Penang has confirmed the illegal hill clearing cases reported by Penang Forum


Land clearing in Penang is rampant with Civil liberties group, Penang Forum (PF) revealing only 7.4 per cent of the state is categorised as forested land. NSTP pix
Location : Near Lintang Bukit Jambul 1
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Report sent in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014. PHW Report 15 pix.

 

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has acknowledged that nine out of 29 hill clearing cases on the island, as reported by Penang Forum , were illegal.

Penang Forum representative Rexy Prakash Chacko said state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had a discussion with them last week.

This came about after the forum’s first Penang Hills Watch (PHW) report on hill clearing cases was submitted to the state on Jan 2.

“They investigated the report and concluded that only nine were illegal clearing activities while the rest were legally permitted land works (14) and natural slope failure (one). The other five cases are still being investigated by the relevant departments.

“The illegal clearing cases have been issued with stop work orders or are being followed up by court action,” he said on Saturday.

Chacko commended Penang’s concern and transparency in responding to the PHW report.

He urged for close monitoring on the nine illegal clearing cases and for mitigation action to be taken to rehabilitate the areas if necessary.

“For those with permits, the forum hopes that the clearing will strictly adhere to the state laws on land works and drainage.”

Chow, when met at Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo’s CNY open house in Taman Free School, said he had discussed with Penang Forum members about the report and answered their queries.

The public can view the PHW report as well as the response from the state government at the Penang Hills Watch Facebook page (@PenangHillsWatch) or the Penang Forum website, and see them interactively on a map at the Penang Hills Watch page.

PHW, a citizen-oriented initiative to provide a platform to monitor activities affecting the hills of Penang, was launched in October last year by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups often critical of the state government’s plans and policies. –  The Star

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Crisis of the West or crisis of faith, year of living dangerously?


Global standard: A man walks past a poster showing a US dollar outside an exchange office in Cairo. The dollar has maintained its position as a global standard because it is convenient, cheap to use and a store of value that has so far been subject to minimal political interference. — AP

 

OVER the Chinese New Year holidays, we were all treated to the Trump Reality Show, changing the world we thought we understood with various tweets or executive orders.

This behaviour reminded me of the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi waking up and was not sure he was a man dreaming that he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that it was a man. Mr Trump is either a butterfly disguised as President or a truly smart politician disguised as a butterfly. The tragedy is that the rest of us have to live with the consequences.

This week, after humiliating Mexico and reversing his position on Nato, Trump and his advisers have switched to stoking a currency fire, accusing China and Japan of manipulating their currency and even suggesting that Berlin is exploiting a “gross undervalued” euro.

Whatever you think of Trump, he was smart enough to appoint someone like Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. You always can judge a leader by the people he or she surrounds himself with. Steve Bannon is pure American success story – Harvard trained, ex-Goldman Sachs, ex-navy, and founding entrepreneur of Breitbart news, a platform that claims to represent the alt-right and third most influential news channel after Bloomberg and Reuters.

In a remarkable 2014 speech (https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world), Bannon claimed that (this) … “is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.”

Taken on its own, there is nothing wrong with someone having a view of the world in crisis. But Bannon is now in a pivotal position to do something about it.

The dollar has maintained its position as a global standard because it is convenient, cheap to use and a store of value that has so far been subject to minimal political interference.

The rest of the world is now stuck with a “damned if we do, and damned if we don’t” dilemma. If we continue to rely on the dollar, how do we avoid being accused as manipulators, when in reality, so far the market forces are stronger than any central bank on its own? If we don’t rely on the dollar, we will anyway be accused as manipulators, particularly if the currency depreciates against the dollar.

In other words, what is at stake is not a crisis of the West or its faith (which the Rest cannot change), but a crisis of faith within the Rest on the leadership in the West. The dollar remains the anchor of global stability, but when the solo anchor itself is adrift, we need to find alternative anchors. Single anchors are efficient but dangerous if they wobble. We need two or three anchors to triangulate global stability.

Here is another inconvenient truth – it’s Trump’s dollar, but the Rest’s savings. Based on the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US has net global liabilities of US$7.8 trillion or 41.7% of GDP at the end of the third quarter 2016. This has deteriorated from US$2.5 trillion or 16.8% of GDP at the end of 2010. The cumulative current account deficit (from trade) between end 2010-2016 Q3 was only US$2 trillion, which meant that the rest (US$3.3 trillion) was due to valuation changes (change in US dollar exchange rate) or financial account flows.

In other words, it is capital flows rather than trade that is the major driver of the exchange rate, with interest rate differentials influencing also the exchange rate.

If that is the case, going forward, the US net debt position will depend largely on the future global savers, mostly Europe and Asia. And if the savers are subject to constant lecturing by the Trump Administration, an alt-dollar solution will have to be found.

During the Asian financial crisis, Europe sided with the US to reject an Asian Monetary Fund in a move against regionalisation. But if today, the America First strategy is designed at isolating the Rest, then the Rest must unite to protect global trade and investments. If the non-dollar zone can maintain currency stability against the dollar, then there will be less accusations of currency manipulation, forcing the debate into how the US can restore its own fiscal and trade balance to maintain its own savings equilibrium.

In short, the Rest needs to remind the US that she is important, but cannot blame the Rest for all her own problems.

The reserve currency central banks have a major role to ensure currency stability, which can be only preserved by ensuring liquidity and discipline. So far, the Fed has shown responsible leadership, with strong support from the European Central Bank, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the People’s Bank. But if the dollar is being politicised, then alternatives can and should be found.

All options are now on the table. If the US is no longer dependent on oil and energy, then oil and energy suppliers can price oil trade in currencies other than the dollar. We have seen this before in the competition between different technology standards. The leading standard becomes dominant because it is willing to provide public goods (lots of freebies). But when the dominant standard becomes predatory or extractive in using its monopoly position, then it is time to use alternative standards.

No one should take their position or customers from granted. The Rest will not stand still whilst Trump and his cohorts decide to change allies and foes by the tweet. None of us are against the dollar but for global stability, common sense and mutual respect. The euro, sterling, yen, yuan and SDR’s time has come.

Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

By Andrew Sheng

Year of living dangerously

 

Rash move: The effectiveness of Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven countries from entering the US is highly questionable. — AFP

What Trump is doing – and he may not even realise it with his defiant-style leadership – is making the US a much more dangerous place to live in now, not a safer place as he had hoped.

WHEN the world’s most powerful man conducts diplomacy over Twitter, keeping his words to 140 characters, we’d better prepare ourselves for trouble.

And indeed, since Donald Trump took over as President of the United States, there has been a series of totally unpredictable and unconventional decisions made, some mind boggling, even bordering on insanity.

And it has just been a little over two weeks since he moved into the White House.

There is no question that many Americans are troubled by a possible mass influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

This does not involve just the US but also affects several parts of Europe, including Britain, France and Germany, which explains why politicians who play the right-wing card – with the anti-immigrant agenda – are winning.

Trump clearly understands the pulse of the average American, especially those in the rural mid-west, the US heartland.

These are folks who watch conservative Fox TV and whose interaction with people of other races, religions and cultures is limited.

They are not like the liberal city folks of New York or Los Angeles, who turn up at airports and train stations, waving placards and hugging Syrian refugees, as shown on international TV news.

It is probably a different story in Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas or South Carolina but we do not hear the voices of these rural folks on CNN.

Trump won simply because he understood the fears of the average American well. He has continued to play the Islamophobia card because he knows his fearmongering works.

It doesn’t help that most of these refugees want to go to the US or Britain and not the Muslim-majority nations of the Middle East. The question remains if these Arab countries are even offering places to the refugees or do the refugees themselves prefer Western secular and democratic values.

Nationalist politicians have already whipped up anger, pointing out that if these Middle East refugees hate Western culture so much and refuse to assimilate, then why should they be let in.

But Trump’s executive order banning the citizens of seven countries from entering the US, supposedly to protect the nation from “radical Islamic terrorists”, is highly questionable, especially its effectiveness.

The president has signed the order temporarily suspending the entry of people from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen into the US for at least 90 days.

This is odd because if we wish to identify terrorism acts, then surely there’s a high number of terrorists from Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Afghanistan. Why were these countries not on the list?

Obviously, Trump did not want to offend US allies, especially Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Despite the US’ constant lecture on democracy, we all know these two countries are often “spared”, despite their horrifically poor human rights record because they are strategically important to the US. We also should not forget that at one time, the vital oil supply was from Saudi Arabia.

The fact is that in the past four decades, 3,024 people have been killed by foreign terrorists on US soil.

The reality is that the Sept 11 attacks, perpetrated by citizens of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Lebanon, account for 98.6% of those deaths – 15 of the 19 Sept 11 hijackers once called Saudi Arabia home.

In fact, over that period, no American has been killed on US soil by anyone from the nations named in the present president’s executive order.

The San Bernardino massacre, in which 14 people were killed and 22 injured in 2015 was carried out by Syed Rizwan Farook, who is of Pakistani descent, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, who grew up in Saudi Arabia.

The Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, where 49 died and 53 were injured last year, was carried out by Omar Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent.

The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 was orchestrated by the Tsarnaev brothers, both of whom were Russian, killing three and injuring several hundred people.

But as the world jumped on Trump, news reports have emerged that Kuwait does the same.

Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis and Afghans have reportedly not been able to obtain tourism or trade visas to Kuwait since 2011.

Passport holders from the countries are not allowed to enter the Gulf state while the blanket ban is in place, and have been told not to apply for visas, it has been reported.

Likewise, the ban on citizens from fellow Muslim-majority nations has failed to prevent Kuwait from being targeted in a number of terrorist attacks over the past two years – including the bombing of a mosque in 2015 which left 27 Kuwaitis dead.

Kuwait is the only country in the world to officially bar entry to Syrians, until the US named Syria among the seven countries whose citizens were banned from entering its borders.

What Trump is doing – and he may not even realise it with his defiant-style of leadership – is making the US a much more dangerous place to live in now, not a safer place as he had hoped.

There will be homegrown terrorists, including Americans – and even radicals entering the US holding other passports – who plan to carry out their crazy acts.

He has also made the work and lives of career diplomats more difficult with his brazen diplomacy. It came as no surprise that 900 State Department diplomats signed a memo to oppose his ban.

According to CNN, the “memo of dissent” warned that not only will the new immigration policy not keep America safe but it will harm efforts to prevent terrorist attacks.

The ban “will not achieve its stated aim of protecting the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States,” the memo reportedly noted.

Trump has actually provided oxygen to the radicals, who will now thump the noses of moderates in Muslim countries.

There should be no surprises if the recalcitrant Trump expands his list of countries whose citizens would be banned from entering the US.

It won’t be wrong to suggest that 2017 will be a Year of Living Dangerously under Trump. Let’s be prepared for the unexpected from him.

Source: On the beat Wong Chun Wai The Star

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Corruptions, Conflict of interests, politicians and Malaysian bloated civil service


 

Ministers may face conflict of interest, says Tunku Abdul Aziz: 

 

“If you have no power, you cannot abuse it. Civil servants have a lot more power than their political masters and ministers”

 

‘With a population of 31 million, Malaysia has a ratio of one civil servant to almost 20 people.

‘To compare, the news report cited corresponding figures for several other countries: Singapore (1 to 71 people), Indonesia (1:110), South Korea (1:50), China (1:108), Japan (1:28), Russia (1:84) and
Britain (1:118).’

To keep graft in check, politicians should not be appointed to run government-linked companies, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission advisory board chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim (pic).

He said politicians holding GLC positions may face conflict of interest leading to abuse of power and responsibility.

In an interview with Bernama, he said: “Many appointments are made for political reasons. If you are appointed to a position with unanimous power, there are decisions you have to make on a daily basis, weekly, monthly and whatever.

“And in making these decisions, there will be some demands made on you because of your connections, your relatives, your friends and also your cronies.”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said this trend of abusing power because of conflict of interest has been happening since long ago, and may be stopped if the appointment for a top post in a GLC was conducted with “proper selection and screening”.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said the selection process must include going through the candidate’s background and track record.

He said there were always people out there who wanted special treatment, to have the advantage over their competitors.

“They don’t care how it is done (as long as they get the job)… This is where corruption starts.”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said that proper recruitment procedures and techniques could help achieve transparency and accountability, which are essential for top management.

“We can make corruption unprofitable business by making it more difficult to put your hand in the till.”

He believes that corruption is now taking place at the operating level.

“Ministers cannot sign or award contracts. But directors in some departments can do it. This is where abuse of power takes place,” he said.

“If you have no power, you cannot abuse it. Civil servants have a lot more power than their political masters and ministers (in awarding contracts),” he said.

He noted that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was now catching a lot more “big fish” than before the appointment of Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad as the new head in July last year.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said MACC was a dedicated highly professional team focusing on the root causes of corruption while catching the crooks.

— BERNAMA

 

Time to trim the civil service

FINALLY, the Government has itself described the civil service as bloated.

To his credit, Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani openly and honestly stated that the civil service, although bloated, will not be reduced but will instead be made to multi-task to improve productivity. This statement is serious but also worrisome.

We now have one civil servant serving 19.37 people. The ratio is 1:110 for Indonesia, 1:108 for China, and 1:50 for South Korea. We won’t compare ourselves to the low ratio of 1:71.4 in Singapore because it’s a small island with hardly any rural population.

But why is our civil service so bloated? Firstly, we recruited rapidly to give jobs to the boys when the output from the education system expanded. We even had an “Isi Penuh” programme at one time. That is we rushed to create jobs and filled them fast!

Secondly, unlike the private sector, we rarely retrench staff even in bad times. We hardly sack anyone for inefficiency and even wastage of public funds.

Thirdly, the civil service has become a sacred cow that has to be handled gingerly for fear of reaction against the federal and state governments at the ballot box!

Life is relatively comfortable especially at the lower levels of the civil service. Salaries are better than before, pensions are secure, health provisions are generous, and the drive to be more productive is soft. In fact, there is now a strong manja-manja attitude towards civil servants.

The demand to join the civil service is high but the supply of jobs is slowing down considerably.

The Government should decide to reduce the size of the civil service to prevent the strain on the budget deficits, especially in the future.

Salary and pension bills are going up whereas productivity is not publicly perceived to be improving. Those who deal with civil servants often tell us more about the undue delays, corruption and “tidak apa” or lackadaisical attitude shown on the ground towards the public.

The Government should appoint a high-level task force, if not a royal commission, to examine ways and means of trimming the civil service to an efficient and reasonable size.

To start with, the Government should revise its stand on not reducing “the 1.6 million strong bloated civil service.” If it finds it difficult to reduce the civil service, then please freeze recruitment or make it more sparing and definitely more selective. Please go for more quality rather than quantity!

The civil service is huge because the public sector has been designed to be inordinately large. This has evolved because the private sector has been denied and deprived of greater opportunities to serve the public.

There are many government services, facilities and works and supplies that can be provided more efficiently by the business sector. In fact, this could be the way forward for more bumiputra contractors and other races to participate more actively and competitively to serve our society better.

The cost of maintaining the civil service, at RM74bil in 2016 for salaries and allowances, is not sustainable.

The pension bill of RM19bil per annum, without any contribution to the GDP by retirees, is also unbearable in the longer term. At the same time, according to Johari, revenue from palm oil and other commodities have been falling drastically. So where do we go from here?

It is basic economic and financial logic that we cannot afford to cope with rising salary expenditure and lower revenue. It is much more difficult to raise revenue than to cut expenditure.

The Government has said that our fundamentals are strong. Indeed, they are reasonably healthy at this time. But at this rate of a growing civil service that is now acknowledged as bloated, we cannot afford to assume that the economic and financial fundamentals can continue to be strong for much longer.

My appeal then is for Government to more actively seek to reduce the size of the civil service and to act without undue delay. Our good economic fundamentals are being seriously threatened and we must preserve and protect them from further risks.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM , Chairman Asli Center of Public Policy Studies

An effective civil service does not burden Govt

Civil Servants

IN a recent interview with a vernacular newspaper, Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani brought up a matter that is seldom highlighted publicly – the size of the Malaysian public sector.

He said the country’s 1.6 million government employees formed “the world’s largest proportion of civil service”.

With a population of 31 million, Malaysia has a ratio of one civil servant to almost 20 people.

To compare, the news report cited corresponding figures for several other countries: Singapore (1 to 71 people), Indonesia (1:110), South Korea (1:50), China (1:108), Japan (1:28), Russia (1:84) and Britain (1:118).

Johari was making the point that a major challenge for the Government was the rising costs of running the public service system.

This is particularly tough when there is a decline in the taxes and other receipts collected from the oil and gas and palm oil industries.

However, he added that there were no plans to reduce the civil service head count.

The minister has won praise for bringing attention to an issue that many have long felt deserves public awareness and discussion.

Emoluments are by far the biggest component of the Government’s operating expenditure, and that cost has kept expanding.

Back in 2006, emoluments totalling RM28.5bil made up 26.5% of the operating expenditure. A decade later, the percentage is estimated to be 35.7%. To pay its employees this year, the Government has allocated RM77.4bil, which is 36% of the budgeted operating expenditure.

And let us not forget the retired civil servants. According to the Public Services Department, there were 739,000 public service pensioners in 2015, and every year, 23,000 people join this group.

In 2010, the Government spent RM11.5bil on pensions and gratuities, accounting for 7.6% of the operating expenditure. In the Budget 2017, retirement charges will come to RM21.8bil, about 10% of operating expenditure.

Although Johari did not appear to use the phrase in the interview, others were quick to talk about the “bloated civil service”.

It should be pointed out that measuring and comparing the sizes of the public sector can be tricky and misleading. There are different ways of defining a civil servant. And the width and depth of a public service system is very much determined by the country’s prosperity and policies.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development looks at public sector employment as a percentage of total employment. In 2013, the average among its members was slightly above 19%.

In Malaysia, civil servants represent 10.8% of our labour force. Perhaps, the public sector is not bloated after all.

On the other hand, we must bear in mind that the number of government employees is growing faster than the country’s labour force.

But we cannot discuss quantity and ignore quality. The issue here is not about how large our public service system is; it is whether the system is larger than necessary.

No matter how big, the numbers make sense if they yield excellent results and lead to robust revenue growth.

At a time when the Government is pushing hard in areas such as innovation, productivity and good governance, the civil service ought to lead by example.

There are already ongoing efforts to transform public service in Malaysia and surely the hope is that these initiatives will result in greater transparency and accountability, enhanced competitiveness, and a high-performance culture,

What is also absolutely clear to us is that the Government’s financial obligations are increasingly heavy, and much of this has to do with the emoluments and pensions it pays.

It is realistic to expect the Government to be more prudent in its hiring of new employees. It cannot afford to be the country’s default employer and young people are wrong to blame the Government if there are no civil service vacancies for them to fill.

The public sector’s primary role is to serve the country’s needs effectively and efficiently. It cannot do that if it is a burden to the Government and ultimately the people. -The Star Says

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Weeding out the worrying graft and corruption among Malaysian youths and politicians!


MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil

MACC reveals ‘worrying statistics’

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 50% of those arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the past three years were aged below 40.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil expressed concern over the finding and said it as an “alarming situation”.

Of the 2,329 people arrested since 2014, 1,267 were below 40.

“People in this age group are supposed to be nation’s backbone, who will shape the future of our country,” he said in his keynote speech at a public forum organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) yesterday.

Shamshun said about 982 investigation papers were opened, 932 people were detained and 258 charged by the anti-graft body last year.

“MACC plans to engage with youths this year. The Gen-Y group always finds an easy way. We have to guide them from young and create awareness of what is happening around them,” he said.

On MACC seeking more allocation, Shamshun said the extra funds were for them to implement what they planned for the year.

“We need more whistle-blowers who can voluntarily come forward to report or provide information on corruption activities.”

He said such individuals will be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, that shields informants from action. – by Ashwin Kumar thesun

Weeding out graft among youths

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) will push on with efforts to eradicate corruption in the civil service in the face of budget cuts, says its deputy chief commissioner (prevention).

Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil (pic) told reporters that the commissions’ plan for 2017 would be to focus on Government agencies, as well as arresting the growing trend of corruption among youths.

Responding to questions on cuts to the MACC’s budget, he said it was an issue faced by all agencies, though the commission had appealed for more funding to carry out its plans.

“We can’t do everything at once because of (MACC’s) strength and budget. But my concern is also about how many of those arrested are under 40 years old,” said Shamshun Baharin, adding that 54% of those arrested (1,267 of 2,329 cases) were under 40.

He attributed the trend to the generation’s environment and wanting to take shortcuts, which MACC aimed to combat with the establishment of a corruption prevention secretariat in higher learning institutions.

During his keynote address at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) forum titled ‘Supporting the MACC in the fight against corruption’, Shamshun Baharin said 2016 had been a successful year for the commission.

He revealed that arrest numbers had gone up from 841 (2015) to 932 (2016), of which 258 suspects had been brought to court, as of Dec 15 last year.

At the event, IDEAS CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan launched a signature drive under its #NyahKorupsi campaign, to support the MACC.

“Our goal is to have more Malaysians come out in support of the MACC because it has made more investigations and arrests of corrupt top officials. There may be a time when they will need our help,” he said.

He said IDEAS would collect as many signatures as possible before delivering it to MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad.

To sign the petition, visit http://www.change.org/p/sokong-sprm-perangi-rasuah.

The other forum panellist included Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akbar Satar, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism executive director Cynthia Gabriel, Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang and Sinar Project co-founder Khairil Yusof. – By Qishin Tariq The Star/ANN

Just you wait, MACC boss warns corrupt politicians

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad,

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has warned corrupt politicians to “be careful”.

Its chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, in a live television interview yesterday, said he had previously stated that he would take action on anyone involved in corrupt practices, including “politicians of any rank”.

“On my 100th day as MACC chief, I said that I will not be stopped from taking action against politicians.

“Tonight, I would like to say to corrupt politicians, just you wait (tunggulah),” he said.

Dzulkifli added that the MACC was not worried about “protected individuals” who committed systemic corruption.

“There is no issue about them being protected, I can guarantee that all those who commit corruption will not be left alone. I will take action against them without fear or favour,” he added.

But Dzulkifli admitted that the MACC had its limitations in terms of logistics.

“There are only 2,900 members and officers in the whole of the MACC, of which only 900 carry out legal enforcement as others are in the prevention and education departments, among others.

“Now if you look at the civil service alone, there are 1.6 million of them, so that is one.

“Besides that, is budget, that has been cut, and it is at its lowest since 2013,” he said.

Dzulkifli, however, added that he would not allow the limitations to stop the anti-graft body from carrying out its duties.

The Astro Awani interview is Dzulkifl’s first ever live interview since his appointment in July last year.

Dzulkifli, a veteran in the civil service, was the head of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team of the Attorney-General’s Chambers before being appointed chief commissioner.

He took over from Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, and his tenure is until July 31, 2021.

– By D. Kanyakumari The Star/ANN

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CNY 2017, Xi spreads love, inspires nation …


– The President’s latest appeal for diligence and hard work has sparked heated discussion and spread inspiration and confidence across the …

中國國家主席習近平2017年新年賀詞(Chinese President Xi Jinping 2017 New Year Address)

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/o4jS9hLiHUQ

President Xi Jinping (pic) struck a warm tone with his annual Spring Festival greeting calling on the whole nation to love their family and friends.

Love should reach to every family and bring warmth to all Chinese like a spring breeze blowing across the nation, he said on Thursday in his speech ahead of the Lunar New Year.

“The Chinese people have always valued love and high morality,” Xi told his audience at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, which included senior government officials, military officers, renowned artists and ethnic community leaders.

He urged people not to neglect their family, comrades and loved ones, no matter how busy they are with their work. Love means not being hypocritical, not selfish and not outrageous, he said.

“A short greeting of ‘welcome home for Spring Festival’ would warm the hearts of millions of Chinese people,” he said.

Xi went on to wish all Chinese, including ethnic groups, those in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and those living abroad, an auspicious Year of the Rooster, an animal that symbolises good fortune.

China’s economic growth has remained one of the strongest in the world, and people’s livelihoods have continuously been improved, the president said, before calling on the nation to “roll up our sleeves to work harder”.

Xi said he hopes the people “not only have great dreams, but also show a hardworking spirit to fulfil those dreams”. He added, “The progresses in China’s development are achieved thanks to Chinese people’s diligent work.”

Jin Yanlei, a geography teacher in Dongying, Shandong province, said,

“President Xi has told us to roll up our sleeves to work harder, which I think is important not only for ourselves, but also for the nation, especially at a time when the global economy is sluggish.” — China Daily/The Star/Asia News Network

Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak : Chinese New Year TVC 2017

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/8DB9zIlQrh0

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 2017 – expect a bumpy year ahead worldwide 

Fighting corruption a decade later, Wars on graft widens


“Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power.”
William Gaddis

THE beginning of the year is as good a time as any to reflect upon the direction the country is heading towards.

Ten years ago, Malaysians were just beginning to appreciate the opening up of public space. Then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, or more familiarly known as Pak Lah, had taken over in 2003, and then won a landslide victory for the ruling Barisan Nasional in 2004, riding on a wave of public confidence in his commitment to reforming a government that had lost a whopping 14 parliamentary seats in the previous 1999 general election.

What was most distinct about his administration was his promise to clamp down on corruption and therefore empowering the anti-corruption agencies. Related to this was the general change in the sociopolitical air – civil society felt freer and more able to organise public seminars related to various issues previously deemed sensitive.

More significantly, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was established in 2004, an upgraded version of the previously known Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), with the idea of being a regional hub for anti-corruption capacity and capability building to “fight corruption by promoting best practices in investigation, monitoring and enforcement …”

Modelled after Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), it was meant to be a more robust agency now given greater teeth to fight graft in the country.

The MACC did go through significant challenges, chief of which was the incident in 2006 during which political aide Teoh Beng Hock was found to have fallen to his death at the MACC Selangor headquarters in Shah Alam. Embroiled in controversy, the investigations and court cases eventually concluded that it was, in fact, a homicide that took place. Although the police did not eventually find the perpetrator, the MACC as an institution did take measures to improve itself after admitting there were flaws in its system.

One of the reform measures was to set up five independent committees, namely the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, the Special Committee on Corruption, the Complaints Committee, the Operations Evaluation Panel, and the Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel. These committees would be tasked to provide oversight to the operations and investigation processes of the MACC, and many individuals of good public standing were appointed to fill these positions subsequently, although these mechanisms did not sufficiently boost public confidence.

Over the last year, the MACC has been in the spotlight for numerous reasons, having investigated 1MDB and other cases related to it, but then later raided by the police for reportedly having leaked documents.

Has the anti-corruption commission that was initially promised to be reformed and strengthened all those years ago instead been eroded and weakened?

The MACC in fact ought to be an independent institution given the resources to fight corruption. But the 2017 budget saw a laundry list of financial cuts, including in investigation and surveillance, law and prosecution, prevention, administrative and forensic services, as well as record and information management, and community education. How is it possible for the MACC to continue functioning with the same expectations but with a much lower budget?

One of the core reforms that some of us in civil society have called for in recent years is an independent MACC that reports to Parliament and has greater autonomy both financially and in hiring and firing its own staff.

The MACC currently reports to the Prime Minister’s Department, which surely is a source of potential conflict of interest. Having a truly independent MACC would allow it to truly exercise its duties in an unbiased fashion without fear or favour.

The new MACC Chief Commissioner, Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, recently announced that he wants to combat corruption and abuse of power, saying that “for those who are still intoxicated by bribery, please listen to this warning: stop the corruption and power abuse, and surrender yourself!” In the same speech, he also urged Malaysians to support the agency in its mission. The MACC’s recent action in the Sabah Water Department corruption case is a good sign that it is taking steps in that direction.

However, the MACC simply cannot carry out this task alone. The experiences over the last decade would surely have taught the administration some lessons: that apart from the government it serves, positive public perception is crucial to achieving its goals. Working with, instead of against, the community that it tries to educate is crucial if it wants to seriously fight corruption all round.

This is where independent civil society organisations can in fact come in to support the MACC in its efforts to fight corruption. Other expert bodies like accountants and lawyers can also support MACC’s work as many investigations involve technical and forensic accounting matters. However, the MACC must also demonstrate its willingness to have frank discussions and dialogue with civil society.

The MACC has seen tremendous transformations over the last decade and more, but fighting corruption seems to be even more challenging than ever. It is hoped that it is in these trying times partnerships and collaborations can be forged; all those in favour of fighting corruption – and this must be a priority this year – should surely come together.

– Tricia Yeoh letters@thesundaily.com

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Wars on graft widens

Four officers nabbed for pocketing fees after altering passport applications

The tentacles in the war against graft are spreading wide. Four Immigration officers who listed normal people as disabled, pocketing the RM200 application fee in the process, have been nabbed; a senior official from the Malacca Historic City Council is under probe; policemen who took bribes have been charged; and the Inland Revenue Board has also joined the fray, striking up a partnership with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. PETALING JAYA: Four Selangor Immigration officers were entrusted to receive and process applications for international passports.

Nabbed: Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers escorting four Immigration officers out from the Shah Alam magistrate’s court after they were remanded for six days.

Having access to the applicant database, they did much more than their job scope.

The quartet would pocket the RM200 international passport application fee received over the counter by “converting” the paid applications to that submitted by OKU (disabled) persons, who are entitled to free passports.

The officers had been pocketing large sums this way since 2014, with about RM1mil siphoned off.

An internal audit exposed the ruse recently.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) raided the Selangor Immigration Department office in Shah Alam at 3.30pm on Monday and detained the four officers, two of them women.

The four suspects were brought to the Shah Alam magistrate’s court to be remanded for six days.

The investigation is under Section 18 of the MACC Act 2009 which involves submission of false claims with intention to deceive.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrests, describing the case as “very serious and warranting a very thorough probe.”

“We do not rule out the possibility that such fraud may also be occurring in other Immigration offices all over the country.

“This is not an isolated case and must be addressed,” he said.

An MACC official said the suspects were believed to be involved in the submission of payment vouchers with falsified information.

“The record is altered to show that the applicant is an OKU when he or she is not,’’ the official added.

Immigration director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said full cooperation had been extended to MACC, and had shared the outcome of its internal audit. – The Star

Four immigration officers held for allegedly pocketing RM1m for falsifying passports

PETALING JAYA: Four Immigration Department front-line officers who are believed to have siphoned as much as RM1 million from the department have been detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The suspects, aged between 31 and 39, include two female officers. They were arrested at the Selangor Immigration Department at 3.30pm on Monday and have been remanded for six days beginning today.

MACC sources said the officers took advantage of a fee waiver for people with disabilities (OKU) by fraudulently classifying normal applicants as OKU and pocketing the RM200 fee on each transaction.

Investigators learnt the suspects have been involved in the racket since 2014 and were only recently exposed after the Immigration Department conducted an internal audit.

The audit team became suspicious when it found a high number of passports issued to OKUs, and initiated a probe.

So far, the status of at least 100 normal passport holders have been found falsely classified as those belonging to OKU, and this is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg, and that there were some 5,000 more cases.

MACC investigators are probing assets amassed by the detained officers and believe such activities may also be prevalent at other passport issuing immigration offices nationwide.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said today that an indepth probe on the case is ongoing.

“This cannot be taken lightly as it has caused losses in government revenue. Moreover, it breaches the special privileges accorded to the disabled by the government,” he said.

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad said the agency will use every law in existence to prosecute those involved in graft to make it clear that crime does not pay.

“Let me issue a warning … we will not only pursue prosecution under the MACC Act, but also use the Anti-Money-Laundering Act and the Income Tax Act,” Dzulkifli said in a speech at the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) today after witnessing the signing of a corruption-free pledge by IRB – the first government agency to do so after signing the Corporate Integrity Pledge in 2013.

“I urge you to stop immediately or face the consequences,” said Dzulkifli, adding that even if MACC cannot prosecute a corrupt individual, he or she would not be able to escape the IRB.

– Charles Ramendran and Lee Choon Fai Newsdesk@thesundaily.com

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Four policemen charged with corruption

(From top left) A combo picture of policemen Mohd Zulkifly Mat Nor, 28, Jeffry Abdullah, 35, Zainoor Ariffin Rosli, 24 and Muhammad Farid Nordin, 28 when they were brought to George Town Session Court by Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to face corruption charges under Section 17 of the MACC Act.

GEORGE TOWN: Four policemen were charged in the Sessions Court here today with corruption.

Corporal Jefry Abdullah, 35, from the Narcotics Department of the Northeast district police headquarters pleaded not guilty before Sessions Court Judge Roslan Hamid.

He is accused of trying to obtain RM1,000 for himself from Nor Esmawati Baharom as inducement not to take action against the latter’s brother in-law, Norhamni Haron by swapping a positive urine sample during a urine test at the district police headquarters.

He was alleged to have committed the offense at the Narcotics Department office of the Northeast district police headquarters about 4.40pm on Mac 1 last year.

Jefry was charged under Section 17(a) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and fine not less than five times the bribe amount or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The court fixed bail at RM8,000 with one surety.

In a separate charge, three policemen from the Datuk Keramat police station also claimed trial over a corruption charge.

Muhammad Farid Nordin, 28, Mohd Zulkifly Mat Nor, 28, and Zainoor Ariffin Rosli, 24, with another person still at large were charged with trying to obtain RM10,000 for themselves as an inducement not to take action against Norhamni Haron for possessing ganja.

They were alleged to have committed the offence at the Datuk Keramat police station on Mac 1, last year about 11.45am.

The trio were also charged under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act 2009.

MACC Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ahmad Ghazali Mohd Nazri suggested bail of RM10,000 with one surety for each of the accused considering the seriousness of the case.

Roslan fixed bail at RM8,000 with one surety for each of them and set Feb 17 for mention.

V. Partiban represented all of the accused.

MACC DPP Amin Yaacub also appeared for the prosecution.

– Imran Hilmy newsdesk@thesundaily.com
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Councillors ready to serve Penangites to make a difference?


THE Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) see 10 new faces among the list of councillors who sworn in Jan 5 and 6 for the 2017 term.State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the lineup for the 24 MBPP and 23 MPSP councillors is effective Jan 1 till Dec 31.

The New faces appointed as councillors (from left) Tan, Shahrudin, Seow, Loh, Khoo Salma, Noor Syazwani, Shung and Woo at a press conference in Komtar.

He said three of the five new faces in MBPP are from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), namely writer Khoo Salma Nasution, 53, (Penang Forum), insurance and corporate risk consultant Shung Yin Ni, 31, (Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce) and marketing officer Noor Syazwani Md Amin, 30, (Persatuan Peniaga Melayu Pasar Malam Pulau Pinang).

The other two are senior marketing manager Tan Chiew Choon, 45, and businessman Shahrudin Mohamed Sahriff, 47, both from PKR.

Chiew Choon had served as a councillor before with the MBPP between 2013 and 2015. He was not retained the following term.

The five replace Eric Lim Seng Keat (NGO), Dr Lim Mah Hui (NGO), Mohamed Yusoff Mohamed Noor (NGO), Felix Ooi Keat Hin (PKR) and Shahul Hameed M. K. Mohamed Ishack (PKR).

The 19 councillors who were retained are Goh Choon Keong, Gooi Seong Kin, Grace Teoh Koon Gee, Harvindar Singh, Joseph Ng Soon Siang, D. R. Kala, Chris Lee Chun Kit, Ong Ah Teong, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Wong Yuee Harng, J. Francis, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Nur Zarina Zakaria, A. Kumaresan, Ahmad Razaaim Azimi, Ahmad Azrizal Tahir, Mhd Nasir Yahya, Saiful Azwan Abd Malik and Gan Ay Ling.

 

MPSP also has five new faces including lawyer Thomas Loh Wei Pheng, 33, (DAP), special officer Woo Sze Zeng, 34, (DAP), company director Dr Seow Kweng Tian, 37, (PKR), entrepreneur Fadzil Abdullah, 60, (Amanah) and clerk Hamizah Abdul Manab, 26, (NGO).

They replace Siti Nur Shazreen Mohd Jilani (DAP), Tan Chong Hee (DAP), Goh Choon Aik (PKR), Alias Wan Chek (PKR), Mohd Suzuki Ahmad (Amanah) and Ahmad Tarmizi Abdullah (NGO), whose terms were not extended.

Chow said one more vacancy in the lineup for MPSP will be decided in the next state exco meeting.

The other 18 MPSP councillors are P. David Marshel, Heng Yeh Shiuan, H’ng Mooi Lye, K. Kumar, Mohamad Shaipol Ismail, M. Satees, Tan Chee Teong, Tan Cheong Heng, Zulkifli Ibrahim, Mohd Sharmizan Mohamad Nor, Zaini Awang, Ong Jing Cheng, Anuar Yussoff, Dr Amar Pritpal Abdullah, Shuhada Abdul Rahim, Zulkiply Ishak, Dr Tiun Ling Ta and Wong Chee Keet.

Shung, who is from a corporate background, said she hoped to assist in providing a better environment for business undertakings in Penang.

Shahrudin said the appointment would encourage him to step up efforts to serve the people better.

The Jelutong PKR branch deputy chief said he hoped to take on his role as a councillor more efficiently through various state initiatives and policies.

Dr Seow hopes to resolve issues related to public transportation and community welfare.

He said that he hoped to resolve traffic congestion, plant more trees and maintain cleanliness.

“I hope to be able to introduce more community-based activities as a councillor,” said Dr Seow, who is a PhD holder.

Speaking at a press conference in Komtar yesterday, Chow said the allowances for the councillors would remain at RM2,500 each.

“They are also eligible for allowances for attending meetings up to RM1,200, which is about RM100 for every meeting they attend. There is also a RM300 mobile phone allowance,” he added.

Also present was Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

By Chong Kah Yuan Intan Amalina The Star/ANN


Newly sworn-in MBPP councillors ready to make a difference

(From left) Tan, Noor Syazwani, Shung, Salma and Shahrudin posing for a photo after the swearing-in ceremony at the City Hall in George Town, Penang.

 

MARKETING officer Noor Syazwani Md Amin is eagerly waiting to serve the people as one of Penang Island City Council’s (MBPP) five new councillors.

The 30-year-old, who is with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Penggerak Komuniti Muda Pulau Pinang (Peka), said one of the issues close to her heart is the flood woes in the state.

“I live in the flood-prone Jalan P. Ramlee, so I definitely hope it’s one of the issues that can be solved for the sake of the people.

“There will be the flood mitigation projects which are going to be carried out. So, hopefully I can make use of that for the community, especially those staying in Sungai Pinang, Jelutong and Jalan P. Ramlee,” she said when met after the MBPP councillors’ swearing-in ceremony for the 2017 term at the City Hall in George Town, Penang, yesterday.

Noor Syazwani said her priority is always about placing the people first.

“Helping people excites me.

“Hopefully, I can give my best because I’m still new,” she added.

She is among 24 MBPP councillors, who took their oath at the City Hall yesterday.

Three of the five new faces are from NGOs. They are writer Khoo Salma Nasution, 53, (Penang Forum), insurance and corporate risk consultant Shung Yin Ni, 31, (Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce) and Noor Syazwani.

The other two are senior marketing manager Tan Chiew Choon, 45, and businessman Shahrudin Mohamed Shariff, 47, both from PKR.

Meanwhile, Shung said she hoped to enhance conduciveness of Penang as an excellent business centre with her appointment in the MBPP.

“This is so that when the economy blooms, everyone gets to benefit from it.

“I would also like to emphasise on sustainable development, which does not only mean taking care of the environment but also the needs of the people. Therefore, I hope to find a balance,” she added.

The five replace Eric Lim Seng Keat (NGO), Dr Lim Mah Hui (NGO), Mohamed Yusoff Mohamed Noor (NGO), Felix Ooi Keat Hin (PKR) and Shahul Hameed M.K. Mohamed Ishack (PKR).

The 19 councillors retained are Goh Choon Keong, Gooi Seong Kin, Grace Teoh Koon Gee, Harvindar Singh, Joseph Ng Soon Siang, D.R. Kala, Chris Lee Chun Kit, Ong Ah Teong, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Wong Yuee Harng, J. Francis, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Nur Zarina Zakaria, A. Kumaresan, Ahmad Razaaim Azimi, Ahmad Azrizal Tahir, Mhd Nasir Yahya, Saiful Azwan Abd Malik and Gan Ay Ling.

The new MBPP lineup comprises 10 from DAP, eight from PKR, two from Amanah and four from NGOs.

The tenure for the councillors is from Jan 1 until Dec 31.

In her speech, MBPP mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail congratulated all the appointed councillors.

State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the role of a councillor is very extensive.

“Apart from representing the general public and local community, a member of the council is also an intermediate between the community and local authority,” he said in his speech.

Chow also congratulated the council on its success in getting various awards and victories at state, national and international levels.

The achievements include being the Earth City Hour Challenge 2016 finalist.

MBPP also received the Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific (TPO) Tourism Industry Leader Award in Tourism Promotion for Asia Pacific Forum 2016.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also present, said MBPP’s success not only depended solely on a credible and effective management, but also the support, commitment and team work from all councillors, officers and staff.

He said MBPP practised prudent spending and governance based on the principles of CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) that successfully recorded an excellent financial performance with budget surplus in the financial statements for three consecutive years, which is RM47.57mil for 2013, RM177.95mil for 2014 and RM146.04mil for 2015.

“The success of the council in maintaining good financial performance enables efforts to improve the provision of public facilities.

“MBPP will implement several development projects at a cost of RM5.2mil.

“Among the proposed projects to improve the comfort of the people, include the construction of a public market in Batu Ferringhi,” he added.

By Cavina Lim The Star/ANN

Outspoken author among five new faces at MBPP

New faces appointed as the councillor in Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for 2017. (oriental daily/04 Jan 2017)

 

GEORGE TOWN: An outspoken author of over a dozen history books is among five new faces appointed as Penang Island City (MBPP) councillors.

Khoo Salma Nasution represents Penang Forum and is taking over from her equally vocal counterpart Dr Lim Mah Hui, who opted out of being re-appointed this year after serving six terms.

Penang Forum is a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, often critical of the state government’s plans and policies.

The city’s councillors are appointed yearly and comprise a small number of NGO representatives, including one from Penang Forum.

During his term, Dr Lim vocife­rously highlighted governance issues to the point of incurring the annoyance of the state administration.

Khoo planned to keep public pressure on MBPP and wished that more seats were allotted to NGOs.

She is eager to see what committees are in the council and hoped to play a role especially in fostering sustainable development, transport planning, environmental issues and heritage conservation.

“I feel there is not enough awareness on these. I want to see what I can do about making people more conscious of them, not just indivi­duals but at an institutional level,” she said.

The former journalist of The Star who did a 20-year research into Penang’s history and development to write her books, believes that the council needs environmental goals and key performance indicators to monitor Penang’s green progress.

“We need to collect more information about how Penang is doing to track our environmental and heritage conservation efforts,” she said.

Khoo was in Komtar yesterday when Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and state exco member Chow Kon Yeow announced the appointments of the new councillors.

Dr Lim said he was glad that the state government accepted Penang Forum’s nomination of Khoo.

“Her decades of study on Pe­­nang’s growth will help the council manage development while preserving our cultural and heritage values,” he said.

Dr Lim added that he declined his re-appointment because he felt “the change in Penang that we want doesn’t seem to be happening”.

Other new faces are Tan Chiew Choon (PKR), Shahrudin Mohamed Sahriff (PKR), Shung Yin Ni (NGO) and Noor Syazwani Mohd Amin (NGO).

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