Colonel Norhuda Ahmad created history when she was promoted as the first woman Brigadier General from the Malaysian Armed Forces general duty.

Norhuda, 54, who was previously the Head of the Asean Branch, Integrated Intelligence Centre (IIC), Strategic Directorate, Defence Intelligence Staff Division, was promoted as Head of the Directorate's Training Division.

She was among 27 senior officers from the Army to be promoted to the various ranks including from Major to Lt Colonel and from Brigadier General to Major General.

Two women in the Royal Medical Corps had been promoted to Brigadier Generals previously, namely Brig Gen Datuk Dr Roshidah Ishak and Brig Gen Dr T. Thavachelvi S. Thangaraja.

Army Chief General Datuk Seri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said Norhuda was eligible to be promoted to Brigadier General because she had fulfilled the criteria stipulated, and made it a special day for the army.

He disclosed this to reporters after the donning of the ranks for Senior Army Officers at the Wisma Transit, here Wednesday.

Zulkifeli said the army would consider promoting other women officers if there were vacancies available as there were now many women of calibre in the force.

However, he said that among the elements considered for promotion, regardless of gender, were a good track record, experience and intellectual quality. Meanwhile, Norhuda, when approached by reporters, said she was thankful and happy over the promotion after having gone through various obstacles and difficulties while serving in the army.

However, she was sad that her late father, who had always given her inspiration and truly wanted to see her donning the general's epaulette was not around to see her achievement. - Bernama

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gahat Mawang Rice

The 80,000 hill padi planters in Sarawak will soon have the opportunity to go commercial and earn better income following a revolutionary research project to increase crop production volume with the introduction of a new yield called Gahat Mawang.

Long considered a traditional and subsistence farming among the state’s rural community, the input from the project undertaken by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) may also put a stop to shifting cultivation practice.

Mardi conducted the research at Kampung Gahat Mawang, Tebedu involving 27 participants and Kampung Sepadah, Bau (four participants) since September 2009, and production increased 24 per cent and 42 per cent respectively last year.

Even before the project reaches its end this Aug 31, Mardi researchers are already optimistic of the outcome, and even suggested that the rice be marketed as ‘Gahat Mawang Rice’ as signature product of the area.

Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof, who made a working visit to the 10.8-hectare project site at Gahat Mawang yesterday, said hill padi comprised 49 per cent of the padi planted areas in the state.

He said RM1.3 million was allocated to Mardi, which is an agency under the ministry, to conduct the research in collaboration with the state’s Department of Agriculture.

“There are a lot of hill padi planted in Sabah and Sarawak, but very little research is done on this crop.

“Through this research, we can now enable the smallholders to increase the yield from their farms. If they produce more than they need for subsistence, they can sell and improve their income,” he said when meeting the villagers.

He also said the project was in line with the economic transformation programme to achieve high-income economy.

“The prime minister wants every Malaysian to earn better income. Our chief minister also wants the same. The transformation programme of the government is not empty talk, because we are serious in helping everyone, from the big corporations to the smallholders,” he said.

Later, at a press conference, Fadillah, who is also his ministry’s task force chairman for food security, said he welcomed any plans for centralised hill padi farming in the state.

Asked if there would be more funds for similar projects in the state, he said the ministry would make the request for allocations under the current Malaysia plan.

“We will extend the project to areas in Sri Aman, Kapit and Sarikei soon,” he said, adding that the project requirements differed from one area to another based on the soil conditions.

The project leader Dr Sariam Othman, meanwhile, said the participants were taught new technology and practices which contributed to better management of their farms.

She said the technologies were introduced in areas such as planting, fertiliser, weed killing and eradication of plant disease and pests.

At the end of the project on Aug 31, we will make our analysis including the costing involved (so that the farmers do not have to spend so much),” she said.

A political secretary to the chief minister John David Nyauh, Mardi deputy director-general Datuk Dr Sharif Haron and Penghulu Robert Jawas were among those present.

A RM10,000 padi thresher was also presented to Gahat Mawang.

Source: BP

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud will meet with the Sarawak Governor this Friday to seek his consent to dissolve the state assembly, sources say.

* Apr 16, 2011 - Sarawak Election 2011 Result
* Apr 06, 2011 - Sarawak Election 2011 - Final Candidates List

Related posts:
* BN candidates list for Sarawak state election
* PKR candidates list for Sarawak state election
* DAP candidates list for Sarawak state election
* SNAP Candidates List

A source at Astana Sarawak told The Malaysian Insider the chief minister’s office had called last week to fix a February 18 appointment with Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng for that purpose.

Another source in the state government said district officers have been asked to freeze leave for their staff as of February 19, when the dissolution is expected to be announced.

A February dissolution would lend weight to speculation that Taib will call for state elections in March or April, ahead of the expiry of the state assembly’s term in July.

The Election Commission (EC) is required to hold elections within 60 days of the assembly’s dissolution.

The Malaysian Insider reported yesterday that the Barisan Nasional (BN) has decided not to hold a general election simultaneously with Sarawak as Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants to finish touring the country first.

The prime minister is said to be delaying earlier plans to seek a fresh mandate in the first half of 2011 to allow big-ticket economic projects to gain traction.

Najib said last week that Sarawak BN will hold a convention on March 6, raising the prospect of early state elections.

Also, Taib is due to celebrate his 30th anniversary in power on March 26 and an election victory will cap his career as the state’s longest-serving chief minister.

Umno officials and BN lawmakers told The Malaysian Insider in January that Najib favoured holding elections only after projects like the construction of the city’s mass rapid transit (MRT) and Sungei Besi development kick off.

Taib, who leads Sarawak BN and also its largest party, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu Sarawak (PBB), has kept political observers guessing when state elections will take place.

The 74-year-old veteran intimated last year that he had received inspiration on when to call the election during his pilgrimage to Mecca, but stop short of revealing the date.

“I have the inspiration but I won’t tell you (the date),” he told reporters in November.

Taib, who has served as Sarawak chief minister for the past 29 years, is said to be under pressure from BN partners to step down due to his waning popularity amid abuse-of-power allegations.

The DAP’s victory in Sibu last year on the back of a major vote swing — which some saw as a referendum on Taib — has given BN cause for concern in a state long seen as a “fixed deposit” by the ruling coalition.

The Sarawak BN holds 63 seats in the 71-seat assembly, with 35 held by PBB, 12 by the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), and eight each by Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).

Of the remaining eight seats, DAP has six and PKR one, while the last is held by an independent.

The EC has announced its readiness to hold the Sarawak polls at any time, with its chairman stating that the commission had “long made preparations” for any eventual dissolution of the assembly.

The BN is expected to keep the state with a comfortable majority although there is concern that the DAP might be able to secure more seats in the urban areas.

A senior DAP leader told The Malaysian Insider that it has heard of a possible dissolution of the state assembly this weekend and has made preparations for snap polls.

“We are as ready as we can be for the state polls,” said the DAP leader, who declined to be named.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera - Teraju

Najib Tun Razak yesterday launched the ‘Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera’ (Teraju) to further strengthen the Bumiputera development agenda.

The prime minister said the unit would lead, coordinate and drive Bumiputera economic participation through new and existing initiatives.

He said Teraju has been tasked to focus on five areas; They are:

• Entrepreneurship and Wealth Creation
• Funding
• Education and Employment
• Institutional and Policy Instrument Review
• Stakeholder Management

Najib was speaking to reporters after chairing the Bumiputera Agenda Action Council (MTAB) meeting at his office here.

Present were Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.

To ensure effective implementation of Bumiputera initiatives, Najib said Teraju’s roles and functions would encompass several aspects and dimensions.

“Teraju has been asked to produce results in a short period. This include taking actions that can yield success in a short span of time.

“Teraju has also been asked to enhance institutional effectiveness including reviewing existing institutions to see whether there are no overlapping of duties with other bodies and institutions and to gauge the effectiveness of the institutions and programmes being implemented,” he said.

The prime minister said Teraju would also function as the secretariat for MTAB besides working with related agencies to identify new programmes so that all actions taken were well coordinated, he said.

To ensure effective and objective assessment of the initiatives, Najib said Teraju would update its database and monitor programmes underway.

“Teraju is also required to cooperate and be closely engaged with stakeholders including chambers of business, non-governmental organisations and related bodies with regard to the programmes implemented,” he said.

To spearhead Teraju’s operations, Najib said Husni Salleh has been appointed as the chief executive officer.

Husni was previously the CEO of MAVCAP (Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd) with more than 20 years experience in investment and venture capital.

Since its inception, Teraju has been planning the launch and implementation of the Bumiputera Agenda Transformation Programme, similar to the Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) Transformation which was initiated in 2004.

Meanwhile, Husni said Teraju would work hand-in-hand with Pemandu, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit, to organise a series of labs beginning end of this month to discuss Bumiputera agenda issues.

“We’ll take about six weeks to prepare the proposals on economic opportunities for Bumiputeras to be forwarded to MTAB for approval before being implemented,” he said.

Among the proposed initiatives to be implemented under Teraju are adopting the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) or devise new programmes under ETP, he added.— Bernama

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Price of Malaysia's Racism

The Price of Malaysia's Racism - Slower growth and a drain of talented citizens are only the beginning. An article by JOHN R. MALOTT which was published in WSJ.

Malaysia's national tourism agency promotes the country as "a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony." Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak echoed this view when he announced his government's theme, One Malaysia. "What makes Malaysia unique," Mr. Najib said, "is the diversity of our peoples. One Malaysia's goal is to preserve and enhance this unity in diversity, which has always been our strength and remains our best hope for the future."

If Mr. Najib is serious about achieving that goal, a long look in the mirror might be in order first. Despite the government's new catchphrase, racial and religious tensions are higher today than when Mr. Najib took office in 2009. Indeed, they are worse than at any time since 1969, when at least 200 people died in racial clashes between the majority Malay and minority Chinese communities. The recent deterioration is due to the troubling fact that the country's leadership is tolerating, and in some cases provoking, ethnic factionalism through words and actions.

For instance, when the Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur invited the prime minister for a Christmas Day open house last December, Hardev Kaur, an aide to Mr. Najib, said Christian crosses would have to be removed. There could be no carols or prayers, so as not to offend the prime minister, who is Muslim. Ms. Kaur later insisted that she "had made it clear that it was a request and not an instruction," as if any Malaysian could say no to a request from the prime minister's office.

Similar examples of insensitivity abound. In September 2009, Minister of Home Affairs Hishammuddin Onn met with protesters who had carried the decapitated head of a cow, a sacred animal in the Hindu religion, to an Indian temple. Mr. Hishammuddin then held a press conference defending their actions. Two months later, Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament that one reason Malaysia's armed forces are overwhelmingly Malay is that other ethnic groups have a "low spirit of patriotism." Under public pressure, he later apologized.

The leading Malay language newspaper, Utusan Melayu, prints what opposition leader Lim Kit Siang calls a daily staple of falsehoods that stoke racial hatred. Utusan, which is owned by Mr. Najib's political party, has claimed that the opposition would make Malaysia a colony of China and abolish the Malay monarchy. It regularly attacks Chinese Malaysian politicians, and even suggested that one of them, parliamentarian Teresa Kok, should be killed.

This steady erosion of tolerance is more than a political challenge. It's an economic problem as well.

Once one of the developing world's stars, Malaysia's economy has underperformed for the past decade. To meet its much-vaunted goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020, Malaysia needs to grow by 8% per year during this decade. That level of growth will require major private investment from both domestic and foreign sources, upgraded human skills, and significant economic reform. Worsening racial and religious tensions stand in the way.

Almost 500,000 Malaysians left the country between 2007 and 2009, more than doubling the number of Malaysian professionals who live overseas. It appears that most were skilled ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country and denied the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, whether in education, business, or government. Many of these emigrants, as well as the many Malaysian students who study overseas and never return (again, most of whom are ethnic Chinese and Indian), have the business, engineering, and scientific skills that Malaysia needs for its future. They also have the cultural and linguistic savvy to enhance Malaysia's economic ties with Asia's two biggest growing markets, China and India.

Of course, one could argue that discrimination isn't new for these Chinese and Indians. Malaysia's affirmative action policies for its Malay majority—which give them preference in everything from stock allocation to housing discounts—have been in place for decades. So what is driving the ethnic minorities away now?

First, these minorities increasingly feel that they have lost a voice in their own government. The Chinese and Indian political parties in the ruling coalition are supposed to protect the interests of their communities, but over the past few years, they have been neutered. They stand largely silent in the face of the growing racial insults hurled by their Malay political partners. Today over 90% of the civil service, police, military, university lecturers, and overseas diplomatic staff are Malay. Even TalentCorp, the government agency created in 2010 that is supposed to encourage overseas Malaysians to return home, is headed by a Malay, with an all-Malay Board of Trustees.

Second, economic reform and adjustments to the government's affirmative action policies are on hold. Although Mr. Najib held out the hope of change a year ago with his New Economic Model, which promised an "inclusive" affirmative action policy that would be, in Mr. Najib's words, "market friendly, merit-based, transparent and needs-based," he has failed to follow through. This is because of opposition from right-wing militant Malay groups such as Perkasa, which believe that a move towards meritocracy and transparency threatens what they call "Malay rights."

But stalling reform will mean a further loss in competitiveness and slower growth. It also means that the cronyism and no-bid contracts that favor the well-connected will continue. All this sends a discouraging signal to many young Malaysians that no matter how hard they study or work, they will have a hard time getting ahead.

Mr. Najib may not actually believe much of the rhetoric emanating from his party and his government's officers, but he tolerates it because he needs to shore up his Malay base. It's politically convenient at a time when his party faces its most serious opposition challenge in recent memory—and especially when the opposition is challenging the government on ethnic policy and its economic consequences. One young opposition leader, parliamentarian Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has proposed a national debate on what she called the alternative visions of Malaysia's future—whether it should be a Malay nation or a Malaysian nation. For that, she earned the wrath of Perkasa; the government suggested her remark was "seditious."

Malaysia's government might find it politically expedient to stir the racial and religious pot, but its opportunism comes with an economic price tag. Its citizens will continue to vote with their feet and take their money and talents with them. And foreign investors, concerned about racial instability and the absence of meaningful economic reform, will continue to look elsewhere to do business.

Mr. Malott was the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, 1995-1998.

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