MACC Abu Kassim among 100 influential people in business ethics


February 28, 2011

Bernama reports: MACC’s Chief Commissioner named one of the 100 influential people in business ethics

Abu Kassim Mohamed, the Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), has been named one of the 100 influential people in business ethics for 2010 by the New York-based Ethisphere Institute.

Ranked fourth in the eminent list, he was adjudged for his role in the government and regulatory practices category. The other eight categories are thought leadership; business leadership; corporate culture; investment and research; design and sustainability; media and whistle blowers; NGOs; and philanthropy.

Ethisphere said Abu Kassim, who joined the Anti-Corruption Agency in 1984, has been instrumental in spearheading the anti-corruption programme in Malaysia, which is leading the way in such efforts in South East Asia.

The anti-corruption crusader, the only Malaysian in the list dominated by mostly Americans and Europeans, has been selected along with 99 others who are said to have made a significant impact in the realm of business ethics over the course of the year, said the research-based Ethisphere Institute.

The institute is an international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability.

Two UK anti-graft MP’s on the list

It said, although many of those listed deserved a lifetime achievement award, the 2010 list recognised those who made a significant impact, specifically during the year.

“Some are world famous and some are unknown, but from designing sustainable packaging to recovering billions of dollars from ponzi schemes, the following 100 individuals have impacted the world of business ethics in ways that will continue to resonate for many years,” added Ethisphere.

Two United Kingdom (UK) parliamentarians, Lord Willy Bach of the UK House of Lords, and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, tied for first place for having introduced the UK Anti-Bribery Act. Third place went to Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission, also for government and regulatory practices.

Others in the list include Indra Nooyi, CEO Pepsi; Paul Volcker, Chairman, US Economic Recovery Advisory Board; Bill Gates, Co-founder, The Living Pledge; Warren Buffet, Co-founder, The Living Pledge; Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon.com; Robery Zoellick, Chairman, World Bank; Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund; Mary Schapiro, Chairman, US Securities & Exchange Commission; and Peter Loscher, CEO Siemens.

Prince Charles, who recently released a documentary, ‘Harmony: A New Way of Looking at our World’, made it into 92nd place for environmental stewardship.

Ethisphere, which was founded by Alex Brigham, a well-respected voice in the ethics and compliance field, also publishes Ethisphere Magazine, which issues the globally-recognised World’s Most Ethical Companies Ranking.


PKFZ Scandal: Chan Kong Choy charged


February 28, 2011

PKFZ Scandal: Former Transport Minister charged

by Hazlan Zakaria@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Former transport minister Chan Kong Choy was slapped with three charges of cheating in a sessions court in Putrajaya today, in relation to the Port Klang Free Zone scandal.

The charges were brought under Section 417 of the Penal Code. He has been released on bail of RM1 million with one surety. The case is set for mention on March 31. Chan faces a maximum five-year jail term, a fine or both, if found guilty.

The first charge is that he deceived then premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi into approving Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) as the turnkey developer for a trans-shipment hub project at the Pulau Indah Free Zone (as it was then called).

According to the charge sheet, Chan is accused of concealing the fact that the development cost would be borne by KDCB, which was to issue bonds through Transshipment Megahub Bhd with the support of the government and the Transport Ministry.

He is alleged to have induced Abdullah into giving approval because the latter would not have agreed if the facts had been disclosed to him.

This offence was allegedly committed between Feb 24 and 25, 2004, at the fourth floor of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The second charge is that Chan deceived Abdullah into approving KDSB as the turnkey developer to carry out three pieces of additional development work amounting to RM518.38 million. This offence was allegedly committed between Oct 11 and Oct 28, 2005, at the same place.

The third charge is that Chan deceived Abdullah into approving KDSB as the turnkey developer to carry out five pieces of additional development work amounting to RM335.8 million.This offence was allegedly committed between March 28 and 29, 2006, in the same location.

On the second and third charges, Chan is accused of concealing the fact that the development cost would be borne by KDSB through two special purpose vehicles supported by the government and the Transport Ministry, on the basis that Abdullah would have not granted approval had he been aware of this.

Pre-trial conference

Chan was taken into the courthouse by police at 2pm. He was accompanied by his wife and daughter.Dressed in grey pants and a white shirt, he appeared calm and jovial.

A police personnel stationed in the court room made a slight issue over the attire of Chan’s daughter. “This is my daughter,” Chan told the police personnel, who relented and allowed his daughter to enter the courtroom on condition that she sat in the back row.

Attorney-General (A-G) Abdul Gani Patail arrived 10 minutes before Chan and is expected to lead the prosecution team.

Chan was represented by three lawyers, led by Azad Bashir. Speaking to reporters later, Chan refused to speculate his chance of mounting successful defence. “The charges came as a surprise to me but I am confident of the judicial system. I hope I can clear my name,” said Chan.

After the charge was read, the A-G said both parties had agreed that the bail be set at RM1 million. Gani  asked for a later trial date to enable the prosecution to prepare its case. He also proposed a pre-trial conference between the prosecution and defence.

Judge Azhaniz Ateh Azman agreed to the bail amount and set March 31 for mention. Chan is the second VVIP charged in connection with the PKFZ scandal, which has been plagued by massive cost overruns and which, according to an audit report, could potentially cost taxpayers a whopping RM12.5 billion.

In July 29 last year, former transport minister Dr Ling Liong Sik was charged with misleading the cabinet into approving a land deal at an inflated price. Four others, including former PKFZ general-manager OC Phang, have been charged with various offences for their alleged involvement in the project.

Malaysia and Turkey: A Strategic Partnership of Moderates


February 28, 2011

Najib’s Foreign Policy: Strategic Partnership of Moderates with Turkey

by Azmi Anshar@www.nst.com.my

FOLLOWING up on the celebrated Malaysia-Turkey hook-up this week, enter this intriguing correlation 28 years in the making and whose maturation may have a marked influence on how Muslim countries, especially those in the Arab world, govern themselves in the wake of their blood-spattered but remarkable revolution to fundamentally seize back their pride and dignity.

The correlation is this: Malaysia is determined to deploy its Islamic authority to counteract the rise of religious extremism and violence on a global scale while Turkey emerges from decades of relentless secularism to craft a benign Islamic character that excludes horrific stereotypes associated with the Arab world.

It was as if Malaysia and Turkey’s forward march is steadily aligned by a natural sociopolitical gravitational pull, a unique union forged with an eye on an international peace initiatives that will trigger tantalising consequences, one of them being the compassionate middle path that embraces spiritualism and modernisation in equal gusto without tripping over ill-conceived edicts prescribed by religious hardliners not too fond with what Datuk Seri Dr Najib Abdul Razak and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are trying to accomplish.

The two “brothers”, which Najib and Erdogan affectionately referred to each other in official public outings during the Malaysian Prime Minister’s three-day official visit to Turkey this week, have signed and sealed a slew of business, tourism, defence, transportation and construction deals designed to boost Malaysia-Turkey bilateral ties and trade.

However, the most fruitful deal is perhaps one that is officially undocumented and unsigned but fully understood and reported — the mutual enterprise to at least dampen, if not neutralise, violent religious extremism, the scourge of the world.

Now, imagine Malaysia and Turkey as an intriguing wrestling tag team combination, one small but strong, ambitious and determined, the other big but nimble, embracing and worldly.In a contest against other tag teams, this practical hybrid has unique advantages, especially in dissenting against super powers bent on imposing their military might and economic leverage against weak nations.

Years before last week’s historic diplomatic rendezvous, a Malaysia-Turkey amalgamation had been unwittingly at work, notably in spotlighting the ill-conceived 2003 American invasion of Iraq as an aberration in good governance and human dignity.

On the Asian side of the world, Malaysia capitalised on its inherent influence on the world stage to persuade other countries to abhor the invasion while on the European stage, Turkey stoutly denied American pressure on wanting to traverse Turkish air space and borders deploy strategic military sorties into Iraq.

Last year, the Malaysian-Turkish consolidation throttled again, this time in unison to deploy the humanitarian Mavi Marmara flotilla in international waters to supply aid to Palestinians in Gaza, in which the initiative by Malaysian and Turkish activists was repelled brutally by Israeli soldiers, resulting in the killing of several Turks.

Government and opposition members of parliament in Malaysia, in a rare united voice, roundly supported Najib’s resolution to condemn Israel’s bald facedness, a gesture appreciated by the Turkish government. And this was all done unwittingly before the prime ministers’ historic get-together.

Now stop imagining and regard the Malaysia-Turkey tag team as a realistic and potent combination, a duo whose combined resources can be harnessed to promote international armistice and friendship while dissuading Western Islamophobia that engaged in wholesale demonisation of Muslims.

As Najib pointed out in a speech last year at the United Nations General Assembly, the seeming clash of civilisations between the Muslim world and the West is not between Muslims and non-Muslims but between moderates and extremists of all religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism included.

It’s uncanny that his call for a global movement of moderates from all faiths was presciently cemented in Istanbul, where he repeated his stance that all future governments, even those about to be formed in the tumult of the Arab revolutions, shun violence and opt for negotiations and good governance although they might lean towards electing shady groups whose background are riddled by repression and denunciation of enlightenment and advanced knowledge.

But in Turkey’s case, their decades of secularism fathered by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk did not exterminate their Islamic faith. On the contrary, Islamic practices now are rising, the example being the call to prayers soaring contrapuntally when once it was silent.

Mosques are being filled as Muslim Turks demonstrate their Islamic rebirth in many forms of Islamisation taken for granted in Malaysia. But that’s as far as the Turks are willing to concede. What they won’t concede to doggedly are permitting “extremists with long beards” managing their country and running down their modern progressive European lifestyle to suit some fanatic’s vision of the Dark Ages. Just ask any Muslim Turk in Istanbul. Just visit the Blue Mosque.

This bodes well for Najib’s middle path movement and Erdogan’s push for benign Islamisation as twin forces to superior democracy, geared to showcase how one should govern one’s country in embracing technology, innovation and development while holding steadfast to an unfaltering Islamic faith.

To the nascent democracies in the bloody aftermath of getting rid of tin-pot Arab despots, there can’t be many Muslim nations the eager new democrats can emulate other than the prime examples offered by Malaysia and Turkey.

In the months or years to come, the new Arab century will look back and conclude that getting rid of the geriatric dictatorship was the easy part, the tough part is to squelch the hard and soft terrorism embedded in their psychological make-up and opt for social, economic and political reforms fully embraced by Malaysia and Turkey.

Conclusively, to NOT be converted to the Malaysia-Turkey tag team force of nature and way of life — if any newly emerged Arab leaders are unable to grasp the benefits — is to deny opportunities in long-term social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability.

In this regard, Malaysia and Turkey might want to trademark their brand of compassionate Islamic evolution towards greater nationhood and internationalist pride.

Unfit for Democracy?


February 28, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/opinion/27kristof.html?_r=1

Unfit for Democracy?

By  Nicholas D. Kristoff

Published: February 26, 2011

CAIRO

Is the Arab world unready for freedom? A crude stereotype lingers that some people — Arabs, Chinese and Africans — are incompatible with democracy. Many around the world fret that “people power” will likely result in Somalia-style chaos, Iraq-style civil war or Iran-style oppression.

That narrative has been nourished by Westerners and, more sadly, by some Arab, Chinese and African leaders. So with much of the Middle East in an uproar today, let’s tackle a politically incorrect question head-on: Are Arabs too politically immature to handle democracy?

This concern is the subtext for much anxiety today, from Washington to Riyadh. And there’s no question that there are perils: the overthrow of the shah in Iran, of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, of Tito in Yugoslavia, all led to new oppression and bloodshed. Congolese celebrated the eviction of their longtime dictator in 1997, but the civil war since has been the most lethal conflict since World War II. If Libya becomes another Congo, if Bahrain becomes an Iranian satellite, if Egypt becomes controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood — well, in those circumstances ordinary citizens might end up pining for former oppressors.

“Before the revolution, we were slaves, and now we are the slaves of former slaves,” Lu Xun, the great Chinese writer, declared after the toppling of the Qing dynasty. Is that the future of the Middle East?

I don’t think so. Moreover, this line of thinking seems to me insulting to the unfree world. In Egypt and Bahrain in recent weeks, I’ve been humbled by the lionhearted men and women I’ve seen defying tear gas or bullets for freedom that we take for granted. How can we say that these people are unready for a democracy that they are prepared to die for?

We Americans spout bromides about freedom. Democracy campaigners in the Middle East have been enduring unimaginable tortures as the price of their struggle — at the hands of dictators who are our allies — yet they persist. In Bahrain, former political prisoners have said that their wives were taken into the jail in front of them. And then the men were told that unless they confessed, their wives would promptly be raped. That, or more conventional tortures, usually elicited temporary confessions, yet for years or decades those activists persisted in struggling for democracy. And we ask if they’re mature enough to handle it?

The common thread of this year’s democracy movement from Tunisia to Iran, from Yemen to Libya, has been undaunted courage. I’ll never forget a double-amputee I met in Tahrir Square in Cairo when Hosni Mubarak’s thugs were attacking with rocks, clubs and Molotov cocktails. This young man rolled his wheelchair to the front lines. And we doubt his understanding of what democracy means?

In Bahrain, I watched a column of men and women march unarmed toward security forces when, a day earlier, the troops had opened fire with live ammunition. Anyone dare say that such people are too immature to handle democracy?

Look, there’ll be bumps ahead. It took Americans six years after the Revolutionary War to elect a president, and we almost came apart at the seams again in the 1860s. When Eastern Europe became democratic after the 1989 revolutions, Poland and the Czech Republic adjusted well, but Romania and Albania endured chaos for years. After the 1998 people power revolution in Indonesia, I came across mobs in eastern Java who were beheading people and carrying their heads on pikes.

The record is that after some missteps, countries usually pull through. Education, wealth, international connections and civil society institutions help. And, on balance, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain are better positioned today for democracy than Mongolia or Indonesia seemed in the 1990s — and Mongolia and Indonesia today are successes. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain visited the Middle East a few days ago (arms dealers in tow), and he forthrightly acknowledged that for too long Britain had backed authoritarian regimes to achieve stability. He acknowledged that his country had bought into the bigoted notion “that Arabs or Muslims can’t do democracy.” And he added: “For me, that’s a prejudice that borders on racism. It’s offensive and wrong, and it’s simply not true.”

It’s still a view peddled by Arab dictatorships, particularly Saudi Arabia — and, of course, by China’s leaders and just about any African despot. It’s unfortunate when Westerners are bigoted in this way, but it’s even sadder when leaders in the developing world voice such prejudices about their own people.

In the 21st century, there’s no realistic alternative to siding with people power. Prof. William Easterly of New York University proposes a standard of reciprocity: “I don’t support autocracy in your society if I don’t want it in my society.”

That should be our new starting point. I’m awed by the courage I see, and it’s condescending and foolish to suggest that people dying for democracy aren’t ready for it.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on February 27, 2011, on page WK8 of the New York edition.

China’s Turning Point and Implications for ASIA and the Rest


February 27, 2011

China’s Turning Point

by Stephen S. Roach

New Haven–In early March, China’s National People’s Congress will approve its 12th Five-Year Plan. This Plan is likely to go down in history as one of China’s boldest strategic initiatives.

In essence, it will change the character of China’s economic model – moving from the export- and investment-led structure of the past 30 years toward a pattern of growth that is driven increasingly by Chinese consumers. This shift will have profound implications for China, the rest of Asia, and the broader global economy.

Like the Fifth Five-Year Plan, which set the stage for the “reforms and opening up” of the late 1970’s, and the Ninth Five-Year Plan, which triggered the marketization of state-owned enterprises in the mid-1990’s, the upcoming Plan will force China to rethink the core value propositions of its economy. Premier Wen Jiabao laid the groundwork four years ago, when he first articulated the paradox of the “Four ‘Uns’” – an economy whose strength on the surface masked a structure that was increasingly “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and ultimately unsustainable.”

The Great Recession of 2008-2009 suggests that China can no longer afford to treat the Four Uns as theoretical conjecture. The post-crisis era is likely to be characterized by lasting aftershocks in the developed world – undermining the external demand upon which China has long relied. That leaves China’s government with little choice other than to turn to internal demand and tackle the Four Uns head on.

The 12th Five-Year Plan will do precisely that, focusing on three major pro-consumption initiatives. First, China will begin to wean itself from the manufacturing model that has underpinned export- and investment-led growth. While the manufacturing approach served China well for 30 years, its dependence on capital-intensive, labor-saving productivity enhancement makes it incapable of absorbing the country’s massive labor surplus.

Instead, under the new Plan, China will adopt a more labor-intensive services model. It will, one hopes, provide a detailed blueprint for the development of large-scale transactions-intensive industries such as wholesale and retail trade, domestic transport and supply-chain logistics, health care, and leisure and hospitality.

Such a transition would provide China with much greater job-creating potential. With the employment content of a unit of Chinese output more than 35% higher in services than in manufacturing and construction, China could actually hit its employment target with slower GDP growth. Moreover, services are far less resource-intensive than manufacturing – offering China the added benefits of a lighter, cleaner, and greener growth model.

The new Plan’s second pro-consumption initiative will seek to boost wages. The main focus will be the lagging wages of rural workers, whose per capita incomes are currently only 30% of those in urban areas – precisely the opposite of China’s aspirations for a more “harmonious society.” Among the reforms will be tax policies aimed at boosting rural purchasing power, measures to broaden rural land ownership, and technology-led programs to raise agricultural productivity.

But the greatest leverage will undoubtedly come from policies that foster ongoing and rapid migration from the countryside to the cities. Since 2000, annual rural-to-urban migration has been running consistently at 15-20 million people. For migration to continue at this pace, China will have to relax the long-entrenched strictures of its hukou, or household registration system, which limits labor-market flexibility by tethering workers and their benefits to their birthplace.

Boosting employment via services, and lifting wages through enhanced support for rural workers, will go a long way toward raising Chinese personal income, now running at just 42% of GDP – half that of the United States. But more than higher growth in income from labor will be needed to boost Chinese private consumption. Major efforts to shift from saving toward spending are also required.

That issue frames the third major component of the new Plan’s pro-consumption agenda – the need to build a social safety net in order to reduce fear-driven precautionary saving. Specifically, that means social security, private pensions, and medical and unemployment insurance – plans that exist on paper but are woefully underfunded.

For example, in 2009, China’s retirement-system assets – national social security, local government retirement benefit plans, and private sector pensions – totaled just RMB2.4 trillion ($364 billion). That boils down to only about $470 of lifetime retirement benefits for the average Chinese worker. Little wonder that families save out of fear of the future.  China’s new Plan must rectify this shortfall immediately.

There will be far more to the 12th Five-Year Plan than these three pillars of pro-consumption policy. The Plan’s focus on accelerated development of several strategic emerging industries – from biotech and alternative energy to new materials and next-generation information technology – is also noteworthy.

But the emphasis on the Chinese consumer is likely to be the new Plan’s defining feature – sufficient, in my opinion, to boost private consumption as a share of Chinese GDP from its current rock-bottom reading of around 36% to somewhere in the 42-45% range by 2015. While still low by international standards, such an increase would nonetheless represent a critical step for China on the road to rebalancing.

It would also be a huge boost for China’s major trading partners – not just those in East Asia, but also growth-constrained European and US economies. Indeed, the 12th Five-Year Plan is likely to spark the greatest consumption story in modern history. Today’s post-crisis world could hardly ask for more.

But there is a catch: in shifting to a more consumption-led dynamic, China will reduce its surplus saving and have less left over to fund the ongoing saving deficits of countries like the US. The possibility of such an asymmetrical global rebalancing – with China taking the lead and the developed world dragging its feet – could be the key unintended consequence of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan.

Stephen S. Roach, a member of the faculty of Yale University, is Non-Executive Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and author of The Next Asia.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.
http://www.project-syndicate.org

On Merlimau and Kerdau


February 27, 2011

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Bridget Welsh* on Merlimau and Kerdau: A Prelude to the Next General Elections

ANALYSIS Despite the BN’s victories in recent by-elections, neither side is coming out to be the clear winner. The upcoming contests of Merlimau and Kerdau are like a drawn-out boxing match where both opponents are bruised and tired. The next two rounds heavily sway in favour of the BN, as both constituencies are in traditional UMNO territory.

Comfortable Weight Advantage to UMNO-BN

In the upcoming two matches, the BN has a comfortable weight advantage.  What matters in these by-elections is not the final result – almost a foregone conclusion in states where the result will not affect the balance of power – or arguably even the majority, but the honing of tactical skills in the campaigns and the condition of the opponents after the by-election battle is over. These contests foreshadow the real prize fight – the next general elections.

As these rounds begin, allow me to reflect on the tactics and lessons to date, and suggest that despite the BN’s victories in recent rounds that neither side is coming out to be the clear winner.

UMNO’s offensive tactics

BN under Najib Razak has adopted a take-no-prisoner strategy, aiming to secure every victory in its column. It has moved from a defensive strategy after the March 2008 polls to the offensive.

The BN has begun campaigning the day after its representatives passed away and brought in a well-funded nationally driven effort to win each and every contest, backed by favourable timing of the election date, strategic decisions to place contests simultaneously to put themselves at an organisational advantage and a willingness to do almost anything to win, from buying votes to the use of government vehicles to ferry party supporters.

What has emerged from UMNO is a pummeling of blows on the opposition – as they have tried to recapture the multi-ethnic label through 1Malaysia, aimed to shatter the confidence of PAS by challenging their representativeness of the Malay community, used race-based campaigning to put strain on opposition cooperation across parties and distracted the leader of the opposition in a legal trial.

This combination of shots at the head and gut of the opposition point to the intensity of the BN effort to win each round, and in the process hold onto the big prize of national power.

The victories have instilled greater confidence in UMNO, but arguably at the expense of their component parties. The MCA in particular has been showed to have consistently lost the majority of support among its Chinese base, even with some small movements here and there, and its own role within the BN coalition has been undermined.

In the blind battle to win every round, the BN has engaged in a high-risk strategy of feeding racial tensions and increasingly relying on money for its campaigning. While in some places such as Galas and Tenang, the BN has strengthened its organisation on the ground, the party has not yet substantively addressed some of the core reasons it lost support in the 2008 polls – infighting, arrogance, perceived corruption and a distancing from its traditional base.

Ironically, in choosing to adopt race-based and financial heavy strategies, they are reinforcing some of the very weaknesses they faced at the polls nationally in 2008, and it is a mistake to assume that these issues have gone away.

The BN and UMNO have chosen not to adopt a more substantively positive message of delivery and results, to show that they are strong enough to sustain blows. Little attention has centered on some of successes of Najib’s tenure – economic growth and crime reduction. It is difficult to do so, since some of the successes have not been concretely felt by voters and many policies of the last two years have been promises and have yet to reach their possible potential.

Indeed, it is especially hard to instill long-term confidence when the dominant strategy has been one of sowing conditions of instability through feeding racial tensions with leaflets of hate.

The BN faces the most difficult obstacle of all, to rebuild trust across the different communities. While its efforts at outreach in the Indian community have yielded some increased support, it can easily evaporate through continued insensitivity over Interlok and continued concerns voiced by Hindraf.

Najib’s popularity shows that he has made some headway personally, but it is not clear if he can carry his party or his coalition, especially given that some in his party are not giving him their support and many in the BN coalition feel more bruised and beaten than the opponent in the ring.

Arguably, the offensive BN strategies are not sustainable long-term or even in a general election. The BN may win rounds and make gains, as I expect they will do in both upcoming contests, but the questions emerge whether it is really winning and at what expense.

Pakatan’s defensive maneuvers

Pakatan has moved from a position of strength – winning Permatang Pauh and Bukit Gantang – to one of defensiveness. This decline began after the Manek Urai by-election of July 2009, when PAS scrapped through with a slim 65 majority in its heartland state of Kelantan.

While the opposition won Sibu as the underdog contest in May 2010, its failure to win Hulu Selangor in April and make substantial headway in BN territory afterwards has fostered the impression that it has lost ground.

While it shows up to contest each by-election, there is almost a defeatist approach starting from Bagan Pinang in October 2009 as it gets ready to be beaten up by an opponent in an uneven playing field.

The bruises on the opposition are showing, and recent changes in tactics to focus on what they perceive to be their Malay deficit by PAS in particular show they are having an impact. Merlimau and Kerdau will show whether the opposition has the ability to adapt and maneuver effectively, or whether it has lost its footing.

For the opposition, these contests will be largely local – local candidates with the immediate effect of building up local machinery in places where they have comparatively limited grassroots. The tactics and campaigning they adopt, however, will have national implications.

First and foremost, will be how PAS adapts its campaign strategy, especially in Kerdau. Pahang is more of a PAS frontline state than Malacca, and the home of rising leaders in the party, vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man and the party Youth chief Nasarudin Hassan.

The double-contests of a multi-ethnic seat in Malacca and Malay-majority seat in Pahang will force PAS to come to terms with how it will formulate its national message.

PAS’ campaign decisions will send a signal whether it will prioritise an exclusive intolerant “moral” supremacy strategy that led to their losses of 2004 – recently reemerging among some PAS leaders aka condemning the expression of love of Valentine’s Day – or is focused on common ground Pakatan strategy of justice and reform that is more nationally holistic.

These contests will show whether it has learnt that PAS’ conservative narrow moral agenda does not go down with a large share of Muslims. It will also continue to test the ability of the party to reach out to Felda settlers, whether it can offer an alternative to rural voters that is not based on patronage.

Finally, it will challenge PAS to address how it can improve the conditions for the Malays outside of the NEP framework.  The tactics used by UMNO under Najib have apparently had their effect on PAS, as they have chosen more Malay- oriented positions and focused in engaging the UMNO attacks. So far, they have been on the back foot. Some have reverted to old comfortable positions. Others have embraced more forward-looking efforts, as the party is uncertain and divided on the strategy to pursue.

PAS’ conference last weekend on Malay identity shows the recognition of a needed rethinking, but simultaneously highlights the challenges the party is facing. They have yet to clearly present an alternative for Malaysian empowerment that is outside of race and religion. Little is heard about what PAS has achieved individually or in Pakatan in terms of governance or the economy.

Beyond the political fight

Part of PAS’ challenge is that the opposition as a whole has not presented a clear vision of the future for Malaysians. What is Pakatan’s agenda for the future? What exactly have they accomplished after they won over a third of seats in Parliament? In defensive mode, the opposition remains unable to articulate coherently a clear set of priorities and initiatives for the future.

There have been important statements such as the 100-day plan, but any real discussion of the policy issues have been buried in larger attention to personal attacks and engagement in defensive mode.

Attention has largely focused on Penang and Selangor to the exclusion of discussion of PAS’ states – Kedah and Kelantan. The key will be how Pakatan moves towards presenting a genuine alternative based on their own performance nationally, rather than in response to their opponent’s agenda or the showcasing of specific individuals.

Pakatan: Not Enough Coordination to win national power

Minimally, Pakatan’s footwork has not been consistently coordinated. While it is an accomplishment to stay in the ring, to take the punches, and worked together as a coalition that many believed would not last even a few rounds, standing in the ring is not enough to win national power, as the contests in Merlimau and Kerdau will show.

With politicians across the spectrum centred on the fight in the ring – now going for 16 rounds – they have in many ways lost track of the audience. The fight has been dirty, full of illegal punches, and not necessarily even. It is not inspiring.

Merlimau and Kerdau offer both sides the opportunity to come out with dignity, as the contest is as much about the results as the tactics. Who opts for the long-term strategy that showcases Malaysian positive successes ultimately will be at the advantage in winning the grand prize.

*DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. She will be observing both by-elections. Welsh can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.


Dr. Mahathir’s Political Histrionics and Malaysian History


February 27, 2011

Dr. Mahathir’s Political Histrionics and Malaysian History

by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attempt at historical revisionism on the ISA arrests of 1987 is amusing on some counts. On one score at least, it is all of a piece with a salient aspect of his political persona. And that’s not amusing.

This trait is captured in the words of Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s story, ‘Through the Looking Glass’.

There, Humpty Dumpty tells Alice, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” A perplexed Alice demurs: “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.” To that Humpty Dumpty replied: “The question is which is to be master – that’s all.”

Ops Lalang

On the 1987 ISA arrests and a slew of other issues, there can be little doubt as to who was master and now, when retrospectives are in, who intends to continue to be master.One could say the latter inclination is the more feasible when you have surrogates as servile as the former Inspector-General of Police,(Tun) Hanif Omar, who is now virtually saying that Malaysia was a police state in 1987.

Nowhere in the ISA Act has the power to continue to detain a person for a period of two years after the initial two-month period of interrogation by the police vested in anyone else except the Home Minister.

Presently, Mahathir claims that he did not want the detentions – just over 100 politicians and social activists were carted off to Kamunting from late October 1987. He now says it was the police that insisted on it.You don’t have to advert to Humpty Dumpty to define a police state: it is when police power overrides that of the elected civilian authority.

A bedrock tenet of constitutional governance is the deferment of the military to the elected civilian authority and of the police to the Rule of Law.

By 1987, Hanif Omar had returned to his IGP post from study leave, armed with a law degree from the University of Buckingham in England where he must have had gleanings on such concepts as the Rule of Law.

The knowledge could not have mattered much to Hanif. If  Mahathir is now to be believed, when faced in 1987 with a Prime Minister-cum-Home Minister who was reluctant to exercise the powers to detain without trial, the neophyte law graduate insisted on them, thereby abrogating the clause in the ISA Act that vests that discretion on the minister only. Sounds like Malaysia were a police state, in October 1987 at least.

He calls himself fundamentalist

Mahathir’s revisionist yen is not just confined to the episode concerning the ISA arrests of 1987. Probably, his most serious act of revisionism was when he pronounced Malaysia a model Islamic state in September 2001.

That was in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 incident when national and international forums were convulsed with the debate on political Islam and the variety of its expressions. Typically preemptive, Mahathir decided to garner for his party, UMNO, a frontal position in the debate by positioning the Malaysian state as already having attained to Islamic propriety, if not perfection.

Until that point in time, most disputants in the debate were agreed that a state would have to implement syariah law to be able to call itself Islamic.  But, in true Humpty Dumpty-fashion, Mahathir subsumed under his definition of an Islamic state, features such as a legal code largely based on common law, licensed gambling and alcohol production – that are more characteristic of a secular polity than a theocratic one.

Before Mahathir lurched into the debate over whether Malaysia was already a model Islamic state, he had, on occasion, tried to define himself as a fundamentalist Muslim. This was an attempt to pull the rug from under the feet of his fundamentalist Islamic critics.

As justification for calling himself fundamentalist, Mahathir argued that his views and practice of the faith were mainstream and should be considered a fundamentalist expression of the faith.

He recently rehashed the argument in interviews with the American author Tom Plate – of the ‘Giants of Asia’ book series – which in its latest installment features Mahathir.

For starters, anyone calling himself a fundamentalist would not deign to suggest that the popularity of beards at the time of the Prophet Mohamad was because razor blades were not yet invented, as the clean shaven Mahathir once averred. That suggestion savoured of sacrilege, as several appalled Islamic preachers were quick to point out.

Furthermore, because Muslims believe that the Holy Koran is the inerrant word of God given to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel, that salient datum affords little interpretive latitude to adherents.

By extension, it takes a very brave man – not to mention, one with a penchant for Machiavellian manoeuvre – to claim that he’s fundamentalist.

A giant of Asia?

But Mahathir is unfazed by scruples over the exactness of definitions. One may well ask: Why should he be? When you have professors as erudite as Tom Plate describing Mahathir as a “modern Muslim Machiavelli”, as the American academic did in interviews publicising his book on a supposed giant of Asia, you have a feel for the confusion that is fuel in the tank of a mountebank like Mahathir.

Anyone who has had a more than passing familiarity with the theories of the 15th century Florentine political scientist would know, one cannot be a subscriber to monotheistic religion and be Machiavellian.

Niccolo Machiavelli was a pagan nihilist whose theories about how rulers ought to win and keep power and make their rule successful were premised on there being no such thing as a judgmental deity in the afterlife. In that afterlife, Humpty Dumpty’s question of “which is to be master” does not arise.

Petronas: Tell Us more about your local oil deals


February 26, 2011

PETRONAS: Tell Us more about your local oil deals

http://www.thestar.com.my

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS

By P. Gunasegaram

THE question of whether the national oil corporation, PETRONAS, is giving away too much to local oil field services companies in the exploitation of marginal oil and gas fields can only be answered if Petronas reveals much more than what it already has.

On our part, we can only raise some of the burning questions surrounding the emergence, for the first time, of other Malaysian companies besides PETRONAS, effectively as joint venture partners in the mining of oil and gas in the country.

The new arrangement that PETRONAS has come up with for marginal oil fields, those which have less than 30 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), is called a risk service contract or RSC against the previous production sharing contract (PSC).

First, the PSC. After PETRONAS was set up to own and manage all the country’s oil and gas resources on behalf of the Government in 1974, it negotiated with the oil majors who eventually became Petronas’ contractors under PSCs.

Under these, a certain proportion of oil produced was deducted as costs of exploration and exploitation once oil was found and the remainder was shared between PETRONAS and the oil majors on an agreed proportion depending on oil prices. That proportion is at least 80% in favour of PETRONAS, going up to 90% or higher as the oil price rose.

Conceptually, this is a scheme which is easy to understand and has since been emulated by countries around the world in their dealings with the oil companies. Basically, the oil companies do the exploration. If they hit oil, they get to recover their costs and the remainder of the oil is shared on an agreed proportion.

PETRONAS bears hardly any risk as the owner of the concession, basically merely sharing profits with someone who has the expertise and the capital to extract the oil.

It is different with the marginal oil fields. Here, no exploration is needed but oil majors are not interested in recovering this oil because it is not economical enough for them although there are specialised companies which engage in this activity. What is reasonably certain is there is oil. The question is how to extract it.

For reasons it has not fully explained, PETRONAS is now putting the emphasis on local operations instead of building upon its overseas operations which account for 45% of total revenue and some 37% of total production. Petronas does not say how much profit comes from overseas though.

As part of this new emphasis to concentrate on the domestic sector, it has embarked on a programme to develop marginal fields involving some 106 fields and 580 million BOEs. It has also stated its intention of getting foreign oil companies to partner with local oil field services companies to extract oil (and gas) from the marginal fields.

It says that this is to help develop local expertise so that they become sort of oil explorers and extractors in their own right and are able to compete in the international market place for contracts. Some 15 local companies are reported to be involved in oil field services currently.

However, it is difficult to see how any of the local companies will become internationally competitive even with this leg up. That they became successful in the first place as oil field service providers was because of PETRONAS’ insistence that the oil majors used local companies. Even if their services were more expensive, PETRONAS, as the owner of the concession eventually bore this cost.

Extraction, on the other hand,  is a different business altogether and even if we call the relevant fields marginal ones, there is still a lot of money to be made and the amount increases as oil prices rise. There is a lot of expertise involved and those who extract marginal oil are not going to be sharing their expertise readily with local partners they are forced to take.

At 580 million BOE, and using an oil price of US$80 per barrel, the oil is worth nearly RM140 billion! Thus, it is important to ensure that PETRONAS does not lose out in this and extracts the best deal for itself.

The method it is employing is the RSC but it does not give sufficient details about the RSC to independently determine whether it is a fair arrangement. It says that the model strikes a balance in “sharing of risks with fair returns” for development and production of discovered marginal fields.

It adds that it shares risks as the project owners while contractors receive a “reasonable return with limited upside” while it says key performance indicators or KPIs will be in place with incentives or penalties triggered depending on performance.

However, there is no disclosure of what is a reasonable rate of return for the project or the KPI, or the kind of risk that contractors undertake because they are paid a service fee. Can the contractors share in the upside with no evidence of downside sharing? How much of a free ride are our local oil service companies getting in such a deal?

Let’s look at the first such contract. Petronas has awarded this to Petrofac Energy Developments Sdn Bhd, Kencana Energy Sdn Bhd and Sapura Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd for the development and production of the Berantai field, offshore Peninsular Malaysia.

Under the terms of the contract Petrofac with a 50% equity interest will be the operator of the field. The two local partners, Kencana and Sapura, will own the remaining 50% interest on an equal basis.

“The RSC model strikes a balance in sharing of risks with fair returns for development and production of already discovered fields. In this arrangement, PETRONAS remains the project owner while contractors are the service provider. Upfront capital investment will be contributed by the contractors who will receive payment commencing from first production and throughout the duration of the contract,” PETRONAS said.

“The new arrangement facilitates direct participation of Malaysian companies in the country’s upstream oil and gas activities, in line with PETRONAS’ efforts to leverage on their existing capacity while fast-tracking their capability in development and production in a structured manner,” it added.

There was nothing more material than that from PETRONAS’ official statement. In separate announcements, Sapura Crest and Kencana Petroleum, because they are listed companies, announced that the total development costs would be US$800 million which meant each of them had to raise US$200 million. That is a huge amount for these relatively small companies which are still among the larger oil players in the country.

While they are scrambling to raise the funds for this, it is by no means certain that they will acquire expertise in extracting oil from marginal fields as their partners will be committing commercial suicide if they just passed this knowledge on to them.

The question is, are Kencana and Sapura, and the others who follow them, merely equity partners who provide some amount of oil field services? If that is so, why could not PETRONAS itself have become an equity partner? After all it has the funds and more capability and capacity than all the oil field companies put together.

PETRONAS has to remain cognisant that it is the guardian and keeper of the nation’s oil and gas wealth and it needs to guard that position jealously against both foreign as well as local companies so that maximum benefit is obtained by the Malaysian public from its oil and gas wealth.

Any other agenda is secondary to that. The only way to have done this without raising any controversy is for PETRONAS to have set up a subsidiary to undertake production from marginal oil fields, in the same way that it set up PETRONAS Carigali for its exploration activities.

Then this subsidiary can enter into joint ventures with the various world-renowned names who are engaged in exploiting oil from marginal wells and after many years, it would have gained enough expertise and size to venture out into the world much the way that PETRONAS itself has for oil exploration.

The RSC with its explicit agenda of promoting local companies will do just that probably at the cost of PETRONAS itself because international companies can be expected to extract concessions for the profits they forego to local companies, who will be too small and too diverse to ever become a force internationally.

If PETRONAS still insists that this arrangement is best, than it has to reveal all. As a national oil corporation, the more transparent it becomes, the more the public will see its workings and the less suspicions it will have. Let’s see if the numbers are forthcoming.

P Gunasegaram is the managing editor of The Star.


Weekend Entertainment is back


February 25, 2011

Songs for the Weekend

After being off the air, so to speak, for a few weeks, Dr. Kamsiah and I have chosen to start with the weekend with some nice tunes. While at it, we are confronted with  violence and revolutionary change in the Middle East, especially in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain and the tragedy of the earthquake in Christchurch in far away New Zealand where lives have been lost. Tragedy seems to strike us like the black swan when we least expect it. It is a great tribute , however, to the human spirit that we continue  to be strong and resolute in the face of adversity as we pursue peace and harmony among us at home and abroad.

Dr. Kamsiah and I have been doing some travelling in January and February which took us to the tip of Borneo and just a few days ago  to  Langkawi, Kedah Darul Aman, on a business trip. We fortunately had some spare time to have a look around Kuah. We were impressed with  what we saw of the place with boutiques selling duty free items by the  modern Jetty .

With the songs we play this weekend, which are chosen with the help of Ina Tisha Merican (Din’s adult daughter), we hope we can bring some consolation and relief to our weary souls. So, we are happy to present to you all songs by Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Patrizio Buanne, Michael Buble (who will in Malaysia mid-March), Barbara Lewis and Judy Garland.

So please relax and enjoy yourselves even if it is for one fleeting moment. Put your cares away and let music be the food of Life and Love.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Frank Sinatra-Come Fly with Me

The Way You Look Tonight

Stevie Wonder- Ebony and Ivory

For Once in My Life

Patrizio Buanne- Amore Scusami

Michael Buble–Me and Mrs. Jones

Barbara Lewis-The Windmills of Your Mind

Judy Garland-Somewhere Over the Rainbow

As a bonus , we wish to play Michael Jackson’s heart rendering song, Make the World a Better Place and dedicate it to the whole human race, especially  to those in the Middle East who are putting their lives at risk against dictators so that they can inhabit a better place for themselves and their families. Cry Freedom.

Michael Jackson–Caring for the Living


 

Asia feels the impact as the Middle East awakens


February 25, 2011

http://www.themalaysiainsider.com

Asia feels the impact as the Middle East awakens

by Simon Tay*

Thailand has sent ships to Libya to bring home workers affected by the disorder and violence there. China has taken precautionary steps to limit the Internet and quell smaller protests in some cities. Across Asia, stock markets have tumbled as oil prices rise, and companies with exposure to business in the Middle East have been especially affected.

The unfolding events in the Middle East have already affected Asia, and more impacts are possible. One key factor is that Asian economies depend heavily on the Middle East for oil and gas. The unforeseen and unprecedented events make Asians especially nervous as they are price takers. The key determinants are not what Asians do, but how these movements evolve among the Arabs and what the United States does in response.

The immediate analysis depends on the speed and scale of the revolutionary movements which some call an “Arab Awakening”. If it stops at Tunisia, Egypt and perhaps one or two more, the effects on Asia may be relatively contained. But if the revolutionary movement continues at the current pace, the Gulf countries and even Saudi Arabia may be affected. Such events would have much wider and deeper implications.

For this reason, even more than Libya, what happens in Bahrain will be watched very carefully. Bahrain is a monarchy and a Gulf state. The response to mix concessions to protesters with police action will be watched by other countries to see if it can be more effective and legitimate than military action.

The US is the key external player. The Obama administration has been cautious so far. They face a dilemma. On one hand, the US has been a long-time supporter of the regimes in Arab countries, in exchange for oil. Supporting the protesters could undermine longstanding ties in key states.

On the other hand, the Obama administration cannot sit by and watch regimes put down their people with excessive force. Supporting the status quo can be disastrous if the revolutionary movement succeeds. The lesson from the 1979 fall of the Shah of Iran echoes in American policy thinking.

For some Asian governments, the immediate concern is whether the movement could leap across continents through the media and Internet. Ripples will be strongest where there is no democracy, and there is corruption and unemployment or rising food prices.

In China, protests in a few cities have echoed the call for a “Jasmine revolution”. The Chinese authorities have announced measures from controlling the Internet to monitoring the migrant workers and acting quickly on protests. Conditions seem quite different and chances are that major East Asian countries should weather a contagion effect.

Possible problems, however, extend into the medium term. What comes next after “revolution”? Will there be Muslim governments or military coups? If there are democratic coalitions, will there be cohesive governments that can get on with business? There is a possibility that weak states could emerge without effective governance, as we have seen in Iraq after Saddam Hussein.

Such medium-term scenarios can affect Asia even more than the immediate revolutionary turbulence. Key Asian economies depend on the Middle East for oil and energy and their growth has generated the largest demand for oil and gas since the global economic crisis hit.

Oil prices have started to rise. This comes on top of soaring food prices and quickening inflation. There are also impacts on Asian corporations. There has already been a market discounting of companies with deals in the Middle East. This is, in many cases, a knee-jerk reaction.

If the countries emerge with working governments, the probability is that they will honour the contracts unless these are tainted by corruption or seem to be superfluous white elephants. The new governments will aim to reassure the international community that they are not autarkic and show their people that improvements are being made to their daily lives.

If what emerges are radical Muslim regimes or incoherent, failing states in key Middle Eastern countries and oil exporters, then it will not be just companies with specific links to the region. Asians and all who have relied on the steady supply of oil will have to face up to the wider implications of the Arab awakening as a rude, unexpected and inadvertent shock to the global economy.

But if what emerges are viable and more representative governments, then Asians should be able to find workable partnerships, whether at the government level or for business. — Today

*Simon Tay is currently Associate Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore, and Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. He writes fortnightly commentaries in TODAY, a local newspaper and appears regularly in the American and international media, including BBC, CNN, and Bloomberg.

Apart from his academic and political interests Tay is a published poet and author – his collection of short stories, Stand Alone, was awarded the Highly Commended prize from the National Book Development Council of Singapore Awards.

RPK: On 1Malaysia andMalaysian Politics


Ferbruary 25, 2011

http://www.malaysiatoday.net

RPK, Chairman, Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement: On 1Malaysia and Malaysian Politics

If Najib wants to propagate One Malaysia, he has to make it very clear what One Malaysia stands for. Just to have it as a slogan, One Malaysia, but the implementation and all those other issues are opposed to One Malaysia. Even Dr Mahathir, ex-prime minister, said he does not understand what is One Malaysia, and of course he was being cheeky. But if you ask any Malaysian on the street what is One Malaysia, they can’t define it.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Sem Lam, Radio Australia

He is known as Malaysia’s Julian Assange, a whistle-blower seen by the establishment as a trouble-maker. Raja Petra Kamarudin has long been an advocate of accountable government through his online news blog, Malaysia Today. He’s been detained under Malaysia’s controversial and feared Internal Security Act – the I.S.A.Indeed, he has so many police reports filed against him that these days, Raja Petra lives in exile in Britain.

Raja Petra is also chairman of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement.  He’ll speak next week at the Australian National University in Canberra. Both sides of Malaysian politics, says Raja Petra, are still playing the sensitive race card.

Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Raja Petra Kamarudin, activist and founder of news blog, Malaysia Today

KAMARUDIN: Race or rather racism and the use of religion for political reasons. I think these are the two most dangerous issues, if I would describe them as that. And it appears that both sides of the political divide, whether it’s pro-government, anti-government, they’re both playing race and religion in their politics. Race and religion even each by itself is very potent, when you combine both I think we have got ingredients of a very explosive situation. And it appears the situation is getting worse.

LAM: Do you include in this your former party KeADILan, the party that’s currently led by Anwar Ibrahim, the KeADILan also plays the race card?

KAMARUDIN: Well look at what happened in East Malaysia, (North Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak) where they wanted to put Muslims as the head of the state, and the Muslims are the minority and the Christians or the non-Muslims are the majority there, but yet they wanted to put a Muslim as head of the state because they do not want to open themselves to criticism from UMNO, which claims to be the largest Muslim party in the world. And again PAS, which is a Muslim party in alliance with PKR. So everyone is trying to outdo each other to show that they’re more Muslim or more Islam than the other guy.

LAM: And of course the key components in the ruling Barisan Nasional, the BN coalition that currently rules Malaysia federally, that is also divided very much along racial lines. Why do Malaysians accept that?

KAMARUDIN: Well UMNO has made it very clear that Malaysia is a country that belong to the Malays, so only the Malays can rule. But the non-Malays are welcome to rule in coalition with the Malays, but it’s the Malays who have to lead the government. That has been challenged many years ago and the result was race riots. So UMNO is constantly reminding the non-Malays, in particular the Chinese, what happened in 1969.

LAM: But isn’t 1969 also caused by the fact that the Malays felt that they did not have a fair share of the economic pie? After over four decades of pro-Bumiputra affirmative new economic policies favouring the Malays, why is this still currently an issue in Malaysia?

KAMARUDIN: I suppose it’s convenient boogey man. The non-Malays, the Chinese in particular have never forgotten what happened in 1969, and they still fear it. And every time the Chinese get out of line or appear to be more slanted towards opposition, they’re reminded about what happened the last time you tried this in 1969. And it appears to work in many by-elections, whenever there’s a Chinese majority, the Chinese are threatened with the possibility of another race riot if the ruling party was to lose power.

LAM: Well many people are referring to the organisation that you’re heading, the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement, the MCLM, they’re referring to it as a possible third force. Do you see MCLM entering Malaysian politics?

KAMARUDIN: We have said it many times that we are not a political party and we do not wish to contest the elections. What we wish to do is to offer candidates to contest under their party. If you remember the opposition lost one state, Perak, not long after the elections, and the reason they lost this state was because the elected representatives from the opposition jumped ship. Pakatan won it, UMNO pulled it back by buying off some of their representatives. And they’ve lost I think all in all about seven representatives who have jumped ship, joined the ruling party.

And we say why does this happen? I mean here we are fighting so hard to campaign in the elections and to ensure that these people get elected, and when they get elected they just move, cross over to the other side. So we say, why don’t we give you fresh candidates, candidates who are not tainted, who do not have any attachments with UMNO, I will offer you these candidates in the event you have a problem finding good candidates, so we’ll assist you by finding candidates. So what we are doing is just responding to the complaints or to the excuses that the opposition, in particular PKR has been giving us. It’s not that we want to contest the elections.

LAM: What do you think it will take for Malaysia to move beyond race-based politics?

KAMARUDIN: I was asked that by the mainstream media, the Straits Times, which is a government-owned newspaper in Malaysia. What would you do if you were the prime minister to end racism in Malaysia? Well I said the first thing I would do if I become prime minister will be I will probably ban same race marriages, you can’t marry within your same race. It was tongue in cheek actually, but the point is when people in Malaysia, when Malaysians still think of them as Indians and Chinese and Malays first, and as Malaysians second, we’ll never end this racism problem. Now why does the government perpetuate this? For instance if you fill in a form, you’re supposed to fill in your race. And they insist that you fill in your race. So either you’re a Malay, or a Chinese, or an Indian, or you’re one of the other minorities. And you’re supposed to also fill in your religion.

So we are compartmentalised and we are labeled according to our race and religion. Everybody, especially of our generation, those in their 50s and 60s, we always talk about the Malaysia of maybe the 1950s and the 1960s before 1969, Malaysia then was so different. But somehow today we’ve evolved into a nation that’s very conscious about what race and what religion you are.

It’s good to have cultures and customs and language, but when that becomes your political fight, that becomes the issue, your cause, certainly everyone will withdraw into their own community and say yes, I will fight for my own community. If Najib wants to propagate One Malaysia, he has to make it very clear what One Malaysia stands for.

Just to have it as a slogan, One Malaysia, but the implementation and all those other issues are opposed to One Malaysia. Even Dr Mahathir, ex-prime minister, said he does not understand what is One Malaysia, and of course he was being cheeky. But if you ask any Malaysian on the street what is One Malaysia, they can’t define it.

Egypt’s fate could yet be Malaysia’s future


From the Australian February 25, 2011 12:00AM

ASKED to comment just days after the removal of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak shocked local reporters by responding: “Don’t think that what is happening there must also happen in Malaysia. We will not allow it to happen here.”

As Najib correctly reminded the press, “Malaysia is very different to Egypt.”

The United Malays National Organisation Party has been in power longer than any governing political party in the world.

But this unscripted display of insecurity is revealing. When announcing his “new economic model” last year, Najib became the first Malaysian prime minister to explicitly link the country’s economic and social problems with its four-decades long affirmative-action policies.

By his own admission, failure to wind back these policies will lead to a bleak future and even failure for one of the region’s former “tigers”, meaning Egypt’s fate could yet be Malaysia’s future.

Affirmative-action policies were an understandable response to the 1969 “race riots” in Kuala Lumpur between ethnic Malays and Chinese, which led to the deaths of several hundred people.

Still the defining event for the country, the riots occurred as Malaysia was emerging as a new state with the majority Bumiputra population falling well behind the economic progress of ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, and with Malaysian society divided along racial lines.

Given that the race riots were due to socio-economic racial divisions, Malaysian leaders could have responded by attempting to move the country away from ideologies and policies that emphasised and entrenched racial differences.

Instead, UMNO leaders went the other way, preferring to pursue national stability through granting special status and privileges to placate Malays.

From 1971 until the present day, successive “five-year plans” drew up pro-Malay affirmative action policies, each going further than the last. Schemes were implemented to reduce Bumiputra (rather than overall) poverty and initiatives were adopted to speed up the redistribution of the country’s corporate assets from Chinese-Malaysians and Indian-Malaysians to the benefit of Bumiputras.

One consequence is the government spending an ever-increasing amount of money to create employment opportunities exclusively for Bumiputras.

It is estimated about 60 per cent of Bumiputras who found employment from 1971 to 2000 were in jobs created through state-interventionist policies.

One legacy is the rise of a Malaysian civil service, which as a proportion of the population is the largest and best paid in Asia: Bumiputras, who make up 65 per cent of the population, hold more than 95 per cent of these jobs.

Another is that public investment exceeds private investment in the Malaysian economy.

Moreover, in attempting to raise the Bumiputra share of national wealth, onerous obligations have been placed on Malaysian businesses.

Firms in many sectors are obliged to reserve at least 30 per cent of their equity for Bumiputras and many require a Bumiputra business partner for registration.

Special categories of bank loans are created exclusively for Malay-owned businesses and all banks are required to earmark at least 20 per cent of all money lent to Bumiputras.

Generous government assistance is provided to Malay entrepreneurs, including preferential access to contracts, licences, franchises, technical assistance, management training, and reduced rent assistance.

Businesses with at least a quarter of Malay executives are entitled to a 10 per cent corporate tax reduction.

Especially galling for other Malaysians is the preference given to Malay firms in the government procurement sectors: a real prize given the size of the public sector in the economy.

Of all government contracts, 95 per cent go to Bumiputras.

Finally, affirmative action policies have gone beyond the corporate sector into preferential schemes for Bumiputras seeking housing loans and personal loans to university entrance and scholarships.

It is now obvious the price of four decades of burgeoning affirmative-action policies is immense.

State-interventionist policies mean that, except for a brief period from 1993-1998, the Malaysian budget has never been in surplus since they were introduced in 1971.

Total government debt is 41.5 per cent of GDP, high for a regime that provides few social services.

Indeed, 40 per cent of the government’s revenues come from state oil giant Petronas, even as known Malaysian oil reserves are due to run out in 15 years.

Rather than creating a critical mass of dynamic Malay entrepreneurs, Malaysia is plagued by the rise of rent-seeking Bumiputra elites dependent on state largess and demanding the continuation of affirmative action.

Meanwhile, more than 250,000 citizens left Malaysia between March 2008 and August 2009, many of them highly skilled or rich Chinese-Malaysians and Indian-Malaysians.

A cable released by WikiLeaks from Singapore’s highly respected ambassador-at-large, Tommy Koh, speaks of “the distinct possibility of racial conflict” in Malaysia.

In November 2007, 40,000 protesters demanding “free and fair” elections were quelled by riot police, and several weeks later an estimated 20,000 Indians marched in Kuala Lumpur demanding greater “ethnic Indian” rights.

Malaysia might not yet be Egypt. But there are no longer any illusions of the country being the shining light of a prosperous and harmonious multi-ethnic example to the rest of Asia.

John Lee is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and the Hudson Institute in Washington DC.

People Should Not Be Discouraged from Telling the Truth


Feb 25, 2011

Tan Sri Robert Phang Miow Sin is a former member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel (CCPP). He resigned from the post recently amid the graft allegations that were leveled at him following his urging for an investigation into alleged corrupt practices in Malaysia Airlines (MAS). Phang, who is also a Justice of the Peace, said his decision to pull out from CCPP was to preserve his integrity as well as that of MACC.

An interview with Tan Sri Robert Phang Miow Sin

MD: Do you ever feel regretful of your decision to pull out of the MACC panel?

RP: This is a very soul-searching question. Very hurting question, because, after two years in MACC, I’ve made a name for myself. I criticized if it is bad, I praised if it is good. For example, the introduction of ETP, it’s a good move. It must be supported.

Regretful of pulling out? It was a very decisive decision because my intention is to walk the talk. I always profess and say, be vocal, truthful and responsible. If an allegation was made against me, I have no choice. If I had waited, people will say that Phang is going to wait and use his influence to jeopardize the case. That’s is what I don’t want. I want to stop even the suspicion, and stop the speculations. I want to walk the talk. I regret (pulling out) in the sense that, what had I done wrong? Not that I alleged the A-G on anything. I just asked him to come up with an explanation to the public.

Have you consulted anyone before resigning from your post in MACC?

My family always said that I’m a stupid guy. At 72, still wants to be busybody. You know the family’s concern, this is love. Of course they’re concerned. I told my wife, if anything happens to me, I think the public knows who to go after.

How do you feel about the A-G and MACC after what had happen?
I think the MACC is already realizing what the public wants the most. MACC is equally very concerned and the A-G, I think, should be very careful. He has a lot of allegations thrown against him too in public domain. In fairness to the A-G he has a challenging job. All in all he has to be tactful and very careful.

How would you comment on the allegation thrown at you?

I feel sad. Sad because I have been implicated. Sick as the whole society feels very sick. Sick in the sense if someone is telling the truth, you should be allowed to find out more about the truth. And it is good for the society, for the institution.

I really pray that our PM not only must be supported but he also must take note that in order for him to know he must have the real feel and not only rely on the reports from the authorities, the institution or the department. I can bet that the reports are not comprehensive enough. I think the PM needs to set up a very independent council where you can invite people from all walks of life that are courageous to speak the truth based on what is happening on the ground, and then he’ll get the real picture. Did you make further attempts to find the blogger who alleged you?

I hired a private investigator but still cannot find the blogger. The PI reported that the blog had already been traced but it’s registered under somebody else’s name. But those parts I will leave it to my lawyer to do the follow up. This is serious you know? If any anonymous blogger can issue out a statement to allege and defame someone without any truth behind it the society would be in topsy-turvy.

Do you have any suspects in mind?

I have suspects, but they’re just speculations. But that I leave to my lawyer and my PI to check. I wont give up; I want to trace them down.

What is the chance you returning as panel of MACC?

(Laughs) I have faith in the chief commissioner and the two deputies, Datuk Sukri and Datuk Haji Mustafa. I believe that they are independent and fair people. What is also in my mind, in MACC there is DPP (Deputy Public Prosecutor), the DPP is from the A-G’s office. What are the functions of DPP, we don’t know. If we were to say MACC is independent, it means every investigation has to be referred to the DPP or the MACC solely decides. Of course, for the time when you need to go for prosecution or decision for prosecution, you refer to the DPP.

So in my case, because I believe it (the allegation) is all not true, you cannot go through the investigation. Black is black, white is white once you go through the investigation. I have faith in those three panels. They are professional and also impartial. What is important is I have to be cleared first.

If I am cleared from the allegation, what we need to do is to go down to the rakyat and seek their participation to support and fight corruption. If I’m cleared, my goal is achieved. It is my commitment and principle to walk the talk. I think I should continue to fight corruption. Why shouldn’t I? But only if they want me, of course.

Who do you think would gain from the allegation made against you?

I look into two aspects. First of all, why did they do that? I already have the conclusion; they try to keep my mouth shut, to silence me. I learned a lot. The moment the investigation took place I should keep my mouth shut. Let the MACC do the necessary.

This allegation, as it is, has already garnered me followers. Look at the blogs, many people are supporting me. This is because our society thinks they need more people who have guts to speak out, to highlight what is right and what is wrong. In that respect, I think they have made me more popular. Any righteous, any social injustice, any so called truth to be highlighted, I am there.

What are your expectations for Malaysia in the fight against corruption?

I expect the rakyat to have better feedback from the events happening. I also expect people to come out and tell the truth. I hope more unnecessary pressure will be bestowed against me. Be ready to tell the truth and let god decide. No fear except to god. A word of wisdom, you can bluff anybody, but don’t bluff god. Never take god for a ride. I think that my incident is a nuisance. People need not be discouraged to tell the truth. People must support MACC in the eradication of corruption. Have no fear.

During my two years in MACC,  lots of letters from the public were sent to me and MACC asking for MACC to investigate. I just want to let them know that I will forward their letters to other MACC panel for necessary action to be taken. I appeal to the government that anybody who has a personal agenda or interest to not be the commissioner of MACC because some of them are even consultants to MACC as well as to the A-G’s office. So if they sit there as a commissioner or panel advisor, how can they be independent.  I also hope that Malaysian Digest can express this positively and objectively, give the true picture so the public can realize. And then I have no regrets. My resignation is absolutely necessary in the most honorable way so that people will know that I walk the talk.

Any last words Tan Sri?

Lastly, I appeal to MACC if there is investigation to be conducted, please speed it up because I’m looking forward to serve the nation with dignity, again.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) (Malay: Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia, (SPRM)) (formerly Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) or Badan Pencegah Rasuah (BPR)) is a government agency in Malaysia that investigates and persecutes corruption in the public and private sectors.

Source : http://www.malaysiandigest.com/features/17656-robert-phang-people-should-not-be-discouraged-from-telling-the-truth.html

Friends in High Places


February 25, 2011

Friends in High Places

Gani Patail and Vincent Lye go back a long way to their Sabah days where they even shared the same GROs at the Strawberry Club in Kota Kinabalu. With Gani’s help and through various corporate manoeuvres, Vincent Lye managed to take control of Ho Hup and drove Dato’ Low Tuck Choy (Dato’ TC) to be just a minority shareholder.

 

Snappy Fingers in A-G's Chambers

 

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

by Deep Throat A-G Chambers

When the Attorney-General (AG) exercises his prosecution powers on criminal matters under Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, he does so as the Public Prosecutor (PP). This means he acts as the public guardian to maintain law and order, which also means he acts in the public interest.

A-G not acting in the Public Interest

However, in the case of A-G Gani Patail, more often than not, his considerations are not in the public interest, rather it is for his own interests. That is why you have illogical and inconsistent decisions coming from this AG.

MAS did not suffer any loss and Tajuddin is an Angel, say Spinners

It is already public knowledge that MAS had suffered massive losses and was almost bankrupted by Tajuddin Ramli. Yet, when the Director of CCID recommended that Tajuddin should be charged, A-G Gani Patail did not do that. Instead, he charged the Director!

When Malaysia Today produced the Tabung Haji documents which showed AG Gani Patail with Tajudin’s proxy, Shahidan Shafie, taking the Lord For A Ride in doing the Haj together, they said that Malaysia Today is telling a lie.

Haj Trip remains unexplained

Until today, there is no satisfactory explanation from A-G Gani Patail. He wants people to believe that the Haj trip and of him sharing a room with Shahidan was just a coincidence. Shahidan was a former police inspector, OC Secret Societies Johor Bahru, who was charged for corruption. And today he is bosom buddies with A-G Gani Patail. Gani Patail can be so blatant in consorting with crooks and criminals because he thinks he is invincible from the process of the law.

Like the MAS Scandal, AG Gani Patail quite openly uses his position as PP to take sides in corporate disputes. He takes sides and uses his powers as PP to fix and charge real corporate figures with all kinds of funny offences so that his dubious and shady friends can take control of big corporations.

Ho Hup Bhd Case

Let me just show you one example. Ho Hup Bhd was an ailing company which had a huge land bank. Ho Hup was then owned by Dato’ Low Tuck Choy (Dato’ TC). Dato’ Vincent Lye Ek Seang, who is A-G Gani Patail’s good friend, had eyed Ho Hup’s land bank for quite sometime.

Gani Patail and Vincent Lye go back a long way to their Sabah days where they even shared the same GROs(socialites) at the Strawberry Club in Kota Kinabalu. With Gani’s help and through various corporate manoeuvres, Vincent Lye managed to take control of Ho Hup and drove Dato’ TC to be just a minority shareholder.

The moment Vincent Lye gained control of Ho Hup, he fleeced Ho Hup to the bones and sold off Ho Hup’s land bank. Seeing his company being ruined, Dato’ TC managed to rally the minority shareholders to come together to realise the damage caused by Vincent Lye.

After an audit, Dato’ TC and the other minority shareholders lodged several reports against Vincent for fraud, CBT, cheating and misappropriation of property. However, nothing happened. Dato’ TC then called for an EGM and, together with the other minority shareholders, they took steps to force Vincent Lye to leave the company.

That was when Dato’ TC found himself being harassed by AG Gani Patail. Firstly, Gani Patail directed the Registrar of Companies (ROC) to take action to injunct Dato’ TC’s shares in Ho Hup. Eventually, the ROC had to withdraw that action as there was no basis for it from the very beginning. In any event, the minority shareholders have already decided to oust Vincent Lye and his forty thieves.

To show his influence and to demonstrate that the show has not ended, Vincent Lye asked A-G Gani to come on parade with him in the offices of Ho Hup. A-G Gani Patail then strutted around the office to show that he will use his powers against anyone who dared to fight his buddy, Vincent Lye.

Dato’ TC charged

On 15 January 2011, the mainstream media reported that Dato’ TC had instead been charged. A-G Gani Patail and Vincent Lye go back a long way to their Sabah days where they even shared the same GROs at the Strawberry Club in Kota Kinabalu. With Gani’s help and through various corporate manoeuvres, Vincent Lye managed to take control of Ho Hup and drove Dato’ TC to be just a minority shareholder.

A-G Gani Patail and his Buddy Vincent Lye

In case you doubt this story, just look at the picture (above) of A-G Gani Patail and  his buddy Vincent Lye at the Ho Hup Office. Now, is that a show of power or what?

It’s a Pity, Mahathir can’t let go


February 24, 2011

The Malaysian Insider says: It’s a Pity, Mahathir can’t let go

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is an amazing man. A leader who took Malaysia kicking and screaming into the 21st century, turning vast agrarian spaces into the cement and chrome of industrialisation of the 20th and 21st century.

A man who is set in his ideas. The person who thumbed his nose at most parts of the world and stared down the royalty and judiciary. But of late, the good doctor from Kedah has turned his back on some of his ideas and philosophies during his 22 years in power. The idea of Bangsa Malaysia contained in his The Way Forward speech that was the genesis of Vision 2020.

In his latest diatribe, Dr Mahathir accused PAS of falling over backwards and losing its Malay-Muslim identity to appease its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition partner, DAP.

The former prime minister claimed that PAS was even willing to drop its call for an Islamic state and defend Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, whom he called “the father of DAP.”

Dr Mahathir added that instead of PAS introducing Islamic ways to DAP, as the Kelantan mentri besar had claimed, “the evidence shows that it is PAS that has been influenced by DAP.”

“Just look at the disrespectful behaviour towards the Sultan and Raja Muda of Perak by PAS members, rolling around on the road to stop his car,” he said, referring to attempts to block Datuk Seri Zambry Kadir’s swearing-in as Perak mentri besar in 2009.

He might hammer PAS members for their behaviour towards the Perak palace but wasn’t Dr Mahathir the prime minister who went around the country twice, in 1983 and 1993, arguing that the powers and immunity of the royalty must be curbed.

Has he forgotten that on his instructions, the media and UMNO politicians ridiculed royalty back in the day. Until they relented and today, we have a Special Court whose proceedings are suddenly kept away from the public eye. Dr Mahathir and UMNO can play hot and cold with the royalty but others cannot.

And if they do, they are wrong, is that it? It is understandable that Dr Mahathir continues to bat for the current UMNO, which he formed from the ashes of the old UMNO that was deregistered in 1988. Or renew his battle with foes like Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, Lim Kit Siang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim or even Lee Kuan Yew.

But the battle cannot be at the expense of his past philosophies or conveniently assigning blame to everyone else.

To his credit, Dr Mahathir has brought development under his watch but he has also destroyed many of our institutions. Now he seeks to lash out to protect his beloved UMNO and his legacy, sparing no thought for the aspirations of generations who have come after his time.

Perhaps, it’s too late for him to be an elder statesman to guide Malaysia where Bangsa Malaysia is supreme and the government is one that is of the people, by the people and for the people. A pity.

Malaysian Economic Transformation: Tough Days Ahead for Prime Minister Najib


February 24, 2011

Malaysian Economic Transformation: Tough Road Ahead for Prime Minister Najib, says Australia-based Think Tank (CIS)

by Shannon Teoh at http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is taking “an unprecedented gamble” by pledging to dilute the system of Malay patronage that has kept UMNO in power, said a foreign report yesterday.

The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) — an Australia-based think tank — said that the large support for the status quo and UMNO’s current vulnerability meant that “Najib will have a difficult task convincing his colleagues to ‘risk all’ for the sake of Malaysia’s long-term future.”

Its foreign policy research fellow Dr John Lee also questioned the prime minister’s capacity to introduce economic reforms as the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970 has cultivated a “vast and deep network of rent-seeking and patronage.” While acknowledging that the New Economic Model (NEM) introduced by Najib last year was “enormously significant,” Lee said that the decades of pro-Bumiputera affirmative action was now a “millstone around the neck of the struggling Malaysian economy and the cancer behind the country’s growing structural problems.”

However, the public policy think tank backs Najib’s gamble as an opinion poll by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research in 2008 found that 71 per cent of Malaysians — including 65 per cent of Malays — believed that affirmative action needed to be reviewed.

Lee’s paper, “Malaysian Dilemma: The Enduring Cancer of Affirmative Action,” said that the NEM has the potential to win back disaffected Chinese and Indian voters to Barisan Nasional (BN).

But the researcher, who was born in Ipoh but migrated to Australia, added that there has “been few initiatives aimed at reducing the role of the state in the Malaysian economy—which is essential for cutting back rent-seeking opportunities by Malay elites in the name of affirmative action.”

Calling steps such as relaxing Bumiputera equity requirements in 27 service subsectors “piecemeal,” the paper noted that Najib has had to placate pro-Malay groups including senior UMNO figures who are “far from unanimous in their support of Najib’s gamble.”

The largely Malay civil service with its deeply entrenched ‘pro-Malay’ culture means it will be difficult to effect genuine reform, Lee added.

Commenting on the paper, local libertarian think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) believes that it is time to debate the policy of affirmative action.Project manager Afif Abdullah said that “the evidence against affirmative action is now clearer. The prime minister must not succumb to demands from far right groups, be they Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dayak, or anything else.”

Established in 1976, CIS states that it supports a free enterprise economy and a free society under limited government where individuals can prosper and fully develop their talents.

Libya’s Long Orwellian Nightmare


February 24, 2011

The Many Gaddafis: Libya’s Long Orwellian Nightmare

by *Dirk Vandewalle

TWO images serve as bookends to the four-decades-old rule of Libya’s ruler, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. The first is the picture taken a few days after the September 1, 1969, coup that brought him to power: it shows a handsome, pencil-thin revolutionary in military uniform, kneeling in the desert sand to pray. The other was taken two days ago: Colonel Qaddafi in bedouin garb as an uprising sparked by the arrest of a human rights lawyer in Benghazi continued to overtake the country, defiantly and incoherently defending his self-styled revolution, vowing to struggle on until death.

42 Years of Iron-fisted Rule

Between those two shots lie 42 years of iron-fisted rule, and thousands of photos that show him slowly turning from a young firebrand to a mastermind of international terrorism; from ambitious new ruler, bent on restoring the grandeur of Arab nationalism after the assassination of his hero President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt to international pariah; from would-be philosopher to clownish figure whose demagoguery was derided by friend and foe alike. And, finally, after years of sanctions by the United States and the international community, a much older but equally combative Colonel Qaddafi was seemingly rehabilitated by the West.

After the 1969 revolution, Western leaders initially believed that the new Libyan regime would follow in the kingdom’s footsteps, with a pro-Western bent to its policies. It quickly became clear, however, that Colonel Qaddafi was no ordinary Arab leader who would live by the conventions of international behavior or decorum.

The Bulwark against predations of the West?

Once Colonel Qaddafi assumed power, his message was unambiguous: he cast himself and Libya as a bulwark against what he perceived as the predations of the West. The brutality of the Italian colonial period — which had lasted from 1911 through 1943 and led to the deaths of perhaps half of the population of Libya’s eastern province — would become for him an enduring obsession. The Italians had destroyed whatever embryonic bureaucratic and administrative structures had been in place before they invaded, so Libya had few elements of modern statehood. And the monarchy — headed by King Idris I, who showed no love for ruling a unified Libya — had for almost 20 years largely left matters as they were when the Italians left.

What was not clear at the start of the 1969 revolution was how tortuous Colonel Qaddafi’s path would become. Fueled by ample petrodollars, he would descend into an increasingly self-contained and self-reverential world, a closed system fed and reinforced by the sycophancy that always surrounds dictators and that brooks no opposition.

Nationalisation of Libya’s Oil

In the early 1970s, by nationalizing the country’s oil companies, Colonel Qaddafi provided himself with a healthy dose of legitimacy at home, but also with increasing suspicion from the West. In the mid-’70s, he demonstrated his growing lack of perspective by publishing his manifesto, the Green Book, a slim collection of incoherent ramblings that he offered as the ideological guide to what he saw as Libya’s never ending “revolution.”

Soon the contents of the Green Book became national slogans. “The house belongs to those who live in it,” said one, forcing landlords who owned multiple dwellings to give up their properties (or to hastily arrange marriages to keep them in the family). Another insisted that “democracy is the abortion of an individual’s rights.” Colonel Qaddafi came to be referred to as the Leader or the Guide, the oracle for an unsteady revolution.

Libyans in Orwellian Nightmare

Increasingly, however, Colonel Qaddafi’s philosophical musings and his grand ideas for a new society clashed with what was becoming a visibly darker side of the regime. Libyans found themselves in an Orwellian nightmare where even small utterances of protest could lead to disappearances, prolonged incarceration without any form of legal redress and torture. Entire families were made to suffer from the alleged transgressions of one of its members.

Even exile could not provide escape from the terror. In a campaign to kill what Colonel Qaddafi termed “stray dogs,” he had assassination teams gun down dissidents abroad. When, in 1984, Libyan protestors demonstrated in front of their embassy in London, a police officer, who was trying to keep demonstrators at bay, was killed by a bullet fired from inside the embassy. That led the British government to break off diplomatic relations with the regime.

Colonel Qaddafi’s willingness to flout international conventions and his government’s well-documented involvement in terrorist incidents led inexorably to a sustained confrontation with the West and made the Libyan leader a pariah. President Ronald Reagan famously labeled him “the mad dog of the Middle East,” and the image of an irrational Colonel Qaddafi, hell-bent on destroying Western interests at all costs and by all methods, became the world’s lingering image of him. The bombing of a Pan Am plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, which killed 270 people, was only the final confirmation of his madness and evil.

After Lockerbie, Libya was plunged into isolation and remained there for more than a decade. Colonel Qaddafi ranted and raved, his speeches becoming even more apocalyptic. He blamed American or Zionist conspiracies — or a fifth column in Libya working at their behest — for every little setback his country suffered.

Armed with large ambitions, and large amounts of cash, he struck back at the West — by committing more acts of terrorism, like the bombing of the La Belle disco in Germany in 1986, which killed two American soldiers, and attempting to create and purchase biological weapons and nuclear arms technology. He also supported unsavory liberation movements and causes throughout the world, ranging from small opposition movements in sub-Saharan Africa to the Irish Republican Army. But he was severely hemmed in by the world’s economic and diplomatic sanctions.

In December 2003, Libya finally agreed to give up whatever supplies of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons it possessed. This promise came at the end of a long process of behind-the-scenes negotiations with Britain and the United States, and was one of the conditions Colonel Qaddafi met in order to end the sanctions. It marked the beginning of his rehabilitation into international society.

Qaddafi’s Israteen

The regime now sought in earnest to portray Muammar el-Qaddafi to the world as he had always envisioned himself: a global figure of major proportion, a visionary thinker whose ideas about democracy were worthy of serious intellectual contemplation. Among these ideas was Colonel Qaddafi’s notion of Israteen, a unitary state that would house both Palestine and Israel.

The Libyan government paid an international consulting firm to help create a forum to bring well-known public pundits and personalities to Libya to debate with the “leader of the revolution” on the nature of democracy. The appearance in Libya of leading Western intellectuals and public figures — willing to indulge a dictator’s whims and fancies for a handful of petrodollars — fed Colonel Qaddafi’s conviction that the Green Book was still relevant, and that his outworn revolution and his own stature as a world leader were important.

The man who had once personified terrorism thus became our valued ally in the fight against terrorism. We could live with his foibles and occasional ranting in return for his cooperation. So he provided intelligence on Islamic groups in his country, and on at least one occasion accepted a terrorist detainee for interrogation — and American oil companies, along with various other United States businesses, returned to Libya. Colonel Qaddafi had come full circle, or so many believed.

Libya’s Days of Reckoning

But now that the Libyan regime — like those of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain — is besieged by a popular uprising, the image of Colonel Qaddafi as the vicious monster who will go to any lengths to survive has reappeared. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by security forces and hired mercenaries, even as pro-Qaddafi forces have had to abandon Benghazi and most of the eastern province of Cyrenaica.

On Monday (February 14), when the leader went on television with his Green Book in hand, his diatribe was incoherent but familiar. His opponents, he said, were nothing but dogs and cockroaches, and he would squash and kill them.

Gone were the flowery niceties of democratic theory. Back again was the reality of brutal suppression. However, the terrible events of the past week do recall a line from the Green Book, written with perfect sangfroid by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi: “This is genuine democracy, but in reality the strong always rule.”

*Dirk Vandewalle, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth, is the author of “Modern Libya.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/opinion/24vandewalle.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=opinion