Finding a new leader

THE British Conservative Party has a new leader, and the United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister, following the Westminster convention of the individual most likely to command the majority of the members of the House of Commons being invited by the Head of State to form a government.

The speed with which the party decided and rallied behind their new leader was quicker than expected — it took less than three weeks between David Cameron announcing his desire to resign on June 24 to Queen Elizabeth appointing her 13th Prime Minister, Theresa May. Originally, several rounds of votes among Conservative MPs were to select two candidates for consideration by the wider party membership, but instead, after the first round of voting, a series of withdrawals meant that Theresa May was the only candidate standing.

By contrast, in the UK opposition Labour Party there will now — after weeks of dissent from Labour MPs against their party leader — be a formal leadership election as two candidates have declared their intention to replace Jeremy Corbyn. But even getting to that stage has led to bitter infighting in the party over the rules of the contest — specifically, whether the incumbent should automatically be on the ballot paper, and how long a person needs to have been a party member to vote. The United Kingdom Independence Party is also looking for a new leader.

Of course, the implications of those party leadership contests are less profound since they won’t result in a new Prime Minister. And indeed, there has been disquiet about May’s “coronation”. If her final opponent in the party leadership contest had not withdrawn, there would have been a ballot of 150,000 members of the Conservative Party which would have given the winner a greater legitimacy as leader.

More fundamentally, some argue that an internal party election is no way to select de facto the most powerful executive post in the country. Regardless of Westminster convention, many are saying that until May holds a general election and wins her “own mandate”, her democratic legitimacy will be questioned.

Ironically, since 2011 it has been more difficult for a Prime Minister to decide the timing of an election: whereas before the Prime Minister could ask the monarch to dissolve parliament at any time, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act requires parliamentary approval before the Prime Minister recommends the monarch
to do so.

In Malaysia however, the timing of an election (if before the maximum constitutional limit) still largely lies in the Prime Minister’s hands, as long as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong consents to it — and the same logic applies at the state-level too. The historical record shows that some have waited longer than others to call a general election after accepting the top job.

Whatever controversies, accusations, investigations, revelations or petitions might be ongoing against a Prime Minister or Chief Minister within their party or country, the decision to call an election or whether or not to resign are still very much theirs to make.

Intriguingly, when Tunku Abdul Rahman resigned the premiership in favour of Tun Abdul Razak, he did not relinquish the post of party president simultaneously.

Thus, Tun Abdul Razak has the unique record of having been Prime Minister of the country before becoming the leader of his party: establishing the precedent in Malaysia, one can “command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat” without being the leader of the largest party.

Meanwhile in the United States, the process of finalising presidential candidates for the two main political parties has still not completed, months after the first primaries. It may seem much slower and cumbersome than how the Brits have installed a new Prime Minister, but the difference shows that countries can adopt unique practices and processes as a result of their histories, institutions and founding ideologies which nonetheless are broadly accepted by the majority of the population: the process of finding a new leader is
deemed legitimate.

And so, in the UK Conservative Party leadership contest, the method of selecting the next leader was clear. The stakeholders had confidence in those overseeing and operationalising the transition, such as the Chairman of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee (consisting of the party’s backbench Members of Parliament). And those outside the party also knew what these rules were, and did not try to reinterpret or usurp them.

I fear that in Malaysia, consensus even on the rules is lacking, especially when figures cite arguments entirely outside the constitution of the country — let alone the rules of political parties — when commenting on the circumstances in which their leaders can be changed.

Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin is Founding President of IDEAS

MH17 families set for legal fight two years later

THE HAGUE — Families of the 298 people who died when flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine are steeling themselves for a slew of bitter legal battles, on the eve of the tragedy’s second anniversary.

Sunday marks the deadline for relatives to launch action against Malaysia Airlines, which operated the passenger jet which was shot down with a surface-air-missile over war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

The Boeing 777 was on a routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a Russian-made BUK missile, fired from territory held by pro-Russian separatists locked in a fierce conflict with Kiev.

Dozens of Dutch relatives are close to filing a lawsuit by the weekend if negotiations fail to secure compensation for “psychological trauma”, news reports said.

A 1999 convention allows bereaved families to launch claims against airlines for up to two years, but “psychological trauma” does not qualify.

Malaysia Airlines “will also be reluctant to set a precedent” if it pays damages for psychological trauma, added Pablo Mendes de Leon, an air and space law professor at Leiden University.

The airline is already facing a legal challenge by families of six crew members who are blaming it for
the tragedy.

Yet another claim could be added this week, lawyer Mathew Thomas
Philip said.

Elsewhere, a suit by 33 next-of-kin from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia was filed against Russia and President Vladimir Putin in the European Court of Human Rights in May.

The claimants are suing for 6.8 million (RM29.8 million) for each lost relative, their lawyer, Jerry Skinner, said.

Thirty families are also getting ready for a US-based lawsuit against “several people and entities that support the separatists on Ukrainian soil”, lawyer James Healy-Pratt said.

Other relatives want a pro-Russian separatist leader to pay 779 million (RM3.4 billion) in damages, while the mother of a German victim is suing Kiev for allowing passenger planes to fly through its airspace, even when it knew there was an ongoing war.

Sunday marks the second anniversary of the crash which saw 298 passengers — the majority of them Dutch — and crew lose their lives.

The largest gathering will be in the small Dutch town of Vijfhuizen near Amsterdam’s Schiphol international airport, where relatives plan a future memorial for the victims.

At the gathering, the names of all the victims will be read and there will be a minute’s silence, the organisers said.

Relatives are also looking forward to the initial findings of a criminal investigation later this summer, which is expected to shed light on the exact type of missile used to shoot down the plane and where it was shot from.

The investigation’s findings could open the way for further lawsuits in future.

“There will always be legal resorts and procedures available … once the facts have been established,” Jill Coster van Voorhout of the Hague Institute for Global Justice think-tank said.

But relatives’ main concern is not money.

“No amount of money can bring back their loved ones. They want the truth. Justice has not been done,” Healy-Pratt said. — AFP

Making sure devices genuine and safe

PETALING JAYA — The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has embarked on a “Check Your Label” campaign to educate the public on the safe usage of communication devices and to avoid being cheated.

Working in collaboration with SIRIM QAS International Sdn Bhd to conduct market surveillance, it has found more than 40 per cent of communication devices in Malaysia do not have the MCMC certification label.

“The mandatory certification label is to indicate the device has met the Communications and Multimedia (Technical Standards) Regulations 2000,” MCMC senior director Aisharuddin Nuruddin said.

Under the regulations, all communication devices must be certified and labelled accordingly.

“Once the certification and label are done, any modification to the device is also wrong, which may lead to frequency interference to other electronic devices and communication networks,” he said, adding the types of communication devices include telephones, facsimiles, computers, laptops, walkie-talkies, wireless devices and also digital or satellite television receivers.

Aisharuddin said devices without the MCMC label could be counterfeit, cloned or illegal to use and could endanger the users as it could cause electrocution, fire and electromagnetic radiation, which may exceed the safe exposure limits specified by the international standards.

He also cautioned non-certified devices may not be compatible for use with the local communication networks.

Beginning June last year, there are two methods to demonstrate if a communication device is approved by MCMC — the e-label and the physical label.

The e-label is stored in the device firmware and the physical label is embossed, engraved or printed on the casing of the device.

“The public may also download the Check Your Label application via Google Play or Apple App Store and key in the IMEI or serial number of the device to check if it is approved by the commission,” he said.

New portfolios for 
Azalina and Nancy

PUTRAJAYA — Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has been put in charge of the Legal Affairs Division under the PM’s Department effective June 28.

In a statement yesterday, the division said Azalina replaced Nancy Shukri, who was previously in charge of the division, following the reshuffling of portfolios in the
department recently

“We are honoured to receive the presence of Azalina and we believe with her leadership, the division will continue to play an important role in national legal affairs,” it read.

“As a minister with law qualifications and as a legal practitioner for over 25 years, we are confident Azalina will give new touches and ideas in achieving the division’s mission, vision and objectives.”

Nancy will now oversee the Malaysian Innovation Agency, Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation and Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology

Nancy will still be responsible for the agencies under her purview before the Cabinet reshuffle, namely Public Land Transport Commission, Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) Sarawak and
CVLB Sabah.

In the statement, the division recorded its appreciation and thanked Nancy for her encouragement, support and advice in carrying out its tasks and responsibilities.

Prior to this, Nancy was also the minister responsible for the Malaysia Department of Insolvency, Legal Aid Department, Federal Court Chief Registrar’s Office, Advisory Board of the PM’s Department, National Legal Aid Foundation, Judicial and Legal Service Commission, Judicial and Legal Training Institute, Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration and the Judicial Appointments Commission Malaysia. Azalina will now oversee
these agencies.

A statement from Nancy’s ministerial office said the handing-over of duties would be held at the division’s Hari Raya function
on July 26.

Nancy thanked all the officers who had been working with her under her previous portfolios, while looking forward to working with those under her new portfolios.

She said it would be very different from the other agencies she had been handling, where she dealt with legal matters.

“In my new portfolio, I will be looking into innovation and industry players from different sectors in many aspects. I have yet to sit with the officers, who will brief me on their activities,” she said.

“I am optimistic these agencies will be another interesting area to explore,” she said. — Bernama

Diplomatic boost

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi welcomed by Chief of Staff to the Mongolian President Puntsag Tsagaan on his arrival at the Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, yesterday. Zahid leads the Malaysian delegation to this year’s Asia-Europe Meeting to be held today and tomorrow. — Picture by Bernama

Johor govt taking GLC mill to court over pollution

KOTA TINGGI — The Johor government is to sue a palm oil mill of a government-linked company (GLC) for causing ammonia pollution in the Johor River, which temporarily disrupted water supply to 120,000 people.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said yesterday the state government would not compromise when it comes to environmental pollution, even if the offence was committed by GLCs.

“We have taken samples of water from the river for the Department of Environment to analyse. The result is expected in a week,” Khaled told reporters.

“We intend to sue the mill (of the GLC) for contributing to pollution and undermining the well-being of the people in the vicinity.”

Earlier, Khaled launched the ground-breaking for an affordable housing project and launched the “Bandar Inovasi” or Innocity comprehensive development project in the Kota Tinggi district.

Last Tuesday, SAJ Holdings detected higher than the permissible level of ammonia at three water treatment plants — Sungai Johor, Semanggar and Tai Hong — and shut them down temporarily.

It resulted in disruption in the supply of water to people in the Skudai, Kulai, Iskandar Puteri, Tanjung Bin Power Plant and Tanjung Pelepas port areas.

The Sungai Johor and Semanggar plants resumed operations yesterday. — Bernama

Appeal against Tian Chua’s acquittal withdrawn

PUTRAJAYA — The prosecution yesterday withdrew its appeal against Batu MP Tian Chua’s sedition charge acquittal.

Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat who chaired a three-member panel, struck out the appeal after deputy public prosecutor K. Mangai informed the court the prosecution had withdrawn its appeal.

The other two judges on the panel were Justices Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi and Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof.

With this development, Tian Chua’s acquittal remains. The Court of Appeal is the last avenue for the prosecution to appeal as this case had originated from the Sessions Court.

On March 2, the Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld the Sessions Court’s decision to acquit Tian Chua of sedition after rejecting the prosecution’s appeal.

Judicial commissioner Datuk Nordin Hassan ruled the prosecution had failed to prove Tian Chua had uttered seditious words in regard to the Lahad Datu intrusion, in a news
portal article.

On Nov 14, 2014, Sessions Court judge Norsharidah Awang discharged and acquitted Tian Chua, 52, without calling for his defence.

Tian Chua was accused of sedition by stating the intrusion in Lahad Datu was a conspiracy planned by Umno to divert attention and to frighten the people.

He was alleged to have committed the offence at Fraser Business Park, Jalan Metro Pudu, off Jalan Yew here at around 11am on March 1, 2013.

Tian Chua, who was present at the proceeding, was represented by counsel Eric Paulsen. — Bernama

OPR cut pre-emptive move, says BNM chief

KUALA LUMPUR — The decision to cut the overnight policy rate (OPR) is a pre-emptive action to ensure the economy continues to remain on a steady growth path, says Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Datuk Muhammad Ibrahim.

“It’s not that we expected growth to be weaker in the second half. We anticipate it to be stronger and that growth for the whole year is expected to remain between four and 4.5 per cent,” he told Bernama in his maiden media interview since his appointment as the central bank governor on May 1.

“Now, what we intend to do is to ensure this happens. Basically it is a pre-emptive move.”

BNM, in an unexpected move on Wednesday, slashed the OPR by 25 basis points to three per cent as was decided at its two-day Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting.

The last rate cut was in 2009 and the last adjustment was made in July 2014.

On the rationale for the rate cut now, Muhammad, 56, said the window of opportunity had presented itself as among others, inflation had gone lower than expected.

Inflation is projected to be lower at two to three per cent in 2016 compared with an earlier projection of 2.5-3.5 per cent while remaining stable in 2017.

“The window of opportunity is there, we just took it in our stride and say, look let’s give a boost to the economy, create an enabling environment so financing will be healthy, economic activities can prosper and people are able to generate more wealth and income,” said the calm and jovial Muhammad.

Currently, there are no plans by the MPC to change the interest rates over the next few meetings, he said, stressing that the central bank would always look at the data objectively and see what was needed.

“So, to say that there will be a series of rates cut is not true, but it’s true we will keep an open mind everytime we sit (down for the meeting),” he said.

Muhammad said the central bank, given the dynamic environment, looked at many factors when deciding on the monetary policy including developments in other countries.

However, a decision on the monetary policy is ultimately based on domestic considerations and has always been forward looking,

“In any monetary policy (decided) around the globe, when we look at what level it should be, we always look a few quarters forward to see how the economy will develop,” he said.

“We project what the growth will be in the second half of 2016 and in 2017, and we take our position in deciding the interest rate.”

Malaysia recorded an economic growth of 4.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 and the second quarter figure is expected to be released in August. — Bernama

‘Further cut in lending rate possible’

KUALA LUMPUR — While equity markets and the financial industry assimilate the surprise move by Bank Negara Malaysia to cut its lending rate, research houses are of the opinion that rates are in for further reduction, but all for a good reason.

The central bank’s aim is primarily to sustain Malaysia’s economic growth which has been forecast to grow between 4.0 and 4.5 per cent this year.

Hong Leong Bank opined that the central bank was taking a pre-emptive measure to wary the risks and repercussions arising from the Brexit referendum.

From April 2006, the OPR had been hovering at a high of 3.50 per cent until October 2008 and dipped to a low of two per cent in February 2009 and continued to rise gradually thereafter to 3.25 per cent before Wednesday’s cut.

Hong Leong Bank acknowledged the monetary policy statement by BNM suggested that the next course of action would largely dependent on upcoming economic indicators, in addition to monetary and financial conditions.

“Recognising downside risks to domestic growth, arising from both domestic uncertainties and external headwinds, we opine further policy easing is possible,” said the bank in a research note yesterday.

In addition, the diminishing US Federal Reserve rate hike outlook would also offer more room for BNM to nudge rates lower.

FXTM corporate development and market research vice-president Jameel Ahmad said: “The global and domestic growth prospects are already fragile confronted by mounting headwinds. The outcome of the EU referendum is the last straw that broke the camel’s back in our view.

“BNM has toned down its assessment on the domestic economic outlook.”

He said uncertainties in the global environment could weigh on Malaysia’s growth prospects.

The monetary policy meeting will continue to monitor and assess the balance of risks surrounding the outlook for domestic growth and inflation. — Bernama

New party in the works with Dr M as adviser

PUTRAJAYA — The Save Malaysia Movement will be turned into a political party which will form the backbone of all opposition parties with the aim of defeating the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he would not lead the new party but would be its adviser.

He said expelled Umno leaders Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal were “already on board” the proposed party.

“I will be the first among equals … not necessarily the president and I am not interested to contest in the next general election,” he told a press conference after chairing a meeting in Putrajaya yesterday evening attended by leaders from the opposition parties, except Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and PAS.

“We will come out with the name of the party and launch it as soon as possible. The new party accepts anybody who has the same objective. Muhyiddin, Mukhriz and Shafie are already on board the new set-up,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said the proposed party, which had yet to identify itself as Malay-based or multi-racial, would work with all the other opposition parties to achieve its objectives.

“Indirectly, the new party and the new coalition after this can be considered as the expression of the People’s Declaration,” he said.

“We also agreed to a ceasefire among ourselves and coordinate our approaches. We want to move as a united front and be ready to fight for victory.”

Dr Mahathir said the new coalition would be bigger than the present Pakatan Harapan, which consists of three parties — DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) — and had a common goal.

“We will work as a coalition where we will identify our differences and similarities,” he said.

“Each party will continue to pursue its struggles but the main fight will be to win the next general election.

“PAS is not in this new coalition because we have not invited the party but we welcome it if it wants to join.”

Dr Mahathir said the meeting agreed to form a leadership council to plan and strategise efforts from now until the next general election.

He said they were identifying candidates to contest in the general election where they planned for a straight fight all over the country.

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