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Fahmi Reza’s outstanding film on the 1947 hartal

Remember the name – Fahmi Reza, the worthy winner of the Freedom Film Festival 2007. Last night I headed for the opening day’s screenings at the Actors’ Studio in Penang, mainly to see Fahmi’s “Sepuluh tahun sebelum Merdeka” – and I was not disappointed. It was the best local political documentary I had seen. The film focused on the first multi-ethnic political coalition in the country and depicted the events leading to the 1947 nationwide hartal or total national strike.

The visionary women and men behind the hartal were nine years ahead of their time in coming up with constitutional proposals for a “Melayu” citizenship covering all the major races. In fact, the term “Melayu” to describe citizenship for all was surprisingly well received even by the non-Malays.

The hartal had the backing of left-wing Malay nationalist groups, middle-class English-speaking non-Malays, even the Chinese Chambers of Commerce, women’s groups, and yes, the MIC too! It was a broad-ranging movement that was determined to seek Independence.

Of course, the British preferred to deal with Umno, which did not threaten colonial economic interests at that time, and completely ignored the Putera-AMCJA coalition’s constitutional proposals.

Malaysian judiciary hits rock bottom

Well, say no more! As my academic friend observes:

…this is a sterling opportunity to draw out the oligarchic control of this country — a chance to pull away from the ethnic ding-dong that’s going on. Here is the oligarchy of wealth and privilege: an Indian lawyer, a Chinese tycoon, a Malay judge, etc. And claiming to do this in the interests of the country, of the PM (Mahathir).

Gives a whole new meaning to the word “muhibbah” – while they divide-and-rule the rest of the country, secure in their own positions of wealth and power.

See this press statement by Aliran president P Ramakrishnan.

He is calling for the immediate suspension of the Chief Justice and a review of decisions in the following cases:

NO! to M’sia’s FTA with police state, USA – Remember, 1.2 million dead in Iraq

The new US ambassador to Malaysia, James Keith is urging both Malaysia and the United States to conclude a Free Trade Agreement after an earlier deadline in June was missed.

Of course, the US stands to benefit far more in such an “open market”. To draw an analogy, it would be like Manchester United playing against the Malaysian football team. Sure it may be a “level playing field”, but we all know who would win such a game.

The thing about an FTA with the United States is that it’s not just about trade. Keith said that trade and security issues will be a major focus during his tenure.

PGCC: Council to hear nearby residents’ concerns

Feelings against the PGCC are running high. Despite the mainstream media’s almost total blackout of dissenting views, emails have been going around, highlighting the adverse implications for Penang if the project goes ahead. Concerned activists have begun a campaign to raise public awareness of the PGCC and its horrendous implications for Penang.

In the midst of all this, some welcome news: the Penang Munical Council (MPPP) has given an assurance that it would be transparent and accountable in vetting the project. MPPP president Zainal Rahim Seman said the MPPP would ensure all the requirements are met before approving the project.

theSun reports:

Commenting on the complaints raised by several NGOs in Penang after the project was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Sept 12, Zainal said a public hearing will be held in three weeks time.

“The developer has submitted it’s plans for the PGCC and I want to assure everyone that the MPPP will be thorough and open in deliberations on the project,” he told theSun.

“We will invite those in the neighbouring areas to come for the public hearing and they will be given an opportunity to air their views, which will be considered in our decision-makings.

“The developer will have to fulfill all the criteria, including traffic impact assessment in the area and the EIA requirement. The relevant departments, including the Public Works Department and Department of Environment, will also submit their reports on the project.”

Zainal said the approval for the project will not be given “so soon”.

He said although the project had been launched even before the approval was given by the MPPP, the initial assessment had been carried out by the Prime Minister’s Office.

So I gather that the Council will be holding a meeting for neighbouring residents to hear their concerns, perhaps on 27 Sept. And I hear the NGOs are also thinking of a public forum. All of a sudden, the path to the promised PGCC land doesn’t look like like it’s going to be strewn with rose petals.

First stop, the call for an independent and thorough EIA.

PGCC: Why did the Penang Turf Club sell a goldmine?

Say you had a home that sits on vast, potentially valuable, prime land in a popular land-scarce island. You know that bigtime developers are greedily eyeing your sprawling green turf because when they look at it, you can almost see $$$$$ pop up in their eyes and hear the chek-chek-ting! of a cash register – you know, like in the cartoons.

And then someone comes by and offers to buy your land at the present (relatively cheap) market value. And instead of paying most of the purchase price in cash, he offers to build you a “better” home on his even cheaper land on the mainland. Would you jump at the offer and dance in the streets?

This is what has been bugging me the last few days. Something just doesn’t compute. Unlike the swamp land sold by the fishermen’s cooperative (which eventually was resold to the Port Klang Free Zone authority) for a pittance, the Penang Turf Club land is prized land.

So I cannot understand why the Penang Turf Club sold its 260-acre land to Abad Naluri, the associate firm of Patrick Lim’s Equine Capital, for just RM488 million in 2002.

That works out to RM43 per square foot.

Even if you exclude the portion of the land that cannot be developed, it still works out to RM64 psf, which is dirt cheap.

Today, open recreational land in Penang is worth around RM60 psf.

But with the rezoning of the Penang Turf Club land to “mixed development” the land value could leap to RM250-300 psf, which is the land value in neighbouring Jesselton. One pro-PGCC bank analyst, in his exuberance, even suggested the land could potentially be worth RM500 psf (trying to pump up the value of the land, are we?) – though I am told that real estate valuers feel that RM250-300 psf is a more realistic range.

Either way, Abad Naluri is laughing all the way to the bank – even before the first bulldozer rumbles into the site.