30 June 2014

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PRESS RELEASE
30 JUNE 2014

Today’s news report that Professor Datuk Dr Mohamad Redzuan has been effectively fired as the Director for the Universiti Malaya’s Center for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) comes as no surprise, disappointing and unwarranted as it is.

This totally uncalled for dismissal is intended once again to send that chilling message to all academicians that their freedom ends when UMNO’s popularity begins. In this terror reign, freedom to criticize is absolute as long as the target are leaders of the Pakatan or those groups critical of UMNO-BN. Swift reckoning will be brought to bear to those who espouse any views or opinions that appear to be critical of UMNO let alone in favour of the opposition.

This was the fate that befell a reknown economist Prof Jomo KS, political scientist Prof Dr. P. Ramasamy and constitutional law expert Dr Aziz Bari not too long ago and today we see it happening to Professor Redzuan who has proven to have performed his academic tasks in a most professional manner in a research area that demands complete objectivity and independence.

It is obvious that this decision not to renew Professor Redzuan’s tenure as the Director of UMCedel is just a backhanded way of sacking him for his courageous stand in carrying out his work without fear or favour.

I would like remind the Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Dato Seri Idris Jusoh that their powers of appointment and dismissal are not absolute and this latest action is not just a violation of academic freedom but a betrayal of the people’s expectations for the enhancement of standards and rankings of our institutions of higher learning.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

26 June 2014

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Malaysiakini

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the lack of leadership from the prime minister and the courts has allowed “irresponsible elements” to hijack the discourse on the ‘Allah’ issue.

Anwar was lamenting the missed opportunity at a reasoned debate over theHerald’s ban on using the word ‘Allah’ arising from the Federal Court’s decision on Monday.

“It is unfortunate that a great opportunity has been lost for reasoned and enlightened thinking to prevail over rabble-rousing and extremist sentiments.

“The Federal Court’s non-decision and Prime Minister Najib Razak’s complete lack of leadership only place this country in further anxiety and uncertainty,” said Anwar in a statement today.

The PKR de facto leader said the Herald’s appeal was an “important legal and constitutional issue with major implications for Malaysians” and the Federal Court had the duty to offer its guidance.

He pointed to Perkasa’s controversial remark this week on thechopping of heads of those who ridicule Islam and the sultan as the result of the highest court’s failure to hear the case.

“Disturbingly, Perkasa has even suggested decapitation of those who disagree with it.

“The judiciary must not abdicate its duty. By not deciding, it allows irresponsible elements such as Perkasa, Isma and Umno to hijack the national discourse with divisive, confrontational and wrong-headed views,” Anwar said.

On Monday, four judges of a seven-memberFederal Court benchruled against granting leave to hear the appeal by the archbishop of the Catholic Church over the ban on its weekly publication from using the wor ‘Allah’.

26 June 2014

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The New York Times

The past month has presented the world with what the Israeli analyst Orit Perlov describes as the two dominant Arab governing models: ISIS and SISI.

ISIS, of course, is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the bloodthirsty Sunni militia that has gouged out a new state from Sunni areas in Syria and Iraq. SISI, of course, is Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the new strongman/president of Egypt, whose regime debuted this week by shamefully sentencing three Al Jazeera journalists to prison terms on patently trumped-up charges — a great nation acting so small.

ISIS and Sisi, argues Perlov, a researcher on Middle East social networks at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, are just flip sides of the same coin: one elevates “god” as the arbiter of all political life and the other “the national state.”

Both have failed and will continue to fail — and require coercion to stay in power — because they cannot deliver for young Arabs and Muslims what they need most: the education, freedom and jobs to realize their full potential and the ability to participate as equal citizens in their political life.

We are going to have to wait for a new generation that “puts society in the center,” argues Perlov, a new Arab/Muslim generation that asks not “how can we serve god or how can we serve the state but how can they serve us.”

Perlov argues that these governing models — hyper-Islamism (ISIS) driven by a war against “takfiris,” or apostates, which is how Sunni Muslim extremists refer to Shiite Muslims; and hyper-nationalism (SISI) driven by a war against Islamist “terrorists,” which is what the Egyptian state calls the Muslim Brotherhood — need to be exhausted to make room for a third option built on pluralism in society, religion and thought.

The Arab world needs to finally puncture the twin myths of the military state (SISI) or the Islamic state (ISIS) that will bring prosperity, stability and dignity. Only when the general populations “finally admit that they are both failed and unworkable models,” argues Perlov, might there be “a chance to see this region move to the 21st century.”

The situation is not totally bleak. You have two emergent models, both frail and neither perfect, where Muslim Middle East nations have built decent, democratizing governance, based on society and with some political, cultural and religious pluralism: Tunisia and Kurdistan. Again both are works in progress, but what is important is that they did emerge from the societies themselves. You also have the relatively soft monarchies — like Jordan and Morocco — that are at least experimenting at the margins with more participatory governance, allow for some opposition and do not rule with the brutality of the secular autocrats.

“Both the secular authoritarian model — most recently represented by Sisi — and the radical religious model — represented now by ISIS — have failed,” adds Marwan Muasher, the former foreign minister of Jordan and author of “The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism.” “They did because they have not addressed peoples’ real needs: improving the quality of their life, both in economic and development terms, and also in feeling they are part of the decision-making process.  Both models have been exclusionist, presenting themselves as the holders of absolute truth and of the solution to all society’s problems.”

But the Arab public “is not stupid,” Muasher added. “While we will continue to see exclusionist discourses in much of the Arab world for the foreseeable future, results will end up trumping ideology. And results can only come from policies of inclusion, that would give all forces a stake in the system, thereby producing stability, checks and balances, and ultimately prosperity. ISIS and Sisi cannot win. Unfortunately, it might take exhausting all other options before a critical mass is developed that internalizes this basic fact. That is the challenge of the new generation in the Arab world, where 70 percent of the population is under 30 years of age. The old generation, secular or religious, seems to have learned nothing from the failure of the postindependence era to achieve sustainable development, and the danger of exclusionist policies.”

Indeed, the Iraq founded in 1921 is gone with the wind. The new Egypt imagined in Tahrir Square is stillborn. Too many leaders and followers in both societies seem intent on giving their failed ideas of the past another spin around the block before, hopefully, they opt for the only idea that works: pluralism in politics, education and religion. This could take a while, or not. I don’t know.

We tend to make every story about us. But this is not all about us. To be sure, we’ve done plenty of ignorant things in Iraq and Egypt. But we also helped open their doors to a different future, which their leaders have slammed shut for now. Going forward, where we see people truly committed to pluralism, we should help support them. And where we see islands of decency threatened, we should help protect them. But this is primarily about them, about their need to learn to live together without an iron fist from the top, and it will happen only when and if they want it to happen.

26 June 2014

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London Evening Standard

Londoner Hugh Dunleavy has spent the past 107 days working tirelessly to find flight MH370. Here the Malaysia Airlines boss tells Lucy Tobin what really happened during the night that sparked a thousand theories

It was four in the morning and Hugh Dunleavy was heading to Kuala Lumpur airport to fly to a conference in Borneo when his phone flashed with an emergency text. Malaysia Airlines’ commercial boss never made it to that conference. Instead he spent the next 72 hours working non-stop to find out why flight MH370 had gone missing and trying to explain his lack of an answer to hundreds of distraught relatives in a grief limbo.

The now-infamous flight lost contact with air traffic control at 1.34am on March 8, an hour after take-off. But in this, his first major interview since MH370 disappeared, Dunleavy reports it was three hours later by the time air traffic controllers — having tried and failed to get a response from the plane and from radar controllers in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China — sent that emergency text.

Dunleavy is one of London’s brightest expats: he grew up in Ealing, took a PhD in physics at Sheffield University then started his career working in a role “I can’t talk about” for the Ministry of Defence. He was the first to arrive at the airline’s emergency control room that morning; then he became Malaysia Airlines’ public face as the tragedy unfolded.

“My first thought was that the pilot had fallen asleep, or something had gone wrong with the communication system,” he says. “We had five other aircraft in the sky nearby, so our senior pilots started contacting them, asking if they’d seen MH370, getting them to ping it. But we got no response.”

Three months since that plane and its 239 passengers and crew went missing, there’s still no trace. “Something untoward happened to that plane. I think it made a turn to come back, then a sequence of events overtook it, and it was unable to return to base. I believe it’s somewhere in the south Indian Ocean. But when [a plane] hits the ocean it’s like hitting concrete. The wreckage could be spread over a big area. And there are mountains and canyons in that ocean. I think it could take a really long time to find. We’re talking decades.”

Dunleavy replays the early hours of response, wondering what could have been different. “People say, ‘Why didn’t you work quicker?’ But you’re calling pilots, explaining the situation, waiting for them to send out pings, doing the same to the next plane, then the next, and it’s four in the morning, you don’t have 50 people in the office, only a couple. An hour goes by frighteningly quickly — you realise that the missing plane is now another 600 miles somewhere else.”

A vigil for the missing flightThen there was the “frightening speed at which false information was coming in — after only an hour in the control room, rumours were coming in on social media. ‘Your plane has landed in Nanning, China’. ‘It’s in the airport of an island near Borneo’. You’ve got to follow up, calling your local people, getting them out of bed to find up someone who worked at the airports — mostly remote places, not 24-hour operations — to check if the plane was there. We lost an hour just on that Nanning rumour.”

Finding an AWOL plane wasn’t a priority for international air traffic controllers. “We were calling, but they’ve got other planes in the air; they’re saying, ‘Your plane never entered my air space, so technically I don’t have to worry about it at the moment’. They’re not dropping everything to answer us.”

In those first hours, Malaysia Airlines’ executives all thought the plane had diverted — not crashed. “But by 06.30, the plane was supposed to be landing at Beijing. People were waiting for it; we had to do a press release,” says Dunleavy. The media swarmed in Beijing, and 130 Malaysia Airlines executives needed to get there — but none had Chinese visas. “No one wants to talk about that side of things but it took hours, not minutes, to sort it all out — there were negotiations. Eventually we got to Beijing at 10.30pm. Then officials came to our plane to issue visas, which took another two hours.”

By midnight, when Dunleavy approached the Beijing hotel ballroom that hosted sobbing, frustrated relatives, he and his colleagues needed Chinese police protection to take them through the bowels of the hotel to avoid being besieged.

“As far as the families were concerned, the plane had been hijacked by terrorists, the Malaysian government was negotiating with them, and we weren’t telling them. I knew that wasn’t happening — there had been zero communications from MH370.”

For the first 48 hours, Dunleavy and the airline’s team of “care-givers” didn’t sleep, dashing between the hotel’s ballroom and chaotic press conferences. “No one went to bed. But we had no news. Conspiracy theories were coming out — blaming Chinese scientists on board, the mangosteen [4.6 tons of the exotic fruit were on board], all this rubbish. Every news channel had some ‘expert’ — who’d never been to Malaysia, and had no idea about our planes — coming up with stories about what may have happened. Then a family member would latch on to one of those ideas that appealed to them. There would be 50 different people all arguing about 50 different scenarios, and I’m saying — through a translator — ‘I can’t tell you what happened until we find the plane’, over and over.”

About 32 hours after MH370 went missing, Dunleavy entered the ballroom, got everyone’s attention, and said: “I think you all need to be prepared for the worst.”

The 61-year-old describes the scene to me as we sit in the relaxed backdrop of the Langham in the West End, but he still pales as he remembers: “That’s when the screaming started. One person had a heart attack. Others fainted. People started throwing things at me, mostly water bottles. The police were standing there, but they said ‘this is part of our culture, it’s normal’ and that they wouldn’t interfere unless they started throwing chairs and tables.”

At its peak, the ballroom hosted 1,500 people. Dunleavy says much of the relatives’ anger was directed at the Malaysian government. “They blamed them for not tracking the aircraft more solidly.” The first week was spent searching in the south Indian Ocean — before an official source revealed the plane had been spotted on military radar making a U-turn and heading towards an island in the Malacca Strait.

“I only heard about this through the news,” Dunleavy says, for the first time letting anger inflect his voice — a hybrid English-German-Canadian accent thanks to a string of airline career moves. “I’m thinking, really? You couldn’t have told us that directly? Malaysia’s air traffic control and military radar are in the same freakin’ building. The military saw an aircraft turn and did nothing.

“They didn’t know it was MH370, their radar just identifies flying objects, yet a plane had gone down and the information about something in the sky turning around didn’t get released by the authorities until after a week. Why? I don’t know. I really wish I did.

“It made people look incompetent, but the truth is, it’s early in the morning, you’re not at war with anyone, why would you jump to the conclusion that something really bad is now transpiring?”

Dunleavy is adamant Malaysia Airlines did the best it could for the Chinese relatives on board MH370, paying for hotel rooms, food bills, distributing $5,000 to families and organising 520 passports and Malaysian visas plus a plane for the Chinese to fly to Kuala Lumpur, only for the vast majority to decide to stay in Beijing. But the carrier faced global criticism for texting relatives that it was “beyond doubt” their loved ones were killed.

“That wasn’t done in a callous way,” Dunleavy says, “we only got 15 minutes’ notice that the government was going to make that announcement, there were six hundred people in six different hotels, and they had suggested text messages to us at the start. We thought, ‘isn’t it better they get the message before the media relays it?’”

The airline expects the tragedy to cost up to $500?million. Three months on, Malaysia Airlines is getting back to business. It’s Dunleavy’s job to make passengers want to fly on the carrier again — demand slumped after MH370, and bookings from China fell 65 per cent. The airline will this year install pioneering technology (from Inmarsat, the Old Street firm which gained global fame for its satellites’ role in the search for MH370) that means if a plane ever deviates from its flight path, it will send out a signal.

“We will always remember MH370. We will take care of the people and we’re working on what sort of a memorial we will have. But we are a business. We have to keep flying, we have 20,000 staff, shareholders, and 50,000 passengers each day. We owe it to them to get the airline back and move beyond MH370.”

24 June 2014

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TMI

Timbalan Menteri Pertanian dan Industri Asas Tani Datuk Tajuddin Rahman (gambar) merupakan pemegang saham minoriti dalam konsesi penswastaan Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Tapah, kata PKR.

“Hari ini saya boleh mengesahkan ahli Parlimen Pasir Salak adalah pemimpin Umno yang mempunyai pegangan minoriti dalam konsesi penswastaan UiTM kampus cawangan Tapah,” kata Pengarah Strategi PKR, Rafizi Ramli.

Rafizi berkata, konsesi penswastaan UiTM cawangan Tapah dianugerahkan kepada UniTapah Sdn Bhd dengan konsesi selama 23 tahun untuk membina dan menyewakan kembali kampus itu kepada UiTM.

Beliau mendakwa, salah seorang pengarah UniTapah Sdn Bhd ialah Sri Rahayu Tajuddin, iaitu anak kepada Tajuddin.

“Sri Rahayu juga pernah menjadi setiausaha Umno Bahagian Pasir Salak yang diketuai oleh Tajuddin.

“Ini mengulangi perkara yang sama dalam konsesi penswastaan kampus cawangan UiTM lain apabila setiap syarikat konsesi turut mempunyai kaitan dengan pemimpin Umno atau ahli perniagaan yang rapat dengan Umno,” katanya.

Rafizi berkata, seorang lagi pengarah dalam UniTapah Sdn Bhd yang mempunyai hubungan dengan Tajuddin adalah Vignesh Naidu Kuppusamy Naidu melalui usahasama perniagaan bersama di antara mereka.

“Selain UniTapah Sdn Bhd, Tajuddin dan Vignesh Naidu mempunyai hubungan melalui sebuah syarikat pembinaan iaitu Everfine Resources Sdn Bhd yang mana Tajuddin adalah pengerusinya dan Vignesh Naidu pengarah syarikat itu.

“Kepentingan beliau dalam syarikat konsesi ini dipegang melalui sebuah syarikat iaitu Detik Utuh Sdn Bhd.

“Syarikat itu mempunyai kepentingan sebanyak 9.8% dalam UniTapah Sdn Bhd manakala saham selebihnya dipegang oleh sebuah syarikat pembinaan yang disenaraikan di Bursa Kuala Lumpur iaitu Crest Builder Holdings Berhad (melalui Crest Builder International Sdn Bhd),” katanya.

Ahli Parlimen Pandan itu berkata, Tajuddin memiliki 450,000 saham di dalam Detik Utuh Sdn Bhd, menjadikan beliau pemegang saham terbesar.

Rafizi berkata, saham selebihnya dimiliki oleh Vignesh Naidu (150,000 saham) dan Obata-Ambak Holdings Sdn Bhd (400,000 saham).

Obata-Ambak Sdn Bhd adalah sebuah syarikat yang dikawal oleh keluarga isteri Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“Pengarah di dalam Detik Utuh Sdn Bhd adalah individu yang rapat dengan Tajuddin iaitu anaknya sendiri, Sri Rahayu dan kenalan perniagaan beliau iaitu Vignesh Naidu dan Haniff Mahmood.

“Walaupun pegangan Tajuddin tidak sebesar pegangan ahli politik Umno lain dalam konsesi yang saya dedahkan sebelum ini, ia mengesahkan setiap konsesi penswastaan kampus cawangan UiTM menguntungkan sekurang-kurangnya ahli politik Umno dengan bayaran sewa yang cukup membebankan rakyat,” katanya.

Rafizi sejak minggu lalu melakukan pendedahan beberapa individu yang mempunyai kaitan dengan Umno memiliki konsesi penswastaan UiTM di seluruh negara.

24 June 2014

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TMI

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 did not climb to 13,700m then dive below 7,000m before it vanished, international investigators said, contradicting earlier reports based on Malaysia’s military radar data.

The New York Times reported today investigators discovered the jet had not soared and swooped as they believed earlier, but remained in controlled flight for hours after contact was lost, until it ran out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean.

It said they concluded this after a re-examination of the military radar data and the pings the aircraft exchanged with an Inmarsat satellite over the Equator showed that the radar’s altitude readings? appeared to be incorrect.

An international review found Malaysia’s radar equipment had not been calibrated with enough precision for the readings to be accurate, the NYT said.

While many military radar can detect altitude and give accurate readings of an aircraft’s location, speed and direction, the equipment must be recalibrated regularly and carefully according to local atmospheric conditions, it said.

“The primary radar data pertaining to altitude is regarded as unreliable,” Angus Houston, the head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, was quoted as saying.

The radar tracked MH370 as it veered off its scheduled flight path over the Gulf of Thailand and flew west across the peninsula and Strait of Malacca.

The ?plane then passed beyond the radar’s range near the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The radar readings suggested the plane soared above its certified maximum altitude of 13,700m, then dipped low over the ranges of Malaysia, before climbing back to 7,000m or higher over the Strait of Malacca.

But Houston told the NYT that he doubted whether anyone could prove the plane had soared and swooped the way initial reports suggested.

“There’s nothing reliable about height,” Martin Dolan, the chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, was quoted as saying in the report.

The report said dismissal of the radar altitude data prompted a change in the focus of the search, as the plane’s fuel would have lasted longer if it maintained a steadier altitude.

Data from the pings, or the electronic handshakes, led investigators to conclude that the aircraft came down in the ocean west of Australia along what is called the seventh arc, the area of the final handshake with the plane.

“Everyone agrees that is where the aircraft ran out of fuel,” said Dolan in the report.

Officials said the search would now move hundreds of kilometres southwest across the arc, after the Australian government had scoured the northeast end based on the conclusion that the jet had burned a great deal of fuel.

The New York Times said the specifics were still being finalised, but the new search zone was likely to be an area about 640km long and some 97km wide.

This was based on the assumption that the plane was being flown by its? autopilot, which was unable to control the plane when the engine stopped and would have caused the plane to stall and fall into the ocean.

21 June 2014

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Foreign Policy

rom 2001 until sometime around 2006, the United States followed the core neoconservative foreign-policy program. The disastrous results of this vast social science experiment could not be clearer. The neoconservative program cost the United States several trillion dollars and thousands dead and wounded American soldiers, and it sowed carnage and chaos in Iraq and elsewhere.

One would think that these devastating results would have discredited the neoconservatives forever, just as isolationists like Charles Lindbergh or Robert McCormick were discredited by World War II, and men like former Secretary of State Dean Rusk were largely marginalized after Vietnam. Even if the neoconservative architects of folly are undaunted by failure and continue to stick to their guns, one might expect a reasonably rational society would pay them scant attention.

Yet to the dismay of many commentators — including Andrew Bacevich, Juan Cole, Paul Waldman, Andrew Sullivan, Simon Jenkins, and James Fallows — neoconservative punditry is alive and well today. Casual viewers of CNN and other news channels are being treated to the vacuous analysis of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Bill Kristol.

More worrisome still: It seems to be having some impact, insofar as President Barack Obama appears to have bowed to pressure and dispatched 300 U.S. military advisors to help the incompetent and beleaguered Maliki government in Iraq. As usual, Obama seems wary of a new quagmire and seeking to limit U.S. involvement, but he’s taken the first step onto the slippery slope and will face additional pressure to do more if this initial move does not succeed.

What’s going on here? Others have eviscerated the logic of the neocons’ latest campaign for war, and you can read any of the commentaries listed above for powerful rejoinders to the neocons’ latest spate of bad advice. Or you could take a quick look at Barry Posen’s recent piece in Politico, which provides a useful caution to the neocons’ all-too-familiar saber-rattling.

But given their past failures, what explains neoconservatism’s apparent

But given their past failures, what explains neoconservatism’s apparent immunity from any degree of accountability? How can a group of people be so wrong so often and at such high cost, yet still retain considerable respect and influence in high circles? For America to pay the slightest heed to neoconservatives is like asking Wile E. Coyote how to catch the Road Runner, seeking marital advice from the late Mickey Rooney, or letting Bernie Madoff handle your retirement portfolio.

As near as I can tell, the strange mind-boggling persistence of neoconservatism is due to four interrelated factors.

No. 1: Shamelessness

One reason neoconservatism survives is that its members don’t care how wrong they’ve been, or even about right and wrong itself. True to their Trotskyite and Straussian roots, neoconservatives have always been willing to play fast and loose with the truth in order to advance political goals. We know that they were willing to cook the books on intelligence and make outrageously false claims in order to sell the Iraq war, for example, and today they construct equally false narratives that deny their own responsibility for the current mess in Iraq and portray their war as a great success that was squandered by Obama. And the entire movement seems congenitally incapable of admitting error, or apologizing to the thousands of people whose lives they have squandered or damaged irreparably.

Like Richard Nixon or Silvio Berlusconi, in short, the neoconservatives keep staging comebacks because they simply don’t care how often they have been wrong, and because they remain willing to do or say anything to stay in the public eye. They also appear utterly indifferent to the tragic human consequences of their repeated policy failures. Being a neoconservative, it seems, means never having to say you’re sorry.

No. 2: Financial Support

The second source of neoconservative survival is money. In America’s wide-open policy arena, almost anyone can be a player, provided they have the resources to keep people employed and give them platforms and institutions from which to operate. Instead of becoming marginalized within the Beltway scene, the neocons who drove America over the brink in 2003 continue to be supported by an array of well-funded think tanks, magazines, and letterhead organizations, including the Weekly Standard, American Enterprise Institute, Carnegie Endowment, Council on Foreign Relations, Institute for the Study of War, Hudson Institute, and several others. If someone can screw up as repeatedly as Elliott Abrams and still land a well-funded senior fellowship at CFR — then bad advice will continue to enjoy a prominent place in American policy discourse.

No. 3: A Receptive and Sympathetic Media

Neoconservatives would have much less influence if mainstream media didn’t continue to pay attention to them. They could publish their own journals and appear on Fox News, but the big force multiplier is their continued prominence in places like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other outlets. Neocons continue to have frequent access to op-ed pages, and are commonly quoted by reporters on a range of foreign-policy issues.

This tendency is partly because some important members of the mainstream media are themselves neoconservatives or strongly sympathetic to its basic worldview. David Brooks of the New York Times, Charles Krauthammer and Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, and Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal are all card-carrying neoconservatives and were, of course, prominent voices in the original pro-war camp.

The Times even hired Kristol to write an op-ed column back in 2005 — after Iraq had already gone south — and he might still be doing that today if his columns hadn’t been so dull and sloppy.

But it’s not just the neoconservatives’ continued presence in the mainstream press.

Neoconservatives continue to exercise influence because the rest of the U.S. media is obsessed with “balance,” and because lackadaisical reporters know they can always get a hawkish neoconservative quote to balance whatever they are being told by the Obama administration or by more dovish voices. As long as reporters think balance matters more than accuracy, neoconservatives will still find plenty of places to peddle their particular version of foreign-policy snake oil.

No. 4: Liberal Allies

The final source of neoconservative persistence is the continued support they get from their close cousins: the liberal interventionists. Neoconservatives may have cooked up the whole idea of invading Iraq, but they got a lot of support from a diverse array of liberal hawks. As I’ve noted before, the only major issue on which these two groups disagree is the role of international institutions, which liberals view as a useful tool and neoconservatives see as a dangerous constraint on U.S. freedom of action. Neoconservatives, in short, are liberal imperialists on steroids, and liberal hawks are really just kinder, gentler neocons.

The liberal interventionists’ complicity in the neoconservative project makes them reluctant to criticize the neoconservatives very much, because to do so draws attention to their own culpability in the disastrous neoconservative program. It is no surprise, therefore, that recovering liberal hawks like Peter Beinart and Jonathan Chait — who both backed the Iraq war themselves — have recently defended neoconservative participation in the new debate over Iraq, while taking sharp issue with some of the neocons’ position.

The neoconservative-liberal alliance in effect re-legitimates the neoconservative world view, and makes their continued enthusiasm for U.S.-led wars look “normal.” When the Obama administration is staffed by enthusiastic proponents of intervention like Samantha Power or Susan Rice, and when former Obama officials like Anne-Marie Slaughter are making neocon-like arguments about the need to send arms to Syria, it makes neoconservatives sound like a perfectly respectable faction within the broad U.S. policy community, instead of underscoring just how extreme and discredited their views really are.

The zombie-like ability to maintain influence and status in the face of overwhelming evidence tells you that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong: There are in fact an infinite number of “second chances” in American life and little or no accountability in the U.S. political system. The neocons’ staying power also reminds us that the United States can get away with irresponsible public discourse because it is very, very secure. Iraq was a disaster, and it helped pave the way to defeat in Afghanistan, but at the end of the day the United States will come home and probably be just fine. True, thousands of our fellow citizens would be alive and well today had we never listened to the neoconservatives’ fantasies, and Americans would be more popular abroad and more prosperous at home if their prescriptions from 1993 forward had been ritually ignored. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would be alive too, and the Middle East would probably be in somewhat better condition (it could hardly be worse).

What, if anything, might reduce the neoconservative influence to its proper dimension (that is to say, almost nil)? I wish I knew, for if the past ten years haven’t discredited them, it’s not obvious what would. No doubt leaders in Moscow and Beijing derive great comfort from that fact: For what better way to ensure that the United States continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, and from quagmire to quagmire? Until our society gets better at listening to those who are consistently right instead of those who are reliably wrong, we will repeat the same mistakes and achieve the same dismal results. Not that the neoconservatives will care.

21 June 2014

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TMI

Ketua Umum PKR Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (gambar) enggan melayan permohonan pengendali blog Papa Gomo yang mahu membayar ganti rugi secara ansuran sebanyak RM100 sebulan.

Enggan mengulas lanjut, Anwar sebaliknya meminta Umno sendiri yang menyelesaikan masalah itu.

“Jangan tanya saya, tanya pemimpin Umno yang taja dia,” katanya kepada pemberita selepas menyampaikan ceramah Asian Renaissance di Puchong, hari ini.

Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur semalam menolak permohonan Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris menangguhkan bayaran ganti rugi sebanyak RM800,000.

“Saya cuba mohon dengan mahkamah untuk bayar RM100? sebulan kepada Ketua Pembangkang Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim kerana sekarang hanya bekerja sebagai nelayan,” katanya dipetik laporan media semalam.

Wan Muhammad Azri turut mengaku sudah menjual saham miliknya di KL POS Media & Production Sdn Bhd.

Pada 28 Februari lalu, Pesuruhjaya Kehakiman Mahkamah Tinggi Rosilah Yop memerintahkan Wan Muhammad Azri membayar ganti rugi sebanyak RM800,000 dan kos RM50,000 kepada Anwar berhubung penyiaran perkataan fitnah dan meletak imej mengaitkan Anwar dalam video seks dalam blog miliknya.

Rosilah dalam penghakimannya berkata, daripada keterangan yang dikemukakan, terbukti Wan Muhammad Azri adalah blogger Papa Gomo dan menerbitkan kenyataan fitnah.

Anwar memfailkan saman terhadap Wan Muhamamad Azri pada 21 Mac tahun lalu dengan menuntut ganti rugi berjumlah RM100 juta kerana mendakwa Wan Muhammad Azri menyiarkan empat siri perkataan fitnah di laman blog berkenaan pada 16, 17, 19 dan 20 Mac 2013.

Dalam perkembangan lain, Ahli Parlimen Lembah Pantai Nurul Izzah Anwar ketika diminta mengulas mengenai kesihatan Anwar berkata, ayahnya tidak mengalami apa-apa simptom penyakit yang serius.

Nurul Izzah berkata, Anwar hanya menjalankan pemeriksaan kesihatan biasa di Institut Jantung Negara di Kuala Lumpur dan dibenarkan keluar wad pagi tadi.

“Dia cuma mengalami jangkitan paru-paru selepas beberapa hari batuk dan tidak sihat.

“Doktor cuma menasihatkannya supaya banyakkan berehat,” katanya.

20 June 2014

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The Economist

State capitalism continues to defy expectations of its demise

IT IS now 25 years since Francis Fukuyama published “The End of History?” and ignited a firestorm of debate. Today there are many reasons for thinking that he was wrong about the universal triumph of liberalism and markets, from democracy’s failure in the Middle East to the revival of religious fundamentalism. But one of the most surprising reasons is the continuing power of the state as an economic actor: far from retiring from the business battlefield in 1989, the state merely regrouped for another advance.

Survey the battlefield today and you can see state capitalism almost everywhere. In China companies in which the state is a majority shareholder account for 60% of stockmarket capitalisation. In Russia and Brazil companies in which the state has either a majority or a significant minority stake account for 30-40% of capitalisation. Even in such bastions of economic orthodoxy as Sweden and the Netherlands state-owned enterprises (SOEs) account for 5% of market capitalisation. The Chinese and Russian governments show little sign of wanting to surrender control of the commanding heights of the economy. Privatisation seems to have ground to a halt in Brazil and in India (though its new government may revive it). There has been talk of the French government taking a stake in Alstom or part of its business—adding to the stakes it and Germany hold in Airbus and the one France recently took in Peugeot.

What should one make of the revival of state capitalism? Opinions vary wildly. Some praise it as a superior form of capitalism while others treat it as a mere way-station on the road to proper capitalism. One of its most ardent proponents, Vladimir Putin of Russia, somehow keeps a straight face when claiming there is no state capitalism in his country. Some see SOEs as money pits whereas others think they are pretty good investments: Morgan Stanley, a bank, reckons that, together, shares in listed SOEs in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America did better than stockmarkets as a whole between 2001 and 2012.

“Reinventing State Capitalism”, a new book by Aldo Musacchio of Harvard Business School and Sergio Lazzarini of Insper, a Brazilian university, sheds fresh light on the question. It notes that the old model of Leviathan-as-entrepreneur, in which the state owned companies outright and ran them by ministerial diktat, was largely swept aside by the privatisation wave of the 1980s and 1990s, when governments realised that they could make money out of their companies rather than constantly bailing them out. But instead of swimming off into the blue ocean Leviathan reappeared in three disguises—as a majority or minority shareholder and as an indirect investor.

In the first form, which is particularly popular in China, the state submits an SOE to the governance standards and investor scrutiny that come with a stockmarket listing while retaining the bulk of the shares. In the second, which accounts for about half of SOEs, the state retains just enough influence, through its minority stake, to swing some important decisions. In the third, the state seeks to invest in companies—including ones not previously government-linked—through public development banks (of which there are currently 286 in 117 countries), sovereign-wealth funds, pension funds and other vehicles. For instance, India’s Life Insurance Corporation is the largest stockmarket investor in the country, with about $50 billion invested as of September 2011.

How successful has Leviathan been in these new incarnations? Messrs Musacchio and Lazzarini go out of their way to be fair. They point out that new-style SOEs more closely resemble true private-sector firms than old-fashioned nationalised industries: they are run by businesspeople not political hacks, and no longer have bloated workforces. The authors argue that good governance can overcome the classic problems of state ownership: Statoil of Norway is one of the world’s best-run firms. And they observe that Leviathan can also bring benefits to the private sector: for example, it can provide long-term investment in countries that have shallow or dysfunctional capital markets.

But the authors nevertheless produce a lot of evidence that the new Leviathan retains some of the old one’s weaknesses. This is especially clear in Brazil, where two successive presidents from the Workers’ Party (PT), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, have trampled on other shareholders’ rights in the name of the national interest. The government leant on Petrobras, the national oil company, to withdraw plans to raise the price of petrol in line with world prices. It engineered the removal of Roger Agnelli as boss of Vale, a privatised mining giant in which the national development bank, the BNDES, still owns a chunk, because it did not like his emphasis on exporting iron ore to China instead of building steel mills at home. This rise in interventionism has come just as the BNDES is losing itsraison d’être because of the deepening of domestic capital markets. Messrs Musacchio and Lazzarini demonstrate that under the PT the bank has got into the habit of lending money to already successful businesses that could easily have raised it from the markets—companies that, by the by, are also generous contributors to political campaigns.

The importance of timing

The implication of all this is not so much that Mr Fukuyama was wrong about the market in 1989 but that he was premature. The development of state capitalism over subsequent years has undoubtedly been extraordinary. But there are good reasons for still hoping that it is a way-station to a more fully private economy, not a new form of capitalism. The best SOEs have demonstrated that they can thrive without the guiding hand of the state—and the worst have proved that, however many market disciplines you impose upon them, they will still find a way of turning state capitalism into its ugly sister, crony capitalism.

20 June 2014

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Foreign Policy

Not long ago, stability and security in Iraq seemed possible. Maliki’s corruption shattered any hope of that.

When Mosul fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on June 10, most Iraqis were, like the rest of the world, shocked. When two other cities fell days later with minimal resistance from the Iraqi security forces, the response was horror. How in just a matter of days could a cancerous, extremist organization defeat Iraq’s U.S.-trained security forces, which count more than 1 million personnel in their ranks and have received close to $100 billion in funding since 2006?

The truth is, nothing is surprising about the developments in Iraq right now. Nor was any of this inevitable.

Four years ago, Iraq finally had relatively good security, a generous state budget, and positive relations among the country’s various ethnic and religious communities after years of chaos following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. But Iraq’s political elites squandered this opportunity. Their corruption and hunger for power distracted them from emerging crises — like the rise of ISIS — and laid the groundwork for what is now taking place.

By 2008, al Qaeda-affiliated militias and death squads no longer swarmed the country from Samarra to Mosul as they had just two years before. U.S. officials, state security services, tribal forces, and some armed groups had forged an agreement to work together against the most extreme groups terrorizing Iraq’s population. The major roads in those areas were lined with the flags of the Awakening Councils, and local fighters had decided to protect ordinary Iraqis from al Qaeda. In time, the Iraqi military was deployed in all major cities and set up checkpoints every few miles.

Although unemployment, corruption, and failing public services were still major problems, ordinary Iraqis in the areas that had been dominated by al Qaeda still breathed a collective sigh of relief. They could go back to work, resume their studies, and relax outdoors without the constant ring of gunfire in the background. Families took their children to the river, where they swam and picnicked, while young men made regular trips to Kirkuk or Baghdad to stock up on local Iraqi beer.

There was also at this time a consensus that the Iraqi Army consisted of honorable, patriotic soldiers who treated local people with respect. The public had grown hostile toward al Qaeda and other insurgent groups and was siding with the state and its army. The atmosphere in small towns like Tikrit was relaxed, and people casually mixed with soldiers and police, exchanging jokes and pleasantries.

It was a new atmosphere and it was full of promise. Iraqis were demanding more from their politicians than mere survival. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki established a new political alliance, the State of Law alliance, which campaigned on a platform of re-establishing strong state institutions, reducing corruption, and providing adequate services to the people. The Iraqiya alliance, another large and newly formed coalition, backed a similar platform. The tantalizing prospects of establishing a new political environment and creating a stable state seemed within reach.

It never happened. Rather than consolidating these gains, several factors began working against Iraq’s national cohesion as early as 2010. Maliki’s government used “de-Baathification” laws, introduced to keep members of Saddam Hussein’s regime out of government, to target his opponents — but not his many allies, who also had been senior members of the Baath Party. The 2010 government formation process turned out to be yet another opportunity for politicians of all stripes to grant themselves senior positions which they could use to plunder the state. When tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in February 2011 to protestcorruption, they were branded terrorists and were attacked and beaten by security forces and hired thugs. Dozens were killed and thousands arrested and tortured until the protests fizzled. Meanwhile, though terrorist groups were not operating as openly as before, hundreds of civilians continued to be killed every month, particularly in Baghdad, denying Iraqis in many parts of the country even a brief period of normalcy.

At that time, Maliki began referring to himself publicly as Iraq’s preeminent military leader. When the 2010 electoral results did not conform to his expectations, he demanded a recount in his “capacity as commander in chief.” When he forced senior anti-corruption officials from their positions, he once again inappropriately invoked his military credentials. He called officers on their mobile phones to demand specific actions or that individuals be arrested, circumventing the chain of command. After the new government was formed in November 2010, he refused to appoint ministers of the interior and of defense, preferring to occupy both positions himself. He appointed senior military commanders directly, instead of seeking parliamentary approval as required by the constitution.

There was also much talk about the prime minister’s special forces, including the Baghdad Operations Command. Groups of young men were arrested in waves, often in the middle of the night, and would be whisked to secret jails, often never to be seen again. Former Army officers, members of the Awakening, activists who complained too much about corruption, devout Iraqis who prayed a little too often at their local mosques — all were targeted. Many were never charged with crimes or brought before a judge. Under the pretext of trying to stop the regular explosions that blighted Baghdad, these individuals were subjected to severe abuse.

By 2012, the atmosphere in Tikrit had changed. Joking with the police and the Army had ended. Tikritis were desperately looking for detained relatives, but information was almost impossible to obtain even for the best-connected. The relationship of trust that the Army had built with the general population was ruined by the special forces’ activities.

Then there was the corruption. The security sector, which had an annual budget greater than the budgets for education, health, and the environment combined, was subject to minimal oversight. Soldiers were enrolled and paid monthly salaries without reporting for duty. Overpriced and faulty equipment was procured using the laxest standards. Training sessions were financed on paper but never took place in practice. Appointments were politicized. Officers close to the prime minister’s office who failed to investigate leads on terrorist attacks were almost never held accountable for their actions. Even the most grotesque failures, including the military’s passivity in the face of regular attacks against Christians in Nineveh over a period of years, went unpunished. Morale among the rank and file was low, and there was very little desire to take risks on behalf of political elites who were viewed as wildly corrupt.

Against this backdrop, many of the armed gangs that had terrorized local populations from 2005 to 2007 now saw their opportunity to re-emerge. They still could not operate in broad daylight, but they understood that the security forces could be manipulated, and they identified the weakest link in each institution. Those officers who could most easily be bribed or who were willing to participate in illegal activities were brought on board; those who could be intimidated were threatened; and those who were most likely to interfere with their operations were targeted in their homes, to terrify their families.

By 2012, armed groups were once again mounting organized and coordinated attacks against major institutions in broad daylight. With time, the attacks became so frequent that several officers were targeted daily in Tikrit alone. A clear trend was developing, and nothing was done to address it. The city was suddenly too dangerous even for a short family visit, and ordinary people were once again locking themselves indoors.

The gust that eventually blew the security sector’s house of cards away came from the conflict in Syria, which had given al Qaeda a new lease on life. Shortly after Syria’s civil war began in 2011, the al Qaeda-affiliated fighters who had been forced to stop their operations in Iraq in 2008 remobilized and rebranded themselves as ISIS. They remained particularly active in Mosul, where they ran an incredible racketeering operation and continued to hit government forces hard.

When ISIS escalated with a full-on assault on Mosul this month, all of the Iraqi state’s pathologies came together in a perfect storm of corruption and incompetence. This left the city virtually defenseless. People in Mosul and soldiers have told me that a consensus has formed over the past few days that members of the military’s rank and file were ordered to abandon their posts either shortly before or at the start of ISIS’s assault. There is still significant mystery as to why the withdrawal took place at all. Rumors have been circulating. The most outlandish accusation is currently being made by Maliki and his allies, who haveaccused the Kurdistan Regional Government of colluding with ISIS against the Iraqi state.

The incompetence of the Iraqi security forces was further underscored in the days that followed the fall of Mosul. As the jihadists began to advance, residents in Tikrit, around 130 miles south, expected that ISIS would overrun their city at any moment. Anyone who has been to Tikrit knows that it would be extremely easy to fend off an invasion by ISIS gunmen, because there is essentially a single highway that runs through the city center. All that would have been needed to protect the city would have been to position a few armored vehicles with limited air support along the highway. Yet there was no reaction from Baghdad, which is just a two-hour drive away. Tikrit was seized in a couple of hours, and hundreds of Army recruits were taken hostage. Having been abandoned by their government, many of those individuals appear to have been executed.

The failures of Iraq’s governing class — and the U.S. occupation forces — to create even a single stable national institution will haunt the country for years to come. On the day Tikrit fell, Iraq suddenly changed: Violent government-backed militias were suddenly allowed to operate openly in Baghdad and Baquba, manning checkpoints and organizing security without any oversight. Senior Iranian military commanders landed in Baghdad to help organize the city’s defense. Finally, in an effort to rally his base against ISIS, Maliki called for volunteers to take up arms against the militants and extremists — ignoring the fact that the military’s problem was never a lack of manpower.

It was the clearest admission of failure possible. Maliki micromanaged the security forces for years, and in the end he didn’t even trust them, choosing instead to let foreign-backed militias and untrained volunteers defend the capital. Meanwhile, one week after Tikrit’s fall, Baghdad had done nothing to free it from ISIS, abandoning its citizens to their fate and allowing the militants to reinforce their positions free from interference.

The United States has made it clear that Washington now views Maliki’s government as part of the problem. “Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together [to forge] a political plan for Iraq’s future,” President Barack Obama said in a press conference on Thursday. Secretary of State John Kerry is being dispatched to the Middle East to help bring about political reconciliation between Iraq’s factions. But the damage that the prime minister and his cronies have inflicted on Iraq cannot be undone. The end result of Iraq’s unending series of unforced errors will almost certainly be yet more flattened cities, hundreds of thousands more displaced, and yet more damage to its people’s sense of community. What solution could there be to prevent this tragedy, if the Iraqi political class will not admit to the smallest of errors?

20 June 2014

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TMI

Malaysians are a forgiving and easy lot – and therein lies a major problem.

Rubbish, drivel and lies are shovelled at us regularly by everyone from the Prime Minister downwards. There is little attempt to sound intelligent, competent or honest.

Take Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s written reply in Parliament to a question on the controversial seminar on Christian-bashing at UiTM on May 6.

He said that it was an intellectual brainstorming session that should be viewed positively. According to him, the seminar on Allah and Christology was an academic programme to explain issues related to the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims.

“There were academic discussions and explanations on the pros and cons of the matter which were conducted harmoniously, in line with intellectual culture at institutions of higher learning.

“The facts and discussions in the seminar should be viewed positively as a form of intellectual brainstorming,” said Muhyiddin in reply to PKR’s Penampang MP Darell Leiking.

Facts. Discussions. Intellectual. Brainstorming.

All powerful words. Sadly, they were largely absent from the hate-mongering session at UiTM, the alma mater of none other than Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

In keeping with the bogus nature of the session, among the main speakers were a bogus Catholic priest and a bogus nun.

There is no record of Insan LS Mokoginta as a priest, said the Bishops Conference of Indonesia executive secretary Father Edy Purwanto.

But this small gap in his resume did not stop him for laying into Christians. Among the pearls of wisdom from the snake-oil salesman was this:

“Every Jesus follower should enter Islam. If not, it would be a betrayal to Jesus.”

There is also no record of Irena Handono as a nun. She spent a short time in a convent as a novice but misrepresented herself as a former nun.

Her contribution to intellectual discourse: “We shouldn’t wish Merry Christmas because it means that Jesus is reborn.”

And what about that other “intellectual” lecturer Masyud SM who said that the “Christian gospel is a fake gospel.”

The May 6 event was not an academic exercise, it was a hate-mongering session dressed up like a seminar. It was aimed at demonising Christians and Christianity and the speakers trotted out had as much intellectual heft or credibility as lint.

Muhyddin is being dishonest by trying to put a coat of respectability on this slam-fest. If the roles were reversed, would he have been so magnanimous.

Say a few non-Muslim non-governmental organisations organised a seminar and brought in some bogus speakers who then proceeded to tear into Islam, would Muhyiddin and the storm-troopers have accepted that initiative as an intellectual exercise.

We don’t believe so. They would have rioted.

In Malaysia, when we talk about each other’s religion, we must use words that heal, not hurt each other. That session on May 6 was designed to demonise and denigrate Christians and Christianity.

Muhyiddin’s written reply just continues the hurt. And to think, this man is the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.

20 June 2014

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Malaysiakini

Universiti Teknologi Mara’s (UiTM) reply to allegations about overblown costs in privatised campus constructions is proof that the claims of abuse have merit, said PKR.

Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli in a statement today said that UiTM management’s reply in not denying the allegations of cronyism but only addressing the merits of private finance initiative (PFI), is in fact an affirmation.

‘UiTM’s media statement last night represents the first official response in a week after my expose…

“However, the UiTM management has not at all denied my expose regarding who the Umno cronies who are behind the concessions are.

“(In doing so), UiTM’s management  has in fact helped confirm that the facts regarding the cronies behind the concession companies and the increase in the cost that been brought up by me is true,” said Rafizi, who is PKR’s director of strategy.

Rafizi Ramli last Thursday alleged while the original cost for six UiTM campuses was only RM1.8 billion, the government will end up forking RM8.6 billion for all the six campuses after signing concession agreements to have private firms construct and manage them.

He noted that all the university could explain was that the PFI that the outsourcing entails would financially benefit UiTM.

Rafizi said the argument was flawed and listed a number of problems with UiTM’s reply.

‘No tender, lopsided contracts’

He said UiTM’s implementation of the private finance initiative (PFI) was flawed because it was awarded through direct negotiations instead of open tenders, and the awarding of contracts to inexperienced companies that seemed only to have been set up to clinch the contracts.

“The crony companies involved do not have experience in handling a big project. This will cause many problems like facilities not built according to specifications and improper maintenance during the execution of the project” said Rafizi.

He said it would also be a burden to the rakyat in the long run because of the allegedly lopsided deals, just as was Selangor’s experience with several other projects that Pakatan had been saddled with from the previous Umno government.

“Through this privatisation, the cost of construction has bloated to RM8.6 billion instead of the original cost of only RM1.8 billion.”

He said the rental that has to be paid by the university to the concessionaires this year alone has surpassed 14 percent of the allocated budget.

“When completed, the rental that has to be paid by UiTM to the concessionaire will be their biggest financial burden annually,” he said.

Rafizi warned this may eventually force UiTM to have to cut costs in various areas including sizing down their staff, cutbacks on upgrading of facilities and increasing student’s accommodation rent.

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