New blog look- back to the basics

I'm a bit tired of the cluttered look of the blog and decided to go back to the basics- get a basic blogger template and resist any temptation to change the code. As for the header pic, I opted for the collage look, designed with Google online tools.
For the record here's the old template:

And this blog still looks cluttered. Maybe those 'minimalist'-styled templated would work huh?

Enter Najib, with baggage

Nov 6th 2008 | BANGKOK
From The Economist print edition
A new leader mired in accusations
ONE could certainly say that Najib Razak was born to be Malaysian prime minister. He is the son of Abdul Razak, the second man to hold that job following independence from Britain, and the nephew of his successor, Hussein Onn. Elected to parliament aged 23, on his father’s death, he rose to become deputy to the present prime minister, Abdullah Badawi. However, Mr Najib, expected within months to become the country’s sixth post-independence leader, will enter under a cloud of allegations, including ones linking him to a murder case, all of which he categorically denies. But some Malaysians will be wondering if he is a fit person to lead them.
Facing a revitalised opposition, in an election earlier this year the governing coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), lost the two-thirds majority it needs to change the constitution. Since then, the knives have been out for Mr Badawi. Despite his efforts to cling on he is being forced to quit next March. The contest to succeed him as party president, and thus prime minister, at first promised to be lively. But party officials, fearful of the challenge from the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim (a former UMNO deputy leader), chose to hang together rather than hang separately. By November 2nd Mr Najib had won enough nominations to block his only rival, Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister, from getting on the ballot-paper.
Like Mr Badawi before him, Mr Najib comes to the job promising reforms, including of the system of preference for members of the ethnic-Malay majority for state contracts and jobs. Mr Badawi achieved little, though he allowed a bit more freedom of expression than had his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad. Expectations for Mr Najib are lower still. It is possible, notes Edmund Gomez, a political scientist, that he will use the worsening economic outlook as a pretext for reverting to Mahathir-style repression.
Mr Anwar has failed to carry out his threat to topple the government through a mass defection of parliamentarians. Even so, there is a palpable fin de rĂ©gime air around UMNO. Mr Badawi, Mr Mahathir and other leaders are publicly lamenting how corruption and cronyism are rife in the party. But his opponents say Mr Najib is hardly the man to restore confidence. In the latest scandal to which they are linking him, the defence ministry (which he oversaw until recently) has deferred a big order for helicopters following questions about their high price. A parliamentary committee this week cleared the government of wrongdoing, but admitted not investigating whether “commissions” were paid.
In an earlier case, a company the opposition claimed was linked to Razak Baginda, an adviser to Mr Najib, was paid juicy fees for services provided over a contract for the purchase of French submarines. A Mongolian woman, said to have worked as a translator in the negotiations, was shot dead and her corpse destroyed with explosives in 2006. Mr Razak was put on trial over her killing, along with two policemen. The case has dragged on for months and seen various odd goings-on, including changes of judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers at the start of the trial. A private detective signed a statutory declaration implicating Mr Najib, retracted it the next day, saying it had been made under duress. Calls by the victim’s family for Mr Najib to testify were rejected. On October 31st the judge ruled that the prosecution had failed to make a prima facie case against Mr Razak.
The policemen’s trial will continue. A blogger who linked Mr Najib's wife to the case is on trial for criminal libel. None of this, however, seems likely to interfere with Mr Najib’s accession to the prime minister’s job. A bigger threat may yet emerge from the resurgent opposition and Mr Anwar, who nurtures a long-thwarted ambition to take the job himself.

A night of terror, my personal account

I left with 3 friends yesterday to attend the vigil near Amcorp Mall last night at about 9.00pm. Knowing there were several roadblocks set up around the area, we decided to chance parking near the civic center. As we were walking, we saw small groups who were obviously there for the same intention. Bumped into Chin Huat, and was informed the group in front of Amcorp had already been harassed, and were ordered to disperse. We were then told they would be re congregating in at the park near the civic center.
The group of us decided to proceed there. As we approached, we saw a crowd of maybe a hundred people gathering in the middle of the park, regular everyday people just like you and me. They were talking, holding candles peacefully and basically were there out of goodwill and a shared cause. YB Ronnie Liew and the Bersih chairman gave short speeches on the commemorating of the Bersih rally last year, and how the fight for free and fair elections not over yet. None of the demands have been met, i.e clearance of the voter list of phantom and dead voters, indelible ink etc etc.
As the speeches were made, someone said 'look RPK is coming'. Everyone immediately craned their necks to search for him, the chairman's speech was interrupted briefly.
When RPK started his speech, me standing at the back of the crowd heard police sirens. Soon there was a police force assembling the FRU team in a line. Used to this scene, I ignored the feeling of unrest in my heart and continued listening to what the speakers had to say.
Then I heard shouts of commands by the police to the FRU team. There was an aura of unrest around me, people were shifting their attention away from the speeches, looking nervously at the team of armed men behind us. I overheard conversations of people asking who the OCPD in charge was. YP Ronnie Liew had stepped to the back of the crowd. He was walking towards the police, accompanied by a couple of people, an obvious attempt to seek negotiations with the police force.
The crowd had at that time broke into a 2nd round of Negaraku, as the words "tanah tumpahnya darahku" were being sung, the FRU team started marching forward with no prior warning. YB Ronnie Liew who was walking towards them lifted up his hand in signaling them to halt.
Obviously this failed, the FRU continued marching at a rapid pace towards the crowd, people were starting to walk away in a brisk manner as the last words of Negaraku was sung. The sounds of loud and violent shouts by the police filled the air. I pulled my friends and we broke into a sprint. Bad idea being caught before we are called to the Bar, an arrest and conviction could ruin our careers for life.
As we ran away, we heard shouts and batons being banged on the shields. People were scattering like ants being ambushed. I got separated from Shar, who we came with. When we finally felt safe, we stopped near where our car was parked. I called Gus to locate Shar, and to my shock found out Gus had just been arrested.
We later reconvened at the fishing place, and exchanged stories around. Apparently 24 people had been arrested, some teenagers, some elderly people, mostly innocent civilians who couldn't get away in time.
I heard an old lady got pushed by the FRU team when they arrested her husband and she was trying to pull him away. She hit her head on a flowerpot... I also heard another lady was bashed in the back of the head by the FRU team, she was bloodied and sent to Assunta Hospital.
Nobody was spared, lawyers, MPs, innocent civilians, all were taken.
Here's something to note; this violence will not scare me away from attending a cause I believe in. This abuse of police power will not make me respect authority, but merely cause me to loathe them even more. This event will not turn me away from joining the cause, instead it has fanned an even greater passion in me.
My friends join me in the same sentiment, their exact words were "now that i've seen what abuse this country is being put to, I feel angry, let me know the next time we fight a cause, because there's an even greater reason for us to join in now.
So thank you Polis Diraja Malaysia, thank you Federal Reserve Unit, you have succeeded in fanning and igniting the passion and desire for change in the rakyat.

RPK to be released today

According to co-blogger Kell, Raja Petra will be released from ISA detention later today.
The news is already out on The Star Online.

Should prices drop?

Should prices drop or should Malaysia's 5th Prime Minister Badawi take lessons in economics. Well, maybe not, since during his studying days he had failed to a get into economics school and took up Bachelor of Arts (Islamic Studies) in Universiti Malaya instead.

Prices of consumer goods are normally sticky downward- meaning when they go up, it is hard for them to come down if at all, unless there's law enforcement or self-regulation of prices amongst good corporate citizen hypermarket companies. The impact of reduced fuel prices needs to weave its way through the economy before the man-in-the-street notices a drop in price of Maggi Mee or Nestle milk, for instance. Even so, it is difficult to expect prices of consumer goods to fall back to the same levels within a short period of time. Give it at least 6 months.

Below: Red line show f&b prices still trending up. Black and green line 
shows CPI and non-food items, respectively, doing an about-turn.

Wages, for one, do not fall after they have been raised. Imagine your boss coming up to you, asking for a reduction in salary because price of crude oil is now USD67 down from a previous high when he adjusted your salary upwards. Electricity tariffs for one, do not fall either (it doesn't fall because Tenaga does not allow it!!). Besides raw material costs, wages and utility expenses are the highest cost components for the manufacturer- all three do not and have not fallen since the crude oil price slide because they simply can't in such a short period of time.

Therefore under Government and public pressure, traders and manufacturers will be compelled to take a cut in profit margins in order to reduce selling prices of goods. But heck, consumer goods are end goods- what about items which affect production costs such as electricty and transport? The Government should look upward stream and compel Tenaga and freight forwarders/ haulier companies to reduce prices because they are the big obstacles to price reduction.

Anyway, I'm still waiting for my 80 sen-a-piece roti canai to materialize.