Are we seeing the ‘1819 Treaty’ all over again?

Earlier this afternoon as we were queueing at the immigration of the finest airport on Asia continent, news text announced that visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak to the island-state, reached an agreement with Singapore Prime Minister Brig. Gen. (NS) Lee Hsien Loong on the joint development of the 271 acres land belonging to Malayan Railway (KTMB) and the station would be ‘relocated’ from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands by 2011.

Later after arriving at our destination, checking in and attending a semi-protocol dinner, we learnt in full details what had been achieved.

Asia News Network has the report:

 

 

KTMB station in Tanjong Pagar to relocate to Woodlands by July 2011

By S Ramesh | Posted: 24 May 2010 1432 hrs

   
 
Photos  of      

   
 

 Video
KTMB station in Tanjong Pagar to relocate to Woodlands by July 2011

 

SINGAPORE: Singapore and Malaysia capped a historic day in relations on Monday with agreement on a long outstanding bilateral issue.

After 20 years, both sides have arrived at a solution on the Malayan Railway Land in Singapore.

The leaders of the two countries agreed to move the station at the heart of the city centre in Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands Train checkpoint, near the border by the 1 July 2011.

The smiles said it all – of a retreat that has been fruitful with significant moves.

The centrepiece must surely be the issue of the railway land and lines, spelt out in the Points of Agreement (POA) signed in 1990.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: “Our focus has been developing our bilateral relationship at a time when we face many challenges in an uncertain and rapidly globalising world.

“There are many competitive alternative centres growing in Asia where we need to work together bilaterally in ASEAN and where we also need to clear issues which have been hanging over us for some time so that we can move forward and develop a win-win relationship.

“It is a matter for rejoicing. It is a good deal. Both sides are happy and this will benefit both sides considerably.”

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said: “A year ago, when we met, we decided that we wouldn’t allow outstanding bilateral issues to be in the way of developing and strengthening bilateral ties and move forward in areas where we could achieve common agreement between our two sides.

“With that positive mindset in mind, we have achieved much within a year starting with the officials from both sides who have been working very hard to find a common ground.

“Today is quite historic because we see now the light at the end of the tunnel with respect to an outstanding issue which has been lingering for almost 20 years.”

Having waited this long, the next move is to move fast.

PM Lee said: “There is urgency. This matter really cannot wait indefinitely because it is already 20 years. And there are many development projects in Singapore which have been held up because the POA has not been implemented as it should have been many years ago.”

So the 1990 Points of Agreement has now been supplemented by new terms and conditions to maximise the potential of the Malayan Railway Lands in Singapore.

When the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB station) moves to the Woodlands train checkpoint by 1 July 2011, Malaysia will co-locate its railway Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility there.

On its part, Singapore would ensure that there are bus services to connect KTMB station at Woodlands with a nearby MRT station for the convenience of train passengers.

Another key issue settled is the development of several land parcels linked to the train line.

Both countries will also set up a company known as M-S Pte Ltd by December 31 this year.

Malaysia will have a 60 per cent stake under Khazanah Nasional Berhard while Singapore will have a 40 per cent share to be held by Temasek Holdings.

This company will handle the joint development of three parcels of land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands as well as another three pieces of land in Bukit Timah.

These land parcels could be swapped based on the equivalent value for pieces of land in Marina South and Ophir-Rochor.

Both sides will conduct valuation studies.

Prime Minister Lee will visit Kuala Lumpur within a month to discuss the land swap.

The transfer of the land parcel to M-S Pte Ltd will take effect at the time when KTMB vacates the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

Mr Lee added: “Land prices have been moving over this last one year. You have seen the property market is quite active. That is the reason why we did not settle the land swap today. I wanted an updated valuation.

“On the basis of updated valuations, we will make them an offer and it is up to them whether they want to take the offer for the swap. It is substantial. These are very valuable pieces of land if they are developed.

“And that is why the POA as it was and even more now as it has been updated and rounded up is a win- win proposal for both countries because it enables us to develop the land.

“It enables M-S Private Limited to share in the upside of the land which is KTM land and I think enables us to move forward in so many other areas to cooperate and work together for mutual benefit without having this outstanding issue always there a question mark. If you can’t solve this, how can you talk about new things?”

“So with the understanding we have achieved at today’s meeting, we can more or less say that the POA agreement with some enhanced features should be finally put to rest particularly when PM Lee meets me in a month’s time.

“The spirit and political undertaking is to find a resolution on a mutually beneficial manner so that both countries can benefit the finalisation of the enhanced POA agreement.”

Both leaders also agreed the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station’s passenger terminal will be conserved given its historical significance. It will also be the centrepiece for the proposed new development on this site.

The job is now in the hands of a joint implementation team.

It has to complete its work by the December 31.

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So it would seem that Khazanah Holdings Bhd. will have a 60 percent stake in the joint development company. That would translate to a lot of money, especially when land could be easily valued at SGD 1,500.00 per sq. ft. net buildable area on the land is roughly calculated at SGD 90 billion, of which Khazanah’s portion is in the neighbourhood of SGD 55 billion. At today’s exchange rate, that is RM 132 billion.

Then again, that is quantifiable money. The “Thirteen Million Plus Ringgit” question, is it worth it to get the money (in kind) for the sovereign land that Malaysia (which managed to protect despite the little ‘red-dot’ expulsion from the Federation on 9 August 1965) has come to agree to give up, in one ‘retreat discussion’?

Since the latest scandal of ‘Giving up Block L & M’ in one single visit to Bandar Sri Begawan in March 2009, our next question is: Were Wisma Putra experts on Singapore relations and Attorney General Chambers senior Federal Counsel on International Affairs present at this ‘retreat discussion’ and swift decision? Was there other consideration achieved in this ‘trade of’, which at the moment strategically does not seemed to be too beneficial to us?

That is actually only a fraction of Petronas money being handed to the Malaysian economic system via taxes, royalties, dividends and other payment intruments during PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s tenure, which was calculated at RM 253 billion.

Our contention here in BigDogDotCom is that the monetary gain from this decision, which could be recovered in probably a little over two years of Petronas operations is the repeat of the ‘1819 Treaty’, where Temenggung Abdul Rahman of Johor and Sultan Hussein of Singapore signed with Stamford Raffles and gave the island Singapura (pre-Sang Nila Utama’s days known as Temasek) up for (then) a princely sum of a few thousand British East India Dollars, for life. The Johor Riau Empire and Malay Archipelago lost a very strategic site between the highly lucrative trading route between Europe, West Asia, India and East Asia, particularly China and spice rich Nusantara.

In the joint media conference, PM BG Lee also announced that the long standing 20 year ‘Point of Agreement’ signed between then Sinagpore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysian Finance Minister Dato’ Paduka Daim Zainuddin which was ‘untangled’ this morning would “Resolve a lot of property issues in Singapore. We are rejoicing. Many development projects in Singapore have been held up because of the POA. We have managed to benefit considerably”, which is deemed by Singaporean corporations which will benefit for the Singapore Government ‘privatisation’ of the 271 acres land. This agreement inadvertently benefitted mush more (than the SGD 35 billion Singapore Government got from the ‘deal’) on the Singapore side as it has multiplication effect on their property sector.

It is learnt that the deal is for valuable parcels of land along Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Timah and Kranji much sought after development areas for a ‘land swap somewhere in the Marina’ area. These KTMB lands are premium inland parcels as compared to the reclaimed Marina area.

If it is the repeat of the ‘1819 Treaty’ all over again but simply in different form, then too bad for Malayans. Inadvertently Malayans got short-changed for something which is superficial such as, ‘money’, again. The other “Thirteen Million Plus Ringgit” question: How many times do we want to see wool pulled over our eyes?

Don’t we ever learn from history? Malaysia under PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah already sold of the most valuable part of Johor off to Singapore and under his watch, negligently lost Pulau Batu Puteh. Then it is proven as what George Santayana once said, “Those who never learned from history are doomed to repeat the same mistake”. Or so they say….

Published in: on May 24, 2010 at 22:58  Comments (24)  

The Star: Chinese Chauvinist agenda to downplay Malay support for BN

The Star has portrayed clearly its Chinese Chauvinism agenda in Joceline Tan’s much read Sunday Star political column. Tan is of the strong opinion that the Malay support for BN has waned and of late ready to give it to Chinese Chauvinist DAP.

Sunday May 23, 2010

Greater shift in the Malay vote

INSIGHT
By JOCELINE TAN

Contrary to public perception, it is not the Chinese vote but the Malay vote which has seen the biggest shift to the opposition over the last five general elections.

ANYONE catching a flight out of Sibu the day after the by-election would have noticed the number of Malays wearing shirts and caps bearing the rocket logo of the DAP.

They were from Peninsular Malaysia and had been in Sibu to campaign for the DAP.

“It’s just a logo. After all, they also carry our logo when we need their help,” said one Malay man, a PAS member who was waiting for the Air Asia flight to Johor Baru.

It was another sign of the shift taking place in Malaysian politics.

The Chinese electorate have made themselves heard loud and clear in the two recent by-elections and it has sent shock waves through political parties.

As a result, the rallying cry of right-wing Malay individuals and groups in recent weeks has been: “Apa lagi orang Cina mahu (what else do the Chinese want)?”

There is clearly a mismatch of awareness and perception between the more extreme ends of the two communities. Malays feel the Chinese are already ahead, economically, as least. The Chinese feel this country is as much their motherland as it is that of the Malays.

The Malay-Chinese debate will continue for a while more because it is one of those polemic issues where the proponents have made up their minds that they are the right, and the other side is wrong.

But are most of those indulging in the by-election post-mortem barking up the wrong tree?

According to Rita Sim of Insap, the MCA think-tank, Chinese support for the DAP has not changed much over the last 20 years.

Contrary to public perception, DAP’s support from mainly the Chinese, and to a lesser extent the Indians, has hovered at around one million votes for each of the last five general elections.

But support for parties like PAS and PKR shot up by more than two million votes over the same period. The Barisan Nasional, on the other hand, saw its support increase by one million votes over the same period.

“The Malay vote has shifted the most. The Chinese vote has been quite constant in trend,” said Sim.

Issues like corruption, abuse of power and good governance cut across race lines. Malays are equally concerned about these issues and that may explain why they have taken their votes elsewhere.

But the significant number of Chinese voters in the last two by-elections made it seem as though the Chinese had swung or, as some would put it, are ungrateful.

Shift to PAS

PAS has been the chief beneficiary of the Malay shift. Its share of votes has increased three-fold from only about 376,000 in 1990 to 1.1 million in 2008.

PKR’s support began with 774,000 votes in 1999, dipped to 578,000 in 2004 and surged to        1.5 million in 2008. Its support has been from primarily the Malays and Chinese who are not comfortable with the way DAP handles issues.

Politics, said Insap chairman Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan On, is also about convincing people to support you because you can guarantee their future and that of their children. It is not about whether people are ungrateful or disloyal to a political party.

“If they think we are not delivering what they want, they go elsewhere. That’s the politics of voting and it’s the same in every part of the world,” said Dr Fong.

He said the perception that the Chinese are content with immersing themselves in business and leaving politics to the Malays is also a myth in modern Malaysia.

Chinese make up only 25% of the population, but they have a high voter registration rate and make up about 32% of the electorate.

The implication here is that political awareness among the Chinese is high, and they keep in touch with issues, some more so than others. A large proportion of them are connected to the Internet.

“It’s one of the arenas where they feel that they have equal rights and they want to exercise it to the fullest. This is where parties like MCA and Gerakan feel the brunt of Chinese frustration,” said Sim.

The Chinese stuff all their anger and dissatisfaction into the ballot box. The 2008 general election was the perfect example of that.

DAP’s share of the vote in 2004 was only about 700,000 as the Chinese supported Barisan and gave Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a ringing victory.

But barely a year later, they were stunned when he sat back and allowed Umno leaders including his son-in-law to wave the keris and rant about Malay supremacy.

Four years later, they pulled back their support and DAP’s share of the total votes increased to 1.1 million.

The Chinese are rather tactical with their vote and they look at issues. As such, DAP’s share of the votes goes up and down each election depending on the issues of the day. Likewise, that of Barisan and PKR.

PAS alone has been going up like a comet since the 1990 elections.

In that sense, the Malay shift is not only significant, it is consistently on the upward trend, with PAS drawing them like a magnet.

“The writing is on the wall, the old way of doing things are no longer working, such as goodies in exchange for votes. People are more educated, information is transmitted so fast,” said Khaw Veon Szu, executive director of Sedar, the Gerakan think-tank.

The slogan “the people are the boss” became very popular among Chinese politicians several years ago. It was borrowed from the street politics of Taiwan, where it was the common folk’s way of telling their political leaders that power lies in the hands of the people.

These days, the catch phrase among Chinese political activists is, “the people are not stupid.”

“You can’t force people to buy into an idea, you’ve got to persuade and convince them,” said Khaw.

Equal partnership

The biggest challenge to the Barisan leadership today is that voters, whether Chinese, Malay or Indian, have choices.

“They look at the various Pakatan states, they see fundamental differences among the Pakatan Rakyat components like what is happening in the Barisan. But they can also see that parties in Pakatan have a more equal partnership. DAP does not allow PAS to bully it. PAS leaders dare to tell PKR off when they disagree,” said Khaw.

Many Chinese families, said Dr Fong, have been here for more than 100 years.

“To hear Malay politicians telling them to be grateful for their citizenship is hurtful and insulting,” he said.

He said they should not be made to feel they are at the mercy of the another community. They are looking for social acceptance and mutual respect and want to be regarded as meaningful partners in nation building.

The younger generation of voters have reached the stage where they feel they do not have to put up with differential treatment.

“Instances of Indonesians getting blue ICs after only two years here, that sort of thing does not sit well on people, including Malays. And giving citizenship to old Chinese grandmothers on the eve of elections, it backfires on the authorities,” said Dr Fong.

“The Prime Minister understands it very well but those below him are still struggling to come to terms with political reality,” said Dr Fong.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has provided strong leadership since taking over and he is sincere about wanting to fix what has gone wrong.

But he has also inherited a legacy that has its roots in the Mahathir years. Najib and his 1Malaysia vision are battling decades of Chinese unhappiness and frustrations. Such sentiments cannot be reversed overnight.

The Chinese vote cannot make or break the Government because of the way parliamentary seats are configured. But enough angry Chinese can help push the other parties across the finishing line.

Those who followed the recent Sibu campaign had the feeling that many of the Chinese in Sibu, like their counterparts in Hulu Selangor, had made up their minds about voting for change. Hence, the limited effect of all those generous gestures to Chinese schools and local infrastructure.

Does this mean that the majority of Chinese are a lost cause to the Barisan and that they have decided to throw their lot with Pakatan?

“The Chinese vote will definitely be hard to get in the next general election but if the PM keeps up the momentum and reaches out, it will cool the anger and stem the tide,” said Sim.

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The analysis is believed charged with an agenda. The fact is that, the Malay support for PAS has actually started to reduce. This is apparent in the Manek Urai and Bagan Pinang by-elections, where PAS candidates are pitted against UMNO-BN. Despite the reduction of Chinese support for BN at the Hulu Selangor by-elections few weeks ago,  P. Kamalanathan amassed almost 2,000 votes shift against the PKR Malay candiddate Dato’ Zaid Ibrahim, compared to the general elections two years ago. These votes could only be attributed to the majority Malay support for BN, even though PKR had a Malay candidate and PAS went in as full force, which include the appearance of PAS spiritual leader Dato’ Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

It was the UMNO charged Malay votes that is mainstay of BN still retaining power in most states in the Peninsular.  As a matter of fact, MCA, Gerakan and MIC still have representatives because of Malay votes in their respective constituencies. Gerakan and MIC are actually paralyzed as even their own members no longer vote for them.

Miss Tan’s analysis is skewed. Hulu Selangor by-elections saw the down shift of Chinese votes against BN. In the Sibu by-elections, the 65% Chinese majority population is the force being shifted votes from BN to Chinese Chauvinist DAP.

In a nut shell, there is no shift for Malay support towards Pakatan Rakyat and specifically for DAP. On the contrary to this analysis, PAS is the one actually suffering from slight diminishing of the Malay support. Even former PAS strategy director Dr Zulkifli Ahmad admitted this.

This analysis could be seen as nothing but the editorial playing the Chinese Chauvinist agenda card in a poor sordid attempt to deflect on MCA’s poor performance to entice and bring back the Chinese votes. As a senior partner of BN, MCA is dependent on Malay votes for their 15 MPs to be voted in the last general elections. The pressure should be on the MCA, who is supposed to work harder to convince the more sophisticated Chinese voters. Instead, recently at Hulu Selangor by-elections MCA President Dato’ Seri Chua Soi Lek has resorted to blame PERKASA for the diminishing Chinese votes for BN. The counter argument against that is very apparent: PERKASA wasnt around in the last general elections and MCA’s already plagued with miserable performance when they lost more than half the Parliamentary seats contested.

There are Malay liberals especially in the urban areas are now ready to vote Chinese Chauvinist DAP but the number is very small and pathetically marginal to make a slight change. To charge there is actually a ‘shift’ is wholesomely deflecting the real and grave issue that the MCA failed and continuously failing to bring in the Chinese votes.

Published in: on May 24, 2010 at 08:29  Comments (10)