, despite health issues, is 100% for Kelantan’s hudud move and even wants to be the one to table the bills in Parliament later this year. DAP can object to hudud till the cows come home, PAS is not budging.
Pakatan, despite the discord, is not about to break up any time soon. The coalition will hold for as long as the Selangor government is there.
They are now like a marriage where the partners have major differences but are staying together for the sake of the children and assets involved.

Eyeing the importance of being earnest

CRONY CAPITALISM? It's time for YTL boss to walk the talk and show ethical leadership by example

APPARENTLY, the negative trait of Melayu mudah lupa is not only confined to the Malays, but also to other ethnic groups in Malaysia. This is evident from the statement by YTL Corporation Bhd managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh when he commented  on crony capitalism a few days ago.
Yeoh's claims that he is successful because he is not a crony and doesn't depend on government contracts.
He also went further, which seems tantamount to fanning the flame of racial provocation, by stating that non-Bumiputera small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) "absolutely have no chance" to even fight "for the crumbs" as they are already at the low end of the food chain.
He delighted in lecturing us, delivered with a straight face and an affectation of pious conviction, that Malaysians are not taking advantage of our ethnic diversity, and we must introduce more open competition and encourage greater transparency in business.
Not unexpectedly, his statement evoked negative reaction from the public, and many reacted in disbelief to Yeoh's hypocrisy given his companies' close links with the government in the past as well as in the present.
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam summed it up aptly when he said that "people who live in glass houses, should not throw stones". He further correctly stressed that Yeoh's talking about getting rid of cronyism doesn't sound right while his companies bagged lucrative government contracts through direct negotiations rather than open tender exercises.
Why the repetitive mantra by Yeoh despite YTL receiving all the government's love and special attention all these times? We know that great wealth buys great political influence, but to insult the people's intelligence with his sermon borders on brazen arrogance.
Maybe these kinds of people live in a bubble, and not surpassingly, those inside the bubble sometimes think that they can pull the wool over our eyes.
Nonetheless, let us address Yeoh's arguments specifically.
Yeoh is adamant that YTL is successful because he is not a crony and doesn't depend on government contracts. That is a bold statement.
Without government contracts, YTL would still be a small-time contractor. In fact, it is continuously the beneficiary of government assistance. For instance, in 1990, YTL was awarded an almost RM1 billion contract to build public hospitals.
Unless Yeoh suffers from amnesia, he could not possibly forget his big break in 1992 when the government awarded him the first licence to build, operate and manage power plants.
Without this lucrative concession, his company would probably be stuck as Syarikat Pembinaan YTL Sdn Bhd, a relatively small construction and property development company. This foray into the power sector vaulted YTL into the big league, where its pre-tax profit last year alone amounted to RM2.5 billion, versus RM30 million in 1991 before contributions from power operations began flowing in.
Importantly, most of the projects given to YTL were and still are heavily subsidised by the rakyat. His power agreement with Tenaga Nasional Bhd was so lopsided and utterly unjust that Tan Sri Ani Arope, the then TNB chief executive officer, submitted his resignation after refusing to accept YTL's terms.
His "take or pay" agreement with TNB obligated it to take up YTL's power output -- priced much higher than what TNB could easily produce -- whether the utility needed it or not, for 21 years.
Maybe that's what Yeoh meant when he stated that YTL became successful via "innovation", which ripped off billions in taxpayers' money.
Has he also conveniently forgotten how he was recently awarded a RM10 billion contract by the Education Ministry to provide, among others, laptops to schools, despite YTL not being a computer maker, nor expert in education services? The contract irked member of parliament Zaril Khir Johari, who raised questions on this issue in Parliament. His 1BestariNet programme, which is to install 4G high-speed broadband to all schools, indirectly means that the rakyat are actually funding the commercial expansion of YTL's YES 4G network. So much for innovation.
Yeoh was also borderline malicious when he said the non-Bumiputera SMEs had been discriminated by the government.
Well, I wonder where he got his statistics from. Analyses done by the Economic Planning Unit show that non-Bumiputera businesses, especially Chinese companies, took 80 sen for every RM1 in government contracts.
Even funding for SMEs benefited non-Bumiputeras the most, as data shows that Bumiputera companies accounted for about 30 per cent of the entire funding for SMEs last year.
To put things in perspective, the value of the contract YTL secured from the Education Ministry alone, for providing only laptops to students, exceeds the entire funding for all Bumiputera SMEs for the entire period of last year!
It is heart-warming to learn that YTL supports national unity. Let us, for a second meditate upon and closely scrutinise these nationalistic statements from Yeoh: "We should leverage on our different ethnic races in the nation and should start working together. We have been working for a long time like we're in a tunnel. We have not learnt to work together. We have been separated and not looked at each other's strengths. We do not celebrate our diversity."
Such enlightened view should indeed be emulated by other companies! However, in the name of transparency, would YTL be willing to make public the ethnic diversity figures in YTL workforce, its board of directors, exco, senior management, mid-management and low-level positions?
YTL should also make public how much was sub-contracted to Bumiputera and Indian companies, compared to Chinese-owned companies.
Similarly, in the name of transparency, would YTL also make public its power agreements, which had enabled YTL to make astronomical returns at the expense of the people? Please allow public scrutiny of the agreements, as suggested by MP Tony Pua from DAP not too long ago.
Yeoh also argued that he is a true patriot, for he has "defended the present government's concerted efforts to introduce more open competition and encourage greater transparency in business".
This is commendable, but flies in the face of facts. How does YTL explain its willing participation in direct negotiations with the government on some of the most lucrative contracts? It was only last week that a YTL Corp wholly-owned subsidiary was awarded a power plant project by the Energy Commission via direct tender!
Maybe YTL can make a declaration to the public that it will no longer participate in direct-negotiations and cease altogether from seeking contracts from the government.
There is still time for redemption for a devout man like Yeoh to walk the talk. I am sure he would like to show ethical leadership by example.
Moving forward, we have to help Yeoh from backsliding from his recent epiphany, and to become the born-again corporate leader that he aspires to be.
I would urge the government to be kind to him by avoiding any dealings with YTL group, either in providing contracts, or using its products and services. The government should also exclude YTL from participating in any way whatsoever in the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project, if the project is yet to be awarded to him. He sorely needs help from the government to wean him away from his old habits.
As for me, I will also do my little part. I will stop patronising YTL hotels, shopping malls and Internet service provider, among others. I am boycotting YTL and I suggest the rest of Malaysia follow suit.
After all, Yeoh proudly claimed that his company gets 85 per cent of revenue from overseas operations.
Oh, by the way, the deafening silence from some of the most vocal critics of crony capitalism in Malaysia is really puzzling.
Imagine if the same statement was made by a Malay tycoon, I am sure the deafening silence will become a raging tropical thunderstorm.
Maybe when a Bumiputera businessman gets a contract, it's cronyism and unfair privileges. But when people like Yeoh gets it, it is innovation, market forces and meritocracy.

Read more: The importance of being earnest - Columnist - New Straits Times