Tuesday, 23 April 2013

No business as usual if opposition wins Johor: Anwar

By Amir Hussain - TODAY
SELANGOR — Responding to remarks from the Barisan Nasional (BN) camp that the opposition will stymie the progress of the Iskandar region if Johor falls into opposition hands, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim yesterday dismissed these as scaremongering attempts and reiterated that the opposition wants the Malaysian economy to continue to grow and commitments would be honoured.
However, he said “investors, including (those) from Singapore, cannot assume that business must be as usual” should the special economic zone come under opposition rule. Among other things, he wants more opportunities for Malaysians. Speaking to TODAY while campaigning in Selangor, Mr Anwar said: “The politics of fear is always a tactic of the ruling establishment. Of course, our concern is that the economy continues to grow (and) whatever commitments were given have to be honoured.”
Nevertheless, should the opposition win Johor, there will be changes in policies. Mr Anwar said businesses in Iskandar will have to be “more transparent” and the opposition will “generate interest and participation (in the commercial projects) for the locals”.
“These are issues which will not in any way hinder investment or development,” he said.
Iskandar Malaysia was developed in 2006, and Singapore is the largest single foreign investor there.
According to statistics from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority, Singapore companies have set up more than 300 manufacturing projects there so far. Some Singapore companies have reportedly said that they will adopt a wait-and-see attitude in investing in the Iskandar region, with the elections underway.
Johor is known as a BN fortress. Going into the elections, the ruling coalition held 25 out of 26 parliamentary seats, and 50 out of 56 state seats. But political analysts have said that the opposition could make deeper inroads given the political developments since the last general election in 2008.
In recent weeks, UDA Holdings Chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed and Malaysian Chinese Association president Chua Soi Lek have warned Johorians that investments worth billions of ringgit received by the Iskandar region and Johor would be stopped if the opposition is voted in.
UDA Holdings is a public listed company that started off as the Urban Development Authority of Malaysia.
The BN is fielding 50 per cent new faces at state level and 30 per cent new candidates at federal level.
But Mr Anwar pointed out that several of the so-called new faces had contested in the ’80s and ’90s. He also criticised the ruling coalition for fielding those “clearly known to be extremist in their views”, citing Mr Zulkifli Noordin, who had made derogatory remarks about Hindus.
Mr Anwar also charged that the BN’s main component party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), is playing the race card in the elections.
He noted UMNO’s campaign leaflets which stated that should the opposition win the majority in Parliament, Islam will no longer be the official religion, the royalty will be abolished and all bumiputra agencies will be abolished.
“But I don’t believe that the voters are that gullible ... they are aware of the tactics,” he said.
Mr Anwar also downplayed suggestions that there was a rift within the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR). In seven constituencies, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Parti Islam SeMalaysia — both part of the PR — have put up candidates against each other. But he said the clashes had been resolved “amicably”.
Yesterday, Mr Anwar spoke at rallies in rural areas to drum up support for the opposition coalition. Selangor is currently helmed by the opposition and the state seats held by the BN are mainly in the rural areas.
Mr Najib also hit the campaign trail in Selangor yesterday, including holding a walkabout in the Kota Raja constituency. Adding that it was crucial for the BN to recapture Selangor — one of Malaysia’s commercial hubs — Mr Najib told the people that their future is with the ruling coalition.
He also guaranteed that Selangor will never experience water supply interruptions again. He accused PR of putting the takeover of water concessionaires as its main focus.
According to The Star, he also told voters that the Pakatan partnership “won’t last”.
“They are even contesting against each other in seven constituencies,” said Mr Najib. WITH AGENCIES

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