Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Khairy: Dr M is wrong in saying Umno is not open to criticism

Umno Youth chief, Khairy Jamaluddin said that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was wrong to say that Umno needed to be open to criticism.

A news portal reported on Tuesday that Khairy said that Umno had always accepted criticism and party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak also accepted dissenting views.

Khairy said Umno had never prohibited anyone from speaking out against the party leadership, as he claimed that delegates were always allowed to express their views during party meetings.

Dr Mahathir in his blog post stated that Umno was a party that practiced self censorship, where silencing opposing views and instilling fear of speaking out was accepted.

He also added that the administration of the current Prime Minister and its policies reflected the 'yes-men' culture.

PR Pro Youth NGO wants PAS to stop causing trouble in Pakatan

Fed up with PAS’s insistence on prolonging the Selangor Menteri Besar (MB) issue, a group of youths led by recently-convicted social activist Safwan Anang will hand over a letter to Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tomorrow demanding that the party toe the line in Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Safwan, who was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for sedition on September 5, said his group, Lensa Anak Muda Malaysia (Lensa) had concluded that PAS had caused the Selangor MB crisis that saw PR on the brink of splitting up.

“Over the past few months, Lensa asked politicians, academics, what went wrong with PR and they all pointed to PAS and its flip-flop stance on the MB issue,” said Safwan, who founded Lensa in June and is the group’s executive director.

“The crisis should have ended by now, as the new MB has been sworn in already, but suddenly Selangor PAS is complaining that it never asked for its number of executive councillors to be reduced from four to three. This must stop.”

Safwan said he and about five other Lensa members would turn up at PAS’s headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut at 10am tomorrow to submit the letter to the party president titled “PAS must stop triggering tension”.

When asked why he was fighting this battle, Safwan said Lensa represented the voice of young voters in Malaysia who were banking on PR to take over Putrajaya and steer the country to a better direction.

“We are considered pro-PR because we know BN has no future, so why hope on BN any further? We want PR to provide new politics for Malaysians, otherwise there is no hope left at all for us,” said Safwan.

But he said youths were growing sick of PR, as reflected in its recent loss in Pengkalan Kubor, and that Lensa believed the sickness began with PAS.

Safwan said he had formed Lensa in June after leaving Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), a group comprising students across Malaysia.

“Our objective is to evaluate the performance of both the government and the opposition after the general election and to create a new generation that is aware of democracy in Malaysia, and how they can play a part in it,” he said.

Safwan added that the recent sedition conviction against him had not deterred him from continuing his social activism, particularly his fight against the Sedition Act 1948.

“If I don’t fight, then it ends there. So I’ve made the decision to take up the fight and educate the youths on their rights,” he said.

The Sessions Court sentenced Safwan to 10 months’ jail on September 5 after it found him guilty of sedition.

Safwan was said to have uttered seditious statements to incite the public to remove the government by extra-legal means during a speech last year at a May 13 forum. – September 29, 2014.

Aziz Bari to be questioned over allegedly seditious statements

Abdul Aziz Bari is set to be questioned under the Sedition Act for comments made allegedly insulting the Selangor Sultan.

According to an online news portal report, Aziz is expected to be called in for questioning at the Sabak Bernam district police headquarters on Wednesday after nearly 100 police reports were lodged against him.

“He has not been arrested, but will just come in for questioning tomorrow (Wednesday),” the police officer told the news portal.

Aziz, who is a former International Islamic University lecturer, is being investigated for statements made in an online new article earlier this month.

His statements are alleged to have questioned the role of the royalty in politics and also suggested that the discretionary powers of the Sultan were only limited to instances where there was a hung state assembly.

If charged, Aziz will be the second academic to fall foul of the Sedition Act after Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom was charged early September.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hisham: Travel advisory should include Western countries, too

The travel advisory issued by France urging its people to be vigilant when visiting several Muslim countries including Malaysia, should also include Western countries, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said.

He said the advisory should not only be addressed to specific countries but globally as all countries should be vigilant against any threats by Islamic State (IS) or any other extremist groups.

“If they want to give an advisory, I think the same applies to their own country, and not just unique to one country,” he told journalists after opening the Larut Umno AGM at the Taiping Golf Resort in Kamunting near here yesterday.

The advisory was issued on Friday by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry following the beheading of French tourist Herv Gourdel in Algeria on Wednesday by terrorists claiming to belong to IS.

Hishammuddin stressed that Malaysia was always serious about the country’s security.

“We have arrested three people who were on their way to Syria.

“There are also threats including Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, who declared their support for ISIL or IS and Nur Misuari who made his intention clearly to form an Islamic caliphate that includes Sabah and Sarawak, southern Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia,” he said. “I have also discussed with the Prime Minister on more funds for security in Sabah and Sarawak.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Azmin to reveal companies benefitting from Selangor water deal

The newly appointed Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin Ali is expected to reveal the companies benefitting from the water deal approved by his predecessor Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who told Azmin to make the exposure, said he has a list of those benefitting millions of ringgit from the deal based on some ‘homework’ he did.

"I'm quite aware not because it was given to me but I did my homework and I realised why people are bent on defending and refusing to listen due to the huge interests and benefits at stake.

"When it comes to the issue of public interest, my concern is that it has direct relationship to the water rates and the people will suffer from it.

"The pious platitude not withstanding, the issue is finally dollars and cents," Anwar told reporters after a ceramah against the Sedition Act 1948 at the Seberang Jaya market here on Saturday.

He added that it was not a question of people amassing wealth but when exorbitant profit or interests arise from the deal, it will hit back at the Selangorians.

"Penang is successful in keeping water rates low because their water authority was corporatised, not privatised.

"When you privatise something and the deals are not transparent, then we have a problem.

"Why are you defending these excesses? Why are you defending these huge contracts that are not transparent and did not go through proper tender exercises?" Anwar questioned.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sultan takes PKR and DAP to task

The Sultan of Selangor has blamed the “Kajang Move” as the start of the mentri besar crisis in the state, which resulted in the appointment of a new mentri besar and an exco line-up.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah directly chided PKR and DAP for the state of affairs in the state, saying the turmoil within Pakatan Rakyat started with the two parties trying to oust former mentri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim from office following the “Kajang Move”.

“The appointment of the new exco members is due to PKR and DAP having lost their confidence in Khalid, who was appointed mentri besar after the 13th general election.

“Therefore, a new mentri besar and a new exco line-up needed to be appointed to administer the state government,” the Sultan said in his speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the new state exco yesterday.

“With this (Kajang Move) began the slander and instigation to ruin Khalid’s name so that he would be relieved from the mentri besar post. All this backbiting continued into the holy month of Ramadan, the time when Muslims were supposed to do good deeds to purge their sins.

“However, PKR continued with its agenda in the holy month by continuing its insults and abuse until it succeeded in bringing Khalid down as the mentri besar,” he said.

The Ruler also vindicated Khalid as he thanked him for his “outstanding service” during his tenure as mentri besar and noted that the relationship between the palace and the mentri besar’s office was good and smooth.

He also reminded the people of the nature of politics, where politicians come and go but the royal institution remains.

“This mentri besar crisis has opened my eyes and heart as well as my views on the politics in this state. Politicians come and go, they will serve for five years and might be replaced in the next election.

“However, my position here as the ruling Sultan of Selangor will continue until I breathe my last,” he said.

People, he said, were not given the right information on the functions of the Sultan and thought the institution was merely a symbol.

“I find there are also politicians who do not understand the functions of the palace or choose not to understand, convincing me there is an agenda.

“As the Sultan of Selangor, my decisions have always been ruled by the state Constitution,” he said, adding that he had never meddled in the administration of the state.

“I only advise the mentri besar in matters that can cause hardship to the people.”

Sultan Sharafuddin also thanked the mainstream media for cooperating with the palace in disseminating its press statements.

He called for the new state exco members to give their full support to Azmin Ali as the new mentri besar.

“Forget all the past arguments and concentrate your energy, expertise and experience coupled with sincerity in your service to the people of Selangor who have given you the mandate to become their state assemblymen.

“The people of Selangor do not like to see their state in chaos or live in fear,” he added.

Friday, September 26, 2014

PAS loses one Selangor exco post but gets deputy Speaker role

The number of seats for PAS representatives in the Selangor exco line-up has been reduced to three from the previous four.

The new line-up will include PKR's Elizabeth Wong (Bukit Lanjan), Dr Daroyah Alwi (Sementa), Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Seri Setia) and Amiruddin Shari (Batu Caves), along with DAP's Datuk Teng Chang Khim (Sg Panjang), Ean Yong Hian Wah (Seri Kembangan), V. Ganabatirau (Kota Alam Shah), who were all retained.

The three PAS exco members are Iskandar Samad (Cempaka), Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi (Sijangkang) and Zaidy Abdul Talib (Tmn Templer).

Selat Kelang assemblyman Dr Halimah Ali and Sabak representative Sallehin Mukhyi are the PAS representatives who have been dropped.

Mentri Besar Azmin Ali, who revealed the names at a packed press conference Friday, said Nik Nazmi had relinquished his position as the state deputy speaker, adding that the position will be taken over by a PAS member.

"The portfolios of these members will be decided over the weekend," Azmin said.

The swearing-in ceremony will be held at the Istana Alam Shah at 3pm.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cops dismiss social media news of attempted suicide by politician

Police on Thursday dismissed as false information disseminated widely over the social media that a politician had attempted suicide.

Ampang Police chief ACP Khairuldin Saad said a police investigation with the relevant authorities found the information to be untrue.

"I checked with the relevant authorities and there was no report on such an incident," he told Bernama.

Information had been circulated over the social media that "the fire and rescue service had prevented a politician from committing suicide ... (and) that the Ampang Police chief would hold a press conference on the matter tonight".

The information was also disseminated over the WhatsApp application.
Meanwhile, Selangor Fire and Rescue assistant director Mohd Sani Harul confirmed that there was no truth to the information.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pekida: We are not rogues

As a Muslim charity body, Pekida was set up based on Islamic principles but a rogue group wanting to make a name has becoming the biggest hurdle to its cause.

Both use similar logos and the group, calling itself Tiga Line and whose members claim to be from Pekida, was one of 49 deemed illegal last year under the Secret Societies Act.

"We are judged unfairly as people choose to label us gangsters when we have no links whatsoever with the underworld.

"Despite our direct involvement with various charity programmes, people still mistake us for Tiga Line, which was set up by people who claimed to be part of us," Federal Territories Pekida chief Datuk Roslan Dahaman (pic) told The Star Online at a recent interview here.

Pekida, or Pertubuhan Kebajikan dan Dakwah Islamiah Se-Malaysia, was founded in the 1970s and stresses on the importance of charity and Islamic teachings.

Roslan denounced the gangster group and accused them of using Pekida's name to justify its acts.
According to him, the gangster outfit might have been founded by some of Pekida's 50,000 registered members, but this he said, was beyond his control.

"I can't be monitoring the movement of each and everyone of them. There may be lawbreakers but I can't be responsible for what they do. That is not what we taught them to be," he said.

Roslan, who is fondly known as "Ayahanda Lan Gajah", said Pekida is a legit body as it is registered with the Registrar of Societies and claimed that it had never had any run-ins with the authorities.

"Sometimes, we even help the police in small cases such as finding a missing person, but people do not see our good side as they are too engrossed with labelling us gangsters," he said.

Roslan, 60, said he would be the first to turn in members to the police if they were found breaking the law.
"I will personally send these kids to the police if they break the law. A law is a law and no one is above it. We don't want them to tarnish our image," he said.

He added that it was not easy to become leaders in Pekida as they were chosen based not only on academic qualifications but also religious background.

"They need the basics at least - how to read the Quran - and pray five times a day. They also need to have a strong religious background," he said.

Roslan added that Pekida was wrongly portrayed to the people, especially through Malay blockbuster movie KL Gangster which purportedly depicted Pekida's way of life.

The movie directed by Shamsul Yusof, the son of renowned and veteran director Yusof Haslam, was slammed by Pekida for putting the group in bad light.

Roslan said they had to clear their name as the movie used Pekida's terms "Ayahanda" and "Abang Long" - loosely translated as Godfather and Big Brother respectively – when gang chiefs were addressed.

"We used the term because we consider ourselves to be in one big family, and found it strange that the movie had to use the same terms," he said.

Shamsul has since apologised to Pekida, saying it was mere coincidence and that he had no intention of offending the group.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Selangor palace: PKR, DAP's refusal to submit more than two names complicated situation

DAP and PKR’s reluctance to adhere to the Selangor palace’s request to nominate more than two names for the post of mentri besar complicated the situation and made it difficult for Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah to make an appointment, said the Sultan’s private secretary.

“The Sultan has decided to appoint Azmin Ali as the new mentri besar. It has been the practice of the sultan to not waste time in appointing a new mentri besar, which is an important position in the Selangor government.

“However, the delay in naming the mentri besar this time occurred due to the internal conflict in PKR and also the misunderstanding between Pakatan Rakyat parties,” said Datuk Mohamad Munir Bani in a press statement, Tuesday.

He also said that statements made against the Sultan that the ruler was meddling into state administrative affairs were not true.

“Again I wish to reiterate that the Sultan did not meddle in state government affairs, and he only advised the mentri besar.

“The Sultan only acted according to the laws of the Selangor state constitution 1959,” the statement said.

Azmin Ali sworned in as the new Selangor Mentri Besar at 10.30am this morning.

The PKR deputy president received the surat watikah (letter of appointment) from the palace at about 3.30pm, Monday.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tabung Haji denies investing in Detroit

Tabung Haji today issue a statement that they had never made any commitment in investing in Detroit and all the talk was just a mere speculation.

We are very grateful to hear this from Tabung Haji.

Below is the statement from Tabung Haji.

Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) on Monday denied that it has made an investment in the United States (US).

"TH expressed regret over the recent speculative remarks on its investment in the US.

"To put the subject into perspective, TH as of to date has not made any investment commitments in Detroit or any other cities in the US," it said in a statement.

As such, TH said there were no transactions or payments made for any kind of investments in the US.

"Therefore, the public should not rely on any unofficial sources which is merely speculative in nature and may not reflect the truth," it said.

Notwithstanding the above, TH said it had thus far invested in Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Australia and Asian countries for diversification purposes.

Encouraged by favourable returns from these overseas investments, TH would continue to explore for similar opportunities in new countries as guided by its Strategic Asset Allocation framework, it said.

"The overseas investment activity as its domestic counterpart is subjected to a rigorous internal investment process.

"TH is very mindful of all its activities to uphold the interest of the ummah and its valued depositors," it noted.

The statutory body's principal activity is Hajj operations and management, savings and investments.

Among its core investment sectors are Islamic banking, plantation, real estate, property development and construction, information technology, oil and gas, hospitality and halal food.

TH has 120 branches across the country and a branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

There’s no stopping Dr Mahathir

The Umno rank and file is unsure whether Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s continuing criticism of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will help the government or bring it down.

EVERYONE in Umno could see what it meant when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak turned up in Kedah to preside over the Jerlun division meeting.
The Jerlun chief is Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir whose famous father had declared that he was withdrawing support for Najib.
Mukhriz has been stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place ever since Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad used his blog to criticise Najib, torn between father and boss, trapped between filial love and loyalty to the party president.
Mukhriz is still trying to establish his foothold over the Umno ground in Kedah, to win over the many political warlords and this was the last thing he needed on his plate.
Some in Umno are saying it was just as well Mukhriz did not win the vice-president post in last year’s Umno election because he would be unable to defend his president against his father. He would be a lame duck in this situation.
Najib’s presence, as such, was a crucial gesture of support for Mukhriz, to signal to Mukhriz’s detractors in Kedah that the president is not blaming the son for his father’s actions.
But there was also something symbiotic about the whole thing. Both men had their own reasons to be seen together.
Nothing personal
Najib wanted to use the occasion to show that he is taking whatever Dr Mahathir is doing in a professional way and he is not going to be personal about the criticism.
He wanted it known that Mukhriz’s leadership in Kedah would continue to have his support. In fact, a day after the Jerlun event, Mukhriz was in Putrajaya to present the Kedah government’s proposal on an international airport in the state.
Mukhriz had said that his father’s critique is an act of love for the party and the president. He has tried to paint it as a case of tough love, that you have to be cruel to be kind. He said his father is speaking out because he wants the president to succeed.
But not everyone in Umno sees it that way.
Many Umno leaders are worried sick especially after Dr Mahathir made his second attack, this time taking issue with the 1MDB sovereign fund scheme. His beef was the use of government funds for the scheme, and he had a string of questions about it.
The Umno rank and file know that Dr Mahathir has the licence to say things that others cannot. They believe the former premier means well, that he is concerned for the ruling coalition. But many of them disagree with the way it is being done.
They believe him when he says he is not out to topple Najib but they are concerned that if he goes on in this way, he will eventually cause Umno and Barisan Nasional to lose ground and votes.
Shortly after Dr Mahathir’s first critique, a total of 173 division chiefs from all over the country had converged at Najib’s official residence.

Sharkar: Organised division leaders’ meeting with Najib.
It was supposed to be a hush-hush thing but there is no way one could hush up a gathering like that, especially when their cars were lined up along the road leading to Seri Perdana.
The division chiefs belong to a Telegram chat group set up by Najib loyalist Datuk Sharkar Shamsuddin, who is Lanchang assemblyman and Temerloh division chief. The discussion in their chat group led to the gathering – they wanted to hear from Najib what was going on and how they could help.
A turn-out of 173 out of 191 division chiefs is no mean feat and it was quite obvious that the gathering was also about a show of support for Najib. All but one of them turned up in red shirts. The odd man out had been sent the wrong shirt size and came in green instead.
“We discussed many things, Tun Mahathir was one of the topics. We agreed to accept his views as fatherly advice, there will be no confrontation,” said Sharkar.
A delegation of four division chiefs was sent to meet up with Dr Mahathir. They were Sharkar, Datuk Tajuddin Rahman (Pasir Salak), Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani (Titiwangsa) and Datuk Seri Syed Ali Alhabshee (Cheras). Syed Ali was roped in because they knew Dr Mahathir had a soft spot for this tough-talking Cheras warlord.
Dr Mahathir was about to leave for London the next day for a holiday with the family and the four men had to catch up with him in a hotel where the owner was hosting a belated birthday dinner for him.
“We wanted to hear it from him. He spoke, we listened, we told him our concerns. It was a cordial and respectful session,” said Johari, who is also Titiwangsa MP.
The group had probably approached the elderly man, thinking they could persuade him to soften his stand. But they realised quickly that Dr Mahathir had made up his mind. He told them he is almost 90 and that he has to think of the country. He said not all the questions he asked were answered, so he went public.
There is no stopping Dr Mahathir – he will do what he has to do and he wants Najib to relook some of his policies.
The group left the meeting wishing him happy holidays, told him to relax, enjoy himself and forget about everything, which was wishful thinking on their part.
“He is 89 years old, he was 22 years in power, he is a statesman. What else could we say?” said Johari.
Johari was a product of the Mahathir era. He went overseas for his studies, returned to a good job and is now establishing his place in Umno.
“Let me put it this way. My father may not always be right but if he reprimands me, there’s no way I would argue back,” he said.

Johari: Generation gap between the two administrations.
Or as one Putrajaya official put it: “You cannot raise your voice to your father. He can criticise you openly but you cannot hit back publicly and drag the whole family in.”
For a while, the Umno crowd was hopeful that Dr Mahathir would back off, especially after he joined the Cabinet at the Merdeka Day parade. He was also there with Najib and several other ministers to witness the return of the third batch of victims of the MH17 tragedy.
He has also confirmed that he will be attending the opening of the Umno general assembly which he has not missed since Najib took over.
All that was his way of saying he can still sit at the same table with Najib even though he has withdrawn support.
According to a Mahathir insider, his chief concern is the next general election. He wants to pre-empt the hot button issues, to detonate those issues now rather than have them explode closer to the general election.
He has seen how the Barisan has slipped downwards since 2008. He wants to arrest the slip, hence his comments about throwing money to get votes and public concern over issues like race and religion.
Various groups and individuals have also been to see him with all sorts of concerns.
He is said to be sceptical of the advisers around Najib whose ideas do not seem grounded in local culture. A case in point is the practice of getting the crowd to hold up signs with the “I love PM” slogan. American-style superlatives like this have not gone down well with everyone.

Syed Ali: Worried sick about impact on government.
“Tun Mahathir does not want us to lose the general election. His whole legacy would be gone if that happens,” said Kok Lanas assemblyman Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad.
Alwi has been down that road before. He was political secretary to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when the latter opted for a so-called “elegant silence” when he came under attack from Dr Mahathir.
“You cannot win fighting Tun Mahathir. But keeping quiet is also not the solution,” he said.
But Dr Mahathir’s admirers are uncomfortable with the way he is going about the whole thing. They do not like the confrontational way he is taking on Najib. Some joked that he is trying to “remote control” the Prime Minister.
Former Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman sees him as some sort of minister mentor, always keeping an eye on the future of the country.
“I support him giving his opinion but why this way? Surely there are more peaceful and discreet channels of communication?” Abdul Rashid said.
Dr Mahathir will always command an audience when he speaks, with that sharp wit, often acerbic tongue and the wealth of experience behind the words.

Abdul Rashid: Questioned necessity of public attacks.
His critics point out that not all of Dr Mahathir’s policies had turned out well either.
Some of his policies were wildly successful and beneficial for the country, some did not work so well and a few failed. His own journey had its ups and downs but, as his supporters pointed out, he won every single general election hands down.
Najib’s supporters insist that the Prime Minister should be given the chance to govern as he thinks fit.
They see a generation gap problem in play and they say it is unfair to expect the formula that had worked during Dr Mahathir’s time to work in the new and challenging landscape. Even Umno is not like it was before – it has the first Youth chief who is an Oxford graduate and the first Wanita chief to don a tudung.
But when your opponent is Dr Mahathir, you want to be extra careful.
The Umno crowd will continue to tip-toe around him. They know that more criticisms or teguran (admonishment), as they call it, lies ahead.
“Dr Mahathir knows what he is doing, I am sure of that. I just don’t know where it will all lead,” said Abdul Rashid.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why Tabung Haji want to invest RM640 million in a collapsed city of Detroit?

It is believe that the Lembaga Tabung Haji will invest RM640mil in building houses in collapsed city of Detroit.The signing ceremony will be held soon.

Who had advised our PM on this project?

We demand Tabung Haji not to proceed with this deal. Here are few MAJOR reason why the they should not invest there.

Why Detroit collapsed

As a native Detroiter, I was saddened by the city’s decision to declare bankruptcy this week. But I was not surprised. The move was inevitable.
Everyone in Detroit knew that without enormous, radical change, the city was dying. They have known this since at least the early 1980s. But that radical change never came.

The city’s population peaked at almost 2-million in 1950, during the boom times of the post-war era. It then had the highest median income of any city in the United States. These days, it ranks 66th out of the largest 68 cities in the nation. And the population of the city has sunk to just above 700,000.

Yet the city still acts as if it has 2-million residents. Despite drastic cuts since 2000, Detroit is still one of the most overstaffed cities in the United States. As of 2011, it had one city employee for every 55 residents — by far the highest ratio in the United States. Public services remained bloated, and the bureaucracy remained clogged with useless union workers who could not be fired.

From 1961 onward, Detroit became the crucible into which progressives poured every utopian idea imaginable. The city spent more per capita on education, welfare and infrastructure than almost any other urban center in the country during the sixties and seventies. The city passed tough regulations, allowing city leaders to manage which businesses could open in the city, and which could not. Large bureaucratic city service industries bloomed, usually controlled by local labor unions. It was essentially a state-controlled capitalist economy.

The cycle was kept alive because of the boom times in the auto industry. Then the gas crisis of the 1970s put an end to that, as General Motors, Ford, American Motors, and Chrysler all struggled with market changes.
Race issues became politically dominant. Mayor Coleman Young was considered a leading African American progressive when he became leader of Detroit in 1974. But from the start, he was one of the main race-baiters of the Democrat Party, and blamed many of the ills of the city on the rich, white upper class. (Among black leaders at the time, the claim was widespread that whites were conspiring to drown blacks in drugs, and thereby “keep the black man down.”)

Detroit files largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history

 Once the very symbol of American industrial might, Detroit became the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy Thursday, its finances ravaged and its neighbourhoods hollowed out by a long, slow decline in population and auto manufacturing.
The filing, which had been feared for months, put the city on an uncertain course that could mean laying off municipal employees, selling off assets, raising fees and scaling back basic services such as trash collection and snow plowing, which have already been slashed.

“Only one feasible path offers a way out,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a letter approving the move.
Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy expert hired by the state in March to stop Detroit’s fiscal free-fall, made the Chapter 9 filing in federal bankruptcy court.

Michael Sweet, a bankruptcy attorney in Fox-Rothschild’s San Francisco office, said the city would pay current employees. But “beyond that, all bets are off.”

“They don’t have to pay anyone they don’t want to,” Sweet said. “And no one can sue them.”

Cheap Detroit homes a bad deal — for investors and the community

The solid red brick house on a block of similar homes in Northwest Detroit sounds like a steal at $3,728. But in many ways, it’s a lemon.

The house, sold at an auction last fall, sits at the edge of Detroit’s infamous urban blight. And scrap thieves, or “strippers,” have taken anything of value, including the kitchen sink and metal pipes, requiring repairs of up to $15,000.

“You could take a great picture of this house, put it online and make buyers … think it’s a good thing,” said Antoine Benjamin, chief operating officer of real estate firm Benjigates Estates, which bought the house at a Wayne County auction to renovate and rent out. “But you have to understand how close you are to wasteland.”

Low property prices in Detroit in the wake of the housing crash in 2008 have lured investors from California to China. Speculators bank on high returns despite a financial crisis so dire Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has cited a 50-50 chance the city will file for bankruptcy.

But small-time speculators eyeing quick profits often let the houses fall into disrepair because they lack the funds for renovations or end up abandoning them — and frequently do not pay real estate taxes.

In 2011 alone, the last year for which data is available, Wayne County had to write off $170 million in uncollected taxes on Detroit properties. About 100,000 city-owned properties, many of which are abandoned, are in limbo until a study of local property values is completed.

“The city has made no effort to make those 100,000 available, so we don’t have a real market,” said Jerry Paffendorf of Loveland Technologies, whose widely followed property database includes Detroit’s tax delinquencies and foreclosures.

Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Orr, said the city does not intend to sell right now because there is no way to discover fair market value, and the emergency manager is awaiting the result of the Michigan Tax Board study.

“There is serious concern that the assessment process in Detroit is broken and many, if not most, properties have been inappropriately assessed at artificially high levels for years,” Nowling wrote in an email.
A state plan to demolish abandoned buildings may eliminate some of the blight, but would do little to resolve city property codes that are unclear or largely ignored.

“The lack of property code enforcement means there is no risk for investors who buy here and neglect their properties,” said Khalilah Gaston, executive director of the local nonprofit Vanguard Community Development Corporation. “We have to ensure there is risk and not just reward.”

One speculator, 22-year-old graduate student Darin McLeskey, who also runs a non-profit urban farming group, noted Detroit’s many rules on property use but few resources to police them.
“With no code enforcement, it’s the Wild West,” said McLeskey, who moved to Detroit from an outer suburb. And he has taken his shot, spending $25,000 to snap up 20 empty plots and three homes in the city.

McLeskey is a rarity among speculators because he plans to make Detroit his home. Detroit’s population fell 25% in the past decade to 700,000, well off its 1950 peak of 1.8 million, as manufacturing declined and white residents moved to the suburbs following race riots in the late 1960s.

In a few neighborhoods, sales are picking up on recent talk of new infrastructure projects including a light rail line, a new hockey stadium and a new bridge to Canada.

At Wayne County’s annual foreclosure auction last year, 12,000 properties were sold online, some for the minimum $500 bid. More bargain seekers are expected this fall when around 25,000 properties will go on the block.

“Just a few years ago the big joke was, ‘You can buy a house in Detroit for $500, ha ha ha,’” said Ted Phillips, executive director of the nonprofit United Community Housing Coalition, which helps homeowners fend off foreclosure. “Now the buzz is, ‘You can buy a house in Detroit for $500 and it’s a great investment.’”

Detroit property prices rose 20% year-on-year in April, Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed.

Benjamin estimates the house Benjigates bought in Northwest Detroit for less than $4,000 will ultimately cost about $20,000 after renovations. But the company has a renter lined up and should be able to sell it for $30,000, he said.

The North End district in central Detroit sits alongside the route of a planned $137 million, 3.5-mile light rail line and has attracted serious investors. On a recent visit to the area, groups speaking with New England, British and other accents and were seen walking the neighbourhood looking for deals.

Phillips of the United Community Housing Coalition worries about a get-rich-quick mentality. “These homes are not just paper investments,” he said. “If they’re left to disintegrate, they undermine neighbourhoods.”

 America’s Suicidal Cities
Detroit refuses to take its medicine.

Some major American cities are dying, and the worst part is that these grievously ill patients often are refusing to take even the mildest medicine that would make things better.

Take Detroit, a city that has become a synonym for urban failure. The murder rate of one per 1,719 people last year was more than eleven times the rate in New York City. One contributing factor may be that two-thirds of Detroit’s streetlights are broken.

Once the fourth-largest city in the country, Detroit’s population has dropped by almost 30 percent since 2000 to below 700,000. Its vacant lots cover more land than the entire city of Paris. Despite enormous subsidies from the state government, Detroit is likely to finish the next fiscal year in June a full $50 million in the red. An audit could result in a state takeover of Detroit’s finances, and that could in turn lead to the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy.

With conditions so dire, you’d think the city would grab any life preserver tossed to it. Last year, the state of Michigan offered to take over management of Belle Isle, the 1.5-square-mile island park that sits in the Detroit River, just inside the U.S. border with Canada. Now sadly neglected and crumbling, Belle Isle was once an urban jewel designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the creators of New York’s Central Park.
The state offered to manage it as part of a ten-year lease that could be renewed only if both parties agreed. Access to the park, which is connected to Detroit by a bridge, would be controlled by charging $11 for an annual vehicle pass that would also cover admission to every other state-operated park. The state would pump in dollars to repair and upgrade the island’s facilities, saving the city at least $6 million a year in upkeep.

Sounds like a win-win idea, but Detroit’s city council nixed it at a tumultuous meeting on Tuesday night. The council voted 6 to 3 to not even put the proposal on its agenda. Governor Rick Snyder’s office then promptly withdrew the offer because a key deadline for the state’s budget wouldn’t be met.

Opponents who showed up at the meeting angrily denounced the proposal as akin to selling the island to outsiders. “The governor has his hands on our jewels,” one skeptic told the council.

Some council members seemed to be living in an alternate reality in which Belle Isle wasn’t in dire need of help. Council president Charles Pugh said he would be happy to have the state “beautify Belle Isle, but not the state as the one running it.” His council colleague, JoAnn Watson, said she was holding out hope for a federal or state bailout of the city’s finances. Council member Kenneth Cockrel Jr. insisted that “there are far more pressing issues than this that we ought to be dealing with.” But the council has consistently rejected sensible proposals to contract out its bus system and garbage collection or to sell its electric system to an investor-owned utility.

Henry Payne, a writer for the Detroit News, says the tenor of the council meeting depressed him. “It was a throwback to old conspiracy theories that have long prevented progress in Detroit,” he told me. “Several speakers raved on about the Belle Isle deal being a suburban plot to take over Detroit.”

Not all city leaders agreed with such views. Mayor Dave Bing said in a written statement that he is “extremely disappointed” with the council’s decision: “I believe the majority of Detroiters supported this lease agreement. City Council’s actions today will force us to look at making additional cutbacks that may negatively impact the City’s other parks.” Dan Gilbert, the owner of Quicken Loans, which is headquartered in Detroit, could only scratch his head. “[The deal is] light years better. What is so hard?” he asked in a Tweet.

There are many explanations, but a common one is that Detroit has a reactionary political class that views almost any proposed change as smacking of “union busting” or “selling off the city” to white interests. Unions have sued to block Mayor Bing’s labor reforms, even though the city’s public-pension system is $11 billion in the red. Some city workers now retired and in their 80s have been drawing retirement benefits since they left the city’s employment in their 40s. Budget controls are incredibly lax. This month, it was discovered that Barrett Jones, a full-time consultant for the Detroit Water and Sewage facility earning $139,000 a year, had a second full-time job at $135,000 a year as public-safety administrator for the city of Flint, which is 70 miles away. He has resigned from his Flint job but still works for the city of Detroit.

PAS muktamar: Delegates bash Mat Sabu for contradicting Hadi

PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu was put in the hot seat by several delegates, who accused him of going against the party president's decision on the Selangor mentri besar crisis.

Terengganu delegate Mohd Nor Hamzah asked why certain leaders in PAS openly contradicted Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and the PAS Ulama Syura council's decision to name more than one candidate for the mentri besar position.

"No one is saying that the president is maksum (perfect) and can't do wrong but we need to be wala'(loyal) to the president," he said.

In debating the president's policy speech Friday, Mohd Nor reminded party members and leaders that they were bound to the party leadership despite forging tahaluf siyasi (political cooperation) with Pakatan Rakyat.

Using an analogy of friendship between three friends - PKR, DAP and PAS - he said the party should act as "one body, one head, one mouth, one leg of PAS".

"We cannot be having one PAS' hand but follow DAP's head.

"Our head is our president, the heads of PKR are (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim and (Datuk Seri) Dr Wan Azizah (Wan Ismail) and let's not follow PKR and DAP," he said.

Kelantan delegate Ahmad Fadhli Shaari expressed his sadness when Mohamad, who is also fondly known as Mat Sabu, said the president's views on the crisis were not an official stand of the party.

"I respect Mohamad because he is our leader but I am sad when he said the president was merely expressing his own views on the crisis and did not represent the party," he said.

He also defended PAS Youth's alleged walkout against Mohamad last Tuesday, saying it was not wrong for the wing to express support for the president.

Federal Territories Dr Azhari Ariffin, in his debate, led fellow delegates in a prayer so that the deputy president would not issue statements against the president.

"Only then he would understand the meaning of wala'  (loyalty)," he said.
The second round of debate will resume in the afternoon.

Selangor MB crisis: Iskandar yet to receive palace invite

PAS’ Cempaka assemblyman Iskandar Samad says he has yet to receive an invite from the Selangor palace for the swearing in ceremony of the new Mentri Besar next Tuesday, an indication that he may not be the “chosen one”.

Iskandar and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali have found themselves as frontrunners for the post after the palace made an announcement on Thursday that the new Selangor Mentri Besar would be sworn in on Tuesday.

Iskandar has played down those suggestions, and told The Star Online that his “appointment” was still speculation at this point.

“I have not received the invite yet, and am not even sure if it’s authentic. I have checked with my office, and they have not received anything from the palace either,” he said when contacted.

Asked if he would accept the post if Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah chose him, Iskandar said he would adhere to the party’s final decision on the matter.

“I am currently at the (PAS) muktamar and we are discussing this issue. I will follow what the party leadership says as they have yet to reach a final decision,” the Selangor PAS commissioner said, adding that it had been previously agreed that PAS would not claim the post as it was PKR’s.

However, two conflicting stands have emerged from the party’s central leadership, with deputy president Mohamad Sabu saying PAS would reject the post, while secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali has said the party would have to accept what the Sultan decides.

“The central leadership also previously stated that they would leave it to the wisdom of the Sultan in deciding the best candidate. So let’s wait and see what the Sultan decides,” Iskandar said when asked to comment on the possibility of Azmin being chosen ahead of PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Selangor MB crisis: New MB to be sworn in on Tuesday

The new Selangor Mentri Besar will be sworn in next Tuesday at 10am in Istana Alam Shah, Palace sources have revealed.

Invitation cards to the swearing-in ceremony have been sent out to state leaders, elected representatives and local dignitaries.

It is understood that the choice of the new Mentri Besar will be revealed soon, as a final decision on the post has been made.

Selangor MB crisis: Get your facts right, Palace tells Anwar

The palace has rapped PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for stating that it was convention to submit only one name for the Selangor Mentri Besar position.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, through his private secretary Datuk Munir Bani, said the norm was for the Prime Minister to submit several names before a candidate deemed suitable for the role was appointed.

“In 2008, when the state government fell to the Opposition, the palace wrote to leaders of all the parties to nominate two names for the Selangor Mentri Besar post.

“When all three parties unanimously nominated Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, who also fit the criteria as stated under the Selangor constitution, the Sultan agreed to appoint him,” Munir said in a statement issued Thursday
After the 2013 general election, which again saw Pakatan ruling the state, Munir said he was instructed by Sultan Sharafuddin to write to the three parties to nominate four names for the position of the Mentri Besar.

He said this was because PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had, during an election campaign, said Khalid might not be reappointed as Mentri Besar.

“Although the palace did receive other nominees for the position, the three party leaders also nominated Khalid to administrate the government for a second time and given that he had good ties with palace officials, the Sultan decided to appoint him again,” the statement said.

According to Munir, even though it was not the policy of the palace to release such information, the situation was such that a clarification was needed to ease the confusion that had surfaced.

He also urged Anwar to get his facts right before issuing any statement on the matter.
“He (Anwar) is advised not to issue statements that could confuse the people or make the Selangor Sultan look bad,” he said.
Anwar had said that the practice of submitting only one name as the Mentri Besar candidate had been followed since the country achieved independence in 1957.
Tags / Keywords: Selangor, Mentri Besar, Khalid Ibrahim







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