Karpal Singh, Tiger of Jelutong

Karpal Singh

Karpal Singh, always in the pursuit of justice

Karpal Singh – the prominent lawyer, lawmaker and DAP leader – died early this morning in a road accident while on the way to Penang, doing what he does best: going to court for a client. He was 73.

His reputation as a lawyer and politician had earned him the nickname the “Tiger of Jelutong” from the time he started legal practice in 1970 – which was also the year he joined the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

When he died early today, Karpal had just let go of the DAP chairmanship as he battled a sedition conviction that risked his four decades of legal and political career.

But the controversial decision was nothing to Karpal. He had been thrown out of parliament, put in detention during Ops Lalang in 1987 and had faced previous sedition charges.

“Eliminating me from the political terrain will not be the end of Karpal Singh. It will in fact lead to the rise of many Karpal Singhs!” said Karpal, who was Amnesty International’s “prisoner of conscience” for his detention without trial.

His legal and political colleagues remember him as a fearless and smart lawyer and politician, but to the countless ordinary people in his Penang constituency and legal office in Jalan Pudu Lama, Kuala Lumpur – he was a friend.

This was the other side of Karpal Singh apart from his legendary roles as a DAP politician and remarkable lawyer – he was a gentle-mannered man who was always ready to help the ordinary folk he came across in his daily life.

They knew Karpal as a humble man with a ready smile, who was always ready to stop and listen, no matter how small you were. No question was too trivial or repetitive for him to answer, no hello was too unimportant to stop for.

His tragic death in a road accident today meant that he “died in his saddle”, a term he had used upon turning 70 when he said: “I’ve always said that a lawyer should die in a saddle. I think it equally applies to being a politician.”

An earlier road accident in 2005 put him in a wheelchair while this morning’s road accident occurred near Gua Tempurung when the veteran lawyer was on his way up north to Penang in his white Alphard for a court case.

Anyone who knew Karpal would easily attest to how he was probably the busiest 73-year-old around, often shuttling between parliament and court during the week, and on weekends, travelling up north, mostly to visit his constituency or for a court case.

Nothing would stop him in court or politics. Not even the latest sedition conviction where he was alleged to have said that the removal of Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as menteri besar of Perak by Perak ruler, Sultan Azlan Shah, could be questioned in a court of law.

Karpal’s defence was that he had offered a legal opinion and not a threat to the ruler, who was once the Lord President of the Supreme Court. Charged for the offence in 2009, Karpal was acquitted by the High Court without his defence called in the first round.

However, the prosecution appealed against the decision and succeeded at the Court of Appeal, and even pressed for a deterrent sentence against the wheelchair-bound politician.

He was handed down a RM4,000 fine, which would have disqualified him as an MP if he did not succeed in an appeal which has not been heard.

Karpal Singh, always in the pursuit of justice
April 17, 2014 – TMI


Ridiculous estimate of RM400 billion to buy back highways

RM400 billion to buy back highways? Ridiculous, says DAP MP

How did Putrajaya come up with the incredulous amount of RM400 billion as the cost of buying back the highway concessions in Malaysia, a DAP lawmaker asked today.

Party national publicity chief Tony Pua said the construction costs of the 26 tolled highways in Malaysia amounted to a mere RM28.5 billion.

“The most expensive highway in Malaysia is the North-South Expressway which cost RM5.95 billion to build,” he said in a statement.

Pua questioned how Putrajaya could have come up with a figure which is more than 14 times the amount it cost to construct the 26 highways in the country.

“Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof must be out of his mind to claim that it will cost RM400 billion to re-acquire all the tolled highways in Malaysia,” he said.

“Is Putrajaya attempting to compensate the highway concessionaires for the loss of future profits?” he asked.

Pua said that the highway concession agreements clearly stated that Putrajaya did not need to make such compensation payments.

He said if the RM400 billion was to compensate concessionaires for the loss of future profits, it defeated the purpose of such an exercise in the first place.

“The government might as well let the concessionaires earn the profit over the next 20 years or so instead of laughing all to the bank in one trip.”

Pua said with the exception of the North-South Expressway and the Penang Bridge, all the concession agreements had clauses which allowed Putrajaya to buy back the concessions based on the cost of construction with the guarantee that the concessionaires had received an annual return of 12% for each prior year of operation.

“So if we assume that all the highways in Malaysia did not make a single sen of profit since they began operating, then the buyback cost will merely be a maximum of RM50 billion.

“This is one eighth of Fadillah’s estimate of RM400 billion,” he said.

Moreover, Pua said, most of the highway concessionaires had made fantastic profits in excess of 12% per annum since they began operating.

“This means that Putrajaya does not need to compensate for insufficient profit during the operating years.

“Instead of discussing buybacks, perhaps the government should focus on highways which are making unreasonable profits, such as the Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong.”

Pua said the LDP had a net profit margin in excess of 40%, which was at the rakyat’s expense.

RM400 billion to buy back highways? Ridiculous, says DAP MP
April 03, 2014 – TMI


Petronas has been bailing out Putrajaya financially since 1985, says Ku Li

The founding chairman and chief executive of Petronas yesterday lamented that Putrajaya has been treating the leading oil and gas company as a cash cow, especially in bailing out government-linked outfits of financial trouble.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, or Ku Li, said since its inception in 1974 and until 2011, Petronas paid the government RM529 billion in dividends, taxes, petroleum proceeds and export duties.

He said the reliance of Petronas to help government-linked outfits out of financial trouble had been going on since 1985.

Ku Li, a finance minister from 1976 to 1984, said that year Petronas rescued the then Bank Bumiputra with a RM2.5 billion bailout, and again in 1991 when it coughed up another RM1 billion.

In 1997, he said Petronas had to rescue the financially ailing Konsortium Perkapalan Berhad for RM2 billion.

He added that Petronas was made to underwrite the construction of the Twin Towers, located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, for RM6 billion and the building of the extravagant Putrajaya, the administrative capital of the Federal Government, for RM22 billion.

“This amount could have been used more productively to fund a national pension programme for Malaysians, as has been done by a certain Scandinavian country,” he said in his speech at the launch of the book “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians” at the Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kuala Lumpur last night.

The book, authored by Anas Alam Faizli, is a collection of essays reflecting his thoughts on energy, economy and education in Malaysia.

The bailout and construction of mega projects was done during the premiership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who initiated a series of major infrastructure ventures in the 1990s.

Ku Li said the exorbitant amount of the bailout and construction of these projects that was forced onto Petronas had also deprived the company from the much needed cash build-up for reinvestment, which would ensure its business sustainability.

He said it was important for Petronas to look further afield at business investments outside the oil and gas sector, and it was critical for the corporation to have a strong cash reserve for reinvestment purposes.

Petronas has been bailing out Putrajaya financially since 1985, says Ku Li
April 04, 2014 – TMI


RMAF pilot’s court martial charges over indelible ink likely to be challenged in High Court

A legal team assembled to represent a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) pilot in a military court charged with providing statements to the media regarding the indelible ink is mulling challenging the charges in a civil court.

PAS lawyer Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, who is leading the team, said he was considering filing a judicial review in the High Court as the charges framed against Major Zaidi Ahmad (pic) had violated his constitutional right.

“He is entitled to lodge a police report when a wrong has been done and framing charges against him runs contrary to Zaidi’s freedom of speech and expression,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Hanipa, who is also Sepang MP, said Zaidi was also being harassed.

“He should not be penalised. The Armed Forces Council has the option to withdraw the charges and bring the matter to an end.”

He said even the Election Commission had conceded that there was a fiasco over the use of the indelible ink in last year’s general election.

Hanipa said Zaidi’s case did not come under the purview of the attorney general, who was also a public prosecutor.

“Usually we will write to the AG to drop the charges or file an application in court to strike out the charges. Since Zaidi is court martialled, we can only resort to a judicial review,” he said.

Hanipa said he had spoken to the council authorities to drop the charges but there had not been any indication of a positive outcome.

“We are running out of time as the military court will begin the three-day proceeding next Tuesday,” he said.

RMAF pilot’s court martial charges over indelible ink likely to be challenged in High Court
April 04, 2014 – TMI


Malaysia ranks 39 out of 44 countries in PISA assessment

Malaysia ranks 39 out of 44 countries in problem-solving test for 15-year-olds, says report

Malaysia once again fared poorly in a world student performance assessment test conducted in 2012, ending up in the bottom quarter among 44 countries – a result that reinforces the concern that the country’s education system is in tatters.

Malaysia ranked 39 with a mean score of 422 in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) first assessment on creative problem-solving, while neighbouring Singapore came out tops with a mean score of 562, said the report released yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The overall mean score for all countries was 500.

Malaysia had more than half of the share of low achievers, which means the students tested lacked the skills needed in a modern workplace.

In contrast, Singapore only had 8% share of low achievers. The mean share was 21.4%.

On the other hand, Malaysia only had 0.9% share of top performers compared with Singapore’s 29.3%. Malaysia’s share was below the average percentage of 11.4%.

This showed that only one out of 10 Malaysian students, aged 15, is able to solve the most complex problems, compared with one in five in Singapore, Korea and Japan.

Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Macau-China, Hong Kong-China, Shanghai-China and Chinese Taipei make up the top seven of the list.

Students from Canada, Australia, Finland, England, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, the United States and Belgium all scored above the average.

“Eighty-five thousand students from 44 countries and economies took the computer-based test, involving real-life scenarios to measure the skills young people will use when faced with everyday problems, such as setting a thermostat or finding the quickest route to a destination,” said the OECD, which carried out the tests.

Malaysians scored 29.1 on solution rate on tasks measuring the acquisition of knowledge and 29.3 on solution rate on tasks measuring the utilisation of knowledge while Singapore scored 62 and 55.4 respectively, way above the average score of all countries, which are 45.5 and 46.4 respectively.

“Today’s 15-year-olds with poor problem-solving skills will become tomorrow’s adults struggling to find or keep a good job,” said Andreas Schleicher, acting Director of Education and Skills at OECD.

“Policymakers and educators should re-shape their school systems and curricula to help students develop their problem-solving skills which are increasingly needed in today’s economies.”

Malaysia had also performed poorly in an earlier PISA assessment which measured how students in 65 countries did in mathematics, science and reading.

According to the PISA’s 2012 results, Malaysian students scored below average or ranked 52 out of the 65 countries. In contrast, Vietnamese students ranked 17 out of 65.

Just a week ago, a World Bank senior economist pointed out that the poor quality of Malaysia’s education system was more worrying than the debt level of its households.

Dr Frederico Gil Sander, who is senior economist for Malaysia, had said Malaysians should be “alarmed” that their children were doing worse in school than children in Vietnam, a country that was poorer than Malaysia.

Malaysia’s continuous dismal performance in international assessments highlights the weaknesses in the country’s schooling system, despite the fact that education gets the largest share of funds every year from the national budget.

Malaysia ranks 39 out of 44 countries in problem-solving test for 15-year-olds, says report
April 02, 2014 – TMI


Repeatedly deceived over KLIA2 cost scandal

MP SPEAKS For the past three years, the transport ministers as well as the top management of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) have repeated lied to Malaysians about the opening dates for KLIA2. The date has been moved at least five times from September 2011 to the current deadline of May 2, 2014.

Despite the due date being just 30 days away, there is still no certainty if KLIA2 can actually be effectively operational, despite the bravado displayed by the acting minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, and his deputy, Abdul Aziz Kaprawi.

However, the biggest lie by both the ministers and MAHB is the repeated claim that the cost of the “low-cost” airport would not exceed RM4 billion.

The initial budget for the airport when it was first announced by Ong Tee Keat, the then-transport minister, in July 2007 was only RM1.7 billion. (Berita Harian, July 22, 2007)

The budget was subsequently increased to RM2.0 billion in March 2009 (The Star, March 10, 2009), and then RM2.5 billion in October 2010 (Business Times, Oct 30, 2010).

MAHB then shocked Malaysians by disclosing that the cost of the new airport has ballooned to RM3.9 billion due to cost overruns in November 2011.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes had tweeted that the cost of KLIA2 has ballooned to RM5 billion in July 2012, a claim which was immediately denied by the authorities.

In October 2012, we were told in Parliament by the then-deputy transport minister, Abdul Rahim Bakri, that the cost had increased to RM4 billion. The current Transport Minister, Hishammuddin, reiterated in August 2013 that the cost will not exceed the RM4 billion figure.

On Feb 9 this year, Abdul Aziz, who was heading the Special Cabinet Taskforce on KLIA2, again confirmed that the cost of the airport will not cost more than RM4 billion, despite the overwhelming scepticism expressed by the industry.

Increase due to ‘other unforeseen matters’?

Hence it did not come as too much of a surprise when the deputy transport minister himself finally admitted to The Edge Financial Daily that the cost of KLIA2 airport will cost more than RM4 billion. He attributed the additional cost to a change in job scope and “other unforeseen matters”. However, he did not confirm the exact quantum of increase in cost, but it is clearly expected to be significant.

Malaysians can no longer tolerate being repeatedly deceived by ministers and the top management of government-linked companies (GLCs), which are entrusted with our taxpayers’ money. MAHB, in particular, has clearly demonstrated complete incompetence, and has attempted to hide such incompetence and mismanagement using outright lies and deception.

Apr 1, 2014 – Malaysiakini
Repeatedly deceived over KLIA2 cost scandal


‘Msia needs new gov’t, not new radar system’

Malaysia does not need a new radar system for its royal airforce, rather it needs a new government, said PAS Parit Buntar MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa in Penang last night.

He dismissed the idea of the Royal Malaysian Air Force needing a new radar system to detect unidentified airplanes, as it failed to act when a blip that could have missing MH370 plane showed up.

The plane, enroute to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, vanished on March 8, with 239 people on board.

Instead what Malaysia needs most was a new government who can handle such a major crisis responsibly, he said.

“It is not about whether the existing radar is of low quality or that those monitoring were asleep when the plane allegedly flew across the Straits of Malacca,” Mujahid said at a dinner organised by the Penang PAS Supporters Club in Bayan Lepas last night.

“It’s strange that the government is saying that they will buy a new radar system. It is not about a new radar, we need a new government!” Mujahid exclaimed, drawing cheers from the 100 odd crowd.

Among those present at the event to enhance PAS ties with non-Muslims were the Penang Catholic Bishop Sebastian Francis.

“This aging government could not even handle that breach of security of the country and they have the guts to tell us they want to buy new radar?” Mujahid quipped.

He was responding to a statement by acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein late last night that he has to find the money to change the country’s radar system.

He was quick to add that much of the satellite imagery used in the search were from commercial satellites rather than military.

Shame expressed

Mujahid then expressed shame, condemning the Malaysian authorities for not defending pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah but instead allowed speculation by foreigners that he could be a terrorist.

Mujahid said the Malaysian authorities did nothing to defend him when there were “wild accusations” in the foreign media that Zaharie might have been responsible for the disappearance of the Beijing-bound plane.

Mar 30, 2014 – Malaysiakini
‘Msia needs new gov’t, not new radar system’

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