Warisan Merdeka latest battleground between Pakatan and BN
By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
October 23, 2010
The Najib administration has yet to explain how the projects such as the 100-storey Warisan Merdeka structure would help drive the economy forward despite the huge building costs - file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — The controversial 100-storey Warisan Merdeka skyscraper announced during the 2011 budget is fast becoming the latest battleground for voter support between Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
The project, which promises to be a symbol of a modern and developed Malaysia, has been viciously attacked on all front by the opposition as well as ordinary Malaysians online since the proposal was mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last Friday.
Backed into a corner, BN lawmakers have insisted that the project would help drive the nation’s economy forward, while PR representatives have flayed the government for introducing yet another “white elephant” and falling into the trap of previous government administrations of introducing grandiose but otherwise underutilised projects.
The Najib administration has yet to explain how the projects would help drive the economy forward despite the huge building costs.
DAP Socialist Youth Chief (DAPSY) Anthony Loke confirmed today that PR will be using this issue to rally more public support to pressure the government to abandon the plans of the construction of RM5 billion Warisan Merdeka.
He said as of right now, PR viewed the matter as a number one priority and will be bringing it up in Parliament whenever possible, as well as the Galas and Batu Sapi elections.
“All of the Pakatan component parties are united and have a common stand on this issue...we feel that it is a complete waste of funds and is completely unnecessary. Although we will focus on other issues, this will be the most attention-seeking issue to be raised in Parliament as it has generated a lot of public response.
“We are not using this to score political points. If the widespread opposition to this project is any indication, then Najib must back off from building this building,” Loke told The Malaysian Insider.
The Rasah MP said that PR would go on nationwide speeches to educate constituents on the issue at hand, in an effort to pressure the Najib administration to abandon the plans for Warisan Merdeka.
“This will be highlighted during campaign speeches, mainly on BN’s wasteful spending, but it won’t be the main issue in Galas or Batu Sapi.
“We believe that if enough people oppose this project, we can stop it from being approved. judging from our experience with the sports betting licence, where the government did a u-turn on it, we believe that the government will eventually back down. Najib has a tendency of u-turning at the most crucial times,” said Loke.
PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar echoed Loke’s remarks, stressing that PR would “milk” this issue for all it was worth.
“Of course we will be following PKR Youth on a nationwide campaign to educate people because this involves everyone’s interests. Every chance we get, at every campaign, every speech we will make sure that the need to oppose this project is highlighted. What’s more it’s already mentioned online that a lot of people are against the Warisan Merdeka,” said Mahfuz.
Mahfuz told The Malaysian Insider that he had already brought up in Parliament the need for a Parliamentary Select Committee to review the Warisan Merdeka proposal before going ahead with the construction.
“I have mentioned in the Dewan Rakyat the need for a Select Committee to review and discuss the proposal before going ahead with any rash decisions...this committee should be headed by both BN and PR MPs, and at the end of the day we want ti make sure that the project actually benefits Malaysians, not just the government,” added Mahfuz.
BN parties, namely Umno have rallied behind the push for mega projects at its annual assembly and accused PR of being against growth for opposing the government’s plan to spend itself out of a stagnating economy.
Malaysians, who were recently declared the world’s heaviest users of Facebook, have turned to the social networking site to express their dismay over the proposal.
An anti-Warisan Merdeka page on Facebook called “1M Malaysians Reject
100-storey Mega Tower” has been signing up fans at an astonishing rate of over 1,000 fans per hour on Wednesday. It had 60,408 fans at 11.50 am yesterday, and hit 83,002 fans as at 10.01am this morning.
In his Budget 2011 speech, Najib said the rationale for the Warisan Merdeka tower was similar to that of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, in that it would serve as a symbol of a modern and developed Malaysia.
Najib stressed that the project would also have a “multiplier effect” on the economy and help drive it forward, in addition to providing an attractive commercial centre for Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera businesses alike.
The 19-acre development area of the mega project — which includes a condominium and a shopping mall — is sited on the car park and land adjacent to Stadium Negara and Stadium Merdeka.
BN representatives remain optimistic of the project’s prospects but have admitted that the government administration needed to be more transparent on the issue.
“I admit, we need to provide more details for the proposal to build this skyscraper. The Prime Minister must explain the total benefits of the project. And from what I’ve heard there are over 90,000 people who are against this..we need to explain to them the benefits of Warisan Merdeka,” said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s department Datuk S.K Devamany.
Devamany said that the government would not have introduced such a project without first going through its benefits or weaknesses.
“The project will boost the tourism industry as well as development. I believe that the Prime Minister would not have proposed the project without going through the pros and cons. PM would not allow one project to undermine his administration,” said Devamany.
The MIC vice-president however was non-committal when asked whether the government would scrap the project if there was widespread opposition.
“That, I cannot say. Anything will be possible. If there is enough pressure, the government will review it,” said Devamany.
Umno MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed reiterated Najib’s views that the project would be as beneficial as past mega-projects like the KLCC and the Petronas twin towers.
“If you go back 12 years ago no one thought the Petronas towers would bring profits. But today its become a centre for Kuala Lumpur to attract foreigners. Foreigners are looking for an international office space, a venue and Warisan Merdeka can offer that. We need a building that meets international standards.
“I think its about timing, where we need to be concerned also about the future, not just today. I believe that once the project delivers results, the attacks against it will stop,” Nur Jazlan told The Malaysian Insider.
It looks like Prime Minister Najib Razak is worried after sparking controversy with his Umno opening speech, where he clearly exposed his willingness to adopt extremist measures including the use of violence, even 'crushed bodies' and 'lost lives', to cling to power. His credibility has already been wearing thin after failing to achieve any significant economic, social and political progress for a Malaysia, now waiting at a crossroad.
After 5 decades of rule by the Umno-BN, the chances are high the people will give their mandate to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition in the next general election.
And after Najib's over-heated rhetoric on Thursday, the odds may have nudged up again for Anwar. Najib had told Umno delegates:
"Even if our bodies are crushed and our lives lost, brothers and sisters, whatever happens, we must defend Putrajaya."
“What I am saying is not surprising. In the 20th century, we have seen cases of punishment without trial in the United States, the holocaust tragedy in Europe, the slaughter of Palestinians in the Middle East and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda. Imagine, what is the outcome, if every generation of Malaysians question the social contract which were agreed upon by their forefather."
Najib's leadership deserves our complete trust?
No wonder then that his party vice president and Defense minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is keen to 'spread Najib's message' although detractors believe damage-control was a more accurate description.
The Umno information bureau will begin after the Nov 4 by-elections in Galas and Batu Sapi to visit the grassroots and explain what Najib had meant about the position of the Malays being enshrined in the federal constitution.
"We will go to the ground, not only at the state level, but also divisional level, where branch leaders as well as Youth, Wanita and Puteri members will be invited to listen to the briefings," Bernama reported Zahid as saying.
But what is strange is that Zahid said both Malays and non-Malays "seemed to have understood clearly and responded positively" to Najib's speech. According to him, Najib's message would also be explained to the non-Malays.
"The non-Malay voters seemed to have understood clearly and responded positively to the President's speech. Najib's leadership deserves our complete trust because his agenda is not only for the Malays, but for Malaysians as a whole," said Zahid.
If so, why the need for the nation-wide roadshows where the odds are the meetings will be segregated into Malay and non-Malay ones.
Is this the latest Umno-BN strategy then - telling different stories to different folk? - Malaysia Chronicle
The road to Putrajaya is built on the trust and confidence of the bottom 70 percent of Malays still struggling with basic needs. And this confidence cannot be won if Pakatan Rakyat continues to bandy about terms like 'meritocracy' that scare Malays who still make up the bulk of the bottom 40 percent of society, said PSM's sole MP Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj.
"In my constituency (in Sungai Siput) some Malays can't afford to pay their electricity bill and some can't send their children to school because they can't afford the bus fare.
"You talk about taking away Malay scholarships, they get worried. DAP's Malaysian Malaysia is scary to them,” he said at the Socialism 2010 conference today.
He added that when Pakatan Rakyat attacks bumiputera quotas, mostly due to its enrichment of the better-off Malays, they end up also attacking those who are struggling.
"Think of the class struggle and approach each class differently...Many of the poor Malays were exploited by Malay contractors too," he said
In his presentation at the PSM's conference at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Jeyakumar said that Malay society is split into four classes - the bottom 70 percent Melayu marhaen (lower class Malays), middle class employees, contractors and the corporate class.
Weary of meritocracy talk
Of these four, Malay contractors, too, are wary of talk of meritocracy, said the PSM founding member, as they have much to lose in opportunities to receive government contracts.
Socialism 2010"Between the years 2005 and 2010 RM1.2 billion worth of projects were awarded to Class F bumiputera contractors.
"When (Prime Minister Najib Razak) talks about transparency and open tenders, this group is unhappy as they may have to share," he said.
According to Jeyakumar, it is the unhappiness of this lot that Malay rights group Perkasa, vocal against the abolishing of bumiputera quotas, is exploiting.
"Perkasa is the mouthpiece of the Malay contractor class. For impact, they will have to mobilise the poor Malays using things like Article 153 (of the federal constitution) and Islam, to say these have been challenged," he said.
"The next general election depends on whether Pakatan Rakyat can prove that they can be relied upon to continue programmes for the betterment of the (poor Malays)," he said.
System overhaul neeeded
Jeyakumar's seemingly reasonable advice to the opposition coalition, however, comes with a dose of scepticism.
"(Najib's) New Economic Model is similar to Pakatan's economic agenda. They believe in competing globally and finding our niche, and that we can all live as a capitalist society.
"That is why (PSM) cannot join Pakatan, but we are their friends. We will join them to take out the BN," he said.
Dr Jeyakumar, who is also a PSM central committee member, said that beyond that, it would require a total overhaul in ideology and systems.
"Otherwise it would be just be like changing kings," he said. - Malaysiakini
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — Barisan Nasional (BN) looks set to score a by-election victory in Batu Sapi, Sabah next month with speculation pointing to the late Datuk Edmund Chong Ket Wah’s widow as a likely candidate for the seat.
The Malaysian Insider understands that Linda Tsen Thau Lin, who herself is a PBS Wanita divisional chairman, is one of the favourites among three others who may be chosen to stand for the coming polls caused by the recent death of her husband.
PBS information chief Datuk Johnny Mositun confirmed today that the party had shortlisted its candidate choices to just four persons including Linda, her brother Edward, PBS vice-president and former Sungai Sibuga assemblyman Datuk Thien Fui Yun, and lawyer Junior Koh Siew Hui.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman is scheduled to announce the name of the chosen candidate at 2pm tomorrow during a function at the Sandakan Community Hall.
It is believed that PKR’s entry into the race would not count for much because many local Sabahans remain suspicious of the peninsular-based party.
Talk is that not only do the local folk have little regard for PKR’s politics in the national arena, they also look to the late Chong as a well-liked MP and a popular man among his constituents.
If anything, the real contest is between BN’s Sabah-based partner Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and the opposition’s new ally, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP).
Despite talks with PKR this week, SAPP refused to back out from the race and throw its support behind PKR, insisting that it would field a candidate of its own.
As such, combining Linda’s likely candidacy with her husband’s popularity among Sabah folk and the fact that both SAPP and PKR have refused to join forces to compete as one, all fingers now point to BN as the probable victor in the race.
Although many leaders have chosen to remain cautiously confident, they have also admitted that the present setting looked more favourable for BN.
Johnny told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that the party was not disagreeable to both SAPP and PKR throwing their hats in the ring for the contest, pointing out jovially that “the more, the merrier”.
“We are open to them. Anyone has the right to stand for election. Whether it is their strategy or not, for us in PBS and the BN, we will focus on our target.
“I won’t say that it is good (that SAPP and PKR are contesting) but why not? The more the merrier, right?” he said, laughing.
PBS deputy president Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai pointed out that Chong had been a very popular man during his tenure as MP, acknowledging that this could help PBS retain the seat.
“Of course, like any other election, we must work hard to ensure we get the support required to have the victory, which we should, because it is a BN seat and we will ensure that this stays that way,” he said.
Sandakan MP Datuk V. K. Liew agreed with Yee, pointing out that the wave of support towards the late Chong still existed.
He also admitted that it would be a difficult to fight for the SAPP, pointing out that its likely candidate, Datuk Yong Teck Lee, was a good friend to Chong and his family, including his wife Linda.
“Edmund was everybody’s good friend. Such a nice man, so friendly, and also a very good friend of mine. It was a tragedy that caused him to pass away and I think people still remember that,” he said.
Chong passed away after a fatal road accident in Kota Kinabalu on Octover 9.
“So from my political point of view, of course it would be an adavntage for us in BN. But of course, at the end of the day, it is still in the hands of the people.
“On paper, it looks as if the opposition is at a disadvantage,” he said.
Liew also claimed the oppositon was “not really concerned” about winning the by-election but were merely engaged in a “political game”.
“Both parties are in a position where they have to put their feet down to set the stage for the coming 13th general election.
“They both want to have a claim in the area so by putting out their candidates, they can say that since they contested before, they shud be given the seat again in the general election,” he said.
Liew also charged at SAPP’s Yong for his proclamation that his party wanted to contest 40 seats in the next general election in order for them to form a new state government.
“He talks all the time about rejecting west Malaysia’s politics and keeps saying ‘Sabah for Sabahan’ but now they are negotiating with PKR so it shows they cannot stand on their own. They still need the backing of a west Malaysian party,” he said.
The Batu Sapi by-election will be held together with the Galas by-election in Kelantan with nomination day set for October 26 and polling day on November 4.
Of the past 11 by-elections held in Malaysia since 2008, BN has only won in three seats — Batang Ai, Bagan Pinang and Hulu Selangor.
There are 25,582 registered voters in Batu Sapi, including 1,535 postal voters.
Chong had won the seat with a 3,708-vote majority over independent Chung On Wing in Elections 2008.
SAPP will announce its candidate tomorrow while BN will make do so on Sunday.
PKR has yet to indicate when it will announce its candidate.
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — As at 9.20pm tonight, more than 100,000 have signed on to a Facebook campaign opposing the Najib administration’s Warisan Merdeka skyscraper.
The proposed 100-storey building in the city, has stirred up spontaneous grassroots opposition, moving the issue to the front and centre of current Malaysian politics.
More so impressive is the pace of recruitment — that only seven days ago Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the plan, during his budget speech. It is clear the groundswell opposing it is considerable and now has shaped into a major political minefield for the Barisan Nasional(BN) government.
It began with the Facebook page “1M Malaysians Reject 100-storey Mega Tower” being created anonymously soon after the announcement.
Those who have backed the campaign are ordinary Malaysians who use the popular social networking site.
“Malaysians saying no to the RM5-Billion 100-storey Mega Tower proposed by PM Najib in the 2011 budget. Malaysia needs better education, better health care, better public transportation, safer neighbourhood, cleaner water, but not taller building(s). We don’t need another white elephant! Are you ready for action?
“Announcement to be made when we reach 100,000,” said the administrator of the Facebook page earlier today.
Last Friday, Najib announced Permodalan Nasional Berhad’s (PNB) initiative to complete the RM5 billion construct by 2015.
“A few months ago,some Minister said that the country will be going bankrupt if subsidies are not withdrawn.... so this is why the subsidies were withdrawn... to build another “Mega White Elephant “ project.
“While the people suffer, our leaders are finding more ways to rob the nations depleting wealth !!At this rate in 20...20 Malaysia will become a fully developed Zimbabwe or worse!!” said one of the comments on the page by a Natalie Ho.
Another fan, Kirksman Teo claimed that the government’s push for the building indicated that they had learnt the lesson from their losses in the last general elections.
“A leader once said, the people should not fear the government, the government should. Rightly so.
“Now... Why the devil does the government refuse to listen to the people once again?... Knowing very well that the last time they lost, it was because they didn’t listen,” said Kirksman.
Expectedly, opposition politicians like DAP’s Lim Kit Siang have entered the fray, providing live updates of the growing number of Facebook fans every hour.
The anti-Warisan Merdeka Facebook page has 102,739 fans as at 10.21pm tonight.
In contrast, a pro-Warisan Merdeka fanpage on Facebook has only 244 members as at the same time.
The Najib administration could now be faced with a major hurdle in winning over support for what was supposed to be a symbol and pride for all Malaysians.
KOTA KINABALU: It wasn't so long ago that Sabah government leaders trained their guns on migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines who became “new Malaysians”. Short of murder, the leaders blamed them for all the state's woes.
But over the next few days, these new Malaysians will be wooed for their votes. And the reason is that they are among the 25,582 registered voters in the Batu Sapi parliamentary constituency.
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), a Barisan Nasional (BN) component party, is contesting the seat. The irony is that PBS is a sworn enemy of these “foreigners”.
The tables have turned. BN and PBS need the votes of these so-called workers of foreign origin or new Malaysians as they hold the key to a comfortable BN victory in the Nov 4 election.
Local politicians estimate the number of new Malaysians at 5,000 among the 25,582 eligible voters on the electoral rolls that were updated on Oct 9 and will now be used in Batu Sapi
Election observers noted that the Umno election machinery is actively trying to locate this group of voters, half of whom are believed to be staying outside the constituency.
If they are successful, Umno could easily claim on paper to have about 6,500 voters including 1,500 postal votes in the bag prior to polling day. This gives PBS-BN a head-start before nominations on Oct 26, said a local politician.
The new election rolls, however, shows a shortfall of about 500 voters compared to the one used in the 2008 general election.
Batu Sapi has 25,582 voters, of whom 24,047 are ordinary voters and 1,535 postal voters, with 15,099 or 59.02% of the voters being Muslim Bumiputeras, 689 non-Muslim Bumiputeras (2.69%), 9,737 Chinese (38.06%) and others, 57 (0.22%).
Whichever way one looks at it, the coming election is incongruous for PBS, the born-again BN component party.
The Christian-dominated PBS ruled Sabah for nine years from 1985 to 1994. It first joined the BN a year after toppling the Berjaya government of Harris Salleh.
After a troubled relationship with the ruling coalition and on the eve of the 1990 general election, its president Joseph Pairin Kitingan abandoned BN and teamed up with Semangat '46 led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
Then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the BN chairman, described the PBS move as a stab in the back and ordered Umno's entry into Sabah where it has since become the dominant political party.
PBS won that election comfortably but its coalition partners at the federal level failed to deliver the goods.
In 1994, Pairin, facing growing federal government pressure for his BN betrayal and tied up with legal problems over “negotiated” contracts, called for state election days before the verdict in his corruption trial.
PBS again won with a narrow margin, taking 25 seats against the BN's 23.
However, due to defections by members of PBS, such as Bernard Dompok and Joseph Kurup, who formed new parties aligned to BN shortly after the election, PBS was forced out of power resulting in the BN forming the state government.
The outcome of this election and the defections gave birth to the term “katak” (frog) to explain the “jump” from party to party by politicians who had campaigned under a different party.
One of those who remained with Pairin after several of his assemblymen jumped ship was the late Edmund Chong Ket Wah who allegedly turned down large sums of money as an enticement to quit the floundering opposition party.
Stunned by their removal from power, PBS leaders claimed that their poor showing in the election was because large numbers of migrants from the Philippines and Indonesia were hastily empowered to vote.
They claimed that the “extraordinary” population growth during the last few decades with illegal immigrants said to have been given citizenship based on false statutory declarations under the so-called “Project M or Project Mahathir” has changed Sabah’s ethnic make-up.
Politicians are said to have made use of “phantom voters” to decide the outcome of Sabah elections.
PBS supreme council member, Chong Eng Leong, now with PKR, marshalled an impressive array of facts and figures in a documentation of the illegal immigrants and phantom voters.
"It is feared that there will be 'a reverse takeover' of the state one day by foreigners, that is, if it is not already happening," he said in a book “Lest we Forget” he published recently.
After sitting on the sidelines for 12 years as an opposition party and shrilly but futilely protesting the steadily growing presence of migrant workers in the state, Pairin brought the party back into the BN fold once again in 2002.
In 2001, the High Court in Kota Kinabalu even ordered former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president, to vacate his state assembly seat, ruling that he won it in 1999 with the help of “phantom voters”.
Fast-forward to the present time, and Chong, who was by now PBS treasurer-general, won the Batu Sapi parliamentary seat uncontested.
In the 2008 general election, political observers said Pairin ironically depended on Umno's Muslim votes for the same seat when Chong had to fend off independent candidate, Chung Ong Wing.
Chong won the seat in the 2008 general election by a 3,708-majority after polling 9,479 votes against Chung's creditable 5,771 votes, nearly all of which were said to have come from the Chinese community.
Wooing Chinese voters
In this by-election, Sandakan politicians believe the Chinese will continue their rebellious streak given the anti-Umno sentiment at federal and state levels.
Small businessmen from the Chinese community are also chaffing at not getting a fair share of contracts from the administration of Chief Minister Musa Aman, the Sabah Umno chairman.
One Sandakan businessman had alleged that Musa and his boys are scooping even minor projects in the east coast for themselves.
He asked: “Do you know what Umno stands for? … Under Musa No Opportunities."
Musa, the neighbouring Sibuga assemblyman and election director of Batu Sapi election, is expected to spend lavishly to woo not only the Muslim votes but also the Chinese, given the disillusionment there.
He will be using his Sandakan hometown Chinese business partners, Sabah MCA chief Edward Khoo, former SAPP deputy president, Raymond Tan who is now in Gerakan and party-less deputy chief minister Peter Pang to bring in the Chinese votes.
The first to benefit will be the Chinese independent schools. A dinner has already been planned in Sandakan tonight for distribution of the funds.
One political observer said the pressure is on Musa to deliver.
"He will be in a tight spot if he fails to get a bigger majority" in this by-election, the 13th in the country and the first in Sabah since the 2008 general election.
To win comfortably, BN will have to get at least more than half of the Chinese votes and three-quarters of the Muslim votes in a multi-cornered fight with SAPP and PKR candidates in the fray and with independents also expected to be fielded.
Pakatan Rakyat has appointed Sabah DAP chairman and Kota Kinabalu MP Hiew King Cheu to make sure that the Chinese votes do not go to PBS and the SAPP.
SAPP will name their candidate today and PBS and PKR candidates will be named tomorrow.
Chong's death earlier this month in a road accident triggered the Nov 4 by-election.