Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Selamat hari raya, maaf zahir batin

KURANG satu selendang tahun ini. Apabila Mak Tam meninggal dunia awal Ramadhan ini, secara automatik senerai membeli-belah kurang sehelai dua. Kalau dulu, aku belikan dia selendang atau kain baju kurung sepersalinan, kini, Al-Fatihah dan bunga rampai pengganti selendang dan baju raya.

Kira-kira enam bulan lalu, anaknya Mamat meninggal dunia, akibat serangan sakit jantung dan komplikasi lain. Maka itulah sebabnya Syawal tahun ini disambut serba sederhana. Keluarga Mak Tam kini diwarisi oleh anak sulongnya, Hamdan dan lima orang cucu.

Banyak kenangan manis dengan Mak Tam dan keluarganya. Aku berdoa agar rohnya disemadikan di tempat orang-orang yang soleh.

Malam ini aku akan mengepalai adik-beradik dan sanak saudara untuk bertakbir raya dari rumah ke rumah. Oleh kerana rumah-rumah ini berjauhan, kami terpaksa berkereta untuk menziarahi Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Putrajaya, Sg Long dan PJ Old Town.

Mungkin ada yang sebak sedikit malam ini, tetapi inilah dugaan yang Tuhan beri kepada kita dari masa ke masa. Dalam perjalanan hidup ini, kita tidak sunyi dari ujian dari Tuhan dan godaan dari syaitan.

Aku ucapkan Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin kepada semua pelayar blog ini. Jika terkasar bahasa, ampunkan saya; jika keterlaluan bicara, kemaafan jua yang dipinta.

PS: Ashraf, saya dah cabut kebel TV tu!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Pak Samad School of Journalism

ONE of the famous stories about the late Pak Samad was when he 'discouraged' Malaysia's most-illustrated cartoonist, Lat, from resigning from the NST. The story goes that Lat had written in saying he wanted to quit his reporter's job and move on to 'greener pastures.'

When the letter got to Pak Samad, he scribbled one of hs famous 'expletive deleted' and passed it back to Lat. That, apparenly, was the last of Lat's thoughts of quiting the newspaper. Lat went on to become our most-loved cartoonist as he won fame and glory.

Many people remember Pak Samad in their own and different ways. The Press Forum of Asia, once known as the Press Foundation of Asia, this morning unveiled its plan to set up the The A Samad Ismail Foundation and School of Journalism.

I first mentioned this in my blog a few days after Pak Samad died in early Ramadhan. This morning, I took the idea a step forward at a Press Conference held at Wisma Bernama. Now that the announcement has been made public, I must really work hard to get it off the ground as soon as possible.

The PFA has moved from Manila to Kuala Lumpur and is now re-establishing itself as a media activist in this part of the world. The proposed Foundation intends to work with other like-minded media bodies, including universities and literary associations.

Pak Samad wasn't just an extraodinary journalist and editor. He was also a novelist and story-teller, producing numerous books on journalism and work of fiction. This foundation intends to bridge Pak Samad's contributions from both worlds.

Since this most famous son of Malaysian journalism was also well-known in other parts of Asia, the foundation intends to work with other media-related bodies in Indonesia, Thaland, the Phillippines, Singapore and elsewhere.

We hope to offer scholarships to worthy students of journalsm, especially the practitioners of the craft which Pak Samad so dearly loved and served. Apart from courses to be taught by seasoned journalists in and around Asia, the foundation also hope to offer fellowships to deserving scribes, bloggers and promoters of news portals.

I welcome ideas and feedback via ahmadt51@gmail.com and ahmad@ahmadtalib.org

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Has Hishammuddin ditched Khairy?

LET'S take an interlude from senior politics. Let's take a breather and pop in to the upcoming contest for Umno youth top post. Several well-known faces have offered themselves as candidates - I recall KJ, Mukhriz, Khir Toyo.

There could be more. But I'm curious as to why present chief Hishammuddin Tun Hussein didn't endorse KJ's public announcement when the young lad offered himself a few days ago.

Wasn't it Hishammuddin who insisted on KJ being made his deputy about three years ago. If my memory serves me right, Hishammuddin told the media then that he wanted KJ because the PM's son-in-law has potential, is brilliant and would be an asset to the movement.

Has Hishammuddin had a change of heart? tsk tsk...

Formula to salvage Abdullah's credibility

OF TODAY'S announcements by UMNO, the one that interests most people is whether Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will defend his post as party president, or step aside and allow members to chose their new leader.

The decision is expected in less than three weeks time, by Oct 9 to be precise. While everything seems to suggest that Abdullah may not seek re-election, it will all depend on whether he gets sufficient show of real support from grassroot leaders, ie, the division chiefs.

The 191 Umno divisions have until Nov 9 to stage their annual meetings from Oct 9.

If he gets a reliable indication from at least 58 divisions, Abdullah can then decide whether to stand his ground and defend his position. But from my personal standpoint, I don't see him seeking re-election even if he gets the 58 nominations.

As Umno president, even with 58 nominations as a given handicap by way of quota, Abdullah may still find it difficult, if not impossible, to offer himself as a candidate.

Legally speaking, he has the right to contest if he gets the 58 required. But morally, an Umno president not getting nominations from every division, is less than acceptable and will be seen as almost a rejection.

With the mood on the ground as it is, Abdullah may well be advised not to seek re-election and be contented with holding on to his top post till March '09 when the deferred assembly is held.

Some may argue that the compromise, if it can be called one, will render Abdullah ineffective between now and March. This need not be so if he uses the remaining months to dig in and do his work.

The Umno supreme council which met today seemed quite satisfied with the decision. Senior council members have even begun describing Abdullah as unselfish, magnanimous even!

Abdullah, who is BN chairman and Prime Minister, have been under siege to step down. He has been under fire from many quarters, not least from his Cabinet members and colleagues in the supreme council.

Not every council member is happy with the decision. Under the circumstances, and mindful of Umno's tradition and culture, this is perhaps the most reasonable decision that can be made or expected.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Amended transition plan not welcomed?

THE special Umno Supreme Council meeting on Friday morning will be a test of resolve for council members. It's obvious that a few top party leaders believe they have a winning compromise to enable Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi remain as president for another year or so, and avoid a potentially embarassing situation in the end-year party poll.

Abdullah and Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak has agreed on a transition plan which will see the former handing over party leadership to Najib in 2010. The plan was approved by the supreme council but not by the members at large.

The grass roots want Abdullah to leave now, having been increasingly unhappy at the manner in which Abdullah handles the party and country. Humiliating defeats at five states in the March 8 general election has led a groundswell to build against the party president and BN chairman.

Abdullah's detractors, which include division chiefs and local warlords, are sure that Abdullah will not even be able to defend his post when the party holds it election in mid-December. His deputy, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, is seen as a serious challenger who can topple Abdullah in December.

It's partly against this background that the special supreme council meeting is held. Abdullah, sensing the groundswell, could be the first Umno president unable to get sufficient nominations to defend his post. He needs at least 58 of the 191 divisions to nominate him as president.

On the other hand, Najib's supporters have been going around the country persuading divisional chiefs to nominate their boss. From the look of things, and based on rough estimates, Najib may very well command at least 2/3 of the nomination and force the issue on Abdullah.

Vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Pagoh MP, is backing Najib to go for the top post. Muhyiddin himself, his boys are saying, are confident of getting almost 150 (if not more) nominations to bid for the deputy presidency.

All this goes to show that Najib is more than capable of defeating Abdullah when the time comes. My understanding is that Najib prefers the top post be 'handed over' to him instead of him 'taking over' (read wresting it) from Abdullah's hand.

Party insiders say Abdullah wants the council members to amend the transition plan whereby he leaves the party next year, and passes the baton to Najib. No need to contest, no need to campaign, no need to spend money, no need for members to have a say in deciding who should be their party president.

Some cynics even whispered - no need for democracy too!

Abdullah's plea to amend the transition plan is not likely to get unanimous approval from council members. The opposite may be true - they may become even more vocal and critical of Abdullah should an amended transition plan is tabled.

And if Abdullah managed to convince Najib to go with this amendment, Najib himself face the risk of being taken to task by senior party colleagues. Would Najib want to incur the wrath of divisional chiefs by endorsing Abdullah's amended plan?

Najib's supporters are not keen on the plan at all. Siding Abdullah at this point in time is risky business, the supporters say. In fact, many council members also share the same view in private.

Meanwhile, Umno's legal eagles have been poring over the party's Constitution to find provisions which can support the postponement of divisional meetings (due to start on Oct 9) and the general assembly which is scheduled for Dec 16.

One of them told me that this can be done, provided the Registrar of Societies is consulted and his written approval obtained. Some sources said Abdullah's plan includes deferring the general assembly to June next year, a deadline he has set for himself to step down.

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the last legal date for the general assembly to be held is end of March. Any other time beyond March requires the expressed approval from the RoS.

What some council members find disconcerting is the ease with which the top leaders want to change the ground rules to suit their whims and fancies. This is one area where some heated debate is expected. I won't be surprised if the likes of Muhyiddin and Shafie Afdal, the Semporna MP, were to question the wisdom of the proposal.

Everyone will also be keen to see who will table the proposal - Najib or Abdullah. All eyes will also be on Najib for another reason. At last week's supreme council meeting, it is learnt that Najib, ever the gentleman, stopped further criticisms against Abdullah, much to the chagrin of some council members.

Abdullah himself is not without allies in the council. It will be interesting to see if the same allies will come to his aid at this special meeting. I hope nur Ramadhan will be the guiding light to bring Umno back to its senses.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mana lagu raya beb?

MANA lagu raya beb? Ini soalan dari kawan yang berniaga di sebuah kedai gunting rambut di Jalan Tunku Abd Rahman. Raya dah dekat benar tapi radio tak mau hidangkan lagu raya?

Naikkanlah 'mood' raya sikit, kata kawan tukang gunting ni. Berniaga tak seberapa, barang mahal, politik tak menentu! Kalau ada lagu raya, taklah rasa hambar aje! Betul juga tu|

Najib's UN trip off - handover imminent?

WHAT compels Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak to cancel his scheduled trip to the United Nations General Assembly? We are all very curious. Especially after it came after an earlier cancellation of visits to the middle east.

Is it really because of his new job as Finance Minister? And that he has to strategies in managing the country's economy in the light of global economic problems? Could it be the much-talked about Umno transition plan? Or some other pressing issues of national proportion? Or, is it the on-going discussions (read negotiations) concerning the national leadership?

I believe, and many may agree, that it's all of the above!

To forgo his first-ever address to the UNGA, Najib must have some very important reasons for doing so. The cancellation has met with his boss' approval.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi clearly concurred with Najib's decision to skip the UNGA. But can't Abdullah manage the economy while Najib is away? After all, Najib is only deputy prime minister (at least at this point in time), and he won't be the one tasked with making final decisions on matters of national interest, should they arise.

I believe something major and very important is brewing. Word from the grapevine indicated some very serious discussions (again, read negotiations) are taking place between Najib and Abdullah regarding Umno's leadership vis-a-vis the much-argued transition plan.

Umno leaders, especially the senior ones, have been meeting among themselves, and when summoned, with Abdullah, in the last few nights. In fact, state leaders have been breaking fast in KL these last few days as intense discussion goes on behind closed doors regarding the plan.

After yesterday's Cabinet meeting, the UMNO management committee sat down and discussed serious party matters. I understand this wasn't the usual monthly meeting. Najib lead discussions as he's chairman of the committee.

Little is known about the meeting's outcome. But speculation is rife that the transition plan was extensively discussed. My guess is that Najib updated the management committee about his one-to-one discussion with the PM on several occasions, where, correct me if I'm wrong, some form of time frame were being worked out.

The mood among certain sections of the Umno leadership is one of cautious optimism - the handover is likely to take place much earlier than 2010. Those close to Najib said his body language today was one of quiet confidence, prompting me to ask this question - is the handover really imminent?

Grass root leaders close to the party hierarchy believe so. But I'm not too sure about that. Abdullah is not about to just throw in the towel just because his detractors urged him to! He has his share of advisers who are of the opinion that Abdullah should stand and fight.

Believe me, some high-stake mind game and political one-upmanship is going on...

PS - Is there any truth to the speculation that the party's divisional meetings set to start on Oct 9 for one month may be delayed?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

PM to extract Cabinet pledge of support

COME daytime, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi chairs his weekly Cabinet meeting. The Prime Minister will lead or listen to matters raised on issues affecting Government and national concerns.

But at this point in time, Cabinet members will also have serious political issues at the back of their mind. The political survival of some of them are at stake when party elections commence soon.

MCA ministers will face their delegates ahead of their Umno counterparts, whose wheeling and dealing have caused considerable anxiety throughout the country. It won't surprise me if some serious deals are hammered on the sidelines of the Cabinet meeting.

In the past couple of days, Abdullah may have been buoyed by open declarations of support from Umno Kelantan and Penang. From published reports, we read that the states have pledged to nominate Abdullah as party president.

Abdullah is not one easily convinced. He has seen enough examples of promises made and broken at the drop of a hat. Non-delivery of nominations as pledged by the state bosses could mean the end of the road for people like Tan Sri Annuar Musa, Kelantan Umno chief.

I believe some private discussions have intensified in the last couple of days. Didn't someone report about a long meeting Abdullah had with lieutenants and advisers that lasted into the wee hours of the morning on Monday?

Today's Cabinet meeting gives Abdullah the perfect avenue to extract pledges of support or nominations from his colleagues. I'm told Cabinet members from Selangor would lead the charge to ensure Abdullah gets the 30 per cent quota (58 nominations) to defend his post.

Eyes will also be watching how the DPM, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, behaves at the Cabinet meeting. Would he be making a statement of support to his boss and stick to the transition plan? Or would he give more signal that he's pushing for change as widely speculated.

If I'm Abdullah, I'll be anxious to get Najib to express support and dismiss any notion of challenging me. Talk on the ground is that Najib will get enough nominations to challenge Abdullah for the top post. Or will Najib declare that he'll be happy to bide his time and defend his number two post instead?

Or will Abdullah demand a deeper explanation from Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for his remarks made in Singapore? Or will the PM chastise the International Trade and Industry Minister?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Abdullah starts counting the numbers

DATUK Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's decision to "stand and fight" has begun in earnest. Yesterday, the Umno president and PM was in Kelantan to break fast and meet members of the Kelantan Umno Liaison Committee.

On Sunday, Abdullah was in Johor Baru. He'll be all over the country to meet as many Umno division chiefs as possible to tell his side of the story, ie, to try and defend his post as Umno's number one chief.

Many senior members of the supreme council have told him to forget the idea of defending his post in the December party elections. In fact, many of them told him to step down and pass the baton to his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, ahead of the transition plan.

Under the plan, Abdullah is supposed to quit in June 2010 and pass the leadership to Najib. Many council members, grassroot leaders and ordinary members believe that 2010 is too late and could spell big problems for Umno and the Barisan Nasional come the next general election.

At the last council meeting, Abdullah was told to step aside and avoid a potentially-embarassing contest in December. Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has offered himself to be nominated, and expressed confidence that he would get the 30 per cent quota needed to qualify to challenge for the post (ie at least 58 nominations out of 191).

Talk is widespread that Abdullah won't be able to get sufficient nominations to contest. Grassroot leaders have voiced open endorsement for Najib, with vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the most popular choice for the deputy's post.

Hence, it's all in the numbers. As the incumbent, and under normal circumstances, Abdullah should have no problem in getting more than ample nominations. But this time around, the tide is seen to be not with him.

Council members told him he may not qualify to contest, basing their opinion on the feedback obtained from division chiefs all over the country. The BN/Umno defeat in five states in the March 8 election and Abdullah's leadership (or lack of it) style are often quoted as the main reasons for the decline in Abdullah's popularity.

Abdullah has ignored the warning from council members and has decided to meet as many divisional chiefs as possible before divisional meeting starts on Oct 9. Abdullah's plan is simple and direct. He has also told state chiefs, whom he appointed, to play their part in ensuring he gets sufficient nominations.

This, I'm told, has put the state chiefs in an awkward position. They can lay out the plans to division chiefs, but this does not mean the lower chiefs will listen and heed the plan. The lower chiefs, it now appears, have a mind of their own and have often voiced their displeasure with Abdullah.

Which explains why Abdullah is starting to count the numbers - those for him, and otherwise.

Questions: Can Abdullah truly influence state chiefs? Can state chiefs then influence the divisional and lower chiefs? How much can these chiefs withstand the pressure (and temptations) that are sure to come between now and their own divisional meetings?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

UMNO minister meets Abdullah tonight?

A SMALL group of Supreme Council members led by a Cabinet minister is believed to be meeting Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi tonight to "talk about the transition plan."

The objectve of tonight's meeting is to persuade the Umno president to step down and avoid a contest in the mid-December party election. Many council members said they fear Abdullah may not get anough nominations to defend his post.

Sources within the council said Abdullah seemed inclined to make way for his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, but yesterday took a hardened stand when persuaded by his supporters to "stand and fight."

Abdullah's supporters are on the ground trying to get an accurate reading of possible nominations. Abdullah's decision whether to quit or step aside would partly depend on this reading.

Based on today's mood, Abdullah cannot assume that nominations for him is automatic. Abdullah's detractors are confident that nomination for the incumbent will be hard to come by.

Divisional meetings start on Nov 9. A candidate must get at least 30 per cent of nominations to qualify for the contest.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Abdullah told to "stand and fight"

SEVERAL members of the UMNO supreme council are backing Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and urged the party president to stand his ground and defend his post at all costs.

I understand that the move to encourage Abdullah to fight all the way is led by party Sec Gen Datuk Teuku Adnan, and assisted by a state liaison chief and another supreme council member from a northern state.

The state chief told members of the state liaison committee not to be influenced by unfounded talk that the party president is under siege. Instead, the state chief insisted that Abdullah will get the nominations to defend his post come mid December.

In the past 24 hours, party operators and ground leaders have been busy meeting in small groups to push their agenda through. On Thursday, many supreme council members spoke out advising Abdullah to step down and not wait for 2010 to execute the transition plan endorsed two months ago by the council.

The supreme council members who spoke out on Thursday believed that Abdullah won't be getting the required number of nominations to defend his post. A contestant for the number one post needs 58 nominations in order to qualify to make a bid for the presidency.

Those pushing for leadership change are also on the ground, meeting division chiefs and re-inforcing the change agenda. The division chiefs are most sought after because they have considerable say and can influence nominations.

Divisional meetings starts on Oct 9.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Execute transition plan now, Pak Lah told

WHEN very little information comes out from yesterday's meeting of the UMNO supreme council, we all know that much was said, discussed, debated and argued during the long meeting.

This was the council's last meeting before Hari Raya Puasa and the first since the announcement that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak swapped Cabinet portfolios.

Words that filtered out from the party headquarters at the PWTC were few and far between. The press conference which was held after the meeting was an anti-climax. The press corp had expected more news pertaining to the transition plan, but was instead made to go back and write only about the sacking of four party members who contested the March 8 general election on different platforms.

Scan today's newspapers and there was hardly much hard news on the meeting. Today, word got around that Najib had deferred his departure for an overseas trip to next week, apparently heeding his friends' advised that it's best he remain in the country for now.

The main item on the agenda was a revisit of the transition plan which had earlier been agreed by the supreme council to take place in 2010. The issue resurfaced with much urgency when vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin spoke about it on the sidelines of an international conference in Singapore.

Leading the call for a review of the plan, Muhyiddin insisted that the execution date be brought forward. The veterans group in Umno under Mubarak rallied behind Muhyiddin and the matter is now the subject of intense argument within the council and everywhere else where you find Umno members having their private caucuses.

One source said top party leader/s came under severe criticisms. There were calls for immediate execution of the transition plan, meaning Abdullah should make way for Najib as soon as possible in the interest of the party.

Many points were raised to back this call: delaying it could subject the party to more stress and cause much damage; delaying it would strengthen the opposition; delaying it would also heighten the political uncertainty that ails the country now.

The majority of council members were inclined to persuade Abdullah to step aside. In fact, some even hinted to him that he may find it very embarassing if he fails to secure sufficient nominations to defend his post! (One needs at least 30 per cent nominations to be eligible to bid for the post of president. Party election is in mid December).

The Umno divisional meetings start on Nov 9 and last for about one month. This is when nominations are filed. I recall some years back when the late Tun Ghafar Baba faced what was perhaps his biggest political embarassment when he couldn't secure sufficient nominations to defend his post of deputy president.

His adversary then was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who, in dramatic fashion, criss-crossed the country to drum up support and take significant steps towards realising his dream of becoming Umno president, and, Prime Minister. The rest, as we all know, is history.

Pak Lah had said that he would defend his post, and Najib his. Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah insisted that he has enough nominations to make a bid for the top post. Ku Li, as the Gua Musang MP is fondly referred to, has been busy meeting divisional chiefs in trying to secure the 30 per cent rule.

His backers are whispering that he has the support of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, once a bitter foe when the two slugged it out in 1987. Dr Mahathir won by only 43 votes.

Muhyiddin and others who share his views believe that any delay in changing the party leadership will cause Umno to deteriorate, surely and quickly . Allies in the Barisan Nasional have been making veil threats that a weak Umno would cripple the BN. Expect a change in federal government at the next general election if nothing concrete is done quickly to restore faith and order in Umno and the BN.

In the next few days, Umno leaders will be huddled in various corners seeking to find a dignified way out of their present predicament. The call for Abdullah to make way is getting louder and with increasing frequency.

A Government radio talk show where listeners called in to voice their opinion had a healthy airing yesterday. The transition plan and the fuel price were the two hot topics presented. Despite the PM's orders to everyone to stop talking about the transition plan, the opposite is happening.

Can Abdullah withstand the mounting pressure for him to step down? Can he draw upon his deputy's support to stop the tide? Is Najib willing to take the risk of siding with Abdullah, knowing the guns would turn to him if he does so? We need to figure this out over the weekend.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Abdullah buying Najib's loyalty?

YESTERDAY's announcement made PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that he has passed the Finance Ministry to his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, is being discussed almost everywhere today.

Najib is generally seen as a better choice to head the ministry. He may not win any award like Abdullah did when the latter took over in 2004, but Najib appears to have a better grasp of economic and financial issues compared to many of his cabinet colleagues.

On the ground, the Pak Lah-Najib watchers have analysed the swap deal and came up with all sorts of interpretations. The UMNO chaps particularly see the move as a step in the right direction, but maintained a rather cynical view of the PM's real intention.

An Umno member in his late 30s said: "I think the PM is trying to buy Najib's loyalty. By giving Najib the finance ministry, the PM hope Najib will not challenge him at the Umno election in December."

Another young member who holds a junior post at the branch level said: "This is a half measure. Pak Lah should get it over and done with by passing the baton to Najib as the PM."

If the PM had thought that the move would quell the unrest of many Umno members, he would be surprised to see that it's not as simple as that. When the PM made the announcement he insisted that the transition plan made by him and Najib remains as it is - that he quit in June 2010 and pass the baton to Najib.

He did say that he may quit earlier, but gave no details as to what would compel him to do so. Mubarak president Tan Sri Abu Zahar remains adamant that the hand over should be now and not in 2010.

Everyone now wait for today's Supreme Council meeting. Many expect the transition plan be discussed again. Vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has openly demanded that the changeover be made sooner than 2010.

What will be Najib's reaction to all this? Will he stand solidly with his boss and not budge from June 2010 regime change deadline? An intriguing piece of news reporting on the NST Online has triggered much discussion.

NST online carried one line quoting Najib that he would not want to accept any nomination from divisions for the post of Umno president. The online version had added this one liner to the rest of the story which, in actual fact, is picked from Bernama.

The original Bernama version made no mention of the one line! Is someone trying to pull a fast one on Najib? Or is someone trying to make Pak Lah look bad?

Judging from statements made by the majority of the PM's Cabinet colleagues on this latest move, they are all in support of Najib's new post. But in private, a good number of them continue to express dissatisfaction with Pak Lah's brand of leadership.

As it is, a good number of them have already begun to gravitate around Najib, knowing that that Pekan MP will be the one calling the shots from 2010 onwards, or even earlier as some suggests.

An iftar at Najib's official residence on the past two consecutive nights show just how much gravitation is going on. Some guests had to turn away because they couldn't find seats. Blogger Ahirudin "Rocky Bru" Attan is one of them, I'm told.

The Umno grassroots may have very little say in Cabinet appointments. But they seemed to have found their voice and now have a substantial say as to who they want to be their party leader.

The supreme council may have endorsed the transition plan but there is a growing belief that this may not tally with what the grassroots want. Today's supreme council meeting is expected to be heated.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cabinet reshuffle on the card?


DPM Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak made Finance Minister.


IS there a Cabinet reshuffle in town? I've been getting calls asking if I've heard anything of that sort! Well...

It's best we all wait for whatever official announcement that will surely come if that's true.. It's always better to wait for something official rather than speculating who and what ministry/ies are involved.

In any case, if there's going to be any reshuffling, it's the work and prerogative of the Prime Minister. It's not yet known whether the reshuffling is triggered by the resignation of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim or the current political developments.

Let's wait awhile more!

New CEO-blogger DASHing about!

YET another CEO joined the world of blogging. A friend of mine, Dash, had just launched his blog aimed at sharing ideas and promoting the entrepreneurial spirit. No wonder he's been very quiet in the past couple of days!

Drop in at unleashingideasdash.blosgpot.com and you'll see what I mean.

Welcome aboard Dash! Dash owns an outfit specialising in knowledge enhancement and is one of the more IT-savvy chaps in town. Not enough with his Apple computer, which he drags all over town, Dash also arms himself with a Blackbery and the inevitable Iphone.

By entering the blogging world, Dash now goes into a new adventure which hopefully takes him on a world of discovery - an endless journey actually. All the best Dash!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Let's honour Pak Samad properly!

IT'S more than a week since Pak Samad died. After I wrote a piece on an interview he gave to the Malaysian Press Institute a couple of years ago, I realised that that's simply not enough.

I joined many people in paying tribute to Pak Samad, the icon of Malaysian journalism before and after. Some of the articles written by fellow bloggers and journalists about the Old Man of Malaysian Journalism are truly inspiring. They strike a chord in our hearts.

Having said that, I honesty believe that much more should be done to honour Pak Samad. As I said in my article posted a few days ago, Pak Samad lives in the hearts and blood of most journalists. He has that kind of influence on most scribes, young and old, male and female.

Let's start a foundation for Pak Samad, or an institution dedicated to the pursuit of journalistic excellence to give substantial meaning to his legacy. Writing about him, and in rememberance of Pak Samad, is most welcomed. No doubt about that.

Now let's take that higher. I've spoken to a few influential people in and outside journalism. They all like the idea! Wouldn't this be a meaningful way to remember him by, to honour him?

We can start small. We can offer scholarships to students pursuing journalism and/or mass communications. We can even start a Pak Samad School of Journalism to guide and teach talented boys and girls to become probing and devoted journalists, who can stay the course despite whatever challenges or temptations that come their way.

I'll post updates as and when I get something tangible to share. As it is, I'm most encouraged by the support this small idea has generated. If you have ideas to share or suggestions to make, do not hesitate. Write your comments ASAP.

Join me as we seek to honour one of Malaysian journalism's finest and loyal servant.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Will Zaid also advice Najib to quit?

DATUK Zaid Ibrahim, a first-timer in the Malaysian Cabinet, has 'advised' his senior colleague, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to resign from his portfolio if he's unhappy with his boss, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The defacto Law Minister also 'advised' Abdullah to sack Muhyiddin, an UMNO vice president, for publicly suggesting that Abdullah should not wait till June 2010 to put into effect the Umno transition plan which has been endorsed by the party supreme council and subsequently by the Cabinet.

Zaid's comments were carried in today's newspapers. I scanned the newspapers but didsn't see if Zaid had also commented on deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who suggested that the transition be put to Umno members for their views.

Najb's statement is a departure from his previous stand that the transition plan should be supported. Today, Najib's statement had emboldened other Umno leaders to also suggest the plan be tabled at divisional meetings which begin next month.

If this is done, there is wide speculation that the plan could be abandoned in favour of an earlier deadline, preferably in December when the party holds in election of office bearers.

Zaid made no reference to Najib's statement which is also a clear sign that the latter is having second thoughts about the transition plan. Bear in mind that Najib is the immediate beneficiary if the plan is executed.

Zaid's inclusion into the Cabinet into the Cabinet was not via the electoral process. Instead, he was made a Senator and was later appointed to the Cabinet, much to the chagrin of other UMNO MPs who feel that they have a genuine claim to the Cabinet.

Zaid and Muhyiddin had a previous running in. Earlier this year, Muhyiddin had questioned the wisdom of Zaid's reforms of the judiciarty without first of all briefing the Cabinet.

It remains to be seen if Zaid's comments would encourage Cabinet ministers to echo the same sentiments. It looks like the demarcation line is being drawn within the Cabinet, and this may not necessarily be good or productive.

Abdullah, using his prerogative, can terminate Muhyiddin's position quite easily. But would that be a wise thing to do? And would he take the same route regarding Najib? Would the PM kick these two out from their portfolios and set an example to others who may offer another view, and not necessarily a dissenting one?

Judging from today's sentiments from ordinar members after they had read the reports, sacking Muhyiddin can be costly to the party and it's top leader. Divisional heads will certainly be reviewing their position in the wake of the development in the last few days.

I expect other Cabinet members and Menteris Besar or chief ministers to also be giving their 2-sen worth of views on this matter. Are they with Abdullah, or are they with Muhyiddin and Najib.

Whatever their choices, the battle lines are being drawn. This time, it could have a telling effoct not only in Umno but in the country as well. The Umno party leadership
could very well be 'decided' at the divisional meetings which begins next month rather than in December.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Najib, Muhyiddin speak with one voice?

UMNO's transition plan which is supposed to take effect in 2010, is under scrutiny again. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, an UMNO Vice President, said 2010 is too long a wait and prefers an earlier date, preferably as soon as possible.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who stands to benefit directly from the plan, said it's better that the date be decided by members via the party's divisional annual meetings which begin next month.

The Umno supreme council have agreed on the transition plan for execution in 2010. Najib and Muhyiddin are key members of the council, led by party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Najib's and Muhyiddin's statement are seen to differ from the supreme council's stand. And this has certanly set tongues wagging as Umno members and watchers seek to go beyond the statements made by these two.

It was sparked by Muhyiddin's remarks made in Singapore a few days ago where he said 2010 is too long a wait for the plan to be executed. This had incurred the wrath of Abdullah who expressed "surprise" that a member of his Cabinet had made such a remark.

When confronted by reporters today, Muhyiddin said he's willing to take the risk after making the statement. He knows very well that Abdullah, as Prime Minister, can exercise his prerogative is as far as Muhyiddin's position in the Cabinet is concerned.

Najib's vews were also sought on the Muhyiddin's Singapore statement. If Abdullah had thought that he would get a solid endorsement from Najib, he was also disappointed. Instead, Najib said that it's best that the transition plan be put to the members for them to give their views on the matter!

Contrary to Najib's earlier statement, the deputy president has now uttered something totally different. It sounds as if Najib is having second thoughts about his support of the plan!

Question - is Najib and Muhyiddin speaking as a team in the run-up to the Umno election at the end of the year? Can it be an indication that the oft-talked about "pact" between the two are being revived?

When Najib declared support for the transition plan a couple of months ago, he was seen to have ditched Muhyiddin and rallied behind Abdullah. Najib's remarks today is a clear deviation from his open declarartion made months ago!

Muhyiddin has made known his stand on this quite often. He had been vocal in demanding the party take concrete actions to reform the party or face bigger defeat in the next general election. Muhyiddin has been consistent in this matter.

The Umno hierarchy down the line has been abuzzed with the remarks from these two. It could signal that whatever "pact" they had before has not been fully buried. Umno rank and file who have been disillusioned with the party leadership appeared to have woken up from the slumber and has began debating the transition plan with renewed vigour.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pak Samad: "Editors tak berani..."

I WAS Chairman of the Malaysian Press Institute when it celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 2005. I remember the occassion clearly because of an interview Tan Sri A Samad Ismail gave to a special souvenir programme issued to commemorate the event.

I assigned two ex-journalists from Jalan Riong to do the special interview. In the article, Mior and Manan highlighted Pak Samad's views of the media then. The icon for Malaysian journalism made several typically candid statements based on his close involvement of the industry which he loved so much, and in return, owes him a lifetime of dedication.

Pak Samad gave some few choice quotes that speak volume of his perception of the media. The interview was more of the journalists' chat with their mentor, with an icon whose influence on Malaysian journalism will continue to be seen and felt for a long time to come.

I must share excerpts of the interview here. I don't recall any newspaper lifting the interview to be published in their newspapers or magazine. The interview was minimally edited because I wanted those reading it to read it in its most original version. Here goes:

MPI: Apakah pandangan Pak Samad mengenai media massa hari ini?
PS: Tak exciting, no challenge.

MPI: Adakah Pak Samad masih mengikuti perkembangan persuratkhabaran tanahair?
PS: Ya

MPI: Apakah akhbar yang Pak Samad baca?
PS: Masih baca (New) Straits Times, Star, Sun, Berita Harian dan Utusan (Malaysia)

MPI: Apa pandangan Pak Samad tentang akhbar sekarang?
PS: Tak ada perkembangan. They don't go in-depth. Selapis sahaja.

MPI: Bagaimana dengan kebebasan akhbar?
PS: Dulu tak ada interference, lebih-lebih lagi Utusan Melayu.

MPI: Adakah akhbar sekarang dapat memainkan peranan mereka sebagai "watchdog" dengan berkesan?
PS: Ada limit to what the press can do. You are not privy to (government's) secret information.

MPI: Kenapa pengedaran banyak akhbar tidak dapat meningkat seperti diharapkan sedangkan akhbar China terus berkembang?
PS: They don't provide the kind of news people want to read. Pembaca anggap akhbar sebagai "guidance." Tak harus terlalu membelenggu, mengongkong. Public pay for information, tapi papers depend on Government news.

MPI: Bagaimana pula dengan media yang cuba mengawal maklumat?
PS: Ini bahaya

MPI: Berita bagaimana yang harus dilaporkan?
PS: Public grievances banyak, yang dilapor yang remeh temeh. Political analysis tak banyak. Mungkin suasana sekarang tak conducive. Workers movement weak, opposition (parties) tak ada modal, NGO pun tak berapa effective. Editors tak berani face the wrath of the Government.

MPI: Banyak media kecilkan saiz akhbar, kononnya pembaca lebih suka saiz kecil, lebih mudah dibaca. Apa komen Pak Samad?
PS: The real issue is content.

MPI: Apa tanggapan Pak Samad mengenai wartawan muda sekarang?
PS: Reporters banyak terumbang-ambing sebab leadership kurang.

MPI: Tapi sekarang kebanyakannya ada ijazah atau diploma.
PS: Budak-budak ni, when it comes to practical, they are lost. Higher learning
institutions should work closely with companies in preparing the syllabus.

MPI: Banyak akhbar juga menghadapi masaalah mendapat iklan. Mengapa agaknya?
PS: Iklan terlalu mahal

MPI: Iklan TV lagi mahal
PS: Tapi orang lebih suka tengok TV!

MPI: Pak Samad masuk penjara beberapa kali, akhir sekali 1976> Adakah kerana tulisan Pak Samad?
PS: (Tan Sri) Ghazali Shafie tak suka aku. Diab tangkap aku.

MPI: Bagaimana hubungan Pak Samad dengan Tan Sri Ghazali?
PS: Sekarang ok. Aku jumpa dia beberapa kali.

MPI: Apa yang paling menggembirakan Pak Samad dalam kerjaya sebagai wartawan?
PS: Masa aku dekat Utusan dan kemudian Berita Harian. BH dari nothing to a leading newspaper in the country. Dulu dianggap "carbon copy" NST. Ini period paling challenging but rewarding.

MPI: Any regrets?
PS: Pada aku kerjaya wartawan exciting. No regrets walaupun gaji kecil.

Anyone involved in the media business should take a deep breadth and mull over Pak Samad's words. He may have departed from the face of the earth, but Pak Samad lives in all right-thinking journalists and wanna-journos! In truth, Pal Samad is the benchmark for Malaysian journalism, very much for the future as well as in the past.

May you rest in peace Pak Samad.

Moga-moga rohnya disemadikan bersama mereka yang mengikuti jalan yang lurus yang Engkau telah tunjukkan. Amin.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I'm connected again, no thanks to Telco

NO thanks to the powers that be, I've got my Expresscard back in service. It came back unannounced, unaided. Somehow, somewhere, my prayers were answered. I got the service back about 11am Sunday.

With this, I no longer need to go to the Internet cafe and pay between RM2 and RM3 to blog. I've made the following conclusions though:

1. The telco customer service department is a sham. After registering my grievance with them, and after they promised to help me resolve my complaint, nobody called.
2. Unless I'm proven otherwise, the telco is very good at making empty promises, which in turn are meant to be broken.
3. If they do call, I expect them to say this: "Thank you for using our Expresscard. And thank you for your patience. Our investigation into your case is finished but we found that you are the only with this complaint. Yours is an isolated case. Should you encounter other problems in the future, do not hesitate to call us. It's all part of our territory. Selamat berpuasa."
4. I may opt to switch to another telco, but I'm not too sure I'll be getting a much better service.
5. Generally, Malaysian consumers are being taken for a ride. Period.

The whole episode reminds me of a cartoon strip in a newspaper. When a customer personally went to the complaints department of a big electronic manufacturer next to the penthouse on the 27th floor, the pretty receptionist at the counter asked the complainant to enter door number 4 down the corridor.

The complainant did so quickly. He rushed to open door number 4 and stepped into a void. Paramedics were called to extricate his body on the roof of the balcony just above the ground floor.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Telco Chiefs - don't take us for granted!

Dear Telco Chief(s),

I write to you in exasperation. Really so. And I write to you as a personal appeal regarding your much-advertised and much-touted connectivity services. I have a couple of grievances to share with you. There are a few more actually but these two are top of the list.

Some months ago, encouraged by our friends, I bought an Expresscard which promised me Internet connection on the go. I was told, and proven right, that I can have my daun pisang lunch at Raju in PJ and could surf the Net at will. I could also update my blog while waiting for my teh tarik.

I did both, successfully. I even did it when making a stop at one of the highway rest areas. Heck, I also did it whenever I wanted to. Well, at least till these last few days.

Chief, I began encountering serious problems from Merdeka Day till now. I checked my bill just in case I didn't pay up and if the line was barred. I went to your service and sales outlet in Bangsar and made enquiries. I was old my line is good, it wasn't barred. I was told to call the service line, which I did.

I was told a "case" would be made for me, meaning my grievance would be handled by an expert. Chief, I'll give your guys a couple more days before escalating it to you. But I must admit I did "drop" your name when I spoke to your girl.

For someone with such dependence on the Net, I found my patience was really tested these last few days. What with doing family errands and emergencies to tackle in between trying to update my blog. Your Expresscard failed me Chief! Miserably so, I must say.

I'm hopeful that service will be restored. These last few days, I took my Vaio and Expresscard to various parts of the house in trying to get the best possible connection - the living room, the patio, the kitchen, my bedroom, the garden and my rumah kayu office. All to no avail!

What happen actually?

As for grievance number two, I must complain about the number of drop calls I've been experiencing. For my friends who are not in the know about the term, drop call simply means your call suddenly ends as you pass certain areas, be it on the highway or right in urban KL! I'm not sure if Telco Chiefs suffer the same fate as we ordinary mortals.

Can't something be done Chief? If I were to believe your advertisements, I shouldn't have any drop call whatsoever. You fellas claim that this is your territory or that you provide the best connectivity on the highway! If you ask me Chief, that's sheer bull!

I thought that your industry is a lot more competitive now, and that this would mean you guys would be giving a lot more attention to service to your customers who in turn contribute to your personal and corporate well-being! Or have you guys lost sight of this and instead choose to ignore your paying customers?

Or are you taking all of us for granted?

I doubt if any of the above is true. But give me reasons to justify my faith in all of you. Please lah! By the way, I'm posting this letter at an Internet cafe in a small town up north.

Anyway, I hope you won't feel offended at my letter. My friends urged me to carry a placard in front of your office (which perhaps is not a bad idea 'cos I may get lucky and make it into the nespapers) but I think a simple letter should be sufficient.

I trust you will look into this matter ASAP as I'm not not the only one with this complaint.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ramadhan has come! Rejoice!

IT took me several days to locate these verses by Persian poet Rumi. In between running some errands and visits to a hospital where an aunt went through a surgery, I got the book hidden somewhere in one of the book shelves.

Rumi wrote them in Ramadhan, and it's worth sharing. His message is simple - self-denial attaches the soul to God Almighty. The verses:

the month of Ramadhan has come,
the emperor's banner has arrived,
withold your hand from food,
the spirit's table has arrived.

the soul has escaped from separation and bound nature's hand;
the heart of error is defeated, the army of faith has arrived.

the army of the snoring charges has put its hand to plunder,
from the fire of the strikers of fire the soul is brought to lamentation.

the cow was goodly,
the Moses son of 'Imran appeared,
through him the dead became the living when it was sacrificed.

fasting is as our sacrifice,
it is the life of our soul,
let us sacrifice all our body,
since the soul has arrived as guest.

fortitude is as a sweet cloud,
wisdom rains from it,
because it was in such a month of fortitude that the Koran arrived.

when the carnal soul is in need,
the spirit goes into ascension,
when the gate of the prison is broken,
the soul reaches the Beloved.

the heart has rent the curtain of darkness and winged up to the sky;
the heart, being of the angels, has again arrived at them.

quickly clutch the rope out of this body's well;
at the top of the well of water cry, "joseph of canaan has arrived."

when Jesus escaped from the ass his prayers became accepted;
wash your hands, for the Table has arrived from heaven.

wash your hands and your mouth.
neither eat nor speak;
seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.