Tuesday, May 27, 2008


EC wants to re-register 10.9 mil voters for fresh roll


Malaysian electoral authorities want a fresh voters roll and have proposed reregistering all 10.9 million voters in a mammoth exercise aimed at silencing allegations of fraud and vote-rigging, a report said Monday. Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the project would take about two years, in time for the next general election unless a snap poll is triggered by current political turmoil. “The new registration exercise will be held if the Government accepts the proposal. We hope the proposal will be accepted,” he said. According to him, a new roll which caters to the current needs is necessary and would be acceptable to all parties. Abdul Rashid said the existing roll was a “thorn in his flesh,” after being condemned by the Opposition and rights activists who say it is deeply flawed and riddled with phantom voters. He said the EC would propose to the Government to have a special law to enable the drawing up of a new roll after its panel members meet on June 9. “We have jurisdiction to only examine and update the current list and not to come up with a fresh list,” he said. He said the proposal was among those brought up in the EC’s post-mortem meeting after the recent elections. Election reform campaigners said ahead of March 8 general election that almost 9,000 voters born more than 100 years ago - including two reported to be 128 years old - were enrolled to vote. The Election Commission controversially abandoned a plan to mark voters’ fingers with indelible ink prior to the elections. Nevertheless, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered the worst results in its half-century history, losing five states and a third of parliamentary seats to the Opposition. The outcome triggered calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as well as splits within his ruling party which commentators say could potentially force the premier to hold fresh elections. Abdul Rashid said the Electoral Commission was capable of handling snap polls if necessary. In Malaysia, another four million people are eligible to vote but have not registered. Between 2004 and March 2008, the EC received 235 complaints concerning the names of voters which were missing from the list. Investigations carried out by the EC later revealed that the names of these voters were omitted due to several factors, including being listed as “doubtful status” after the identity card numbers were confirmed to be missing from the National Registration Department database. Another reason was that the identity card numbers were certified by the Department as belonging to someone else, in some cases dead people. There were also complaints that the names of certain voters were transferred from one constituency to another without their knowledge.
— AFP-Star.


Standardize prices of all goods in Nation, urges Tham


Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad should make it a top ‘national agenda’ to standardize the prices of all goods throughout the country, and not just prices of subsidised goods, said former Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Tham Nyip Shen. “While I commend Datuk Shahrir’s swift move of having convinced the Federal Government to standardize the prices of subsidised goods throughout the country, which is in fact long overdue, I would urge him to standardize prices of all the other goods ultimately. “This is to be fair to Malaysians living in Sabah and Sarawak who have been paying more for most of the goods sold in the two States, which is absolutely unfair to them in the context of ‘one nation’ and, coupled with the fact that like their Peninsular Malaysia counterparts, they too are paying the same rate of Income Tax, no rebate at all,” argued Tham who is a consistent critic of price discrepancies between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. Tham was responding to the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister’s recent, statement that the Federal Government would standardise the prices of subsidised goods throughout the country next month. “For once, someone at the Federal Government level is thinking about Malaysia as one country. Previously, when this issue about standardising goods prices was raised, it fell on deaf ears, despite the fact the Ministry was once headed by a Sabahan. “Hence, if Datuk Shahrir could achieve this (standardizing prices of all goods), the people of Sabah and Sarawak would really appreciate him,” he said. He reiterated that it is not impossible to realize such a move provided there is a strong political will. He cited case of United States as a good example of a nation with standard pricing for all goods, despite its sheer size that is about 28 times larger than the size of Malaysia. Tham went on to note that the higher prices of goods in Sabah had inevitably and unfairly contributed to a high cost of living and a higher cost of doing business in the State, as compared to the other states. In addition, almost all the leading Government Departments and Agencies are based in Kuala Lumpur especially. This thus often compelled Sabahans and Sarawakians to travel to Kuala Lumpur to do business and to attend meetings, according to him. “So far, MPs’ airfares are subsidised but what about the ordinary citizens? Until AirAsia came into the picture, there was no chance for the people of Sabah and Sarawak to travel to Kuala Lumpur on a cheap airfare,” he said.


CM reassures on environ, wildlife
“We don’t kill Orang Utans or other wildlife for agriculture


The State Government remains committed to protecting the environment and wildlife habitats in Sabah, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman. He said this had been translated into several stands that the Government had taken, including not allowing the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Silam, Lahad Datu, following protests and research that showed the construction of the plant could have a negative impact on diverse marine and terrestrial eco-systems in its vicinity. Musa dismissed allegations from some international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) about the negative impact of oil palm on wildlife habitats in Sabah. “I would like to clarify and give you the assurance that we do not kill Orang Utans or other wildlife to make way for agriculture,” he said when closing the Star BRATs P2P Greeniz Program at Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Kinabatangan yesterday. While it could not be denied that oil palm plantations are here to stay, Musa stressed however that with the help of many environmental NGOs, Sabah is looking ahead as to what the State could do better. Citing the Kinabatangan floodplain, he noted that conservation of the environment and the palm oil industry go hand-in-hand and the Government is creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders. He said several plantation giants such as Asiatic Development Berhad, Pontian United Plantation and Sawit Kinabalu, were conducting reforestation to create corridors of wildlife such as the Borneo pygmy elephants. “We commend them and others who realise that they must give up some of their land, so that wildlife will be able to move from one forested area to another.” Having said that, Musa reminded those plantation owners who have yet to clear crops at Riparian reserves to do so as directed by the Sabah Government two years ago. He stressed that environmental education has become one of the State Government’s core interests in creating a future generation that cares for the environment. This could be seen from the setting up of the Sabah Environment Education Network or SEEN in March 2005 involving several Government departments, related NGOs and other interested parties. Another program that is gaining recognition is the EERace which is similar to the famous television show Amazing Race. The declaration of the Kinabatangan Floodplain as A Gift to the Earth in 1999 and the subsequent gazettement of the 26,000 hectares of the floodplain as the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in 2005 is a clear manifestation of Sabah’s commitment towards protecting the environment and wildlife habitats, according to him. “This shows that while we push for economic development, we strive to create a balance, in line with the sustainable development policy outlined in the Sabah Development Corridor Blueprint,” said Musa.


Project awarded based on potential, not influence: Lajim


Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin said yesterday the electrified double-track railway project was awarded to a company with potential and not based on the company’s influence. Lajim said the company Ircon (International Limited) was also picked based on the success of (local) companies securing contracts to build highways in India. “What is wrong if someone, be they the children of the Prime Minister, or children of the Opposition, can strive to get contracts overseas. It is not wrong,” he said during the question- and-answer session of the Dewan Rakyat here yesterday. Lajim said this in reply to a question by Dr Mohamed Hayati Othman (PAS-Pendang) regarding the rise in the project cost from RM8 billion to RM16 billion as a result of projects given in reciprocation to companies closely linked to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The session was disrupted briefly as some backbenchers objected to the picture painted by the PAS representative that the company awarded the project was under the ‘armpit’ (ketiak) of the Prime Minister. Speaker Tan Sri Datuk Pandikar Amin Mulia then called on Members of Parliament not to use inappropriate words while the House was in session. Earlier in his reply, Lajim said the total cost of the project was RM 16.935 billion that is RM12.485 billion for the Ipoh-Padang Besar stretch and RM3.45 billion for the Seremban-Gemas length while the number of squatters re-settled for both phases till October 2007 was 1,607 families. - Bernama


PBS’ Chong asked to declare his stand


Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Supreme Council Member Dr Chong Eng Leong has been told to declare his stand on whether he still subscribes to the Barisan Nasional (BN) principles. PBS Chief Information Officer Johnny Mositun said the Party’s leadership was concerned with Dr Chong’s recent statement that was tantamount to “belittling the Party’s policy as well as making unfounded allegations and malicious comments against senior Party leaders”. “Our stand on illegals is clear ever since PBS was formed in 1985, long before he (Dr Chong) joined, exited and rejoined PBS. We are anti-PTI (illegal immigrants) but we must adopt a BN approach to solving the problem. Not the Opposition way”. According to Mositun, if Dr Chong no longer can support the BN, then “he should know what to do rather than testing the hands of the PBS leadership”. “His statement is very damaging. Dr Chong Eng Leong is free to leave the Party and join the Opposition, Pakatan Rakyat, if he no longer subscribes to BN principles,” he said here yesterday. “Deep in our heart, in so far as the motion tabled by Lim Kit Siang in the Parliament is concerned, it is the prerogative of the Speaker to either accept or reject it based on the fact or subject matter of the motion by giving its reason(s) in accordance with the august House Standing Order provisions,” said Mositun who is also the State Assembly Deputy Speaker. Hence, he said Dr Chong’s contention that PBS Deputy President Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili who is Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation run around Sabah MPs to vote against the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) does not arise. “The motion was never accepted for debate,.” he said. Dr Chong was reported last Saturday expressing disappointment with Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee’s rejection of the motion to amend the motion of thanks for the Royal Address to add the proposal for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah by Ipoh Timur Member of Parliament Lim Kit Siang. At the same time, Dr Chong criticised not only Sabah BN MPs but also blamed PBS leader Dr Maximus whom he said had failed to show support for the RCI, which he believed if formed, would be able to solve the perennial illegal immigrant problem and those associated with it.


Kampung Tass to have Native Chief, says Syed Abas


A Native Chief will be appointed for Kampung Tass here, Balung Assemblyman Datuk Syed Abas Syed Ali said. “It is only proper that the Kadazandusun and Murut (KDM) community in Kampung Tass have a Native Chief to look after their customs, tradition and practices,” Syed Abas said during the Harvest Festival celebrations at Kampung Tass last weekend. The appointment of a Native Chief in Kampung Tass will be brought up to the Chief Minister’s attention, he added Syed Abas in his speech also spoke about the infrastructure development built by the Government for the people in Kampung Tass. “The Government has spent RM5 million to develop the village with infrastructure facilities like electricity supply,” he said, adding that a RM1.5 million community hail will be built in the village to replace the existing building. Meanwhile, Kadazan Society Sabah (KSS) President Marcel Leiking who was also present at the event, encouraged the KDMs to communicate in their mother tongue to ensure preservation of the language. Usage of their mother tongue will prevent the KDM language and culture from becoming obsolete, he said at the event which was organised by Kampung Tass’s Kadazandusun Cultural Association Sabah CKDCA) and KSS. “As a KDM, we must have the desire to learn and master our mother tongue before we learn other languages,” he said, adding that less and less KDM are communicating in their mother tongue. “We are the master of the language. We should concentrate on the development and the future direction of the Kadazan culture. It is important to love our ethnic identity and continue to aiu1tain ‘its traditional customs,” he said. KKS is a non-religious and nonpolitical body but it was formed by an ethnic group of Sabah origin who has assumed and acknowledged their identity as a member of the Kadazan community, he said at the Harvest Festival celebration in Kampung Tass Balung here last weekend. The highlight of the event was the Unduk Ngadau pageant and the crown this year was awarded to Shirley V. Pilos. The first-runner was Flora Fabian and the second- runner was Vivian Christin Martin.


Actions against illegals do not depend on Royal Commission: SAPP


Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has reminded the authorities that comprehensive actions against illegal immigrants do not depend on a Royal Commission or Parliamentary Select Committees of any sort. “Do not allow the debate over a Royal Commission or a Select Committee to defer urgent actions against illegal immigrants because the sovereignty of the nation and security of the people is a most basic duty of the Government. “The Government must not fail to defend the country’s borders and protect the local citizens against huge numbers of illegal immigrants,” SAPP President Datuk Yong Teck Lee said in a statement yesterday. In debating the merits or otherwise of a Parliamentary Select Committee on illegal immigrants, Yong said we should recall our experiences and not waste time starting all over again. “On May 15, 2001, a Select Committee was formed by the Sabah State Legislative Assembly to address the issue of illegals in Sabah. The members included Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh (now MP for Kalabakan), Datuk Wilfred M. Bumburing (now MP for Tuaran), Datuk Dr Maximus J. Ongkili (now MP for Kota Marudu and Minister in the Federal Cabinet), Datuk Radin Malleh (now Assistant Minister in Chief Minister’s Department), together with then Assemblymen Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan (Bingkor) and Datuk Mohd Lan Allani (Sulabayan) and myself (Likas). (My membership in the committee had become uncertain as a result of the election petition and Likas and Gaya by-elections at the time. “The Committee met twice, on June 12 and July 2, 2001. The final report containing facts and figures was dated October 13, 2001. That report (now available at www.sapp.org. my) is sufficient as an official document for further action, which sadly there was little. Therefore, I doubt whether another Select Committee, even at the Parliamentary level, will make any difference,” said Yong. According to him, the reality is that the formation of a Royal Commission, a favourite subject of the PBS before re-joining BN in 2003, is up to the Federal Cabinet, not Parliament. As shockingly revealed by a PBS Supreme Councillor, it was the PBS Federal Cabinet Minister who lobbied against the motion on the Royal Commission. Hence, the only logical and remaining step is for the Ministers from Sabah to ask the Federal Cabinet to approve the formation of a Royal Commission similar to the commissions over the V.K. Lingham tape, the Police, the ACA and on Judicial appointments. “SAPP reiterates its 14-point plan submitted to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Sabah Chief Minister in October 2006. We have presented this many times at several meetings but to no avail. The actions proposed in the 14-point plan do not require a Royal Commission, Select Committees or further debates. “What the Government must show is a firm political will and more resources, manpower and logistics by bringing in the military, enhancing RELA, special operations to detain the ring leaders (or snake heads), transfer of the Malaysian Consulate from Davao to Zamboanga and the setting up of a Philippine Consulate in Sabah. “Malaysia should use more of its leverage at international bodies like ASEAN and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to get the Philippines Government to co-operate. Malaysia can also suspend the Zamboanga-Sandakan ferry service, impose bonds on incoming visitors, requiring ferry passengers to possess return tickets and step up enforcement at all levels of Government,” said Yong. “There are also fresh developments in the Southern Philippines to worry about. The withdrawal of Malaysian peace monitors from Mindanao last month is a clear indication of failure of the peace process involving the Moro Islamic liberation Front (MILF) he added.


Socio-economic inequalities now an issue, says Tham


Socio-economic inequalities between Sabah and the rest of Malaysia are believed to be the issue today, according to Science and Information Technology Advisor to the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Tham Nyip Shen. In an interview, Tham who is a former Deputy Chief Minister, said he had posed the question on the socio-economic inequalities during a forum titled “Mid-term review of [the Ninth Malaysia Plan open forum” in Kuala Lumpur recently, an event which was jointly organised by the Centre for Public Policy Studies and the Wawasan Open University. Tham said he highlighted the vast disparities in many areas faced by Sabahans, among them the huge number of Sabahans living under the poverty line in the State. “I had also highlighted how Sabah consistently had the lowest literacy rate and pointed out that between 1995 and 2005, the number of teachers in partially Government- aided schools had remained almost stagnant despite an increase in students. “Alarmingly, Sabah also had the lowest number of skilled health workers in midwifery,” he said, adding that most of the problems was attributed to the fact that there is a large number of non-citizens in the State. “According to figures obtained by the Statistics Department in 2005, 24.8 percent of Sabah’s population consisted of non-citizens. “Why the Federal Government allows this to happen? I really don’t know. Does the central Government still want Sabah or not? Very soon, the non-citizens will outnumber locals,” he said. According to Tham, he was also one of the two panelists during a discussion on income inequality and distribution while the other speaker was Dr Ragayah Mat Zin from the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas). Tham added that an Upko speaker at the same presentation with him lamented that the Federal Government had erred in their priorities in terms of development. “In the Tuaran constituency for example, the speaker said there were more than 60 villages without electricity supply. I had to bring the relevant minister there before electricity was provided for 20 villages,” he said. Other than that, he said there was still 5,000km of gravel road in Sabah which ought to be upgraded in view of RM2 billion spent on a dedicated highway from Putrajaya to Kuala Lumpur. On the State’s economy, Tham said the 2004 figures showed that Sabah was lagging in economic development as the Sabah’s gross domestic product per capital was at RM4,868 or about half of the national average of RM9,746. The figure was derived despite Sabah’s consistent trade surplus and robust agricultural industries. Part of the problem, said Tham, was that Sabahans have to deal with higher commodity prices than in Peninsular Malaysia. Tham believed that the main emphasis of the Federal Government was in Sabah’s oil and gas reserves but the trickle down effect from the industry was not being felt on the ground. “It is very unfair... I told the EPU (Economic Planning Unit) it is very silly to pipe the gas from Sabah to be processed in Sarawak for whatever reasons,” said Tham who hoped that such decisions will eventually change. He also hoped that the Federal Government will pay more attention to Sabah’s needs in the future in view of the recent change in political climate.


Hostel could not serve purpose yet
Building in Pensiangan unsafe for occupation


A newly completed hostel, which was built specially for primary school pupils in Pensiangan, has not served its purpose as yet. The Sekolah Kebangsaan Babalitan hostel, which can accommodate up to 50 children at one time, was completed earlier this year but has been deemed unsafe for occupation because of its condition. There were holes in the floors in some parts of the building and to date, only 10 pupils have been allowed to reside there. The deplorable condition was discovered by a group of volunteers who went to the school early May to carry out free health check-up for the 181 pupils of the school. According to one of the volunteers who wanted to be identified only as Ngui, the two-room hostel has not been officially opened yet. It is also without any basic necessities such as beds, chairs and tables. “The holes in the floor are covered with linoleum. It is sad to see that a newly completed building is already in that sorry state,” said Ngui, adding that the hostel was built by the Government to provide shelter for young children from far villages who are studying at the school. Apart from the newly built hostel, there is an existing shelter which was built by the Rotary Club last year for these children, also near the school. Ngui also said that the teachers’ quarters were also in bad condition. “Three teachers have to share a one-room house. These teachers are from other parts of the State and they have to bear living uncomfortably and accept the challenge in order to provide education to these children,” said Ngui. The volunteer therefore called on the State Education Department and other relevant agencies to look into the matter seriously. “We are working towards creating a first class mentality generation but before that, we must not neglect the fact that facilities should also be upgraded and maintained. This is to provide comfort and better learning environment to these children,” said Ngui. Pensiangan Member of Parliament Tan Sri Joseph Kurup when contacted by The Borneo Post, urged the relevant authority to submit a report on the matter as soon as possible to enable immediate action to be taken to solve the problem. “I would also like to advise contractors who are given the task to carry out development projects in Pensiangan to perform their duties with full responsibilities and in accordance with their work specification. “Their failure to work well would not only affect the end-users but also the contractors themselves,” he said.