Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Finally, no more fuel for foreigners

We laud announcement by Domestic Trade Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad that beginning Saturday, the government will restrict sales of petrol and diesel to foreign motorists to prevent abuse of fuel subsidies.

Some 200 to 300 filling stations bordering Singapore and Thailand will be barred from selling fuel to non-Malaysian registered vehicles.

Such an action was take after years of complaint from various parties concerned about the influx of foreign vehicles crossing the common borders daily, just to refuel. As such, many petrol stations are normally 'open up' to such vehicles, leaving the locals with least opportunity to do so.

As the government provides high subsidies for both commodities, Malaysia is among a few countries in the world that sells petrol and diesel at low price, thus inviting 'crossovers' from other countries.

The subsidy bill could hit a record of RM50 billion this year as crude oil prices reached its all-time high of US$135 per barrel recently.

Some analysts said the announcement by the government could hamper tourism and upset retailers.

However, others suggested that only genuine tourists who drive into Malaysia, spending at least 36 hours in the country, should be allowed to refuel, NOT those who pass through the Immigration line for one or two hours for the purpose of refueling, and leave.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

End of Proton?


I was having coffee with two Proton officers in Cheras last nite when one of their remarks shuddered me.

"Proton is considering selling off one of its production plants, most probably in Shah Alam, to either Mitsubishi or Toyota by the year 2012," they said.

Why?

"We dont know. Perhaps to offset loses in production. Going by the sales rate, Proton is not generating enough revenue over overhead."

Funny, uh! One problem after another after the government kicked-out Tengku Mahaleel in 2004.

Proton, too, is not in serious competition with other car makers, they said.

"When other car makers, including Perodua, are spending millions of ringgit on research and development (R & D), introducing new models and offering new sales packages, Proton is on a slow track.

"For instance, models like four-wheel drive, MPV and SUV are now the trend on the road. But what is Proton doing?

"Yes, it is not cheap to spend on prototypes but we cannot just let others leaving us like that. What will happen to Proton then?"

The latest news, Proton is using a model of a Japanese SUV to design its own. Production is only expected by end 2009.

All in d family?

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali have left Umno. Then came their son, Mokhzani.

Mukhriz, although pledged to remain in the party, has threatened Pak Lah to step down by July or he will follow suit. What about d rest of d family?

It is sad that things have to be this way. After all the fame in developing the country and reconciling Barisan Nasional, Dr Mahathir has chosen to stay out of Umno, which he led for 22 years.

And now that Mukhriz has given an 'ultimatum' to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to resign, I believe he will have to opt leaving Umno by July.

What will happen next? Their daughter Marina and son Mirzan... will they too?

Will the support for Pak Lah continue to remain strong or decline? Umno MPs have documented their full support for the premier but they cannot speak for the grassroot members. Although only less than 1,000 Umno members have declared that they were leaving the party, this cannot be taken up lightly.

As the political turmoil runs down to personal vendetta, it seems, the party general assembly in December is expected to be heated up, especially when Tengku Razaleigh has vowed to challenge Pak Lah for the No.1 position.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I SALUTE YOU, DR M!

I bumped into Dr M at the Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan (ASWARA), Jalan Tun Ismail, at 10pm on Sunday, after watching the opera 'Malam Gelap di Kota Damansara', in which one of his adopted son played a part in it.

Smiling and shaking hand with about 600 audiences, he didnt say much except praising the efforts by Aswara students in organising such an event.

He looked happy as usual. He seemed to bothered by nothing. Neither did he answer my simple question on what will be his next move as he was one of the six to be summoned to court regarding the V K Lingam video case.

He just said, "Itu nanti kita tengok la. Saya tadak masalah apa-apa..."

And today, he announced plan to quit Umno, the party which he presided for more than 20 years, being the longest ever party president for the Malay pride and dominance.

I called up Datuk Jaafar Hussein, ex-Bernama chief editor who once was Dr M's closest aides.

"Bagus lah. I think he will form a new party. Dia bukan benci pada Umno tapi tak setuju dengan cara pemimpin Umno sekarang. He (Dr M) has been sidelined for almost 5 years now. Tell me, mana perginya penghargaan dan rasa hormat kita pada pemimpin lama yang banyak berjasa kepada negara dan parti?," he said.

Another friend said that if Dr M forms a new party. many will join, including Umno members and some of its leaders.

"I believed Ku Li will join him... and so will Mukhriz and others. There is nothing much Umno can do to stop its members to join another party. What is there to worry if Umno lost a million of its members... it still has another 3.4 million," said a Tan Sri.

But whatever it is, I have high respect for Dr M, whom i used to follow in most of his overseas trip during his tenancy as a prime minister.

He had loved the party so much that he was willing to do anything to protect and safeguard it. However, his frustration (in my own opinion) was more towards the dejection he felt after passing on the baton to Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi.

A lot of things that he already outlined and planned were booted when he is no more in power. He was hoping for the new regime to carry on with some of the projects he mooted then.

Among which are the 'Jambatan Bengkok' linking Johor and Singapore, the development for Putrajaya and few more. In Putrajaya, we can still see a LRT station being completed, without its rail linking the administrative city to Seri Petaling.

Maybe I am right, maybe I am wrong but from my own perception, Dr M got every solid reason to do so... and I believe my friends, the rest of the bloggers, some Umno members and leaders, and others, will agree with me.

Dr M is disheartened with what took place over the past four years or so. In Bahasa Malaysia, 'beliau seolah-olah tidak diumpamakan langsung' by the present Umno leaders, including those who he himself groomed to become what they are today.

To Dr M, I personally salute you...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No more letters of support


I was at the Parliament lobby yesterday (Wednesday), trying to rub shoulders with the higher society, meeting old friends and making new ones.

My friend (a businessman) and me were talking at the cafeteria, sipping at our drinks when a Deputy Minister who we know quite well, came and joined us.

"I got your letter. Tapi susah sikit la bro. Ada directive mengatakan Menteri dan Timbalan Menteri tak boleh keluarkan surat sokongan kepada siapa-siapa pun lagi. Bukannya I taknak tolong tapi u kena paham," he said.

Betol ke ni? How true was his remarks? Was there such a directive issued by the Government's highest authority? But why?

"Tak tau la pulak. Tapi mungkin jugak ada kaitan dengan tuduhan orang ramai kononnya signature menteri kanan pun dah tak laku sekarang sebab diorang sain terlalu banyak surat untuk satu-satu projek."

I didnt ask further except wondering what are businessmen, notably contractors, doing at lobbies of ministries everyday, carrying big envelopes containing profiles, letters of interest, etc.

If its true that such a directive was issued to members of Cabinet, then where are businessmen got their 'rundingan terus' jobs from?

ENTAH LAAAARRRR....! WHATEVER!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nothing to lose, no more to gain...


I didnt want to say anything about the recently concluded general elections until noticing tonnes of statements, remarks and comments made by our leaders - be it from our legitimate government or from the opposition.

Not just that, people in the streets are still contemplating on what will take place in the country, expecially on the political arena, in the coming months. Will the government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi got the strength to stay on or as to whether Pakatan Rakyat under its d'facto leader Datuk Anwar Ibrahim will gain enough 'crossover' to enable both parties to switch benches, is the centre of talks.

My personal view is that, Barisan Nasional's bad performance in the 12th general election was nothing alarming. Even Pakatan Rakyat's unexpected wins in 6 states (including Kuala Lumpur) was not to shout about.

After 50 years of Independence and 11 general elections, the rakyat were actually getting so used of BN and Perikatan during the 1960s. They were so accustomed with BN ways of administering the country. So much so, they couldn't feel anymore extraordinary coming from the ruling party.

Of course, BN adverse performance was also attributed to some of its supporters turning their back on Umno, MCA, MIC and its other components but the percentage was minimal.

BN in general, and Umno in specific, are still very much relevant to Malaysians. Nobody can deny this. It was Umno and friends who fought for Independence in 1957. It is Umno that leads Perikatan dan Barisan Nasional in instituting a strong multi-racial government which, until today, produced tremendous development results for the country.

It was not Anwar's factor that led to Pakatan Rakyat strong showings in the general elections.

What then?

Look and open up our minds. We have gained Independence for more than 50 years. Malaysia is moving on the right direction to emerge as a fully-developed nation by the year 2020.

The voters today are not of that 20 or 30 years ago. They are more demanding, more downright in speaking up, enjoying a better lifestyle and more exposed to whatever development that takes place worldwide. They are also good at making comparison and more daring to try out new things as long as their interest is not at stake.

This is an era of test and testing. When other countries have observed how ruling and opposition parties took their turns to form governments, Barisan Nasional can still be considered 'lucky' to still be able to lead. Many were shocked initially at the results of the general elections but others were not.

I spoke to diplomats, particularly those attached to foreign missions in Kuala Lumpur. Generally, most agreed to the suggestion that no matter how relevant BN is to Malaysians, they cant deny the possibility that one day, the Opposition will have their chance to control the Parliament.

"It happened in India. It was a tussle between the Congress Party and Bharatiya Janata Party but policies remained the same," according to one diplomat.

"Even the Republicans and Democrats switch position in the United States. Look at South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. We cannot simply discount on the fact that an Opposition Leader cannot become a prime minister.

"Of course in depends heavily on the outcome of elections but it happened in many countries. Malaysia has yet to experience it. There is nothing to be alarmed of," said another Western ambassador.

As the nation gets older, the challenges get bigger. The people may want to try out the Opposition as they are being so used to BN, hoping a new government would introduce better sets of economic, culture and other policies.

Lech Walesa of Poland, Kim Dae-jung of South Korea and Sh Hasina Wajed were the opposition leaders before becoming Presidents and a Prime Minister, respectively. They retained the same set of administration policies of the previous governments while re-adjusted and introduced new ones.

"I sincerely believe that whoever takes over the helm will advocate to self-destruct policy. They will instead try to improve things as to win the people," they said.

But of course BN leaders got valid reasons to worry as they began efforts to consolidate trust and support from the rakyat. On the other hand, it wont be that easy for the Opposition to wrest power - not now, at least.

Maybe I'm wrong but as a journalist who have been to more than 60 countries, I got my own perspective.