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Malaysia Today - Your Source of Independent News

Malaysians set to tighten purse strings as reality bites, World Bank predicts

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 08:32 PM PST


(MM) - Domestic households that are the engine of the country's economy are likely to spend at a slower pace as the effects of subsidy cuts, higher energy tariffs and rising debt all hit home, the World Bank said.

It added that the reduced spending by Putrajaya in its bid to trim its own chronic budget deficit will also likely exacerbate the slower growth in consumer spending as a result of smaller bonuses for the 1.4 million civil servants in its employment.

The World Bank also expects Putrajaya to continue down the path of reduced spending next year, adding that fresh subsidy cuts were a possibility.

"[Household] expenditure faces potential headwinds in the form of the government's fiscal consolidation efforts, namely subsidy rationalisation and lower civil service bonuses.

"Reduced energy subsidies, not only in terms of additional fuel price hikes but also an adjustment of electricity tariffs, may have a knock-on impact on consumer prices, as may the wider introduction of the minimum wage," it said in its "Malaysia Economic Monitor" report.

A ratings outlook downgrade by Fitch in September had forced Putrajaya's hand on the subsidy cuts that it had put on hold ahead of Election 2013, prompting the federal government to raise pump prices for RON95 petrol and diesel by 20 sen/l.

The move led analysts to predict an electricity tariff hike, which Putrajaya promptly delivered when it announced a 15 per cent increase beginning January 1 or more than double the previous hike.

In Budget 2014, price support for sugar was also eliminated.

The rapid-fire subsidy cuts are expected to cause inflation to rise and add to the pressure on Bank Negara Malaysia to raise interest rates that it has steadfastly kept at 3 per cent for nearly three years.

"Private consumption may also be negatively affected by possible interest rate hikes and tighter credit markets, with signs of weaker credit expansion already appearing this year," it added.

The combined pressures are expected to moderate growth in household spending to 6.5 per cent in 2014, down from 8.4 per cent for the current year.

The World Bank added that Malaysian households continued to grapple with already high debt levels, which has continued to grow despite credit restrictions imposed by Bank Negara this year.

"Despite the moderation in the growth of loans for personal use and credit cards, the overall growth of household loans was stable due to higher growth in loans for the purchase of cars and property."

The household debt in proportion to the GDP was 83 per cent of GDP as at March 2013, compared with 80.9 per cent as of end-2012.

Reductions to the rate of consumer spending growth will force the country to rely on exports to sustain economic expansion, but the report also noted that this was expected to rise next year on the back of higher energy commodity and petrochemical production.

The World Bank forecast a GDP growth of 4.9 per cent for Malaysia in 2014.

Malaysia Wants The Conflict In Syria To Be Resolved Politically

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 08:31 PM PST


(Bernama) - Malaysia wants the bloody conflict going on in Syria currently to be resolved using a political approach instead of military intervention, said Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin.

He said this was among the issues that he emphasised upon at the 40th Session of the Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Conakry, Republic of Guinea which had just concluded.

Speaking to the Malaysian media here Wednesday, Hamzah who arrived directly from the OIC meeting, said Kuala Lumpur wanted everyone and the conflicting groups in the Arab nation from both sides, the government and the opposition, to sit down to find a political solution to the conflict.

"I notice that the response had been very positive because after delivering my speech, many had asked for the text of my speech and I also received congratulatory messages from numerous countries...so the majority showed that this political approach was well received by the OIC member nations instead of putting pressure for military intervention," he said.

Hamzah said that he had told the conference that the OIC could intervene by becoming an advisor or mediator at a peace talk that was being worked on involving all parties in Syria, to see that eventually everyone could sit down together and find a solution to the conflict that brought much destruction to property and lives.

Hamzah said that at the meeting, Kuala Lumpur had also asked the OIC to get in touch directly with the governments where there were conflicts between the Muslim minority in that country and the government such as in Myanmar.

He said Malaysia's experience in helping to achieve peace in the conflicts in Mindanao, southern Philippines and in southern Thailand could be used to tackle the problems of the Muslim minorities who were having conflicts with their governments.

Hamzah said that at the OIC meeting, Malaysia had also given emphasis in terms of Malaysia's position in supporting the Palestinian cause to form a sovereign nation that was acceptable to all nations in the world.

I’ll expose Anwar-Mat Zain relationship next week, says Umno lawyer

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 04:36 PM PST

(MD) - Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (pic) today vowed to expose the relationship between Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Mat Zain Ibrahim, the former Kuala Lumpur CID chief behind a statutory declaration (SD) alleging wrongdoings of the Attorney General.

Shafee said he would do this next week when the Court of Appeal hears Anwar's second application to disqualify him from leading the prosecution team in Putrajaya's appeal against Anwar's acquittal in the second sodomy charge.

"I will make an interesting revelation on a civil suit filed by Mat Zain against Anwar and the subsequent events," said Shafee.

The senior lawyer said he had filed an affidavit on what transpired in his legal firm and at the residence of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Shafee said Mat Zain "slanted" what he had said in his October 7 statutory declaration.

"My affidavit is supported by former (Commercial Crime Investigations Department director) Datuk Ramli Yusuff. I do not need to ask Matthias Chang to affirm it, and there is no need to trouble Tun (Dr Mahathir Mohamad)," Shafee said when asked to respond on the contents of the SD.

The SD by Mat Zain was prepared following a meeting in Dr Mahathir's house on August 10 this year, attended by among others Dr Mahathir's former political secretary Matthias Chang, and Ramli, who briefed the former premier over his run-ins with Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

Anwar filed the application last week using Mat Zain's SD as grounds to disqualify Shafee, saying Shafee's appointment to lead the prosecution team would deny him a fair trial.

The PKR de-facto leader among others said that Shafee knew of Gani's illegal actions in the Pulau Batu Puteh territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore.

Anwar said the SD also pointed to Gani and former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan's involvement in fabricating evidence in the "black eye" incident of 1998.

The alleged fabrication took place when Gani was said to have brought in pathologist Dr Abdul Rahman Yusoff to accuse Anwar in court of self-inflicted injuries, contradicting medical reports. A Royal Commission of Inquiry set up later ended with an admission by former police chief Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor that he had beaten Anwar hours after his arrest on September 20, 1998.

Anwar had in 2008 filed a police report against Gani and Musa, who was involved in the first sodomy case brought against Anwar.

A three-member committee, comprising retired judges, formed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), however, later cleared the duo. Shafee reportedly agreed during the meeting in Dr Mahathir's house that the MACC committee was illegal.

Anwar's second attempt to disqualify Shafee as the deputy public prosecutor in his trial will be heard on December 19.

On November 21, the Federal Court dismissed Anwar's appeal, declaring that Gani could give a temporary licence to Shafee to lead the prosecution. Anwar had then filed the application to dismiss Shafee based on the grounds that the appointment was illegal.

Anwar, 66, was acquitted by the High Court on January 9 last year on a charge of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at a Desa Damansara condominium unit in Bukit Damansara in 2008.


Anwar in the US and Karpal in hospital so case delayed

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 01:48 PM PST

Ram Karpal Singh, a member of Anwar's legal team in the sodomy case, said Anwar was in Washington for a seminar.

V. Anbalagan, TMI

Putrajaya has taken objection to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's failure to attend court proceedings today as the Government's appeal to set aside his acquittal for sodomy was scheduled earlier.

Deputy public prosecutor Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (pic) raised this matter in chambers after the opposition leader failed to turn up when the case was called this morning.

However, the three-man Court of Appeal bench led by Datuk Aziah Ali did not make any order.

"We take objection for the respondent's failure to be present. Such a thing should not be tolerated," Shafee told reporters later.

The lawyer, who was appointed by Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to head the prosecution, said Anwar had written to the court to seek an adjournment but it was rejected.

However, Putrajaya's appeal against the High Court ruling has been adjourned as lead counsel Karpal Singh was hospitalised.

Ram Karpal Singh, a member of Anwar's legal team in the sodomy case, said Anwar was in Washington for a seminar.

Earlier, lawyer Tommy Thomas, who is representing Anwar to disqualify Shafee for the second time from leading the prosecution team, sought a postponement as he needed time to file an affidavit in reply by Putrajaya.

Tommy said he only obtained a copy of the affidavit this morning.

Aziah, who sat with Datuk Rohana Yusuf and Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, allowed the adjournment and fixed hearing on December 19.

Ram Karpal also informed the court that lead counsel Karpal was in hospital and applied for the sodomy appeal to be adjourned.

The court had earlier fixed today and tomorrow to hear the appeal.

Aziah said case management would be held on the same day (December 19) to fix Putrajaya's appeal on the sodomy case.

Anwar is using the statutory declaration (SD) made by former Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Mat Zain Ibrahim, as grounds to disqualify Shafee.

Anwar, among others, disclosed in his application last Friday that Shafee knew of Gani's actions but the lawyer suppressed important evidence, especially on the Pulau Batu Puteh territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore.

Further, the SD pointed towards Gani and former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan's involvement in fabricating evidence in the infamous "black eye" incident in 1998 following Anwar's sacking as deputy prime minister.



Suhakam needs more legal bite, says civil society

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 11:02 AM PST

(The Star) - The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) needs to be given more bite to address weaknesses in Malaysia, said Human Rights Movement (Proham) secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasoona.

Denison, who spoke at the Proham-organised discussion entitled "Human rights priorities for Malaysia beyond 2013 UPR to 2018" said the annual Suhakam report should be debated in Parliament and not ignored. 

"We cannot run away from that after spending millions of Ringgit in producing the report - you cannot allow Suhakam to be abused politically.

"We should respect it as it has legislation supporting it. Its report has to be debated in Parliament," said Denison.

Denison called for the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 to be strengthened and for a Parliamentary Select Committee to be set up to monitor human rights issues in Malaysia. 

"There should be something that looks at the implementation of human rights decisions and monitors their progress.

"The Government should amend the Suhakam legislation to provide for a Human Rights Court. Such a court is needed for Suhakam to have the bite and penalise people who have violated and abused human rights," said Denison. 

He added that a Human Rights Action or Human Rights Transformation Blueprint was needed, saying that Suhakam had proposed such a blueprint in 2001, and had even prepared a draft of it.

"Human rights are good for all people. No-one needs to fear it. Only abusers of human rights need to fear it - these rights are good for all races and communities. And you cannot say that the United Nations Conventions on human rights are against Islam as all the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) countries have ratified them," added Denison.

He called on the government to ratify the Conventions, pointing out that out of the nine conventions, Malaysia had only ratified three Conventions, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

"We cannot go on not ratifying these Conventions. We are embarrassingly behind the Asean and OIC countries. Ratification is fundamental, the core instruments of social, cultural and economic rights have to be ratified. We have signed some declarations," said Denison.

Similar views were given by Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, as he also called for Suhakam to be given more bite. 

"Suhakam reports have to be debated in Parliament and a Parliamentary Select Committee needs to be set up focused on human rights, the formulation of the National Human Rights Action plan and amendments to the relevant Act have to be made to allow Suhakam to have powers of investigation and enforcement," said Saifuddin.

He also called for the UN Conventions to be ratified by the Malaysian Government.

"Some technical committees have been established to examine the Conventions but we are hoping to see the results before 2018, which is when the third United Nations' Universal Periodic Review is.

"We understand ratifying these Conventions is a symbolic effort by governments but not ratifying it actually puts Malaysia among the bottom ten countries in the United Nations," said Saifuddin. 

At the last Universal Periodic Review on Oct 24, Malaysia received 249 recommendations to ratify the Conventions and other Treaties - some of them being the International Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, and the UN Convention Against Torture.

Meanwhile, Former UN coordination specialist Dr Lim Mui Kiang pointed out that Malaysia's international standing was poor when it came to ratifying UN human rights Treaties and Conventions.

"Malaysia's standing among the UN member states is quite dismal. In the Asean region, it ranks eighth out of the ten member states, and in the Non-Aligned Movement, Malaysia is ranked 108 out of a total 110 countries, in the OIC sphere it ranks at 55th place out of a total 55 members, and in the Commonwealth it is ranked at 49th place out of 54 countries," she said. 

Lim pointed out that in 2010, the then Deputy Foreign Minister, Senator A Kohilan Pillay announced the government had set up a technical committee to look into the ratification of the human rights treaties.

"But until now there has been no progress. In 2012, the legal division of the Prime Minister's Department initiated meetings for the drafting of the Human Rights Action Plan, but that too has not moved," she said.


If other Muslim countries can have Shias and Sunnis, why can’t we? asks Suhakam chief

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 10:50 AM PST

Sheridan Mahavera, TMI

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission, or Suhakam, has called for a dialogue between the country's predominant Sunni Muslims and the tiny number of Shia Muslims.

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, saying the Federal Constitution provided for freedom of different communities to practise their faith, called for such a freedom to be extended to other denominations within Islam.

"If other Muslim countries can have Shias and Sunnis living side by side, why can't Malaysia?" asked Hasmy, adding that the sensitive issue could still be solved through dialogue.

Hasmy said despite followers of two schools involved in violent conflicts elsewhere, both groups should work out their differences through dialogue.

Shiism is the second largest denomination of Islam, and according to Washington-based Pew Research Center, its adherents make up 10% to 20% of the global Muslim population, now estimated to be at 1.6 billion.

Despite their small number in Malaysia, Shia Muslims have been targeted by local Islamic authorities. The move is ironic, as Malaysia has good relations with Iran, a predominantly Shia Muslim nation.

Hasmy's call, which was made during an event to mark Human Rights Day yesterday, followed months of belligerent talk by political parties, Muslim groups and government agencies against local Shia Muslims who they said posed a "threat" to Sunni Islam.

Last week, during the Umno general assembly, party leaders took turns in calling for a clampdown on Shia Muslims.

Other local Muslim groups have called for the same treatment towards Shias, although they said the denomination should not be recognised as a branch of Islam in Malaysia.



All eyes on Kelantan MB when he names officials

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 10:01 AM PST

(The Star) - Following his appointment as the new PAS state commissioner, all eyes will be trained on Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob when he names his officials in the new state party team.

Observers said it would test his mettle as a leader as it would have a bearing on GE14.

Ahmad, 63, has a tough decision to make to maintain unity and balance of power within the outfit, following spats among senior PAS leaders that led to party vice-president Datuk Husam Musa criticising the state government during the state assembly sitting in early October over several administrative issues.

Husam's feud with the Kelantan government led party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and the central committee to intervene and a meeting was held at the Mentri Besar's official residence at JKR 10 here on Oct 22.

Present were Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, Pulai Chondong assemblyman Zulkifli Mamat and state executive committee members.

Abdul Hadi said no action would be taken against the Salor assemblyman for his outburst but advised that any criticism should be done within the boundaries of decorum and respect.

Political analyst Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, who did a PhD thesis on PAS in the era of the ulama leadership, said although it would seem as if the feud between Husam and the state leadership had simmered, Ahmad had a difficult decision to make if he wanted unity within his outfit.

"It is my opinion that not appointing Husam in the line-up may exacerbate power struggle within the party because Husam is Salor asssemblyman as well as Kubang Kerian PAS commissioner and a party vice-president," he added.

"Alternatively, it would be appropriate for Ahmad to appoint Mohd Amar as state deputy commissioner I and Husam as deputy commissioner II while other senior PAS leaders, like either Datuk Mohd Nassuruddin Daud, Datuk Mohd Hanifa Ahmad or Pasir Mas MP Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, as deputy commissioner III," said Dr Kamarul.


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