11 August 2015

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Bloomberg

Malaysia’s benchmark stock gauge entered a technical correction, as investors pulled funds amid concern about the political scandal enveloping Prime Minister Najib Razak and the worsening economic outlook.

The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index slid 1.7 percent to 1,654.37 at 5 p.m. local time, the lowest close since March 2013. The measure has lost 11 percent from its April 21 peak. Tenaga Nasional Bhd., the state-owned power utility, was the biggest drag on the gauge on Monday. The ringgit slid for a fourth day, the lowest level since 1998.

Foreign funds have dumped $3 billion of the nation’s shares this year amid concern the crisis will distract Najib as a commodities rout and the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates threaten economic growth. The prime minister is fighting off a scandal linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd., a debt-ridden state investment company.

“Sentiment will remain bearish and stocks will be volatile in the short term,” said Danny Wong Teck Meng, chief executive officer of Kuala Lumpur-based Areca Capital Sdn., which manages about $224 million in assets. Investors are concerned about how far the ringgit will fall given the political situation and declining currency reserves, he said.

Malaysia’s ringgit depreciated 2.6 percent last week, its biggest loss since December. Foreign-exchange reserves fell below $100 billion for the first time since 2010 last month, the central bank said after markets closed on Friday.

Bond Outflows

Overseas ownership of the nation’s government and corporate debt dropped 2.4 percent in July to 206.8 billion ringgit ($52.7 billion), the least since August 2012, other data released Friday showed.

The Wall Street Journal reported on July 3 that $700 million may have moved through government agencies and state-linked companies to accounts bearing Najib’s name. The premier has denied taking money for personal gain and has described the furor as part of a campaign to remove him from office. A probe into about 2.6 billion ringgit ($662 million) that was deposited into Najib’s personal accounts found that the funds were legal donations from the Middle East.

Tenaga sank 3.5 percent to the lowest close since January 2014. CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. and Malayan Banking Bhd. tumbled more than 1.8 percent.

 

11 August 2015

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The Daily Star

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is passing a difficult time, amid allegations of a financial scam. In early July, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) carried reports that $700 million was transferred through a complex web of transactions to Najib’s bank accounts in Kuala Lumpur in 2013. Graphic details of the flow of millions of Ringgit through banks, companies and government agencies, linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), to Najib’s private account also came to light.

Neither the source of the money nor its final destination is clear. Handsome amounts from Najib’s accounts went to “Barisan Nasional” (BN) coalition component parties. Apparently, the funds were used for election campaign in 2013.

1MDB is a Malaysian government-owned development company. It was established in January 2009, to drive strategic initiatives for long term economic development of the country through global partnership and promoting foreign direct investment. 1MDB focuses on the areas of energy, real estate, tourism and agribusiness. Prime Minister Najib Razak chairs the advisory board of 1MDB.

In 2009, 1MDB and PetroSaudi International Limited set up a $2.5 billion joint venture to facilitate the flow of FDIs from Middle East to Malaysia. According to reports, this joint venture was involved in the financial scam, helped by some middlemen close to Najib.

Allegations of financial mismanagement regarding 1MDB’s operations kept mounting over the years, particularly from opposition parties. Its credential and transparency were frequently questioned by the media, as its accumulated debt rose to over $11 billion. There were allegations that 1MDB overpriced its purchases and donated the money to Najib’s foundation.

In early March 2015, the government set up a Joint Task Force to probe the alleged mismanagement of funds in 1MDB. A second Special Task Force (STF) was constituted in July to investigate the allegations against Prime Minister Najib. The members include the Attorney-General, Central Bank Governor, Police Chief and Anti-Corruption Commission. STF members have been drawn from different departments, so that it cannot be influenced.

When these stories appeared in local and international media, the reaction from Prime Minister Najib was to deny that any such fund was transferred to his accounts. “Accusations by the WSJ are malicious and supported by certain quarters in the country with the purpose of forcing me to quit as prime minister and president of the UMNO (United Malays National Organisation),” said the embattled Prime Minister.

Indeed, the federal political culture in Malaysia largely revolves around UMNO. Najib Razak’s UMNO is the largest component of Barisan Nasional (BN), a coalition of 13 parties, and had been in power since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

The Special Task Force has been sniffing around for clues surrounding the sudden swelling of funds in Najib’s personal accounts. Bank accounts have been blocked, 1MDB office has been raided and several arrests have been made so far.

To keep the situation under control, Najib Razak in a drastic move on July 28, sacked his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and replaced Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail. Muhyiddin had asked Najib to give up the 1MDB chairmanship and was quite vocal about Najib’s handling of the allegations. Najib also elevated close ally Home Minister Ahmed Zahid Hamidi as his deputy prime minister and replaced four other ministers. Gani, who was heading the investigation, had probably stepped on something incriminating. He was apparently preparing a charge sheet against Najib.

Though the new cabinet has stood by Najib’s ordeal, there are speculations of restlessness in UMNO.

In another move to stifle the media, the Home Ministry suspended two newspapers – The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly – for reporting on the scandal, as the ministry deemed its reports “prejudicial to public order”.

Najib Razak’s probable nemesis lies within his party. His greatest threat is former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, still widely respected as the architect of modern Malaysia. Mahathir, who carries considerable weight within UMNO, called upon Najib to prove his innocence by letting the Task Force look into his accounts or else resign. Mahathir’s next move will be interesting to watch.

The opposition alliance has been making loud noises. Azizah Ismail asked Najib to go on a leave so that the investigation can proceed without any hindrance. She however failed to capitalise on Najib’s vulnerability as they are in disarray. The loose opposition alliance is split into several factions.

In an interesting twist to the ghastly episode, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on August 3 confirmed that the huge amount of money in Najib Razak’s account came from “donors” and not from 1MDB. It did not disclose the identities of the donors or the purpose of the contribution. Neither did it say how the money was spent. MACC said it was referring the matter to the central bank and police. MACC stopped looking into Najib’s bank accounts; instead, it is now looking into one of the subsidiaries of 1MDB. MACC’s statement also said that there was no draft charge sheet prepared against Najib.

Though this news may give some relief to Najib, it smacks of manipulation and intimidation. The dismissal of top officials earlier was a clear enough warning to the MACC. Najib Razak has apparently made arrangements to delay the findings of the Task Force and eventually clear his name.

There is a maxim in bureaucracy—“Do not setup an investigation, unless you know the results of the findings well in advance.” It would be naïve to think that Najib does not know the findings of the Task Force.

Whatever may be the ultimate findings of the Task Force, the fact that huge amounts of money were transferred to Najib’s accounts has been established.

It looks like Najib will probably ride through this crisis. But his moral authority and credibility have been badly dented.

10 August 2015

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We, the undersigned human rights organizations, stand in solidarity with Anwar Ibrahim, condemn the politically motivated charges and trial that led to his imprisonment, and call for his immediate and unconditional release.

 

August 10, 2015, marks Anwar Ibrahim’s 68th birthday and 182 days spent as a prisoner of conscience. Prior to his imprisonment, Anwar Ibrahim was the head of Malaysia’s opposition and a prominent Muslim leader. The trial that led to his conviction was condemned as not meeting international standards for fair trials by numerous independent observers who monitored court proceedings.

 

Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction on charges of sodomy on February 2015 raised serious doubts about the independence of Malaysia’s judiciary. The irregularities in the proceedings appeared to chime with a long-­? standing effort by the ruling coalition to disqualify him from holding political office and from fulfilling his elected role as a Member of Parliament and leader of the opposition.

 

We also note with great concern Anwar Ibrahim’s deteriorating health and the difficulties he continues to face in receiving proper medical attention in Sungai Buloh Prison, Selangor State. Anwar Ibrahim’s poor detention conditions are indicative of wider problems within the Malaysian prison system.

 

We call on the Malaysian authorities to uphold the rule of law and human rights, in particular the right to a fair trial, including by ensuring that the judiciary is completely independent from the executive branch.

 

We also express our grave concern over the continued crackdown on freedom of expression and political dissent in Malaysia. The ongoing arrest, detention and criminal proceedings against dozens of government critics under repressive laws, such as the 1948 Sedition Act, and the increasing harassment and censorship of independent media, represent a major setback for human rights in the country. The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed by Malaysia’s Constitution. The continued use of repressive legislation to suppress fundamental rights is severely damaging Malaysia’s international reputation.

 

We therefore urge the Malaysian government to take immediate steps to repeal or amend all laws that impose unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. These laws include the 1948 Sedition Act, the 1959 Prevention of Crime Act, the 1984 Printing Presses and Publications Act, the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act, and the 2012 Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. Instead, human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peacefully assembly, should be protected by law in accordance with international human rights law and standards.

 

In addition, we call on the Malaysian government to repeal Article 377 of the Criminal Code and abolish sodomy as a crime. This colonial-­?era provision, which bans private consensual homosexual acts, is blatantly discriminatory and has no place in a modern and rights-­?respecting nation. United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms have repeatedly called for a repeal of such legislation because it violates a number of key human rights, including the rights to equality and to privacy.

 

We firmly believe that the Malaysian government must listen to the people’s calls for reforms. Authorities must respect all human rights promote transparency and good governance and uphold the rule of law.

 

 

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Amnesty International

Article 19

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Suaram

Global Bersih

 

10 August 2015

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The Committee,

Recognises Anwar Ibrahim as a Malaysian statesman, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and a prominent moderate Muslim leader who has dedicated his political life to defend democracy, uphold the rule of law and sought social justice for all.

Recalls that Anwar Ibrahim was finance minister and deputy prime minister of Malaysia when he was dismissed from government in 1998. Upon his dismissal, Anwar was arrested, beaten and jailed for six years on politically motivated and trumped up charges.

Recalls that Anwar Ibrahim led the opposition coalition to an unprecedented electoral success in Malaysia’s general elections in 2013, winning 51% of the popular vote.

Recalls that Anwar Ibrahim’s unjust imprisonment on 10 February 2015 based on politically motivated charges has been widely condemned internationally, and Amnesty International has adopted Anwar Ibrahim as a prisoner of conscience.

Believes that the conviction and imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim was the outcome of an ongoing political conspiracy to end Anwar Ibrahim’s political life and to deprive the opposition of its parliamentary leader in Malaysia.

Resolves to call on the international community to pressure the government of Malaysia to uphold the rule of law, and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens.

Demands the government of Malaysia to immediately and unconditionally release Anwar Ibrahim from prison.

Signatories,
The Honorable Dr. Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, Former President of The Republic of Indonesia

The Honorable Abdullah Gül, Former President of the Republic of Turkey

The Honorable Albert Gore, Former Vice President of The United States of America, Nobel Laureate

The Honorable Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Former President of the Philippines

The Honorable James Gordon Brown, Former Prime Minister of The United Kingdom

Sheikh Rashid al-Ghannushi, Intellectual leader of the Ennahdah Movement Tunisia

10 August 2015

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We the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Anwar Ibrahim, and condemn the politically motivated charges that led to his five-year prison sentence.

10 August 2015, marks Anwar Ibrahim’s 68th birthday and his 182nd day as a prisoner of conscience. Prior to his imprisonment, Anwar Ibrahim was the Leader of Malaysia’s emerging Opposition, and a prominent moderate Muslim leader who dedicated his political life to defend democracy, uphold the rule of law and sought social justice for all.

Anwar Ibrahim’s trial took place after he led the opposition coalition to an unprecedented electoral victory in Malaysia’s general elections in 2013, winning 51% of the popular vote. Many believe that this blow to the incumbent government’s power prompted Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction and imprisonment. The trial that eventually led to Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction was seen as biased and unfair by the independent observers who attended the proceedings. The unfair trial, coupled with the political motivations behind it led Amnesty International to declare Anwar Ibrahim a prisoner of conscience.

As supporters of an independent and fair judicial system, we condemn such politically motivated convictions that serve those in power.

The political machinations behind Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction are clear as Malaysian citizens who dared to criticise the outcome have been investigated and/or charged under the country’s draconian Sedition Act. Many see Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction as the beginning of an intense crackdown on freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly in the country. The crackdown, which is ongoing, has even extended to social media. Numerous police investigations have been triggered over social media postings that are perceived to be critical of the government.

As believers in the right to the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly, we call on the government of Malaysia to uphold the rule of law, and to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens.

We also note with great concern Anwar Ibrahim’s deteriorating health, and the difficulties he has faced in receiving proper treatment. Anwar Ibrahim’s treatment in prison is indicative of wider problems within the Malaysian prison system. We strongly urge the Malaysian government that touts itself as democratic country to immediately and unconditionally release Anwar Ibrahim from prison and uphold the principles of democracy.
John L Esposito
Georgetown University

Tariq Ramadan
Oxford University

Richard Falk
Princeton University

Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Slavoj Žižek
University of London

Alfred Stepan
Colombia University

Francis Fukuyama
Stanford University

Larry Diamond
Stanford University

Nader Hashemi
Denver University

Avi Shlaim
Oxford University

Shahrough Akhavi
Columbia University

Charles Butterworth
University of Maryland

Louay Safi
Georgetown University

Emad El-Din Shahin
Georgetown University

Abdelwahab El-Affendi
University of Westminster

Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Egyptian Activist

Mohammad Fadel
University of Toronto

Ziauddin Sardar
Muslim Institute

Karen Armstrong
Author

Tariq Modood
University of Bristol

Farid Esack
University of Johannesburg

Christos Giannou
War Surgeon

James Reardon-Anderson
Georgetown University

Tamara Sonn
Georgetown University

Mohsen Kadivar
Duke University

Harry L. Roque
Center for International Law Philippines

Augusto N. Miclat Jr.
Initiatives for International Dialogue
Philippines

Herherson “Sonny” T. Alvarez
Phillipines Politician

Ricardo G. Recto
Philippines Politician

Luziminda C. Ilagan
Philippines Politician

Silvestre Bello III
Philippines Politician

General Jose T. Almonte
Philippines

Amado D. Valdez
Philippine Association of Law Schools

Fernando O. Peña
Ninoy Aquino Movement

Ferdinand S. Topacio
Lawyer Philippines

Margoux Salcedo
Philippines Journalist

Jarius and Marisa Bondoc
Columnist Philippines

Muslim Youth
Movement of
Malaysia (ABIM)

Networks Of
Democrats in the
Arab World

Center for Citizen’s
Alliance

John Voll
Georgetown University

Yvone Haddad
Georgetown University

10 August 2015

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Malaysiakini

Mungkin itulah hadiah hari ulang tahun paling bermakna buat Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim apabila sekumpulan intelektual dunia tampil bersama menuntut pembebasannya tanpa syarat.

Dalam kenyataan bersama itu, kumpulan itu antaranya mengutuk penjara lima tahun terhadap Anwar dan percaya ia sebagai sebuah “fitnah politik”.

Antara nama-nama besar yang tampil menyatakan bantahan mereka termasuk, John L Esposito, Richard Falk, Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Žižek, Francis Fukuyama, Saad Eddin Ibrahim dan Karen Armstrong.

“Kami menggesa kerajaan Malaysia, yang seringkali menyatakan ingin menjadi sebuah demokrasi terbaik di dunia untuk membebaskan Anwar Ibrahim, dan mengangkat prinsip-prinsip demokrasi tanpa sebarang syarat,” kata mereka.

Kenyataan bersama 33 orang itu, termasuk separuh tokoh pelbagai bidang Filipina, itu diedarkan oleh PKR hari ini sempena ulang tahun ke-68 Anwar hari ini.

Anwar memang terkenal mempunyai hubungan baik dengan tokoh-tokoh intelektual di pelbagai negara sebelum ini.

Bagaimanapun, mereka tidak pernah tampil dengan kenyataan bersama menyatakan sikap jelas sebelum ini.

Kenyataan itu dilihat sebahagian kempen berterusan penyokongnya bagi memberi tekanan kepada kerajaan Malaysia.

Anwar dipenjarakan lima tahun selepas didapati bersalah meliwat bekas pembantunya Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

10 August 2015

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Malaysiakini

Some 50 people gathered outside the Sungai Buloh Prison today to celebrate the 68th birthday of jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Among those in attendance were Anwar’s wife and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and their five daughters.

Also present were PKR vice-presidents Tian Chua and Rafizi Ramli, and the party’s Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin.

The crowd, who sang Happy Birthday and Allah Selamatkan Kamu (God save you) for Anwar from outside the prison gates, also brought three birthday cakes and a giant postcard signed by supporters.

The PKR de facto leader was on Feb 10 sentenced to five years’ jail by the Federal , which upheld his Court of Appeal conviction for sodomising his former aide Saiful Bukhari.

Critics have slammed the sentence as politically-motivated, a claim that Anwar’s family maintains till today.

Nurul Izzah Anwar said her father’s imprisonment, and the recent cabinet reshuffle that saw Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin axed, are proof that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is a dictator.

“It is clear that Najib is a dictator who is misusing his powers to ensure that there is no separation of powers,” Nurul Izzah, who is the MP for Lembah Pantai, said.

10 August 2015

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Malaysiakini

Former world leaders today urged the Malaysian government to release Anwar Ibrahim from jail unconditionally and immediately, in conjunction with his 68th birthday today.

The call was made, among others, by former Indonesian president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, former president of Turkey Abdullah Gul and former US vice-president Al Gore.

Also making the call with them in a joint statement released today are former Philippines president Joseph Estrada, former British prime minister Gordon Brown and Tunisian Ennahdah Movement leader Sheikh Rashid al-Ghannushi.

The group believed that Anwar’s conviction and imprisonment are the outcome of an ongoing political conspiracy to end his political life and to deprive the opposition in Malaysia of its parliamentary leader.

“(We recall) that Anwar’s unjust imprisonment on Feb 10, 2015, based on politically motivated charges, has been widely condemned internationally and Amnesty International has adopted Anwar Ibrahim as a prisoner of conscience,” they said.

In a separate statement, a group of globally known activists, academicians and intellectuals declared their solidarity with Anwar and condemned the “politically motivated” charges against him.

Among the 38 signatories are Noam Chomsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Tariq Ramadan (Oxford University, photo), John L Esposito (Georgetown University), Francis Fukuyama (Stanford University), Saad Eddin Ibrahim (Drew University) and British author Karen Armstrong.

“The political machinations behind Anwar’s conviction are clear as Malaysian citizens who dared to criticise the outcome have been investigated and/or charged under the country’s draconian Sedition Act.

“Many see Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction as the beginning of an intense crackdown on freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly in the country.

“The crackdown, which is ongoing, has even extended to the social media. Numerous police investigations have been triggered over social media postings that are perceived to be critical of the government,” the statement by the group says.

The group went on to call on the authorities to release Anwar and uphold democracy in order for  Malaysia to continue touting itself as a democratic country.

10 August 2015

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TMI

We, the undersigned human rights organisations, stand in solidarity with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, condemn the politically motivated charges and trial that led to his imprisonment, and call for his immediate and unconditional release.

August 10, 2015 marks Anwar’s 68th birthday and 182 days spent as a prisoner of conscience. Prior to his imprisonment, Anwar was the head of Malaysia’s opposition and a prominent Muslim leader. The trial that led to his conviction was condemned as not meeting international standards for fair trials by numerous independent observers who monitored court proceedings.

Anwar’s conviction on charges of sodomy on February 10, 2015 raised serious doubts about the independence of Malaysia’s judiciary. The irregularities in the proceedings appeared to chime with a long-standing effort by the ruling coalition to disqualify him from holding political office and from fulfilling his elected role as a member of Parliament and leader of the opposition.

We also note with great concern Anwar’s deteriorating health and the difficulties he continues to face in receiving proper medical attention in Sungai Buloh prison, Selangor. Anwar’s poor detention conditions are indicative of wider problems within the Malaysian prison system.We call on the Malaysian authorities to uphold the rule of law and human rights, in particular the right to a fair trial, including by ensuring that the judiciary is completely independent from the executive branch.

We also express our grave concern over the continued crackdown on freedom of expression and political dissent in Malaysia. The ongoing arrest, detention and criminal proceedings against dozens of government critics under repressive laws, such as the 1948 Sedition Act, and the increasing harassment and censorship of independent media, represent a major setback for human rights in the country.

The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed by Malaysia’s constitution. The continued use of repressive legislation to suppress fundamental rights is severely damaging Malaysia’s international reputation.

We therefore urge the Malaysian government to take immediate steps to repeal or amend all laws that impose unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. These laws include the 1948 Sedition Act, the 1959 Prevention of Crime Act, the 1984 Printing Presses and Publications Act, the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act, and the 2012 Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.

Instead, human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peacefully assembly, should be protected by law in accordance with international human rights law and standards.

In addition, we call on the Malaysian government to repeal Article 377 of the Criminal Code and abolish sodomy as a crime. This colonial-era provision, which bans private consensual homosexual acts, is blatantly discriminatory and has no place in a modern and rights-respecting nation. United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms have repeatedly called for a repeal of such legislation because it violates a number of key human rights, including the rights to equality and to privacy.

We firmly believe that the Malaysian government must listen to the people’s calls for reforms. Authorities must respect all human rights promote transparency and good governance and uphold the rule of law.

Amnesty International

Article 19

Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

FIDH (International Federation for Human Right)

Global Bersih

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)

10 August 2015

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TMI

Despite Pakatan Rakyat’s demise, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will still be the prime minister if the opposition manages to secure Putrajaya in the next polls, says DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang.

He said today the decision to retain Anwar as the choice for prime minister was based on the current political situation and that the former opposition leader was seen as having the ability to save Malaysia from the current crisis.

“Anwar has become the victim of persecution, he is detained (in prison) and obviously a political prisoner. It is important to have Anwar with us.

“It is vital for him to be the prime minister to uplift Malaysia, where it has never been in a very severe condition in terms of economic, politics… and the ringgit has plunged to its lowest in history,” he said in his speech during the Hari Raya open house and Anwar’s 68th birthday celebration at Sungai Buloh prison today.Lim later told The Malaysian Insider that he was confident that the decision to make Anwar prime minister would be well-received by new movement, Gerakan Harapan Baru (GHB), as it moved forward to form a new political party that rivalled PAS.

“Despite Pakatan Rakyat no longer existing, a new movement is being formed with the participation of a new political party. We believe there should be no problem with that,” he said.

On June 16, DAP announced that the seven-year coalition ceased to exist, after an irreconcilable rift between the party and former ally, PAS.

It came after PAS progressive leaders lost in the recent party’s elections, which led former deputy president Mohamad Sabu to announce the formation of GHB, the group expected to form a new alliance with DAP and PKR.

10 August 2015

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TMI

The ringgit stayed near a pre-peg 17-year low on Monday after news that Malaysia’s foreign exchange reserves fell below the US$100 billion (RM392.32 billion) threshold, raising doubts over the currency’s ability to withstand further political fallout and low commodity prices.

The ringgit stood at 3.9245 per dollar as of 0109 GMT (9.09am MYT), compared to the previous close of 3.9220.

The currency on Friday hit 3.9280, its weakest since September 2, 1998, the day before the government pegged it at 3.8000 per dollar to put a floor under the currency during the Asian financial crisis. Malaysia lifted the peg in 2005.

Malaysia’s international reserves fell to US$96.7 billion as of July 31 from US$100.5 billion on July 15, the central bank data showed on Friday.”It now becomes a question of when does the bleeding stop?” asked Stephen Innes, senior trader for FX broker Oanda in Singapore.

“No doubt BNM (Bank Negara Malaysia) will continue to sell USD to temper the move higher but at what cost can they to do so as further drops in reserves will likely accelerate the move higher.”

The central bank has been selling dollars and buying ringgit since June in an attempt to stem the ringgit’s slide, traders said, but the ringgit has still been Asia’s worst-performing currency this year, losing some 11% of its value against the US dollar.

The ringgit has been under pressure from sliding commodity prices, and its declines accelerated after a graft scandal linked to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the indebted 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.

The ringgit’s weakness has hit foreigners’ appetite for local bonds, with five-year government bond yields rising to 3.856%, the highest level since January 16.

– See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/ringgit-near-17-year-low-as-fx-reserves-fall-below-us100-billion#sthash.2BgcIPSZ.dpuf

10 August 2015

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TMI

A hard-hitting opinion piece by international business daily Financial Times (FT) has compared Singapore’s achievements with Malaysia’s, saying that despite the city-state’s tightly controlled society, its ruling party is largely appreciated by Singaporeans due to the success of its socio-economic policies.

In comments on Singapore’s Golden Jubilee celebrations yesterday, which marked 50 years since it separation from Malaysia, FT said the difficulties faced by Singapore “paled in comparison with those in Malaysia”.

“Not only is Malaysia going through its worst political crisis in years after hundreds of millions of dollars found their way into the bank accounts of (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak, the prime minister,” said FT, referring to allegations surrounding Najib in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) saga.

“More critically, Malaysia has been undergoing a long-term meltdown in which the political, religious and ethnic compact that has underpinned the country since independence groans under its own rotten contradictions,” said the paper, noting that Singapore’s per capita gross domestic product is five times that of Malaysia’s.FT said Malaysia could learn from Singapore, adding that its fight against corruption should start with Najib coming clean on the 1MDB affair, or stepping down.

Drawing comparisons between PAP and Umno, the two political parties which have dominated Singapore and Malaysia respectively since independence, FT said Singaporeans still regarded PAP as “honest and competent”, despite recent inroads by opposition parties in the republic.

On the other hand, it said the Malaysian public “senses” that Umno has long fronted a corrupt system.

But the paper acknowledged that both countries are vastly different in terms of demography, and that Singapore’s micromanagement style might not work for Malaysia.

“Still, both countries have potentially combustible ethnic mixes. Singapore has done better at forging a sense of fairness and national unity, through language, meritocracy and incorruptibility.

“Malaysia, in the name of protecting Malays through positive discrimination, has by contrast created a crony capitalist state,” said FT, calling for the dismantling of religion and race-based policies.

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