Posted: 06 Jul 2013 04:16 PM PDT
A 'long, hot summer' lies ahead for Umno as its leaders brace themselves for the run-up to the party election and the mini storms that may break out as delegates air their grievances about the general election.
Joceline Tan, The Star
DATUK Seri Najib Tun Razak will survive as president of Umno. The rumblings in the party for the Umno president to take responsibility for the general election result has quietened down.
In fact, the chatter in Umno circles the last few days has been about the appointment of Baling MP Datuk Abdul Azeez Rahim as chairman of Tabung Haji. Azeez is quite an affable and well-liked figure in Umno but opinion about the appointment has not been very flattering.
It was quite a contrast to views on the appointment of former Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman as Sime Darby chairman. They appreciated the fact that the gentleman politician had taken the hits for Umno in Gelang Patah.
Najib is on safe ground but it is not guaranteed to be a smooth ride as yet. As the Malays say, "air yang tenang jangan sangka tak ada buaya" (there may be crocodiles beneath still waters).
"You can't stop people from contesting even if they can't win. There will always be some 'Sulaiman Palestine' person out there," said Kok Lanas assemblyman Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad.
Alwi was referring to Sulaiman Ahmad aka Sulaiman Palestine who challenged Tun Hussein Onn for the presidency in 1978 and got 30% of the votes.
Every political party has individuals who are unhappy about one thing or another and who will jump into the ring as a show of protest or to prove a point.
One name that comes to mind is Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Another possibility is Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed who had expressed interest in the last round.
"Anyone who wants to challenge (Najib), go to the mirror and ask yourself – can you fill the post? I simply cannot see anyone of Najib's or Muhyiddin's experience for now," said Cheras Umno chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Alhabshee.
The presidency has not been contested since 1987 when the fight between Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Razaleigh split the party down the middle.
Dr Mahathir, said a political insider, had this episode of Umno's history in mind when he said that Umno "does not really understand democracy" because the loser usually cannot accept the result.
The elder statesman has since made it plain that he is against a contest for the two top posts.
Dr Mahathir's topmost priority, said the insider, is the survival of Umno rather than the survival of Najib or Muhyiddin. Those who have had private sessions with Dr Mahathir would know he has critical views of some of Najib's policies, his overtures to the Chinese and even Najib's family members.
Many in Umno who were unhappy with Najib's inability to do better than his predecessor have also come to the same conclusion about the contest.
They were angry, but after they cooled down, pragmatism took over and they told themselves that Umno had actually done better than in 2008 and that Najib had done the best he could.
They can see that Najib and Muhyiddin, despite their very different upbringing, have worked well together. Muhyiddin is a loyal deputy and Najib treats him with respect.
Quite ironically, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was a contributing factor in Umno closing ranks around Najib. Anwar's series of 505 rallies spooked as well as angered the Umno side.
They saw it as the action of a frustrated politician attempting to topple an elected government.
Or as Lanchar assemblyman Datuk Sharkar Shamsuddin put it: "When they win it is clean elections, when they lose it is dirty."
The focus in Umno has since moved on to the contest for the three vice-president (VP) posts. Two of Umno's young leaders Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir have emerged as future personalities to watch out for.
The demographic changes taking place on the political landscape favours their generation and the party has been forced to look beyond the Najib generation.
Khairy ended his spell in purgatory when he was appointed Youth and Sports Minister. It is a good place to be for a young politician because he is often in the sports pages where he can reach out to an important cohort of voters. Moreover, he is the first Youth and Sports Minister who looks like his BMI is a perfect 20.
Some think the young Turks are ready to dip their toes into the VP pool.
But Khairy has told his team that he wants to finish what he set out to do in Umno Youth. The "senior game", as he terms it, requires an entirely different game plan and that will come when he has proven himself.
"Khairy is secure in Pemuda because most of us know who we want up there," said Bukit Bintang Youth head Tengku Azman Zainal Abidin.
Mukhriz has his hands full with the challenge of reestablishing Barisan's standing in Kedah. PAS has a strong presence there and he will have to work hard and smart to ensure that Kedah does not become a swing state like Terengganu.
Sources said Mukhriz may try out for the supreme council to test his reach in the party. Going for the VP at this point in time would be a case of too much, too soon.
But the prevailing opinion in the party is that the VP level needs some shaking up. Of the three incumbents – Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Dr Hishammuddin Hussein Onn and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal – only Ahmad Zahid looks assured of staying up there.
Umno members approve of his handling of his previous defence portfolio and hope he will be a tough Home Affairs Minister. There has been talk that Ahmad Zahid is being pushed to go for the No. 2 post but he is a Najib loyalist and Najib would not want to see him doing that.
"Zahid's PR is 100%. I will vote for him but if he goes for the deputy presidency, I have to think again," said Sharkar, another Najib loyalist.
Many also think International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed should move up.
Mustapa topped the list of supreme council members in the 2009 party polls.
"I would endorse Mustapa, he has integrity and is not linked to any scandal. His role in Kelantan should be recognised," said publisher Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.
Others said to be interested in the VP contest include Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad, Datuk Seri Musa Aman and Tan Sri Mohd Ali Rustam. Several Mentris Besar may also go for it and they include Datuk Sri Mohamad Hasan (Negri Sembilan) and Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin (Johor).
"We should not stop qualified candidates, young or old, from contesting the VP posts. Only when there is a wide range of choice can we choose the best," said Alwi.
But over and above that, party leaders are bracing themselves for the proverbial "long hot summer" when the branch and division meetings start.
"In states and divisions that were successful (in the general election), all will be smooth. But those which lost, the meetings could be hot. That's where you find unhappy people," said Kapar deputy chief Datuk Faizal Abdullah.
The issue of winnable candidates will likely take centrestage at the meetings.
Barisan's poor performance in Selangor and Terengganu was blamed on candidates that were far from winnable.
Despite all the talk about winnable candidates, many of those picked were people who had connections rather than people who were winnable. The defeat of all of Najib's political secretaries, they said, was a case in point.
In Selangor, Datuk Seri Mohd Zin Mohamed, who resigned as Barisan state coordinator, will have to endure the heat. He is blamed for several controversial decisions on candidates in Selangor, some of which caused his own shocking defeat in Sepang.
Mohd Zin had axed his division deputy and vice chiefs who were incumbent assemblymen in the Sepang area.
It was a contentious move because they were winnable candidates. His own party Youth chief was so outraged that he stood as an independent against Mohd Zin.
Selangor is where the more worldly and vocal Umno members are and they are expected to air their grievances.
They may also question Najib's overtures to the Chinese, the weaknesses of component parties and why Umno failed to capture the young votes.
There are also bound to be right-wing voices urging Umno to return to its original roadmap of "bangsa, agama dan negara" (race, religion and country). But, said Faizal, urban-based Umno members know that the way forward cannot be too Malay-centric.
"The party has to stand up for the Malays but we need to look at the big picture as more Malays become urbanised," said Faizal.
Most of all, the party grassroots will want assurances that Umno will still be in power after the 14th general election.
They want to see their beautiful PWTC headquarters remain the symbol of their place in power and not become the opposition headquarters.
Posted: 06 Jul 2013 04:08 PM PDT
SP Setia makes a powerful statement in London with the Battersea project that showcases the builder's ability and gives the city a much-needed economic boost.
Wong Chun Wai
BATTERSEA has become the most talked about word in London. Malaysians travelling to this city over the last few days have been asked the same question by Immigration officers on arrival: "Are you here for Battersea?"
At Bayswater in Central London, one of the city's most cosmopolitan areas with significant populations of Arabs, Greeks and even Brazilians, I was asked by an Arab salesman at Whiteleys if I was from Kuala Lumpur and whether I was attending the Battersea Power Station development launch.
British friends, especially those with links to Malaysia, also asked for help to get invitations to the Battersea regeneration event on Thursday.
Everyone wanted to be part of history. It is safe to say that there has never been any property groundbreaking event in Europe which was attended by two prime ministers and the mayor himself!
All three – Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, David Cameron and Boris Johnson – endorsed the project, declaring the enormous economic benefits that would be brought to the city.
Foreigners, including house buyers, see the Battersea property project as a good investment. Londoners see thousands of jobs being created and, better still, a RM4bil underground rail line in the works.
It was exactly 30 years ago on Thursday when the Battersea Power Station stopped producing power for the city but, as SP Setia boss Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin rightly pointed out, that power is back again in Battersea to bring a planned RM38bil development to the area.
It is a massive project by all counts, with the first phase comprising a block of 865 apartments that will be completed in two years. All the apartments have been sold, mostly to Malaysians, Singaporeans and Hong Kong buyers.
The project, which is backed by Sime Darby Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), is unprecedented for a Malaysian consortium in one of the world's biggest financial centres. The icing on the cake is that Liew beat Chelsea football club boss Roman Abramovich to the prized land, where Stamford Bridge, the club's stadium, is not far away.
Local residents associations also lent their support to the Malaysians as they feared Abramovich's plan to relocate the stadium to Battersea could cause traffic disruptions but bring few new jobs to the area.
After 30 years, life will be rekindled at the abandoned coal-fired power station once the project is in full swing. Located on the south bank of the River Thames, the station once generated about a fifth of London's electricity.
It was used as the backdrop for Pink Floyd's Animals album in 1977 and this writer has been made to understand that talks are ongoing to convince the remaining members of the hugely successful band to reunite for a charity concert at the iconic site.
In more recent times, Battersea was used to launch the Conservative Party's election manifesto, according to Boris Johnson.
At one point, it was bought by John Broome, chairman of Alton Towers, who wanted to turn it into a British Disneyland. Hong Kong businessman Victor Hwang wanted to turn it into a shopping mall but the plan never took off.
The groundbreaking event by Najib and Cameron saw plenty of history being made. The two premiers carried out bilateral talks for 30 minutes on the upper floor of the site sales office – where the show unit is located!
Johnson, as usual, cycled his way to Battersea while it has to be recorded here that a Malaysian bomoh was flown all the way to London to ensure the unpredictable British weather was beaten. Whether it was the bomoh's expertise or sheer luck, the rain stayed away.
Now that the fanfare is over, the real work needs to be done. The sales of the first phase have been a roaring success. SP Setia, in fact, had to turn away buyers.
The real challenge would be the subsequent phases. Getting Arab investors and buyers for the higher-end units would bring higher value to the project. There is also a need to secure sales from European, American and East European buyers.
Liew, who is well known for his down-to-earth approach, played down his visionary role in making the Battersea project a success. Instead, he attributed the success to the backing of Najib and the British lawyers. He consistently reminded journalists, who billed it as Malaysia's success story, that he has never felt so proud of being a Malaysian, a sentiment shared by his countrymen regardless of their race at the event.
But the reality is that Battersea is really a feather in his cap. His leadership, professionalism, dynamism and commitment have made this first step to changing the skyline in London possible. He has successfully flown the Malaysian flag in England.
This should serve as a reminder to Permodalan Nasional Berhad, the giant Malaysian asset management company that now owns the majority share in SP Setia, that Liew should be allowed to carry on his work with no interference.
In the day-to-day management, Liew and his men know their job inside out and they have the track record to prove it.
Let the professionals do their job and I am sure his financial backers, Sime Darby and EPF, would feel the same way. Their concern is that their investments must see good returns, that's all.
Posted: 06 Jul 2013 12:10 PM PDT
Police showing photofits of the suspects in Khairy Jamaludin's house break-in recently.
All, including failed attempts, should and must be reported, if only to show the true state of the crime index in the country. Only then can the fight against crime be successful.
Leslie Andres, NST
In order to successfully bring down crime in the country, all sides need to work together
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