No Malaysian should consider himself a second-class citizen nor feel sidelined or left behind in the nation’s progress, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

He said under his “1Malaysia” concept, every member of the public who was eligible, in need of help and aid, would be rendered assistance.

“Let it be known that all citizens of this country have their rights and responsibilities as outlined in the Federal Constitution. Citizenship is not only about one’s rights but also about responsibility towards the nation.

“No parties should be overly zealous in demanding their rights and forget their responsibilities as citizens of Malaysia,” Najib told some 5,000 civil servants Tuesday in his first meeting with them since being appointed Prime Minister on April 3.

In explaining his “1Malaysia -- People First; Performance Now” concept, the Prime Minister said Malaysia is a plural society and this was a reality that needed to be accepted by all.

Under this concept, it would be ensured that no Malaysian would be sidelined from getting the Government’s attention.

“As far as the Government is concerned, meritocracy does not mean equality that is awarded blindly. It means placing something at its rightful place.

“A child from an unpoverished family, whether from the city or a rural area, irrespective his ethic background, but has potential, also has the right to be assisted by the Government compared with his peers from well-to-do families who obviously have better education opportunities,” he said.

Najib however reminded everyone that while a fair playing field could be provided to all, the outcome depended highly on one’s desire, needs and desire to succeed in life.

The Prime Minister said the country was now facing two monumental challenges -- the short term challenge of facing the impact of the global financial and economic meltdown; and the long term challenge of reforming the economy based on a new model that emphasised creativity and innovation.

“It is hoped that the new economic model will act as a catalyst for Malaysia to boost its status from an upper middle income nation to one that is of high income in the near future,” he said.

Najib also threw a challenge to the younger generation, known to be critical of the civil service -- to be a part of it so that “improvements could be made from within.”

“While the monetary renumeration offered by the private sector cannot be matched, those who join the civil service sector can be assured of a high sense of satisfaction that is derived from serving the people and the country,” he said.

Barely three weeks after taking office as Malaysia's sixth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak has been able to bring into shape, several major reforms which he has promised Malaysians.

He revised several policies and announced the liberalisation of some sectors of the economy to level the playing field of opportunities.

Since taking office on April 3, Najib has announced a series of major policy changes, including the lifting of some regulations designed to benefit bumiputera but had deterred entrepreneurship and foreign investments.

This included scrapping a 30 per cent Bumiputera ownership requirement for investment in some services sector to help boost the country's flagging economy, with immediate effect.

It will benefit part of the services sector, including computer services and health-care sectors.

As part of his first major policy reforms, Najib also announced that five foreign law firms would be allowed to offer services in Islamic finance.

Economists and analysts have been watching closely, whether the government would gradually liberalise more sectors, particularly the more sensitive sectors such as retail and banking, which also have certain ownership requirements but the government is seen as trying to avoid liberalising these sectors to avoid a political backlash.

However, judging from the speed and determination of the new administration, it seems that they are all out for liberalisation in this sector to turn the nation into a more attractive place for investment.

"In fact, we are very encouraged, quite a number of far-sighted decisions are now being undertaken at a very quick pace since he assumed premiership. This is very encouraging. If it follow through, it will have a positive impact on the sentiments, more importantly the investor confidence," said Chief Economist, RAM Consultancy Service Dr Yeah Kean Leng.

"Less than 100 days, there are breathtaking changes. If we can follow through, it can be achieved in less than 100 days," he added.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced in the 1970s to provide for equitable distribution of the economic wealth, which required businesses to have certain percentage of Bumiputera ownership or quota on the hiring of Bumiputeras.

Foreign investors found this policy to be restrictive, in terms of their businesses.

Political analysts said Najib was smart and bold in continuing this anti- affirmative-action jag, as they said he was aware of its political implications and knew that it was also the only way forward, particularly in the current bad global economic situation.

More importantly, Najib's breathtaking reforms are what the public has been expecting all this while as the way forward for this multi-racial but small country which is still very much dependent on natural resources, plantation and manufacturing as the main sources of income.

"It's a practicality. You have no choice. Either you do something to give it a chance, or you wait till it dies naturally," said James Wong, a former politician and political analyst.

Wong said, since the NEP was announced in 1971, Malaysia's preferential treatment of Bumiputera in education and business was seen as hampering growth.

"If the government can move past these, its economy will benefit most," he added.

Najib took the reform agenda to a new high today when he allowed up to 70 per cent on foreign shareholdings in insurance and investment banking, as part of measures to boost the finance industry under the economic liberalisation package.

His latest move seems to be in tandem with the promises he made during an interview with Financial Times, just before he took over the premiership, that he wanted Malaysia to move away from its dependence on electronics exports and commodities.

Although opposition lawmakers and political parties are expecting wider reforms, DAP member of parliament Tony Pua has described Najib's announcements as a "baby's step forward" to unwind long-standing policies which hindered investments.

In the past, Pua said state agencies and government-linked companies imposed strict guidelines on procurement of goods and services from private firms, requiring them to comply with Bumiputera equity rules and staff quotas.

For instance, he said, some banks engaged only legal firms which have at least 50 per cent Malay equity.

Despite perceptions that the government was unwilling to scrap policies which benefited Bumiputera, for fear of alienating them as they formed the main support of the ruling party, some politicians believe Najib would continue with his reforms even if he faced fiery criticisms from his own party.

As pointed out by UMNO MP for Pulai Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, the people should not worry too much about Najib's reforms and should play their part in a positive way to accept his challenge.

"We should focus on prospering the economy and commit less politicking, if we love the country and love each other. His (Najib) hard work and Barisan Nasional's efforts will be judged by the people, come the next general election.

"So, let's give the Najib Administration time and space to do its job. As for us, let's get on with making us Malaysians strong as one people without letting any policy divide us," Nur Jazlan wrote in a commentary posted on a website.


Q: You have been elected to an unprecedented 11th term as MIC president; that’s close to three decades in power. What can you do for the party and Indian community now that you couldn’t before?

A: One cannot deny the fact that Indians have excelled in many fields but there remains a section of the community who are still not out of the poverty zone. This has been my main concern. I have dedicated my entire life to the Indian community. Never a day goes by without an Indian problem to be solved. This list of problems is beyond our wildest imagination. I still feel I have the zeal, energy, commitment and love for the party and community. I feel I can still contribute effectively to the Indian community.

I was raised in an estate, we were estate workers’ children and encountered so many problems in our lives. So being MIC president, I always wanted to alleviate their problems.

Your defeat in the general election last year was seen as the end of your rule. But you remain MIC president. What was it like being defeated in Sungei Siput?

A: On the day the election results were to be announced, my friends told me that I had lost. I thought, well, the people gave it to me, now they are taking it back.

If you ask me how I feel, it is this: when I was in the Government, I had the muscle to do whatever I wanted for the community. But as MIC president, I can only listen to the people and run around to get things done. In the past, I could just pick up the phone, speak to a minister and get things done. What was shocking to me was that having served 29 years, almost day and night, a bunch of people came around and said you have done nothing. They kept saying that to impress upon the minds of the people that I had actually not done anything.

The statement by Dr Mahathir who came out openly the day before the general election to say that I had not done anything shocked me. It affected me very badly. I lost the Malay and also the Indian support. As a media man, even you know that we raised so many issues and talked about so many problems.

You sprang back with one more victory speech after being returned unopposed as MIC president last month. But many are saying that you are not the person who should, or even can, lead the MIC out of its predicament.

My very humble conclusion is that many right persons who held office did not actually do their jobs well. Here, there is one wrong person who has assumed the responsibility and done his best for the community. Sometimes, you have a very qualified person who takes the chair, but nobody knows if he would have the time to mingle with the ordinary people, to listen to their cries like I have.

You are one of the hardest hitting persons in Malaysian politics. Now, you’re at the receiving end. The question being asked is this: is the MIC still representative of the Indian community with you as the party head?

Life is give and take. There are times you keep on giving and times when you keep on taking. When you keep on taking for sometime, you will again go back to keep on giving (laughs).

You’re not just suffering from bad press. Malaysian Indians, in fact Malaysians in general, are saying the same thing – that you should go.

Yes, very good. But it is the party that decides. Even if I wanted to contest, the party could have said no and I would have left. But there are multiple requests for me to stay on – for party unity, for the strength of the party and also because I am one person who can understand the community very well compared to any other leader. And number four, because I am someone who has been with the community all along.

These are certain qualities I have maintained in my leadership. Today, if I were to call for a conference to say “It is time to go”, let us see how many people will say “all right, get out.” People talk about age, but this country has seen people like Mahathir who stayed on until 78. I am only 73, I can still put in another five or six years. But I don’t want to because I think other leaders are on the way up.

But the worry now is that the MIC is not better off today than it was a year ago when your party was thrashed in the polls.

Did MIC lose because it is the MIC or because it is in the BN (Barisan Nasional)? There was a nationwide wave against the Barisan and MIC was among the victims. In the past during an election, I could easily get between 75% to 80% of the Malay votes. Today, I can’t. The mind of the Malay voters of the past is different from that of Malays today. Similarly, the mind of the Indian voters. But the mind of the Chinese voters is still the same. There is no change. They already indicated sometime back that they would not vote (for the BN).

Apart from your rebranding exercise of the MIC, what concrete proposal have you made to regain Indian support for the MIC and the Government?

After the rebranding exercise, we have to a great extent changed the mindsets of the leaders. Many of them were down after the general election. They were wondering whether there is a future. Through the rebranding exercise, I told them that there is a future. They were wondering whether I would still serve the people. I told them, you just adapt yourself to the new needs of the people. That is the rebranding. I told them to change their style and approach so that the people would like them. It is a matter of time.

I go back to your unopposed victory as party president. If the contest had been allowed, we could have known your influence in the party. By what margin were you expecting to win?

If there was a contest, there would have been 300 people who would have voted against me out of 3,600 delegates. We have now identified, that in the nomination, many of the proposers’ signatures (for challenger Datuk M. Muthupalianappan) were falsified. They have written in to say that it was not their signatures, that someone had forged it. About 60 people have complained that they signed for me first and then their signatures were forged (in favour of Muthupalaniappan). About 10 others who did not sign at all found their forged signatures on the forms. The MIC headquarters is investigating this.

It was recently reported that the MIC wanted to withdraw its minister and two deputies . The reports did not attribute it to any source but it had to come from you as it was a serious matter. Was it just a PR stunt by the party, or were you angry at being left out of the Cabinet despite being returned as MIC president?

I am not at all angry at being left out of the Cabinet because I do not wish to be in the Cabinet. Everyone else asked for a Cabinet (seat), but I have not. Because I feel that I have served 29 years as minister and also because a younger person is holding the Cabinet post for the MIC. And we have two new deputy ministers. I will not fit into the new Cabinet. The difference in age is paramount.

But you would have accepted a Cabinet post had you won in the general election last year?

If I had won, it’s a different issue. I lost so I should take it that it is the end of my career ... as a minister.

When you first won the MIC presidency, you proclaimed “education, education and education” as the only way for the Indians to overcome their plight. So you pioneered the setting up of Vanto Academy, Tafe College and AIMST (Asian Institute of Medical Science and Technology), but these institutions have been mired in controversy, with the quality of education also questioned.

All three institutions did not suffer from quality of education. The doctors who qualify from AIMST are said to be the best because we pay so much attention to recruiting some of the top overseas professors. The controversy created by some people is about the cost of the university. They said the RM220mil cost had ballooned to RM435mil (laughs).

They don’t understand that RM220mil is for phase one, which includes all the faculties. Phase two includes the student hostels. And then another phase which includes staff quarters and a stadium. There are phases in the university. Our original estimate was RM520mil but we finished the project at RM424mil. We did not call tenders for another RM16mil because we thought it was unnecessary.

Your critics say that it is the non-MIC educational efforts, like that of the Sri Murugan Centre, which has been effective in uplifting the Indian community’s education. Datuk Devamany, one of your deputy ministers, is a product of the centre. You agree?

The Sri Murugan Centre has benefited the community but only to a certain extent. In Tafe College, 43,000 students have graduated as para professionals since its inception in early 1985. And MIED (Maju Institute for Educational Development) has given 14,600 people about RM100mil (in total) to study and some are still studying. Now, we have created a great university (AIMST). No Indian outside India owns a university, it is only in Malaysia. We have 3,000 students there. All the students produced by Sri Murugan Centre will eventually end up in universities such as AIMST.

Indian ownership of equity lags between 0.9% and 1%, although the grand plan of the MIC was to hit 10% by 1990. You have called for government intervention to increase Indian equity to 3%, but many say only the rich Indians will be enriched. Any justification in such claims?

It (Indian ownership of equity) has actually gone down from 1.5% to 1% because nothing concrete was done by the Government to raise the economic status of the Indians. But they take a lot of steps for the others, but not for the Indians. This matter was raised in the Special Cabinet Committee for the Indians, and they agreed to a certain extent that there should be some allocation purely for the Indians. For the PNB to buy the shares and later deduct (share price paid) from whatever they make. But I don’t see any change. Whatever discussed did not materialise. You don’t expect an Indian to go and buy shares for RM60,000 or RM100,000. For an ordinary Indian to hold some equity for himself and his future, he should be assisted by the Government like how the bumiputras are being aided.

But will 3% of the pie merely enrich the already rich Indians in the country, and not the poor Indians in need of help?

Our request first was to specifically look at the poor. That 20,000 shares (each) be given only to those in the lower income group. We are still working out how to do it.

Maika Holdings, that’s the albatross around your neck. You have not told us how you plan to return the lifesavings of the many poor Indians who invested in the scheme.

I formed Maika Holdings. I ran around the whole country and collected RM100mil. After that, I was not the executor of the company. It was formed and handed over to several people who took charge of it. If they brought the company down to that level, I should not be blamed. I only create and hand over to other people. The best thing we had in Maika was Oriental Capital Assurance Bhd (an insurance company that is a Maika subsidiary), worth about RM130mil. It was decided at the AGM (in 2007) that we should sell the company and pay off all the shareholders, so that once and for all we can close the company down and the people who invested get back their money, with due consideration.

We already had a buyer. When the deal was about to go through, Datuk Subramaniam (former MIC deputy president) and Nesa (Koperasi Nesa Pelbagai Bhd, one of MIC’s economic development projects) took an injunction to stop it. We talked to them several times but they refused to bow. Now the economy is down and the buyer has withdrawn. And Maika Holdings is dead. The value of the insurance company is down now. We wanted to sell (Oriental Capital) for RM130mil but Datuk Subramaniam wanted a higher price for it. There was nobody to offer a higher price despite our many efforts, but still they (Subramaniam and Nesa) did not want to withdraw (the injunction).

So what is the fate of the thousands of poor Indians who invested in your scheme? This is a time of great economic hardship for them.

The poor who want to sell their shares, they come here (MIC headquarters) and we give them the money. Because they say I am the one who sold them the shares. They tell me “I’ve got 2,000 Maika shares and am in economic distress, can you buy it back?” And I pay them RM2,000 from my pocket.

You will do this for all who want a refund?

Actually when there were articles written in the press for people to go and claim their money back, nobody came. They feel that their money is not lost, that there is a way to get their returns. They trusted us very much and they still do trust us. When we call for an AGM, only a handful of about 20 to 25 people will be shouting. When we tell them “Ok, take back your money”, they say “No, no, I don’t want to.” They still trust that they will get back their money.

How do you feel about the bad press mounting against you, political commentators saying you’re finished and demanding that you go?

I always welcome constructive, not destructive criticisms. For those being constructive, I call them and ask them for their views so we can change for the better. But when it’s destructive, going way down to attack personalities, I don’t think that’s journalism. Many have criticised us and I have listened to them. We have worked with many people like that. I take it very constructively.

So you take it constructively when they say you are not fit to lead the MIC?

All right, yes. I look at it constructively. He may have his reason and I have my reason why I think I should stay. An outsider has not gone through the problems of the party. From outside, it is easy to say we should run the party this way. But the practical experience of running a party is only known when you are doing it yourself.

The expectation is that you will step down soon anyway. The party elections are scheduled in September where the second echelon leaders will be elected. Will you state here whether you’re stepping down in September?

The new leader will need time to be trained. I can’t just walk away in September. The new man will not be in a position to do what needs to be done. In September, I will announce when I will get out of the party.

How long more then?

About a year to a year-and-half. I was re-elected only last month.

You campaigned for a new deputy president in 2006 to unseat your long-serving deputy Datuk S. Subramaniam, saying you wanted the leadership succession issue settled. Now, you are said to have changed your mind that your deputy Datuk G. Palanivel should succeed you. We’re back to square one?

No, no such thing. Now there are too many people clamouring for that post and that is the greatest headache for me. Who should really be the person to be the next deputy president? All of them have served the party in their own way.

Will you endorse anyone for the deputy’s post, as he will surely become the acting MIC president when you step down soon?

I have not decided yet. I have to have some very deep thinking first. I still maintain my influence in the party, but at the moment I do not want to say anything yet. Datuk Palanivel is the incumbent, and there is Datuk (S.) Sothinathan (MIC vice-president), Datuk Dr Subramaniam who is the MIC secretary-general, and also Datuk Subramaniam (former MIC deputy president), all aiming to contest. It is the first time there will be such a big field vying for the deputy presidency. This is going to be a very important party election. It could be either way – the candidates (who win) could keep the party going with new strategies and plans, or it could be the start of new problems and internal bickering thereafter.

Do you think your former arch-rival Datuk Subramaniam would be an ideal choice, due to his vast experience? He is said to have made peace with you.

We are friends and are on talking terms again. But the decision he is seeking can only be made by the delegates, not me. In the previous election (I sided against him) because of so many other factors.

You once said that if the Indians do not stand up for their blood, sweat and toil for this country, no one will. Do you think you have stood up well enough for them in all your years as MIC president?

I have, in all my duties not only as party leader but as minister too. I did not care about offending anyone.

I said what the community wanted me to and I stood my ground. I have looked after the MIC for almost 30 years.

MIC Youth has urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to consider giving another minister post to the party.

Its coordinator T. Mohan said this was necessary as the Indian community faced numerous social problems and issues which could only be addressed by an Indian appointee.

He said the MIC used to have two ministers during the tenure of Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn. The then MIC president Tun V.T. Sambanthan was in charge of the Unity portfolio while Tan Sri Athi Nahappan was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Mohan said that the present one full minister and two deputy ministers was inadequate to serve the 1.9 million Indians in the country.

He said the additional post would make it easier for MIC to go to the ground and regain the lost support for Barisan.

Five Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) division chiefs in Kedah announced Monday they had quit the party as they had lost confidence in the leadership of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

They are Jerlun division chief Azhar Ahmad, Bakar Din (Baling), Hamid Othman (Padang Serai), Wahab Mat Isa (Sik) and Bakar Hamid (Pendang).

Azhar claimed that the struggles of the party were no longer relevant.

"We are disappointed that Anwar is giving more importance to the views of PAS and DAP leaders," he said, adding that Anwar had also neglected his division, especially in terms of appointment to the village chief council.

The five former PKR division chiefs called on voters in the Bukit Selambau state by-election tomorrow to reject PKR candidate S. Manikumar.

With polling just round the corner and the contestants pushing into the final phase of campaigning, the thoughts of most, if not all in this wet, wet, wet town, is who will end up high and dry with nothing and who emerges as victor.

While the answer to that all important question will only be known late Tuesday night, some political observers and campaigners closely monitoring the voters' mood have obtained some early indications.

While nobody can be sure exactly how the voters will decide, the early signs show that BN is having the upper hand despite many non-Malay voters, especially the Chinese, placing their faith on PAS.

Even the PAS leadership itself admits that it is trailing behind BN in terms of Malay support but is ahead on non-Malay voters.

Sources within PAS and PKR - two members of the opposition tasked with campaigning for non-Malay votes, said they are not entirely confident that victory is at hand because of new issues like the country's new leadership in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and return of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed to Umno, as they may have some impact on this rural constituency, especially among Malay voters.

In the 2008 general election, the late Roslan Shaharom from PAS scored an upset over Umno's Datuk Abdul Azim Zabidi with a majority of 1,566 votes. But analysts from both BN and PAS said that Roslan garnered only 47 percent of the Malay votes and he rode to victory by bagging an estimated 65 percent of the non-Malay votes.

The detailed analysis of the 2008 general election results showed that the Malay voter turnout was high at 77 percent and 51 percent voted for BN while the rest voted for PAS.

However, its was the non-Malay votes that turned the tide against BN as out of the 14,975 Chinese voters, 58 percent turned up to vote. Out of these, only 38 percent voted for BN and 54 percent, surprisingly voted for PAS.

In terms of the 5,367 Indian voters, 64 percent showed up of which 48 percent voted for BN. The remaining 49 percent voted for PAS, meaning that the Indian votes were equally split.

BN's candidate, Ismail Safian, is confident of winning as he contends that PAS has never actually won the bulk of Malay support in Bukit Gantang since the constituency was created in 1986.

"The only thing here is that PAS has the hardcore support of about 40 percent (of the Malays). Moreover, you have to bear in mind, when we lost in 2008, there were nearly 3,000 Umno members who did not come out to vote (because of some internal issues) but this time, we believe that the number of our members who will not turn up to vote can be reduced," said Ismail, who was formerly BN's director of operations in the last two general elections.

In addition, BN also has a track record of enjoying strong support throughout the past six general elections except for last year when it only obtained 45.91 per cent of the support compared to 60.37 per cent (2004), 55.59 per cent (1999), 68.97 per cent (1995), 60.35 per cent (1990) and 60.87 per cent (1986).

"So this time, we believe we can pull through," said Ismail.

In fact, some analysis by several political operatives showed that support for PAS in Malay communities in the constituency had actually dropped by about 2.0 per cent in 2004 and this trend continued in last year's general election with a further drop of 2.0 percent.

However, the drop in Malay support for PAS was compensated by the increasing non-Malay support towards PAS, which saw an improvement of more than 30 percent in 2008..

"In this by-election, despite it being tough, we believe that with the new leadership factor and the release of two Hindraf members, Indian support for BN can be increased to 65 per cent," former MIC Deputy President Datuk S. Subramanian said.

At least on paper and based on early conservative calculations, it seems that BN is leading the field for Malay votes and this has left PAS to work out a strategy of maintaining a higher percentage of non-Malay votes.

That is why some political analysts believed that the PAS decision to nominate former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin as a candidate in this by-election is to take advantage of his popularity among the non-Malays to secure the major bulk of the 14,955 Chinese and 5,526 Indian votes.

"The Opposition coalition (comprising PAS, DAP and PKR) is targeting at least 70 percent of the non-Malay votes as in the last election when it secured about 68 percent of the non-Malay votes while at the same time maintaining the 47 percent Malay support," said a DAP source.

But in this by-election, the DAP operative said that it would be tough to see a repeat as polling day on Tuesday was also a working day and expectations of a non-Malay voter turnout of 70 percent may not be reached.

In fact, he is worried that the turnout among non-Malay voters could dip to below 55 percent as some voters lived in places where they worked such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Singapore and Penang.

These outstation voters, mostly younger voters, are said to be more inclined towards the Opposition. In last year's general election, the overall turnout rate was 72 per cent and this time round, the Election Commission estimates that the turnout could be as high as 75 percent.

Therefore, if outstation voters do not come back to vote, then the turnout could be less than 72 percent. This may not work in favour of the Opposition as BN is likely to push for the Malay voter turnout to exceed 70 percent. This is due to the fact that the turnout among Malay voters is usually higher than non-Malays in Bukit Gantang as proven in the last election where the Malay voter turnout was 75.4 percent against 62.2 per cent for non-Malays.

Since the creation of the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in 1986, the turnout for the past six general election showed that it has always between 67 ando 73 percent with an average of 70 percent.

In theory, the minimum requirement for BN to win back the seat will be by maintaining 40 percent of the non-Malay support and improve Malay support to 55 percent.

However, with the anticipation of further drop of 10 percent in non-Malay support, political analysts predict that BN would need at least 62 percent of the Malay votes to scrape through.

If non-Malay support further drops to 20 percent, then BN will need to have at least 70 percent of the Malay votes.

With new impetus in BN such as the new leadership at the federal level, the review of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and release of some ISA detainees as well as the One Malaysian vision espoused by Najib, the renewed fresh sense of hope will work in BN's favour.

Sekiranya tiga lagi pemimpin Hindraf dibebaskan, masyarakat India akan memberikan sokongan penuh kepada BN dalam pilihanraya kecil Bukit Gantang, dakwa sepupu salah seorang pemimpin Hindraf yang masih ditahan di bawah ISA.

"Hari ini kita dengar perdana menteri akan datang. Kita minta beliau bebaskan tiga lagi pemimpin India.

bm lima tahanan hindrafKalau bebas kita semua orang India akan sokong BN," kata A Latha, sepupu kepada K Vasanthakumar - salah seorang daripada lima pemimpin Hindraf yang ditahan di bawah ISA.

Empat orang lagi pemimpin Hindraf yang ditahan di bawah ISA ialah P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan dan V Ganabatirau.

Ganabathirau dan Kenghadharan dibebaskan pada jam 1.20 petang ini dan dihantar terus ke kediaman mereka di Shah Alam dan Kelana Jaya, Selangor.

Latha berkata, keputusan itu dimaklumkan kepadanya oleh Vasantha sendiri kepadanya dalam pertemuan ringkas setengah jam di pusat tahanan itu pagi tadi.

Beliau berkata demikian kepada pemberita tengah hari tadi, setelah dua hari berturut-turut berkumpul bersama ahli keluarga dan penyokong pemimpin Hindraf teresbut, di depan Kem Tahanan Kamunting bagi menyaksikan pembebasan dua pemimpin organisasi itu.

Mahu jumpa PM

Lima minit selepas Ganabathirau dan Kenghandharan dibebaskan, lapan lagi tahananan - dua daripada Jemaah Islamiah dan enam Darul Islam Sabah dibebaskan.

Sebelum itu, pada 10.45 pagi, tiga tahanan ISA warga asing dibebaskan dan dibawa pergi dalam sebuah van.

Latha juga berkata, Vasanthakumar bersedia berkempen bagi memastikan kemenangan BN dalam pilihanraya kecil Bukit Gantang.

Ditanya sama ada sepupunya itu dapat memaafkan kerajaan pimpinan BN yang menahannya selama ini,

Latha berkata, perkara itu "boleh dilupakan".

Beliau juga menyatakan hasrat bertemu Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak bagi menyampaikan perkara tersebut.

Bermula awal pagi, kira-kira seratus pemberita, penyokong dan ahli keluarga dua pemimpin Hindraf itu

berkumpul di depan pagar utama kem itu bagi melihat pembebasan mereka.

ISA detainee Vasanthakumar to support BN?

In a shocking move that could hamper Pakatan Rakyat campaign in the run-up to the by-elections next Tuesday, some Hindraf supporters have shown support to the new Najib Razak government following the ISA release.


Putera MIC has urged PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim not to “mislead Malaysians on his so-called secrets or explosive information.”

Its coordinator P. Kamalanathan claimed Anwar had already lied once when he claimed that he would take over the federal government on Sept 16 last year.

Kamalanathan added that Anwar had also said that he would make an important announcement on Saturday night but now claims that he would do so on April 7, polling day for the three by-elections in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.

“I hope the people, especially the electorate in Bukit Selambau, will see the true face of Anwar. He will make empty promises just to woo voters,” he said after leading a Putera MIC team to visit Indian voters in Sungai Getah here.

He said Barisan Nasional component parties had gone to the ground to inform people on the programmes and projects implemented by the ruling coalition and what it can do for them.

“PKR and its allies have only been good at talking but none had actually come out to list out their achievements over the past one year,” he said.

Muhyiddin said ketuanan Melayu had become a thing of the past, and would never be mentioned again now.

He felt that Chinese Malaysians should not have been alarmed by one or two voices, as the government has never been talking about ketuanan Melayu.

"Some of the Malays may want to recall that they were the earliest fighters for independence. The government has never treated the people badly, nor ignored their interests or taken away the wealth of Chinese Malaysians to give to the Malays."

He felt that some Malays mentioned ketuanan Melayu just to boost the morale of the Malay community, and that they had never stirred up racial emotions and caused riots.

He hoped Malaysians would not be affected by some people. He said the 13 May incident had served as a lesson and the government did not want the incident to repeat.

He said Chinese were far more progressive than the Malays, and the government needed to assist the less fortunate. He said there were poor people in all the races, including Chinese and Indians, and these people should also be taken care of.

New hope from the new leadership

Muhyiddin Yassin said the new federal government team, which would most likely be unveiled next week, should bring new hope to the people and make the country's future more assured.

He hoped Malaysians would have more faith in the government, and the three by-elections were of critical importance.

He said if the voters withdrew their support from BN, it would mean they did not accept the leadership of BN. But if they support BN, it would be a "dream team" that would preserve the destiny of all Malaysians.

Muhyiddin said the new leadership would be more vibrant, foresighted and more concerned about the issues of rakyat.

As for their own weaknesses, Muhyiddin said they would take immediate action to rectify and implement reforms within the party.

He said Najib would soon announce his policies, which will be policies everyone is looking forward to. He said he had discussed many thing with Najib, and found that Najib had very attractive viewpoints to help Malaysians of different races, adding that the policies would be to redistribute economic wealth, handle the issue of poverty, create business and job opportunities, and implement fairer policies including those on education and religion.

Tri - Election

UMNO deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said, among the three by-elections, Bukit Selambau was the toughest fight for BN, while Batang Ai the most encouraging.

As for Bukit Gantang, he said BN needed to work harder to win the parliamentary seat.

Muhyiddin, who is also the chief commander in the three by-elections, said although the three by-elections posed a major challenge for BN, the ruling coalition was confident it could win.

He said during an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily that the three constituencies all had different issues, and BN would try to tackle the issues the voters were most concerned about.

"After visiting these constituencies, I found that the voters had changed, and I believe they would change their attitude to support BN."

He also said Chinese Malaysians did not like PAS, and even if they were unhappy with BN, they didn't need to support PAS.

He said Chinese voters were well aware of the Islamic state and hudud laws advocated by PAS, but they were simply angry with BN because of a few things.

"If PAS were to rule the country tomorrow, I can't predict what kind of situation it will be."

He said BN stressed the concept of cooperation among Malaysians of different races, while there were weaknesses among Pakatan Rakyat's component parties.

He hoped Malaysians would not be easily swindled by racist and narrow-minded parties such as DAP and PAS.

Muhyiddin urged voters in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai, including Chinese voters there, to give BN a chance to serve them.

"Only BN has the capability to run the country. Although there are weaknesses within BN, we will change and improve."

(Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily)

1.On behalf of all Malaysians, I would like to thank YABhg. Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for his 31 years of exemplary public service to our country, his commitment to strengthening the institutions and fabric of our democracy and for his graceful example as our leader.

2.I am grateful to YABhg. Tun for his confidence in proposing my name as Prime Minister to Duli Yang Maha Mulia Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and I am honoured that His Majesty has consented to my appointment with this morning’s swearing-in ceremony. I feel a deep sense of humility at the opportunity to serve as your Prime Minister at an important time in our nation’s history. My life has been dedicated to public service. Growing up, I was inspired by the positive impact of public service in the example of my late father. Four decades on, I remain committed to the goals of tackling poverty; of restructuring our society; of expanding access to quality education for all; and of inspiring a new generation of young Malaysians to work on behalf of this great country. My own service in government has always been about getting results: to ensure a better deal for teachers, to improve conditions for our brave soldiers, and to strengthen our economy in defence of the people of Malaysia, as we deal with the outbreak of a global recession.

3.In the coming weeks, I will be consulting with people around our country, as I begin to reshape the leadership and priorities of the Government. I am mindful that we should build on the successes and lessons of the past. It must be a government with new approaches for new times – a government that places a priority on performance, because the people must come first.

4. We must reach out to all parts of Malaysia - to all our diverse communities. In our national discourse and in pursuing our national agenda, we must never leave anyone behind. We must reach out to the many who may have been disaffected and left confused by political games, deceit and showmanship.

We must draw on talented people across our nation, regardless of their position or background, to re-energize a passion for public service. We must sow the seeds of goodwill and understanding in every corner of this land, so that we continue to harvest the fruits of progress and prosperity for all Malaysians.

We must seek to include and unlock the potential of our young people who will be the next generation of leaders, businesspeople, engineers, scientists, teachers and doctors. We must give them wings to fly.

5.And so today, I pledge that I will work tirelessly to serve all of you.

6.In this spirit, I would like to announce that the government has decided with immediate effect, to remove the temporary ban on TWO news publications, release 13 detainees from ISA detention, and conduct a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act. Additional details will be announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs shortly.

7.These decisions are timely as we move to enhance the confidence of our citizens in those entrusted with maintaining peace, law and order, while recognizing the need to remain vigilant of the very real security threats we continue to face as a young nation.

8.I know that for every citizen, these are hard times and I remain focused in providing strong leadership to lead us out of this economic crisis and unleash our full potential as a nation. I will be steadfast in my commitment to meet the needs, aspirations and concerns of all Malaysians.

9.So, today I ask you to join me in this task of renewing Malaysia. I urge us to rise to the challenge of building a One Malaysia. People First. Performance Now.

10.Let us begin this great journey together.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today distributed an RM80 million assistance package to Tamil schools, saying that it was not an by-election gimmick as it had been announced much earlier.

"Whatever we do, they will question. But this is as good as any other time. This is the actual giving out, the announcements were made much earlier before we knew about the by-elections," said Najib, who spoke at a press conference after giving out the allocation which will benefit 374 Tamil schools from eight states and Kuala Lumpur.

The RM80 million, of which RM50 million comes from the first stimulus package and the rest from the Ministry of Finance allocation, was distributed as follows:

> Johor: 56 schools to get RM8.65 mil)

> Kedah: 49 schools (RM12.2 mil)

> Malacca: 13 schools (RM2.66 mil)

> Negeri Sembilan: 47 schools (RM1 mill)

> Pahang: 26 schools (RM5.28 mil)

> Perak: 85 schools (RM13.2 mil)

> Penang: 22 school (RM5.9 mil)

> Selangor: 67 schools (RM25.16 mil)

> Kuala Lumpur: nine schools (RM5.86 mil)

When asked to reveal his economic plans once he takes over as prime minister reportedly on Friday, Najib reiterated that he did not wish to talk about this at this juncture and told the public to wait for official announcements.

He said he will make a statement on Friday and "subsequently I will reveal more as time goes by".

"It will be about the economy, politics and the direction that the government is going to take," said Najib, who explained that he was refraining from commenting on this out of respect for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

"I have not had an audience with the King yet. Hopefully, the King will graciously give his consent," said Najib.

To a question, he said he will not be bringing any potential cabinet list with him when he sees the King.

Najib said that his One Malaysia Concept will be his platform when he becomes prime minister.

On the two characteristics of the concept, he said they are respect and mutual trust.

"We practice national unity by beginning with an attitude of mutual respect. When we have mutual respect, it means we have an open mind to accept unity in diversity," said Najib.

"The second principle is mutual trust. You have to develop the trust. It won’t happen overnight, it has to be consciously developed in an organised manner."

Q&A: Extraordinary challenges in Bukit Selambau

Humility and a strong persona are not easily reconciled, but Barisan Nasional candidate S Ganesan reckons he has both - and that it will bag him the Bukit Selambau state seat on April 7.

In an interview with Malaysiakini, he talks about his campaign and plans for the constituency, as well as the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). These comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Malaysiakini: There are so many Indian candidates, will it split the Indian vote?

S Ganesan: There might be friends voting for friends, but the rest need a strong candidate

(BN has) to really work hard as this seat was captured by PKR in the last election. Now we are the opposition party in this state, therefore it is an uphill task for us... since I have been selected as the candidate I have to really work hard to achieve success.

bukit selambau s ganesan jogging campaign 300309 02(It is a tough campaign because) people today are very open. They analyse all the angles, so we have to fulfil their requests and demands. So we have to approach (the job) in a professional manner.

In Bukit Selambau, there are 35,000 voters from the low-income group. The challenges here are extraordinary, especially with the (onset of the) economy slowdown. A lot of them are factory workers in Taman Ria Jaya and the (factories) are mainly in the small- and medium-scale industries.

If anything happens, and especially if their working hours are reduced, then obviously their income will be affected. If their income is reduced, they will have to work really hard to sustain a livelihood.

(This will cause them to become) very critical and very vocal, and that will be reflected in the election results. I have to be a candidate who can tackle (such) problems (in the urban areas of the constituency) .

In the rural areas, we have to take care of basic needs - proper shelter, water and electricity supply, good roads, and education for their children. We have to show them that we have a very strong government and that we are united because of our vision to eradicate poverty by 2020.

So the Independents are not strong enough to cause a problem?

Voters know that an Independent won't be able to do anything even if he wins because the demands here are extraordinary. People will come after them for resources and money, but how are they going to (meet these demands)?

What about Malay voters since they can choose from Malay Independents?

bn poster for by election 250309 ganesanVoters today don't (subscribe to the notion) that Malays have to vote for a boils down to who will make a good wakil rakyat.

So if they feel I am a good person and will deliver, they will support me. I have to approach them individually to tell them my background - where I come from, how I’ve improved myself through hard work and sacrifice...

I was born here and have lived in four estates. I studied in Tamil schools in the estates... lots of my classmates from primary and secondary school are still here and they are my friends.

I’ve been a lawyer for 15 years and have helped lots of people. I am also a sportsman who is quite actively involved in football, badminton and golf.

What is your perception of MIC president S Samy Vellu, since people say he is irrelevant?

I don't think (he is irrelevant). I think he is doing his duty. As (party) president, he has a duty to make sure (his nominee) wins.

He has been here for 22 days now and I see that people are receiving him well and that their response is good.

Is victory here crucial for the MIC to regain goodwill and its reputation, after losing to an Independent in 2008?

Of the 19 state seats we contested (in the general election of March 2008), we lost 12 and only won seven seats.

This by-election gives us a chance...It is a test for MIC and BN. The party is very prepared and committed. It looks like this time we are really ready.

What is your opinion of the impact of Makkal Sakthi (people power) and Hindraf? Are they still strong here?

p uthayakumarm manoharan 02No. (Some of the leaders) studied with me - when I was deputy president of the MIC London club, (P) Uthayakumar (left) was my secretary. M Manoharan (right) and I also studied in Universiti Malaya.

Many of them are my friends. (They have taken up) their struggle in a different way... mine is through the government. Being my friends, I don't think they will do anything to harm (my campaign). They know I am genuine and will do my job... some are my clients and I don't think they will openly do anything against me.

You say their way is different, but there are still many Indians who think that the BN has denied them their rights...

In the last election, people were carried away with Hindraf and makkal sakthi, but this has slowed down. With me being a candidate, they feel I too can fight for their rights. I am (not) contesting ..for my pride or for glamour... I know it is a very heavy responsibility to shoulder.

The people of Bukit Selambau need a leader who can defend them, a leader who speaks for them, a leader who can fight for them.

Obviously, (Hindraf has) a different ideology - even I have a different ideology. This is a democratic country. Every five years, you will face an election, you are answerable to the people. If you don't deliver, they will knock you out.

There is talk that Indians are deserting PKR. Will this help BN win?

It’s very good. It shows that many of them are not confident of PKR, so they will reject PKR and vote for BN.

Why were you chosen as candidate? As part of MIC’s re-branding exercise, the party should be looking at someone young and fresh, right?

I am a product of one of the re-branding activities.. . don't I like look young?

How can MIC become relevant again to Indians?

With people like me.... I am the Obama of Malaysia. I am a self-made man and a role model for so many people. I grew up in an estate and was brought up in a poor family. There were times when we even had to struggle for one day’s meal.

My motto is ‘be humble and be simple’. Look at everybody as a friend and do what you can to help them ... be the (source of) motivation for the community.

What do you have to say about the New Economic Policy?

It has been a good policy for eradication of poverty, regardless of race.

Many people fail to (see) that our country runs on a democratic capitalist system. In this system, the clever will become cleverer, the rich will become richer, the lazy will become lazier and the poor will become poorer.

bukit selambau by-election bn candidate 140309 ganesan and bn leadersThe government has, despite the priority allocated to the Malay community, provided free education to all. Therefore, other communities should use it for their upliftment.

You have to be hard-working and you have to be approachable, humble, simple and pleasant - these are the qualities required to survive in a capitalist (economy).

Also be smart. Who is telling you not to be smart? When opportunity knocks, grab it... if you don't, then it is your own fault. The country is not telling you that you cannot accumulate wealth. If you work smart you can earn, and the opportunities (for this)
will come.”

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MIC president S Samy Vellu has made a surprise visit to Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) national coordinator RS Thanenthiran, who has been hospitalised after suffering from a heart attack on Saturday.


"I was caught by surprise when he (Samy Vellu) and his aides suddenly came to see me,” said Thanenthiran, who is also seeking treatment at Penang’s Gleneagles Hospital for a heart and collar bone disorder.

hindraf thanethiran samy vellu hospital visit 010409"Samy told me that he was concerned about my health and he would pray for my speedy recovery," he told Malaysiakini.

The embattled MIC chief had apparently set aside his busy campaign schedule in Bukit Selambau by-election to visit the local Hindraf leader yesterday at the hospital.

Thanenthiran was one of the many potential candidates overlooked by PKR in the April 7 Bukit Selambau by-election.

The party eventually picked greenhorn S Manikumar to fight against MIC’s veteran S Ganesan and 13 other Independents.

This led to Hindraf openly calling for a boycott of the by-election.

hindraf thanethiran in hospital 010409 01The Hindraf leader said he was “pleasantly surprise” to see Samy Vellu even though Hindraf and MIC were bitter rivals in championing the plight of Indian Malaysians.

MIC’s massive electoral defeat in the general election last year was largely attributed to Hindraf’s aggressive campaign for the rights of the minority Indian community.

Barisan Nasional leaders have since argued that Hindraf’s army of saffron-clad supporters were among the major reasons for the ruling coalition’s electoral reverses in the national polls.

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, comprising PKR, DAP and PAS, has made unprecedented political gains in the general elections, denying BN its two-third parliamentary majority and winning five state governments.

No visit from Pakatan leaders

Thanenthiran is however bitter that no top leaders from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat had bothered to pay him a visit.

hindraf thanethiran in hospital 010409 03"There was not even a courtesy phone call from (PKR leader) Anwar (Ibrahim) or anyone," said Thanenthiran, who is wearing a cervical traction to help straighten his body alignment and ease pain in his neck muscle.

Meanwhile, the human rights group’s Penang deputy coordinator R Sanjeeviramah slammed PKR leaders of being “ungrateful”.

"Anwar and other PKR leaders have forgotten Hindraf’s sacrifice and contributions to the party’s political cause.”

The “One Malaysia” concept is vital to recognise the contributions made by Malaysians of all races towards the development of the country, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He gave emphasis to the concept yesterday during his visit to Sin Chew Daily, the largest Chinese media group, in an effort to better understand the sentiments of the Chinese community.

“I took the opportunity to explain some matters, including the concept of ‘One Malaysia’, and how important it is for members of the administration to have a relationship in the form of cooperative engagement with the media,” he said.

Asked if he would review laws that govern the media such as the Printing and Presses Act once he becomes Prime Minister, Najib said: “Can we talk about this when ... I have not assumed the post yet.”

On reports that he would be sworn in on Friday, Najib asked the media to wait for an official announcement.

Asked if he would quickly set up a new Cabinet after he assumes the premiership, he replied: “I’ll answer that after I’ve taken the oath (as Prime Minister).”

To a question whether he would appoint into his Cabinet Umno leaders who had lost in the recent party elections, Najib laughed and said in northern Malay slang: “I tak pikiak lagi (I’ve not thought about it yet)”.