Thursday, January 28, 2016

Recalibrated Budget 2016: in touch with reality 

Salleh Said Keruak 

Even the best economic minds were not able to forecast what was going to happen one year down the road. What is happening today is reminiscent of what happened in 1985 and 1997 when economies all over the world took a slide down the slippery slope. 

What Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak did today was basically to be in touch with reality. 2016, and probably even 2017 as well, are going to be full of uncertainties. That means Budget 2016, which was planned since the middle of last year before the fall in the price of crude oil, would need to be recalibrated. 

When Budget 2016 was tabled in Parliament last October the crude oil price was US$48 per barrel. Since then it went down to US$30 per barrel and there is no guarantee the price will not go down even further. That is the reality that we must face up to. 

And this is what the Prime Minister has done. It is as those in the financial world would say: cutting away the fat while not breaking any bones. The most important aspect of Budget 2016 is that the country’s debts would be reduced and would not exceed 55% of the GDP. 

Malaysia would also not resort to imposing capital controls or to the pegging of the Ringgit like what happened during the 1997-1998 financial crisis. This is further to the other eleven recalibrated measures that were announced. 

Pengagihan semula dan bidaan spektrum dalam perancangan, kata Salleh

Putrajaya, Khamis, 28 Januari: 

"Seruan kerajaan untuk mengoptimumkan sumber spektrum adalah bagi mencapai wawasan untuk menyediakan perkhidmatan komunikasi yang meluas untuk semua pengguna, khususnya di kawasan luar bandar dan pedalaman,” kata Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak, Menteri Komunikasi dan Multimedia.

Menurut Dr Salleh, dalam bidang komunikasi dan multimedia, Kerajaan komited untuk mencapai sasaran negara bagi tahun 2020 dan seterusnya. Pada dasarnya, ini akan dilakukan melalui satu usaha pengagihan semula dan bidaan spektrum yang melibatkan pengusaha-pengusaha utama industri. Dengan yang demikian, Kerajaan akan memastikan agar kepentingan pengguna, industri dan pelabur diambil kira.

Menurut YB Menteri, sumber-sumber spektrum akan diagihkan semula kepada pengusaha-pengusaha utama untuk mengekalkan tahap persaingan yang mencukupi serta daya tahan dalam pasaran perkhidmatan mudah alih. Pengagihan semula melalui pendekatan berasaskan pasaran juga akan menyumbangkan hasil kepada Kerajaan.

YB Menteri berkata, "Sebab-sebab utama untuk pengagihan semula adalah untuk memastikan penggunaan spektrum dengan efisyen, merangsang pembangunan industri mudah alih, dan memberi tumpuan kepada pelaksanaan perkhidmatan dan kepentingan pengguna."

Spektrum yang mencukupi untuk menampung liputan serta kapasiti akan memberi kedudukan yang lebih baik kepada pengusaha-pengusaha utama pada masa akan datang untuk melancarkan perkhidmatan 4G, bagi kawasan bandar dan luar bandar.

"Ini penting bagi memastikan Malaysia akan terus berdaya saing sebagai sebuah negara," kata YB Menteri.

Spectrum re-allocation and bidding on the cards, says Salleh

Putrajaya, Thursday, 28 January: 

“The Government’s call to optimise spectrum resources is to achieve the vision of providing widespread communication services to all consumers, especially in rural and remote areas, said Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Salleh Said Keruak, Minister of Communications and Multimedia.

According to Dr Salleh, in the area of communications and multimedia, the Government is committed to meeting the national targets for the year 2020 and beyond. This will be done through re-allocation and bidding of spectrum resources involving major industry players. In doing so, the Government will ensure that the interests of consumers, the industry and investors are taken into account.

The Minister said, the spectrum resources will be re-allocated to the major players to maintain a sufficient level of competition and resiliency in the mobile market. Re-allocation through a market-based approach will also contribute revenue to the Government.

Said the Minister, “The main reasons for the re-allocation are to ensure efficient use of spectrum, the development of the mobile industry, and that this is focused on service rollout and consumer interests.”

Adequate spectrum to cater for coverage as well as capacity will put the major players in a better position in the near future to rollout 4G services and beyond, in both urban and rural areas.

“This is important to ensure that Malaysia will remain competitive as a nation,” said the Minister.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Apparently Dr Mahathir is not proficient about the law

Salleh Said Keruak 

We would expect someone like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who has been Prime Minister for 22 years plus those other Members of Parliament who are technically ‘lawmakers’ to be proficient about the law and would know the function, role and responsibilities of an Attorney General. 

The Attorney General is chief legal adviser to the government and amongst his or her functions would be to oversee the Law Officers’ departments. The Attorney General advises the government, individual government departments, and individual government ministers on all legal matters. The Attorney General also has to answer questions in Parliament and file appeals against unduly lenient sentences and points of law in the Court of Appeal. 

Dr Mahathir said, “In Malaysia the Attorney General decides if a law has been broken or not. That decision is in fact a judgement. The A.G. is both a judge and a prosecutor. This in itself is an injustice.” 

This statement is most misleading. Dr Mahathir makes it sound like the Attorney General has done something wrong or has overstepped his boundary whereas what he did was exactly what his job demands that he does. 

The police or any other agency such as the MACC merely has power to investigate if they think a crime may have been committed. They then submit the investigation report to the Attorney General, who then decides whether a crime has been committed and if so whether there is enough evidence for the case to be brought to court and/or for a conviction to be obtained. 

This has always been the case since 1243 when the post was first created in England and in 1461 when the Attorney General took on the political role of adviser to the government and 1673 when he became the adviser to the prosecution department. 

Basically, Malaysia practices British law and the post of Attorney General in Malaysia is the same as that in England. The Attorney General looks through the merits of each case and after scrutinising the investigation report and the evidence he would decide whether there is a case and whether it needs to be brought to court. 

They should not try to make it appear like this is something out of the ordinary when this is precisely how things are done and have been done since the beginning. And this is also precisely how things were done during Dr Mahathir’s watch as Prime Minister as well -- no more and no less. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The TPP will be debated in Parliament 

Salleh Said Keruak 

“Granted, the text is now publicly available, but we are given merely sixty days to fully comprehend over 6,350 pages of legal and trade jargon,” said the Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Nurul Izzah Anwar. 

Actually, because of the controversy surrounding this matter, the government has decided to allow the TPP to be debated in Parliament even though free trade agreements do not require parliamentary scrutiny or approval but merely need the cabinet’s approval. 

The opposition’s complaint is that 60 days is not enough time to understand the TPP and that more time is required. Actually, 60 days to study the TPP to prepare for the two-day debate that starts tomorrow should be enough time if done on a systematic and focused basis. 

In the UK, debating the TPP would have been the Shadow Trade Minister’s job. The Shadow Minister would have sat down with his team to go through the TPP and then prepare their questions, comments, suggestions, objections, etc., to be debated in Parliament. 

The Shadow Minister would have found 60 days for preparation and two days for debates sufficient enough to get the job done. Unfortunately, Malaysia does not have Shadow Cabinet or a Shadow Trade Minister. And this is the main problem here.  And because of that the opposition is quite lost as to what to do. 

Let us a have a good and healthy debate in Parliament. The government will explain why the TPP is good for the country while the opposition can explain why it disagrees. Finally, in the spirit of a parliamentary democracy, a vote will be taken and the majority will rule. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kedah MB Crisis: being made worse than it actually is 

Salleh Said Keruak 

Malaysians are always looking for sensation and the latest sensation is the Kedah Menteri Besar Crisis. In fact, it is being called a crisis when it is actually not a real crisis of crisis proportions. 

Since 2009 Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has had to handle a number of MB crises and in spite of everyone expecting the worse, even to the extent that the state might fall, in the end everything was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, even to the satisfaction of the palace. 

This latest MB crisis in Kedah is no different. The choice of CEO of each state is ultimately the prerogative of the party president. But before the state CEO is appointed the party president needs to first get feedback from the party plus sound out the feeling of the palace in states that have Menteri Besar. 

This latest issue involving Kedah is the same. The Prime Minister does not need to be pressured or rushed into making a decision and when he finally does make a decision it will be an informed-decision that takes into consideration all opinions and desires.

Friday, January 22, 2016

When a Menteri Besar is removed

Salleh Said Keruak

The vote of no confidence against Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir on Wednesday is not really a major crisis or something that has never happened before. Only that maybe this time it is being given more prominence mainly because Mukhriz is the son of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who wants Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak ousted and has said so openly.

There are various reasons why a Menteri Besar or Chief Minister is replaced. In Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ajib Ahmad’s case, it was because he openly opposed Dr Mahathir, the then Prime Minister. Dr Mahathir then replaced him with Muhyiddin Yassin in 1986.

In Nik Hassan Wan Abdul Rahman’s case, however, it was because he did not get along with the Terengganu Palace. So in 1974 Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein had to remove him as the Terengganu Menteri Besar and replace him with Dato Seri Amar Diraja Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Ahmad.

Mohamed Ghazali Jawi, the Perak Menteri Besar, also clashed with the Sultan so in 1977 Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn was forced to ask him to resign and Wan Mohamed Wan Teh took over as the new Perak Menteri Besar.

And this happened in all the other states as well, without exception. Either the Menteri Besar did not get along with the Palace, or he lost the confidence of his own party, or he openly clashed with the Prime Minister. And in all cases they had to be replaced.

And this did not just involve Umno or Barisan Nasional Menteri Besar. In Kelantan in 1977 the PAS Menteri Besar lost the confidence of his party and was forced out while in Selangor quite recently the PKR Menteri Besar suffered the same fate.

At the end of the day, whatever the case may be, the Prime Minister still has to listen to what the state party or the state Ruler wants. And if the Menteri Besar no longer commands the confidence of his own party or of the Palace then appropriate action needs to be taken.

The Prime Minister will, of course, have to first gather feedback before deciding what to do. So it is best that this matter be left in the hands of the Prime Minister. Whatever decision the Prime Minister makes will definitely be one that takes all opinions and matters into consideration. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why must Umno do that?

Salleh Said Keruak

Lim Kit Siang asked whether Umno is prepared to open its membership to non-Malays.

This is actually a non-issue because Umno has never claimed to be a multi-racial party -- like DAP is claiming. In fact, neither has MCA or MIC made this claim as well. All three parties admit to being ethnic-based.

And that was why the Alliance Party was created in 1952 -- so that Umno, MCA and MIC can retain their ethnic base and yet come together under a multi-racial coalition.

DAP, on the other hand, claims to be a multi-racial party. But the party is almost entirely Chinese except for a fraction of its non-Chinese members.

This is the issue so let us not sidetrack from this and start talking about issues that have no relevance to the discussion. Umno does not claim that is it a multi-racial party. DAP does. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

It takes more than just candidates to become a multi-racial party 

Salleh Said Keruak 

The current discussion in the social media is about DAP not being able to attract enough Malay support. The discussion is centred on DAP fielding more Malay candidates in the next general election, especially in those seats that PAS currently ‘owns’. Of course, they mean the seats that PAS owns in the urban or ‘mixed’ areas and not seats in the Malay heartland, where the voters are 90% or more Malay and therefore where DAP would not stand a chance of winning. 

The late MGG Pillai used to say that Umno is a Malay party. PAS is also a Malay party. PKR, however, is a Malay-based multi-racial party. The reason Pillai said that PKR is a Malay-based multi-racial party is because the bulk of its membership and support base is Malay even though its leaders and the candidates in the election are not. 

DAP also claims it is a multi-racial party. But then it is a Chinese-based multi-racial party and whether it can legitimately claim to be a true Malaysian party (meaning not Chinese-based) is a matter that is still open for discussion because of the lack of a strong presence of Malays in the party. 

Umno can field Christian candidates in Sabah or PAS field Hindu candidates in Kedah but that does not take away the fact that Umno and PAS are still Malay parties. In that same context just because DAP fields a few Malay candidates in the next general election that, too, does not take away the fact that DAP is a Chinese party. 

And that was why the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein formed Barisan Nasional more than 40 years ago. Other than Umno, we had MCA, which is a Chinese party, and MIC, which is an Indian party. And then we had Gerakan, PPP, etc., which are multi-racial parties although they were Chinese- or Indian-based respectively. And to be able to come out with a true non-race-based Malaysian party it was necessary to form a new multi-racial coalition. And that is what Barisan Nasional is. 

Umno does not claim it is not a Malay party, just like MCA and MIC do not claim they are not Chinese or Indian parties. But for Umno, MCA and MIC to agree to form a coalition party with about ten other parties demonstrates that what used to be called the Alliance Party wanted to give birth to a party or coalition that is none racial in nature. 

DAP would have to do more to shed its Chinese image than just field a handful of Malay candidates in the election. The make-up of its leadership plus its support based needs to reflect its claims. Malaysia is demographically 60% Bumiputera with about 50% or so Malays. So unless the support base of any party reflects this it cannot yet claim to be a party for all Malaysians.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The role of the media in nation building 

Salleh Said Keruak 

After Malaya gained independence from Britain, the country entered into a new era of post-Merdeka and the information and broadcasting department was entrusted with the task of building the public’s confidence in the country’s leadership, said HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah on Friday in his speech during the opening of the Kompleks Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah in Ipoh, Perak. 

The next task, said HRH the Sultan of Perak, was to teach Malaysians to be proud of their newly independent country and to unite Malayans from the many states who came from diverse cultural, religious, ethnic and lingual backgrounds. 

Later on, after the creation of Malaysia, the information and broadcasting department was faced with many challenges brought on by the Communist insurgency, the split of Singapore from Malaysia, and the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation, added the Sultan. 

The information and broadcasting department succeeded in this endeavour of winning the hearts and minds of the people through a strategic and effective psychological warfare program. Radio Malaya, on the other hand, soon after independence, embarked on nation building through a creative and innovative program, said the Sultan. 

The media is an important mechanism that can influence the world's direction, said the Sultan. As such, the country's official media has to serve as the yardstick and practice news ethics that is fair and authentic. “The official media acts as a bridge that connects the government and the people and vice-versa,” the Sultan said. 

“Hence, the ethics of news processing is a must," said Sultan Nazrin Shah, and HRH stressed that public interest has to be given importance. “News processing by the country's official media that is too biased or counter-productive will only separate the people from the government,” the Sultan added. 

This is a very timely reminder from HRH the Sultan and is something that both the mainstream and alternative medias must take note. In fact, some even say that the alternative media has taken over the role of the mainstream media and this is true for most countries all over the world where the majority of the people obtain their news from the alternative media and the popularity of the print media has declined to an all-time low. 

The media must be responsible in how it conducts itself because what it publishes can influence the public and shape public opinion. Disseminating false or distorted news can have devastating results and can trigger conflict. Of late we have seen inaccurate news being published that brought the country to the brink of racial conflict. Only fast action by the authorities managed to avert what could have resulted in bloodshed. So it is necessary that we heed the advice of HRH the Sultan and ensure that the media helps in nation building and not the opposite. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Remembering the legacy of Tun Razak 

Salleh Said Keruak 

Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who was born 94 years ago, died 40 years ago on 14th January 1976 at the age of 54. While the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was known as Bapa Merdeka, Tun Razak was known as Bapa Perpaduan. 

It was Tun Razak who in the aftermath of the 1969 race riots, infamously known as ‘May 13’, mooted the idea of Barisan Nasional so that all political parties in Malaysia could unite under one coalition and so that everyone could focus on nation building and less on politicking. Tun Razak’s intention was to reduce political enmity and to focus on the country and its future. Tun Razak believed that one could still be a gentleman in politics and not treat political rivals as enemies. 

Unfortunately, DAP did not join this coalition, or what can be called a ‘unity government’ (they said they did not join because they were not invited but they do not say whether they would have joined if they were), while PAS left after just a couple of years and went back to becoming an opposition party. 

Sharing the same dreams and aspirations as his father, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is focusing his efforts on nation building. These next few years are going to be a very critical period for the world at large, and this would include Malaysia as well. We need to not only focus on nation building but also on how the economy can be strengthened and race-religion politics can be reduced, if not eliminated all together. 

This is something that the government cannot achieve all by itself. We will need all parties to also play its part in achieving this. So it may be time for all Malaysians to work together in achieving national unity and to meet the aspiration of building a better Malaysia for the present and future generations.