The sudden postponement of the scheme to privatise the National Heart Institute (IJN) suggests that the government under-estimated the depth of public opposition to the move.

The postponement comes just a day after Najib revealed that the green light had been given to Sime Darby to acquire a majority stake.

The Umno elite appear to be out of touch not only with the masses but also with their own BN component parties such as the MCA, which is opposing the privatisation. Or were they just testing the waters (to gauge public reaction), as some of you suggest?

To me, the real heroes are the 33 IJN specialists (out of a total of 35) who stood up to oppose the move. Their stand is all the more commendable as chances are they would have stood to gain in terms of a more lucrative pay package. It is great to know there are public-spirited specialists in Malaysia, for whom money is not everything – something which the corporate predators find hard to understand.

1212: Some 120 Jerit cyclists are now in Parliament, where they will be having lunch and handing over their memorandums to a rep from the BN and the Opposition. It’s mission accomplished! Congratulations to the Jerit team.

1145: About 30 participants of the Jerit cycling teams are now in Parliament to hand in their memorandum amidst a heavy police presence, including a helicopter clattering overhead.

Earlier they were barred from cycling to Parliament. “The OCPD told us we could head to Parliament, but not on our bicycles,” says Jerit coordinator Rani Rasiah.

I suppose the story of a chcken thief who couldn’t recognise a chicken in court as the one he was alleged to have stolen was meant to provide some comic relief in the The Star. You are meant to chuckle or laugh when you read it.

But read the report more carefully and you will see that the accused had to support his family on RM25 a day. That’s about RM750/month, putting the household on the threshold of the official poverty line. Nothing to laugh about there. And he gets three months jail for stealing a chicken.

Now we shouldn’t condone even petty theft.

But we all know how difficult it is for any household to survive on less than RM1,500/month or even more, let alone RM750.

How about poverty in a land of plenty? Do we condone that?

My question now: what is the penalty for those who are now allowing TNB to bleed RM500 million in “capacity charges” over the next eight months by allowing an IPP to operate a power plant (Jimah) to provide electricity that the country doesn’t need? The Jimah plant, which will be operational in January, will raise the country’s power reserve margin to 45 per cent. The CEO of TNB says the country doesn’t need the power and can do without it. Who will profit from the Jimah power plant?

Will anyone be hauled up to account for this?

The Star

Friday December 12, 2008
Chicken thief couldn’t recognise bird

IPOH: A man who admitted to stealing a chicken got amused looks in a magistrate’s court here when he could not recognise the same bird brought to him for identification.

Someone doesn’t like the Jerit cyclists Photo by the Jerit crew (More pictures here)

The Jerit cyclists continue to be hit by one obstacle after another.

In a pre-dawn incident today, unknown arsonist(s) torched eight of the Jerit bikes in Penanti on mainland Penang, where the cycling team were spending the night. Three of the cycles were badly damaged.

The four dozen cyclists were not to be deterred and continued their journey south.

The glass facade of George Town’s premier business hotel, Traders Hotel (formerly Shangri-la Hotel), where Jerit cyclists were to hand over their memo to Guan Eng at 1.30pm

Pakatan leaders were inside attending a conference to outline their “New economic vision for Penang and Malaysia”.  US multinational electronics corporation, Agilent Technologies, and the Shangri La hotels chain were the sponsors of the event, to which participants had to pay RM250/person to attend. Ironically, the session scheduled just before lunchtime was “Getting the politics right to enable sustainable economic growth that is socially just.”

But nobody cared to ask the workers and representatives of marginalised communities outside what they thought of this vision. Instead, the front door of the hotel was locked while hotel management and security looked concerned. Not that the Jerit cyclists were desperate to get in. All they wanted to do was hand over their memo and leave. Still, it would have been a great gesture if the Pakatan reps inside had invited the cyclists and activists in to listen to the aspirations and hopes of workers and marginalised groups. The Pakatan folks would have been seen as pro-people.

As it stands, the Pakatan leaders in general look increasingly pro-market, pro-investor and pro-business while lowly paid workers, who are struggling to make ends meet, do not seem to figure very highly on their list of priorities.

Jerit cyclists peering through the glass to see how the rich wine and dine: The poor in Malaysia can only dream of the lavish life-styles of the upper middle-class and the rich.

The rich top 10 per cent of the population earn 22 times what the bottom 10 per cent earn, making Malaysia one of the most unequal societies in East Asia in terms of income disparities. The Jerit campaigners and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress have been calling for a decent minimum wage in the country that would enable workers to live in dignity. A minimum wage would also help the economy as it would give the public, especially workers, greater purchasing power.

1428: More than 50 cyclists and Jerit activists have been stranded in a bus for more than two hours along with a lorry carrying their cycles in the Skudai, Senai area as traffic has come to a stand still.  A 20-minute journey has become a two-hour journey as there are police blocks everywhere, reports Kohila from Jerit. Police have blocked many areas in their attempt to get rid of the Jerit southern team, she adds. Armed police were spotted near the Senai road and also near the toll.  Only the Jerit bus, lorry and accompanying cars were stopped. Police have also been filming and snapping pictures almost non-stop.

1202: All the activists have been released by noon and the ICs of the cyclists have been returned. But police don’t want any Jerit supporters cycling in Skudai, so the team will be moving to Kulai after lunch.

0937: Reports of a situation emerging at the Suaram office in Johor Baru…

Around 16 Jerit campaign organisers have been arrested just before their southern cycling team was due to begin their journey to Parliament this morning. Police also raided the Suaram office and took down the particulars of the cyclists.

For more details, enquiries and appeals, contact the Skudai district police headquarters at 07-556 1222.

So candlelight vigil cannot, cycling also cannot…

Meanwhile, the northen region cycling team, after their encounters with the police yesterday, are due to hand over a memorandum to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at the Traders Hotel at around 1.00pm. The cyclists are now ready to roll in George Town as police keep a watchful eye.

You will be pleased to hear that the Jerit bicycles, yes bicycles, have been released.  I guess they were innocent after all, poor bikes – and it’s all systems go for tomorrow.

So with that, the cyclists are expected to hand in a memorandum to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng tomorrow at around 12.30pm in Komtar.

Sungai Siput MP Jeyakumar Devaraj spent most of this afternoon negotiating with senior police officers in Penang. “I told them, come on-lah, there are so many criminals around for you to deal with; just let our cyclists do their thing and they won’t cause any problem,” he said over the phone.

Just received word that one of the 45 Jerit cyclists on the way from Alor Star to KL via Penang has been arrested in the small village of Merbau Pulas near Kulim this evening.

According to Sungai Siput MP Jeyakumar Devaraj, Ruben was detained for distributing leaflets which did not indicate the Jerit office address. Leaflets are supposed to bear the publisher’s name and address. The Jerit leaflets only displayed the Jerit website address, the Jerit email, and the Jerit office phone number.

But the Jerit website shows the Jerit office address.