Tag Archives: malaysia

Analyzing Malaysian Budget 2013

To help Malaysiakini.com readers grasp the 2013 federal budget announced by the Malaysian government on Sep 28, 2012, I worked with our graphic designer to put together this infographic on the same day of the announcement.

It not only explains the gist of the budget, but also provides historical context and analyzes the trend of Malaysian government spending. Each chart shows an unhealthy characteristic of the government spending habit, which of course was not presented in any of the official budget reports or speeches.

The process of collecting, cleaning analyzing old data was the most challenging and time-consuming part in this project (and in most of my other projects too) as the data was in PDF format and contained conflicting figures.

The outcome however was rewarding because we were the only news outlet that provided these insights. The same infographic was updated and published again a year later on the 2014 budget after I left the company to pursue my study in New York.

For many data journalists out there, this may look like a very basic and simple data visualization, but for Malaysiakini and other Malaysian media which don’t know much about data journalism, it was a big step.

Click on the image to enter enlarged view. It was published here but somehow it went missing after a CMS change that happened after I left for New York.

 

budget2013longimage

Rural vote under grip of money, intimidation

This analysis/investigative report was produced during the 2011 state election of Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia that has been governed by the same chief minister for 33 years (1981-2014). Abdul Taib Mahmud, 77, often described by his critics as the “richest man in Malaysia”, stepped down in February 2014 as the chief minister and assumed the position of Head of State (the ruler in a constitutional monarchy), continuing to assert his influence over the state.  His family business empire controls over 400 companies in every sector in Malaysia and holds overseas assets more than US$250 million in four countries. The 2011 state election saw a historic breakthrough by the opposition, winning 15 out of 71 seats in the state legislative assembly. The opposition (PKR, DAP and PAS) made significant inroads in urban constituencies but rural areas remained a stronghold of the ruling  coalition (BN) mainly due to extensive money politics and political intimidation.

I was stationed in several rural constituencies for almost one month to cover the campaign and investigate the degree and impacts of vote buying and political patronage culture.

The original story was published here (paywall).

Rural vote under grip of money, intimidation

5:05PM Oct 31, 2010

By Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

While DAP ceramah in urban centres are magnets for thousands, indicating a possible clean sweep of all seats there, in contrast, the PKR campaigners in rural constituencies are struggling hard to turn traditional BN supporters against the politics of development, money and fear.

Pervasive poverty has made rural voters very vulnerable to financial enticement compared to the urbanite. Most families in the interior earn between RM100 to RM500 per month and a significant number of longhouses and villages are still without treated water and power supply.

The opposition often complains that their hard work in the constituency is destroyed by BN’s last-minute ‘money assault’.

NONEA ‘kapitan’ – an official Chinese community leader appointed by the state government who declined to be named for fear of reprisal by the authorities – explained in detail to Malaysiakinion the working of money politics in the interior.

“For instance, the BN candidate here had promised to give RM500 to every family in exchange for their support. We (kapitan) will pass the word to every family that we oversee,” he said when met recently at his house.

“If the candidate does not fulfil the promise, I afraid the voters will not vote for him. In the last few days, they’ve been asking me about the money,” he added.

“For white areas (BN strongholds), the money may be handed out before polling day. However, for black areas (where BN lost in last election), the money may be withheld until after polling day to make sure they vote for the BN.”

Where cash is king

He also revealed that the diaspora which returns to vote can claim RM60 transportation fee from the BN, distributed by the kapitan.

Money politics peaks on the night before polling day, he said, when all in Iban longhouses stay up throughout the night waiting for BN’s last-minute cash handouts.

“BN will send its agent to visit pintu by pintu (individual lots in a longhouse) to distribute cash, ranging from RM50 to RM300.

“Last time when I was campaigning for BN candidate, we had to travel from one longhouse to another from midnight until dawn, distributing the money,” he added.

ulu niah 5 iban longhouse sarawak 011007 welcomesMalaysiakini also witnessed a BN candidate handing out cash when greeting Iban folks in the longhouse during his nightly campaign. He passed the cash when shaking hands with them.

Although the opposition has called on voters “take the BN’s money but vote for the opposition”, which had been proven effective in the peninsula, it does not seem to work with the Iban cultural and traditional emphasis on gratitude and appreciation.

“When they receive money from you, they feel that they owe you something so they will repay your kindness the next day (polling day),” said an Iban PKR campaigner when met at Engkilili, an Iban-majority rural seat contested by the party.

The more financially well-off candidates would fully exploit this characteristic by throwing parties and dishing out free meals in the longhouses, coupled with crates of beers, which is an all-time favourite drink of the Ibans.

Minds boxed in by superstition

There had also been cases of those distributing the cash asking their recipients to swear loyalty to the BN, some even made to drink water said to be cursed.

“This is a psychological tactic to intimidate voters. They will vote for the person who gave money because the fear of tulah(curse),” claimed another PKR campaign coordinator in Saribas.

NONEThe situation is compounded by the shallow political awareness among the people. Most of the time they think that the funds given by BN MP or assemblyperson under the minor rural projects (MRP) allocation is from the latter’s own pocket.

MRP is the state government’s annual allocation for every Sarawak BN representative of over RM1 million. The representatives then distribute funds in the form of cheques to the development and security committees (JKKK) of longhouses and villages, and other local associations.

Similar to the political patronage culture in the peninsula, rural voters here often openly ask for funds when their representative calls on them.

When Malaysiakini followed the campaign of BN’s Lubuk Antu MP William Nyalau Badak to a longhouse at Mepi Pasir in his constituency where the chairperson of the JKKK’s women bureau went on stage to ask for RM5,000, which William gracefully promised in his speech later.

Largesse distribution, opposition poor second

Not only BN candidates, their opposition counterparts are also said to be giving cash handouts to voters during their campaign, but the amount, of course, cannot match their wealthier rival.

Apart from money, development politics and a surveillance network are important elements for the regime to maintain its rural region hegemony.

Unlike peninsular politics where politicians avoid offending the voters, Sarawak government leaders often hold them to ransom by threatening to withhold development allocations should they lose support.

“Let’s say, if a seat falls to the opposition but the state and country are still under the BN, what’s going to happen? How would the constituents go to the government and ask for something?” said Tasik Biru incumbent and assistant minister of environment Peter Nansian Ngusie, according to a report inBorneo Post last week.

NONE“Not that we would not take care of the people but those who vote for the government would be given higher priority. That’s just being practical,” he said, adding that the people who vote for the opposition should look to them for help.

Supp deputy secretary-general Wong Soon Koh (above) who is also the second finance minister and Minister of Environment and Public Health concurred.

Fear very effective control tool

The Bawang Assan candidate had openly sounded the warning that Sibu voters would lose their only minister and be denied development allocations should the seat fall to the opposition.

At the lower level, voters were told of horror stories of children being expelled from schools, civil servants sacked, villagers deprived of fertiliser and other government assistance, to the collapse of government, should they vote for the opposition.

NONEHence it is not surprising that opposition candidates, such as Abang Zulkilfi Abang Engkeh from the PKR, who contested the marginal seat of Saribas, has to repeatedly tell the villagers during ceramah that three of his children were able to enrol into public universities despite his active involvement in the opposition.

The atmosphere of political fear and intimidation is ratcheted further by the extensive network of community leaders appointed by the state government to serve as its eyes, ears and guards.

At the divisional level, a community leader from each ethnic – Malay, Chinese and Iban – is appointed as temenggung, the paramount leader of that particular ethnic community.

This is followed by the appointment of ‘pemancar’ at the district level and ‘penghulu’, ‘kapitan’, ‘ketua kampung’ and ‘tuai rumah’ at the lower level.

A community is overseen by a ‘tuai rumah’ can be as small as 20-lot longhouse.

Public funds’ role propping up

These key posts are recommended by BN elected representatives and appointed by the government for a four-year term with a monthly allowance of RM450, raised to RM800 earlier this year.

“If we find out that certain areas did not vote for BN, the ‘kapitan’ overseeing that area would warn the people there that their government assistance could be terminated. The same goes to longhouses,” said the kapitan interviewed by Malaysiakini.

NONEPeople in the interior are mostly involved in agriculture, relying heavily on government agency’s aid which includes the provision of fertiliser, seedling and herbicide.

Tuai rumah were alsotold by BN leadersthat they have the right to chase away opposition from campaigning in their areas. However, not many are willing to do so because of the Iban’s inherent friendly nature.

“If the kapitan or tuai rumah are found supporting the opposition, they would be sacked,” he added.

So, it is extremely difficult for opposition to secure victory in the interior under such circumstances unless other existing factors could overcome these hurdles, including the selection of unpopular candidate at Linggan and Pelagus, and pressing local issues such as the impact from the construction of dams in Bengoh and Belaga.

Live Coverage of Malaysia’s Largest Protest

In July 2011, I led some 10 journalists of Malaysiakini.com to cover the Bersih 2.0 rally, the largest street protest in Malaysia for over 50 years. Organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), the demonstration attracted over 10,000 participants and lasted for four hours. Police used excessive violence to disperse the protesters including tear gas, water cannon and physical assault. A total of 1,667 people were arrested.

The protest demanded the government to reform the electoral system which has been marred by flaws, fraud and unfairness. A month after the protest, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the forming of a parliamentary select committee to review the electoral system.

As the chief reporter, I was assigned to plan and coordinate the reporting team on the ground. We were required to do live coverage, snap instant photos (all Malaysiakini journalists are reporter cum photographer) and write separate full stories.

A day before the protest, the police has blocked all the major roads into the city center where the protest would take place, forcing us to stay in several hotels near to the protest venue the night before.

During the protest, most of my colleagues and I were tear gassed and pretty exhausted towards the end of the protest as the protest spread across and city and all transport systems were halted.

All the hard works pay off when Malaysiakini became the most visited news website on that day. We managed to provide the fastest and most comprehensive coverage of the protest, while the state-controlled mainstream media downplayed or demonized the event.

The original story was published here (paywall).

 

Top leaders arrested; Anwar injured

12:45PM Jul 9, 2011

Malaysiakini

At least five marches have broken out in Petaling Street, near Daya Bumi Complex, Masjid Jamek, Pudu and Sogo and the police responded with tear gas and water cannon fire.

Later, the marches converged near the Puduraya-Menara Maybank area. The crowd was estimated to be 10,000 strong. Several unsuccessful attempts to disperse the crowd resulted in a standoff.

Meanwhile, Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and Batu MP Tian Chua had been arrested.

LIVE REPORTS

Earlier LIVE reports

12.20pm: Pudu Plaza – At Jalan Landak, Pudu, some 200 people have started to gather, preparing for the rally.

Police are scattered about, searching the protestors’ bags but take no further action.

NONEA small quarrel breaks out between protestors and Pudu security personnel  when latter try to chase them away.

Some foodstalls and restaurants are still open, and a durian stall is seen offering protestors a taste of its wares.

DAP leaders who have shown up include Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun, PJ Utara MP Tony Pua, Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching, Bukit Bendera MP Liew Ching Tong, Segambut MP Lim Lip Éng, Beruas MP Ngeh Koo Ham, Selangor exco Ean Yong Hian Wah, Lukut Adun Ean Yong Tin Sin, Pasir Pinjir Adun Thomas Soo, Bahau Adun Teo Kok Seong.

12.45pm: Dataran Merdeka – Police have fired tear gas at a group of protestors  heading towards the area. The cannisters land near the Bar Council building.

This group is believed to started from the former KTM headquarters nearby. The crowd is estimated to be 1,000.

NONE12.50pm: About 3,000 to 4,000 people are marching from Petaling Street in downtown Kuala Lumpur to Stadium Negara.

They are chanting “Bersih, Bersih, Pilihanraya” and “Hidup, Hidup, Rakyat”.

Six middle-aged protestors began a rendition of Negaraku, immediately receiving strong response from the crowd which sings along.

Dr Wong Fort Pin, one of the six singers, said they are celebrating peace.

“We are walking for a better Malaysia,” he said.

12.51pm:
Hilton Hotel – PKR leaders Nurul Izzah Anwar, Syed Husin Ali, Lateefah Koya arrive at Anwar Ibrahim’s hotel room. Local and foreign media are at the lobby.

NONE12.55pm: Pudu Plaza – DAP leader Teresa Kok is defying her ban and leading protesters to start the walk towards Merdeka Stadium.

The crowd is shouting, “Bersih, bersih,” “Hidup rakyat” , “Rakyat sudah bangun,” and “Daulat Tuanku.”

The have at press time reached Shaw Parade, with no sign yet of police interference.

The crowd soon swells to two thousand, with the DAP-led march cleverly sticking to tourist spots at Sungei Wang and Low Yat Plaza past Federal Hotel to foil the police.

They are also sending out motorcycle recces to keep them informed of police presence ahead.

NONE1pm: Masjid Jamek – The crowd here has grown to about 1,000 people and is beginning to march.

Earlier, a student was hit by a tear gas cannister. He refused to have his photograph taken due to his status.

1pm: Pudu-Bukit Bintang – At Jln Puduraya, the DAP-led march of up to 2,000 people reach the city centre, converging with the PKR-led team. The crowd cheers in delight, and chant, “Bersih” and other slogans.

They now gather at the Jln Tun Perak and Jln Pudu junction.

1.10pm: Masjid Negara – The mosque is mostly empty. Some are complaining that the toilets are locked.

1.14pm: A fake Twitter account @bersihrally have appeared, apparently created only at 9.42 this morning.

Claiming to provide “live coverage of the Bersih 2.0 rally, with multiple small groups of volunteers in the field reporting” it has since provided false accounts of the goings-on at the current Bersih 2.0 rally.

Among some of the allegations are looting in Pasar Seni, clashes with the police at KLCC as well as shots being fired in Bangsar.

After being ‘outed’ by other Twitter users, @bersihrally finally posted a message: “Took you guys long enough to figure it out. I’ve done my job. Thanks for playing.”

1.15pm: Official police figures – 514 arrested. 478 males, 36 females.

NONE1.20pm: Masjid Jamek–  There is a standoff here. The growing crowd continues chanting while the police await reinforcements.

1.21am: Top Bersih leaders Ambiga Sreenevasan, Haris Ibrahim, Wong Chin Huat and A Samad Said are in Hilton Hotel. They are with politicians William Leong, Kamaruddin Jaafar, Zaid Kamaruddin, Syed Azman Syed Nawawi and Tian Chua. They join Anwar Ibrahim who is in the hotel.

It is confirmed that PKR deputy president Azmin Ali has been arrested and taken to Pulapol (Police Training Centre).

(Later today, at 5.30pm, PKR sources clarified that Azmin was not arrested).

Earlier, PAS vice-presidents Mahfuz Omar and Salahuddin Ayub were also nabbed.

NONE1.22pm: Petaling Street – The group of a few thousand which is marching to Stadium Negara turn back to Jalan Tan Cheng Lock after encountering a roadblock.

A large group of Sarawakians are chanting ‘Hidup Sarawak’, receive applause from the rest.

1.30pm: Malaysia Hotel – About 500 Umno Youth members have gathered at Jalan Bukit Bintang.  All are wearing red T-shirts with the word ‘Patriot’. These T-shirts are also being  handed the public, including tourists.

NONEThe Umno Youth rally is aided with a pickup truck. Speakers would give speeches from the back of the truck and throw down T-shirts.

Among those present are Umno Youth leaders Arman Azhar Abu Hanifah, Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Ahmad Zaki Zahid but there is no sign of the movement’s leader Khairy Jamaluddin. His officers insist he will show up later.

The group is currently stationary and chanting “Hancur Bersih” (destroy Bersih) and “Who are we? Patriot!”. They narrowly miss a Bersih 2.0 procession by about five minutes.

1.30pm: Pudu-Bukit Bintang – The authorities fire tear gas at Jln Tun Perak, forcing the crowd to retreat once, then the angry crowd shouts, “Masuk” (go in) and starts moving toward Jln Tun Perak .

1.33pm: Jalan Tun Perak – PAS leader Dr Hatta Ramli with a loudspeaker tells the crowd of at least 4,000 that party vice-president Mahfuz Omar and about 300 others have been arrested.

“The rakyat’s struggle requires sacrifices… Those under 40 here have never seen real democracy in this country,” he said.

NONEThe crowd reply with “Allahuakbar”.

There are traffic marshals from Bersih also directing the crowd to make way for vehicles passing through.

1.35pm: Press statement by IPK KL.

Thus far, 540 people have been arrested (479 male, 58 women, three juvenile) have been arrested for further investigation.

Among the arrested, 11 were wearing yellow Bersih T-shirt and one was wearing a red Patriot T-shirt.

Meanwhile, three individuals believed to be leaders or organisers of the rally were also arrested. They are PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, and party veeps Salahuddin Ayub, Mahfuz Omar.

1.36pm: KL Hilton – Bersih leaders hold a press conference and say they will march to Stadium Merdeka and will not give in to intimidation.

National laureate A Samad Said is also there.

NONES Ambiga says, “the cause of Bersih has been achieved, even before we have taken the first step.”

She said the authorities use of force was useless against the people’s will. “No matter what right will always prevail.”

Slamming the mass arrests, Ambiga said their original goals of rallying for electoral reform has grown into something bigger as it has stirred emotions amongst “right thinking rakyat”.

“First, it has stirred a sense of outrage against the exhibition of raw power by our government, that seems to be living in a time warp.

“Secondly, it has stirred in us (the desire) to bring back a sense of balance and decency into our government,” she said.

Thirdly, she said the rakyat are beginning to feel empowered to make change, despite police “intimidation”.

“You cannot quell the voices,” she said.

NONE1.38pm: LRT Masjid Jamek – A police officer with loudhailer announced: “Perhimpunan hari in tak ada kebenaran jadi diminta semua bersurai serta merta atau kami suraikan dengan kekerasan.”

The officer also gave three minutes for the crowd to disperse.

This was met with “takbir” and jeers from the crowd, numbering about more than 500 people.

1.40pm: Menara Maybank – Water cannons unleashed on more than 1,000 protestors.

1.43pm: Masjid Jamek – A group of about 10 general duty police officers with gas masks chased after the protesters who ran helter skelter into Masjid India area. [Watch video – 17 sec]

1.44pm: Menara Maybank – Water cannon truck fires at the crowd a second time, this time with chemical laced irritants mixed with blue dye.

NONEInstead of dispersing, the crowd charged forward. Some were seen hitting the water cannon truck with their bare fist.

This was met with another round of tear gas. The tear gas managed to disperse the crowd slowly.

1.52pm: Masjid Jamek – There are at least four police trucks stationed at Masjid Jamek LRT station.

Crowd has been dispersed by the police tear gas for now, but it is expected they will be regrouped later.

1.55pm: It begins raining in Kuala Lumpur.

NONE1.57pm: Malaysia Hotel – Khairy Jamaluddin appears at the Umno Youth rally and gives out a short speech. He said that Bersih 2.0 cannot be supported because it is infiltrated by opposition parties.

He then leads the crowd in a march towards Stadium Merdeka. They will likely bump into a section of the Bersih 2.0 crowd at the Jalan Bukit Bintang – Jalan Pudu intersection.

1.59pm: Puduraya – Police fired tear gas on an estimated 10,000-strong crowd, which converges in Puduraya, in front of Menara Maybank. Part of the crowd came in from Masjid Jamek while others are from Petaling Street

NONEPolice had to resort to using tear gas after the water cannon failed to stop their advance. People in the crowd appear to be recovering from the tear gas and are coming back together to continue with their march.

2pm: Hilton Hotel – It is still raining cats and dogs outside the hotel and the atmosphere inside is tense as Pakatan leaders prepare to march out into the streets.

Despite the tension, they seem energetic and vowed to carry with their march to Stadium Merdeka once they get past the police barricade already set up outside the hotel waiting for them to emerge.

The Pakatan leaders are surrounded by a gaggle of reporters as they slowly make their way out towards the confrontation with authorities.

NONE2.10pm: Puduraya – The police are increasingly harsh towards protestors.

They move in to detain dozens of protesters, with officers going in groups of five to six to detain individual protesters.

Some are dragged on the road. One protestor was bleeding from the head.

NONEIncidences of police brutality were seen, with officers allegedly punching and shoving detainees. They were also allegedly seen manhandling female detainees.

Some protesters jumped off a six-foot high ledge to evade capture in possibly one of the most dangerous situations of the day so far.

2.15pm: Puduraya – At Jalan Pudu, the Bersih group moves on towards the Maybank building, passing nearby the junction of Jalan Bukit Bintang, where the Umno Youth Patriot group is holding station.

NONEIt appears that both sides are coordinating despite their differences, to ensure members refrain from clashing.

However some Umno Youth members persist in pressing forward, baying for blood.

With them are Umno Youth’s Megat Firdouz, Reezal Merican and Arman Azha Abu Hanifah, all banned from the city.

2.15pm: Bukit Bintang – Umno Youth’s ‘Patriot’ procession has stalled momentarily.

According to sources within Umno Youth, the group is waiting for ‘further clearance’ when their desired route to Stadium Merdeka has been blocked by the police.

NONEThe group are also waiting for smaller pockets of Umno Youth supporters to march from Kampung Attap and PWTC.

Umno Youth leader Arman Azha is also seen trying to control the crowd from inching ahead.

It has started drizzling.

2.15pm: KL Sentral – Pakatan Rakyat and Bersih leaders are marching towards from the Hilton Hotel towards KL Sentral shouting “Bersih! Bersih!” but are stopped by the police.

People from inside the station are chanting with the leaders as well. PKR vice-president Tian Chua managed to find a weak spot in the police barricade and led the entire delegation through.

NONEThe top leaders are expected to march towards Stadium Merdeka.

“The outrageous arrest and mass detentions is most unwarranted especially after the wise advice from the Agong. Bersih has become more than a struggle for electoral reforms but is now for clean politics and governance,” said Pakatan leader Anwar Ibrahim.

2.18pm: Pudu-Bukit Bintang – As the drizzle starts, the crowds raise their hands and cheer again, and retreat towards Bukit Bintang.

Penang deputy chief minister II P Ramasamy’s political secretary Satees Muniandy reports, “I’m at Jln Pudu. Rain is God’s blessing. The crowd is building up especially under the bridge. Thousands are not leaving despite water cannons, tear gas.”

NONE2.25pm: Brickfields – The Pakatan Rakyat and Bersih 2.0 crowd has managed to emerge from KL Sentral and attempted to enter Jalan Tun Sambanthan where they are met by almost 1,000 supporters.

Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan, Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Lim Kit Siang and other personalities are spotted among the crowd.

NONEWhile proceeding towards the city centre, they were pelted with tear gas cannisters and chaos ensued. A number of top leaders have been arrested.

2.30pm: Human Rights Watch’s Asia division deputy director Phil Robertson says, “This is a maelstrom of the Malaysian authorities’ own making.

“The failure of the top levels of the Malaysian government to engage in good faith dialogue with citizens demanding basic electoral reforms is the heart of the matter,” he says in a statement, blasting continuing police action against the rallyers.

NONE2.30pm: Puduraya – The 10,000-strong crowd led by PAS leader Dr Hatta Ramli and PKR leader Badrul Hisham Shaharin has regrouped and move towards Kotaraya from Jalan Pudu.

However, the police stationed at the Puduraya junction fire yet another round of tear gas to disperse the crowd.

They are unable to retreat to Petaling Street as the road in front of Kota Raya complex has been cordoned off.

Half of them retreated back to Jalan Pudu while others are forced to disperse into the back lanes behind Ancasa Hotel and Puduraya while the police pick on the dispersed groups, making arrests.

NONESeveral protestors distribute Malaysian flags to others. But those carrying flags become easy targets for the cops and are swooped up.

In the ensuing melee, two TV Selangor reporters are mistakenly arrested despite wearing the press tags. However the duo, Abdul Muin Basuri (right) and Norfarahidayu Baharudin are immediately released after other reporters identity them.

About six are arrested in front of Angkasa Hotel. The rain pounds down on the rally and protestors run helter skelter for shelter. Even the FRU get out of the rain.

The scattered protestors move towards the stadium in small groups of two or three following SMSes from Pakatan leaders asking them to gather there.

2.35pm: Bukit Bintang – The Umno Youth group have stopped in front of Royale Bintang Hotel where they are walking towards another Bersih group at the Jalan Pudu-Bukit Bintang intersection.

NONE2.35pm: Puduraya – As the Bersih group retreats towards Jalan Pudu, the police steadily move in before firing rounds of tear gas into the crowd. The protestors hurl the canisters back into the police.

Some police officers, who were earlier seen punching protestors, are spotted with bruised eyes and coughing.

2.40pm: Bukit Bintang – Umno Youth’s rally stands off with the FRU with neither side budging.

Three are arrested after a scuffle ensues as protestors try to break past the FRU and tear gas is fired.

NONE2.41pm: PDRM Facebook: As of 2pm, 644 arrested – 597 males and 47 females.

2.43pm: Jalan Hang Jebat – In a lighthearted moment at Jln Hang Jebat, members of the procession to the stadium stops to buy ice cream from a hawker, who is doing brisk business.

They are mostly from the 10,000-strong crowd in front of Puduraya earlier.

2.43pm: KL Sentral – Pandemonium breaks out at KL Sentral as police fire tear gas in a closed environment as Bersih 2.0 and opposition leaders attempted to exit the station via Brickfields.

The tear gas forced protesters back into the station, which has been locked down. Journalists outside KL Sentral were barred from entering the station, making it difficult to verify the status of the situation.

It was, however, confirmed that a group of Pakatan leaders and individuals were arrested in the chaos, including Batu MP Tian Chua, Kuala Selangor MP Dzukefly Ahmad, artist Wong Hoy Cheong, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s son and three other supporters.

patah kaki2.45pm: Puduraya – The police curiously arrest about 10 individuals out of a large group who have dispersed into the Tung Shin hospital.

Meanwhile, a man (right) who appears to have fractured his leg during the earlier melee is being attended to by volunteer doctors.

He was lying unattended on the road with his wrists bound by police, before the medical volunteers spotted him.

“The police held me, grabbed my head, bound my wrists and kicked me. There were several of them,” said the man, visibly in pain.

NONE2.45pm: KL Sentral – Anwar Ibrahim tweets that he has suffered a minor injury and that his daughter Nurul Hana has been arrested during the melee.

Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan confirms that she has been arrested, so too PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.

2.48pm: Puduraya – The crowd disperses into Tung Shin Hospital and a nearby Chinese school. Police are firing tear gas into the hospital, attempting to disperse the protestors.

There is abrief respite as Subang MP R Sivarasa tries to negotiate with the police to allow protestors to to Jalan Sultan.

NONE2.50pm: KL Sentral – PKR vice-president N Surendran told Malaysiakini Anwar is bleeding from the head and injured in one of his knees.

2.52pm: Jalan Hang Jebat – Some 3,000 Bersih supporters are gathered here attempting to move over to Stadium Merdeka nearby.

They meet a blockade with barbed wire. The crowd, growing by the minute, groups in front of the cops and chant at them.

NONELed by PAS election director Hatta Ramli and PKR Johor chief Chua Jui Meng, the crowd calls on the police to remove the barricades to no avail.

The two leaders give a short speech each telling the crowd they have accomplished their mission in arriving at the stadium, despite being unable to enter.

They thank the police and tell the crowd to return to Central Market.

2.55pm: Bukit Bintang – There’s a standstill between the Umno Youth’s Patriot rally and the FRU with neither side budging.

About three arrests were made when Umno Youth tried to break through the FRU line, breaking out into a scuffle before a tear gas canister was fired.

NONE2.57pm: Bukit Bintang – Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has been arrested when he was found to be resting and clearing his eyes from the tear gas fired, at a shack just 100m from the FRU line.

Water cannons and tear gas have also been aimed at the remaining Umno Youth supporters, pushing them back 50m from their original location.

The group has thinned out to about 200.

He wrote on Twitter later that he is being held at the Police Training Academy at Jalan Padang Tembak.

He said that  one of his exco members was injured by a tear gas cannister.

“Have been taken Pulapol. FRU tear gas straight at them. Exco Zaki Zahid hurt,” he wrote.

3.10pm: PDRM Facebook – The total number of people arrested as of 2.30pm has reached 672.

NONE3.15pm: Puduraya – Police have agreed to give safe passage to the thousands of protesters assembled at Pudu up till Jalan Sultan on condition that they only use half of the road and march peacefully.

The accord was reached after Pakatan parliamentarians R Sivarasa and Ngeh Khoo Ham negotiated with the police, who also decided to allow the crowd to chant as they march.

3.20pm: Puduraya – The crowd has begun to head from Pudu to Jalan Sultan, thanking the police for allowing them safe passage. The 2,000-strong crowd also began singing Negaraku as they marched.

3.22pm:
Bukit Bintang – The 200 Umno Youth supporters at Jalan Bukit Bintang in front of Federal Hotel begin to disperse after negotiation with the police.

NONEClaiming moral victory despite only being able to proceed 200m along Jalan Bukit Bintang – still far from their Stadium Merdeka destination – Umno Youth exco Megat Zulkarnain Omardin said that their message have been conveyed.

“We have come and we fulfilled our purpose,” he told the crowd before another individual led a prayer.

Later, Umno Youth Petaling Jaya Utara chief Arman Azha toldMalaysiakini that exco Lokman Noor Adam as well as 20 of their members had been arrested.

Movement head Khairy Jamaluddin, who was also arrested, later tweeted that he had been taken to Pulapol while exco Ahmad Zaki Zahid was injured.

“Have been taken to Pulapol. FRU tear gas straight at us. Exco @zakizahid hurt,” he wrote.

NONE3.37pm: Pasar Seni – The triumphant group from Jalan Hang Jebat marched down Jalan Sultan towards Central Market, but were attacked by polie tear gas near the Pasar Seni LRT Station.

This forced them to retreat down Jalan Sultan.

3.38pm: Pudu – The 2,000-strong crowd at Pudu has now been denied safe passage to Jalan Sultan, and riot police have fired both water cannons and tear gas at the protesters assembled in front of the Tung Shin hospital. The crowd is now sandwiched between two FRU blockades.

NONEThe police started spraying the crowd after negotiations broke down between police and Pakatan MPs R Sivarasa and Ngeh Khoo Ham, following confusion over what the crowd is required to do.

It was learnt that the crowd was told to only use one side of the road and march peacefully, while it was understood that the police had wanted them to disperse into smaller groups before they would be allowed to move on.

It is believed that Sivarasa has been detained, though it is  not known where he has been taken to.

NONE3.39pm: Pasar Seni – The police fired more than 10 volleys of tear gas at the crowd led by Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Wong Chin Huat (right) without warning as he was trying to deliver a speech before dispersing.

The volley came  while the crowd was singing the national anthem. Most of the people are now seeking shelter under the Pasar Seni LRT station as Wong again lead them in singing Negaraku.

3.40pm: Titiwangsa Lake Gardens – About 20 Perkasa members are seen at a restaurant in Titiwangsa Lake Gardens, following the goings-on of the Bersih 2.0 rally on a television screen. However, the group’s president Ibrahim Ali and his deputy were nowhere to be seen.

Ten police officers were seen keeping order at the main door of the recreation park.

Meanwhile, a sad fate befell a bride and groom on their wedding day today as their convoy was not allowed through police cordons, forcing them to walk to the site of the wedding celebrations two kilometres away.

NONE3.49pm: Pudu – The group of Bersih 2.0 supporters caught in a pincer between two police cordons in Tung Shin Hospital have now dispersed after police rushed in to arrest dozens.

Most fled through back roads and alleys in small groups to escape while a hardcore few holed up in the upper parking lot of the hospital. The police subsequently fired tear gas cat them and the last remaining holdouts were either arrested or left voluntarily.

At least 50 were arrested as police broke up the Tung Shin Hospital crowd.

3.50pm: Istana Negara – A small group of Bersih 2.0 steering committee members are marching towards the palace from Midah Hotel. They are awaiting clearance from the palace to submit Bersih 2.0’s petition.

NONE3.55pm: Pasar Seni – Bersih leader Wong Chin Huat (left), after reading out the eight demands of Bersih 2.0, calls on the crowd to disperse.

The crowd begins to disperse peacefully with many of them still chanting ‘Reformasi’ and ‘Bersih’ under the Pasar Seni LRT station.

This earns them another round round of tear gas.

3.50pm: KL Hilton – At an impromptu press conference, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, N Surendran and PAS deputy secretary general Syed Azman condemn the police brutality that they allege has caused injury to several Pakatan leaders.

NONEThey say besides PKRde facto chief Anwar Ibrahim, who has been sent to Pantai Hospital, PAS Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Bersih 2.0 leaders Maria Chin Abdullah and national laureate A Samad Said have also sustained injuries.

4pm: Istana Negara – The Bersih 2.0 delegation of about 20 people led by national laureate A Samad Said was stopped by police about 200m away from the palace gates.

Negotiations with the police failed and the group agreed to disperse. However, Samad said he needed to rest and the group left him alone with the police before leaving the area.

4.01pm: PDRM Facebook – Among the top leaders arrested are:

Mahfuz Omar – KL Sentral
Salahuddin Ayub – KL Sentral
Mohamad Sabu – Jalan Mahameru
Fauziah Salleh – KL Sentral
Tian Chua – KL Sentral
S Ambiga – KL Sentral
Hadi Awang – KL Sentral
Azeez Rahim – Jalan Bukit Bintang

NONE4.10pm: Light Rail Train (LRT) stations still closed, according to RapidKL – Pasar Seni, KL Sentral, Masjid Jamek and Dang Wangi.

4.21pm: After almost four hours of cat-and-mouse confrontation with the police in downtown Kuala Lumpur, most of the protesters have dispersed.

The Bersih committee is to call press conference at 4.45pm at Midah Hotel.

NONE4.40pm: Pudu – Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Sha’ani B Abdullah condemns the authorities for their harsh handling of the protesters.

The police force has not only disrespected the people’s right of assembly but also compromised the safety and health of the public by firing tear gas into the Tung Shin hospital compound.

When asked how  the people should respond to such violations, he said Malaysians should choose representatives who can protect their rights.

4.50pm: Fadiah Nadwa Fikri of Lawyers for Liberty says that the police have invoked section 28A(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code – denial of access to lawyers – at Pulapol (Police Training Centre), where she says 1,000 people are being detained.

According to her, this is a violation of Article 5 of constitution.

5.34pm: PDRM Facebook – As of 3.30pm, a total of 924 people have been arrested.

6.30pm: Police say 1,401 protesters were arrested during the day-long operation, including 13 children. The authorities estimate the crowd turn out between 5,000 to 6,000.

6.45pm: IPK KL –  Ambiga Sreenevasan has been released from detention. KL CID chief Ku Chin Wa said that the police would decide whether to take action against her after investigations are concluded.

7.01pm: PDRM Facebook – A total of 1,667 people, including 16 children, have been arrested for “disturbing the peace” and taking part in an “illegal gathering”.

Earlier LIVE reports today 

PHOTO GALLERY

VIDEO – protester kicked

OTHER VIDEOS

Political Tsunami: General Election 2008 in Malaysia

Soon after the historic 2008 Malaysian general election, I was commissioned by Korea Democracy Foundation (KDF) to write an overview and analysis on the polls. Why was there so much attention on that election?

To quote myself (something I have been hoping to do for a long time):

Malaysia’s 12th general election held on March 8 this year has been seen by many as one of the most crucial elections for this nation since its independence in 1957. The prime reason for this is that the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN or National Front) suffered its worst ever election result in history. For the first time since independence, BN lost its grip on the two-thirds majority I in Parliament – a vital requirement in amending the Federal Constitution and passing laws…

As a result, Malaysia’s political landscape has shifted, ending the ruling coalition’s 51-year political hegemony. A concurrent phenomenon with this tectonic shift is the opening up of the democratic space in this country.

The article was collected in the book “Voices Through Ballot, Overview of Asian Elections 2008” published by KDF.

If you can’t read the embedded PDF version below, click here to read from my Google Drive.

Special Report: Letting in sunshine on weapons deals

I’m always interested in the defense spending of the Malaysian government, especially after the brutal murder (using military-grade explosive) of a Mongolian woman who was linked to a multi-million submarine deal between the Malaysian government and a French supplier, and one of the suspects (he was acquitted later) was an aid to the current prime minister.

In the first of this 3-part series, I analyzed the expenditure of defense ministry since 1987 to investigate the trends, and reviewed all the major controversies surrounding defense procurement in recent years.

The second part examined the check-and-balance mechanism in monitoring the defense spending and identified the weaknesses in the current system. I also explored the phenomenon of the “revolving door” in which senior defense officers to move from government agencies to the business sector after retirement. Several high-ranking officers were identified and named in the report.

In the last part, I presented the best practices suggested by international transparency organizations and policies implemented by other countries to increase the transparency and accountability of defense expenditure.

This investigative reporting project opened my eyes to one of the most secretive ministries and industries in Malaysia. Rather than uncovering wrongdoings or new information, this series acted more as a compilation and analysis of the different facets and weaknesses of the defense procurement system. More investigation is needed to examine the issue.

The original series was published here (paywall): Part I, Part II, Part III.

RM180bil defence bill: Little bang for the buck

2:22PM Jul 26, 2010

By Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

SPECIAL REPORT Over the last 23 years, Malaysia’s defence spending has taken a whopping RM180 billion from the national coffers.

azlanThe average annual defence spending each year is close to 2.5 percent of the nation’s GDP from 1987-2004, which should turn Malaysia into a country with decent defence capability, according to a defence analyst.

However, Malaysia’s defence forces is in a sorry state which can only deal with ‘military operations other than war’ (MOOTW).

This is not surprising as allegations of corruption and mismanagement relating to defence procurement  continually crop up.

Defence expenditure has been the second-largest item in the national budget until the global financial crisis hit Malaysia in 2008, resulting in other items overtaking it in the 2009 budget.

Defence Ministry expenditure has grown more than five times, from RM2.09 billion in 1987 to RM11.013 billion in 2010.

The total expenditure during this period was RM178.989 billion – the equivalent of building six Putrajayas or 60,000 primary schools.

The defence allocation ranges from 1.6-3.2 percent of the nation’s GDP. According to Lam Choong Wah, editor of defence portal KL Security Review, this is moderate compared to the international average of 2 percent.

He pointed out that this level of spending should give Malaysia an appropriate level of military capacity but the reality shows the opposite.

But with so many obsolete weapons and equipment in hand, the defence system can only face low levels of military conflict and perform MOOTW such as peacekeeping, he said.

azlanJustifying this disturbing fact with the lavish military spending begs questions.

Expenditure on big-ticket items should always come with strict monitoring and high accountability. Unfortunately doubtful defence procurement, sometimes reaching scandalous proportions, is said to be a common phenomenon in the Defence Ministry.

In this three-part special report,Malaysiakini attempts to uncover the root causes of suspicious procurements and ways to enhance the current check-and-balance mechanism.

It begins with a list of questionable defence deals in recent years, compiled from media reports. These involved RM26.8 billion and were completed under the watch of Najib Abdul Razak who helmed the Defence Ministry from 2000-2009.

Questions raised about most of the transactions have been left unanswered. Although some were investigated and elements of corruption and mismanagement were found, no senior official has ever been held accountable.

Submarines in global spotlight

The Defence Ministry signed a contract with France’s DCNS and Spain’s Navantia in 2002 to purchase two Scorpene submarines. The deal is expected to cost RM7.3 billion including maintenance and other services.

What has raised eyebrows is the payment of 114 million euros (RM510 million) to a local company called Perimekar. The sum was alleged to be a commission but the ministry has insisted it was for ‘coordination and support services’ involving the submarine deal.

abdul razak baginda najib altantuya murder 201108Perimekar is wholly owned by another company, KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, which in turn is controlled by Abdul Razak Baginda, a close confidante of Najib.

The deal turned into a scandal when Abdul Razak was charged with abetting two of Najib’s bodyguards in the murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was shot in the head on Oct 19, 2006, and then blown up with C4 explosives available only to the military.

According to testimony revealed in court, Altantuya was apparently blackmailing her then-lover Abdul Razak for US$500,000 for reasons unknown. She accompanied Abdul Razak to Paris when the ministry was negotiating the submarine deal.

The case attracted international attention when judges in the Paris Prosecution Office prompted a preliminary police inquiry after two French lawyers filed the case on behalf of Malaysia’s human rights organisation Suaram.

The scandal escalated when private detective P Balasubramaniam, hired by Abdul Razak to protect him from a furious Altantuya, filed a statutory declaration after the trial indicating that Najib had actually been the victim’s lover and had passed her on to Abdul Razak.

azlanHowever he retracted the allegations the next day and went into hiding before taking up residence in India.

He later claimed that he had been offered RM5 million by a businessman close to Najib’s wife to retract the allegations and leave the country.

He further alleged that he had met Najib’s younger brother Nazim regarding the case.

Balasubramaniam recently met French investigators, and also delivered written replies on July 22 to questions from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which is investigating his allegations.

In a twist to the sorry tale, the first submarine KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, which arrived in Malaysia last September, could not dive due to technical problems, but repairs left it fully operational in February this year.

Meanwhile, DCNS faces other allegations relating to submarine sales in Taiwan and Pakistan.

Jet engines ‘fly’ to Uruguay

Two Northrop F-5E jet engines from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) were found to be missing in May 2008, sparking allegations of the involvement of corrupt officials.

The engines were reportedly taken from a military air base in 2007 and sold on the black market to a South American company. The authority later traced the engines to Uruguay and brought these back in June this year.

Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi initially said the engines cost RM50 million each but later clarified that the correct figure is RM303,570.

The ministry claimed that no senior air force officers were involved in the theft. The same answer was given by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after investigations.

azlanFormer RMAF sergeant N Tharmendran, 42, has been charged with a company director in relation to the case. They have claimed trial in the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court.

Tharmendran has since revealed that he had been tortured by military intelligence officers into confessing while under detention during an internal probe.

No testing of Eurocopter

In October 2008, two letters from Capt (rtd) Zahar Hashim, chairperson of Mentari Services Sdn Bhd – a local company representing a foreign defence company – alleged that the Defence Ministry had overpaid RM1.419 billion to buy 12 Eurocopter Cougar EC 725 helicopters to replace the armed forces’ aging and accident-prone fleet of Nuri choppers.

helicopter military eurocopter cougor ec 725 troop transporterHe claimed that the ministry intended to pay RM2.317 billion for the deal although another company had offered RM898 million for similar choppers.

The letters, written to Najib, outlined  several other discrepancies while also accusing him of hastily signing the Letter of Intent dated Sept 15, two days before he moved on to Finance Ministry.

The allegations sparked an uproar and led to the investigation by the PAC, which eventually found ‘no procedural abuse’ in the tender process.

However, the PAC confirmed that there had been no physical examination of the 12 helicopters prior to purchase.

The ministry finally sealed the deal on March 8 this year at a cost of RM1.542 billion.

Sukhoi jet deal

The Defence Ministry paid RM3.2 billion to buy 18 Sukhoi-30MKM jets from Russian state-owned company Rosboronexport in May 2003. This was to replace 14 US-made F-5Es, which have been in service for two decades.

military malaysia fighter plane sukhoi su 30 mkm 290507 02The deal was made through local agent IMT Defence Sdn Bhd, owned by former Umno minister and Malacca chief minister Mohd Adib Adam.

Controvesy broke in 2005 when Mohamad Zainuri Mohamad Idrus, a former director of IMT Defence, lodged a police report and filed a legal suit against Mohd Adib.

He claimed that Mohd Adib had secretly registered a new company in Labuan with a name similar to IMT Defence, in order to channel the RM380 million in commission from the deal to the new company. No action has been taken against Mohd Adib.

The ministry defended the purchase, saying that Rosboronexport had wanted to make the deal with the aid of a local firm.

Naval patrol boats scandal

The Auditor-General’s (AG) Report 2006 tabled in Parliament on Sept 7, 2007 revealed that a contract given to PSC-Naval Dockyard, owned by an Umno associate Amin Shah Omar Shah, to build six naval vessels for the navy had ballooned from RM5.35 billion to RM6.75 billion and was a near failure.

amin shah omar sshah and malaysia naval shipsThe company was contracted to deliver the patrol boats in 2004 and to complete delivery by April 2008. However only two patrol boats had been delivered by mid-2006, and these could not be fully optimised due to defects.

In all, 298 complaints were lodged on the operation of the vessels. One boat was also found to have 100 incomplete works, while the other had 383.

The report found that the ministry had paid out RM4.26 billion to PSC up to December 2006 although only RM2.87 billion of work had been done, an overpayment of RM1.39 billion.

It said the government had released a big proportion of the RM4.26 billion upon ‘confirmation of order’ for equipment and systems, rather than upon delivery.

Another shocking revelation was that 14 progress payments amounting to RM943.46 million to the company between December 1999 and January 2002 could not be audited as the payment vouchers and supporting documents were missing from the Defence Ministry’s records.

The AG further estimated that the government could claim at least RM214 million in penalties for the late delivery but the cabinet decided to waive payment at the request of the shipyard.

The report noted the abnormally generous payment of RM1.07 billion as deposit, which amounts to 20 percent of the contract price upon signing the agreement.

najib first sixth pm speech 040409The AG was also dissatisfied with the quality of monitoring by the project steering committee – led by Najib.

He urged both the finance and defence ministries to give “serious concern” to implementation in order to avoid the weaknesses being repeated in the remaining vessels, and urged that a joint committee comprising both ministries be set up.

The company was later bought over by Boustead Holdings Bhd which revived the project and Amin Shah, once touted as ‘Malaysia’s Onassis’ was declared bankrupt in October 2007.

Poser over RM8 billion APCs

In April this year, DAP Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua accused the Defence Ministry of intending to buy 257 armoured personnel carriers (APC) for a total of RM8 billion – which he claimed was far above the market price.

azlanIt was reported that ministry had signed a Letter of Intent worth RM8 billion with Deftech Sdn Bhd for the APCs, during the Defence Service Asia 2010 exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.

However the ministry responded that the decision on the pricing of APCs had not been made. It  also defended the planned purchase as a necessity to developing the defence system to international standards.

But the ministry confirmed that a Letter of Intent had been sent to Deftec for thorough study of the APCs to see if these conform to the ministry’s standards.

15-year lease of ACMI

In January this year, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin claimed on his website Malaysia Today that Najib, while he was the defence minister in 2007, had approved the lease of the Aircraft Combat Manoeuvring Instrument from Aerotree Sdn Bhd at a cost of RM21 million per year, for 15 years.

The lease was to provide training for RMAF personnel. Formerly the training was done in Korat, Thailand, at a cost of RM2 million per year. Hence the cost of the lease was alleged to be more than 10 times what the RMAF had been paying.

Raja Petra furnished apparently official documents that indicate Najib had approved the contract based on direct negotiation without open tender. He claimed that the negotiated contract was not conducted according to procedure.

Sub-standard combat uniforms

The 2006 Auditor-General’s Report released in September 2007 found that combat uniforms, leather boots and ballistic helmets worth RM101.75 million supplied from 2004-2006 did not meet the army’s specifications.

military malaysia army tentera 131106 trainingAmong others, the report revealed that 5,000 units of ballistic helmets – costing from RM481 to RM484 each – were found to have serious “delamination and trauma effects”, but had still been distributed to the army.

The helmets were supplied by Seri Mukali Sdn Bhd which had been given a RM19.83 million contract from 2004-2006.

Other items that failed to meet the specifications were combat uniforms, webbing sets and leather boots.

The report also pointed out that four suppliers, who were late with delivery, were not fined despite a provision for this in the contract.

Police reports against Airod

Three police reports on alleged corruption were lodged in 2005 against Ahmad Johan, president of Airod Sdn Bhd, which held major contracts with the air force.

airodHe was alleged to have set up a company, Quality Ranch, with his son Edron Hayata to siphon  RM5.7 million of commission.

The payments were said to for ‘consultancy work’ involving extensions on two C130 aircraft owned by the air force and contracted out to Airod.

However PKR deputy president Syed Husin Ali, who lodged the report, claimed that the actual consultancy work was carried out by United States-based Lockheed Martin.

He added that the consultancy contract was given to Quality Ranch even though the company did not have any experience in the field of aviation.

Tomorrow: Factors behind questionable procurements

Note: Malaysiakini is interested in hearing from readers with verifiable information on suspect defence procurements. Please email information and your contact details toeditor@malaysiakini.com

 

Defence contracts: Evading public scrutiny

2:50PM Jul 27, 2010

By Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

SPECIAL REPORT Three major factors restrict scrutiny of Malaysia’s defence transactions which have amounted to some RM180 billion over the last 23 years:

1. Information is not disclosed on the basis of ‘defence secrets’ and ‘national security’.

2. Price-related information is limited in the defence market and involves many technical issues and specifications that complicate the process of evaluation and comparison.

3. Although the Defence Ministry has regulations and an internal mechanism to prevent irregularities, there is no external independent scrutiny.

NONEDefence researcher Lam Choong Wah(left) said procurement is carried out in one of three ways currently – through direct negotiation, open tender and quotation.

A former journalist who specialised in defence issues, Lam is now editor of defence portal KL Security Review. His first book tentatively titled ‘Uncovering Malaysia’s Defence’ is scheduled to be launched next month.

A Finance Ministry circular issued in 2007 stipulates that a tender must be called for all government procurements priced above RM500,000.

azlanDirect negotiation is the least transparent method of the three, but the number of procurements completed via this process has increased in recent years.

Lam explained that direct negotiation is allowed under specific circumstances: when only one company can provide the equipment or service; to standardise the specifications of equipment; emergency needs; and due to strategy and political considerations, such as bilateral relationships between countries.

According to a parliamentary written reply by the Defence Ministry in March last year, the number had almost doubled from 52 in 2006 to 100 in 2009, going up in value from RM2.1 billion to RM4.4 billion over the period.

Best management practices

Auditor-general Ambrin Buang stressed that the Defence Ministry is obliged to adhere to the objective of public procurement which is “to ensure all procurements are best managed (efficient and effective, enhancing access, competition and fairness) to get the best value for money”.

In an email interview, he listed how this objective is to be achieved:

  • Government officials are responsible for their actions and decisions in relation to procurement and for the resulting outcomes, and thus are answerable for such activity.
  • To promote transparency, the Treasury has issued ‘Guidelines on Evaluating Tenders’ which are easily accessible to the public on its web portal.
  • When streamlining the process and procedures on procurement through direct negotiations, Controlling Officers are required to sign a Letter of Undertaking that the agreed price is reasonable and offers the best value for money.
  • Tender/quotation/e-bidding documents are required to include four new paragraphs to remind bidders that corruption is a criminal offence under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009.
  • The Finance Ministry has launched a procurement information centre portal – MyProcurement – to step up transparency and to disseminate information to the public.
  • All bidders for government contracts are required to sign an Integrity Pact by way of a Bidder Declaration Letter asserting that no bribe was offered to influence public officials in evaluating the bid. The successful bidder is required to sign another declaration that his successful bid was not due to bribery.
  • The government recently decided that procurements exceeding RM100 million are subject to scrutiny by an independent review panel to be set up by the Economic Planning Unit.
  • Each ministry is required to set up an Internal Audit Unit. The Defence Ministry has an Internal Audit and Public Investigation Division with a total of 110 personnel. The division reports to ministry secretary-general.

‘No external monitoring’

A long-standing complaint is that it is extremely difficult to scrutinise direct negotiated deals in a system that classifies such details as ‘official secrets’ almost all of the time.

sibu forum penang 260510 liew chin tongDAP Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong (left), who has been tracking defence issues, pointed out that the Defence Ministry’s reluctance to divulge information has prevented MPs on both sides from arriving at a consensus on the defence policy.

Such a consensus would have enabled them to debate related matters based on a mutually-acceptable benchmark.

“We don’t even know what weapons meet the requirements of our defence policy, so how can we monitor the procurements effectively?” he asked.

“So we hentam (criticise) everything. When they buy something expensive, we tend to think there is some hanky-panky.”

Asked if there is an external monitoring mechanism, Lam shot back: “Absolutely none”.

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) only investigates a transaction if an element of fraud is suspected.

Lam noted that it is impossible for the media and civil society to monitor all defence transactions because the authorities keep a tight grip on information.

He cited the acquisition of a Czech-made VERA-E passive surveillance radar in 2007.

dr abdul latiff ahmadAlthough a defence magazine later reported the purchase, the government refused to comment on this until Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad (right) confirmed in the Dewan Negara last week that the acquisition cost Euro 17.6 million (RM73.7 million).

It took some three years for this to be revealed.

The National Audit Department (NAD), which audits large purchases and publishes the findings in its annual report, conceded that it cannot audit all defence transactions.

ambrin buang“The Defence Ministry has hundreds of procurement transactions in any one year, covering goods or services including consultancies and professional services, construction, maintenance and material supply contracts…,” Ambrin (left) pointed out.

“… We also carry out other types of audit… the NAD normally conducts a maximum of six performance audits a year. In addition to our normal workload, we undertake special audits if there are requests from the Finance Ministry and PAC.”

Lam said defence procurements not like “buying vegetables in the market” where one can compare prices and quality from different vendors. Weapons manufacturers only reveal their price and specifications when a buyer approaches them.

Also, there are no identical defence procurement packages as “a minor change in specification could lead to a huge difference in price”.

“Some weapons-exporting countries quote their price based on political factors. So it is very hard to do price comparisons,” explained Lam.

‘Priority vendors’

One factor that has drawn considerable flak is the role of the local agent, often suspected of being paid an enormous commission to facilitate defence transactions and thereby inflating the cost of procurement.

Lam said the ministry has claimed that this enables technology transfer, nurtures local enterprise and helps to monitor foreign companies operating in Malaysia.

pkfz port klang ong tee keat lee hwa beng paul low seng kuan pc 100609 02However Transparency International-Malaysia president Paul Low (right)begged to differ with the practice.

“Why do we need a middle man? If supplier wants to provide service, it is for them to set up operations here. It can be 100 percent owned by them, not a joint-venture company,” he argued.

Also criticised is the practice of hiring retired top ministry officials as directors or senior managers of companies involved in defence-based business.

Lam claimed that the ministry gives priority to companies owned by former personnel when making purchases.

“This policy has its advantages because veterans are familiar with the requirements of the armed forces, but it also gives rise to allegations of cronyism and nepotism,” he said.

Low said the existence of the “revolving door”, which enables senior officers to move from government agencies to the business sector, could build an unhealthy relationship even before they retire.

“These persons are responsible for evaluating tender (documents). The company could hold out an offer of a job (at such a time that) they retire, in order to win the tender,” he cautioned.

“We can’t stop (the officials). They have the right to look for a job (on) retirement. It is hard to stop this practice.”

Who’s who in companies

A number of high-profile retired defence officials have been recruited by several companies that have extensive business links with the Defence Ministry. Those named here are in no way implicated in any wrongdoing in relation to information in this three-part series.

Subhan Jasmon, former Defence Ministry secretary-general

NONEHe was appointed chairperson of Sapura-LTAT Communications Technologies Sdn Bhd when he retired. The company had won a RM500 million contract to supply 3,000 communication sets to the armed forces while Subhan was still the Defence Ministry secretary-general.

He is also the non-executive chairperson of MTU Services (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd. It bagged a RM537 million contract in February 2009 to supply spare parts, services and training to the Royal Malaysian Navy for five years.

Zahidi Zainuddin, former chief of defence forces

NONEHe was was appointed a director of DRB-Hicom Bhd on June 1, 2005, one month after he retired. A subsidiary of the company – Deftech Sdh Bhd – received a government Letter of Intent to acquire 257 armoured personnel carriers for RM8 billion. An opposition MP later claimed that this was far above the market price.

Ramlan Mohamed Ali, former navy chief

NONEHe is the director of Boustead Yachts Sdn Bhd, a company under Boustead Holdings Bhd which is one of the largest defence companies in Malaysia.

It is a government-linked company with the Armed Forces Fund Board, a statutory body, as its major shareholder.

Ramli Mohd Nor, former navy chief

NONEHe is the managing director of Boustead Naval Shipyard and executive deputy chairperson/group managing director of Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation Bhd. Both companies are under Boustead Holdings Bhd.

Mohd Shahrom Nordin, former army chief

NONEHe is the executive director of SME Ordnance Sdn Bhd, the rifle supplier to the army.

The company is a subsidiary of National Aerospace and Defence Industries Sdn Bhd.

Ismail Nik Mohamed, former air force chief

NONEHe is consultant to Zetro Aerospace Corporation Sdn Bhd. The company manages three government contracts.

Among these are the maintenance and repair of aircraft radios, airborne radar, air traffic control and air defence communications, radar and navigational aids.

Tomorrow: What can we learn from others?

Part 1: RM180bil defence bill: Little bang for the buck

Note: Malaysiakini is interested in hearing from readers with verifiable information on suspect defence procurements. Please email information and your contact details toeditor@malaysiakini.com

 

Letting in sunshine on weapons deals

12:47PM Jul 28, 2010

By Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

SPECIAL REPORT Defence procurements rate as a top secret in every country. Yet, progressive governments have taken the step of striking a balance between the competing needs of national security and transparency in handling transactions.

NONETheir measures have enabled at least limited discussion and audit of arms purchases, in the interest of protecting tax dollars.

In Malaysia, however, suggestions to bring in similar policies have thus far fallen on deaf ears, said DAP Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong(right) who outlined two approaches.

First is the regular release of a Defence White Paper by the government to explain defence policy and general strategy.

Liew said all MPs need to understand the defence direction and priorities in order to arrive at a consensus on policy. Such consensus would further enable them to scrutinise and debate procurements, as to whether these are in line with the policy.

The second suggestion is to set up a parliamentary bipartisan select committee on defence. This could train a group of MPs to specialise on defence issues.

Some countries like Australia regularly brief lawmakers on defence issues, even providing classified information on condition they sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“Such measures are useful as they allow for indirect accountability to the people. After all, Parliament represents the people,” he explained.

azlanLiew said he had privately suggested to Defence Ministry that it holds briefings for lawmakers, while the parliamentary Public Account Committee had proposed that the government sets up an independent review panel to monitor big-ticket purchases. There have been no takers.

Defence researcher Lam Choong Wah said the US – which has the world’s largest defence budget – offers two versions of its defence policy report.

One is accessible to the public but the other restricted to members of the bipartisan Armed Service Committee, which oversees almost all matters related to defence policy in the House of Representatives and the senate respectively.

The influential committees are empowered to hold public inquiries into alleged irregularities and to summon government officials to testify.

They also have power to approve candidates for senior posts, including that of secretary of defence and commander-in-chief, upon nomination by the president.

NONESouth Korea is another country that allocates a huge part of its budget to defence. Following a series of allegations about purchases, the government made a bold decision in 2006 to merge eight government agencies, including the Defence Ministry’s acquisition offices.

A single organisation named the Defence Acquisition Programme Administration was created to reduce corruption and improve transparency in weapons deals. This introduced integrity-building measures such as an Ombudsman’s Office to oversee purchases.

The office is led by three ombudsmen recommended by civil society and has the power to investigate complaints and instigate audit on defence contracts, should defects be discovered.

The Ombudsman received 41 civil complaints from 2006 to October 2008, of which 29 have been investigated and 12 are pending investigation. An audit was requested into one case.

Civil society role

Apart from creating mechanisms at legislative and executive level, there is a key role for civil society involvement in monitoring procurements.

Lam noted that there are more than 2,000 non-government military analysis institutions in the US that publish reports regularly and monitor defence purchases.

He is of the view that specialised NGOs or think-tanks could do a lot to simplify and disseminate information to Malaysians, so that public discussion is stimulated.

NONELam (left) himself started up defence portal KL Security Review for this purpose. And his first book tentatively titled ‘Uncovering Malaysia’s Defence’ is intended to decipher complex issues for the layperson.

Transparency International (TI) has published a handbook, ‘Building Integrity and Reducing Corruption Risk in Defence Establishments’.
It suggests that, apart from voluntarily disclosure of defence information, the government and Defence Ministry should engage civil society in drafting defence policy and procurements.

This will not only reduce corruption and increase transparency, but also enhance public confidence in the Defence Ministry.

In 2007, TI had hosted a roundtable event in Zagreb, Croatia, with participation of senior defence and government officials, members of international organisations including Nato and the European Union, and representatives of defence companies, academia, civil society and the media.

The meeting initially focused on a major procurement of armoured vehicles, but ended up publishing Croatia’s defence procurement needs and the full defence budget for the next 10 years.

Another example cited in the handbook is the South African defence policy, which was reformulated when the apartheid system collapsed.

“South Africa quickly embraced the concept of civil society participation in the development of security policy, developing White Papers on various facets of defence policy,” the handbook says.

The consultation was done with interest groups and NGOs on issues like transparency and freedom of information, military professionalism, regional security, budgetary considerations, control of movement of defence equipment, and the defence industry.

Structural reform ‘not necessary’

On the home front, though, auditor-general Ambrin Buang maintained that Malaysia does not need structural reform to reduce irregularities and mismanagement in government.

This is because there are sufficient laws and regulations to enable the government to act against wrongdoers, he argued.

mohd sidek hassan“The government has set up a task force headed by Chief Secretary Mohd Sidek Hassan (right) to review the 2008 Auditor-General’s Report and take action against those responsible for the financial irregularities revealed therein,” Ambrin said in an email interview.

He revealed that the government has acted against at least 70 officers, including those who have retired, officers from government-linked companies, police personnel and several companies found to be involved in financial irregularities and malpractices.

“Among actions (against individuals) are termination of employment, a fine equivalent to two or four days’ emolument, surcharge, warning and civil action. For companies, actions include blacklisting them or suspending membership in their professions,” he said.

Ambrin is also of the view that any system or mechanism is only as good as the people running it.

ambrin buang“It is very important for everyone involved in procurements to exhibit competency, diligence and integrity when making decisions…,” he said.

“Also there must be stern action by the respective secretaries-general against those who flout the law and really enforce the penalty provisions in contracts.”

He conceded that public procurement is often vulnerable to conflicts of interest and corruption but is confident that the government is committed to improving this aspect.

“The government’s stance is reflected in the inclusion of (ways to reduce) leakage of funds in procurements as one of the focus areas of the National Key Result Areas on fighting corruption,” he added.

Given the lucrative returns to be derived from defence procurements in a ‘close-one-eye’ environment, cynical taxpayers are likely to counter that ‘improvements’ will only drive malpractice deeper underground.

Related stories

Part 1: RM180bil defence bill: Little bang for the buck

Part 2: Defence contracts: Evading public scrutiny

Special Report: Should lawmakers enjoy legal immunity?

In Malaysia, once an elected member of MP was charged, found guilty and sentenced to not less than a year’s jail, or a fine of RM2,000 (US$615), they will lose their qualification as a parliamentarian.

In June 2010, at least 18 opposition lawmakers were under police investigation due to their political activities including participating in assembly and uttering ‘seditious’ statements. This ‘Sword of Damocles’ was over their their heads.

In this two-part series, I looked into the issue of legal immunity for elected representatives – should they be disqualified if they are sentenced due  to actions that voice out people’s concern or fight for more democratic space? Is this provision making our representatives more conservative and calculative when carrying out their responsibilities? How are other countries deal with this issue?

The original story was published here and  here (paywall).

Part I: Should lawmakers enjoy legal immunity?

1:56PM Jun 24, 2010

By Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

SPECIAL REPORT Besides the issue of whether PKR strategist Tian Chua should remain as Batu MP due to the RM2,000 fine imposed by the High Court, the criminal case raised a bigger question – should an elected representative be disqualified after being sentenced to a fine of a certain amount or a jail term irrespective of the offence?

What more when the lawmaker is sentenced due to an offence that is linked with voicing out the people’s concerns or fighting for more democratic space?

Chua’s case falls squarely into this category.

Revisiting Tian Chua’s case

NONEChua (right), who was then yet to be elected as a parliamentarian, participated in a peaceful assembly on Dec 12, 2007 organised by election watchdog coalition Bersih to protest the constitutional amendment to extend the tenure of the Election Commission (EC) chairperson, which the coalition claimed would enable the allegedly biased chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman to conduct the next general election.

He was trying to enter the Parliament compound in a car to submit a memorandum to the lawmakers when he was forcefully pulled out from the vehicle by policemen and a scuffle broke out between the two parties.

Police then arrested Chua and charged him under Section 332 of the Penal Code (voluntarily causing hurt) for allegedly biting the arm of a policeman during the scuffle.

He was initially sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of RM3,000, but this was later reduced by the Kuala Lumpur High Court to RM2,000 or two months’ jail in default.

RM2,000 fine is outdated

Article 48(1) of the Federal Constitution stipulates that a member of parliament is disqualified if sentenced by any court to a fine of “not less than RM2,000”.

NONEAlthough 53 years of inflation has increased the prices of goods and services a few times higher, the RM2,000 ceiling fine has not changed since independence.

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang (left) had suggested increasing the ceiling fine to RM20,000 considering the inflation factor.

This view was shared by former Bar Council president Yeo Yang Poh ,who was of the view that the RM2,000 is way too low and outdated.

“Nowadays even a traffic offence fine can exceed RM2,000,” said Yeo when contacted by Malaysiakini recently.

Fear of losing seat

Former Human Rights Society (Hakam) deputy president Yang Pei Keng added that Article 48(1) is too harsh to the extent that it would hinder representatives from speaking up for the rakyat due to fear of losing his or her seat.

Soon after Chua’s sentence was announced, DAP chairperson Karpal Singh openly reminded Pakatan Rakyat MPs to avoid participating in illegal assemblies as the offence carries a minimum fine of RM2,000.

Commenting on Karpal’s statement, Yang pointed out that the definition of illegal assembly lies completely with the government and the enforcement agencies fail to carry out their duty fairly towards opposition and ruling politicians. This is further compounded by the lopsided judiciary system.

“All these factors cause Article 48(1) to be very detrimental to the opposition,” said the veteran lawyer in a phone interview recently.

yeo yang poh bar council interview 161006 talkYeo (right) described the disqualification of an MP for participating in an illegal assembly as “ridiculous”, and the Sedition Act 1948 that is frequently used to stifle opposition as a “16th century law” that should not exist in a modern nation.

Since February this year, there are at least 18 Pakatan representatives under police investigation for various offences including illegal assembly and sedition.

Although BN lawmakers also attended public rallies regarded by police as illegal such as the anti-Israel protest on Jun 4 spearheaded by Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin, no action was taken against them.

Disqualification based on offence

On the issue of protecting lawmakers’ rights in discharging their duty, Yeo suggested that the disqualification should depend on the nature of the offence.

“The offence should be related to certain qualities of the MP that we cannot tolerate such as honesty,” said Yeo, citing criminal breach of trust as an example.
“Setting a ceiling fine is a wrong approach… the law needs to be changed, not on the ceiling fine but the nature of offence. Peaceful assembly should not be included.”

azlanHowever Chua’s case reflects another trend where the lawmakers are charged for other offences such as voluntarily causing hurt although the nature of the offence is illegal assembly, for which it is harder to obtain a conviction.

If we refer to the experience of another former British colony – Hong Kong, though the public has broader rights regarding peaceful assembly, protestors are usually charged with attacking the police when there is a scuffle with the authorities. Critics view this as an approach to smear the protestors using a legal loophole.

To maximise the protection of elected representatives, Yeo further proposed that the new law replacing Article 48(1) should list out serious offences that will disqualify lawmakers such as murder, kidnapping and fraud and exclude all other offences.

“If the Parliament later thinks they need to include other offences, then they will amend the law again to include the offences.”

Taiwan and Philippines provide the solution?

Asked if Malaysia should emulate Taiwan and the Philippine where lawmakers enjoy immunity during their tenure, Yeo and Yang had different stands.

yang pei kengYang (left) gave a thumbs-up for the immunity because it could allow elected representatives to discharge their duty more effectively.

“This practice by Taiwan is more democratic. It takes into account that lawmakers are elected by the people and they should not be oppressed during their tenure,” Yang said.

However, Yeo was of the contrary view as it would still be open for abuse.”It is not the solution.”

He stressed that every law can be a tool for good or to be abused, hence it is not enough to have a good legal system without a strong justice system.

According to him, a strong justice system include good law, a democratic Parliament, an independent judiciary and unbiased enforcement agencies.

To him, the solution should come in a package that involves all institutions instead of amending a particular law.

“A justice system can be strong if only all these factors are strong. Unfortunately Malaysia is still weak in many departments. There is still a long way to go,” he concluded.

 

Part II: Sword of Damocles over opposition MPs

12:39PM Jun 25, 2010

By Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

SPECIAL REPORT PKR Batu MP Tian Chua is still in his seat, but whether his case will cast a chill on his colleagues, resulting in them becoming more conservative when fighting for democratic space and people’s rights, is a question everybody is asking.

Chua was recently fined RM2,000 for intentionally causing injury to a police constable on duty, but he is appealing the case. His lawyer, Ranjit Singh, says the appeal is sufficient to act as a stay against Chua’s possible disqualification until the matter is disposed of by the court.

Currently, there are at least 18 Pakatan elected representatives under police investigation for various alleged offences, including illegal assembly and sedition.

Should they be found guilty and sentenced to not less than a year’s jail, or a fine of RM2,000, they will lose their seat, according to Article 48(1) of the Federal Constitution.

Keeping the opposition in line

Many opposition elected representatives described the article, which had not been amended since independence, as a Sword of Damocles over them.

bershi 1blackmalaysia pc 050509 sivarasa rasiahFor PKR vice-president R Sivarasa (left), who is still being investigated for illegal assembly and sedition, the article is nothing more than a political weapon the BN uses against the opposition lawmakers.

“In other countries, MPs will not lose their seat due to offences of a political nature. Disqualifying MPs because they speak up for people is not tolerated in a democratic country,” said the Subang MP when contacted byMalaysiakini.

Asked about DAP chairperson Karpal Singh’s reminder to Pakatan Rakyat MPs to avoid participating in illegal assemblies as the offence carries a minimum fine of RM2,000, Sivarasa said: “The intended effect of the article is to make MPs practise self-censorship, forcing us to bite our tongue when we want to say something, and stand away from the rakyat.”

Calculating risks

He conceded that he while he was mindful of the article when taking action that might be construed as breaking the law, his attitude was: “I try not to bother about it”.

DAP Rasah MP Anthony Loke shares the same view that opposition lawmakers sometimes need to take calculated risks when taking any action.

“Of course we need to know our limits and whether what we are doing is really important… we have to know what the objective of the action is and be aware of the situation.

“But if it will help the rakyat, then we should do it,” said Loke in a phone interview with Malaysiakini.

Political career, perks on the line

The stakes are high for lawmakers if they fall foul of the article, as not only they will lose their salaries and perks, their pensions will be forfeited as well.

Former lawmakers will also lose their pension if they exceed the maximum sentence, even though they have finished their tenure.

Furthermore, they will be deprived of political rights for five years after serving their sentence – they cannot contest in elections or assume posts in political parties.

Many politicians see the five-year ban as the death knell for their political careers because they would miss two general elections and party polls as well.

This has happened to opposition MPs who have been rising fast in national politics.

NONEThe famous cases include Fan Yew Teng, Lim Guan Eng and Wee Choo Keong. All three lost their seats due to Article 48(1).

However both Sivarasa and Loke (right) are confident that Pakatan representatives will not be affected by Chua’s case.

“Our track record speaks for itself. If we pull back, 80 or 90 percent of our actions would not have been done,” Sivarasa said.

For Loke, it was “part and parcel of Malaysian opposition politics”.

Nevertheless, Sivarasa agrees that abolishing Article 48 and other repressive laws, such as the Police Act and the Sedition Act, will establish more freedom for lawmakers.

Less risk for BN after three years

Another issue that has drawn the attention of some quarters is whether the cases of the 18 Pakatan representatives will drag on till after April 28 next year.

According to election laws, a by-election would only be called if a seat is declared vacant three years after the swearing in of a lawmaker. For the current Parliament, the cut-off date is April 28 , 2011.

Some political observers speculate that Chua was let off the hook due to BN’s fear of facing a by-election in Batu, which PKR won in last the general election with a 9,455 majority.

There is little doubt the BN qwill benefit if opposition lawmakers are charged and sentenced after the three-year period as BN will be able to reduce the opposition in Parliament without much worry.

“The BN can then recapture the two-thirds majority and build up momentum to face the next general election,” commented a political observer who requested anonymity.

pas supporters club launch 160207 n gobalakrishnanAfter Chua, the next case will be that of PKR Padang Serai parliamentarian N Gobalakrishnan (left).

He was found guilty of obstructing the police in an incident eight years ago and sentenced to a fine of RM3,000 or a six-month jail term.

His appeal is still pending.

Besides the opposition, legal experts also agreed that Article 48(1) needed amending.

“From the perspective of the rakyat, Article 48(1) is too harsh, and puts the opposition in a difficult position.

“I don’t know whether (these cases) are coincidental or deliberately (done)… it appears to be a trend (that Article 48 is being abused to oppress the opposition),” commented Yeo Yang Poh, former Bar Council president.

Previous cases of opposition lawmakers disqualified under Article 48(1):

Fan Yew Teng (1977)

NONEFan (right) was a rising star in DAP when he was arrested in 1970 and later charged with sedition for publishing the speech of the then Penang DAP chairman, Dr Ooi Kee Saik, in the party’s newsletter.

Initially he was fined RM2,000  or six months’ jail but the court was ordered to rehear the case after he won his appeal to the Privy Council in United Kingdom.

When the case was heard again in 1975, Fan had been elected as Menglembu MP and Petaling state assemblyperson in the 1974 general election.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court again found him guilty and the Election Commission (EC) was quick to announce a by-election despite the fact that Fan had appealed to a higher court.

Two days before the polling day, the court ruled that the by-election was null and void, forcing the EC to cancel it.

Fan kept his seat until the Privy Council in 1977 upheld the High Court decision. However no by-election was called because the three-year period from the last general election had passed.

He later left the country for further studies and quit DAP in 1978.

Lim Guan Eng (1998)

The current DAP secretary-general cum Penang chief minister was arrested in 1994 when he was Kota Melaka MP, following his criticism of the government’s handling of an allegation of statutory rape of a Malay minor by the then Malacca Chief Minister Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik.

Lim was charged under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 for causing “disaffection with the administration of justice in Malaysia” and ‘”maliciously printing” a pamphlet containing alleged false information.

He lost his seat after being sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment despite a series of appeals. Due to the five-year ban, the DAP Youth chief missed two general elections until he was re-elected in the 2008 general election.

Wee Choo Keong (1995)

vk lingam hearing wee choo keong pc thirunama 180108 sternThe current Wangsa Maju MP, who recently quit PKR and to become an Independent, was elected as Bukit Bintang MP in the 1995 general election under the DAP ticket.

His opponent, Lee Chong Meng from MCA, challenged his position after he was fined RM7,000 by the court for breaching a court injunction.

The injunction banned Wee (left) from making allegations against MBF after he made a police report claiming irregularities in the finance company.

The judge made a controversial decision to nullify his election victory and declared Lee as the legitimate MP, without calling for a by-election.

However, Wee won his appeal to set aside the injunction in 2007, 12 years after he was disqualified.