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| FRIDAY JULY 31 2009

speak up!
THE OBJECTIVES TO achieve greater unity among Malaysians TO maintain a democratic way of life







TO create a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably shared

TO ensure a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions

TO build a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology

Acting upon internal security
MANY years ago, in either. a dingy room in the Abiding But then, as if ready bowels of the London with a Plan B for the School of Economics Times morally destitute, they and Political Science, I by Tunku ‘Abidin offered something much one day found myself Muhriz more palatable. No surrounded by a group marching necessary, no of discontented Malayrisk of your photograph sians. These were the sorts who taken by the Malaysian Students’ couldn’t publicly reveal an iota of Department, and no shivering in criticism against the Malaysian the cold and windy drizzle. All government since their scholarthis required was a signature on ships might be withdrawn as a a piece of paper declaring your result, but they were so idealistic disagreement with a piece of that they would attend these Malaysian legislation. Your conclandestine gatherings, encourscience would be clear with no aging those who weren’t bound risk of Special Branch being set to government agencies to do the upon you when you return home dirty work of speaking out against for the summer holidays. what they saw as corruption and That piece of paper was injustice in Malaysia. sponsored by the Anti-ISA On this occasion they were Movement’s UK chapter, and if trying to persuade me to protest I recall correctly, that may well outside Malaysia House in have been one of its founding Trafalgar Square, a regular ocmeetings. It was the combination currence back then. I declined of curiosity and the fact that I had to join, partly because it was late just read Syed Husin Ali’s Two in the evening after a long day of Faces: Detention Without Trial classes arguing against the weakthat led me to sign the document, nesses of Kymlicka’s theory of and as my signature dried on the group-specific rights, and partly paper, I felt bathed in an aura of because these protests seemed righteousness. It was something to have very little impact. Also, over and above my onerous duMalaysia House, which houses ties as a committee member of Tourism Malaysia, is a stupenthe LSE Malaysia Club. You see, dously gorgeous building in a Malaysian student societies, even fantastic location, and as the staff the more “intellectual” ones, had previously been extremely spent most of their budgets on helpful with the supply of komparties or makan events. The real pang for use in our dikir barat activism happened in specialist performance, I felt it would be societies or out-and-out political mean to subject them to slogans party clubs, although my younger condemning His Malaysian Majfriends inform me that this has esty’s Government, which might now changed (the opening up of furthermore deter or confuse democratic space that has taken prospective tourists investigating place in recent years in Malaysia our claim to be truly Asia. So not has resulted in mainstream Maa good choice of protest location laysian student societies abroad

becoming more open too). But then nothing happened with the movement. I didn’t get any more updates, and academic endeavours and travelling around Europe took priority. I eventually did join a protest march – against the Iraq War – but the whole thing was hijacked by socialists, who aren’t the best company on spring afternoons (or any other afternoon for that matter), and although it was the biggest coordinated protest in the history of mankind, it didn’t stop Bush and Blair. I was later involved – as a researcher in the House of Commons – in the campaign to stop the extension of detention without trial in the UK, as well as investigating British complicity in extraordinary rendition (basically the contracting out of torture to your less democratic allies since your own laws prevent you from doing so). So while I won’t be marching for either side tomorrow, my position has changed somewhat since that day at the LSE. I am pro-internal security. And action must be taken to preserve it where necessary: it sometimes might not seem like it here in Kuala Lumpur, but terrorism is a real threat in this part of the world, and the most ardent libertarian would see the need for tools to deal with these plots. But our ISA has been too abused in the past that even if it were amended to a stage were it would resemble a perfectly reasonable anti-terror law, with judges being more involved in determining who constitutes a threat and the time frames drastically shortened, the label “ISA” simply has too much baggage. If the government is serious about reviewing our anti-terror legislation, it might be able to satisfy many on both sides by getting rid of it and then immediately enacting a superior piece of legislation with a much more huggable name. Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is director of the Malaysia Think Tank. Comments:


Opportunists mar co-operatives’ image
WE refer to “Co-operative movement has lost its moorings” (Letters, July 17) by R. Rama Chandran. It is wrong to say that the co-operatives have lost their principles and identity. Indeed, the principles are the operational practices that set the co-operatives apart from the investorowned firms. However, the presence of opportunistic individuals, who used co-operatives for their own benefits by taking advantage of the generous support that the government gave to co-operatives, is undeniable. Chandran said that co-ops were in poor state of affairs because its leaders know very little about its philosophy. In Malaysia, the co-operative education and training needs of the members are met by the Co-operative College. All leaders, upon their appointment onto a co-operative board are required by law to attend courses, which include philosophy and principles, administrative and financial management, roles and responsibilities as co-operative leaders, entrepreneurial skills and courses in co-operative laws. However, it is true that there were cases of leaders who violated the principles and philosophies of co-operatives for their own interests. Chandran should be able to understand that poor state of affairs of co-operatives is not due to lack of knowledge in philosophy of co-operatives. Other factors such as problems of capital adequacy, members’ participation and weak leadership will result in co-operatives facing difficulties to tap market potential. The Co-operative Commission is entrusted with the role to develop and strengthen co-operatives. The establishment of the commission did not lessen the democratic control of the members as claimed by Chandran. The annual general meeting is still the highest authority. Members elect the leaders among themselves, decide on the aims of the activities and have to deal with internal conflicts. The commission does not interfere with the affairs of co-operatives. There are rules for co-operatives intending to set up subsidiaries and for those that already have subsidiaries and it has become the co-op’s responsibility to table the accounts of the subsidiaries in the AGM for members to exercise control on the subsidiaries. Even so, it is obvious that Chandran did not read up on the representatives in the Co-operative Commission Board. He claims that non-bumiputras are not represented in the board. He should have checked the commission’s website on the composition of the board. Ooi Siew Kim, a lawyer, is on the board. So there is 8% non-bumiputra representation (one out of 12 board members). Nowadays, 95% of the co-operatives registered are bumiputra co-operatives. On top of that, it is the role of internal auditors of co-operatives to help their boards to better manage by providing the boards with information on management strategy and practices, control frameworks and governance processes. The internal auditors do not express an opinion on the co-operative’s financial statements, which will be done by independent external auditors. As such, the boards of co-operative have been given the role to appoint internal auditors and for this purpose the commission has issued guidelines on the appointment of internal auditors. Corporate Affairs Department Malaysia Co-operative Societies Commission

Sin tax not the answer
FINANCE Minister II Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said that the government is mulling over a possible reduction of corporate and individual taxes to reduce the burden on businessmen and the people in view of the global downturn. It is with a certain amount of trepidation that we see the increase of tax every year on booze and cigarettes – the so called “sin” tax. But do such increases in tax reduce the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes? Not so. Many people smoke and drink to “unwind”. There are psychologically stressed out folk out there who are addicted to these practices. They smoke and drink not because it is relatively cheap but because they are hooked. If the taxes are increased, they will not stop or cut down. The crucial point is that increased prices will impact negatively on their standard of living. They will be less able to feed, clothe and house themselves. Increasing taxes on booze and cigarettes will also encourage smuggling of these goods. It is an open secret that smuggled goods are flooding the market beyond the capacity of our enforcement authorities to curb. When I was in the armed forces during the Indonesian Confrontation, we were more or less “encouraged” to smoke and drink by our peers to “soothe our nerves” in between fighting the enemy. (I personally did not subscribe to this view.) Many got addicted and continued the habit on leaving the army. The government has made booze and cigarettes cheaper in the army. But if the government now wants to put the brakes on those in “civvy street” by increasing prices, it just will not produce the desired results. If fast foods are the cause of obesity, is it fair on us to call upon the government to consider increasing the tax on fast foods to curb obesity? Dr A. Soorian Seremban

Bus firms must deliver
THE government has acted fairly to bus and taxi operators by agreeing to their protracted demand for a fare increase. Now that the fares are increased, it should be the unfailing responsibility of RapidKL, the leading bus operator in the Klang Valley to make sure that its buses run on schedule. For this to happen and to fulfil the commuters’ need, it must display the schedule at bus stops and strictly follow it. And more importantly, bus routes that are being serviced by only one bus, giving shortage of buses as an excuse, must be increased to two or three as may be necessary. The enforcement agency responsible for ensuring the efficient running of bus services must not neglect its duty to monitor and carry out regular checks at bus terminals to ensure buses run on schedule and take prompt action when necessary. This is very important and should not be left to the bus operators to handle. Without these measures in place, there is every likelihood for the system to go back to square one much to the detriment of our commuters. S. Ragunathan Petaling Jaya

A truly corruption free mentri besar
READING the letter from Halimah Mohd Said, “Long road to religious understanding” (July 28), which described briefly a part of the life and times of Dr Mohd Said Mohamed, past mentri besar of Negri Sembilan, reminded me of a conversation a few of us had with Dr Tan Chee Khoon sometime in the early seventies. At that time Chee Khoon was a respected and distinguished member of our parliamentary opposition. When our discussion moved to the subject of corruption in government, I asked Chee Khoon whether there were any BN mentris besar or chief ministers who, in his opinion, are corruption free. Without hesitation he replied that to his knowledge and opinion there was none. However, also without hesitation and any second thoughts, he told us that to his knowledge and in his opinion, the previous mentri besar of Negri Sembilan, Dr Mohd Said Mohamed, was the only BN mentri besar, past and present at that time, who was 100% corruption free. I believe Dr Mohd Said was mentri besar until 1969. CH Ong Via email