Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whither the RMC ?


Dr KJ John

in Malaysiakini

The Ministry of Education last week highlighted the top 20 schools in the nation as part and parcel of their educational excellence programme under the NKRA agenda. That is a very good starting point to begin to clearly define excellence but allow me to make some observations.

From their listing, two things became very obvious to me. First, there was no school from Sabah or Sarawak; residential or otherwise. Why? Someone from their departments of education in the two states or the federal department has to give some legitimate answers.

More importantly, there must now be a programme to consciously develop one excellent school in each state as a benchmark for these eastern states. Second, the Royal Military College and my alma mater, the only military run and nationally recognized fully residential school was not in the list. Why? If I may add, this is the only multi-ethnic residential school in the country, except for the token 10 percent in MSRMs.

Why therefore was the RMC left out especially since this entire agenda is also now under Najib's 1Malaysia programme foci? The Ministry of Defence, the board of governors and the Old Putera Association of the school have to also give some clear answers and then ask some more searching questions.

Let me give therefore a brief history of the school. Started on July 3, 1952, as the Boys Company of the Malay Regiment in Port Dickson, it was later renamed the Federation Military College in 1953. The Charter of the College sought to “prepare young Malayans to take their places as officers, public servants and other professionals in the industrial and commercial life of the country.” Its motto has always been to 'serve to lead.'

The college moved to the present campus in Sungai Besi in 1961 and was opened by the Yang DiPertuan Agong. Then in 1966, this national institution of utmost importance was re-designated as the Royal Military College and received her regimental colour on June 3,1981 from His Majesty, the Yang DiPertuan Agong. The Council of Rulers must also therefore ask why this “royal school of theirs” is not in the top 20 schools. It was designed to be a federation-established school at the highest level.

Allow me to give my hypothesis of her “reduction in quality over the years.” Firstly, and rather unfortunately, in my final year in the college, i.e. 1968, the Ministry of Defence began a policy which called for the “compulsory military service component” by insisting that at least 25 percent of the intake of students into the Boys or Putera Wing must join the Armed Forces. Starting then, and with the rise of many other options, especially for Malay parents, with other residential schools and education in MRSMs, the college slowly but surely lost its glitter, shine and attractiveness.

Train leaders for all walks of life

The RMC was originally designed to train leaders for all walks of life in Malaysia and was always multi-ethnic in stature, quality and culture. Until the mid-1970s the college probably did this federation-oriented education and character development excellently well. In my undergraduate thesis of 1971, I studied whether “The RMC was a source of elite recruitment?” I concluded from my primary study of tracking of the movement of the older graduates that they were well on their way to achieve the status of tertiary elites in the Professor Marshall Singer's model of elite mobility and movement.

Therefore it was a foregone conclusion, to me at least, that by year 2000 that the chief secretary and about nice secretary- generals of ministries were RMC Old Boys, or Old Puteras as they prefer to be called. In the Armed Forces too, and whether in the Army, Navy and Air Force many chiefs were Old Puteras. The same was true of the commercial sector, or in industry, many CEOs were from the RMC. NGO leaders; in sports or arts and cultural exemplars, we had our share as well.

In fact, the Old Putera Association decided to demonstrate these talents for posterity. For the 50th Anniversary Merdeka Parade, an entire contingent of RMC Old Puteras were presented by the celebration organizers and assigned the first place marching squad and they were led by none other than the then minister of home affairs.

Also, for another fact, when the Old Putera Association in 2000 launched their “RMC Salutes the Nation Dinner,” the then prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad called the RMC “the most successful experiment in multiracialism.” And, in fact most recently, about two weeks ago the minister of defence announced a shift in the policy to “return to an intake of 30 percent for non-Malays into RMC,” which had been inadvertently reduced to about 10 percent. This is 1Malaysia taking shape, at a very small scale.

The original quota of 30 percent was recommended and did reflect the Reid Commission Report and was meant to be applied for all racial quotas into public funded services, although only at the point of entry.

There was and never will be a parallel to the RMC within the nation. Unlike the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar or the Tuanku Kurshiah (or the Girls Malay College) in Seremban, the RMC was the only fully residential college uniquely designed and developed for a multiracial leadership for this mixed nation; which we now call Malaysia Truly Asia.

Today though, as Najib repeats his 1Malaysia mantra, the performance now of the only multiracial residential school cannot make it into the top 20 for reasons unknown to this writer. This raises even more questions than answers.

New agenda and spirit

Allow me to conclude as to what I think is the problem. FMC and later RMC was the original vision of Sir Tun Gerald Templer as the answer to the challenges of “new leadership needed for a newly independent nation.” Old school ties and the spirit of camaraderie were essential for forging collegiality and unity to a differing but different set of leaders.

Tun Abdul Razak believed in this vision too. But, sadly, after the 1965 departure of Singapore and the May 13, 1969 problems; a new agenda and spirit which was not truly nationalistic took over. Today that spirit is labelled 'Ketuanan Melayu'. It was that spirit which destroyed many “national institutions of utmost importance,” like even the RMC. We have experimented with failure as we tweaked and changed policies at the whims and fancy of half-baked leaders. As a result, although I have four sons, I have not encouraged any of them to go into the RMC. But, I am praying that my grandchildren will or can go the RMC; my alma mater.

My view is that the cabinet should therefore reinstate the RMC as a trust school under the high performance schools programme but allow it to be set it up as a foundation. Assign them the funds needed to “recapture their older glory and excellence and give them the autonomy to be run much like the Sekolah Tuanku Jaafar or the Yayasan UEM School in Bukit Beruntung.

The RMC Old Boys of the last 50 years are quite capable and can reinstate the best traditions and character building opportunities of the past, if given an opportunity to sit directly and steer the board of governors. But, the real challenges of the future require new and globalised leaders who can provide quality leadership whether we call ourselves 1Malaysia, Bangsa Malaysia or Malaysia Truly Asia. May God bless Malaysia.

Where are we heading ?


aizley shahar

Where are we heading ? 

I been looking that at all the political parties... and all of them have their own shortcoming... i guess we the rakyat have to choose the least of three evils...

UMNO... as per normal, not all... nor it is a major practice but every citizen knows how things really work here... maybe there is truth in what TDM saying that there is no more patriotic that would die for the greater good of the "bangsa melayu" but only left with monopolizing members who are mostly contractors that is filling in the middle and majority in the party, women and men alike. It is in their nature that as contractors to "grease" if they faced with any hurdle to achieve their objectives.,  I can't really say when this culture started but was made to believe it was during TDM's time where mega projects were abundance and at that time people rather be a contractor then to be a professionals  because the letter would become instant millionaires if have the right connections.   This however has turn the people to a culture they are more are more worried if they gonna lose their contractor class A work then maybe that the non-malay/muslim is getting ahead in all sectors... business, education....Even when there is limitation for the non-bumi(s) to get the contract directly, it is known that it is all a Baba Ali Scheme, where Malay would front in getting the contracts and the chinese partner in actually doing the job.  This is not a site that you see before the independence where malays would spend the little that they have to come down to Kuala Lumpur for any perhimpunan. ..They would take buses, trains, catch rides with friends, real Perjuangan....just to listen to their leader to speak... why.. why....?

Now, i just read in the newspaper.... everything you have to pay... even the gas money for they to come to listen to you... where have all the patriotic feelings for Malay race that our grandparents had to fight for our independence ? where did we go wrong ?

PAS... i had high respect for Tok Guru Nik Aziz before... maybe we don't speak the same tune... but to me he is a leader with firm foundation to their core  Islamic believes until recently... hmmm... what happened to you TGNA ?  why did you let your son in law ruin you ? during Pak Lah time... you said Pak Lah had no spine to go against KJ... and now look at you ?  "Paku dulang paku serpih... kata orang dia yang lebih !"
I read to the blog site of one of the former staff of PMBK... omg... you are no better then UMNO !   i mean, at least they don't hide behind the sarban and kopiah...shame on you...

DAP.. need i say more ? LGE is doing a great job himself alienating a litmus test.. If he stand for election now... i think the monkey from bukit bendera also can beat him, with all the demolishing of the warung in Penang, he has lost the Mamak Penang votes, i mean those small shops has been around for more then 20 years and why doing it now ? can't find a "middle "ground  mr middle man ?. why are the people calling you Hitler of Penang ?  when the first time i heard this Zahrain fella yelling about you being unfair maybe i thought you only took care your own kind but then there was another cry from a PR MP who is Chinese, wow you never thought you would even look back at your own kind seem you only take care Kapal Sink and Daddy Lim... DAP is talking about Middle Malaysia how is it gonna work if you can't even take care your own MPs ? let alone the people of Penang Island....hmmmm... the mascarade showing that you saving states govt money.... how about the report on the total contract given not the percentage as you declared in the news yesterday ?

Now DAP cooked anothe slogan "Middle Malaysia"... Malaysia di tengah2.... this specifically  looking to find they believe is the new Malays that support their vision of Malaysia Malaysia... they are using PAS and PKR to get to this demograph who is boastful about their so called achievement... these are the Malay... betwen the age of 28-42., 3-4 kids.. In middle management either in the MNC locally and overseas...think that they have been expose to the equality and looking to make this world a better place...fighting for the ozone and dolphin kind...earns for a household income between  RM 12-15 thousand a month....these people forget how they got there... if not because they went to MRSM and SBP... and got government scholarship to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and to be who they are now... you think half of the people who got the govt scholarship would get it if they were graded the same plain field with the other race(s) ?   no way in selfish are they to say to give away and deprived the others, malays, the younger generation the same opportunity they got... ?  because, if we support DAP, the ultimate goal is to do away with NEP and article 153 of the special position of Malay in the about selfish....selfish isn't it....!

PKR.... jump ship... jump ship.... everybody is looking for a life boat... the captain will be detain for 10-20...... years...

DSAI  had his first day in court today...I still remember the time when he was charge with the first sodomy case against his wife's driver, Azizan.  Him and his foster indonesian brother, Sukmadermawan, was charge of sodomizing azizan in Tivoli Villa.  I personally did not believe that DSAI is capable doing such a hideous act ... looking at the outlook he portray  as a Islamic Malay student leader who rose to rank to be the Deputy Premier of Malaysia.  However, my perception of him has change drastically, from being a true leader of Malay into some what of a dirty scoundrel that is only fighting for himself and none others... he wants to be the Prime Minister of Malaysia and this man would do anything to get it even sleeping with the enemy... both extreme end...

This is a guy that would recite Al-Quran verses during his speeches before when he was the deputy Prime Minister and now there is no doubt in my mind that he is who people think he is... He used to blame TDM for all his shortfalls... now he is trying to get DSNR and Rosmah to testify in court... just another ploy and tactics that will not work anymore DSAI... come on !  we heard this song before DSAI... 

To me, as a human being, i have nothing against gay or what ever a person wants to do... but i do care if the person is a hypocrite and pretend to be the person he is not and actually running the country... i 'll settle for the devil i know...

Allah help us...

PM’s aide to quit over ‘racist’ remarks

By Adib Zalkapli and G. Manimaran
Najib has been working hard to win Indian hearts and minds. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s aide Datuk Nasir Safar will tender his resignation after allegedly saying “Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially the women came to sell their bodies” at a 1 Malaysia seminar in Malacca, comments that undermined the Prime Minister's recent charm offensive.
Nasir had earlier denied the claims, but a statement from the Prime Minister's Department tonight said the senior aide will quit his post.
“The remarks allegedly made by Nasir in Malacca today do not in any way reflect the views of the Prime Minister,” the statement said.
“Nasir never intended to make any derogatory remarks. He spoke at length on the contributions made by all races in developing the country.
“Nevertheless, Nasir apologises for any offence caused ... and in light of this, will tender his resignation.”
The allegation comes at a time when Najib has been working hard to win over the support of non-Malays amid the “Allah” row, which saw attacks on places of worship across the country. It also showed that, despite his intentions, his aides and political operatives have still not embraced his 1 Malaysia concept to bring unity and progress to the country.
“I did not say the word ‘pendatang (immigrant)’. I only said the country has been successful as the Chinese and the Indians from those days until today have been coming here to work,” Nasir told The Malaysian Insider in a telephone interview.
He also dismissed claims that he had threatened to revoke the citizenships of non-Malays who demanded that their rights be respected.
“I did not threaten anyone, and I have never intended to do that. You know I’m very close to MIC people. I only said it is not good for any community to make so much demands as other communities will retaliate,” said Nasir, who used to be a Johor state assemblyman and division chief..
The Malaysian Insider understands that several MCA and MIC leaders walked out of the meeting at the Malacca International Trade Centre after Nasir made the alleged remarks.
The MIC Youth is also planning to lodge a police report against Nasir.
Nasir added he also did not ridicule other languages but only defended the supremacy of the Malay language: “I said Malay language is the national language, there should only be one national language.”
His defence was, however, disputed by those present at the seminar.
An Alor Gajah MIC member, who only wished to be known as Maniam, said he heard clearly Nasir’s threat to revoke citizenships, before he joined others to leave the meeting. “I also heard he said when Umno is facing problems MCA, MIC and Gerakan do not seem concerned,” he told The Malaysian Insider by telephone.
Sources said Nasir also remarked that "Indians in Malaysia have crossed the line. They force the government for 12 subjects in SPM. Don't force the government. We can anytime revoke the citizenship of the Indians in Malaysia."
The senior aide also allegedly said "Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially the women came to sell their bodies", touching off the furore and leading to the walkout.
Another local MIC member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said he heard Nasir use the word “pendatang”. “He said it was Umno who drafted the (federal) constitution and other parties were not involved,” he said.
He added that they confronted Nasir during tea break but the latter defended himself by saying he was only referring to Hindraf leaders.
The outlawed Hindraf group, which brought 30,000 Indians to the streets in November 2007, have persistently charged Umno with sidelining the community.
Malaccca Barisan Nasional (BN) component party leaders are also planning to handover a memorandum to Najib when the coalition chairman visits Malacca this Thursday.
Meanwhile, MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has condemned Nasir’s remark and called for action to be taken under the Sedition Act.
“Although the remark does not reflect the government’s or the prime minister’s stand, but it has hurt the feelings of the Malaysian Indian community,” he said.
“MIC condemns the colonial attitude of this person for degrading the Malaysian Indians and we demand that this person be punished under the Sedition Act, and MIC will lodge a police report against this person. If it is proven that this person has uttered [the] seditious remark, action must be taken against him,” Samy told The Malaysian Insider.
DAP leader Lim Kit Siang challenged members of the Najib administration to raise the matter at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.
“Will ministers put Nasir Safar on the mat at Cabinet meeting tomorow? Najib’s 1 Malaysia getting very torn and tattered,” he wrote in his @limkitsiang twitter microblogging account.
Gerakan secretary-general Teng Chang Yeow said Nasir should also apolgise openly for his statement despite his resignation.
“Gerakan wants him to apologise,” he told The Malaysian Insider, adding non-Malays have always been reminded not to question the social contract but this time it was perpetrated by someone from the community.

Malaysia's courts in the dock over Anwar trial

Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:02pm EST
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to Reuters at his office in Kuala Lumpur January 26, 2010. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim heads for trial on Tuesday on a charge of sodomy, placing the country's courts under scrutiny again after his doubtful conviction for the same offence almost a decade ago. Anwar was tried first on corruption charges and then for sodomy after his sacking as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998 amid a political feud with then premier Mahathir Mohamad.
His case drew a chorus of international criticism with then-U.S. Vice President Al Gore saying at the time that the trial "mocked international standards of justice."
Although Malaysia's top court ultimately overturned the conviction, doubts remain as to whether the 62-year-old Anwar, who represents the biggest political threat to the government that has run Malaysia for 52 years, will get a fair trial.
This time, he is charged with sodomising a male aide in a trial that has been dubbed "Sodomy 2" by the Malaysian media.
"For political cases, the public has grave concerns about the independence of the judiciary," said Lim Chee Wee, vice president of the Bar Council of Malaysia. "There is also the upcoming Anwar 'Sodomy 2' trial where the presently available evidence suggests selective prosecution."
Malaysia's government has a long history of curbing the power of the judiciary, starting in 1988 when Mahathir sacked the country's top judge amid a political row that could have seen the man who became the country's longest serving premier removed.
The Anwar trials further undermined trust in the courts and public confidence in the judiciary ebbed further after a judicial appointments fixing scandal in 2007, prompting the government to initiate a judicial reform effort.
Court rulings against the government in recent months have provided a glimmer of hope the judiciary has not been completely emasculated. One on December 31 supported the rights of Christians to use the word "Allah" for God.
But with the National Front government battling to reassert its control over this Southeast Asian country, Anwar's trial may be too politically sensitive for a fair hearing, said Zaid Ibrahim, a former law minister who was tasked with judicial reform but who quit the government in 2008.
"Well, I don't think much has changed (since Anwar's last trial)," said Zaid, now a member of the opposition. "When we talk about judicial independence we are talking about politically sensitive cases involving ministers and the government."
The government has denied any interference and has promised that Anwar would receive a fair trial.
Mahathir's attack on the judiciary in the 1980s came after he narrowly survived a challenge to his leadership. While there is no leadership challenge to current Prime Minister Najib Razak, he is struggling to rebuild confidence in his own political party.
Najib's United Malays National Organization, and the 13-party National Front coalition that it leads conceded control of five states and lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority in national and state elections in 2008, their worst ever showing.
Voters, upset over rising corruption, failed reform pledges and increasing complaints of minority marginalization, have since handed the opposition victories in seven out of nine by-elections held since the national polls.
Promises by Najib to end corruption and to rebuild the multi- ethnic nature of the ruling coalition that relied in the past on support from ethnic Chinese and Indian voters have been damaged by a multi-billion dollar graft scandal at a port and by attacks on churches over the "Allah" row.
Data from the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report show Malaysia's judicial independence global rankings fell to 53rd place in 2009 from 47th place in 2008.
Its scores are well below regional leaders Hong Kong and Singapore which ranked 14th and 19th respectively, undermining Najib's bid to woo new foreign investment to help diversify the country's export-dependent economy.
Foreign bondholders in the scandal-plagued Port Klang Free Zone have sought a government guarantee for the bonds, fearing a Malaysian court could invalidate their claims due to the issue of fake guarantees for the bonds.
Malaysia has made some progress in cleaning up its commercial courts, dogged by complaints of delays and inefficiency, said the Bar Council's Lim, who noted that trial disposal rates had shot up to 597 in 2009 from 87 in 2008.
Efforts to reduce trial times drew praise from Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry Executive President Stewart Forbes whose body represents 1,000 members with over 110 billion ringgit ($32.23 billion) of investments here.
"Certainly, it's fair to say that over the last 18 to 24 months, there has been a marked improvement in that aspect of the judiciary," he said.
However, businesses remain concerned by poor perceptions of the overall quality of the judiciary.
"It may not simply be because one or other particular case, but unfortunately at the moment and over the last few years in Malaysia, the judiciary has been pulled into a large number of elements of debate vis-a-vis a whole range of court cases and issues," Forbes noted.


As well as the improved trial times for commercial cases, some lower courts have recently exercised their independence and ruled against the government in politically sensitive cases.
The recent ruling on the "Allah" case that allowed a Catholic newspaper to use the word in its Malay language editions has been hailed by critics, including Anwar, as a sign of judicial independence.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court recently reversed a ban on a book of essays on Islam and women's rights which the government contended contradicted official teachings on Islam and in May last year, it ruled a government takeover of the opposition-ruled north eastern state of Perak was illegal.
Critics say such rulings are rare and at times get overturned by the higher courts, as was the case in the Perak verdict which is now before the country's highest court, the Federal Court.
"At the lower level courts, there are independent minded judges but at the higher level courts, we'll have to wait and see because there are lots of issues still not resolved," said Zaid, the former law minister.
(Reporting by Razak Ahmad; Editing by David Chance and Bill Tarrant)

Five political risks to watch in Malaysia

Mon Feb 1, 2010 11:33am EST
By Razak Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The ruling coalition of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak may delay some planned economic reforms as tensions rise over the trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and ethno-religious rivalries.

Sovereign 5-year credit default swaps for Malaysia MYGV5YUSAC=R are trading at a spread of around 101.67 basis points, compared to a weighted average of 134.40 for the Thomson Reuters Emerging Asia Index. The implied risk of a Malaysian default is seen as lower than Thailand, with a spread of 111.00 basis points, and South Korea at 103.75, but higher than China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Following is a summary of key Malaysia risks to watch:


The National Front which has ruled Malaysia for 52 years recorded its worst performance in last year's general election, losing control in five states and its once iron-clad two-thirds control of parliament. Voters, especially the country's Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities, abandoned the National Front in favour of Anwar's three-party opposition.

Anwar's upcoming trial on renewed sodomy charges will provide a flashpoint. Malaysia's political stability has deteriorated significantly over recent years, and investment will be further damaged if that trend continues.

What to watch:

-- Anwar's trial. Opposition supporters widely regard the trial as politically motivated, and it is likely to further dent Malaysia's attractiveness for foreign investors. If a contentious or divisive verdict seems likely, more foreign money will be pulled from Malaysia's markets, pulling down stocks .KLSE, bonds and the ringgit MYRX=. But with limited foreign portfolio investment still in the country, the impact will be muted.

-- A leadership tussle in the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second biggest party in the ruling National Front coalition, might drive more Chinese voters to the opposition.


The government has promised further economic reform to attract more foreign investment. Najib has rolled back elements of a four-decades old Malay affirmative policy, relaxing the rule that companies must offer stakes to indigenous ethnic Malays. But Najib is wary of upsetting the Malays, a critical vote bank, and treads carefully on economic reform. This may cause him to dilute or abandon his plans as he attempts to remain in power.

What to watch:

-- Government policy implementation and announcements. A further bout of liberalisation has been trailed by the government, although while investors have greeted positively measures so far, little money has flowed into Malaysia's markets as they are wary over implementation.

-- The government's moves to reduce crippling fuel and food subsidies. Past fuel price hikes have drawn an intense public backlash, so the reaction to the government's expected announcement of a two-tier fuel price in May will be key.

-- The appointment of a new head of state oil-firm Petronas, with President and Chief Executive Officer Hassan Marican's contract reported to expire in February. A failure either to extend the contract of Hassan -- who is renowned for his no-nonsense approach in running the oil firm -- or to replace him with a rank outsider may be read as an attempt to put in place an executive more pliable to government whims, which could sour market confidence.


Race and religion have always been explosive issues in Malaysian politics. Najib took power pledging a more inclusive approach to ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, but his United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party that is the lynchpin of the ruling coalition cast this approach aside to try to prevent further loss of support amongst its Malay powerbase.

Najib, who took office in April last year, received a boost in approval ratings following measures to liberalise the economy and a pledge to promote inclusiveness. His gains, especially among minority ethnic groups, are in doubt after religious tensions flared over whether Christians could use the word "Allah" to describe God. The row sparked anger among ethnic Malays and deep unhappiness among non-Muslims.

What to watch:

-- If religious tensions worsen, the government may decide to put on hold further measures to withdraw special privileges for ethnic Malays in case this worsens Malay discontent and undermines support for the government. A severe worsening of tensions could raise the spectre of sectarian unrest.

-- If the government tries to woo Muslim voters with more conservative policies based on Islam, investors may be spooked.


Malaysia used to be regarded as one of the region's more reliable countries but worsening corruption and a perceived lack of judicial independence have damaged investment.

What to watch:

-- Government efforts to deal with a scandal over a port trade zone close to the capital of Kuala Lumpur that exposed links between politics and business. False government guarantees given when the bonds were sold have triggered concerns among holders of $1 billion of bonds that they might not be repaid.

-- How Najib handles the dilemma of bolstering his core support bloc while also cracking down on corruption. Investors are watching to see whether promised reform materialises.

-- Indicators gauging corruption in Malaysia. Transparency International's 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index saw a significant deterioration in Malaysia's ranking to 56th out of 180 countries from 47th the previous year.


The insurgency in southern Thailand has implications for Malaysia, particularly if it starts to draw more attention and sympathy from Malaysians for the ethnic Malay fighters across the border. A less likely danger is that al Qaeda-linked groups manage to establish a foothold in the area.

Much of the leadership of regional al Qaeda offshoot Jemaah Islamiah came from Malaysia or spent considerable time there. The main JI organisation is thought to have abandoned violent attacks on foreign targets but splinter groups remain at large.

In January, police said 10 people, nine of them foreigners, had been arrested on suspicion of links to international militant groups. Local media reports that the suspects were linked to the Nigerian passenger who tried to detonate a bomb on a flight into the United States on Dec. 25 could not be verified.

What to watch:

-- Signs the insurgency in Thailand is becoming more of a political issue in Malaysia could worsen regional tensions and unsettle markets. Any evidence al Qaeda is gaining traction in the region would also be a negative factor for markets. (Editing by Andrew Marshall)
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