Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rocky's Bru on Thursday -- Doing a number ...

Rocky's Bru: Doing a number with numbers

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 15:51:00

WHEN an investor wants to find out if a country is a good bet, he first looks at the numbers, mostly macro-economic data involving the country's GDP, inflation and unemployment; its central bank's reserves; and perhaps the fertility rate, divorce rate, etc.

Serious magazines like the Economist and Fortune allocate pages and pages for statistical analysis and data compilation to help the prospective investor in his quest.

Highly-paid country risk managers and their researchers will then look beyond economic data and into the socio-political "numbers" that measure a country's freedom, the government's fight against corruption, political stability, race and religious relations, minority rights, etc.

The theory is that the more democratic a government is, the better the country is for the investor.

Something like "1,805 people died in custody" in Malaysia, therefore, is not good news. So is "Over 1,000 people are still being detained without trial".

And yet these are the numbers that some Malaysians have been cooking up and dishing out this past week.

The Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia group, which started as a human rights movement but has since made forays into partisan politics, claimed last week that 1,805 people had died between 2003 and July last year in our remand cells, prisons and detention centres.

If the group's claim is true, Malaysia is a most terrible place. Even the US, at the height of its 'war on terror', was a lot more restrained compared with Malaysia, if one compares the numbers.

According to one report, "nearly 100 detainees have died while in the hands of US officials in the global war on terror" between August 2002 and 2006. At least a third of them were victims of homicide and torture. Others succumbed to accidents, illnesses and harsh conditions of the detention centres.

On the other hand, according to official statistics provided by our Home Ministry, 147 people have died in police custody in the last 10 years since May 2000. For this year, the number of deaths in police custody is three so far. The highest in a year is 23 in 2003.

It is not a sterling record but certainly nowhere near the claim by SABM of 1,805 deaths in half that period.

Which makes one wonder: What kind of numbers are the people behind SABM trying to do and on whom? Where did they get their statistics from, anyway? The claim by Suaram that 1,000 people have been detained without trial is aimed at misleading.

Last year, it says, "there were nine detainees under the ISA". The fact is, there were nine people STILL being detained under ISA that year. There was only one fresh detainee — Mas Selamat, Singapore's terror suspect.

In the last one year, scores of people were released by the government from the ISA, a fact curiously downplayed by Suaram.

And just this morning, the local pro-Opposition sites are starting to quote the New Tang Dynasty Television, which reported Suaram as saying that "Malaysia arrested nearly 1,000 anti-government protesters in 2009, signalling ... a heightened intolerance (against dissent)".

Most of these ludicrous claims will stay unchallenged for weeks, perhaps months.

Sometimes, a fallacy is allowed to fester in cyberspace until it becomes, to many Netizens, a fact.

A good example is the tale of how Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak supposedly calling on the Malays to "bathe the keris with Chinese blood" during a rally in Kampung Baru in 1987.

This scene, which was made up by an anti-Najib blogger about two years ago, went unchallenged, and even made it into Wikipedia and a published compilation of the darndest politicians' quotes.

Banning these books, withdrawing publication permits and raiding media offices as means to fight the lies people write about this country will not solve the problem. Investors won't like it, either.

It will be far more effective for the government to churn out all the relevant statistics that matter about the country, including how many people were not arrested for staging anti-government protests, if necessary, so as to help paint the correct picture of our country, for the benefit of ourselves and not just the investors.

Friday, July 2, 2010

RBT: Journos and (some) Insecure people in power

Plus the Editorial by The Malaysian Reserve ....

Rocky's Bru on THURSDAY: Journalists and insecure people in power

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 14:06:00

THE last time three-time ISA detainee, the late Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail, spoke to me of the Home Minister who sent him to his last incarceration that lasted five long years, he simply said: "He put me away because he wanted to be the Prime Minister. He feared me. He used the Internal Security Act because he was insecure."

Samad, who was an influential journalist and close to the late Tun Abdul Razak, our second Prime Minister, was released in 1981 by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in one of his first acts as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie never made it to the premiership and died in January this year.


THIS week, more than a year after Datuk Seri Najib Razak released ISA detainees in one of his first acts as our sixth Prime Minister, the proposed amendments to the ISA Act finally got the go-ahead from the Attorney-General's Chambers and will be tabled in Parliament soon.

The proposed amendments include the right to stage peaceful assemblies. "Treatment of detainees, detention period, powers of (Home) minister ... will be suited to the occasion," said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Huissein.

The anti-ISA movement in the country, which is demanding the abolition of the Act, won't be satisfied. But most rational Malaysians will appreciate that there's still need for a law that is able to act as a strong deterrent.

We still remember Al-Maunah, the group that wanted to take over the country by violent means. We remember Mas Selamat who escaped from a Singapore prison (no sympathies for him from the anti-ISA movement). We have seen what the "Reds" in Bangkok did that forced a whole nation to kneel, and the shooting of the general said to be one of the Reds' ringleaders was a reminder that violence is the only option to preventive laws, and violence begets violence.

And only in September last year, the Indonesian authorities succeeded in ending the reign of terror of Nordin Mat Top, the bomber from Malaysia. If Nordin had been incarcerated in Malaysia uinder the ISA, he could have been saved such a tragic end. He would have been rehabilitated and in time returned to society a "cured" man.

Most democratic countries have their security laws. Guantanamo is America's Kamunting and despite Barack Obama's ideals that helped make him President of the most powerful couintry on Earth, the facility is still there for Americans' own good.

As of last month, 181 detainees remain at Guantanamo. Don't forget, two Malaysians were detained at the facility as terrorist suspects.


THE biggest problem with the ISA, most will agree, is the power vested in one man — the Home Minister.

In the case of Samad, it was believed to be one man's call. In September 2008, an overzealous Home Minister ordered the detentiion of a youing journalist for 24 hours and later, in the face of angry criticism, said it was for her own safety.

It was not just abuse of power, it was a mockery of the Act that was meant to secuire the citizens of this country against the most severe threats.


THE same is true with the Securities Commission Act 1993, which bestows almost absolute power to the authority.

This time it's not even the Home Minister but the SC itself. The only thing the SC chairman can't do that the Home Minister can under the ISA is incarcerate her/his enemy for eternity.

The SC can, however, threaten to send you to jail for five years like they did to Samad under the ISA. Plus, or fined up to RM1 million.

That amount of money may be small to corporate players, company directors and those at the apex of their wealth. But to a journalist, RM300 is too much money to pay for a speeding ticket. So, it's as good as going to jail for the business journalists whom the SC have cited Section 134, if convicted.

We are certainly happy to note that the SC is finally waking up from a long slumber, and wants to be seen as doing its job. But let's be professional about it. Journalists have a responsibility to the community they serve and the SC must start to understand this.

But like veteran journalist Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said, journalists must now watch the SC's conduct even more closely. Is he hinting that there's something amiss at the Commission? Time will tell, but for now the human rights activists have a new punching bag — Section 134 of the Securities Commission Act.

Ahirudin Attan is group editorial adviser for The Malay Mail, Bernama TV and The Malaysian Reserve. He blogs at

What the Malaysian Reserve says...

THE uproar over the unpleasant encounter between financial journalists and the Securities Commission in connection to an investigation on the exit of Kenmark Industrial Co (M) Bhd's substantial shareholder Datuk Ishak Ismail has yet to fizzle.

The issue has raised questions on the capital market regulator's understanding of the duty of journalists and their need to honour the confidentiality of their sources.

The latter is a cardinal rule of journalism. At this point, the extent of which journalists are legally bound to follow a directive that could result in jeopardising the identity of their sources while assisting in investigations is still untested in the country.

To date, the SC had summoned four journalists, one each from The Star, Business Times, The Malaysian Reserve and The Edge, to give statements in relation to their write-ups about the troubled furniture-maker.

Malaysian journalists have generally been spared from being cast as scapegoats by the authorities, but the recent encounters with the regulator demonstrate that journalists can inadvertently be caught in the eye of the storm and find themselves at the ugly end of those who wield the big stick, for merely doing their job.

It was only right that editors of media organisations and the National Union of Journalists came to their defence.

Indeed, it was uncalled for and unjust if the journalist concerned was made to feel as if it was an "interrogation" and not otherwise.

After all, she was merely assisting in the investigation and not the one being investigated.

On its part, the SC maintained that statements from all the witnesses were taken by experienced officers and that it had full faith that they had acted professionally throughout the interview.

But that's not the end of it. A journalist from this paper was later directed to surrender her mobile phone for a forensic team to extract data from the device.

It is unprecedented for a journalist to be compelled to do so, as the act itself will put at stake the trust that the confidentiality of sources will be protected at all times.

The Centre for Independent Journalism was spot on by saying that the manner in which the investigation was carried out showed that the SC did not understand the responsibility and duty of journalists, which is to provide information to the public on matters of public interest and to honour confidentiality agreements with sources.

Granted, the SC can call anyone to assist in investigations into breaches of securities laws under Section 134 of the Securities Commission Act 1993. This is in fact what the public is expecting, especially in high profile cases.

But, in pursuing perpetrators of securities offences, the regulator needs to be mindful not to sweep everyone assisting in the investigations with the same brush.

Going forward, it is vital for the SC to strike a balance on how it exercises its investigation owers to enable journalists to maintain their professional ethics while assisting the regulator in the investigations.

It certainly does not benefit the SC if it fails to exercise its wide powers with great care or for the Press to retaliate by boycotting the regulator, as has been suggested, in the long run.

In fact, this expectation transcends the SC, as it is also applicable to other regulatory bodies and authorities such as the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Bank Negara Malaysia.

This is certainly not the last time journalists will be summoned to assist in investigations. And, it is best for everyone to exercise their powers responsibly. We need each other.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

RBT: Taking the slum out of Kg Baru

Taking the slum out of Kg Baru

Thursday, June 24th, 2010 13:43:00
who wants

IF Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim did indeed come up with a plan 15 years ago to redevelop Kampung Baru without the Malays losing ownership of any of the land, the Federal government should revisit Khalid's work.

The recent proposal by the Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry to jointly redevelop this Malay Settlement with non-Malay parties on a 60:40 basis didn't go down too well with the residents and Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, the Minister concerned, has conceded that he is more than happy with 100 per cent.

Khalid and Raja Nong Chik are political foes but there are times when partisan politics should be put on the back-burner. After all, when Khalid did the proposal for the Federal government 15 years ago, he wasn't a politician and PKR wasn't even born yet.

Khalid was head of the Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), the BN-led Federal government's biggest investment arm back then. Now, even though he is with the Opposition, Khalid still believes that Kampung Baru should remain 100 per cent in Malay hands. Well and good. Who's to argue with that?

In this age when Bumiputra-Malays' 30 per cent equity share — as conceived under the NEP, now the New Economic Model — is often questioned and sometimes ridiculed, an Opposition leader's advocacy for 100 per cent should be welcomed. Let's hope Khalid will be consistent when it comes to affairs affecting his own State, Selangor.

Kampung Baru's redevelopment is crucial to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Politically, he would succeed in doing what his predecessors tried but failed to do (Khalid's "plan" was hatched when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was PM and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was his deputy).

Economically, the tenders and contracts will benefit businesses and provide jobs. Socially, and this, thanks to Khalid Ibrahim's support, too, the Malays will have the chance to own 100 per cent of a slice of KL that is as developed as the rest of the city.

The important thing to do now is to get the residents to agree to the redevelopment plans. Raja Nong Chik seems to have made great strides here. At his last meeting with the residents' representatives, the idea of creating a holdings company to oversee the development was adopted.

We can expect him to use the same formula applied to Kampung Kerinchi, another Malay settlement in KL, which will be redeveloped to add value to its assets. To date, only 18 out of the 500-odd families in Kampung Kerinchi are against the redevelopment plans.

Next step. Perhaps Naza-TTDI should be persuaded to relocate its proposed taller-than-KLCC building from Matrade to Kampung Baru? Naza, one of NEP's success stories, had its roots in Kampung Baru itself.

One big believer in the proposed Kampung Baru redevelopment is Datuk Mohd Radzif Mohd Yunus. If you were following the hostile bid to take over the Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) by certain parties back in 2008, you may remember that Mohd Radzif was the CEO then. This 52-year-old low-profiled operator was not keen on the takeover.

(So were a group of influential bloggers who initiated a "Save IJN" campaign to thwart the attempt).

The National Heart Institute was set up by Dr Mahathir to cater to all. The takeover would have turned IJN into a specialist centre for only those who can afford to pay.

Mohd Radzif is a product of this slum called Kampung Baru. He also believes it is time the government redevelop the land with residents.

If the idea of the corporation had come earlier, Mohd Radzif told friends he would have happily volunteered to be part of it.

But come next Thursday, on July 1, the former IJN CEO, whose sister and mother still live in Kampung Baru, takes over SME Bank as its new managing director. The bank's headquarters, incidentally, is at the fringe of Kampung Baru.

Ahirudin Attan is group editorial adviser for The Malay Mail, Bernama TV and The Malaysian Reserve. He blogs at