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Anwar Ibrahim


Malaysia’s Najib Fires Starting Gun For Tense Election Race

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 02:41 AM PDT

Reuters

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved parliament on Wednesday, paving the way for a general election expected this month that could be the most closely contested his ruling coalition has faced in its 56-year rule.

Najib faces a confident opposition alliance led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim and is under intense pressure to restore his ruling coalition’s two-thirds majority that it lost for the first time in a disastrous 2008 poll.

Failure to win back that majority would throw his leadership and his economic reform program into doubt, raising uncertainty over policy in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy.

A win for Anwar’s opposition is unlikely but not impossible, and would put the former British colony into uncharted political territory.

Najib, who took over in 2009 after the election debacle, will point to brisk economic growth of 5.6 percent last year as he seeks to regain electoral ground.

“Our national transformation is still a story half told. If we do not keep up the pace of reform, we risk losing out. But with a strong mandate, we can continue,” Najib said in a television address, exactly four years after he took power.

The election appears likely to be held on Saturday, April 27, after a two-week campaign period.

Najib said he hoped for a “solid” majority.

The 59-year-old son of a former prime minister is aiming to push Malaysia into high-income status by 2020 through an ambitious $444 billion economic transformation program.

He has warned repeatedly that an opposition victory could result in social and economic instability in the nation of 29 million people that has a history of tension between majority Malays and minority ethnic Chinese and Indians.

The opposition – a sometimes fractious alliance including a secular ethnic Chinese party and an Islamist party – aims to tap into a growing desire for faster political and economic reform, arguing it is time for a change.

It already runs four state governments and pledges to break down an entrenched network of patronage between the long-dominant ethnic Malay party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and favored business interests.

Possibly working against Najib and his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition are three million first-time voters – about 22 percent of the total vote – many of them younger Malaysians.

“The BN still has the advantage in terms of resources, media, money, and machinery,” said Ong Kian Ming, an election strategist for the DAP ethnic Chinese opposition party.

“The X-factor we are relying on is the newly registered voters.”

CHANGING SOCIETY

Race-based social and economic policies have defined the coalition’s rule as it channeled wealth to ethnic Malays, who make up about half of the population, over the economically dominant Chinese minority since 1969 race riots.

The ruling BN coalition will be helped by a skewed electoral system, deep pockets, and about $2 billion in government handouts to millions of poorer Malaysians since the start of 2012. But Najib will likely face a leadership challenge from within UMNO if he fails to improve on the 2008 performance.

Nationalist and conservative forces within UMNO, encouraged by influential former leader Mahathir Mohamad, have looked askance at Najib’s steps to roll back colonial-era security and media controls as a sign of weak leadership.

A blossoming civil society and growing middle class are clashing with tight social, media and political controls that have cemented UMNO’s half-century rule.

Najib’s flagship economic transformation plan, based on hefty public and private investment, has had some initial success but critics say it depends too much on public spending and risks expanding a national debt already at 53 percent of gross domestic product.

A lack of reliable opinion polls makes it difficult to forecast the election outcome.

Few predicted the extent of opposition gains in 2008, which triggered a 10 percent plunge in Kuala Lumpur stocks. Morgan Stanley said in a note on Wednesday that a BN parliamentary seat share of below 55 percent would be seen as a “negative risk event by investors and could have implications for leadership and government stability”.

A recent poll by the University of Malaya showed the ruling coalition at 42 percent support compared with the opposition’s 37 percent, but with 21 percent of voters undecided.

In February, the independent Merdeka Center showed Najib’s approval rating at 61 percent, down 10 points since the end of 2011. His coalition is less popular, polling at 45 percent.

Anticipation of a close election that could cause policy uncertainty has frayed investors’ nerves this year and made Kuala Lumpur’s stock market one of the worst performers in Asia.

The main KLSE stock index briefly fell more than 3 percent in early Wednesday trade following the announcement that Najib would be holding a television address. It later recovered to trade 0.83 percent lower.

(Additional reporting by Niluksi Koswanage, Amer Hamzah Sheikh al-Zaquan, Yantoultra Ngui; Editing by Ken Wills and Robert Birsel)

Insight: In Malaysia’s Election, a Focus on Rainforest Graft

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 02:38 AM PDT

Reuters

The island of Borneo may be all that stands between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and an unprecedented election defeat within weeks for his ruling coalition.

Borneo’s two Malaysian states — Sabah and Sarawak — have been a bastion of votes for the National Front coalition headed by Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

The two states, among Malaysia’s poorest despite vast natural resources, kept the National Front in power in 2008 even as a groundswell of support for the opposition deprived the government of its iron-clad two-thirds parliamentary majority.

That could start to change. Allegations of corruption in recent months have dogged the chief ministers of both Sabah and Sarawak, long-time rulers who hold vast sway over some of the world’s largest tracts of tropical forests.

The National Front is favored to win the election that Najib must call by the end of April, extending its 56-year rule thanks to robust economic growth and its strong electoral machinery.

But it could be one of Malaysia’s closest elections. Corruption scandals threaten to undermine one of Najib’s central messages — that he is making Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy more transparent and competitive.

Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman, who is also the state’s top UMNO official, has been under scrutiny the past year after whistleblower website Sarawak Report published documents from the Hong Kong and Malaysian anti-corruption agencies.

The two agencies started investigating Musa in late 2008. The probe was based on a tip-off that the chief minister was extracting money from businessmen seeking timber concessions and funneling it to UBS bank accounts in Hong Kong and Singapore, sources close to the investigations said. They declined to say who gave the tip-off.

The Hong Kong anti-graft agency froze a UBS account managed by a lawyer on behalf of Musa, the sources said, and began a joint investigation with its Malaysian counterpart.

The agencies closed the case three years later and unfroze the funds after the Malaysian government publicly said the money was donations for UMNO, not bribes. The Malaysian government has not explained why political donations had to be routed through Hong Kong and Singapore.

Musa told Reuters in a statement that he has been cleared by both anti-graft agencies. However, an independent panel overseeing the Malaysian graft agency has recently requested the case be reviewed.

“These are the same old stories, rehashed over and over again,” Musa said. “It is just the usual silly season before the general election, when the opposition gets up to their usual monkey business.”

The opposition, which argues the fruit of Malaysia’s brisk economic growth is largely concentrated in the hands of a well-connected elite, has vowed to keep pouring it on.

“How Musa manages Sabah in favor of the government rather than the people will certainly be a prominent part of election rallies on the opposition side,” said Lim Kit Siang, a leader in the opposition coalition headed by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

HONG KONG TIMBER ACCOUNTS

The Hong Kong anti-graft agency told Reuters it investigated a number of Malaysian nationals, including a government official, for breaching the prevention of bribery ordinance in connection with the UBS accounts. It neither confirmed nor denied that Musa was the focus of the investigation.

Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency said it provided assistance to its Hong Kong counterparts but declined to give details. Malaysian anti-corruption officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the leaked documents obtained by Sarawak Report were genuine and Musa was, indeed, the focus of the investigation.

Sarawak Report said the Hong Kong and Malaysian anti-graft agency documents it acquired showed that $90 million in illegal logging proceeds from Sabah were channeled to the UBS accounts. That prompted Swiss prosecutors to open a criminal money laundering probe into UBS last August.

The investigations into UBS and its relationship with Musa are continuing, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland said. UBS said it was fully cooperating with the authorities but declined to give more details.

As chief minister, Musa is in charge of the Sabah Foundation, which manages a state forest reserve covering 3,861 square miles, nearly half the size of New Jersey. The foundation allows timber companies to annually log a tiny fraction of that area. The logging proceeds are supposed to fund education and welfare projects in the state.

As chief minister, Musa signs off on all the logging permits that its board of directors agree to award to timber firms, or at least in one case, to a family member.

One of the Malaysian anti-corruption agency documents listed companies that won permits from the foundation. It shows the foundation awarded 2,000 hectares (7.7 sq miles) of primary forest to Musa’s younger brother, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, at a special board of directors’ meeting on May 7, 2004.

The same Malaysian anti-graft document shows Musa consistently signed off on concessions that exceeded, or even doubled, the allowable timber cut. While not illegal, it shows the state was exceeding its own guidelines on deforestation.

Some of the companies on that list made payments into a UBS corporate account belonging to a former Musa associate, bank statements on the account obtained by Reuters shows. From the same account, withdrawals were made by the associate to fund Musa’s sons who were studying in Australia, the statements show.

Two timber firms in Sabah transferred two payments totaling $4.04 million on August 16, 2006 into the corporate UBS account belonging to the former Musa associate. Six days later on August 22, the exact same amount was transferred into a personal UBS account belonging to Musa’s lawyer. The Hong Kong anti-graft agency described that account as “held in trust” for Musa, according to the bank statements and investigation documents.

That same day, the firms won a 32,000 hectare (124 sq miles) timber concession and a contract to maintain a road to a logging camp, according to the Malaysian anti-graft agency document.

The owners of those two timber firms confirmed to Reuters that the $4.04 million transactions were “donations” to Musa and UMNO to secure the contracts. They requested their names and the names of their firms not be identified.

Malaysia’s government has said all the funds in that UBS account were ultimately sent to UMNO as political donations. Other firms on the list of companies that received timber concessions could not be reached or declined to comment.

LESS LOGGING REVENUES

While there is no published data on how much forest has been cleared within the Sabah Foundation forest reserve, official data shows significant deforestation throughout the state.

In 1992, the state’s total forest cover stood at 17,000 square miles, about half the size of Ireland. By 2011, it had shrunk to 13,900 square miles, based on the latest available data from the forestry department. Primary or virgin forests have been particularly hard-hit, declining from 1,595 square miles in 1992 to just 348 square miles in 2011.

With diminishing forests left to cut, logging revenues fell by half over five years to less than 250 million ringgit in 2011 ($80.6 million).

Musa has made a push for Sabah to diversify into agriculture and oil and gas, which helped state budget revenues hit a record 4.1 billion ringgit last year. But the state’s unemployment rate remains at 5.4 percent, the highest of any state in Malaysia, where the national average is 3.0 percent.

Musa’s popularity ratings have declined as well, to 45 percent in 2012 from 60 percent in 2009, according to a survey by the Merdeka Centre, Malaysia’s most respected pollster.

CORRUPTION CHARGES

Law Minister Mohamad Nazri Aziz told parliament last October the funds in the UBS bank account held on behalf of Musa were political donations, without giving details about the source of the money or explaining why such funds had to be routed through foreign countries.

Based on evidence submitted by the Malaysian anti-graft agency, Malaysia’s attorney-general found no indication of corruption or linkages with the Swiss government’s investigation into UBS, Nazri said.

But an independent panel overseeing the Malaysian anti-graft agency has since written to the attorney-general requesting a review of his decision to close the case on Musa, a high ranking anti-graft official said at a public forum held by the Bar Council. The official did not disclose why the review was requested and declined to respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The attorney general did not respond to requests for comment.

As UMNO’s party leader in Sabah, Musa is expected to find ways of raising money for the party – and to get out the vote.

“For UMNO, Musa is almost indispensable in Sabah. You lose him, you may lose your whole regime,” said Oh Ei Sun, senior visiting fellow with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and a former political secretary to Prime Minister Najib.

NAJIB AT RISK

The opposition, campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, is banking on winning 20 seats in Sabah and Sarawak in the election, which could put it within sight of a 112-seat simple majority in parliament.

Sarawak has also been under the spotlight over allegations of timber corruption. The Malaysian anti-corruption agency said it has been investigating Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud since 2011 in response to environmental activists’ complaints about corruption in the forestry industry. That investigation continues and any new evidence will be taken into account, the agency spokesman said.

He was referring to environmental activist group Global Witness, which posted a video in March that went viral. It showed Taib’s cousins and associates apparently offering thousands of hectares of forest land to the group’s undercover investigators and formulating plans to book the land sales in Singapore to avoid Malaysian taxes. The cousins could not be reached for comment. (For the video, see: here)

Taib publicly denied the allegations raised as a result of the video. “I saw the so-called proof. It has nothing to do with me,” he told local media. “Everything has to be done with government procedure.”

In an interview with Reuters last Tuesday, Prime Minister Najib declined to discuss details of the investigations into the Sabah and Sarawak chief ministers, and said he was against corruption in “any form.”

Asked about the Global Witness video, Najib said: “It’s ok, everything will be investigated, and due process will take its course.”

(Additional reporting by David Fogarty, Angie Teo and Stuart Grudgings in KUALA LUMPUR and James Pomfret in HONG KONG; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

PRESS STATEMENT : Free, Fair And Peaceful Elections

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 01:47 AM PDT

Parliament has been dissolved and the people of Malaysia finally will have the opportunity to decide on a government of their choice. Pakatan Rakyat calls on all Malaysians to make use of this golden opportunity to choose a new government, one that is not just competent and effective to move the nation forward but also trustworthy and determined to cleanse this nation of corruption and power abuse.

Throughout the 12th Parliament, Pakatan Rakyat has laid out clear options for the people and offered a comprehensive blue print for economic, political and social reform. At the same time, it has administered four State governments with a commendable record in terms of economic and social progress, accountability, and transparency.

We believe the people are capable of evaluating the positive changes that have been and will continue to be brought by Pakatan Rakyat.

We are confident that the people will choose a government that is committed to fighting corruption, placing their interest as paramount and placing at their service a corps of young leaders side by side with those of vast experience to answertheir aspirations. We believe the people will choose a government that will act justly and fairly in all matters to all communities and across every strata ofsociety.

Throughout the campaign period, Pakatan Rakyat will continue to take a matured political approach in presenting its case to the people. It will be a campaign that will reflect the aspirations of a nation to be civil, progressive, fair and just.

In this regard, we urge all sides, particularly our friends from the BarisanNasional to observe the proper ethical standards and honour the democratic process and principles governing the conduct of political campaigns. We pledge to do the same and to defend the security and peace of the nation and warn against irresponsible elements out to create trouble and mischief. Indeed, we welcome the statement by Dato' Seri Najib Razak and hold him to this word that there will be a peaceful transition of government in the event Pakatan Rakyat wins the 13th General Elections.

Pakatan Rakyat indeed has all confidence that the security forces will act professionally and fairly in the interest of maintaining public order and safety throughout the campaign period. This is in line with the duty and responsibility entrusted them by Federal Constitution to safeguard the democratic process and ensure that people continue to have the freedom to determine a government of their choice.

We once again extend the invitation to Dato' Seri Najib Razak to engage in a proper and healthy debate in order for the people to have a better opportunity to make a proper and informed choice as to who should be given the mandate to rule.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

KENYATAAN MEDIA : Pilihanraya Umum Ke-13 Yang ADIL, BERSIH Dan AMAN

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 01:35 AM PDT

Parlimen telahpun dibubarkan dan ini bermakna rakyat Malaysia punyai kesempatan untuk memberi mandat serta memilih sebuah kerajaan yang baru. Pakatan Rakyat menyeru seluruh rakyat Malaysia merebut peluang ini untuk memilih sebuah kerajaan yang berwibawa, bertanggungjawab, bersih dari rasuah dan beriltizam kuat mahu memastikan Malaysia yang gagah.

Sepanjang penggal Parlimen Ke-12 Pakatan Rakyat membentangkan tawaran-tawaran yang jelas kepada rakyat ke arah membawa reformasi ekonomi, politik dan sosial yang menyeluruh. Saya berkeyakinan rakyat mampu menilai perubahan-perubahan positif yang telah dan akan dibawa oleh Pakatan Rakyat.

Rakyat Malaysia kini berpeluang memilih sebuah kerajaan baru yang tegas membanteras rasuah, mendepankan kepentingan seharian rakyat, menampilkan pimpinan muda yang menyambung aspirasi masa depan rakyat dan berlaku adil kepada semua kaum dan segenap lapisan masyarakat.

Sepanjang tempoh berkempen kali ini, Pakatan Rakyat akan terus mengambil pendekatan politik matang berasaskan pembentangan dasar untuk dinilai oleh rakyat. Kempen yang positif sebegini bertepatan dengan harapan rakyat yang mahukan sebuah negara yang progresif, adil dan maju.

Oleh yang demikian, kami menyeru semua pihak terutamanya rakan-rakan dari Barisan Nasional untuk memastikan etika pilihanraya dan amalan prinsip demokrasi dipatuhi sepanjang masa. Kami bertekad untuk bersama-sama mempertahankan keamanan negara dan menggesa supaya tidak ada mana-mana pihak yang mengambil kesempatan untuk menimbulkan kekacauan. Kami mengalu-alukan kenyataan Dato' Seri Najib Razak yang menjamin peralihan kuasa yang aman sekiranya Pakatan Rakyat memenangi Pilihan Raya Umum ke-13 ini.

Pakatan Rakyat sememangnya menaruh sepenuh keyakinan bahawa pasukan keselamatan akan bertindak secara profesional dan berlaku adil demi menjaga ketenteraman awam sepanjang tempoh berkempen. Amanah serta tanggungjawab tersebut sememangnya sejajar dengan prinsip Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang memberi jaminan bahawa rakyat berhak mendapat ruang yang bebas untuk menentukan kerajaan yang menepati harapan rakyat.

Sebagai mukadimah kempen Pilihan Raya Umum ke-13, Pakatan Rakyat mengulangi pelawaan kepada Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak untuk mempertahankan rekod Barisan Nasional dan kepada kami untuk membentangkan kebijakan dasar Pakatan Rakyat dalam sebuah debat, supaya rakyat boleh membuat pilihan yang bermaklumat dan adil.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

MAKLUMAN MEDIA: Sidang media DSAI berkenaan pembubaran Parlimen

Posted: 02 Apr 2013 09:48 PM PDT

MAKLUMAN MEDIA
3 APRIL 2013

Dimaklumkan satu sidang media akan diadakan oleh Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim berkenaan pembubaran Parlimen seperti yang berikut:

Tarikh: 3 April 2013 (Hari ini Rabu)

Masa: 4 petang

Tempat: Ibu Pejabat Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Tropicana

Sidang media juga akan dihadiri oleh barisan pimpinan Parti.

Anwar Umum 4 calon Parlimen Johor, Jen (B) Hashim Tanding JB

Posted: 02 Apr 2013 10:37 AM PDT

KeadilanDaily

Bekas Ketua Turus Angkatan Tentera Darat, Jen (B) Tan Sri Md Hashim Hussein diumum sebagai calon KEADILAN bagi Parlimen Johor Bahru pada PRU 13.

Pengumuman itu dibuat Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim dalam ceramah Jelajah Merdeka Rakyat di Kampung Datuk Sulaiman Menteri, Majidee di sini, malam tadi.

"Kita ada seorang tokoh Melayu yang cukup wibawa, seorang jeneral empat bintang yang kita akan tawarkan sebagai calon Parlimen Johor Bahru," katanya disambut sorakan.

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Ketua Umum KEADILAN itu berkata, Hashim yang juga anak kelahiran Johor adalah seorang panglima yang besar jasanya kepada negara.

"Beliau Panglima Tentera Darat, jaga tentera darat dari Perlis hingga Sabah. Lahir di Johor dan pernah jadi Commander in Charge di Kem (tentera) Majidee.

"Beliau pernah bawa tentera kita untuk jaga nama baik Malaysia di Bosnia. Ini pahlawan sebenar anak Melayu Johor," katanya.

Selepas menamatkan perkhidmatan dalam tentera, Anwar berkata, Md Hashim dilantik sebagai Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Malaysia di Pakistan sebelum menyertai KEADILAN 6 Mac lalu.

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Selain itu, tiga lagi calon KEADILAN kerusi Parlimen di Johor turut diumum Anwar.

Mereka ialah Steven Chong Siaw, seorang akauntan bertauliah dan aktivis badan bukan kerajaan (NGO) untuk bertanding di Parlimen Tebrau.

Selain itu, Parlimen Muar diwakili lulusan London Institute of Public Relations, Mohd Hizwan Ahmad yang juga seorang reformasi yang komited dalam perjuangan sejak dulu.

Parlimen Batu Pahat pula diwakili  Datuk Idris Jauzi, bekas Presiden Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) dan bekas Pengarah Institut Aminuddin Baki, selain aktivis Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim).

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