7 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?

The New York Times

Malaysia’s handling of the discovery of a wing part that apparently came from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has worsened frictions with its partners in the investigation, rekindled frustrations among the families of people who were aboard the plane and further dented the country’s battered credibility.

Many questioned the timing and motives of the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, who announced in the early hours of Thursday that the wing part had been “conclusively confirmed” to be from the missing plane. He spoke just before a news conference in Paris at which French investigators were much more guarded, saying only that the experts had “very strong presumptions” that the part came from the plane, a Boeing 777.

Later on Thursday the Malaysian transportation minister, Liow Tiong Lai, clouded the picture further when he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that a Malaysian team had found more aircraft debris on the French island of Réunion, where the wing part was discovered last week. The French authorities in Paris denied that any new aircraft debris had been found.

The discrepancies between the Malaysian declarations and what others involved in the investigation, including experts from Boeing, were prepared to conclude about the evidence have created significant tensions between Malaysian and French officials, according to a person close to the investigation.

Mr. Najib has domestic political worries, not least a scandal swirling around a troubled state investment fund that has put him under intense scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal and The Sarawak Report, a website based in Britain, have reported that documents found by investigators in Malaysia indicate that almost $700 million was transferred to accounts that Mr. Najib is believed to control.

In late July, Mr. Najib dismissed his deputy prime minister, who had publicly called on him to give a full account of the matter, and the country’s attorney general, who was one of the leaders of the investigation into the scandal.

But exasperation with the Malaysian authorities dates to when the plane first disappeared, on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing in the early hours of March 8, 2014. Ground controllers lost contact with the plane about 40 minutes after takeoff, but the authorities did not issue an alert about the missing plane for hours.

Then, Malaysia spent a full week directing a major search-and-rescue effort focused on the Gulf of Thailand, along the plane’s scheduled flight path, even though the Malaysian military had tracked an unidentified aircraft flying in nearly the opposite direction — westward and out into the Indian Ocean — which investigators later concluded was Flight 370.

Eventually, based on the radar data and automated satellite signals received from the jet, investigators concluded that it had flown on for hours more, and probably ran out of fuel and crashed in the Indian Ocean west or southwest of Australia. Searchers began working from the air, and later scanning the deep ocean floor with sonar devices, but nothing has been found there.

The wing part was the first tangible trace of the plane to turn up.

For many people who had loved ones aboard Flight 370, the identification, or near-identification, of the object only intensified their desire to know how and why the jet had veered off course and flown unnoticed into remote ocean waters.

Chinese citizens made up about two-thirds of the 239 people on the plane, and in Beijing, relatives of the victims viewed Mr. Najib’s announcement with skepticism or outright disbelief.

On Thursday morning, about 20 relatives gathered outside the Malaysia Airlines office in Beijing, demanding to talk to airline representatives and to be flown to Réunion. More than two dozen police officers kept them from entering the office building.

“We don’t accept this; this is not closure,” said Dai Shuqing, who had five relatives on the plane, including her sister. “The Malaysians want to lie to the whole world, but they cannot lie to us. We will persevere and keep digging.”

Others outside the airline’s office held signs with slogans such as “Malaysia hides the truth.” Later in the day, some of the relatives moved the demonstration to Boeing’s offices in the city.

Under international aviation conventions, Malaysia is leading the overall Flight 370 investigation because the aircraft was registered in Malaysia and took off from Kuala Lumpur. The ocean search is being led by Australia, whose ports are nearest the search area. But the wing part found on Réunion is being examined at a laboratory near Toulouse, France, because it washed ashore on French territory. The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an inquiry into the crash because four French citizens were aboard the flight.

Though Malaysian officials appeared eager to reach conclusions swiftly and put the mystery of Flight 370 behind them, Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, said Thursday that the ocean search would continue. “We owe it to the hundreds of millions of people who use our skies,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jean-Paul Virapoullé, the mayor of St.-André, Réunion, near where the wing debris was found, said Thursday that his town would organize a “meticulous search” of the beaches there next week.

“If it can soothe the terrible pain of these hundreds of families, the city of St.-André, with the agreement of the relevant international authorities, is ready to erect a memorial for the people who are missing,” the mayor said in the statement.

The person close to the investigation said that volunteers on Réunion turned in some additional debris to French aviation officials on the island on Thursday, but that a preliminary evaluation indicated that none of the objects were from a plane.

Still, David Griffin, an Australian scientist who has mapped ocean currents in the area, said Thursday that he believed more debris from Flight 370 could wash up on Madagascar, the much larger island nation to the west of Réunion.

“There could be a very large amount of debris floating, or a very small amount,” said Mr. Griffin, who is with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. “I am slightly surprised that something turned up at Réunion, rather than Madagascar, because Madagascar is so much bigger.”

Wen Wancheng, 63, whose son was on the aircraft, said finding one wing part did not resolve the mystery of Flight 370.

“The sort of closure the families want is to know what exactly happened to the plane, and have the bodies returned,” he said by telephone from Jinan, in eastern China.

That sentiment was shared by other relatives of Flight 370 victims around the world, some of whom said that the discovery of the wing part, known as a flaperon, only intensified the mystery.

“Ultimately in the end for the families to have a sort of closure, we need to know why it ended up in the ocean, what happened,” Sara Weeks, whose brother Paul was a passenger, said in an interview with Australian radio from Christchurch, New Zealand. “It is really important for everyone because if that plane can go missing, another one can.”

For some, the longing for more evidence has only grown stronger.

“It’s a piece of flaperon; it’s not my husband,” said Jacquita Gonzales, the wife of a Flight 370 crew member, Patrick Gomes. Ms. Gonzales was one of a small group of family members who spoke to reporters on Thursday in the Malaysian city of Petaling Jaya.

“Although they found something, it’s not the end,” she added. “They still need to find the whole plane and our spouses as well. We still want them back.”

7 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


International investors are selling Malaysian stocks at the quickest pace in Asia as Prime Minister Najib Razak struggles to contain a political scandal and doubts grow over the outlook for the economy.

Foreign funds have pulled a net 11.7 billion ringgit ($3 billion) of the nation’s shares this year as the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index retreated 4.6 percent. The ringgit has slumped to its weakest since 1998 after tumbling 11 percent against the dollar, the biggest decline among Asian currencies.

Overseas money managers are withdrawing funds 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. A probe into about 2.6 billion ringgit that was deposited into Najib’s personal accounts found that the funds were legal donations from the Middle East.

“Already shaky trust of foreign investors is being eroded,” said Mixo Das, a strategist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Singapore. “Further outflows are possible.”

Net foreign sales in Malaysian stocks this year are almost double the 6.9 billion ringgit for the whole of 2014, exchange data show. Overseas investors have been net sellers for 14 straight weeks through the week ended July 31, the longest selloff since 2008, according to MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd.

International ownership of government and corporate debt dropped 2.4 percent in July to 206.8 billion ringgit, the least since August 2012, the central bank reported on Friday.

Rising Volatility

The KLCI has slumped 9.8 percent from its April 21 high, including a 1.8 percent decline on Thursday that was the biggest this year. The gauge lost 0.8 percent at 4:35 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. The ringgit dropped 0.3 percent, taking its weekly decline to 2.4 percent. That would be the biggest slump in eight months.

Volatility is increasing, with a gauge of 30-day price swings rising to its highest level in six months. The stock measure trades at 15.2 times projected 12-month earnings, or about 10 percent higher than the MSCI Southeast Asia Index.

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.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said it won’t disclose the identities of the donors to Najib and plans to question him to seek an explanation on the funds.

Stability Threatened

For Aberdeen Asset Management Sdn.’s Gerald Ambrose, the political crisis means Malaysia risks losing its status as a safe haven in the region.

The ruling National Front coalition has dominated power since the country gained independence in 1957. Neighboring Thailand is under military rule after a coup, while in Indonesia, President Joko Widodo is struggling to push through policies following the closest election in more than a decade.

“Long-term political stability has long been one of Malaysia’s trump cards, but it’s not so easy to say that nowadays,” said Ambrose, who oversees about $3.6 billion as managing director of Aberdeen Asset Management in Kuala Lumpur. “Uncertainties surrounding 1MDB and the quite public political spat has clearly not helped foreign investors’ sentiment towards the country.”

Minister Sacked

Najib chairs the advisory board of 1MDB and has resisted calls from ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad to quit over the fund’s performance as it amassed about 42 billion ringgit of debt in less than five years. Najib on July 28 sacked his deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who had called for answers on the 1MDB imbroglio including its investment decisions.

Franklin Templeton Investment is sticking with its investments in the nation’s stocks.

“We actually stayed in and we will continue to stay in,” Mark Mobius, chairman of the emerging markets group at Franklin Templeton Investment, said by phone from Singapore. “We are still finding opportunities in that market and particularly when there are concerns there, you can see some possibilities.”

Foreign outflows may accelerate if the political scandal prevents the government from tackling the issues affecting the economy, says Alan Richardson, a Hong Kong-based money manager at Samsung Asset Management, which oversees about $112 billion.

Growth Concern

Malaysia’s foreign-exchange reserves have dropped to the lowest level since the 2008 global credit crunch, reducing ammunition to shore up the currency. A plunge in Brent crude is cutting revenue for Asia’s only major net oil exporter, while the Federal Reserve is mulling its first increase since 2006 as soon as next month.

The government forecasts the economy will expand 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year, down from its earlier projection of as much as 6 percent. Earnings at companies on the KLCI are projected to grow 11 percent in the next 12 months, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That compares with a 41 percent gain in Thailand and an increase of 82 percent in Indonesia.

“Investors are worried,” said Richardson, who has been underweight Malaysian equities since November. Stocks in the nation would only start to look attractive “if some of the adverse developments” are resolved, he said.

7 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


US Secretary of State John Kerry said he raised the issue of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in his talk with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Kerry, who is in Malaysia for a two-day visit to attend the Asean meetings, had bilateral talks with Najib and Anifah yesterday.

“I raised concerns about freedom of expression and I spoke to the prime minister about Anwar Ibrahim’s situation (in the bilateral talks),” he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

Kerry did not elaborate on how the discussions about freedom of expression and Anwar went.

On Feb 10, Anwar was convicted of sodomising a former aide and is currently serving a five-year jail sentence in Sungai Buloh prison.

However, opposition supporters and human rights groups have criticised the verdict, saying the proceedings were politically motivated.

Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke to Najib about the treatment of Anwar during his visit to Malaysia.
British newspaper The Telegraph had reported that Cameron also challenged his Malaysian counterpart to clean up his government, in reference to allegations that RM2.6 billion had been deposited into the PM’s personal accounts, as well as other issues plaguing 1MDB.
Anwar’s conviction received a chorus of criticisms and concerns from various governments, including the US.
The jailed politician, declared a “prisoner of conscience” by global human rights organisation Amnesty International, had also been facing increasingly serious health problems while in jail.

In December last year, before the apex court verdict, US vice-precident Joe Biden (photo) tweeted on Malaysia’s use of sedition to silence opposition, but expressed hope that the government would make things right through Anwar’s case.

“Anwar’s appeal gives Malaysia a vital chance to make things right and promote confidence in its democracy and judiciary,” Biden added then.

7 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has urged Datuk Seri Najib Razak to stop intimidating investigators probing into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy.

In a statement from prison released through his lawyer R. Sivarasa, Anwar said there were indications that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM)  were being threatened.

“I call upon Prime Minister Najib to cease all acts of interference and intimidation of public officers of our key investigatory and regulatory agencies.

“I refer in particular to the recent use of PDRM officers to arrest, interrogate and even remand persons involved with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, including those directly investigating how RM42 million from SRC International ended up in Najib’s personal accounts at Ambank,” he said in the statement.The PKR de facto leader also urged Malaysians to rally behind MACC and Bank Negara to protect them from facing intimidation in their investigations.

He said these institutions must be “saved” from political disturbances.

“I urge all the people, NGOs, politicians and civil society to set aside their differences and unite to save the country from the economic and political crisis we are going through,” he said.

Recently, the police conducted a series of raids and arrested MACC officers over alleged leaks in the 1MDB probe.

7 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


PKR today urged newly minted Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to allow Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to be put under house arrest to undergo medical treatment.

In a statement, the party’s strategic director Sim Tze Tzin, information chief Syed Ibrahim and communications director Fahmi Fadhil expressed their worries over the health of Anwar, who is currently serving a jail term in Sungai Buloh prison for sodomy.

“Keadilan urges Zahid, who is also the home minister, to use his new position to hasten Anwar’s medical treatment outside of jail, and allow Anwar to go through his treatment under house arrest,” they said in a statement today.

The trio said since Anwar was jailed on February 10, he had suffered from kidney problems, arthritis and a shoulder muscle tear.They said checks by the prison doctor did not help to alleviate his condition, adding that the PKR de facto leader needed hospital treatment.

Moreover, the condition of the prison with high humidity, insufficient ventilation, lack of a sitting toilet and only a bucket to shower exacerbated his condition, they said.

With Anwar due to celebrate his 68th birthday on Monday, the three leaders expressed hope that the former opposition leader would be allowed to undergo treatment under house arrest.

“This is not a political issue but an issue of humanity. The deputy prime minister can show his humane leadership,” they said.

In conjunction with Anwar’s birthday, the party has also launched a programme urging the public to send postcards to him on August 10. PKR has prepared 1,000 postcards available for purchase at RM50 apiece. The purchase can be made through PKR’s Maybank account at 5641 9102 5409 and proof of money transfer can be sent via WhatsApp to 012-936 8442.

“We urge all Malaysians to show their love to Anwar by purchasing the cards,” they said.

On February 10, the Federal Court found Anwar guilty of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in a condominium unit at Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, in 2008.

Anwar was handed a five-year jail term.

Anwar’s long political career has been twice interrupted by sodomy charges, first in 1998 after he was sacked from government, and now.

He and the opposition maintain that the charges were a political conspiracy to end his career.

Following his latest conviction, Anwar’s family filed a petition seeking a royal pardon which was subsequently rejected by the Pardons Board on March 16.

As a result, Anwar lost his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat and a by-election last month saw his wife, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, wining the seat.

She was subsequently appointed opposition leader.

5 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?

The Diplomat

Democracy and rule of law won’t magically clear society of cronies and corruption.

In 1971, more than forty years before the world would turn its attention to the so-called one percent and the problem of income inequality, Malaysia embarked on one of history’s boldest and most noble experiments to reduce social disparity. Malaysia’s New Economic Policy, or NEP, would seek to “eradicate poverty for all” and “eliminate identification of race by economic function and geographic location.” This polity that had achieved national independence just over a decade before, this country that was still a low-income emerging economy, was setting out to solve the massive problem of injustice and inequality over which other societies much more mature continued to struggle.

Malaysia was a democracy that hewed to the rule of law. The NEP would be Malaysia’s key political driver. Over the decades that followed, the NEP’s mantra would serve as a backdrop to almost all political discourse in the country. NEP-themed policies would, among much else, flesh out the concept of Bumiputera – an ethnic-driven formulation of native peoples in Malaysia.

It is difficult to grow an economy – look at train wrecks strewn around the world. But seeking to do so and at the same reduce ethnic- and rural-urban inequality, and maintain social harmony among diverse ethnic and religious groups is an order of magnitude more arduous. Malaysia succeeded: From tropical jungle, Malaysia has grown to have an average income now well above the world emerging-economy average. Its urban infrastructure and worker skills approach those in the first world. Malaysia’s top bankers, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs are admired everywhere. NEP reduced pockets of extreme poverty and created a significant, thriving, and successful Bumiputera middle class – a group of professionals and intellectuals whose contributions to Malaysian society would be the pride of any country.

And, although from time to time patchily diverging from the ideal, throughout this history Malaysia worked hard to maintain its young democracy and its adherence to rule of law, and to support a healthy vigorous open sphere of public debate. Sensitive racial questions were out of bounds, but open questioning of the government was lively. Top government officials routinely had the judiciary rule against them. And a national identity emerged, one that combined the best aspects of local culture and an easy-going, open-minded cosmopolitanism developed from, among other things, the many Malaysians who have seen significant international experience. More so than when at home, Malaysians outside Malaysia saw each other for the warm and lively friends they genuinely were for one another, people who felt driven by a mission to make their country better.

Since his 2009 swearing-in, Malaysia’s current prime minister has sought to articulate an international vision for a “coalition of moderates.” As leader of a successful moderate Muslim country, he carried an authority and credibility sorely needed in global discourse. He was widely accepted in international circles, and even famously golfed with Barack Obama.

All this is now at risk.

However noble the goal of reducing social disparity, and however laudable the democracy, transparency, and rule of law to which Malaysia has desperately clung, this NEP half-century has seen the emergence of an increasingly hateful race-based narrative to Malaysia’s political and economic strategies. The Bumiputera concept has become conflated with questions of religion, and threatens the open society that Malaysia has built. That concept is now considered by many – both Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera alike – to hold back continued social development for the country. Significant Bumiputera and rural poverty remain. Ever more frequent accounts have appeared of government agencies intended to reduce Bumiputera poverty yet only enriching the elites of that group. A recent article by one of Malaysia’s most thoughtful interlocutors has had to ask:

Why after decades of rigourous development planning, 40% of Malaysian households earn only about RM1,847 a month? Why after more than four decades of the NEP, 75.5% of those at the bottom are Bumiputeras? Why in spite of the billions poured into education and boarding schools, 64.3% of the Bumiputera workforce have only SPM qualifications? Why some 90% of the unemployable university graduates are Bumiputras? Why of the $54 billion worth of shares pumped to Bumiputera individuals and institutions between 1984 and 2005, only $2 billion remained in Bumiputera hands today?

In March 2010 at an international investors’ conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced an urgent need for a revision to the NEP, towards a national development strategy more transparent, merit-driven, and market-friendly, and towards a new needs-based affirmative action. The prime minister had just won a resounding electoral victory; he had the backing of all Malaysians. (I am told by reliable sources that even Malaysia’s opposition MPs felt like standing up and cheering.)  But then elements within the prime minister’s political party mounted significant pushback, the moment passed, and he did not stay the course. Open democratic process has not kept in check the rise of extremists rallying together the Bumiputera grassroots, good people who have been told this time will be different, this time more of the same will help them, despite its having failed to do so these last 50 years.  Since 2010 no one has been able to recount significant action on that announcement.

A Malaysia of Cronies

All this is background. The practice continues to worsen in a Malaysia of cronies undermining good intentions and exploiting for self interest the very instruments designed to help others. The latest most visible instance of this is 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, an investment fund set up to steward the nation’s resources. Elsewhere in the world, international scrutiny of sovereign wealth management vehicles has led to their applying the highest possible standards of financial probity; indeed, among the world’s most respected, successful, and scrupulously managed of those is Malaysia’s own Khazanah Nasional. By contrast, 1MDB has seen billions of dollars of public money moved around the world in suspicious circumstances, with allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars were funneled into the prime minister’s personal bank accounts. (Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency has ruled that the money came from legitimate “donations,” without specifying who the donor was.) All of this has dragged down in the world’s eyes Malaysia’s otherwise globally esteemed financial infrastructure.

And the egregious actions continue: shutting down the press has become the next step in that escalation. In July 2015 Malaysian authorities blocked a website that had become a significant and honest whistleblower on high-level developments in Malaysia. That same month Malaysian authorities suspended The Edge newspaper for its reports on 1MDB. Criminal defamation litigation threatened by the prime minister against the Wall Street Journal on its 1MDB reporting turned into a fiasco of the most basic legal ineptitude. Towards the end of July Najib removed from Cabinet his own deputy prime minister, the government’s most significant and prominent voice to raise questions on 1MDB. While four different official Malaysian government investigations are underway, there has now been a sudden replacement of the attorney-general and chief prosecutor. The deputy public prosecutor and others involved in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission have been arrested. The prime minister moved four members of the 1MDB parliamentary committee into his cabinet, thereby shutting down all further proceedings even as the committee’s official report comes due. Opposition MPs have been prevented from leaving the country on their way to discussing 1MDB and the political crisis in Malaysia.

In all this turmoil, many of Malaysia’s most remarkable leaders and numerous ordinary people have spoken out on the need for the country to get back to its roots. The country again needs to have a government that runs for the well-being of its people. Malaysia’s current political leadership no longer articulates a vision that serves Malaysia’s people. Malaysia’s leadership is no longer one admired by and hopeful for others around the world.

One of Britain’s greatest friends – a former colony that admired and reflected the grand British ideals of democracy, rule of law, free speech, and egalitarianism – has gone rogue.

It does not take authoritarian autocracy to run a country into the ground. Regardless of the system of government, it takes only political elites out of touch with their people, a co-opted judiciary, an electoral process that even while open fails to surface progressive leadership, and a system that keeps to the law but fails to protect those speaking truth to power. Malaysia now has all of these sorry attributes.


5 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


There seems to be no end to the incredulity by the country’s top executive in clearing both the prime minister as well as the government backed investment mammoth, 1MDB – perception wise.

The latest twist saw an unsigned MACC statement clear the RM2.6 billion found in our premier’s personal account – as mere donation money – after many weeks of allowed speculation and feigned ignorance to the existence and nature of the personal accounts.

Notwithstanding the Malay translation is derma falls within the ambit of the MACC as suapan : ‘suapan’ ertinya – (a) wang, derma, alang, pinjaman … atau apa-apa manfaat seumpama itu yang lain;

This definition then opens the door wide open for the person responsible – in receiving or paying a bribe – to be in violation of Section 3 and Section 50 of the MACC Act respectively.

Specifically Section 16 of the Act highlights that those found guilty can be jailed up to 20 years. Clearly if the executive is seen to hamper the anti-corruption agency; it is a move most detrimental to our parliamentary democracy.

While the MACC resolves its wide-ranging dilemma from releasing unsigned statements to last minute prayers for a corrupt-free regime plus integrity to prevail; we are left wondering on the roles of the following institutions :

Bank Negara – our central bank. For the first time in Malaysian history, our governor is being sought after by the IGP for investigations related to section 124B for activities being detrimental to parliamentary democracy – in the exact moment the public awaits the outcome of a task force she jointly chairs – investigating none other than 1MBD and the PM (chair of 1MDB advisory board).

Any threat and harassment against the governor – the bastion of Malaysia’s economic and financial well-being – is certainly a threat against our parliamentary democracy.

As arrests and investigations become the prevailing order – we are left asking : Does BNM have anything to comment on the massive inflow of fund? How did the transfer of RM2.6 billion escape the AMLA automated alert?

Who was the deep-pocketed donor allegedly from the Middle East that donated this money to the PM? An immediate disclosure of the nameless Middle East donors must be made as Israel also is in the Middle East.

Was the donor from SRC international and how was the money utilised? Was the money used to fund the Barisan Nasional’s 2013 general election campaign?

Fourth Estate under attack

Affronts within the executive have also taken place with the PM sacking of his deputy and members of his cabinet who were vocally critical against him and the 1MDB fiasco.

Whilst the sacking can be replaceable with other like-minded yet less outspoken Umno / BN leaders;  the same cannot be said for the removal of the attorney- general in the background of a rumored, purported charge sheet against our premier.

In his place we have a new AG, no less a former Umno member and disinterested in either disclosing the interim AG’s report on 1MDB or updates on the now derailed investigations by the 1MDB  task force. The main cause for the derailment is the often used phrase of being detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

Whither the PAC? Courage of members easily wilt in the face of cabinet upgrades – whilst the remaining members of the quorum are blocked from continuing meetings , deliberations, or downright access to the PAC office.

The Fourth Estate is also not spared by our executive – latest victims include The Edge Financial Daily – whose dogged interest in exposing the 1MDB saga has cost it a three-month ban. Whistleblower site Sarawak Report is not only blocked but there is also an arrest warrant on its owner.

Clearly, the Fourth Estate is being severely attacked – a move that is most detrimental to our parliamentary democracy .

Malaysians – on the other hand – will not enjoy rights enshrined under Article 10 of our Federal Constitution – as those assembled against the prime minister’s involvement in allegations of embezzlement and corruption are spuriously arrested – the list of 37 arrested include an octogenarian and a minor in last Saturday’s #DemiMalaysia rally.

?Such systematic dismantling of democratic principles of separation of power threatens our parliamentary democracy .

The more the prime minister strengthens his authoritarian and emperor-like grip, the more frail our parliamentary democracy becomes.

Such growth of authoritarianism will only bring the country into further ruin and disrepute.

Malaysians cannot live with an emperor.  All agencies and democratic institutions must be reminded to achieve this aim and end the reign of the Emperor Prime Minister.

The well-being of the rakyat and survival of the nation are predicated on a working and thriving parliamentary democracy.

5 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


In light of the country’s mounting financial scandals and weakening ringgit, Opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has urged members of parliament from both sides of the divide to put aside their differences and work towards an action plan for the sake of the nation.

In a statement today, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail also said the comedy of errors committed by Putrajaya over the RM2.6 billion channelled into the prime minister’s accounts did not instill confidence in the people that the government will handle the matter properly.

She said the statement by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker that the bi-partisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) , which is in the midst of probing debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), cannot continue their meetings, raised many questions.

“The people who have been waiting to hear the explanation by 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda and former CEO Datuk Shahrol Halmi were disappointed as this was the second time their scheduled hearing was postponed.”This postponement does not bode well for the democratic process in Malaysia and will only create negative perceptions of the integrity of PAC,” Wan Azizah said.

She urged all MPs and civil society to come together for the sake of the nation given the current political developments in the country.

“We are running out of time. The Malaysian ringgit is losing its value, investment sentiments are on the decline and the government’s actions are affecting the country’s image on the world stage.

“We need to set aside our differences and work together to bring change,” she added.

The bipartisan panel was scheduled to continue its inquiry with former 1MDB CEO Shahrol in Parliament yesterday, and Arul today, while Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman, who served as 1MDB’s CEO from March 2013 to January 2015, was scheduled to appear before the panel tomorrow.

However, a Cabinet reshuffle that saw the PAC chairman and three of its members elevated to the administration resulted in Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar declaring that all PAC proceedings, including its ongoing inquiry into 1MDB, temporarily suspended pending the appointment of a new chairman and members.

Pandikar’s view has been disputed by PAC opposition members as well as the Bar Council, which said the committee could still function as it had the required quota, and that DAP’s Dr Tan Seng Giaw as deputy chair could take over the functions of the chairman.

5 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


A warrant of arrest for Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown is not enforceable outside Malaysia, lawyers said, adding that it is also very unlikely that the British national will step foot here anytime soon for police to pick her up.

They said the Malaysian authorities were dreaming and their act only showed they were making a fool of themselves as the offence she was being investigated for was not a crime in the United Kingdom.

They said any extradition attempt on Rewcastle-Brown with the assistance of the crown  public prosecutor in Britain would fail.

Lawyer Joshua Teh said the warrant was only enforceable against Rewcastle-Brown if she came to Malaysia to submit to the investigating agency.

“The warrant has no value outside Malaysia. It was just obtained to put on a show to the Malaysian public,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Teh said the warrant of arrest only showed that Rewcastle-Brown was wanted by Malaysian authorities.”Police can only arrest and detain her if she on Malaysian soil,” he added.

He said this in response to a report quoting the head of the Criminal Investigation Department Datuk Seri Mohmad Salleh that police had obtained a warrant of arrest for Rewcastle-Brown and would begin the process of obtaining help from Interpol and Aseanapol to facilitate her detention.

Mohmad said Rewcastle-Brown, who is based in the UK, would be investigated under Section 124B and 124I of the Penal Code, which relate to activities that are detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

Mohmad in a statement last evening said the warrant of arrest was obtained from the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Section 124I pertains to the dissemination of false reports which was likely to cause public alarm and those found guilty can be jailed for up to five years.

Section 124B, meanwhile, allows for imprisonment up to 20 years for actions that are detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

Rewcastle-Brown has been accused of using allegedly false or tampered information in Sarawak Report’s exposes on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), obtained from former PetroSaudi International employee Xavier Andre Justo.

The Sarawak Report website was blocked by Malaysian Internet regulators more than two weeks ago purportedly because the site carried false information that could disrupt “national stability”.

Lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan said British prosecutors would not render any assistance to their Malaysian counterparts to extradite her as the United Kingdom did not have an offence for action that were detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

“It is definitely not an offence there and so extradition is out of question,” said Sivananthan, who is also a International Criminal Court counsel.

Lawyer S.N. Nair described the act of the police similar to pulling wool over gullible Malaysians’ eyes to demonstrate that they were doing something against the “white woman”.

He said Malaysia and the United Kingdom may have an understanding to extradite a suspect but the British government would be unlikely to render assistance because the offence under section 124 of the Penal Code was something alien there.

“The crown public prosecutor there will not do anything illegal to send Rewcastle-Brown to Malaysia as the public and media there are vigilant,” said Nair, an ex-police officer who has handled extradition cases.

Nair said the warrant of arrest for Rewcastle-Brown was only a starting mechanism and the Attorney-General of Malaysia would have to seek the cooperation of his British counterpart to arrest her.

“They will decline to act based on the evidence presented by the Malaysian A-G if they feel there was no case.

“If there was a case, prosecutors in England have to go the court to obtain a warrant and the court may decline such an application,” he added.

Looking at the evidence from press reports, Nair said it was virtually impossible for any application for warrant of arrest or extradition order to succeed.

“This act by the police is an exercise in futility and waste of public funds,” he added.

4 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?

Asia Times

Malaysia’s stock market was down over 10 percent at end-July after Prime Minister Najib Razak, fighting to extend his six-year tenure in the wake of the 1MDB debt and campaign funding scandal, sacked his deputy and other cabinet members openly challenging him.

His public approval rating at 45 percent has suffered since the United Malay party won re-election last year, despite the opposition getting a larger vote total.

His predecessor Mahathir Mohamed did not think he deserved another term for lack of economic and political vision, as the household debt burden, which soared to 85 percent of GDP through government programs to boost consumption, is no longer sustainable to offset falling oil exports.

Foreign investors, with respective one-third and one-quarter ownership in the local bond and equity markets, were once enthusiastic about early promises to change the state-dominated business and financial sector model. But the results were meager and with the currency now at a 15-year low as the region’s worst performer, aversion is spiking as in the Asian financial crisis aftermath.

The sovereign wealth fund investigation into $11 billion in accumulated debt has also begun to scapegoat international finance houses as during the early 2000s. Goldman Sachs has been singled out for high bond underwriting fees and the aggressive style of its Asia head.

The son of a wealthy Malaysian business executive, who started a fund in New York and expanded 1MDB’s portfolio into luxury real estate, has been accused of shady foreign practices and steering $700 million into Najib’s account.

As a central bank task force examines such conspiracies, asset sales to other government-linked companies, with stock exchange heavyweight Tenaga Nasional just bidding for a power unit, will be the main channel for servicing obligations and staying afloat.

GDP growth may be only 4 percent this year as the PMI manufacturing index fell below 50 in June, and April introduction of a goods and services tax to narrow the chronic 3-percent range budget deficit caps domestic demand.

Property and construction after a long upswing have stalled as bank credit growth drops to single digits, with personal non-performing loans rising.

The central bank has held rates despite ringgit depreciation to 3.8/dollar to discourage a further borrowing binge, which has been the main factor cited by ratings agencies for a likely sovereign downgrade.

Fitch Ratings last month maintained an ‘A’ grade on the prospect of household deleveraging amid the allegations swirling around the prime minister. To allow banks to handle workouts, short-term Islamic government securities issuance, which soaked up liquidity, has been stopped, effectively halving the global ‘sukuk’ universe to $50 billion in 2015, according to Standard & Poor’s.

External accounts show a dwindling current account surplus to 1.5 percent of GDP as both high tech and natural resource exports sputter. International reserves have dropped 20 percent this year to just over $100 billion as they are used for currency intervention, and domestic and foreign-based capital outflows accelerate.

In May, a $2 billion sovereign bond was placed to boost holdings, but fund flow tracker EPFR shows steady debt and equity exit since the first quarter. Outward FDI from both private and state companies is a strong trend, as they diversify risk and react to slim infrastructure pickings in Najib’s ambitious Economic Transformation Program now compromised by debt and political baggage.

These elements are also pervasive in Thailand where the stock market was off the same 10 percent at end-July on the MSCI index. It is tied with Malaysia for ASEAN’s greatest household debt, which was pushed by the Yingluck administration’s rice farmer and auto buying schemes before she was ousted by the military.

The generals postponed the election timetable into late 2016 as a new constitution is drafted and former government officials face trial for misconduct, including in agricultural credit.  Informal money lenders and external corporate and financial institution borrowing add to the debt load which altogether is estimated at 125 percent of GDP. Balance sheet bloat in both countries regardless of criminal intent remains scandalous, and investors need to see that fiscal and political houses are equally in order.

4 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?

South China Morning Post

Can the prime minister weather a full-blown wealth-fund scandal and a fractious party?

Malaysia’s deputy prime ministers have rarely had it easy. To play the role of the utterly loyal number two while hinting at one’s potential as a future number one requires extreme political adroitness.

Most have failed and faded into ignominy as also-rans. Others are now fierce critics of the government.

So when Muhyiddin Yassin was booted out of the cabinet on Tuesday for his attacks on his embattled boss, Prime Minister Najib Razak – who is fighting allegations that he took money from the 1MDB state wealth fund – it seemed like history repeating itself.

An already polarised country is being thrown into deeper turmoil with the capital Kuala Lumpur swirling with ominous rumours of arrests and more sackings, including that of well-respected central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, all because she is investigating the 1MDB scandal.

Charge sheets allegedly showing that Najib was about to be prosecuted for corruption surfaced on Thursday. Public prosecutors have denied their existence.

The government has also had to come out to say it is not planning to arrest Muhyiddin. Meanwhile, civic groups are planning to launch street protests.

Above all, many Malaysians are still in shock at the ruthlessness of the sacking. To some, it was un-Malay, alluding to the gentle, softer manners of the majority race.

Muhyiddin also told the media that he learned about his firing an hour before it was announced. When asked if he was about to be sacked, his boss merely nodded, Muhyiddin said while mimicking Najib’s gesture, to derisive laughter.

It was only two days earlier that Muhyiddin had voiced his strongest criticism yet of the 1MDB scandal that has ensnared Najib, who is chairman of the fund. The deputy prime minister said he, too, did not know the answers to so many questions about the debt-laden fund and The Wall Street Journal report that US$700 million from the fund had been funnelled into Najib’s personal accounts.

His statements were mild compared with the salvos unleashed by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. But the sacking came swiftly. Sources told the South China Morning Post that Muhyiddin’s camp did not see it coming.

Muhyiddin is now the second deputy prime minister in the history of Malaysian politics to be sacked from the cabinet. Anwar Ibrahim, dismissed in 1998 after disagreeing with Mahathir’s handling of the Asian financial crisis, is in jail over a sodomy conviction.

Muhyiddin remains deputy president of the Malay-centric Umno, the largest party in the ruling coalition. He has said he does not intend to rock the boat. But nobody expects calm waters ahead.

The two men came together in a marriage of convenience. One is from a pedigreed political family; the other rose through the ranks steadily at the state level in Johor, the birthplace of Umno.

Najib is the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister and secured the top job by waiting patiently in the wings as deputy prime minister for several years, and even after the ruling coalition’s massive losses in the 2008 election. He took over from PM Abdullah Badawi only a year later.

Muhyiddin, who was the chief minister of Johor for nearly a decade until 1995, had appeared as if he was in no hurry to assert himself.

But the 1MDB scandal proved too hard to resist taking on. Along with Muhyiddin, Najib sacked other ministers who had also been vocal about 1MDB. Attorney general Gani Patail, who was involved in the investigation into the wealth fund controversy, was also fired.

Since the firings, a leaked, undated video has emerged online, showing Muhyiddin, in a private conversation, reporting that Najib had told him that he did take the US$700 million.

Najib has denied taking any money for “personal gain”, rejecting the accusations as malicious lies to force him out of office.

With the sackings, he has shown he is bent on staying on until the next election, due by 2018. But can he last that long and will Umno stay united?

The Malay ground in Malaysia is in strife. Umno has lost favour with vast sections of the urban Malay middle class that has abandoned it in droves since the 2008 election, when the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in parliament.

But broad swathes are also disillusioned with the opposition alternatives of Anwar’s party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the Partai Islam Se Malaysia (PAS). PAS is now being torn apart, with defectors rumoured to be setting up a new political party in the coming months.

In the past, when two deputy prime ministers left the cabinet, the ensuing infighting left Umno in shreds.

In 1986, after quitting as deputy to Mahathir, Musa Hitam joined forces with another Mahathir nemesis, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, to challenge the top leadership post of Umno. Both lost, but the bruising battle split the party for several years, into Semangat 46, or “Spirit of 46”, harking to the founding year of Umno, and Umno Baru, a newly constituted party.

In 1998, when Anwar was sacked, he launched the Reformasi protests against his former boss. Umno again split as defecting members joined Anwar to form PKR.

But Umno may not suffer such a fate this time. Like many Asian countries, Malaysian democracy is rife with the politics of patronage. And Najib has ensured the loyalty of the Umno rank-and-file: at a party meeting in March, more than 160 out of 191 division chiefs pledged their endorsement of him.

Sources told the Post that Najib also has the support of most members of the supreme council, the highest leadership body in the party and, barring other more damaging evidence, can ride out the storm until the party elections next year.

For Umno unity to come undone, some mighty machinations and even more money would be needed to establish a whole new source of patronage.

Few expect Najib to survive the current crisis, but for now, it would appear he has done enough to pacify the different “warlords” who control the different sections of the grass roots.

When this reporter interviewed him in 2009 soon after he took office, I asked Najib how he would deal with them. He waved aside the question and quipped: “Don’t forget, I am the biggest warlord.”

With the sackings, he has ensured his opponents will not forget.

4 August 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Founder and editor of whistleblower website Sarawak Report (SR) Clare Rewcastle-Brown has questioned Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s failure to explain from the very beginning that the RM2.6 billion found in his accounts had come from “donors” and not from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as previously suspected.

Defending SR’s reports on the funds, the Sarawak-born British journalist pointed out they had been based on information obtained from the investigation on 1MDB, which she said had suggested the possibility of a link between Najib and money from the troubled state investor.

“Gosh! How come the PM didn’t clear all that up immediately on Day 1 then? What we said was that the information had come from the investigation, because it was believed by investigators to be linked.

“How else would we have obtained it?” she wrote in an email reply to Malay Mail Online yesterday.

Rewcastle-Brown also suggested that these donors come forward and reveal their identities.

The London-based journalist did not contest the conclusion that the RM2.6 billion had not come from 1MDB although she noted that it was made by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) after the series of arrests of some of the agency’s own leading investigators.

“People can reach their own conclusion about this latest MACC statement,” she added.

She went on to question the purpose of the donation, saying that if it had been used as suspected for Barisan Nasional’s Election 2013 campaign, the ruling pact would have broken election laws by exceeding the legal limit for political funding.

Yesterday, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had made a similar point in his blog.

Rewcastle-Brown also took a swipe at Najib, asking him if it was okay for “white foreigners” to influence to outcome of the federal polls, after alleging that the funds had originated from an Abu Dhabi bank.

Last weekend, Najib had said in a speech during an Umno divisional meeting that “white people” should stay out of Malaysia’s administrative affairs.

As an example, the prime minister had singled out Rewcastle-Brown’s whistleblower site.

Other than SR, several other international media organisations have written extensively on 1MDB and Najib’s alleged involvement in the state owned fund.

An article by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently claimed that US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) was funnelled through 1MDB into Najib’s private account.

Najib has not directly denied the claim, but has repeatedly said that he has never taken 1MDB money for personal gain.

A special government task force comprising officials from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the MACC, Bank Negara Malaysia and the police was set up to investigate the allegations in WSJ.

Some of the key investigators from the task force however have been hauled up by the police for a separate investigation on information leaks.

– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/why-didnt-najib-explain-rm2.6b-donation-from-day-1-sarawak-report-editor-as#sthash.TCzm4uMY.dpuf

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