Monday, June 30, 2008

Is this the new benchmark in our politics?

THE only good thing today is the Euro Cup finals. And Torres played like a true artisan with his skill, concentration and mesmerising runs. His goal was executed with a class that typifies a true professional, and Spain played with much flair that made Germany look ordinary and pedestrian.

That pulsating game aside, the last 24 hours leaves many people wondering what had hit them. News that a 23-year old aide of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had lodged a police report alleging sodomy by his boss stung Malaysians over breakfast on Sunday morning.

In fact, the SMS that have been going around on Sunday night have already made many people had a restless night and a troubled sleep.

Everyone recalled the PKR's de facto leader's history in this matter. That gave a sense of deja vu over the air as we all try to understand what really is happening. Is the whole thing political, as some had already concluded? Or is it a straight case of sexual assault?

It's best not to speculate. Let the police investigate and finish their own probe. Pre-judging the case would be unproductive and morally wrong. We've been taught to subscribe to the concept that a man is innocent until proven guilty.

That aside, many Malaysians have made their conclusions one way or another. The general question that's been asked in the last 24 hours is - what's happening to this country? Have we lost our senses? If you read the comments posted in the blogs, you can get a sense of disgust over the allegations and the turn of events that came after that.

Anwar's move to seek help from a foreign embassy sparked fresh debate and triggered more questions. Are we not safe in our country? And is security better in a foreign embassy than in our own home?

Conspriracy theories are plentiful too. Ah, this is nothing new, Anwar's supporters argued. This is another frame-up to destroy Anwar's political comeback. This is the work of Anwar's political foes, and there are plenty around, his allies shouted. Everyone's imagination is working overtime to try and figure out what really happened.

What kind of attention will we get from the international media? It's not complimentary, that much I can tell you. And Anwar's spending the night in the Turkish embassy would certainly attract plenty of attention from the diplomatic fraternity. Will this start a diplomatic row?

Internationally, the rest of the world perceive Malaysia as a country that has lost much shine in the last few years, according to a survey conducted by experts in brands management. In fact, they argued that this image and reputation has been somewhat negative in the last few years.

This latest episode will certainly not help that reputation. At a time when the country's political climate is viewed as 'uncertain,' this incident will bring us a few notches down, even as the police continue with their investigations.

If the international community were to seek some indication of the country's volatile political climate, they have been presented with a game of brinkmanship that helped raise the political stakes.

At this point in time, we must be governed by cool heads and not by angry hearts. Many of us are really worried too. Will we see a fresh round of street demonstrations calling for 'Reformasi,' Anwar's battle cry after the first time he was charged with sodomy. He may have been cleared following his appeal in the Appeals Court but this was not conclusive, leaving Anwar with a big taint on his character.

As stated earlier, fingers are being pointed. And unnecessarily so, since the police investigations have only just started. We must insist the police work day and night to unravel this yet another episode which may undermine Malaysia's credibilty further.

Coming after the March 8 general election, whose results have changed the national political landscape, this incident can potentially delivers another black eye for the country. Surely, we can't afford that.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Soalan cepumas - Najib lawan Pak Lah ka?

RAMAI kawan-kawan bertanya dan meminta pandangan saya berikutan kenyataan Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak semalam. Timbalan Presiden Umno ditanya oleh wartawan apakah beliau akan bertanding pada pemilihan parti Disember depan.

Najib menjawab serba ringkas: "Saya belum membuat sebarang keputusan samada akan bertanding jawatan presiden Disember ini. Saya akan membuat ketetapan apabila sampai masanya...ada masa lagi."

Begitulah kenyataan ringkas yang saya petik dari berita Bernama. Hari ini, kenyataan beliau menjadi buah mulut dikalangan ahli-ahli Umno dan pemerhati politik. Banyak yang boleh diperkatakan tentang kenyataan itu.

Yang menarik, Najib tidak menyangkal soalan yang diajukan oleh wartawan berkenaan sejurus selepas mesyuarat Majlis Tertinggi Umno semalam. Jika dia benar-benar tidak berhajat bertanding, adalah amat mudah bagi Najib berkata demikian.

Tetapi apabila dia berkata "saya belum membuat sebarang keputusan," maka ahli-ahli Umno berpendapat bahwa Najib memberi gambaran bahawa beliau tidak menolak kemungkinan akan menawarkan dirinya sebagai calon kerusi nombor satu parti.

Presiden parti, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, telah pun membuat keputusan untuk mempertahankan kedudukannya. Hanya Ketua Bahagian dan MP Gua Musang, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, yang sudah mengumumkan kesanggupanm beliau untuk merebut jawatan itu.

Sesiapa juga yang ingin bertanding jawatan tertinggi itu mestilah mendapat sekurang-kurangnya 30 peratus pencalonan. Iaitu 58 pencalonan. Ku Li yakin dapat cukup pencalonan yang membolehkan beliau bertanding.

Pemimpin akar umbi Umno, dari peringkat cawangan atau bahagian, sedang mencari tanda-tanda atau petunjuk yang jelas bagi memudahkan mereka membuat pencalonan. Mesyuarat agong bahagian akan berlangsung bulan Oktober dan di sinilah pencalonan akan dibuat.

Mesyuarat agong cawangan akan bermula 17 Julai ini. Walaupun cawangan tidak boleh mencalonkan sesiapa untuk pemilihan besar nanti, mereka boleh membuat resolusi mendesak bahagian mencalonkan individu yang mereka anggap layak memimpin parti.

Tanda-tanda dari peringkat bawahan parti menunjukkan seolah-olah mereka mahukan perubahan. Walaupun ia bukan menyeluruh, ada tanda-tanda pemimpin bawahan cenderung ke arah pertandingan. Satu pertemuan pemimpin akar umbi dengan Abdullah baru-baru ini memberi gambaran bahawa mereka mahukan orang baru menerajui parti.

Nama Ku Li dan Najib adalah antara 'favourite' atau pilihan mereka. Setelah mendengar kenyataan yang jelas dari Ku Li, mereka kini menunggu-nunggu pendirian Najib dalam hal yang sama. Kenyataan Najib semalam dilihat oleh penyokong-penyokongnya sebagai tanda awal bahawa beliau hampir sedia menawarkan diri untuk dicalonkan.

Apapun, wartawan akan terus menjejak langkah Najib dan berusaha mendapatkan kenyataan yang lebih jelas dalam hal ini. Memang menjadi budaya Umno, pemimpin yang mahu bertanding biasanya akan menawarkan diri dan menyatakan kesedian untuk masuk ke gelanggang pilihan mereka.

Sama-sama kita tunggu.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An injustice by Parliament on the Press


DEWAN Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia has rescinded the ruling restricting media personnel's movement in the Parliament lobby. This was decided on Wednesday after meeting the Backbenchers Club.


RESTRICTING journalists to an area in Parliament House can only be interpreted as an act to undermine the effectiveness of journalists from carrying out their work as professional news gatherers.

If journalists are not free to move about in Parliament, what chance is there for an open and free press?

In what has been touted as an era of opennes and liberalisation in so far as press freedom in concerned, the new ruling on the freedom of movement of journalists goes against what the Government has been promoting - that the media is more free now than ever before.

How can that be when they can't even get near the news sources - be they ministers, backbenchers, ordinary MPs! And when the media 'boycott' media conferences as what was done yesterday, someone is going to blame the media for being arrogant and irresponsible.

It is also obvious that whoever made that ruling - and already we read passing-the-buck statements from several Parliamentarians - does not know how the media operates. It seems that the powers-that-be is passing this message to the media - we'll call you when we need you.

And this is the kind of attitude that can spell trouble in the long run. I've not met a politician who doesn't need the press, no matter how reluctant the politician may appear in the beginning.

The media has to stand united on this one. Government media organisations (Bernama and RTM) may have no choice but to still provide coverage. Even then, they should do so under protest and stand in solidarity with their fellow scribes.

I believe the Press was not even consulted before the new ruling was introduced. Before the Press can take up issues on injustice, suppression and wrongdoings, the Press must first stand up for the injustice done unto itself.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ku Li: "Nominate me. I'm ready & willing."

I CAUGHT up with TengkuRazaleigh Hamzah last night in Slim River. He's been on the road non-stop trying to get support from Umno members to nominate him to contest for the top post in the party's December election.

Earlier in the day, Ku Li the Kelantan prince, was in Ipoh, Telok Intan and Bruas. By the time the veteran politician reached Slim River, he looked a bit tired. But this was only for a moment. When he took over the microphone, Ku Li told the small crowd of his plans to get sufficient nominations to qualify to contest the presidential post.

Under Umno's rules, a contender need to get 30 per cent nomination to be able to mount a challenge for the number one post. That works out to at least 58 nominations. Ever since it was introduced many years ago when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was president, no one has succeeded to get the required number.

Then again, no one wanted to challenge him. Only Ku Li mounted a challenge in 1987, and lost. The 30 per cent quota was introduced after this last epic battle.

Ku Li argued that it has been the tradition that the Umno president steps down when there's strong indication that he's no longer respected or the leadership found wanting. He said Tunku Abdul Rahman stepped down after May 13 and passed the baton to Tun Abdul Razak.

When Tun Razak died, Tun Hussein Onn took over. And when Sulaiman Palestin challenged Hussein and lost, Hussein vacated the post soon after on the ground that he was challenged at all. This, the thinking went, reflected the president's view that he was already losing total support from his members, rightly or wrongly.

The same thing happened to Dr Mahathir. After the 1999 general election, and before the 2004 national poll, Dr Mahathir stepped down when his popularity was waning. He passed the baton to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who won the 2004 general election with the best-ever result.

Ku Li argued that the March 8 general election proved Abdullah's decline in popularity and questioned the latter's leadership. The BN, Ku Li said, has never lost five states in a general election, and not able to retain the two-third majority added to BN's poor showing.

Abdullah's supporters in Umno have cried foul of what they perceived to be attempts to chase the party president out of office. This, they said, is not the Umno way.

Ku Li is of the opinion that the Umno president should know when to let go of the post. Contesting the post is not chasing the president out as this is provided for in the party constitution, he argued.

Ku Li said that he shares the same view that the president should not be chased out as this is not the Umno culture. But he also pointed out that he wouldn't want to see an Umno president being 'belittled' by others, the latest being the open show of defiance by SAPP and Datuk Yong Teck Lee. This wouldn't have happened if others had not viewed the Umno leadership as being weak and incapable, Ku Li said.

It was odd to see the former Umno treasurer and Finance Minister speaking to a small crowd of hardly 80 people. I later learnt that Umno members and grassroot leaders were 'advised' not to attend the meeting in the name of 'perpaduan parti' or party unity. It seemed that an sms to this effect was sent out earlier.

I'm told he's also scheduled to meet members and grassroot leaders in Seremban on Wednesday. Will there be another 'advice' for members to stay away? migrates to new page

CHEDET.COM has migrated to a new webpage with a new posting having been locked out by since Friday. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's press secretary, Sufi Yusof, sent an sms at 1.15am alerting friends and fellow bloggers about this.

Sufi said the new webpage has been functioning well but hoped that everything will turn out fine, especially when traffic is heavier daytime.'s latest posting is titled 'The Chorus Line," his account of the SAPP/Yong Teck Lee's spat with BN/Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Didn't ACA cleared Yong before the GE?

DAVE and Tom sent me an sms each today, giving their views on the same subject - SAPP and Datuk Yong Teck Lee's statement that the party would back a vote of no confidence against the PM when it's tabled. Yong said such a vote would be taken tomorrow but there's still no confirmation of such a move.

In his sms, Dave said: "I thought all BN politicians who took part in the general election had to be clear of any investigation of corruption. So, if Yong was already investigated as the ACA DG claims, why was he allowed to contest?"

Tom's sms said: "In a democracy, people should be free to voice their opinion. There should be no threats like what our poor immature politicians do. The due process is available and they can exercise it as it is open to all and all are aware of the consequences of their actions. When will our politicians do away with cheap publicity?"

We will have to wait to see if there's any attempt to push for a viote of no confidence. I've already said that this is not likely to happen but that doesn't mean the parties wanting to do so would cease thinking and planning towards it.

Yong's party may be a small member of the BN coalition, but it has created an overhang that can distract out MPs from doing their work, that is, to serve their constituents. We are also watching if Yong's announcement would encourage other BN components to make similar stand.

Component leaders have publicly said they won't take that route, but in politics nothing should be dismissed as outrageous and far-fetched. Let's not miss tomorrow"s life telecast of Parliament, because if there's any attempt to do so, what better time can there be when everyone's glued to the box?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

BN component break ranks, invites trouble

IT WON'T be easy for anyone to try and pass a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister in the Dewan Rakyat. Everyone knows that. And Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as Umno president and BN Chairman, knows that very well too.

SAPP's Dato Yong Teck Lee'snnouncement in Kota Kinabalu yesterday that he and his fellow MP from the party would support any motion of no confidence in Parliament on Monday attracted much attention in and outside Sabah. And maybe that's about all that he can get - public and media attention.

Much has been said about the difficulties anyone would face in wanting to table let alone pass a motion of no confidence. Then again, this won't stop Abdullah's and the BN's oppononent from trying. The actual attempt alone is enough to attract the people's and media's attention.

While the actual attemp to table and pass a vote of no confidence against the Government and the present leadership is difficult, the very expression by Yong and the SAPP, a component of the ruling federal coalition, is bad enough already.

As far as I recall, there's not been a similar attempt and such an open declaration by a BN component ever before. The BN leadership must make a quick decision on this, including taking firm disciplinary action against Yong and gang, including expulsion from the coalition.

Media reports said Yong have had two discussions with de factor PKR Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Leaving the BN and joining the PKR must have featured high on the agenda during talks between them. By making the statement yesterday, the SAPP is no longer a BN component in word and deed.

There's been much speculation of the SAPP leaving the BN in last couple of weeks. Only the actual execution remains.

Political observers argue that Yong's action does not necessarily stem from his contention that Sabah is left out of mainstream economic development alone. It also stems from his perception that the PM is weak and vulnerable. The sound bytes at the press conference made that quite apparent to all and sundry.

Yong's action and statement has caused much embarassment to Pak Lah, SAPP being a small component of the BN notwithstanding. SAPP have four state seats in the Sabah Legislative Assembly. Would his statement against the federal Government also reflect his sentiments against the State Govt led by Dato Musa Aman?

He didn't say so, but I would conclude so. Shouldn't Yong then also declare loss of confidence against his state boss? Mind you, Yong was also Chief minister of the state once before, and had enjoyed the support of his BN colleagues in and outside Sabah.

Yong's statement would mean a full house at the Dewan Rakyat on Monday and the following days. Yong may even have another press conference in the Dewan's lobby to reiterate his stand. Yong is stretching the limit and trying to take advantage of the situation and making an attempt to change the political landscape. Again that is.

Yong was duly taken to task by his BN colleagues. The PKR said it was 'brave' of him to do that. Let's see how this drama plays itself out next week.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Branches: "Don't underestimate us!"

THE number of statements top Umno leaders have been making in the past week or so continue to be analysed and "read" by their friends and foes alike. There's a lot of second guessing going on, and conclusions are being made depending on which side of the fence one is on.

Party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's statement that he and his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, have discussed the power transfer issue and come to an understanding is met with a sigh of relief in some quarters, and a flurry of questions in others.

Najib's statement that he's not taking on his boss in the party elections also triggered much debate, especially with whispers that he's aiming for the top spot, and that many of his supporters want him to be more pro-active in going up the party hierarchy.

And when Pak Lah declared that he's ready to defend his post should there be any challenges in the December party election, some people concluded that he's not about to pass the baton to Najib so soon after all.

At this stage, only Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has declared that he's going to challenge Pak Lah. Provided he is able to get the 30 per cent nomination (that's 58 divisions) to qualify to make a serious bid on the presidency, and that is not going to be easy.

Ku Li's backers are going around confidently predicting that the Kelantan prince's bid is gaining momentum. By the time the election is held, they are sure Ku Li will get the required number of nominations to challenge Pak Lah.

While the numbers are being done, matched and doubled-checked, the backers of the main proponents will also be monitoring the branch meetings scheduled to start next month. I'm not sure of the exact number of branches but there's more than 20,000 of them nationwide except in Sarawak. The branches will also be conducting their election of office bearers.

From my understanding, the branches have no direct say in the nominations but they can make their voices heard through other ways. Many branch leaders have met Pak Lah in a series of meetings and briefings on party and national matters. Some may have made their views known during these meetings.

I'm told some branches may pass resolutions outlining their views on the state of the party and the party leadership. Since they cannot nominate, they can make known their preferences via special resolutions which will be forwarded to their divisions which will be having their own elections in October.

Which is why party leaders, especially those in the supreme council, is paying extra attention to branch elections and what messages they want to convey to party bosses. One branch chief told me Umno must go back to basics if it wants to be relevant in national politics.

"Don't underestimate the branches and their voices. We know what and who we want, and we have our ways of getting them heard and delivered," he said. I wonder that means, and sounds like a warning too.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Al-Fatihah for wan Malik, makcik, Rayyan

IT HASN'T been an easy week. It started with the passing away of my last surviving uncle, Pak Cik Malik, 71, in Sg Choh, a few minutes outside Rawang. Wan Malik, as he's fondly referred to, had finished doing his isyak prayers at the mosque and stopped for a cup of tea at his regular pit stop.

It seems he fell down and was taken to the nearby clinic where he was pronounced dead.

Then came news of the mother of a good friend in PJ. I missed the funeral as I was at a meeting and came to know of her passing much later.My condolence to Fatimah, her husband Zainal and all members of the family.

But it was a 6am text message that I received on Thursday that really saddened me. Nik Aiza, a former colleague, informed me that her small son, Rayyan Hakimi, had passed away. The young boy died of leukemia, and Aiza had spent many months nursing him. I blogged about Rayyan some months ago.

My condolence to Aiza and family too. The memories of Rayyan will always be fresh, especially to Aiza and family. Rather than thinking of the pain Rayyan went through, I hope Aiza and family will cherish more of the happy moments when they were together.

To all the deceased, Al-Fatihah for each of them.

I've reproduced Aiza's e mail to me a few months ago, accompanied by the smiling pictures of Rayyan.

Let's hear her story:

"I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for the well wishes, kind thoughts, encouragement, contribution & prayers during this difficult period. Rayyan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in early March & was hospitalized in Pantai Medical Centre & then the Pediatric Cancer Ward in University Hospital.

"The total count of his white blood cells were extremely high & his platelets were really low, causing him to bruise easily. He is now undergoing chemo treatment which has several phases, depending on how well he responds to each phase & each phase lasts from about 2-5 weeks. He will finish his 2nd Phase by end of this week, followed by the next round of chemo.

"As the pictures show, he’s generally in high spirits when he’s not being jabbed or treated by the doctors. He especially enjoyed the visitors & gifts (especially Shakirah who is always excited to go to the hospital – never before in her whole life!) – and thank goodness for the portable DVD player! The hospital has volunteers who come over every week with small gifts & balloons.

"And sometimes there are organizations or companies that have small parties – it’s certainly an eye-opener to see that small efforts like these have a huge up-lifting effect not only for the patients, but the affected families & hospital staff as well.

"Rayyan is now at home & needs to visit the hospital every 3 days for his treatment. His blood count is still sometimes low & they’d give him a blood transfusion. There are several types of chemo drugs & ways to administer them. He has oral pills to be taken daily, medication to fight against pneumonia to be taken every 3 days, his hospital treatment is a jab on the butt & also another one thru IV.

"Every 15 days they also take a sample of his bone marrow to test & also to administer another drug thru there. The side effects differ from one person to another & this round of chemo drugs have increased his appetite & made him extra hyper as it works like steroids.

"As we go along, the chemo drugs will intensify & might cause him to get weaker, lose appetite & hair. He’ll need to go for surgery next week to insert something like a chemo-port, which is a tube that’s inserted thru the neck and comes out from his chest.

"The drugs will be administered thru the tube as it is more central & his tiny veins might not be able to “carry” the strong drugs. The doctors have assured us that this is a better choice as it reduces the frequency of his jabs, but we’d have to take extra care of the tube so that it’s not exposed to bacteria.

"When we go for his check-ups, he’d be extremely distressed when we’re in the treatment room, but he’s immediately cheerful again once we leave. I’m relieved that he doesn’t really act like someone who is ill. Insyaallah he’ll be alright as long as things go as planned & we don’t face any set-backs such as fever or falling down.

"With his low blood count & weak immune system due to the chemo, these would be his biggest challenges.

'It’s certainly a difficult journey, but one that must be done for him to return to health. On behalf of my whole family, I’d like to say thanks again to everyone. There are no words to express how thankful we are to have the support of so many. We can only hope that all the blessings will be returned to you & your respective families as well.

"With warm regards,
-Aiza, Izlan, Shakirah & Rayyan."

May you rest in peace, my dear Rayyan.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ronaldo, Sanusi Junid, Ian Chin...

CHRISTIANO Ronaldo should don the Real Madrid jersey as soon as possible and entertain the crowd and worshippers at the Barnebeu in the new football season. Alex Ferguson should enjoy his summer break and look for replacements in between the French wines and whatever else.

No doubt Ferguson and the worshippers at the Old Trafford Theatre of dreams would go through a period of scary nightmares and subject themselves to all sorts of withdrawal symptoms. But that's life isn't it?

Man U have gone through this before, and survived. Keano, Beckham, Schmeichel, Cantona - talismen all of them - have gone and pursued separate lifes. They all found that there's life after Ferguson and the numerous trophies and championships.

Man U found new sparks and remain arguably the best supported club in the world. Liverpool (RY), Arse-nal (SAA) and Chelsea (SN) may beg to differ but that's okay by me.

These teams have a tradition and history of their own and worthy of support too. Stoke City is trying to recapture some of the glitter in the heyday of Gordon Banks and George Eastham but it'll take a while (sorry Rocky Bru).

The message is quite simple - if the one you love is no longer sharing the same passion as you, let go. In Ronaldo's case, if his heart is no longer with Man U, let him go. Be practical. The passion may die, but traces of some affection will always be there. That's life.

Tan Sri Sanusi Junid? As everyone knows by now, he's been told to go. He's been axed. Dismissed. Sacked. Say what you like, Sanusi is no longer President of the University Islam Antarabangsa.

Is that life too, you may ask? That's politics. And politics, some may argue, is larger than life, truer than blood and possibly blackier than darkness itself. I really don't know. You tell me.

And almost at the same time, Yang Arif Ian Chin came out from the shadows with his own revelations. There could be variations and versions too. While we battle the traffic jams and keeping an eye on the fuel meter, let's look for little mercies and try to smell the roses if we can.

And maybe Ronaldo can do battle with van der Sar if Portugal and Holland reach the final of Euro 2008. But not if Fabregas and Torres can help it, or even Ballack and Lehman...

Monday, June 9, 2008

On the strength of a sejadah and a prayer

SOON after the March 8 general election, the UMNO Supreme Council sent its management committee led by deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abd Razak to meet division chiefs in Penang, Perak and Kedah. There were angry voices heard from those meetings.

Divisional chiefs made known their demands for leadership change within Umno. The demands were echoed elsewhere at various forums as the party leaders sat huddled trying to figure what ought to be done. The three states are among the five plus one that the BN and Umno had lost to the Pakatan Rakyat and emotions were understandly high among party supporters.

To date, there's no more news of such meetings between the management committee and the other states which have gone the Pakatan Rakyat way. Such meetings, which was held to hear grassroot gievances after the March 8 maulings, have been stopped.

In its place, I'm told, is a series of closed-door meetings between party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and chairmen and secretaries of branches. There's been a few already, held either in Sri Perdana or at the Putra World Trade Centre, the party headquarters. Divisional leaders have also been roped in for the meeting, making the encounters interesting indeed.

I'm not too sure if management committee members were present at all the meetings between Pak Lah and the grassroot leaders. I suppose the party president want to have his say too and what better way to do it than to bring these leaders to the city for a private audience. It will also give a chance for the small-time leaders to ask the party president questions directly to him.

As a token of their attendance to these meetings, the grassroot chiefs were each given a prayer mat and were billeted at hotels near the PWTC. Not bad for an overnight meeting with The Boss, I'd say!

I reckon there will be more such meetings in the coming weeks, considering the party have thousands of branches nationwide. The branches will have their general meetings starting July and this will be followed by divisional ones. The party's national assembly will be held in December, which will feature the election of supreme council members.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Many not ok on petrol price increase

PETROL burns freely last night. Thousands of car owners lined up at every petrol station in the country with only one common objective - to fill their tanks before the petrol pump price increases to RM2.70 (petrol) and to RM2.58 (diesel).

I took a ride just to see how the people were reacting to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's announcement at 5pm yesterday. At one petrol station, I talked to car owners for about half an hour before the 12 midnight deadline.

Since the queue were long and non-stop, I reckon thousands of ringgit of petrol were burning unproductively as the car owners waited in line. A 78 sen raise for petrol price means almost a 41 per cent increase. As for diesel, the jump was almost 65 per cent.

Many motorists were emotional and vocal. They just wouldn't want to listen to the Government's standard response pertaining to the pump price. It was quite apparent to me that they were upset, angry and disappointed.

These are some of the comments I gathered:

* kerajaan kita tak berhati perut!
* tak boleh buat beransur-ansur kah?
* saya pakai kereta Perodua Kancil. Kenaikkan ini menjejaskan hidup saya
* kalau macam ni, macam mana nak pergi cuti dan jalan-jalan cari makan
* What! They think we are millionaires ah!
* I regret voting the Barisan Nasional and put them back into power
* Is this how they return our faith and trust?
* BN menang pilihanraya, rakyat menderita
* Memang betullah orang kata BN tu maknya Barang Naik!
* Kalau ya pun nak naikkan harga, takkan tak boleh buat berperingkat
* Dahlah naikkan harga minyak, RTM pula cuba nak bagi hati kita sedap tetapi mereka tak ikhlas
* Tak boleh pakailah dia ni!
* Kita kena ajar BN di pemilihan akan datang
* Menteri memang mudah cakap, tetapi kita rakyat biasa yang bisa
* Dengan cara macam ni BN harap nak kembali berkuasa di Pulau Pinang, Kedah, Perak dan Selangor? Pergi jalan dah!
* Kerajaan dah bayangkan nak naik harga, tetapi tak sangka sampai begini!
* Apa dah jadi?

I also received text messages, most of them not complimentary at all. A few were abusive and
rude. There were some colourful language too. Whatever the justification, the ordinary folks are not convinced that the whole exercise was done "in the best interest of the nation."

I wonder whether is this really so? Will things turn ugly in the ensuing days and weeks?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Will harsh truths feature at Umno retreat?

ABOUT a week ago, friends in Umno talked about a forthcoming retreat of the party's Supreme Council in the city. I've been told that the retreat will take place later this week at the Saujana, Subang.

A retreat is good, as long as everyone can talk freely and that firm decisions are made and follow-up actions be carefully drawn up for proper execution. Corporate bosses often have retreats where the senior management take a trip away from their headquarters to 'brainstorm' and chart 'the way forward.'

These are buzzwords commonly associated with such retreats. I know companies who spend a fair bit of money for this purpose. Venues, depending on the companies' financial strength varies from Club Med in Cherating to Phuket in Thailand and Bali, Indonesia.

Retreats also feature when Apec leaders meet for their conference. Heads of Governments would take a one-day break and be taken to a holiday spot for some relaxation and informal chats.

Apart from free discussions among colleagues, such retreats offer good opportunity for some bonding among team members. As for the Umno supreme council, the Saujana retreat would offer members an opportunity to zero in on what caused the party and the Barisan Nasional such heavy losses at the March 8 general election.

The success of such retreats would hinge greatly on who sets the agenda and pace of discussions. For Umno, issues are aplenty. The call in recent weeks for reforms within the party and plans for leadership change probably top the items for discussions.

Umno members refer these two as 'pelan pemulihan' and 'pelan peralihan.' Whether they would be discussed at the Saujana retreat is not something made public but I assume that they must be touched on at some point or other.

I expect the retreat will also touch on issues affecting party unity, relationship with BN components, its own internal bickering, the humiliating losses at the general election and, the party election in December this year.

As the election gets near, one can see battle lines being drawn. It may not be too obvious now, but the coming weeks would see partnerships being formed, pledges and punches traded and deals brokered.

There's much that ails the party. A single retreat won't do much unless some harsh truths are highlighted and acted upon. Some Umno leaders are still in a denial mode even when the national political landscape has changed greatly.