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Prominent PKR elected reps in Penang have refuted a media report speculating that an MP from their party ranks in the state could be defecting.

“There is no truth to it,” said Penang state exco member Abdul Malik, of the report that a Penang PKR MP could soon become a ‘BN-friendly’ independent. “It’s just speculation.”

“Nonsense,” said Batu Uban state assembly member Sim Tze Tzin (PKR) in a text message from overseas. “Concerted attack to make PKR look bad before Anwar’s trial.”

Severed wild-boar heads were dumped in the premises of two mosques along Old Klang Road in Petaling Jaya at dawn today, a Selangor state exco member confirmed.

Khairy with a few Umno Youth leaders at the Bkt Sentosa Mosque – Photo posted by Zuhri, retweeted by Khairy

Social reform movement Aliran has expressed outrage over the incidents.

News of the sacrilege broke when Batu MP Tian Chua and Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin both twittered about the incidents that took place at the Al Imam Al Tirmizi Mosque in Taman Seri Sentosa and the Jumhuriyah Mosque in Taman Dato’ Haron, about two kilometres apart.

News reports said that four wild boar heads – two at each mosque – wrapped in plastic rice bags were found. At each mosque, a bucket was placed next to the severed heads with about RM30-RM40 in cash strewn around.

“According to a local Dan Brown, it’s an underworld message,” said Khairy, who warned Malaysians not to fall into the perpetrators’ trap. “Whatever the motives, I’m afraid the nuances of moderation will be lost on the mob. Leadership. Now.”

Penang may soon set up the country’s first public speakers’ corner.

(I use the term ‘public’ because a speakers’ corner at the Perdanasiswa Complex in Universiti Malaya has just been re-opened after about 40 years.)

The Penang state government said yesterday that it was thinking of a permanent stage at the Esplanade for candlelight vigils, open forums and demonstrations. It would be at a distance from traffic, said a report in today’s Sun.

“The stage can be used on request by anybody, provided it has not been reserved for other events,” said exco member Chow Kon Yeow, who added that a committee may be set up to liaise with NGOs in this matter.

Now this is a positive development, especially if the state government folks are going to discuss the exact location with civil society and the public – but why do we need a stage?  In London, the Speakers’ Corner does not require any prior request or approval for speakers to address whoever is willing to listen. On weekends, anyone can step up on a crate (no stage is needed) and speak to whoever cares to listen. At any one time, there could be around half a dozen different speakers animatedly addressing small crowds at different spots in the area while engaging with or ignoring hecklers. We should not follow the farcical Singapore ‘Speakers’ Corner’.

All the same, the loss of the fine public space in front of Dewan Sri Pinang still saddens me.

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PKR MP Tian Chua had a narrow escape when his car smashed into the divider of the the North-South Highway during heavy rain early this evening.

The smashed Camry – Photo by Tian Chua

The impact crumpled the front portion of the white Camry, but the MP for Batu escaped unhurt.

Many Malaysians look up to Singapore for its quality of life.

But have a look at the ‘quality of life index’ compiled by International Living based in Ireland. Singapore has an overall score of only 61, just above Malaysia’s 58. Both are way down the list.

Of course, this ranking isn’t entirely objective as it is based on a combination of data obtained from official sources and editors’ and readers’ perceptions. Moreover, the compilers of the index admit they have a Western bias when it comes to matters such as climate preference.

Cost of Living 70
Leisure & Culture 71
Economy 48
Environment 62
Freedom 50
Health 68
Infrastructure 44
Risk & Safety 86
Climate 24
Final Score 58

The nine students arrested in front of Sogo this morning are now being held in Dang Wangi.

The nine were among were among a hundred who had gathered this morning for a rally organised by various student groups reportedly to express concern over campus election procedures.

Latest update from Suaram:

Altogether 9 persons were arrested by police for demanding campus autonomy and freedom of academic on 23 January 2010, between 11.30am and noon in front of Sogo shopping mall. Until 1.45pm, they are in IPD Dang Wangi.

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Still coming to terms with the dragon boat tragedy in Penang.

For a gut-wrenching and descriptive eye-witness account of the scene in the aftermath of the tragedy, go here.

If what she says is true, the authorities and rescue services should seriously look into their response times – especially the helicopter and marine (including divers) search-and-rescue teams. Press photographers (and their editors) too need to be more sensitive in their work. And note that victims’ families do not appreciate onlookers gawking and gossiping…

Thanks to blog reader Iron for alerting me to the findings of a safety inquiry panel in Singapore which looked into another dragon boat tragedy in Cambodia in November 2007. That tragedy left five Singaporeans dead.

Whenever I see the word “foundation”, my antenna is inclined to buzz.

On 11 January, Bernama reported that PM Najib had announced the “establishment of Yayasan 1MDB to manage a RM100 million Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Fund“.

The 1MDB Foundation will soon launch “several key initiatives in bridging socio-economic gaps towards fulfilling the aspirational values of 1Malaysia”. Najib would be the chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees.

I have a few questions: