Malaysiakini Columnists too must be recognised

Recognise Malaysiakini Columnists, writes SIM KWANG YANG

Tonight (November 28), Malaysiakini will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a big bang. I am sure the dining will be fine and the entertainment amusing, but like my fellow columnist Dean Johns, I will not be able to attend. I too will celebrate the occasion in spirit.

While we are still on this spirit of congratulatory joy, I would also like to pay tribute to the columnists who have travelled this long and sometimes arduous journey with co-founders Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran. I believe that we Malaysiakini columnists have also contributed in no small measure towards building the distinctive journalistic identity on this website.

Of course, we all know that news is the hard currency of journalism while opinions are free. Every day for the past 10 years, dedicated reporters, journalists and news editors work tirelessly to bring the latest news to their readers, often hours before they appear elsewhere.

I have seldom met them, having been to the Malaysiakini office in Bangsar Utama once or twice. They too have to overcome all kinds of problems, like getting to attend government functions and the press conferences called by government ministers. I do share a spirit of fraternity with them though, because we are working for the same goal – furthering the freedom of the press and promoting democracy in Malaysia.

The columnists, on the other hand, play an equally important goal.  While the news stories provide you with hard facts, the who, the what, the how, the where, the when, and the why of significant happenings, the columnists add flesh and bone to the hard cold facts, drawing out the nuances behind the events, extracting inferences and implications from mere happenings, and putting the latest development of any issue in a meaningful context.

The columnists do this by contributing their specialised and general knowledge, their experience, and their native wisdom. They also learn from reading one another.

I had been a columnist for the Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily and Nanyang Siang Pau since the mid-1980s. The editor would always tell me what subject area to avoid for the sake of their publishing and printing licences. Writing under self-censorship felt like castrating oneself spiritually. Those were unhappy years.

You could imagine my joy of writing a column for Malaysiakini when I was left completely alone to write whatever I wanted to. It was like being liberated from a mental prison and breathing fresh air for the first time. It was a Malaysian writer’s dream come true.

My Role Model

With freedom, comes heavy responsibility. I and other writers in Malaysiakini have to show the way on how critical, independent and fair commentary can be like in Malaysia.

We can be politically engaged, and yet remain non-partisan. We must always be committed to telling the truth even if it is just our subjective truth. Our only agenda must be one dedicated to the betterment of our country and her people, and as far as possible, we ought to give a feeble voice to the dispossessed, the oppressed, and the marginalised.

These are the noble values of the European Enlightenment, but while many of the Enlightenment values are less talk-about lately, their aspirations for universal values such as knowledge, justice, truth and emancipation ought to be emulated.

For a role model, I looked to the late Hugo Young, the very distinguished columnist for UK’s Guardian. When he died on September 22, 2003, even the then British prime minister Tony Blair led a national accolade in praising the rich journalistic legacy he left behind.

The accolades that poured forth during Young’s funeral services painted him as a journalist of the highest order, “A beacon of enlightenment in what can seem like a tarnished world”, “A lifelong defender of truth and decency”, and “He set the bar in quality, moral authority, and genuine influence.” He was indeed all that.

Nowadays, I still read almost every column article by Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd on New York Times online. Their kind of English is typically American, and takes some deciphering for us at times. But I admire their knowledge, their razor-sharp intellect, and the fearlessness in their pursuit of truth.

Naturally, I hardly read columnists in the Malaysian mainstream media for I know first hand the kind of constraint under which they have to work. Perish the thought that they should one day invite people like me to write columns for them. First, we have to change the government, and then the Star and the New Straits Times will have to change ownership.

So I have been proud of being a member of the Malaysiakini team. I always try my best to give my best to the readers. I seldom miss a deadline without good reasons. Professionalism does demand commitment. Above all, I always try to be original, because being boring is probably the worst sin for any columnist.

Vibrant Public Platform

I have been a columnist for Malaysiakini for the last six or seven years. I have received hundreds of emails from numerous readers. Most of them are polite and encouraging, though I still get the odd ones from readers who have problems reading my simple English. I try to reply to every reader who takes the trouble to write me.

If there is anything I complain about the Malaysiakini readership from within Malaysia and abroad, it is this: they agree with me too much.  No columnist can always be right, and sometimes, apart from factual mistakes, there must be flaws or incompleteness in argument. A vibrant public sphere will draw many readers into debate with their columnists, and with one another.

Perhaps such a healthy public sphere has never existed in Malaysia until the opportunity arises when Malaysiakini and other Net news portals came along. We have never really begun to engage one another in a honest, critical but courteous debate on major issues of the day.

In the comments posted by readers after all those Malaysiakini column articles and news items, readers are still prone to knee-jerk comments, lacking reasoned arguments and penetrating insights. In many cases, comments degenerate into name calling and ugly profanity.

In a civilised society, we address our opinions to the ideas of others and not to their person. Just because we disagree with them does not make them bad people. Diversity of views is always good for the growth of a vibrant public platform for the different narratives to find their niche.

In any case, we are a young democracy, and we have a lot to learn as a people. At least, we still have a free and fair forum like Malaysiakini to try out our craft, and to practise what we perceive to be authentic, transparent and progressive journalism.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Malaysiakini!

UMNO, Don’t Hide Behind BTN

November 30, 2009

Don’t Hide Behind BTN UMNO told

by Abdar Rahman Koya

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim today urged UMNO leaders not to hide behind Biro Tata Negara’s (BTN) courses to talk about “the insecurities of the Malays”.

At a press conference in Parliament today, the PKR de facto leader claimed that the programme has promoted a racist approach. NONE“I totally disagree with the racist approach. UMNO leaders (use) the closed-door sessions to talk about the insecurities of Malays – that they have been marginalised – and suggesting that this has been done by the Chinese and the Indians.

“And in the process, they (the courses) defend UMNO and its leadership (and suggest that) nothing is wrong (even) with corruption, PKFZ (Port Klang Free Zone) scandal and the (murder of) Mongolian (national Altantuya Shaariibuu).”

He said the opposition has always been the target and accused of ‘splitting the Malays and (causing) disunity”.

“If that’s how they view it, then let’s debate it. Why hide? Now you see in the whole polemics that they are blaming the Chinese and Indians, particularly the DAP, for suggesting that the BTN should be reviewed and revamped,” said Anwar.

BTN, an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department, aims to nurture the spirit of patriotism and a commitment to excellence among Malaysians. For decades, it has conducted courses for students, young leaders and civil servants.

The controversy was triggered when Selangor government imposed a ban on attendance at BTN, claiming that it promotes “racial politics and BN/UMNO ideaology”.

‘Why defend it?’

In a related development, DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang today said the revamp of the BTN curriculum cannot take place if federal ministers keep defending the “racist and destructive” programme.

lim kit siang and dapWhile he welcomed the announcement on the revamp, Lim said many top UMNO ministers “seem to be unaware of this cabinet decision”.

They include Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Agro-based Industry Minister Noh Omar and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Ahmad Maslan.

“Last Thursday, Muhyiddin defended the BTN (but) Hishammuddin, Noh Omar, Shahrizat and Ahmad defended the divisive, racist and seditious BTN course only over the weekend….(they also) condemned critical voices including my call for the closure of the racist and seditious BTN courses as these make a total mockery of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s 1Malaysia slogan and concept.

“Why is this so? Who is right then, Najib or Muhyiddin, Hishammuddin, Noh Omar, Shahrizat and Ahmad?”

Negri Sembilan Politics: Making Way for Isa Samad?

Negri UMNO Warloads seek to unseat Menteri Besar

By Adib Zalkapli( November 29, 2009)

Negri Sembilan UMNO warlords are using allegations of an illegal money transfer to unseat the unpopular Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, whose aides denied the mentri besar is under central bank probe.

“We believe that there is no point letting the issue being exploited by the opposition, the leadership must take action, now we are just waiting for the president’s return,” a Negri Sembilan division chief told The Malaysian Insider.

UMNO president Datuk Seri Najib Razak is now attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2009 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Mohamad, who became mentri besar in 2004, is currently under Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) probe for allegedly transferring funds amounting to RM10 million to London through a money changer, Salamath Ali. An aide to Mohamad said the BNM probe has nothing to do with his employer. “The investigation is against the money changer and not against Datuk,” the aide told The Malaysian Insider.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Mohamad has privately blamed his staff for making him use the services of the money changer.

Pakatan Rakyat’s Batu MP Chua Tian Chang revealed the matter after the central bank said Salamath Ali Money Changer had contravened Section 30 of the Money Changing Act 1998 and its licence had been revoked on October 26.

State UMNO warlords are making their moves now to prevent the issue from being further exploited by the opposition. “He is already not liked by 80 per cent of the UMNO members here, so this case will not be ignored,” said the division chief.

The state Umno warlord pointed out that despite the blackout by the English and Bahasa Malaysia mainstream press, the issue has found its way to the party grassroots via text messages.

“UMNO members in Jempol, Kuala Pilah, Rembau they don’t access the Internet, so initially only civil servants talked about it, later people started sending SMS on ‘kes duit haram MB’,” he said.

Mohamad came under fire from Negri Sembilan opposition leader Loke Siew Fook during the state assembly sitting over the issue but the Rantau assemblyman kept mum and refused to give an explanation.

Opposition lawmakers have also called on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to conduct a probe into the scandal. Mohamad had also refused to talk about the matter openly at a press conference early this month.

PKFZ Scandal re-surfaces

November 29, 2009

Asia Sentinel (

Written by Our Correspondent
Friday, 27 November 2009

The dogs bark, the caravan moves on

Malaysia’s massive port scandal, which has received enormous publicity, implicating a wide swath of past and present officials at the very top of the national coalition government, is confronting Najib Tun Razak, the prime minister, with an unappetizing list of choices given his public rhetoric about cleaning out corruption in his party and government.

The cost overruns in the disastrous attempt to turn the Port Klang seaport into a national multimodal transshipment involve top figures in the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second component of the ruling national coalition, as well as influential members of Najib’s own party.

As with a staggering number of industrialization projects dreamed up by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the Port Klang free zone appears to have served as a kind of gigantic smorgasbord from which officials picked out whatever they wanted to enrich themselves. In September, police froze the bank accounts of Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd, the corporate entity with the contract to build the port, while they attempt to sort out what happened.

“I believe they will nail a few people,” said a Kuala Lumpur observer with ties to the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). “The scandal is too big to ignore. But how severe their punishment will be remains to be seen. Some will certainly go to jail. Lots of UMNO guys are behind it, but they’re medium fry. The main culprits are the MCA guys plus Tiong.”

That is Tiong King Sing, an influential Sarawak lawmaker and chairman of the parliament’s Backbencher’s Club, who holds 70 percent of the shares in Kuala Dimensi. Although authorities may charge Tiong, sources say, he is likely to be the only one despite the complicity of a long list of MCA and UMNO figures. Tiong has denied any impropriety and one source said that “Tiong has hid his tracks very well.”

There is also the question of the involvement of the cabinet itself. According to June 22, 2007 documents classified under the country’s Official Secrets Act as secret (Rahsia), which were obtained and translated by Asia Sentinel, and other documents, it appears that the government, through the reigns of Prime Ministers Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the current prime minister, Najib Razak, retroactively and illegally authorized payments and bonds that have driven the cost of the project from an original RM1.96 billion (US$577 million) in 1999 to a potential RM12.45 billion if the port defaults and is forced to pay interest on its debt, according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services.

Two transport ministers who previously headed the Malaysian Chinese Association, and three of the four Port Klang Authority chairmen went along with the cost overruns, much of which appear to have stemmed from out and out corruption. The current chairman Lee Hwa Beng, is an accountant and has supported attempts to bring the scandal into the open.

In the classified memorandum, which can be found here, the cabinet agreed to “approve retrospectively costs related to the development of the PKFZ from RM1.088billion to RM4,632,732,000…and to give retrospective approval/validation of the government’s guarantee in issuing bonds at the estimated value of RM4,632,632,000 including coupons by Kuala Dimensi. This support must be based on the issuing of several Letters of Support by the Transport Minister, where these letters would become an implicit government guarantee that is legal.”

The letters of support referred to in the cabinet document were issued by the two previous Transport Ministers, Ling Liong Sik and Chan Kong Choy, that allegedly were issued without authorization from the Treasury Ministry. Now, according to the cabinet document, “The government needs to carry the financial burden of RM4,632,732,000.00 in the form of soft loan to PKB… the government’s contingent liability will increase to RM4,632,732,000.00 if PKB cannot repay the bonds which have been issued. This amount does not include Medium term Notes at RM85mil and RM75mil respectively which are yet to be issued.”

The port’s directors say it is now likely to default on billions of ringgit in loans, with the possibility, according to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, that accumulated interest could drive the cost up by more than a factor of six.

The scandal has caused havoc inside the MCA, with the current transport minister, Ong Tee Keat insisting that all the reports related to the affair be released to the public. Those efforts caused his enemies to overthrow him as MCA president. The party is now considering intra-party elections to install another leader.

The story started when, according to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, Kuala Dimensi sold the land to the Port Klang Authority for RM1.09 billion, or RM25 per square foot although by using Malaysia’s Land Acquisition Act, it could have been purchased for RM10 per square foot. Kuala Dimensi acquired the land from the Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative for only RM3 per square foot. A flock of UMNO officials were involved in various roles including the party’s permanent chairman, Onn Ismail, his son-in-law Faizal Abdullah, the former party treasurer Azim Zabidi and others. A Kuala Lumpur source called them “bit players who were there more for insurance and influence-peddling.”

Others named in the PWC report included UMNO officials Abdul Rahman Palil, Abdul Rashad Asari, Omar Latip and Idris Mat Jani, who served in various capacities either with the development cooperative, the supposedly independent surveyor, the law firm advising Kuala Dimensi or as shareholders in allied companies.

Kuala Dimensi, having acquired the land for the free trade zone, was appointed to develop it. That resulted in cost overruns mounting to the hundreds of millions of ringgit. According to The Sun, a Kuala Lumpur newspaper, the Dubai-based Jebel Ali Free Zone, originally appointed to manage the port, gave up and pulled out in 2007, allegedly because of interference from politicians and figures with vested interests, deliberate falsification of minutes, attempts at tax evasion by Malaysian negotiators and other issues. It appears that management was so substandard, according to a report by yet another committee, that the port didn’t even have revenue or cost projections.

If the government’s past track record of investigation is any harbinger, it is questionable what will be done. In 2007, the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission was asked to investigate the plethora of illicit payments and kiting of land prices. The MACC declined to do so in 2007 according to Mohd Sidek Hassan, the chief secretary to the government. Under pressure from the magnitude of the controversy, the MACC is now investigating how the price of land for the acquisition of the project ballooned out of control and will probe financial records pertaining to payment claims and other issues such as conflicts of interest.

It is a safe bet that none of those issues will involve how the Malaysian cabinet agreed to ratify the letters of guarantee issued by the Transport ministry despite the fact that only the Treasury Ministry can legally issue such letters, and how it authorized the backdating of billions of ringgit in bonds and other costs over the past several years.

Some of the actions would appear almost laughable, if the cost weren’t roughly RM500 for every one of Malaysia’s 25.7 million people according to one report. On Nov. 4, according to local media, a Corporate Governance Ad Hoc Committee on the free zone project recommended the creation of an Ethics and Integrity Monitoring Committee and the appointment of independent non-executive members who would constitute one-third of the port’s board of directors. A seminar on corporate governance and transparency will be scheduled.

But this time, judging from the numbers of bloggers and independent commissions – and the phenomenal size of the scandal – something might actually be done, and somebody might go to jail.

GST Gain Offset by Loses via Corruption and Mismanagement

November 29, 2009

Gain Additional RMI billion in Revenue from GST and Lose RM28 billion to Corruption and Mismanagement of Public Administration

DAP has urged the Federal Government to reconsider the proposed 4 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST), claiming it would do nothing to narrow the nation’s current deficit budget and would only further burden the poor and the middle class.

Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said that the Government should, instead, concentrate on fighting corruption and realising savings of at least RM28bil annually instead of a mere RM1bil in additional revenue from GST.

“This RM28billion was admitted by Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah as the cost of leakages from having closed tenders in government procurement or just failing to have open tenders for government contracts in an open manner.

“If the government focuses on changing this, there is no need to impose GST on the people to raise funds. But unfortunately, the Barisan Nasional is not brave enough to truly fight corruption,” he said in his opening address at the Perak DAP’sn 15th annual convention here today.

In fact, Lim pointed out the supposed RM28bil in losses to corruption annually may even be an under-reported figure.

“As Time Magazine had quoted Daniel Lian, a Southeast Asia economist at Morgan Stanley in Singapore, saying that Malaysia might have lost as much as US$100billion since the early 1980s to corruption,” he said.

Lim said that the proposed 4 per cent GST, which is set to be tabled in Parliament early next year, would not widen the tax base much, seeing as the present budget deficit was over RM50billion.

“So what is an additional income of RM1billion annually? In fact, this GST would only serve to affect 85 per cent of the working population who currently do not pay taxes because their incomes are below taxable levels.

“The impact would be most severely felt on the 38 per cent of the 5.6 million households with income levels of less than RM2,000 monthly or 2.12 million households,” he said. Lim also voiced disappointment over the “unconditional support” for “UMNO’s GST” by MCA Gerakan, SUPP and MIC.

“No MCA minister has defended public interest but has continued to perpetuate this national economic divide by burdening the poor and the middle-class instead of fighting corruption to get more money. Why fear fighting corruption so much?” he said.

Lim also called for the withdrawal of the 15 per cent preferential income tax rates given to professionals in selected areas on the Iskandar Development Region, saying that the benefit should be offered to all professionals in Malaysia.

“Why is it that professionals in other states have to pay 26 per cent? How can there be 1 Malaysia when we have one country and two systems with double standards and discrimination in tax treatment?” he questioned.

Well done and go forward with Chapter 2, Malaysiakini, with new approaches and perspectives

November 29, 2009

Change is possible and you, Prem Chandran, Steven Gan and Malaysiakini, have shown us the way. It takes Integrity, Vision and Guts (IVG) to operate in uncharted waters. I admire and respect your courage and quest for excellence. Proceed to Chapter 2 and beyond. –din merican

November 28, 2009

We couldn’t have  done it without you

Co-founders Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran tonight thanked thousands of Malaysiakini subscribers for their support in keeping the 10-year-old news portal “financially independent”.

NONEAt the Malaysiakini 10th Anniversary Dinner at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Bukit Kiara, Gan told the 1,000-strong crowd that the founders’ unwritten motto has been “independent media needs independent financing”.

Malaysiakini today is one of the two news websites in the world – the other being Wall Street Journal – which have made the subscription model a success. It’s a feat which has gone relatively unnoticed,” said Gan, who is Malaysiakini’s editor-in-chief.

“When the online editor of New York Times came to Kuala Lumpur to speak to us about our business model, surely we must be doing something right. “All this, thanks to our subscribers who fork out RM20 every month to access Malaysiakini.”

NONEAccording to chief executive officer Chandran, Malaysiakini subscribers have “voted with their wallets against the tide of free content”.

“Over 117,000 stories and 2,000 videos in four languages, published to an audience of two million unique readers – when we launched Malaysiakini, we never believed we would get this far,” said Chandran.

“Indeed, Malaysiakini has exceeded the expectations of the founders, the staff and all those who took a leap of faith with us.”

Chandran cited public intellectual Din Merican, who wrote in his blog recently about Malaysiakini: “Never in the history of Malaysian journalism have so few brave men and women done so much in the cause of freedom and democracy.”

Blue ocean turns red

Chandran noted that the 10th anniversary marked “the end of Chapter 1 of the Malaysiakini story”.NONE“What used to be a dangerous ‘blue ocean’ waters has now become a ‘red ocean’ with new ‘independent’ news portals being launched regularly.

“Whereas Chapter 1 was about building a ship in hostile waters, Chapter 2 seems to be about maneuvering the ship forward towards new unchartered territories, developing new competitive advantages and reaching out to new audiences,” he said.

Malaysiakini will be embarking on this journey with the same zeal as we did 10 years ago. We are preparing, looking forward to the mobile and the Internet TV space, as well as exploring social media.

“Our goal is to have the ability to reach every Malaysian and beyond. As before, this can only be achieved with your support.”

Among those who attended the anniversary dinner were Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim (PKR) and a number of his cabinet members, Information, Communications and Culture Deputy Minister Heng Seai Kie (MCA) and Shah Alam parliamentarian Khalid Samad (PAS).

NONEGan, in his speech, referred to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu in describing Malaysiakini’s mission.

“Lao Tzu said: Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, ‘We have done this ourselves’.

“And so with Malaysiakini, it is not just reaching our destination that is important. When we do get there – hopefully very soon – Malaysians will say, ‘We have done this together.'”

San Miguel Beer Corp: Takeover in the works

posted by din merican–November 29, 2009

San Miguel Directors May Lead Takeover Bid After Stake Purchase

By Ian Sayson and Francisco Alcuaz Jr.

November, 27 (Bloomberg) — San Miguel Corp. Directors Inigo Zobel and Roberto Ongpin may lead a takeover offer for the Philippines’ biggest food and beverage maker after paying 64.3 billion pesos ($1.36 billion) for a 28 percent stake.

San Miguel rose to a two-year high in Manila trading after Top Frontier Investment Holdings Inc., 60 percent-owned by the two directors, said it paid 75 pesos a share for stock owned by the foodmaker’s retirement fund. That was 14 percent more than yesterday’s closing price, valuing the company at $3.64 billion.

Closely held Top Frontier said Ongpin, a former trade minister, is in talks to combine its stake with the 20 percent held by Q-Tech Alliance Holdings Inc. to make a general offer for the remaining shares of San Miguel. The 70 percent gain in San Miguel’s A shares this year trails gains of smaller rivals even as the Manila-based company sold some assets, including a stake in a unit to Kirin Holdings Co.

“This transaction and the prospective tender offer will help partially unlock the value of San Miguel,” said Ed Francisco, president of BDO Capital & Investment Corp., a Manila-based investment bank. “The shares have languished for some time.”

San Miguel A shares rose by 5.3 percent, the most in four months, to close at 69 pesos in Manila trading today, the highest level in more than two years. The company’s B shares rose 5 percent to 69 pesos. The A shares are reserved for Filipinos while the B shares have no ownership restrictions.

Asset Sales

San Miguel has raised about 98 billion pesos this year from the sale of assets to finance investments in faster growing industries including energy, mining and telecommunications.

Top Frontier is “banking on the fact that the company is positioned for any economic upturn,” said Fitz Aclan, who helps manage the equivalent of about $9.6 billion at Banco de Oro Unibank Inc. in Manila. “It’s a big company in various sectors. Relative to other stocks in the Philippine market, it’s underperforming. There’s good upside from where it is.”

Ongpin and closely held Master Year Ltd. own 20 percent of Top Frontier while Zobel and businessman Joselito Campos each hold 40 percent, according to Top Frontier’s statement today. The company had last year offered to buy the government’s stake in San Miguel for 56.5 billion pesos, BusinessWorld reported in July 2008.

Mahathir’s Son

San Miguel is a very sound investment, with a strong balance sheet to support the new business endeavors which are clearly the future engines of growth,” Ongpin said in Top Frontier’s statement.The investors “will provide added value to the company in terms of strategic positioning,” San Miguel said in a statement.

Manila-based investment company Q-Tech’s investors include Mirzan Mahathir, chairman of Crescent Capital Bhd and a son of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Top Frontier’s purchase price values San Miguel at 22 times estimated earnings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. San Miguel A and B shares are trading at 20 times estimated earnings. Kirin is trading at 22 times estimated earnings.

San Miguel’s investments will have a return on equity that’s almost three times the 7 percent generated by the company’s food and beverage businesses, President Ramon Ang said in July.

Ongpin is in talks for a possible consolidation of the San Miguel holdings of Top Frontier and Q-Tech, according to the statement from Top Frontier. Q-Tech, which earlier this year acquired 20 percent of San Miguel from Kirin, is 30 percent- owned by Ongpin, Top Frontier said.

Ferdinand Marcos

“Subject to the outcome of these discussions with the shareholders of both companies, a tender offer will be undertaken in accordance with law,” Top Frontier said. Ongpin was the Philippines’ trade minister from 1979 until 1986 while San Miguel Chairman Eduardo Cojuangco was then president of a bank that administered taxes collected from coconut farmers, according to Earl Parreno, a political analyst who wrote a biography on Cojuangco. Ongpin and Cojuangco lost their posts after a popular revolt ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“I don’t think this is a hostile transaction,” said Winston Garcia, president of the Government Service Insurance System and a San Miguel director since 2001. “Both men are cordial and professional to each other,” he said, referring to Ongpin and Cojuangco.

GSIS sold its 7 percent stake in San Miguel in 2007 and Garcia has been retained as independent director since then.The government in 1986 seized San Miguel shares owned by Cojuangco and entities representing coconut farmers on allegations these were acquired using public funds managed by the businessman. Cojuangco has denied the allegations and the anti-graft court ruled in his favor in 2007. The Supreme Court is reviewing a request by government to overturn the ruling.

Zobel is a member of one of the country’s richest families. His father sold the family’s stake in San Miguel to Cojuangco in the 1980s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian C. Sayson in Manila at

Grand Theft Malaysia

November 28, 2009

Many snouts in the public trough

Asia Sentinel (November 27, 2009)

The Port Klang Free Zone scandal may be big, but it is only the latest in a long line of Malaysian scandals going back to the early 1980s. Time Magazine quoted Daniel Lian, a Southeast Asia economist at Morgan Stanley in Singapore, saying that the country might have lost as much as U$100 billion since the early 1980s to corruption.”

The scandals listed below are only a small sample of the looting of the country’s coffers:

In July of 1983, what was then the biggest banking scandal in world history erupted in Hong Kong, when it was discovered that Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF), a unit of Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Bhd, had lost as much as US$1 billion which had been siphoned off by prominent public figures into private bank accounts. The story involved murder, suicide and the involvement of officials at the very top of the Malaysian government. Ultimately it involved a bailout by the Malaysian government amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mak Foon Tan, the murderer of Jalil Ibrahim, a Bank Bumi assistant manager who was sent to Hong Kong to investigate the disappearance of the money, was given a death sentence, and Malaysian businessman George Tan who had participated in looting most of the funds, was jailed after his Carrian Group collapsed in what was then Hong Kong’s biggest bankruptcy, and a handful of others were charged. No major politician was ever punished in Malaysia despite a white paper prepared by an independent commission that cited cabinet minutes of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad giving an okay to a request to throw more money into the scandal in an effort to contain it.

That was just the first Bank Bumi scandal. The government-owned bank had to be rescued twice more with additional losses of nearly US$600 million in today’s dollars. Ultimately government officials gave up and the bank was absorbed into CIMB Group, currently headed by Nazir Razak, the prime minister’s brother. That scandal, which stretched over several years before its denouement in 1985, set the tone for 24 years of similar scandals related to top Malaysian officials and was the first to prove that in Malaysia, you can not only get away with murder, you can get away with looting the treasury as well.

Perwaja Steel, for instance, lost US$800 million and its boss, Eric Chia, a crony of Mahathir’s, was charged with looting the company. He stood trial, but was acquitted without having to put on a defense.

In the mid 1980s, the Co-operative Central Bank, a bank set up to aid the Indian smallholder community, had to be rescued by Bank Negara, the country’s central bank, after hundreds of millions of ringgit in loans granted to a flock of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) politicians became non-performing. Some had never been serviced at all. Although the chief executive and general manager were charged with criminal breach of trust, none of the politicians were ever charged.

Before that, the Malaysian government was believed to have lost US$500 million in an attempt at Mahathir’s urging to corner the London tin market through a company called Maminco, driving the world price of tin from US$4.50 per tonne to US$7.50. It then sought to cover up the loss by establishing a US$2 company called Mukawasa from which allocations of new share issues to the government’s Employees Provident Funds’ were diverted. Mukawasa  expected to sell the shares at a windfall profit to hide the tin speculation.

Mahathir also was behind an attempt by the then governor of Bank Negara, the central bank, to aggressively speculate in the global foreign exchange market. Bank Negara ended up losing an estimated RM20 billion. The governor, Jaffar Hussein, and the head of forex trading, Nor Mohamed Yakcop were forced to resign.

There have been many other political and financial scandals since. In 2005, Bank Islam Malaysia, the country’s flagship Islamic bank, reported losses of RM457 million mainly due to provisioning totaling RM774 million as a result of bad loans and investments incurred by its Labuan branch. Cumulatively, Bank Islam ran up nonperforming loans of RM2.2 billion, partly from mismanagement and poor internal controls but also “years of regulatory indifference fueled by the misconceived notion of an untouchable Bank Islam because it was a favorite child of the Malaysian government, being the first and model Islamic bank in the country and region,” according to a December 19, 2005 article in Arab News.

“Bank Islam had a reputation in the market for being the spoilt child of the Malaysian Ministry of Finance; and the perception of the bank was more of a Muslim financial fraternity or government development financial institution,” the report said.

In 2007, in what was called Malaysia’s Enron scandal, the publicly traded Transmile Group Bhd, whose chairman was former MCA President and Cabinet Minister Ling Liong Sik, was caught having overstated its revenue by RM530 million. A pretax profit from Rm207 million in 2006 was actually a loss of RM126 million, and a pretax profit of 120 million in 2005 was a loss of RM77 million, causing the government postal company Pos Malaysia & Services Holdings Bhd to warn that its earnings for the 2006 financial year might be affected by the reported overstatement, as the postal group owned 15.3 percent of Transmile.

Over the years 2001 to 2006, the government had to spend billions to rescue seven privatized projects including Kuala Lumpur’s two public transport systems, the perennially ailing Malaysia Airlines, the national sewage system and a variety of others that, in the words of one study, “had been privatized prematurely.” The government also repeatedly bailed out highway construction concessionaires, all of them closely connected to UMNO, to the tune of another RM38.5 billion.

In 2008, it was revealed that Rafidah Aziz, who had served as trade and industry minister for 18 years, had been peddling approved permits for duty-free car sales and allegedly lining her pockets. Two companies which didn’t even have showrooms – one of which belonged to the husband of Rafidah’s niece – received scores of permits. Although Rafidah came in for heavy criticism from within UMNO, she remained in office until she was defeated in party elections.

In the 1960s, federal prosecutors in the United States who were attempting to jail the late labor boss Jimmy Hoffa for looting the Teamsters Pension Fund of millions of dollars with his cronies were puzzled by the fact that their revelations appeared to have little effect on the union’s rank and file. It was because no matter how much money Hoffa and his cronies stole, there was always money left because the fund was so rich. That appears to be the case with Malaysia.

Seig Heil Economics 2

November 28, 2009

Comment: Sakmongkol is correct in raising concerns about the preservation of an interventionist leviathan government system that is bureaucratic, paternalistic and inefficient. Except for FELDA, which is the pride and joy of Prime Minister Najib today and possibly the MUDA Agricultural Development Authority (MADA)in Kedah, all government initiated regional development schemes have been dismal failures due to politics. The Badawi Corridors and other so-called massive First World schemes ala Malaysia are of the same mould, grandiose in conception and cumbersome and costly in execution.

Government has no business to be in business for the simple reason  that the profit or rate of return principle is alien to civil servants, irrespective of their color, race or religion. It is difficult for them to accept the fact that they are not the arbiters of our destiny, as that would mean a loss of administrative power.

On the other hand, the politicians, especially businessmen turned UMNO  politicians during the Mahathir era, understand what I am bluntly trying to say. Because they know that business is risky and rewards very uncertain, they have found a convenient way of making money minus the risk. The nexus between  risk and reward is broken by a commission system, which transfers the risk and costs to non-Malay and non-UMNO businessmen, and  society at large.

That is why under the guise of  noble objectives, they have crafted a economic policy centered on crony or ersatz capitalism with the UMNO-BN government playing the role of  Economic Godfather. Politicians and their cronies win, while the people lose in this zero-sum game. The NEP and the NDP policies can, therefore, be regarded as a success, not to be measured against their declared objectives, but in terms of wealth creation and distribution for the benefit of the ruling elite and their cronies.

It is vested interests that is the main obstacle to any policy change. a point acknowledged by Sakmongkol . To deal with this problem, we require a transformational leader who is prepared to put caution to the wind and proceed with ” the dismantling the very structures” that held back the Malays.  I disagree with his cautionary approach, and I quote him:

The root solution to solving the Malay economic problem lies then with the dismantling of the very structures which we have created that have proven to be holding back the Malays in general. The PM appears to have an understanding about this root solution but must tread gingerly. Similarly calls to break away from the siege mentality must be tempered with prudence in order to avoid becoming a casualty to the wishes of the particular special interest groups.

I feel that the time for drastic action has come, but I am not oblivious to the risks involved. In proposing change, I always reminded of Machiavelli who said:

And one should bear in mind that there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new order to things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old order as his enemies; and he has only lukewarm allies in all those who might profit from the new. This lukewarmness partly stems from fear of their adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the skepticism of men, who do not truly believe in new things unless they have personal experience in them.” (Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince) —Din Merican

Seig Heil Economics 2 : Noble objectives, disappointing results.

by Sakmongkol AK47 (November 25, 2009)

Malaysia’s version of the New Deal began operating since 1970. Officially, we knew the deal by the name of NEP which ended formally in 1990. The same idea continues today in various forms of ‘planning institutions’ but each carrying with them, the same seeds with a common ancestry- the idea of enlarged/leviathan government  participation in the economy. We can also call this tendency, the collectivist mindset.

When the NEP ended officially in 1990, the inherited collectivist mindset came up with a new economic agenda. It was succeeded for example by the New National Development Policy, and now the New National Agenda. Even now, collectivist tendencies lie behind the formation of the various corridors that’s enveloping almost the whole of Malaysia. They are in reality, specific forms of leviathan government involvement in the economy. They share the common trait of bearing the same collectivist tendencies.

Hayek warned of this tendency in his discussion on the Omnipotent Elected Assembly. It means the people who have governmental powers confer unto themselves the authority to be the final arbiters of the destiny of the rest. Before we go on, we need to ask this question: are the Malays against market economy?If left on his own, every Malay would wish to pursue the economic vocation that interests them and hence they remain true to Adam Smith’s- each pursuing their own interests. They can accept free market economy but in practice, they wish exceptions to be made for them.

Why so? Because they command majority political support and as Hayek pointed out in a lecture in 1973:-

Majority rule and special interests

The reason is that it is now generally taken for granted that in a democracy the powers of the majority must be unlimited, and that a government with unlimited powers will be forced, to secure the continued support of a majority, to use its unlimited powers in the service of special interests – such groups as particular traders, ‘the inhabitants of particular regions, etc. We shall see this most clearly if we consider the situation in a community in which the mass of the people are in favour of a market order and against government direction, but, as will normally happen, most of the groups wish an exception to be made in their favour. [ F.A Hayek, Economic Freedom And Representative Government, Fourth Wincott Memorial Lecture delivered at The Royal Society of Arts 31 October, 1973]

Given the wishes of the majority, who could stand a chance for making even a preliminary suggestion that we unload the siege mentality? The political reality would be more in tandem with what Hayek said in the same lecture:-

In such conditions a political party hoping to achieve and maintain power will have little choice but to use its powers to buy the support of particular groups. They will do so not because the majority is interventionist, but because the ruling party would not retain a majority if it did not buy the support of particular groups by the promise of special advantages. This means in practice that even a statesman wholly devoted to the common interest of all the citizens will be under the constant necessity of satisfying special interests, because only thus will he be able to retain the support of a majority which he needs to achieve what is really important to him.

The majority is not interventionist. This lends credence to our own estimation that Malays are not anti-market economy. Tun Razak, the architect of NEP, gave a finite time span for the NEP because he knew the majority is not interventionist. That leaves only one reason why collectivist tendencies in our economy continue. The ruling party will not stay in power without the promise of special advantages as THE form of purchase to secure the support of particular groups. Note here, the support of particular groups, not the support of the majority.

The concept of 1Malaysia or the breaking up of the siege mentality stand in the way of the interests of particular groups. What is required of the PM is the indomitable will of a Mahathir with a humane face. He has the comforting assurance that the majority is not interventionist.

The root solution to solving the Malay economic problem lies then with the dismantling of the very structures which we have created that have proven to be holding back the Malays in general. The PM appears to have an understanding about this root solution but must tread gingerly. Similarly calls to break away from the siege mentality must be tempered with prudence in order to avoid becoming a casualty to the wishes of the particular special interest groups.

Whither “Performance Now” Malaysia?

November 28, 2009

Whither “people first, performance now”?

by Maran Perianen* (November 27, 2009)

As Malaysia lumbered under the weight of a crisis in confidence, sparked off by corruption, abuse of power, mismanagement of the economy and racial issues, Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research released its survey findings. While 29 percent felt that the country was heading in the right direction, a whopping 60 percent however indicated that it was heading south.

As the ruling party struggled to regain lost ground after having governed the nation since independence, many raised the question as to how long it can withstand the pressure exerted by three major forces – civil society, the not-so-formidable opposition alliance and the voting public.

Barisan Nasional, an UMNO-led coalition of 13 parties with diverse backgrounds, had weathered major scandals ranging from racial riots to financial quagmires for more than half century. They had rode to victory through a record 11 general elections, forming the government with a comfortable majority.

On March 8, 2008, that formidable fortress crumbled. In the aftermath of the shocking election, BN leaders found it hard to digest the fact that they had lost five states and their traditional two-third parliamentary majority.

The general election had been the watershed for BN, and served as a painful reminder that they had overlooked numerous important issues, which in turn had turn to votes for the opposition.

According to the data collected by Merdeka Centre, the issues that the public were upset about were unfavourable economic conditions, public safety, crime and political instability.

The approval rating on the government nosedived from 71 percent in February 2008 to as low as 28 percent in July 2008 and was hovering over 30 percent until April 2009.

‘Knight in shining armour

A Dolled-Up Rosmah Mansor

The incoming premier knew that he had to make a grand entrance, to play the ‘knight in shinning armour’ who would save all Malaysians.

True enough, in his first public appearance as prime minister on April 3, 2009, Najib Abdul Razak told the people that the government would be a performance-based government and his priority was the people and their welfare.

“We must reach out to all parts of Malaysia, to all our diverse communities. In our national discourse and in pursuing our national agenda, we must never leave anyone behind,” he said.

Critics however dismissed it as an attempt to play to the gallery, and that the speech did little more than to invoke a sense of ‘deja vu’ with regards to the promises of his predecessors.

Being the eldest son of the second prime minister, Abdul Razak, who crafted government policies having the welfare of the people in mind, Najib knew that the odds were stacked against him. It was a gargantuan task to re-energise, re-capture and re-engage the Malaysian public.

Taking note of the polling pattern in the last elections, Najib knew that he was facing a more matured society with access to a wealth of information, thanks to the advent of the new media.

At the same time, he also inherited a Parliament with an overwhelming number of opposition members. “We would take new approaches for new times,” he summed up in his maiden speech. But Malaysians are a weary bunch, who have grown sick and tired of lip service and rhetoric. So how would Najib’s ‘people first, performance now’ slogan fare?

The emphasis on bringing every race together has been said over and over again, but it appears that racial polarisation has only gotten worse, especially at the grassroots level.

Just another slogan

“1Malaysia is just another slogan aimed at uniting the people. This actually indicates that our nation is still grappling with the issue of unity 52 years after independence,” remarked a young journalist.

NONEDismissing it as nothing more than sloganeering to fish for votes, the journalist said if there is underlying honesty, there would be no need for slogans at all.

These quotes stem from frustration, no doubt. Even though Najib has an “impressive track record” (?) of having been a cabinet member for more than two decades, the amount of cynicism directed towards his concept is testimony to the failure of his predecessors in achieving anything concrete in creating a Malaysian identity.

The Bangsa Malaysia concept was first mooted by Dr Mahathir Mohamad as part of his Vision 2020. He pushed forward the agenda to achieve greater integration among the races. It received a mixed reaction from the upper echelons of BN with Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman, calling it a ‘nebulous concept’.

The effort to weave the Malaysian fabric into one homogenous cloth did not augur well with UMNO leaders, and thus, the concept had its wings clipped and failed to take flight.

The inability of the Bangsa Malaysia concept to win the hearts and minds of Malaysians, is what is threatening the current ‘people first, performance now’ concept. A senior producer with a prominent media organisation felt that the new concept is too superficial. “How can a concept, which is superficial, unite us?

“We are divided since our early years, namely during primary school… perhaps the most important years of our lives when we should be studying and playing with children of all races,” he said. The executors of the new concept must first find out how deep rooted the racial divide is in this country.

As Joe R Feagin noted in his book ‘Systemic Racism: A Theory of Oppression’, racial oppression is not just a surface-level feature of this society, but rather pervades, permeates, and interconnects all major social groups, networks, and institutions across the society

In order for the concept to be successful, it has to build itself from the ground up, where the very nucleus of the society exists. Once the race idea has been spooked out of every Malaysian mindset then any concept promoting integration can prevail.

The racial divide in Malaysia is deep-rooted and if you plan to cut down the tree of racism, then you must also pull out the roots, pointed out another observer. He also stressed that the problem is related to the ‘not so liberal’ education system.

All is not lost

But all is not lost for Najib. Since taking over the reins, the approval rating has been on the rise and this is a promising scenario for the premier, who appears determined to make all the right moves. “After a tiring four years under the previous prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysians needed a new direction and new captain to steer,” said the observer.

However, he pointed out that time was a crucial factor and the new premier must get cracking, not with just promises but results. The premier must also tread carefully in order not to step on the toes of UMNO’s warlords, who might feel threatened by the ‘all encompassing’ concept, he added.

Only time would tell if the sown seeds of the ‘people first, performance now’ concept would bear fruits in the future or whither like the grand promises of many a prime minister before.

* MARAN PERIANEN is a member of the Malaysiakini team.

Biro Tata Negara (BTN) by an Undergraduate Inductee

November 27, 2009

Biro Tata Negara taught me the Chinese are “the Jews of Asia”

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

Defender of Racist Biro Tata Negara

I am one of the privileged few to have attended a local public university and learned the meaning of hate, thanks to the ever popular Biro Tata Negara. All undergraduates were forced to attend this programme or else they would not be eligible for graduation.

The BTN under the Prime Minister’s Department brought in “intellectual” speakers who were supposed to enlighten the students about the meaning of being a Malaysian but instead it was more like a communist propaganda camp brainwashing those attending about the importance of “Ketuanan Melayu”.

The camp would usually take place during the weekends. Students would have to register early in the morning and the programme would last the whole day.The organisers were always on their guard, asking participants to show their student identification cards each time they entered the hall, fearing the presence of outsiders.

In the hall, students were asked to turn off their mobile phones. During the lectures, questions were planted among the audience and the students were advised not to ask any other questions. One speaker began with the history of Malaysia and how much the country had gone through, always emphasising the May 13, 1969  riots.

He stressed the point of how much the Malays had sacrificed and how the community should be united especially from outside threat — the Chinese community.He said that the Chinese community were “the Jews of Asia” and were just itching to take over when Malays were disunited and broken.

The speaker also revealed a greater Chinese conspiracy where the Chinese Malaysians were working together with Singapore to topple the Malay government.“Do you want to become like the Malays in Singapore?” he asked. He also went so far as to criticise Malay girls for dating boys from other races.

He added that they should not be cheap and embarrass their families. Once, a student told the speaker that as Muslims, we should also respect other races who are also Muslims. “All Muslims are Malays so it does not matter if they are Chinese or Indians. If they are Muslims then they are Malays,” the speaker replied.

This is why I was relieved when I learned that the Selangor government had moved to ban its civil servants, employees of state subsidiaries and students at state-owned education institutions from attending any BTN courses with immediate effect.

However I believe racism in varsities does not end at BTN because classrooms have also become victims of ignorant scholars. My friend was verbally abused during his sociology class when he did not agree with the points made by his lecturer.

“You must be DKK,” the lecturer told him. “What is DKK?” he asked. “You must be darah keturunan keling (descendents of Indians),” the lecturer said, pointing to his dark skin. My Saudi friend was also shocked by the comments made by his lecturer in his Islamic civilisation class.

“We should save our Orang Asli from the Chinese people. They are like the Palestinians and the Chinese are Israelis. We must fight the Jews,” the lecturer told his students.

The lecturer even failed one of his students in his oral exam when he quoted a Western scholar in his presentation. “You should be ashamed of yourselves. You are a Muslim and should only use Islamic scholars,” he scolded the student.

I was personally saddened when my Islamic law lecturer compared Christianity to Head & Shoulder’s 3 in 1 shampoo in referring to the religion’s Holy Trinity. I feel that racism has been institutionalised in our country and that BTN is only the tip of the iceberg.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin defended BTN yesterday and claimed that it was not racist but is line with the 1 Malaysia concept. I have to humbly disagree and would like to suggest maybe the ministers should bring their overseas children home and let them have a taste of what BTN is.

The Original BTN

Americk Interview: Part 3

November 27, 2009

Two different parts in Bala’s SD, explains PI’s lawyer, Americk Singh Sidhu

The first statutory declaration signed by controversial private eye P Balasubramaniam consists of two parts – one on what was told to him and the other involves what he personally saw himself.

americk siva pc 040708 02According to Balasubramaniam’s lawyer, Americk Singh Sidhu (left), the first part involves statements that the private investigator was in a position to ascertain their truth.

“He was therefore alluding to the fact that these statements were made to him, but was not alluding to the truth of those statements.”

This include where Balasubramaniam said he was told about the fact that Najib and murdered Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu had a relationship.

“The second part of Bala’s first SD reflects what he experienced himself. This would be not be regarded as hearsay evidence.”

Examples are the message Balasubramaniam saw on Abdul Razak Baginda’s mobile phone on the day the political analyst was arrested.

The SMS message, purportedly from Najib Abdul Razak, informing Razak Baginda that the then deputy prime minister was “seeing the IGP (inspector-general of police) at 11am that day and to be cool”.

Razak Baginda, known to be Najib’s close confidant, was later freed from the charge of abetting the murder of his former lover Altantuya. Americk also said that the Altantuya trial raised more questions than answers and where certain evidence was not brought to court.

“As the matter stands, we have two highly trained members of the Special Action Force killing a Mongolian national for no apparent reason. This is what was bothering Bala at the time he made his first SD.”

The following is the final of a three-part interview:

Malaysiakini: When you recorded Bala’s first SD, did you feel he was telling you the truth?

Americk: I have said this before. I have no reason to doubt the contents of Bala’s first statutory declaration (SD). However, it must be borne in mind that there are actually two parts to Bala’s first SD.

The first part involves statements that Bala says were told to him by third parties. Bala himself cannot verify the truth of these statements. That is why I said at the first press conference that these statements reflect exactly that.

All Bala was saying is that these statements were made to him and that he perceived them with his own senses. He was therefore alluding to the fact that these statements were made to him, but was not alluding to the truth of those statements.

In legal parlance these statements were hearsay and would not be admissible as evidence in a court of law until and unless they could be supported by other independent evidence and even if they were, the weight of this combined evidence is something a judge would have to consider before accepting or rejecting it.

Examples of statements under this category would include the following:

1) That Altantuya had a relationship with Najib.

2) That Razak Baginda was introduced to Altantuya by Najib at a diamond exhibition in Singapore.

3) That Altantuya was promised a commission of US$500,000 for her services in the Scorpene submarine deal.

The second part of Bala’s first SD reflects what he experienced himself. This would be not be regarded as hearsay evidence. Examples of these statements include the following:

1) That he had contact with Altantuya on a number of occasions in October 2006.

2) That Razak Baginda hired him to keep Altantuya away from him.

3) That he saw Azilah (Hadri) and Sirul (Azhar Umar) bundle Altantuya into a car outside Razak Baginda’s house on the night of Oct 19, 2006.

4) That Altantuya, at that time and place, had asked Bala to arrange for her to see Najib.

5) That Bala had, on Oct 21, 2006, received a call on his mobile phone from Musa (Mohd) Safri whilst he was outside the front gate of Razak Baginda’s house, asking to speak to the police officer who was there attempting to persuade three of Altantuya’s friends to disperse.

6) That Bala had given evidence for the prosecution in the Altantuya murder trial and had not been asked a number of very pertinent questions.

7) That Bala had himself seen a message on Razak Baginda’s mobile phone (the day Razak Baginda was arrested), purportedly from Najib, informing Razak Baginda that he was “seeing the IGP at 11am that day and to be cool”.

abdul razak baginda pc 201108 06It is also pertinent to note that Razak Baginda (left) had every opportunity of denying all Bala had said in his first SD, at the press conference he called after his acquittal. However, he chose not to say anything except that he had given his statement to the police.

If there is any doubt as to the veracity of Bala’s first SD, this can be tested by comparing it to two other statements recorded from him.

The first statement was recorded by the investigating officers in the Altantuya murder case. This is the statement Bala complained of in his press conference and first SD. He alleged that all ‘sensitive’ information he had given the police was erased from that statement.

The second statement was given to senior federal counsel Sallehuddin (Saidin) just prior to the commencement of Altantuya’s murder trial. It must be remembered Sallehuddin was one of the prosecutors on the first prosecution team but dropped when the second prosecution team was mustered.

According to Bala, this second statement is 76 pages long and details everything that appeared in his first SD. If the police are really keen in looking into this whole matter again to determine the truth, my suggestion would be to obtain copies of both these statements and compare them to the contents of his first SD. After all, they were prepared by the prosecuting authorities and should be readily available to the police.

What prompted Bala into making the first SD?

Americk: As Bala pointed out, he was a little frustrated that the police had not investigated the murder properly and that the prosecution had not conducted their case appropriately. He had been called to give evidence as a prosecution witness but was not asked a number or relevant questions.

He felt the police and the prosecution were trying to cover up the possible involvement of other parties in this murder.There is no doubt Azilah and Sirul shot Altantuya in the head and blew her body up with C4 explosives. The court has already found them guilty.

There is also available on the Internet a full confession under s.113(1)(a)(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, signed by Sirul and dated the 9.11.2006 (Travers report no. 7380/06) in which he has detailed the circumstances in which he and Azilah committed this murder.

There is also a mention of a promise of a reward of RM100,000 for these services. This statement was recorded by one inspector Nom Phot Prack Dit at Bukit Aman. This statement was not allowed to be tendered at the murder trial.Azilah and Sirul did not give evidence under oath in their defence and therefore avoided any cross-examination on motive.

As the matter stands, we have two highly trained members of the Special Action Force killing a Mongolian national for no apparent reason.

This is what was bothering Bala at the time he made his first SD.altantuya trial 160707 azilahIn his experience as a police officer attached to the Special Branch, he found it rather odd that two policemen would kill someone without receiving instructions to do so from their superiors.

In this case Azilah (right) and Sirul were Najib’s bodyguards and were supposed to take instructions from Musa Safri, Najib’s ADC (aide-de-camp). Bala felt Musa Safri, at least, should have been called to the stand to testify.

Do you think the Altantuya murder trial was conducted in a fair manner?

Americk: Fair to who?

I think the first question that ought to be asked is why it was necessary to change all the players in this trial even before it started? No doubt this is the prerogative of the accused in their choice of counsel, and of course the Attorney General’s Chambers in the appointment of prosecutors it feels more suitable. Of course a judge can be changed as well, but all three parties at once seems a little odd.

As the trial proceeded, it became obvious that there was a concerted effort by the prosecution and the defence to prevent any highly fragile evidence from being adduced. This became even more obvious during the questioning of Altantuya’s cousin, Burmaa Oyunchimeg, by Karpal Singh, who was holding a watching brief for Altantuya’s family.

altantuya razak baginda mongolian murder 270607 burmaa oyunchimegBurmaa (left), whilst being questioned by the prosecution had mentioned a photograph shown to her by Altantuya that showed Altantuya, Razak Baginda and a senior government official at a meal. The prosecution and the defence vehemently objected to the eventual answer that Burmaa gave, ie that the senior government official was Najib.

This episode begs the question as to whose interests the defence was supposed to have been protecting? Certainly not their own clients.

It is also interesting to remember Sirul’s statement from the dock at the end of the trial. He said, and I quote, “A black sheep that has to be sacrificed to protect unnamed people who have never been brought to court or faced questioning”.

I think that says it all.

Biro Tata Negara BTN): A Racist-Facist UMNO Outfit

November 27, 2009

BTN promotes National Unity. My Foot!

DPM trained by BTN under Mahathir to be an Idiot


“I have attended this BTN course. It is a brainwashing session where they tell us that our country will be destroyed if we don’t support BN. Learning about ‘1Malaysia’, nationalism and unity’? My foot.”

No brainwashing in BTN courses, says Muhyiddin
Ministers defend ‘racist’ BTN courses

Gblk7277: I have attended this BTN course. Yes, it is a brainwashing session where they were telling us that the other races must get a lesser amount of ‘durian’ because we are the ‘pendatang’ and we had agreed to accept a lesser amount.

Therefore we could not question anything, just shut up and eat the ‘durian’ you get or go back to China or India. It’s very much politically biased and they were showing recordings of the BERSIH and HINDRAF rallies saying chaos will take place if we don’t support BN.

And that our country will be destroyed. ‘Learning about 1Malaysia, about nationalism and unity’? My foot.

Camverra Jose Maliamauv: In the year 2000, during my first year at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, I was one of those selected to attend the Kem Bina Negara. We were sent to an army camp in Kedah.

Out of all the lectures and physical activities etc, I will always remember two main things. The first was a lecture and discussion during which the instructor concluded at the end that non- Malays should not question the special rights and privileges of the Malays and that we should just work harder to move up.

And secondly, during another lecture, one of the ‘threats to national security’ that were highlighted was ‘parti politik baru’ (a coincidence that this was the year after 1999?).

Jawahar Hassan: Everybody who attend BTN camps knew the exact nature of the BTN courses during which you are required to surrender all the handphones and recording devices to the person in charge. What’s the reason behind this? Why such a rule? Is there anything to hide?

SameSame: Well, well, now our deputy prime minister is lying! Can he proof what he is saying is correct? You know what amazes me is that they still think we are like them – so gullible and stupid.

Well, our unwanted DPM, its obvious we are not stupid and we are not gullible. It’s better you keep quiet instead of shooting yourself in your own foot (BN people love doing that it seems). ‘1Malaysia’, my foot.

Chee Hoe Siew: Firstly, is there a law stating that civil servants and other public sector staff must attend these BTN camps? If not, then there is no need to even attend such propaganda camps.

Eagle: Publish the contents of the BTN course and let us decide whether it is a racial hatred and incitement programme. And stop telling us what is good for us, the rakyat. We can decide for ourselves and we can also decide on your future too when the time comes.

Lusiapa: Will past participants of such BTN courses step forward and give their testimony without fear or favour?Is the Selangor education, higher education and human capital development committee chairperson giving an honest assessment of the situation or is the DPM denying something which is unbelievably true? Obviously, one of them is not telling the truth. It is time that the liar be publicly exposed and condemned.

Giri: My blood is boiling. God, how can they lie like this?

Tkc: Mr Deputy PM, instead of ‘he say, I say’, I suggest you publish the text of the BTN courses on the Internet so that we can judge for ourselves. Oh, and please do not tell us it is classified under the OSA.

S’gor rejects ‘racist, indoctrinating’ BTN

Azmil Tayeb: Bravo Selangor government for taking this progressive step. BTN is simply an organ of hate and shouldn’t even be allowed to exist in the first place. True inculcation of citizenship values doesn’t come from forced indoctrination, much less one that is racist in nature.

KLeo: I testify to BN’s dirty indoctrination at BTN camps. Mine was in 2005 just after I left school. Words in the many ‘ceramah’ included ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ and ‘pendatang’. I remember being so angry with the camp facilitators that I almost argued with one of them in one of the discussion groups.

I don’t know if this is true camp-wide, but I do know that my fellow course mates that went with me – both Malay and non-Malay – were equally disgusted with the camp officials.

P Dev Anand Pillai: Syabas, Selangor government you have walked the talk. Keep up the good work and the people will be with you in the next general election. It is good to see that we have some brave Malay leaders who are bold enough to set the country on the path to greater unity as Malaysians first. Syabas again.

Lim Chong Leong: The Pakatan Rakyat states should introduce anti-racism, equality and meritocracy programmes to build up our youngsters towards a global mentality to prepare them for a brighter, more competitive future. We urgently need to neutralise the negative impact of the BTN.

Kit Siang to Najib: Come Clean on Altantuya Shariibuu

November 26, 2009

Najib told to answer Balasubramaniam’s  allegations


The prime minister should stop trying to ignore allegations of his involvement in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shariibuu, said veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang today.

This is especially after the reappearance of private investigator P Balasubramaniam and Malaysiakini‘s interview with his lawyer, Americk Singh Sidhu, which linked the premier to the murder.

Lim said, in a statement, that the prime minister’s denial would “gravely impair the credibility, integrity and legitimacy of (his) office and the key national institutions in Malaysia”.

It is also imperative for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to respond, if he really wants to “tell the Malaysian story”, as mentioned during his recent visit to New York, added Lim.

He was referring to Najib’s remarks in New York that Malaysia’s message of reforms and transformation must be told to foreign investors if Malaysia is to avoid being overshadowed by countries like China.

Lim, who is also Ipoh Timur MP, added that the prime minister’s tendency to ignore “damaging disclosures” only further undermines the nation’s competitiveness.

“Najib should allow the true Malaysian story to be told to Malaysians first or (its) credibility to global investors…would come under a great discount,” he said.

If the prime minister does not practice full-disclosure, he added, the global investors will continue to take “true Malaysian story” with “more than a pinch of salt”.

Drop in global competitiveness

Malaysia has in the past three months slipped in competitiveness rankings, dropping three spots in the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2009-2010 and two places in World Bank’s Doing Business 2010: Reforming Through Difficult Times. The worst, Lim said, was the Transparency International’s corruption perception index 2009, which ranked Malaysia at 56th place from last year’s 47, making the slide the worst in 15 years.

Such poor performance, he said, was evidence that global investors were “privy to the true Malaysian story” even if the prime minister continues to avoid the matter.

Private eye Balasubramaniam had recently said that he was whisked out of the country by people close to Najib after forcing him to recant his statutory declaration which had implicated the premier and his wife to Altantuya’s death.

He said that he was offered RM5 million by a go-between who was allegedly close to Rosmah. He also said that he had met with Najib’s younger brother on the day before his second statutory declaration which absolved Najib and Rosmah was released.

Balasubramaniam’s lawyer Americk Singh told Malaysiakini that he had no reason to disbelieve Balasubramaniam as he had seen all the evidence.

Eid Adha Message from Anwar Ibrahim to all Malaysian Muslims

November 26, 2009

Perutusan Eid Al Adha dari Anwar Ibrahim

Saya, mewakili keluarga dan segenap lapisan kepimpinan & akar umbi Parti Keadilan Rakyat ingin mengucapkan selamat menyambut eid al adha dan menjalankan ibadah korban kepada seluruh rakyat Malaysia yang beragama Islam.

Ibadah korban mengajar erti taat kepada perintah Allah SWT, sabar dengan ujian, mendidik untuk terus membina keyakinan diri juga kepada mereka yang berada di sekeliling kita.

Kita diseru untuk mengambil iktibar dari tawarikh para anbiya dan solihin. Ini kerana, pada mereka ada petunjuk buat kita yang mahukan melaksanakan perintah Tuhan Yang Maha Adil, ibarat bintang gemerlapan menunjuki pelayar di lautan luas. Mereka melalui rintangan dan ujian yang dahsyat, namun inshaallah kejayaan akan dikecapi akhirnya.

Marilah kita berdoa moga umat Islam yang pergi menunaikan ibadah haji kekal dalam keselamatan dan tidak ditimpa sebarang kemalangan.


Selamat Hari Aidil Adha to all Muslims

November 26, 2009

Selamat Aidil Adha, 2009

Tomorrow (November 27, 2009) we in Malaysia and in many parts of the wide Muslim world celebrate Aidil Adha (Hari Raya Haji). It is a very significant day  (Hari Wukuf in Mekkah) in the Muslim calender when Muslims perform the Haj and the symbolic sacrifice (Korban). Obviously it is not time for classics,  jazz, pop and R&B. So I have chosen a number of popular nasyid songs by Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) and Malaysia’s popular nasyid group, Rabbani  to mark  Aidil Adha, 2009.

I like “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens and “Mother” (which I dedicate to my late mother, Hajjah Fatimah Merican, who took such wonderful care of me and to my wife’s Mother). To all Muslim brothers and sisters, my wife, Dr. Kamsiah and I wish you Selamat Aidil Adha and May Peace be with you.–DJ  Din Merican


Cat Steven: Morning Has Broken

Yusuf Islam’s Peace Train for Grameen Bank’s Muhammad Yunus

Raihan- Ya Nabi Salamun Alaika

Raihan – Assolatuwassalam ( Live in France)

Temasek Padu is UMNO’s new corporate vehicle

November 26, 2009

The Round Robin goes on in UMNO

According to The Straits Times, Singapore, UMNO is reorganising its corporate assets in a little-publicised exercise, which will see new players emerge as chief nominees of the political party’s growing business interests.

Senior UMNO officials and bankers involved in the reorganisation told The Straits Times that the party’s assets, which are now held through several investment holding companies, will be regrouped under a little-known private entity called Temasek Padu. The reorganisation process is part of a broader revamp of the party’s affairs by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak since taking over the premiership and the party leadership in April this year.

UMNO officials and bankers said that the corporate reorganisation exercise is being spearheaded by the premier’s trusted ally, current Ambassador to the United States Datuk Jamaluddin Jarjis, and corporate lawyer Zulkifly Rafique, who is a founding partner of law firm Zul Rafique & Partners.

“Current nominees of the party’s assets have been asked to surrender and transfer the holdings to the new trustees of UMNO,” said one senior UMNO official familiar with the corporate revamp who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A senior executive at Zul Rafique & Partners said that Zulkifly was travelling overseas and could not be reached for comment. Jamaluddin also was not available for comment. Because a large chunk of UMNO’s corporate assets is in the form of equity holdings in companies that are not listed on the Malaysian stock exchange, the total value of the party’s assets is hard to determine.

Also, public declarations of changes in the shareholding of private companies are not required under local laws. Records lodged at the Registrar of Companies list Zulkifly and a fellow lawyer from his firm, Tunku Alizan Raja Muhammad Alias, as equal shareholders in Temasek Padu.

UMNO’s corporate holdings have long been a subject of keen interest among bankers and foreign investors because of the party’s dominant role in the government and its control over the national economy.

The party has been in business since the late 1960s. But the corporate expansion went into overdrive only after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumed the premiership and the UMNO presidency that comes with the post in 1981.The former premier appointed his trusted lieutenant, Tun Daim Zainuddin, as UMNO’s treasurer in 1984 and charged him with expanding the party’s business interests.

Daim, who was appointed finance minister shortly afterwards, lost little time awarding large state contracts, such as the project to build and operate a toll road stretching the length of Peninsular Malaysia, to corporate affiliates of the party under Malaysia’s privatisation programme.

The party’s vast corporate holdings were controlled through business nominees and were grouped under publicly listed Renong, which had interests in banking, stockbroking, toll roads, hotels, property development and oil and gas. But Renong’s corporate expansion was largely funded by debt, and when the regional crisis struck in mid-1997 the conglomerate ranked as the country’s largest corporate debtor with roughly RM20 billion in borrowings.

After repeated attempts to restructure the mountain of debt owed to local and foreign banks failed, the government was forced to take over Renong in mid-2001 and the group still remains under government control.

Before Dr Mahathir stepped down in November 2003, he handed over assets in the form of shares and cash mounting to just over RM1 billion to his successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, according to UMNO officials. Abdullah appointed banker Abdul Azim Zabidi as the party’s treasurer who rationalised UMNO’s corporate holdings under several investment holding companies such as Realmild, Pesaka Consolidated and Temasek Padu.

The party’s main corporate nominee was businessman Latif Abdullah, who enjoyed close relations with Abdullah, who UMNO officials and bankers said will soon surrender his holdings in Realmild to the party’s new business nominees in Temasek Padu.

Najib dropped Azim as UMNO treasurer and appointed close ally Mohd Husni Hanadzlah, who is also the country’s second finance minister, to the powerful party position.

Under the corporate reorganisation plan initiated by Najib, Temasek Padu will take over Realmild’s holdings in medical services company Radicare and Labuan Shipyard & Engineering, a shipyard fabrication company.

Temasek Padu will also take over the equity interest held by Pesaka Consolidated in a power-generating company in Perlis, UMNO officials and bankers close to the plan said.

Documents lodged at the Registrar of Companies show that Temasek Padu, which was incorporated in 2005, has majority stakes in companies such as Subang Skypark, a company which operates the airport terminal on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, a property holding company called Pandan Village, engineering concern Mahkota Technologies and Canas Unggul, a private company that distributes computers and electronic products in Indonesia.