Isnin, 8 Julai 2013

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Malaysia Today - Your Source of Independent News

Goodbye ACCORD, Hello PERDANA!

Posted: 07 Jul 2013 05:06 PM PDT

The Honda Accord 2012 will be phased-out and will reemerge as the new Proton Perdana

Apparently, PROTON intends to replace the Perdana with an interim model, pending the new Perdana targeted for launch in 2016. Thus PROTON will, in early 2014, introduce a rebadged 2012 (late model) Honda Accord, which is being phased out/discontinued and this model will be branded as the Perdana, exclusively for government use. In the interim, until 2016, PROTON will supply about 400 units of the faux Perdana to the Federal Government this year and 3,000 units in total by 2015.

The Pink Panther

Is it unfair business practice to substitute an inferior or lower-quality product for what was promised according to a prior business arrangement?

Common sense would tell you yes, it is, whether we are judging by man's intrinsic moral code and especially spiritual and Islamic ethics. But this is exactly what is playing out now in what I'm going to refer to as PROTON versus Public Servants.

To cut a long story short, PROTON under an existing 25-year concession is to supply a new Perdana and Perdana Executive model every five years to the Federal Government. These cars are part of the perquisites for government senior officers including Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

Since the Perdana was discontinued in 2008, a new model should have been launched in 2013. However, it was recently reported that the Perdana and Perdana Executive would be replaced with the 2013 Honda Accord 2.4 litre model, as approved by the Cabinet. The replacement is being proposed because PROTON is yet to bring a new Perdana model to market. On the surface, there appears to be no problem, since officials would still benefit by getting a comparable current model executive sedan.

However, these plans look likely to be scuttled by PROTON itself. Apparently, PROTON intends to replace the Perdana with an interim model, pending the new Perdana targeted for launch in 2016. Thus PROTON will, in early 2014, introduce a rebadged 2012 (late model) Honda Accord, which is being phased out/discontinued and this model will be branded as the Perdana, exclusively for government use. In the interim until 2016, PROTON will supply about 400 units of the faux Perdana to the Federal Government this year and 3,000 units in total by 2015. To add insult to injury, PROTON intends to charge the Federal Government for the rebadged 2012 Accord at prices above current market value.

Thus, the Government and civil servants will not benefit from or enjoy the usage of the latest models in the motor industry, but will use what is effectively a 2012 phased-out model for the next three years. This is reminiscent of the situation where PROTON continued to supply the Perdana - which was discontinued in 2008 - to the Government until recently. Essentially, the Government – ultimately meaning the taxpayer and the public - are and will continue to be overcharged for an obsolete product. 

Now, you might ask why the Government isn't eliminating the middleman (PROTON) by going straight to the manufacturer (HONDA) and bargaining for bulk rates on the latest Accord models. The answer lies in the ownership structure of PROTON and Honda. Since both Honda and PROTON are controlled by DRB-HICOM, it is understandable that it has been emphatically stressed that Honda will not supply the new 2013 Accord model direct to the Government as all Honda sales to the Government will be channeled through PROTON. In substance, doesn't it look as though PROTON is essentially monopolising the market, dictating prices and manipulating market behaviour?  Is this aligned with best practices promoting a competitive and open marketplace which benefits consumers and end-users? Are consumers' rights being infringed upon making this a matter for regulators enforcing the Competition Act 2010?

Drilling deeper, this issue is also symptomatic of the endemic rot plaguing Malaysia. What are the signals being sent out by PROTON's management and board in their guise as business leaders and guardians of integrity and good governance? One, that there is a paucity of innovation, creativity, vision and strategic thinking in a company lauded as Malaysia's flagbearer in the global automotive industry and tasked as a driver for heavy manufacturing. How does rebadging a Honda model – albeit to augment its ageing product lineup - contribute to PROTON and Malaysia's innovation efforts? Why delay bringing a new Perdana model to market only in 2016? 

Two, has PROTON reneged on the interests of its investors and stakeholders by resorting to rebadging? DRB-Hicom Group Managing Director Tan Sri Dato' Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Jamil reportedly told media in March 2012 in a reference to the rebadging of the Vollkswagen Polo that: "Rebadging was never in our plans. If we want to develop the national auto industry, we have got to move forward. Rebadging is taking a step backwards." He added that "I may have to eat my words someday, but as long as I'm in charge, I will never allow that (rebadging) to happen." How then do you account for the rebadging exercise? Investors (especially minority shareholders) and stakeholders deserve to know why PROTON is backtracking as well as the risks and prospects involved. 

Three, isn't substituting a lower-quality product instead of the product originally agreed AND charging a price above market value a form of oppression and unfair business practice? By providing the Government and civil servants eligible for a new Perdana or 2013 Accord with a discontinued Accord for a higher price, isn't PROTON essentially shortchanging them as well as the public funding these purchases? Is PROTON demonstrating concern for its stakeholders, especially consumers and the public? How are unfair business practices such as these aligned with Malaysia's desire to build a reputation as a world-class investment destination? Does such behaviour give investors confidence?

Four, why is the Government continuing to kowtow to PROTON and Honda – in other words, DRB-Hicom - instead of sourcing other suppliers? The Toyota Camry 2013 edition, to name another option, is priced the same as the 2012 Accord. Why continue to subsidise Bumiputera-controlled businesses if they are unable to stand on their own two feet in a supposedly free market?

In this millennia where communication is king and the Internet records stupidity for posterity, brands and reputations can be tarnished by the arrogance of silence. Can PROTON afford to disregard reputational issues, which will affect its goodwill and brand? Please, PROTON, explain your actions and decisions to all the relevant parties, especially the affected Malaysian civil servants. An apology, along with accountability, would be welcome. The Cabinet too is well-advised to correct its stance vis-à-vis PROTON in favour of upholding consumer rights and saving public monies before public perception damns the Malaysian government as one that bends the rules for monopolistic big business, endorses unfair business practices and rides roughshod over the rights of the civil servant and the public interest. If we want Malaysia to evolve into a mature developed economy, we can no longer afford to ignore the elephant in the room and sweep things under an increasingly bulging carpet.


Shooting of pro-Mursi protesters deepens Egypt crisis

Posted: 07 Jul 2013 04:32 PM PDT

The Brotherhood's official spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, who is at a pro-Mursi sit-in at a mosque near the scene, said 37 Mursi supporters had been killed.

(Reuters) - At least 15 people were killed in Cairo today, medical sources said, when the Muslim Brotherhood said shots were fired at supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi near the military building where he is being held.

The bloodshed deepened Egypt's political crisis, escalating the struggle between the army, which overthrew Mursi last Wednesday after mass demonstrations demanding his resignation, and the Brotherhood, which has denounced what it called a coup.

The military said "a terrorist group" tried to storm the Republican Guard compound and one army officer had been killed and 40 wounded. Soldiers returned fire when they were attacked by armed assailants, a military source said.

The Brotherhood's official spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, who is at a pro-Mursi sit-in at a mosque near the scene, said 37 Mursi supporters had been killed.

He said shooting broke out in the early morning while Islamists were praying and staging a peaceful sit-in outside the Republican Guard barracks.

"We call on all patriotic brave Egyptians 2 join us @... sitin to defend country from conspiratorial traitors of military coup," he said in a Twitter message.

As an immediate consequence, the ultra-conservative Islamist Nour party, which initially supported the military intervention, said it was withdrawing from stalled negotiations to form an interim government for the transition to fresh elections.

Al Jazeera's Egypt news channel broadcast footage of what appeared to be five men killed in the violence, and medics applying cardiopulmonary resuscitation to an unconscious man at a makeshift clinic at a nearby pro-Mursi sit-in.

A Reuters television producer at the scene saw first aid helpers attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a dying man. Wounded people were being ferried to the field hospital on motorbikes, given first aid treatment and taken away in ambulances.

The military overthrew Morsi on Wednesday after mass nationwide demonstrations led by youth activists demanding his resignation. The Brotherhood denounced the intervention as a coup and vowed peaceful resistance.


Military vehicles sealed off traffic in a wide area around the Rabaa Adawia mosque where Morsi supporters led by senior Brotherhood leaders have been staging protests since his ouster.

The army also closed two of the main bridges across the Nile River with armoured vehicles, witnesses said.

Talks on forming a new government were already in trouble before today's shooting, after the Nour party rejected two liberal-minded candidates for prime minister proposed by interim head of state Adli Mansour.

Nour, Egypt's second biggest Islamist party, which is vital to give the new authorities a veneer of Islamist backing, said it had withdrawn from the negotiations in protest at what it called the "massacre at the Republican Guard (compound)".

"We've announced our withdrawal from all tracks of negotiations as a first response," party spokesman Nader Bakar said on Facebook.

The military can ill afford a lengthy political vacuum at a time of violent upheaval and economic stagnation in the Arab world's largest nation of 84 million people.

Scenes of running street battles between pro- and anti-Mursi demonstrators in Cairo, Alexandria and cities across the country have alarmed Egypt's allies, including key aid donors the United States and Europe, and Israel, with which Egypt has had a US-backed peace treaty since 1979.

At least 35 people died in violence on Friday and Saturday in fresh turmoil that came two-and-a-half years after autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 uprising.

While yesterday was calmer, the sight of huge crowds numbering hundreds of thousands gathering in different parts of Cairo was a reminder of the risks of further instability.

The army appeared to be counting on exhaustion and the onset of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan from tomorrow to wear down the Brotherhood protesters.

However, even before today's incident, many were determined to hold out and die for their cause if necessary.

Hanim Ahmad Ali Al-Sawi, 55, spent yesterday encamped outside the Republican Guard barracks where Mursi has been helped since the coup.

"We will not leave until Mursi returns. Otherwise we'll die as martyrs," she said, as soldiers and policemen looked on from behind barbed wire. She had been there with her five children for the last three days in spite of the scorching heat.


For many Islamists, the overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president was a bitter reversal that raised fears of a return to the suppression they endured for decades under autocratic rulers like Mubarak.

On the other side of the political divide, hundreds of thousands of Mursi's opponents poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square, the cradle of the popular uprising to oust him.

Last night, a carnival atmosphere took hold, and a troupe of folk musicians played darabukka drums and mizmar flutes as others danced and let off fireworks.

The army has denied it staged a coup, saying instead it was merely enforcing the will of the people after mass protests on June 30 calling for Mursi's resignation.

People blamed the Brotherhood for economic stagnation and said it was trying to take over every part of the state, an accusation the movement stringently denies.

Washington has not condemned the military takeover or called it a coup, prompting suspicion within the Brotherhood that it tacitly supports the overthrow.

Obama has ordered a review to determine whether annual US assistance of US$1.5 billion, most of which goes to the Egyptian military, should be cut off as required by law if a country's military ousts a democratically elected leader.

But US lawmakers said that was unlikely to happen.

"We should continue to support the military, the one stabilizing force in Egypt that I think can temper down the political feuding," US Representative Mike Rogers said on CNN's "State of the Union".

Egypt can ill afford to lose foreign aid. The country appears headed for a looming funding crunch unless it can quickly access money from overseas. The local currency has lost 11 per cent of its value since late last year.

The governor of Egypt's central bank, Hisham Ramez, flew to Abu Dhabi yesterday, officials at Cairo airport said, following Egyptian media reports Cairo was seeking financial aid from Gulf states after Mursi's removal.

Egypt's foreign reserves fell US$1.12 billion in June to US$14.92 billion, representing less than three months of imports.

Only about half are in the form of cash or in securities that can easily be spent, and the IMF considers three months to be the minimum safe cushion for reserves. 


Can Umno stop money politics?

Posted: 07 Jul 2013 03:28 PM PDT

Under the new system, 146,500 party members from 191 divisions will be involved in electing the president, deputy president, vice-presidents and 25 supreme council members. However not all 146,500 votes cast will be counted directly as the party will use the "one division, one vote" system, similar to the country's electoral roll system.

Rashvinjeet S. Bedi, The Star

Umno's new voting system for this year's party elections can help reduce the incidence of money politics but will not curb it entirely.

Former News Straits Times group editor-in-chief Datuk Kadir Jasin is of the view that the voting system will make it difficult for any contestant to use money to gain votes because of the larger pool of voting delegates.

"The people at the grass roots are more sincere and not prone to money politics," he said, adding that money politics could never be entirely wiped out.

Under the new system, 146,500 party members from 191 divisions will be involved in electing the president, deputy president, vice-presidents and 25 supreme council members.

However not all 146,500 votes cast will be counted directly as the party will use the "one division, one vote" system, similar to the country's electoral roll system.

Previously, about 2,500 delegates to the party's general assembly voted to elect the party's top echelon.

For this year's party elections, the quota system that required a certain percentage of nominations from Umno divisions for a leader to be eligible to contest a top post has also been done away with. This means anyone can contest for the top positions now.

In the past elections, there were frequent allegations that the votes of delegates could be bought by leaders and their proxies who gave cash and gifts, arranged for holidays and other incentives to entice voters.

Kadir, however, cautioned that the new system could cause a lot more unhappiness if the voting process was not carried out properly or there was cheating at the grassroots voting.

"It is a double-edged sword," he said.

Former tourism minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, who has voiced her intention to contest the Wanita Umno head's post, is confident the opening up voting to the grassroots would eliminate money politics in the party.

"The party is trying to clean itself and it's good for a start," she said.

She also said the system was beneficial for underdogs like her as more people had a say as to who they wanted instead of the 3,000 odd delegates in a hall.

Former Umno supreme council member Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said the new system recognised the grassroots character of Umno and he did not think anyone would be unhappy with it.

One challenge in the conduct of the party elections would be getting people who were really neutral and who were the "civil servants" of Umno to supervise the polls, he said.   

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng believes the new system will not curb money politics because the structure of politics within Umno is very top-down and that the power is in the hands of a selected few.

He explained that most branches were created from inner circles although some division and branch leaders could still yield some say.

Most political parties in Malaysia operated this way, he said.

"Money politics can still play a part if candidates can get support from branch and division leaders," he said.

Khoo, however, acknowledged that the new system would make it more difficult and expensive to buy votes.

"It is a start and improvement for Umno," he said.

Umno supreme council member Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin was doubtful if the new system could curb money politics, saying that the "rich would not feel the pinch" if money need to be thrown to secure votes.

He said that previously, the voting process would be over in a day, but now it would require two days and each division would also incur more costs.

"I agree to the transformation but there must be some financial contribution from the headquarters," he said.

The branch elections are scheduled to be held from July 15 to Aug 31, while the dates for the divisional elections and party leadership election will be decided later.


A ticking time bomb as ‘Allah’ row returns to court

Posted: 07 Jul 2013 03:01 PM PDT

Ng said Allah is central for Malay-speaking Christians. — Pictures by Choo Choy May - See more at:

Ng said Allah is central for Malay-speaking Christians. 

Underlying that concern, however, are growing fears that Islam's followers are leaving the faith that formed part of the very identity of the Malaysian Malay.

Debra Chong, The Malay Mail

The tussle between Malaysia's Muslim majority and their Christian countrymen for the rights to "Allah" appears to be back on track to be argued in court, but the continued delay in its hearing risks deepening the cracks within Malaysia's religious communities after the issue's protracted run on the political stage.

The dispute first arose in 2008 when the federal government banned the Catholic Church from publishing the Middle Eastern word "Allah" to refer to the Christian god in the Malay section of its weekly paper, Herald, ostensibly over concern that the majority Muslims would be confused by the similarity of the name to Islam's god and worship another.

Underlying that concern, however, are growing fears that Islam's followers are leaving the faith that formed part of the very identity of the Malaysian Malay.

The government sought to prevent that, but in so doing, stepped on the toes of the Christians who rose up to defend what they saw as an attempt to strip away their constitutional rights and the essence of their religious identity.

"There is nothing more central to a religion than its Scripture. Without Scripture, there is no authentic religious identity," said Ng Kam Weng, research director of Christian think-tank Kairos Research.

"Allah is central for Malay-speaking Christians. What is at stake is not just the 'Allah' word but Christian liturgy, prayers and worship songs that are based on scriptural references to God, or 'Allah' for Malay-speaking churches," he told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.

The problem however in the perception of Malay-speaking Christians, seen as an anomaly in Peninsular Malaysia but not in Sabah or Sarawak where a large proportion of the Bumiputeras are devout churchgoers and have prayed in the national language and their native tongues for centuries.

Christians are Malaysia's third-largest religious population at 2.6 million people, according to statistics from the 2010 census, behind Muslims and Buddhists.

The Bumiputera and Malay-speaking Christians form about 64 per cent, or close to two-thirds of that figure.

"If the word 'Allah' is banned the life of the Malay church will be suffocated," Ng said.

The Christian scholar said that the "Allah" row marked only the tip of a more pervasive problem as the various state Islamic authorities have also banned non-Muslims from using up to 42 words that include "Iman, Injil, Nabi and Wahyu".

"Without these words Christianity, or any religion for that matter, ceases to exist or operate meaningfully," he said.

"That's why Christians have no choice. What else can the Church do but to seek justice and appeal to the civil court to redress this injustice that the government has imposed on them? The Church would rather not seek any quarrel with anyone or the authorities," he added.

Lawrence is confident the 'Allah" dispute will be resolved in the courts soon.

The Court of Appeal is set to handle the case management tomorrow for the federal government's bid to ban the Catholic Church from publishing the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian god in the Herald.

The Catholic Church had challenged the Home Ministry's decision and won its lawsuit at the High Court after the judge made the landmark ruling that "Allah" is not exclusive to Islam, as the government would have Malaysians believe.

But the Najib administration has since offered an olive branch to the religious tussle that turned into a hot-button election issue, especially in Sabah and Sarawak where Christianity is the majority religion among the electorate who have long been considered a vote bank for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Taking into account the public religious sentiment, the Najib administration offered a 10-point solution agreeing to the use of "Allah" in the Malay bibles.

Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew is confident that the dispute will be resolved in the courts soon, after a four-year delay that has seen the case being fought in the political arena in the run up to the 2011 Sarawak state polls and more recently in the May 5 general election.

He told The Malay Mail Online that the church has filed several additional documents to support its case and is praying that the High Court judgment will be upheld.

For now though, he is praying for an amicable resolution to the trial.

"We want them to respond," Lawrence said, referring to the Attorney-General's Chambers representing the government, and the six state Islamic councils plus the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA) that the Court of Appeal had allowed to join in the dispute.



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