08: Making the Headlines: What the Fortune Teller Predicts
Lim Teck Ghee
These are 5 events that my fortune teller friend predicts will make the headline news in 2008.
1. 25 February 2008: HINDRAF leaders freed
Five HINDRAF leaders were freed from detention following their disavowal of the movement’s illegal activities which had caused racial discord and tension. In a live interview widely carried over national television, the group apologized to their supporters for leading them astray. They also expressed their appreciation to the authorities for working so hard to get them to see the error of their ways. In particular, the Special Branch spared no efforts in
ensuring that their every need was taken care of. Meantime, a spokesperson of the Home Ministry announced that, contrary to the brutal methods used against Guantanamo political detainees, the HINDRAF leaders were virtually treated like royalty when in detention.
Absolutely no pressure of any kind – physical or psychological – was exerted and the “raja-like” treatment was identified as one of the main reasons why the detainees were able to see the light so quickly. The official suggested that other countries learn from Malaysia on its the gentle, civilized and exemplary handling of political detainees. The official also denied that the release of the HINDRAF leaders was in any way related to the timing of the coming elections and its expected impact on the Indian vote.
2. 30 March 2008: Petrol Prices Raised By 75% Following Opposition Irresponsibility in Inciting Over Consumption
The Minister of Finance announced that petrol pump prices would be increased by an average of 75 percent with immediate effect. He stressed that this urgent and sharp increase was not simply a response to rising prices internationally but it was also due to the dramatic increase in local consumption brought about by opposition party and civil society irresponsibility in agitating for lower prices which had left its mark on the average consumer. The opposition
agitation had resulted in a culture of careless and wasteful oil over-consumption.
According to the results of a recent survey conducted by a reputable survey organization, 90 per cent of the respondents when asked the reason why their petrol consumption had increased during the year had answered that the main reason was the constant calls of the opposition to Government to maintain the oil price subsidy at its current level. A separate study had also
found that consumption had gone up 45 % year to year although the earlier projected annual increase should have been no more than 10%. Juxtaposing the results of the two studies, the Minister said that it could be concluded that the Opposition was primarily responsible for the petrol price increase. Responding to questions from reporters, he said that if the opposition
continued to engage in further economic sabotage, it would bankrupt the country.
3. 1 April 2008: Royal Commission Finds Lingam Tape Case a Casual Conversation
Without Any Wider Implications
The long awaited Royal Commission Report was finally released. The Report found that the Lingam tape incident was a casual and private conversation which had nothing to do whatsoever with the way the administration of justice in the country was run or was evidence in any way of alleged corrupt practices, abuse of power and other wrong doings in the judiciary. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department welcomed the report and said that the integrity of the system of justice in the country had been indisputably established once and for all. The Government had always maintained that these allegations were politically motivated and had been manipulated by unscrupulous individuals out to destroy the good name of the country.
The Minister further stated that the Government was happy that the Commission members had gone through the incident with a fine tooth comb and found what in his words was “a purely personal and private chit chat between two consenting adults. Come on, let’s respect the privacy of individuals in this country and leave them alone to discuss whatever they like, and however they like, correct?” Key leaders from other walks of life welcomed the findings of the Royal Commission. According to the head of one of the country’s largest professional organizations: “Let’s close the book on this once and for all”. Another prominent leader agreed that “it is time for Malaysians to close ranks on this unfortunate affair and move on”.
4. 26 August 2008: Government Denies Election Commission Over-Spending on Ballot Boxes
The Government today denied that the Auditor General’s office was investigating the expenditure of RM16 million on the purchase of some 50,000 ballot boxes used in the country’s election recently. A Government spokesman defended the procurement saying that it met all the requirements involved in the tendering and selection process laid out in the Government guidelines. There was absolutely no truth in the malicious stories being circulated that similar boxes were easily available from manufacturers at a small fraction of the price. When asked by one reporter why the purchase price of the boxes amounted to approximately $300 each when similar boxes were available from hypermarkets at RM10 each, he said that the boxes were made of the highest quality plastic and had a unique design incorporating the flag of Malaysia to prevent the boxes being used in elections in other countries. At the same time, he pointed out that this was one of the key measures introduced in response to BERSIH, the grouping of NGOs and opposition parties, who had urged wide ranging electoral reform for the country. “Now that we have met their complaints, they are
looking for another grievance”. The official further pointed out that Malaysians should be proud that the transparency of the elections in Malaysia was now even more firmly established. Not only was every step of the process transparent, even the boxes were. What more can we do-lah?”
In a separate press conference, a senior official from the Election Commission welcomed the news from the Government and said that the Commission was submitting Malaysia’s use of transparent ballot boxes to the Guinness Book of Records – this being the first time anywhere in the world such a practice had come about. The Commission had also placed an order for a further 500,000 boxes – but without the embossed Malaysian flag – to be donated to the European Union and the Carter Commission so that they could use these boxes to monitor
elections more effectively in other parts of the world. The official also noted ” We want to advance democracy all over the world, not only in Malaysia. This is our major contribution which all Malaysian can be justly proud of”.
5. 15 December 2008 Consumer Coalition Demonstration to Demand Ban on SMS Political Phone Texting
KL city came to a virtual halt today as a result of a march by some 100,000 protestors to Parliament demanding a ban on the use of hand-phones to send political news and views that are critical of the country’s government and policies. Although some observers had put the size of the crowd at 5,000 at most, according to senior police officials observing the crowd by helicopter, the crowd was much larger – it was certainly the largest demonstration the
country has ever seen, said one authoritative source. The march had been organized by a new coalition of some 1,000 NGOs named “Just Say No-No”. The President of JSNO2 said that the coalition had been alerted by its members throughout the country of the increasing tendency for disloyal Malaysian to use their hand phones to text politically incorrect or malicious messages. This especially had demoralized young people who were the largest users of hand phones. “We will not stand aside whilst our young minds are being inundated
and corrupted with seditions and anti-national messages.
In fact, there is strong evidence that there are foreign hands behind many of these messages. Our success has made many countries envious of us and what better way to bring us down than to pollute our young people and divide the country further”. Senior Government Parliamentarians welcomed this grassroots initiative saying that this diabolical practice had been going on for far too long. They said that the phone companies should not simply be looking at profits whilst ignoring their responsibility to society at large.
The Minister of Works and Communication who received the memorandum on behalf of the Government thanked the marchers for braving the sun to present their case. Saying that he was also very concerned at this despicable use of a technology meant to unite the nations, he promised to look into ways and means of filtering out politically critical news and views, although it would represent a formidable technical challenge. One way of doing this was by raising the price of SMS to a much higher level to discourage improper usage. “We shall hit
them at their pockets where it hurts – these enemies of the States”. Another possibility was to set up a half way house that would help filter all text messages before sending them on to their final recipient. “This would add a few extra seconds to the time of transmission but the gain to the nation’s political well being would be incalculable.” Responding to the Minister’s answer, the President of JSNO2 welcomed the Minister’s assurance. He added that the half
way filer mechanism was a practical solution and said that his organization was ready to set up a joint venture with the Ministry to implement this proposal.