Competition law and the airline industry


October 31, 2011

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/192729

Competition law and the airline industry

Posted on 31 October 2011 – 11:03am
Last updated on 31 October 2011 – 11:09am

by Christopher Lee, Kuok Yew Chen and Edwin Lee
Legally Speaking

MALAYSIAN Airline System Bhd (MAS), AirAsia Bhd and AirAsia X Sdn Bhd have recently entered into a Comprehensive Collaboration Framework to explore opportunities to collaborate on a broad range of areas in which all parties will strive to complement each other’s businesses so as to leverage on their respective core competencies and optimise efficiency for the benefit of consumers.

The collaboration has sparked concerns that the tie-up between the two airlines may result in a monopoly or anti-competitive behaviour in the airline industry. Many have expressed their worries that the collaboration may result in less frequent flights, limited travel options and that AirAsia may stop offering low-price airfares since MAS is no longer a competitor to AirAsia.

The collaboration agreement would only come into effect after a full competition analysis is completed and is in compliance with the applicable laws with regard to competition law in all the markets that the airlines operate in.

It is noted that the recently-established Malaysian Competition Commission is also looking into the possible impact of the collaboration on the local market.

This article sets out to examine the competition law issues that may arise from the collaboration in the airline industry.

Competition Act 2010

The Competition Act 2010 was passed by Parliament last year and is scheduled to come into force on Jan 1, 2012. The Act applies to any commercial activity by any company (including government-linked companies) within and outside Malaysia which has an effect on competition in any market in Malaysia.

Generally, competition law in most jurisdictions around the world covers three main pillars – prevention of anti-competitive agreements; abuse of a dominant position as well as ruling against anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.

The Act does not, however, provide for regulation of mergers and acquisitions which may be anti-competitive, although the government has not ruled out the possibility of introducing the third pillar in the future.

Anti-competitive agreements

The Act prohibits horizontal and vertical agreements between enterprises where an agreement has the object or effect of significantly preventing, restricting or distorting competition in any market for goods or services.

Horizontal agreements which have the effect of price fixing; market sharing; limit or control of production, market outlets or market access; and bid rigging are deemed to be anti-competitive agreements. Vertical agreements include tie-in arrangements and exclusive dealings which have the object of setting up barriers of entry against new entrants in a particular industry.

Abuse of a dominant position

Enterprises are prohibited from engaging in any conduct which amounts to an abuse of a dominant position such as imposing unfair purchase or selling price; limiting or controlling production, market outlets or market access, refusing to supply; applying discriminatory conditions that discourage new market entry; engaging in predatory behaviour towards competitors; or buying up scarce supplies in excess of the dominant enterprise’s own needs.

The application of competition law to the airline industry

In the airline industry, the typical competition issues include global alliances, tariff coordination, code-sharing, price-fixing, airport capacity and slot allocation, predatory pricing, frequent flyers programme, corporate discount schemes, and travel agent commission. These competition issues may arise from day-to-day dealings with competitors, joint-venture partners, airport operators, suppliers, agents as well as customers, and will likely come under the scrutiny by the competition authority.

In many countries, airlines have to seek permission and clearance from the competition authorities before they are allowed to form an alliance. The competition authorities will consider the terms of the agreement, the potential impact on the relevant markets as well as whether the alliance would result in excessive market domination.

The competition authorities in many jurisdictions are generally supportive of airline alliances as they would result in cost savings, better connectivity and foster greater synergies between the airlines unless the alliances would result in elimination of competition.

Code sharing

Code sharing is an arrangement between two airlines where one airline (operating airline) allows another airline (marketing airline), as a code share partner, to market and sell tickets on the operating airline’s flights. The marketing airline that sells tickets under its own code does not actually operate the flight.

While code-sharing agreements are generally permissible as they provide substantial benefits to consumers (such as seamless connections, greater network access and competitive airfares), some code-sharing agreements may give rise to anti-competitive concerns as the multiple displays of code-shared flights on computer screens push down other airlines’ flights to be displayed on following screens which may be missed by consumers searching for other flight options.

It may also go beyond this and cover comprehensive integration of marketing and sharing of operational information that results in distortion of healthy competition practices.

In this respect, AirAsia has dismissed the possibility of entering into a code-sharing agreement with MAS as it claims both airlines operate in different market segments and with different business models.

It is believed that both airlines are likely to have a common understanding on joint planning, operating and coordinating routes, flight schedules and airfares. In Europe and the US, exemptions have been granted to a number of cooperation agreements between airlines on the condition that the whole arrangement benefits the customers of each party by providing access to a wider range of routes.

Price fixing

In the past few years, dozens of airlines around the world have been slapped with hefty punishments by competition authorities for involvement in price-fixing cartels. For example, in November 2010, 11 airlines were fined a total of €799 million (RM3.46 billion) by the European Commission for fixing the price of fuel and security surcharges on cargo flights worldwide over a six-year period from 1999 to 2006.

At home, in July 2011, MAS announced that it would pay US$3.35 million (RM10.27 million) to a number of freight forwarders in the US to settle claims alleging that MAS was involved in price-fixing of airfreight shipping services and related surcharges, although MAS has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the settlement was to allow MAS to focus its full attention on further strengthening its business and to keep its legal costs to a minimum.

Abuse of a dominant position

Merely being in a dominant position is not unlawful; it is the abuse of a dominant position that is prohibited under competition law. Examples of an abuse of a dominant position in the airline industry include imposing excessive, predatory or discriminatory pricing; the exclusive application of only one tariff on a given route; offering discounts or commissions with a view to excluding competitors from the market; and refusing to supply or allow access to essential facilities.

Predatory pricing

Predatory pricing is a huge concern amongst the airlines in the fight for larger market share. Predatory pricing is where a company sets the price for its products or services below the cost of producing or providing the products or services in order to force its competitors to exit the market. Once the competitor is eliminated, the company will then raise its price to an exorbitant level to recoup loss of revenue suffered during its predatory pricing exercise.

In 2008, AirAsia claimed that MAS had engaged in unfair competition and predatory pricing in its “Everyday Low Fares” campaign. While the claim was subsequently found to be baseless, it highlighted the risk of engaging in predatory pricing.

However, in light of the collaboration, it is unlikely that there will be any predatory pricing. Instead, it is likely that airfares in both airlines will be aligned to complement each other in their respective market segments.

Frequent flyer programmes

Frequent flyer programmes and corporate discount schemes which have the effect of providing incentives for customers to stick to one particular airline may be viewed as creating an anti-competitive effect.

Similarly, travel agent commission agreements which tie travel agents to one particular airline and discourage them from selling tickets for other airlines may be anti-competitive and should generally be avoided. For example, British Airways was found to have abused its dominant position by operating a commission scheme that had the effect of excluding British Airways’ competitors from the UK markets for air travel.

The MAS-AirAsia collaboration

The collaboration will see MAS and Firefly concentrate on providing full-service long and short-haul flight services while AirAsia and AirAsia X will focus on low-cost, no-frills long and short-haul flight services.

On one hand, some may view this as effectively reducing or removing competition as each airline will dominate a market segment with no competitor in that segment. On the other hand, it also appears that even with the collaboration, the airlines will continue to face competition from each other and from other airlines in the market. It is noted that consumers will still have sufficient options to fly with many other airlines in the market.

AirAsia group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has assured the public that AirAsia’s identity as a low-cost airline will not be changed as the collaboration is aimed at focusing on the core competency of each airline and to foster closer collaboration between the airlines so as to enable them to compete with other big players in the industry.

As such, so long as the airlines comply with the applicable laws, including competition law, the collaboration may eventually yield greater benefits to consumers.

Conclusion

The International Chamber of Commerce has recognised that the trend of forming alliances and other forms of cooperation among airlines is increasing and that it can be beneficial to the industry and consumers.

However, it also felt that these cooperative agreements must be subject to fair and objective competition rules so as to create a stable and predictable legal environment and, at the same, protect the rights and interests of other airlines and players in the industry.

Under the Act, companies which are found to have infringed any of the prohibitions may be liable to a fine of up to 10% of their global revenue for the period during which the infringement occurred. Directors, CEOs, COOs and managers may also be severally and jointly liable to hefty fines and imprisonment.

Despite being separate legal entities, a parent company and its subsidiaries will be considered as a single enterprise if they form a single economic unit within which the subsidiaries do not enjoy real autonomy in determining their actions on the market. Anyone who has suffered loss or damage as a result of the infringement also has the right to take civil action against the company.

It would be interesting to see how these two airlines, which have previously been regarded as competitors, collaborate with each other instead. Will they no longer be in competition and, if so, will the law allow that?

This article was contributed by Christopher Lee, Kuok Yew Chen and Edwin Lee of Christopher Lee & Co (www.christopherleeco.com).

Rahim Noor: PERKASA’s New Warrior


October 31, 2011

Rahim Noor: PERKASA’s New Warrior

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

COMMENT:

Now that former inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Noor has made his skepticism about human rights obvious in his keynote address to the PERKASA general meeting last week, we can retrospectively understand aspects of his conduct when he was the country’s top cop.

abdul rahim noor perkasa 2nd agmOne would have thought Rahim, following the loss of his job and having endured the humiliation of jail for assaulting former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in the infamous ‘black eye’ incident in 1998, would go gently into a retirement where golf would not be the only diversion.

Certainly, a sustained bout of community service would have helped to assuage society’s bruised sensitivities: nothing obtains a disgraced former luminary redemption in the public eye better than diligent and long service to communitarian projects.

But Rahim, after a discrete re-emergence to public life in recent years via newspaper interviews on policing and crime prevention on which he made sense, has abruptly discarded the obscurity of the periphery to publicly vent views that make him the local version of the John Birch Society.

John Birchers, a shadowy group that haunted power centres in the south and west of the United States, were notorious in the 1950s and 60s for propounding right-wing views on race, the communist threat and military spending.

Trigger-happy cops

People who knew something of Rahim’s deportment towards rape suspects and others of society’s dregs while he was the force’s head honcho would not be terribly surprised to hear that he has scant respect for human rights.

In fact, his rebellion against restraint on that sinister night in the Special Branch lock-up in late September 1998 where Anwar was held blindfolded was seen by those privy to his conduct as the outcome of propensities unwisely left unchecked.

Unfortunately for Rahim, the ‘top officer-should-not-be-contradicted’ ethos of the uniformed services – entrenched by the time he became IGP in the early 1990s – disserved him: there was nobody to tug at his sleeve and whisper that police power is not an invitation to vigilante justice.

By 1996, when the late and prominent lawyer Raja Aziz Addruce warned that the Police were “trigger-happy” because the toll from custodial deaths had reached distressing levels, Rahim chided the then National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president for insensitivity to the dangers faced by cops when tackling violent criminals.

Shortly after he admonished Raja Aziz, there was an obscure but disturbing report of a lorry driver who had a roadside altercation with the IGP in which a shot was fired, though nobody was hurt.

The matter drew skimpy mention in the press. A while later, the ‘black eye’ incident broke like a tornado in the public arena; and people’s feelings were inflamed. In the incident’s immediate aftermath, graffiti aimed at Rahim – in some places drawn in aerosol which made it ineffaceable for a long time – appeared at conspicuous intersections along major thoroughfares, excoriating him for abject servility to the powers-that-be.

Some viewed the incident of Rahim’s action or reaction against Anwar in the Special Branch lock-up as illustrative of his temperament; not just the aberrant issue of momentary self-derangement.

Until Rahim’s accession to the IGP post, its previous holders – from Salleh Ismail through to Hanif Omar – managed to exude authority without a hint of menace in their deportment.

This is a tricky call in the more lofty brackets of the police force: how to evince command to all and sundry sans the suggestion that it would be unwise to tangle with the person.

‘Black eye’ public inquiry

With Rahim’s promotion to IGP – the man is huskily-built and sports a bristling mustache – the aura of exuding authority without evincing menace was no more a requisite for the post. Rahim looks like someone one would not like to be caught against in a fray in a back alley.

Of course, all these arguments are impressionistic, but the concept that civil servants, the top tier in particular, should be non-partisan and politically neutral servants of the state, rather than tribunes of the government of the day is incontestable.

There was a anguished piece of testimony in the public inquiry into the ‘black eye’ incident that purported to show a frazzled Rahim, in the tense prelude to Anwar’s sacking by Mahathir from the government and UMNO in August-September 1998, pleading with Anwar to settle his problems with the then Prime Minister.

Strictly speaking, it was no business of the then IGP to be in any of the several roles – intermediary, plenipotentiary or supplicant – his pleadings to Anwar suggested he was inclined to play in the internecine feuding between the PM and his deputy.

In fact, it would seem that Rahim wasted a wonderful opportunity to show the requisite professionalism of his level of civil servant – wryly aware of the passions eddying around him in the political sphere but strictly neutral in the execution of his fiduciary duties to the state.

He disdained the professional’s neutral stance for the seeming role of overwrought equerry of the incumbent PM. The beating up of Anwar was, then, only a short downward spiral from an already muddled conception of public duty.

Now the disgraced former IGP has gone and done his already tarnished record worse by spouting off on human rights, the social contract and the constitution.

The muddled do as the addled always does.

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs: “Follow your Heart and your Intuition”


October 31, 2011

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs

By Mona Simpson (10-30-11)*

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us.

Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild.

This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of aDickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.

We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.

I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter.I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.

Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.That’s incredibly simple, but true. He was the opposite of absent-minded. He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.

He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day. Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.

His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.He was willing to be misunderstood. Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.

Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”

I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.

His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children.

Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.

When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.

And he did. Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning. Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun. He treasured happiness. Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes. “You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially. I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.

For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to. By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories. I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us. What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.” When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple. Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it. He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night. He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times. Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:

OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on October 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/opinion/mona-simpsons-eulogy-for-steve-jobs.html?pagewanted=3&_r=2#

KTMB (Kereta Api Tanah Melayu) hurt by Move to Woodlands


October 31, 2011

http://www.nst.com.my

KTMB hurt by Move to Woodlands

by Sim Bak Heng (10-30-11)

The shifting of KTM Berhad’s railway operations to Woodlands in July following the closure of the Tanjung Pagar railway station has taken its toll on the revenue of the rail company.

Checks showed the company has incurred an average monthly loss of RM1.8 million since July as a result of a decline of between 20 and 30 per cent of passengers using train services to the republic.

KTMB believes most of its customers are instead opting to travel to the republic by express buses, and some by planes, as the Woodlands station is not quite convenient for travellers.

There are seven train services to Singapore daily, and all services stop at the Woodlands checkpoint.All the trains will make a brief stop at JB Sentral before moving towards Woodlands, which is about one kilometre away.

Industry sources said it is economically not viable to have two stations located too near to each other, more so when both are located near the border of two different countries using different currencies.

In the case of Woodlands, alighting passengers who turned to other modes of transport to reach their destination will have to pay for their fare in Singapore dollars. For those who travel to the republic by express bus, the problem does not arise.

KTMB president Dr Aminuddin Adnan told the New Sunday Times that there are no plans to stop all seven trips to Woodlands despite the losses. “It is too early to conclude the whole picture. We will wait and see before planning the next course of action.Our customers are basically from the middle-income bracket. We believe those who have abandoned our service are those who do not want any inconvenience throughout their journey, especially when they reach Singapore.”

The Tanjong Pagar station became part of KTMB’s history following the departure of the last train piloted by the Sultan of Johor at 11.03pm on June 30.

Dr Aminuddin said KTMB is trying to offset the losses by capitalising on the Johor Baru market. It plans to introduce an additional train service from Tumpat to Johor Baru from next January.

Called the Malayan Tiger, the 14-coach service is believed to be an impetus for the tourism industry in Johor in view that more tourism products are coming up in Iskandar Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Dr Aminuddin said the stripping of the 23km railway track from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands had been completed.  He said the track weighed a total of about 2,500 tonnes, of which about 70 per cent had been transported back to Malaysia.

The rest, which was still being placed at a temporary storage area in Kranji, will be sent back to the country by the middle of next month.

“We are now demolishing all the locomotive shades and depots and we hope to complete the work by December 22,” he added.

It was reported that part of the track would be showcased in KTMB museums as a historical exhibit while others would be kept for future use on KTMB tracks throughout the country. The first museum to display part of the track is the former Johor Baru railway station, which will be turned into a museum soon.

Deng Xiaoping: The Man Who Took Modernity To China


October 3o, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com

Deng Xiaoping: The Man Who Took Modernity To China

by David Barboza (10-21-11)

In 1979, just when Americans were beginning to reflect on the ascent of Japan, the Harvard sociologist Ezra F. Vogel (right) wrote his best-selling book, “Japan as Number One: Lessons for America.”

Now 81 and retired from Harvard as a professor emeritus, Mr. Vogel has written an equally compelling study of the rise of another Asian superpower. In “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China,” he chronicles the life of China’s paramount leader during the 1980s and ’90s and his determined push to open up and modernize the world’s most populated country.

“My book ‘Japan as Number One’ played a role in educating Americans about Japan,” Mr. Vogel said during a recent interview at his home here, a few hundred yards from the Harvard campus. “With this book, I thought I could write something new that would educate Americans about China.”

The book, published last month by Harvard University Press, has already been called a monumental biography of Deng and the most comprehensive survey to date of China’s spectacular but rocky road to economic reform.

Some reviews, however, have accused Mr. Vogel of devoting too little space to Deng’s iron-fisted rule, including his 1989 decision to allow the military to use deadly force against demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

But other scholars say that Mr. Vogel’s new volume offers a deeply textured portrait of Deng and the reforms he championed. “It’s a major accomplishment,” said David Shambaugh, a leading China scholar who teaches at George Washington University. “This book pushes our knowledge of Deng further. And while much of this information is not necessarily new, this is the first time we’ve seen it all in one place, analyzed with scholarly detachment.”

Deng, of course, was one of the giant political figures of the 20th century and has been credited with setting China on a path that helped lift hundreds of millions out of poverty while reshaping global trade patterns. But only a handful of biographies have been written about the man, among them Richard Evans’s 1993 “Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China.”

Historians have largely focused on Mao, the revolutionary commander-philosopher who led the Communist takeover in 1949. But scholars have begun to conclude that it was Deng (1904-97), Mao’s diminutive and long-suffering lieutenant, who deserves credit for truly reshaping China after Mao’s death.

Few scholars were better positioned to write a biography of Deng than Mr. Vogel, who retired from teaching in 2000. For decades Mr. Vogel had studied China, Japan and the other dragons of East Asia. He traveled to Guangdong Province in southern China in 1987 and 1988, when China began opening its special economic zones to foreigners, to study the reforms.

He had also covered some of this material in his groundbreaking 1969 book, “Canton Under Communism,” a study of Guangdong’s capital in the time after the Communist takeover.

Mr. Vogel, who worked for a decade on this huge biography, spent a year brushing up on his Chinese-language skills with a tutor. (Most of his interviews were conducted in Chinese without an interpreter.) He talked to people close to Deng, including two of his daughters, as well as relatives and aides of Communist leaders like Chen Yun, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, who had worked with Deng. He also talked to former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who rarely grants interviews.

Mr. Vogel visited Deng’s birthplace in Sichuan Province, as well as remote Jiangxi Province, where Deng was exiled during the Cultural Revolution; consulted all of Deng’s official writings; and was given access to newly released documents from United States and Russian archives.

Mr. Vogel compresses the first 65 years of Deng’s life into 30 pages, offering a sweeping overview of his journey from being the son of a small landlord in Sichuan to his transformation into a Communist revolutionary living in France and Russia, and then on to his role as military commander and, later, Mao’s vice premier.

Deng loosened state controls over the lives of ordinary people, opened the door for Chinese to study overseas and, Mr. Vogel explains, he retreated from Maoist doctrine and Communism without ever really saying so. He lured foreign investors to China and tapped outside expertise to jump-start a largely moribund economy, setting the stage for China’s three-decade-long economic boom.

Much of this happened, Mr. Vogel explains in minute detail, despite stiff opposition from Communist Party elders, some of whom feared the reforms were too aggressive, and others who viewed them as bourgeois liberalization.

Mr. Vogel also writes about Deng’s darker periods, like his role in the “anti-rightist campaign” during the 1950s, which harshly targeted scientists and intellectuals and set the stage for the Great Leap Forward, which led to mass starvation.

And he makes clear that in June 1989 it was Deng who ordered the military action to end demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square, a course that led to the deaths of hundreds of people and incited international outrage.

The political scientist Richard Baum, a professor emeritus at University of California, Los Angeles, said the book offered an enormous amount of new material about Deng’s leadership and internal power struggles in China during the ’70s. But he also said that those achievements were mildly diminished by sections that read like “an uncritical paean to Deng’s character.” Other critics have been harsher, saying some passages read as if they came from Communist Party headquarters.

During an interview Mr. Vogel defended his work. “This is unfair, because in some places I’m very critical,” he said, noting: “A lot of Americans’ view of Deng is so colored by Tiananmen Square. They think it was horrible. I have the same view. But it’s the responsibility of a scholar to have an objective view.”

With this book, Mr. Vogel said he tried to put Deng’s life in context, to show him as a survivor, obsessed with social and political stability and economic progress.

“Who in the 20th century had more influence on more people?” he asked. “He took 300 million people out of poverty. They’d been trying to do it in China for 150 years, and they couldn’t. And he did it.”

The result is an exhaustive, 876-page study of Deng’s life that includes his multiple falls from power and his final comeback, when he assumed the top position in 1978; the book offers new details into how Deng pushed aside Mao’s chosen successor, Hua Guofeng.

A version of this article appeared in print on October 22, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Man Who Took Modernity To China.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/22/books/the-impact-of-deng-xiaoping-beyond-tiananmen-square.html?pagewanted=1&ref=books

Look East Again? Yes, Follow the Chinese Way of Dealing with Corruption


October 30, 2011

Look East, says Mahathir

Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia and other Islamic countries should look to other Eastern countries and not the West as a model for their development.

He said he believed he made the right decision in introducing the “Look East” Policy of emulating work ethics and business techniques from Japan and South Korea during his tenure as the prime minister.

“Right now, there are so many problems with Western countries. The problem in the West is that they have borrowed too much and cannot repay. You cannot have that kind of a country as a model.

“If you see countries like (South) Korea, Japan and China in the East … China has US$3.2 trillion in reserves. They are swimming in money. Korea can come up with major products better than that produced by companies in the West.

“Japan, as you know, is a country which lost a war … totally destroyed but as it rebuilt itself, it become the second biggest economy in the world. If you want to copy or learn something, learn from the successful people, not from the failures,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the Third Langkawi Islamic Finance & Economics International Conference (LIFE 3).

The three-day conference, with the theme “Islamic Banking and Finance: Waqaf, Zakat and Sadakah as Community Empowerment and Strategies for the Economic Transformation of the Ummah”, began yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said one could not learn much from the West because it was a total failure. “So, we should continue to look to the East and not to the West. The West is going bankrupt,” he said.

He also said that he was personally against socialism because it would make everyone poor.”For capitalism, it is the way to prosper the country. If we look around, capitalist countries seem to be so rich, that even workers can drive big cars.

“But people can become extremely greedy … wanting more and more money without thinking about the consequences.They borrow and borrow until they cannot pay and they are all bankrupt. Greed will cause this. Today, we are seeing failed countries in the developed world. It is because countries like Greece are so indebted … borrowing more than 200 per cent of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product),” Dr Mahathir added.

- Bernama
/www.malaysiakini.com

Dear Ben: It’s Time for Your Volcker Moment


October 30, 2011

Economic View

Dear Ben: It’s Time for Your Volcker Moment

By Christina D. Romer

Published: October 29, 2011

In October 1979, inflation was running at more than 10 percent a year, and the Federal Reserve’s gradual interest rate increases weren’t solving the problem. So Paul Volcker, the Fed chairman, dramatically changed how monetary policy was conducted. Today, an equally intractable unemployment crisis demands that Ben S. Bernanke, the current Fed chairman, stage a quiet revolution of his own.

What did Mr. Volcker do? He reasoned that because inflation depends on growth in the money supply, inflation would fall if he brought that growth down. And he believed that by backing up his commitment to lower inflation with a new policy framework, he would break people’s inflationary expectations. So the Fed began to explicitly target the rate of money growth.

Hitting that target required pushing interest rates to unprecedented levels. Unemployment rose past 10 percent, and Mr. Volcker was pilloried. At one point, farmers on tractors blockaded Fed headquarters to protest the high rates.

But the policy worked. Inflation fell from 11 percent in 1979 to 3 percent in 1983, and unemployment returned to normal levels. Even my father, who lost his job as a chemical plant manager in the 1981 recession, views Mr. Volcker as a hero. His bold moves ushered in an era of low inflation and steady output growth.

Today, inflation is still low, but unemployment is stuck at a painfully high level. And, as in 1979, the methods the Fed has used so far aren’t solving the problem.

Mr. Bernanke needs to steal a page from the Volcker playbook. To forcefully tackle the unemployment problem, he needs to set a new policy framework — in this case, to begin targeting the path of nominal gross domestic product.

Nominal G.D.P. is just a technical term for the dollar value of everything we produce. It is total output (real G.D.P.) times the current prices we pay. Adopting this target would mean that the Fed is making a commitment to keep nominal G.D.P. on a sensible path.

More specifically, normal output growth for our economy is about 2 1/2 percent a year, and the Fed believes that 2 percent inflation is appropriate. So a reasonable target for nominal G.D.P. growth is around 4 1/2 percent.

Economic research showed years ago that targeting nominal G.D.P. has important advantages. But in the 1990s, many central banks adopted inflation targeting, a simpler alternative. As distress over the dismal state of the economy has grown, however, many economists have returned to the logic of targeting nominal G.D.P.

It would work like this: The Fed would start from some normal year — like 2007 — and say that nominal G.D.P. should have grown at 4 1/2 percent annually since then, and should keep growing at that pace. Because of the recession and the unusually low inflation in 2009 and 2010, nominal G.D.P. today is about 10 percent below that path. Adopting nominal G.D.P. targeting commits the Fed to eliminating this gap.

HOW would this help to heal the economy? Like the Volcker money target, it would be a powerful communication tool. By pledging to do whatever it takes to return nominal G.D.P. to its pre-crisis trajectory, the Fed could improve confidence and expectations of future growth.

Such expectations could increase spending and growth today: Consumers who are more certain that they’ll have a job next year would be less hesitant to spend, and companies that believe sales will be rising would be more likely to invest.

Another possible effect is a temporary climb in inflation expectations. Ordinarily, this would be undesirable. But in the current situation, where nominal interest rates are constrained because they can’t go below zero, a small increase in expected inflation could be helpful. It would lower real borrowing costs, and encourage spending on big-ticket items like cars, homes and business equipment.

Even if we went through a time of slightly elevated inflation, the Fed shouldn’t lose credibility as a guardian of price stability. That’s because once the economy returned to the target path, Fed policy — a commitment to ensuring nominal G.D.P. growth of 4 1/2 percent — would restrain inflation. Assuming normal real growth, the implied inflation target would be 2 percent — just what it is today.

Though announcing the new framework would help, it probably wouldn’t be enough to close the nominal G.D.P. gap anytime soon. The Fed would need to take additional steps. These might include further quantitative easing, more forceful promises about short-term interest rates, and perhaps moves to lower the exchange rate. Such actions wouldn’t just affect expectations; they would also be directly helpful. For example, a weaker dollar would stimulate exports.

Nominal G.D.P. targeting would make it more likely that the Fed would take these aggressive actions. Today, each Fed move generates controversy and substantial internal dissension. As a result, even though the central bank has taken some expansionary steps, they’ve often been smaller than needed and deliberately limited in duration.

Mr. Volcker faced a similar problem in October 1979. Each small rise in interest rates was a major battle. Committing to an overarching goal yielded more forceful action and less dissension within the Fed. Agreeing to a nominal G.D.P. target would do much the same today.

For evidence that adopting the new target could help fix the economy, look at the 1930s. Though President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t talk in terms of targeting nominal G.D.P., he spoke of getting prices and incomes back to their pre-Depression levels. Academic studies suggest that this commitment played an important role in bringing about recovery.

President Roosevelt backed up his statements. He suspended the gold standard and let the dollar depreciate. He got Congress to pass New Deal spending legislation and had the Treasury monetize a large gold inflow. The result was an end to deflationary expectations , leading to the most impressive swing the country has ever seen from horrible contraction to rapid growth.

Would nominal G.D.P. targeting work as well today? There would likely be unexpected developments, just as there were in the Volcker period. But the new target would have a better chance of meaningfully reducing unemployment than any other monetary policy under discussion.

Because it directly reflects the Fed’s two central concerns — price stability and real economic performance — nominal G.D.P. is a simple and sensible target for long after the economy recovers. This is very different from Mr. Volcker’s money target, which was abandoned after only a few years because of instability in the relationship between money growth and the Fed’s ultimate objectives.

Desperate times call for bold measures. Paul Volcker understood this in 1979. Franklin D. Roosevelt understood it in 1933. This is Ben Bernanke’s moment. He needs to seize it.

Christina D. Romer is an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the chairwoman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

A version of this article appeared in print on October 30, 2011, on page BU6 of the New York edition with the headline: Dear Ben: It’s Time For a Volcker Moment.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/business/economy/ben-bernanke-needs-a-volcker-moment.html?src=recg

Resurgence of Indian Support for Najib and Barisan Nasional (?)


October 29, 2011

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Resurgence of Indian Support for  Najib and Barisan Nasional(?)

by RK Anand | 10-28-11

The mammoth turnout for the Deepavali open house in Batu Caves has been trumpeted as another sign of the Indian community’s support returning for the ruling coalition under the stewardship of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

In the last general election, Indian voters, whose support for BN remained unwavering till then, cast their ballots for the opposition, leaving the coalition with a bloodied nose.

Upon assuming office in the following year, Najib embarked on a quest to win back the heart and mind of the Indian electorate.

While a spate of by-elections revealed that his efforts to woo Chinese votes yielded little, if no success, the voting trend in the same by-elections appears to be encouraging as far as Indian support is concerned.

Indian leaders in MIC and other pro-BN organisations have lauded Najib for his willingness to elevate the socio-economic standard of the community.

However, a seasoned political observer and business leader noted that the Prime Minister is winning over the minds with mere cosmetic changes and fanfares but has yet to make inroads into the hearts of the Indians.

Politician or Statesman?

According to Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) president P Sivakumar (right), Najib must make an important decision. He must decide between being another run-of-the mill politician churning out “quick-fixes” to win votes and a statesman who will initiate genuine reforms to uplift a community that has been, in the words of MIC President G Palanivel himself, marginalised for decades.

“Spending millions on Deepavali bashes, fancy billboards and holding concerts will not benefit the community. We must journey beyond such superficial efforts to remedy the malaise,” he told FMT.

“BN should not take the Indian community for another ride,” he stressed, showering criticism on the community’s leaders who are willing accomplices in this plot.

The community leaders who help the ruling coalition perpetuate the oppression of the Indian community, he added, are committing a cardinal sin.

“This is because they are digging the graves of the future generation even before the dust has settled on the graves of the older generation,” he said.

GLC ads meaningless

Commenting on the Deepavali advertisements by Government-linked companies, Sivakumar said it would have been more meaningful if Najib had announced that a certain percentage of employment opportunities or business contracts have been set aside for the Indians in GLCs such as Petronas and Pos Malaysia.

“For years, these companies only display their ‘all-encompassing’ attitude in advertisements during the festive season but the reality on the ground is starkly different.

“Are we as Malaysian citizens whose forefathers’ sweat and toil contributed immensely towards the progress of this nation, asking for too much?” he added.

Acknowledging that Indian support is growing for BN, the Miba president warned that the urban middle class and more educated Indian voters remain unconvinced and the government should not make the mistake of resting on its laurels thinking that all is well.

“These voters want to see significant changes and not dancers prancing on the stage. They are not interested in being paid to attend functions or a free lunch. If the government fails to deliver the goods, they will not deliver the votes. It’s as simple as that,” he added.

He said these voters want a just, equitable, transparent and accountable government which respects fundamental human rights.

Learn from Singapore

The Johor-based businessman said that the Malaysian government should learn from its counterpart across the causeway with regard to uplifting minority groups.

“Even the other day, I was having a chat with an elderly Singaporean gentlemen and he was telling me how in the early years, the Indians in the republic experienced similar social ills.

“But with the right policies and actions, the Singaporean government empowered the Indians there both economically and academically. Look at them today… compare them to us,” he said.

Sivakumar also took a swipe at the mindset of the civil service here, saying that it is still trapped in a dungeon of discrimination. If Najib’s 1Malaysia concept is to be successful, he said, the rot in the civil service must be fixed first and those in government positions should stop considering the non-Malays as immigrants.

“Only then can we have an effective delivery system,” he added.The Miba president also criticised Najib and Indian leaders for nurturing divisiveness through the caste system instead of uniting the community similar to Singapore.

“Why must the Prime Minister attend this and that caste function. This is a disease that has paralysed the Indian community for a long time and it should not be allowed to continue.

“I am aware that there are those who feel strongly about this issue but the hard truth is that the caste system will only impede our march forward. So let’s progress and not regress,” he said.

Your Weekend Entertainment


October 28,2011

Your Weekend Entertainment

Dr. Kamsiah and I thought the posting on the rantings of Ustaz Dr. Ridhuan Tee and Art Harun’s rejoinder was a bit rough since when comes to matters of religion here in Malaysia, most of us are unable to argue without getting hot under the collar.

It is time we bought you some entertainment to relax and have a good time. We hope the selections we have made for you suit your taste. The crooners here are from the 1950s–Earl Grant, Tommy Edwards, Johnny Hartman and the Unforgettable Nat Cole, the man with the velvet voice. Have a great weekend ahead.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Earl Grant–Till the End of Time (1957)

Tommy Edwards-It’s All in the Game

Morning Side of the Mountain

Talk to Her Mr Sun

Johnny Hartman–Fools Rush In

Nat King Cole- Mr. Wishing Well

I must be dreaming

Once in While

Dance Ballerina, Dance

Art to Tee: Compulsion in Islam?


October 28, 2011

http://art-harun.blogspot.com/

Compulsion in Islam?

by Art Harun

With all due respect to Associate Professor Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah – a well known academic, ulamak and preacher in Malaysia – I must admit of being astounded by his remark at a forum entitled ‘Hudud: Its Dilemma and Implementation’ organised by Malay-language daily Sinar Harian in Shah Alam on  October 25 2011. (His speech at the said forum can be viewed below:

At around the 9th minute of the video, Dr Ridhuan  strongly asserted that Islamic law has to be implemented by force and there is no other way to educate the non-Muslims on Islamic laws than by force. Dr Ridhuan added that the most opportune time for “us” to do so was after the  May 13, 1969 incident and lamented the fact that “we” had let that opportunity gone.

During the speech, Dr Ridhuan lamented the fact that non-Muslims, especially the Chinese, have a negative view of Islamic state and hudud generally. Speaking from experience, as a Chinese, Dr Ridhuan insisted that he knows the Chinese’s attitude towards Islam and that that attitude has not changed.

Firstly, I must confess that I am more than a little bit perplexed by Dr Ridhuan’s attempt to connect the racial riot of May 13, 1969 with the idea of an Islamic state and the implementation of hudud or Islamic laws in Malaysia.

The riot of May 13, 1969, as far as I know, had nothing to do with the desire by any particular section of our society, including the Muslims/Malays, for an Islamic state or for the implementation of Islamic laws in Malaysia.

If the mainstream version of the riot were to be believed, that riot was caused by the economic imbalances between the Malays and the non-Malays, giving rise to a deep and seething anger between the two sections of the society culminating in racial hatred. This was sparked by the unprecedented  victory of the DAP in the general election immediately preceding the riot and the subsequent victory march by the DAP. The whole situation was worsen by the election campaigns which were full of racial rhetoric and overtone and the killing of some Chinese suspected to be communists.

Never have I read about the riot being anything about Islam, Islamic state or the implementation of Islamic laws. Even the non-mainstream version of the riot has omitted mentioning anything about those issues being the possible cause of the riot.

As neither Islam, Islamic state  nor Islamic laws was part of the catalyst or cause of the riot, how could Dr Ridhuan surmise that the most “opportune of time” to implement Islamic laws in Malaysia was after the riot? There is an obvious lack of cause, causation and result here. I mean, Dr Ridhuan may very well say that August 31, 1957 would be the most opportune time for all of us to choose Islamic state as the governing model of our nation. I would certainly understand that remark because that was the starting point of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu as an independent state. But to relate the choice of an Islamic state as a model “after” the riot of 13th May 1969 is as perplexing as any suggestion that the most opportune time to implement Islamic laws in Malaysia would be just after the Bersih rally, for example.

Regardless of the lack of any tangible connection between the May 13th riot and the issue of Islamic state, Dr Ridhuan had, by his remark, obviously – or even perhaps, inadvertently – exposed the notion, which could be popular among the neo-right winged-nationalist in contemporary Malaysia that the May 13th riot was “won” by the Malays or Muslims.

Premised on this notion of a “victory” being achieved by the Malays/Muslims during the May 13th riot, Dr Ridhuan quite obviously thought that the Malays/Muslims, as the victors, could have imposed an Islamic state model on Malaysia or implement hudud/Islamic laws as the laws of Malaysia after the said “victory.” Conversely, the non-Muslims, particularly the Chinese, as the “vanquished”, would not have been able to resist such forceful imposition of Islam on them at that point of time.

That, to my mind, would have been the natural conclusion of Dr Ridhuan’s remark. With all due respect to Dr Ridhuan’s scholarly position, I view that with sadness. The May 13 riot has no victors. Malaysia as a nation, society and people were all losers on that fateful day and from that dark blot on our history. May 13th 1969 was an absolute failure of all of us as a people. It was a day when we had left our power to reason and rationalise and let our primordial kinship and tribalistic emotions to take over. It was a day when we discarded civility and civilisation and opted for barbarism.

Victory on the May 13 riot and its aftermath, in my opinion, could only be measured by our collective ability and willingness, as a people and a nation, to learn the lessons brought about by the riot and to take measures to address the causes which sparked the riot. Anything else is a failure.

The notion that the Malays/Muslims could have done anything, including imposing an Islamic state model during its aftermath, is a perversion and represents an almost nihilistic view of the riot, its causes and consequences. It is yet another unwelcome addition to the plethora of abuses to which the Malay psyche has been subjected all this while. As a Malay Muslim, I find it absolutely objectionable.

Dr Ridhuan’s lamentation that the Chinese, particularly, has a negative view of Islam and that their negative attitude towards Islam has not changed while at the same time asserting that hudud or Islamic laws must be implemented by force is, with respect, the peak of irony.

It is an irony because one of the main reason why the non-Muslims throughout the world have such a dim view of Islam is answered by Dr Ridhuan himself in his statement that Islamic laws should be implemented by force, regardless of any party’s objection to it.

To many, the attitude of some of our ulamaks and mullahs are reflective of Islam’s supposed intolerance of others, most particularly other faiths and not to mention cultures, breed and creed.

If Dr Ridhuan would stop and think at the repercussion of his assertion as such, he would realise that by making that assertion, he had managed to isolate millions of non-Muslims from the beauty of Islam, a faith that was premised on absolute respect for each other. Dr Ridhuan would do well to realise that the  Kharijite-ist approach towards maintaining Islam as the one and only faith does not bode well with Islam’s core teaching of mutual existence, respect and co-operation.

If we were to force the implementation of Islamic laws in Malaysia, by extension, why don’t we, as Muslims, force everyone to convert to Islam then, if I may ask? The answer is provided by God Himself, when in the Quran God says:-

Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error.  Whoever rejects false worship and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks.  And God hears and knows all things.” (Quran 2:256)

Then God says again:

“If it had been your Lord’s will, all of the people on Earth would have believed.  Would you then compel the people so to have them believe?” (Quran 10:99)

Dr Ridhuan insisted that as a Chinese coming from a family who are staunch non-believers of Islam, he knew how the Chinese feel about Islam. His disdain for the parties whom he always describes as “ultra-kiasu” is well known. Dr Ridhuan may have his own deeply personal reason for that. It is not for me, or for anybody else, to judge him for that. But surely Dr Ridhuan should not let his disdain prevent him from being just. The Quran says:

“O you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do.” (Quran 5:8)

Muslims and non-Muslims must be made to know and realise that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as a mercy for all the world” (Quran 21:107). He was not sent to force or compel anybody towards Islam or Allah. God says:

“Nothing is (incumbent) on the Messenger but to deliver (the message), and Allah knows what you do openly and what you hide.” (Quran 5:99)

“So if they dispute with you, say ‘I have submitted my whole self to God, and so have those who follow me.’  And say to the People of the Scripture and to the unlearned: ‘Do you also submit yourselves?’  If they do, then they are on right guidance.  But if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the Message.  And in God’s sight are all of His servants.” (Quran 3:20)

Why then do we want to force Islam on anybody? Isn’t that un-Islamic?

The Quran repeatedly tells Muslims not to interfere with the affairs of non-Muslims. It also implored us to always be fair and just to them. Even when we argue with them, we are supposed to be civil and maintain good manners.

“So if they come to you, (O Muhammad), judge between them or turn away from them.  And if you turn away from them never will they harm you at all.  And if you judge, judge between them with justice.  Indeed, God loves those who act justly.” (Quran 5:42)

“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.” (Quran 16:125)

Throughout Islamic expansionism, non-Muslims, particularly the Christians and Jews, have always been treated with respect. No effort was made to force them to follow the Islamic way of life. It is exactly this tolerant approach which had driven even Western historian to conclude without bias:

‘The tolerance of Muhammad towards the Jews and Christians was truly grand; the founders of other religions that appeared before him, Judaism and Christianity in particular, did not prescribe such goodwill.  His caliphs followed the same policy, and his tolerance has been acknowledged by skeptics and believers alike when they study the history of the Arabs in depth.’ ( LeBon, Gustav, ‘Arab Civilization,’ (p. 128)

‘The Muslims alone were able to integrate their zeal for their own religion with tolerance for followers of other religions.  Even when they bore swords into battle for freedom for their religion to spread, they left those who did not desire it free to adhere to their own religious teachings.’ (Robertson, as Quoted in Aayed, Saleh Hussain, ‘Huquq Ghayr al-Muslimeen fi Bilad il-Islam,’ (p. 26).

Yet, every day we hear of mullahs wanting to impose this and that, not only on fellow Muslims, but also non-Muslims. In Malaysia, in newspapers and on the internet, non-Muslims read all sorts of accusations being made against them on a daily basis by none other than people of high authority. In articles written on blogs and comments made on such articles, curses are thrown at non-Muslims, names are called and various threats are made against them, needlessly.

Civility and dare I say, the way of Islam have been thrown out of the window by Muslims themselves.

Is it then any wonder why non-Muslims all over the world nowadays view Islam with negativity as well as prejudice?

Note to potential commentators: Please be civil and proper in your comments. Inappropriate comments in any way will be deleted.–Din Merican

Malaysia-Australia Partnership Against People Traffickers


October 28, 2011

OPINION

Prime Minister Najib Explains Malaysia-Australia Partnership Against People Traffickers

By Najib Razak (10-27-11)

Where you or I see a man, a woman or an innocent child, people traffickers see only one thing – money.

They target the vulnerable and the desperate and exploit them without mercy, taking advantage of people financially, physically, often even sexually.

The sheer heartlessness of the traffickers was demonstrated in the most horrendous manner last December when the man responsible for taking almost a hundred migrants to Australia abandoned his charges in a leaking, overcrowded boat with an engine that was about to fail.

Dozens drowned when the boat struck rocks off Christmas Island. At least five children and three babies were among the dead.

None of us ever want to witness such scenes again, which is why my government worked with Prime Minister Gillard’s to develop a means of stopping the people traffickers – what became known as the ”Malaysian solution”.

Over the past few months, a great deal has been written about both the solution and Malaysia itself, much of it ill-informed and based on politics rather than sober analysis of the facts.

The agreement had a single, simple aim – to smash the business model of the people traffickers by telling potential migrants that spending their life savings and risking their lives to get to Australia would lead them only as far as Malaysia.

This deterrent effect was not about Malaysia being a ”bad” place, somewhere migrants should be scared of ending up. The simple fact is that Malaysia is not the country that boatpeople heading for Australia want to settle in – and more often than not that is down to economics rather than fears of how they might be treated. Because, despite what you may have heard from those who chose to attack my country, Malaysia is not some repressive, backward nation that persecutes refugees and asylum seekers.

We are a multicultural, multi-ethnic society that has a long and proud history of social harmony and welcoming outsiders – including playing a crucial role in helping to find new homes for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by war in Vietnam, Laos and Bosnia.

Today, Malaysia is home to almost 178,000 refugees, stateless persons and other ”people of concern” to the United Nations, more than seven times as many as you’ll find in Australia. The vast majority are free to live in the community, rather than being held in detention centres. They are entitled to subsidised healthcare and free vaccinations for children.

We are working with the UNHCR to develop a scheme that would allow some refugees to take jobs in Malaysia. And, no, refugees are not subjected to routine corporal punishment by the authorities. Once an individual is registered as a refugee with the UNHCR – an organisation that has a substantial presence in our country and gave its support to the Malaysian solution – they cannot be prosecuted for immigration offences.

Genuine refugees are treated with the utmost dignity and respect while they await resettlement elsewhere. What we don’t tolerate is illegal immigration and people traffickers, and I’m not going to apologise for taking a tough stance on either.

This week, I’m joining Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the leaders of more than 50 other nations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. The Commonwealth has always been about countries working together for the greater good and the theme of this year’s meeting – building global resilience, building national resilience – underlines this.

International co-operation is the only way to solve international problems. Just over 10 years ago, the chaotic Tampa affair showed what happens when nations fail to work with each other and instead try to act unilaterally to tackle a problem such as illegal immigration.

People traffickers do not respect international borders and legal jurisdictions any more than they respect the human rights of their victims, which is why Malaysia and Australia worked together to develop a way of stopping them.

Merely announcing that the arrangement was being discussed contributed to a 50 per cent fall in the number of boatpeople heading to Australia in the first half of this year and I believe that, once up and running, it would have had a serious impact on the exploitative actions of people smugglers.

At this point, it would be easy to give up, to tell ourselves that we tried but the problem was too big, too politically difficult to deal with. And the people-smuggling would go on. The boats would continue to sail. Heartless traffickers would continue to take everything from desperate people – their money, their dignity and, all too often, their lives.

As the Prime Minister of a progressive, liberal nation, I’m not prepared to stand by and watch that happen. Malaysia has always led South-East Asia in dealing with international problems, so we will continue to work with Australia, and our partners across the region and beyond, to find new ways of stopping the traffickers for good.

It is too early to say exactly what the next stage in the fight will look like, but one thing is clear – we cannot afford to play politics with people trafficking. It is nothing less than a 21st century trade in human misery and it must not be allowed to continue.

Najib Razak is the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

@NationalTimesAU

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/people-trafficking-a-trade-in-human-misery-that-must-be-stopped-20111026-1mjzk.html

Reuters: Positive Market Reaction to European Debt Plan


October 28, 2011

Reuters: Positive Market Reaction to European Debt Plan

A long-awaited plan to staunch the European debt crisis sparked euphoria across financial markets yesterday, driving up the value of the euro and the price of world stocks, crude oil and other commodities.

Major US stock indices, which had been close to bear territory in the summer because of the debt crisis, climbed back into the black for 2011, with the benchmark S&P 500 on track to post its biggest monthly gain since 1974.

Metal prices jumped five per cent or more, US oil rose more than four per cent and the euro gained 2.4 per cent after European leaders agreed to a sweeping plan to resolve a crisis that has threatened to push the US and other economies back into recession.

The deal envisions a recapitalisation of European banks, a far more powerful rescue fund for the euro zone and 50 per cent losses for Greek debt holders.For the moment, investors shrugged off the fact that key aspects of the deal, including the mechanics of boosting the firepower of the European Financial Stability Facility and providing Greek debt relief, could take weeks to finalise.

“This is not a magic elixir. It’s a very good start and certainly more than people had expected,” Bill O’Neill, partner at commodity investment firm LOGIC Advisors, said of the deal.

The euro surged past stop-loss points as investors reacted positively to the deal, gaining 2.4 per cent to US$1.4209 (RM4.3905). Investors were forced to unwind bets against the single currency as they awaited more details.

World stocks extended gains to hit their highest level since early August, with the MSCI all-country equity index rising 4.3 per cent.

US stocks rallied more than three per cent, and in a sign of investor relief, Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” the CBOE Volatility Index, fell 15 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 358.81 points, or 3.02 per cent, at 12,227.85. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 44.31 points, or 3.57 per cent, at 1,286.31. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 93.95 points, or 3.54 per cent, at 2,744.62.

Data showing the US economy grew at its fastest pace in a year in the third quarter as consumers and businesses stepped up spending also helped spur risk appetite.

US gross domestic product expanded at a 2.5 per cent annual rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said.

Emerging market shares, as measured by MSCI, surged 4.1 per cent. European shares soared to their highest close in 12 weeks, with French banks, heavily exposed to euro zone peripheral debt, among the biggest gainers.

Credit Agricole gained 22 per cent and BNP Paribas shot up 17 per cent.The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended the session up 3.7 per cent at 1,020.10, the highest close since August 3.

“Decisions have been made, whatever they are, and that’s a good thing. I fear further down the road we’ll find they’re not as good as we thought,” said Gavin Launder, fund manager at Legal & General, which has £356 billion under management.

Crude oil jumped to US$112 a barrel as the European debt deal and supportive US data eased concerns that economic weakness could curb energy demand. Oil later pared its gains.

ICE Brent December crude closed up US$3.17 to settle at US$112.08 a barrel, while US light sweet crude oil rose US$3.76 to settle at US$93.96 a barrel.

Prices of safe-haven US Treasuries and German Bunds tumbled, while those of highly indebted euro zone countries gained.The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note was down 52/32 in price to yield 2.40 per cent.

Spot gold prices rose US$21.35 to US$1,745.10 an ounce.

Singapore enters a new era of politics


October 27, 2011

http://www.thestar.com.my

Singapore enters a new era of politics

INSIGHT: DOWN SOUTH By Seah  Chiang Nee(10-22-11)

The departure from the Cabinet of the man who has had a hand in almost everything in Singapore for 46 years seems to have jolted people and politics into action.SINGAPORE’S Parliament is meeting for the first time with Lee Kuan Yew no longer in the Cabinet and the mood reflects the historic occasion. It points to a post-Kuan Yew era that ended recently with the former prime minister’s retirement from both the Cabinet and the People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership.

His son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is now de facto his own man.Psychologically, the departure of the man who has had a hand in almost everything in Singapore for 46 years seems to have jolted people and politics into action.

Although 88-year-old Kuan Yew remains a Member of Parliament, the man who helped to transform this city into one of the wealthiest in the world, is unlikely to play any more major role in future.

Whether by design or coincidence, Kuan Yew left Singapore for visits to Turkey and the United States a day before Parliament began its meeting.

The impact of his absence has been marked. I am happy to note there was none of the bitterness or name-calling that some of my friends had warned me to expect from this session. Instead, there was a new level of freshness and a higher degree of intelligence.

Several ruling PAP members spoke with candour seldom heard before, touching on some sensitive subjects rarely done in the past without a slap-down from Kuan Yew. A few called for changes in the country’s elected presidency system and its complex Parliament representatives such as non-constituency or nominated MPs in the wake of the new political environment.

One wanted the quota for foreign workers changed. However, others, true to past forms, stuck closely to party positions and denying anything is really wrong.

It is apparent that Hsien Loong has signalled to his MPs of his readiness to have more open discussions. The PAP representatives also took the cue from Hsien Loong when he himself had publicly apologised for government mistakes in the past five years, especially in public housing, transport and healthcare.

In spite of his unprecedented apology, his party lost an unprecedented six seats out of the 87 at stake and its popular votes fell to an all-time low of 60%.

The biggest difference is the largest number of opposition MPs in modern record and their quality showed. As a result, public interest in the proceedings has gone up for the first time in years.

At the height of Kuan Yew’s strongman rule, many Singaporeans had paid scant attention to Singapore’s Parliament, regarding it merely as performing a rubber-stamp role.

Instead, interest was focused on the Cabinet and Lee in particular as the sole power of change.With few exceptions, backbenchers were reluctant to counter or challenge the leadership or to present alternative arguments.

The Cabinet made the decision and Parliament’s duty was to approve it, often without real debate. That was the practice that Kuan Yew felt was an effective way of building prosperity. Too much democracy and contesting arguments, he felt, were bad for economic growth.

Although as a session to discuss the President’s speech, such a meeting has traditionally produced little more than general statements of intent.

“It is usually time for MPs to get some limelight by talking a lot without saying anything meaningful beyond making general promises,” said a reporter covering it. “This time things may be a little different.”

He said many PAP MPs knew that if they didn’t perform well in the public eye, they would be voted out in the next election.

Already public pressures have produced a commitment to build more subsidised flats, more hawker centres to reduce food costs and a cut-down in the car population over three years.

“With better education, the voters are better able to distinguish between general pledges and concrete plans made by politicians,” said one blogger.

The major commitments include the following:

  •  Construction of 50,000 more public flats in 2011-12, and two more new townships will eventually be built. If needed, HUB could build up to 100,000 within the next five years;
  • Foreign ownership of private property will be tightened to about half the present number; and
  • Ten hawker centres will be built over the next 10 years to meet increasing demand.

While Parliament was meeting, the person in charge of transport was watching trains. He had a compelling reason to do so; for days, public complaints had been piling up on his desk about frequent breakdowns and jam-packed stations during peak hours. Since he took over as Transport Minister, Liu Tuck Yew had been travelling on trains and buses to see how the over-crowdedness can be resolved.

In Singapore, political history is being made in many small steps rather than one big leap. Last week, as Parliament was meeting, some Singaporeans tried without success to organise a Wall Street-type protest in Singapore’s business district against the excesses of capitalism.

About 20 people showed up, an apparent failure. However, one analyst said the Singapore success story was not totally free of the Wall Street feature, which meant more attempts could be expected.

Here, too, we have had incessant rental increases that produced no innovation or opportunity for others, except the landlord. “We must not allow capitalism to continue strengthen the powers and wealth or a small group to exploit the population and encourage an ever-widening income gap,” one surfer said.

“I just hope that we do not go down the same slope as Wall Street by adopting policies that are inclusive and caring for Singaporeans who have fallen through the cracks,” he added.

Mat Zain: Najib knew of A-G’s alleged wrongdoings


October 27, 2011

Mat Zain claims Najib knew of A-G’s alleged wrongdoings

By Shannon Teoh

 Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that then IGP Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail should not have been involved in falsifying evidence in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s 1998 “black eye” probe, a former senior policeman said today of his private meeting in October 2008 with the prime minister.

Datuk Mat Zain Ibrahim, who has led a one-man campaign to remove the Attorney-General (AG), said he had met Najib, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister, to discuss his allegations against Abdul Gani  and the then Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan.

“Even though Gani’s intention might been to help the IGP (Tan Sri Rahim Noor-right), falsifying evidence is still wrong which he should not have done,” Mat Zain quoted Najib as telling him.

The former city criminal investigation chief also quoted Najib as saying “I got to know that (former IGP Tan Sri) Musa (Hassan)’s role was not as bad as Gani’s and I think he can get away with it.”

Excerpts from the conversation between Mat Zain and Najib are contained in a letter to the Prime Minister which the former policeman made available to the media today.

Mat Zain was the man responsible for investigations into former IGP Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s role in the assault of Anwar while he was in custody in 1998.

Rahim eventually confessed to assaulting Anwar, resulting in a black eye that Anwar sported during his court appearances then to face charges of sodomy and abuse of power.

Mat Zain has claimed that Abdul Gani, who had led the sodomy and corruption prosecutions against Anwar, and Musa fabricated evidence in the black-eye case.

In his latest letter to the PM, Mat Zain also accused the administration of “doing everything possible to avoid criminal charges” against Abdul Gani as the government would also be guilty of abusing its power in the last two decades.

“YAB Datuk Seri and the government will do everything possible to avoid any criminal charges against Gani. The government is worried that should Gani be proven to have abused his powers … then simultaneously the government would be guilty of having done the same thing since 1990,” he wrote.

In the letter, Mat Zain accused Abdul Gani of “screening criminal wrongdoings, abuse of power and corrupt practices, linked to VVIPs, prominent corporate figures and senior government officials, involving property and cash to the tune of several hundred of millions of ringgit … traceable to the early 90s.”

Putrajaya said earlier this month it will not take action against the A-G despite renewed allegations of corruption and the fabrication of evidence against the country’s top lawyer.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said that last year’s decision to close the door on the A-G’s alleged involvement in Anwar’s black-eye case still stands.

Mat Zain has repeatedly attacked Abdul Gani in recent months, calling on Najib to sack the A-G for failing to initiate charges in high-profile cases such as the death of DAP aide Teoh Beng Hock while being held overnight for questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

He has also pressed the PM to form a royal commission of inquiry or tribunal to investigate Abdul Gani’s role in destroying public confidence in the Police.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/mat-zain-claims-najib-knew-of-ags-alleged-wrongdoings/

Malaysiakini Reports: (October 27, 2011)

A former senior police officer alleges that the Najib Abdul Razak administration is not willing to take action to form a tribunal against attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail for his alleged wrong-doings, following fears that it (the government) could also be similarly implicated in such crimes.

Mat Zain Ibrahim, in his open letter sent to Najib last week and made available to Malaysiakini today, claims that he briefed Najib in 2008 when he was still the Deputy Premier about Gani’s alleged misconduct.

NONEIn the open letter titled ‘Rule of Law government breaks its promises’, Mat Zain stated there is a public perception that Najib refuses to take action against Gani (right) because the premier feared the AG may expose some so-called secrets with regard to Altantuya Sharibuu or the Scorpene submarines purchase.

“I am of the opinion that YAB Datuk Seri and the government will do everything possible to avoid any criminal charges being preferred against Gani. The government is worried that should Gani be proven to have abused his powers for cheating or falsification/corruption, then simultaneously the government would then be guilty of having done the same thing since 1990.”

Mat Zain revealed that his investigations found three letters of undertaking dated April and May 1990 signed by three well-known entrepreneurs (Abdul Halim Saad, Wan Azmi Hamzah and Tajudin Ramli) which confirmed they held several hundred million ringgit of assets for Daim Zainuddin.

Daim was finance minister from 1984 to 1991, and again from 1999 to 2001. Mat Zain noted that he had investigated the allegations that the three entrepreneurs had held the assets in trust for Daim when an official complaint was made in 1999 by Anwar Ibrahim.

In the three letters concerned:

  • Abdul Halim confirmed he held 52,208,500 Faber Merlin (M) Bhd shares and 130,000,000 Renong Berhad shares for and on behalf of Daim based on a letter dated April 30, 1990.
  • Wan Azmi also confirmed he held RM150 million in cash in trust on behalf of Daim.
  • Tajudin, in his letter dated May 24, 1990, confirmed he held RM70 million cash in trust on behalf of Daim.
‘Letters are material evidence’

Those three letters, Mat Zain said, are material evidence to implicate the entire cabinet at that point of time.

“Most people still remember when even a little letter from the Johor state secretary’s office in 1953 could cause not only the loss of Pulau Batu Putih to Singapore, but most importantly resulted in “loss of face”, our dignity and the sovereignty of our country.

“If such a brief letter from the Johor office can be accepted as material evidence by the International Court of Justice, then, I believe, the 1990 letters and the three fabricated expert reports prepared on Gani’s instructions could overcome any attempts to twist the facts.

“Personally, I am of the view that the documents are enough to destroy the credibility of the government since the 1990s. They can be used as proof that the abuse of powers,  corruption, cheating and falsifications that have occurred all this while, were never done for the sake of the country, nor the rulers nor for any particular race or religion,” he said.

Mat Zain claims that Gani knew of the three letters as he had personally dealt with him (Gani) and extended all the documents pertaining to this case to the then-Anti-Corruption Agency in July and August 1999.

“Perhaps YAB Datuk Seri is fully aware of the facts from the very outset, being a full minister and a member of the cabinet since 1986. Even though YAB may not be in a position to order a full-scale investigation on Daim  at the very least YAB should assume the responsibility to clarify the dubious relationship between Gani and Tajudin in the context of the investigation into the Malaysia Airlines scandal,” he said.

At the very least, Mat Zain said, Najib as the Finance Minister should explain to the people whether the RM 70 million held by Tajuddin on Daim’s behalf had been returned to its original owners or otherwise.

That is why, Mat Zain said, he would be not be surprised if Gani had a role to play in the much talked about multi-million suit settlement between several government linked corporations and Tajudin.

He also said that the recent allegation that Gani performed the haj trip together with Tajudin’s proxy, Shahidan Shafie, and followed by another that he received gratifications from Ho Hup Berhad, are not therefore unusual or surprising.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/179777 

Sex, Lies and Malaysian Politics


October 27, 2011

Sex, Lies and Malaysian Politics

by John Berthelsen (10-25-11)

Prurient and puritanical, Malaysia gags, goes gaga for naughty tales

Malaysia fancies itself a conservative society, with plenty of restrictions on racy movies and activities that might lead its majority Muslim population astray. But get inside a courtroom and anything goes, with details that would make a New Yorker blush, published in the mainstream media.

In the latest trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, whose sex life has been an object of prosecutorial attention off and on since 1998, the court — and the press — has been filled with graphic descriptions of the anatomy of Mohamad Saiful Bukhairy Aslan, the 26-year-old former aide who has accused Anwar of sodomy. Outside of court, the titillations are also commonplace — especially when an opposition politician or his family is involved.

Take the 16-year-old son of Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of the opposition-held Penang state. The youth was the subject of bloggers accusing him of fondling a girl and getting kicked out of his school, with his father supposedly having to pay bribes to hush up the matter. Unfortunately, it transpired that the girl whose photo was distributed as the victim was a 21-year-old Hong Kong chess champion(right) who is now attending Wellesley University in the United States, has not been in Malaysia for seven years and has never met Lim’s son. She demanded an apology for herself and the youth.

“This is something fairly new. Every month there is something, half of it manufactured, if not most,” said Elizabeth Wong, an opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat state assemblywoman who was the victim of a former boyfriend who posted nude pictures of her on the Internet and who considered quitting politics out of embarrassment. “It isn’t the way to get people in politics. It just continues, I imagine people are disgusted with politicians regardless of party.”

Although the United States set a precedent with the mother of all sex scandals – the 1998 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton for having sex with a White House intern, there are few examples of similar attention to sexual misdoings across Asia.

“I’ve got no clue why Malaysian politicians are all sex deviants of one kind or another,” said a longtime expatriate resident. “I am also not so sure that this isn’t going on lots of other places nowadays, given the various sex scandals that have emerged in recent times (think Berlusconi, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Elliott Spitzer, Arnie the sperminator, gay Brit ministers, etc.).”

However, he says, the Anwar cases “have been overtly used in a political power struggle here, with all the attendant publicity afforded by a government-controlled mainstream media determined to ensure that the gruesome details reach every Malaysian man, woman, child, dog and kuching (cat).”

Going back to at least the middle 1980s, otherwise tame newspapers have often been filled with graphic sexual details. At one point the daily tabloid Malay Mail got its hands on the illicit pictures of a romp between an ethnic Indian politician and a beauty queen. The newspaper couldn’t run the pictures themselves, but it got its artists to produce amazingly realistic pictures of the beauty queen’s various lecherous poses – then showed her the photographs and photographed her humiliated reaction at seeing them.

All of this is despite the fact that the so-called khalwat cops – conservative Muslim patrolmen – patrol assiduously to ensure there is no “excessive closeness” between people of opposite sexes, busting the odd luckless teenage couple caught smooching. But in the houses of power the powerful have been going at it like goats nonstop for years, and not just with the four wives they are allowed under Islamic law. In 2002, the Reformasi website named top public figures and officials who were having relatively public affairs, including Najib Tun Razak, then the Defense Minister and now the Prime Minister, who was caught in a Port Dickson hotel room with the actress and singer Ziana Zain. None have been apprehended by the khalwat police.

“It’s in the culture — not that sex is a scandal in itself but that Malays like to aib or cause shame to their enemies,” said an ethnic Malay lawyer in Malaysia. “Khalwat is a tool to eliminate or shame your enemy. It’s partly rooted in perasaan hasad dengki – good old jealousy to bring down the other fella who has more than you. Islam itself forbids spying. That’s what khalwat is. They are obsessed with khalwat. I think it’s bullshit. Utter nonsense. That’s all they do.”

Others blame it on former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (left).“What is going on now is an extreme kind of politics that is very debased by people who have no sense of values,” said S. Nagaratnam, acting dean and senior lecturer of Liberal Studies at Wawasan University in Penang.

Nagaratnam cites the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s dominant political party. “The UMNO we have now is not the one we had in the 1960s and 1970s, when we had leaders who were legally trained and had respect for the rule of law. Thanks to Dr Mahathir, there was an erosion in basic values, a corruption of those kinds of boundaries.”

Whatever happened, Malaysians have been subjected to a plethora of sex tapes and other transmissions that have gone viral on the internet. Anwar has featured in three of these public airings, the first in 1999 when he was put on trial for sodomy and corruption in a trial that featured equally graphic revelations. That trial has been universally condemned as rigged to get him out of politics. The second trial, which is just winding up, has featured similar descriptions of sexual activity and similar charges of rigged prosecution.

The third episode came earlier this year when three men known collectively as “Datuk T” — a datuk is the lowest rank in Malaysia’s whimsical list of titles for the privileged — planted four cameras in a love hotel to engineer the filming of either Anwar or his stunt double, having sex with a Chinese prostitute. Anwar has insisted the figure in the film wasn’t him and regularly has flashed glimpses of his stomach, which he says is in contrast to the pot belly on the man having sex. Anwar’s doctors say a back injury has prevented such athletic goings-on. Whoever it was, the film clip has been circulating widely on the Internet and has been distributed across the country on DVDs.

Ironically, one of the three datuks behind the filming was Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik, the former Malacca Chief Minister, who was forced to resign his position after allegedly having an affair with a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

After the matter became public, the schoolgirl was sentenced to three years protective custody in a house for “wayward girls.” After the girl’s grandmother came to him for help, the opposition parliamentarian Lim Guan Eng brought up the matter in parliament. He was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison for sedition for printing a pamphlet containing the allegations.

The love hotel technique was also used to dethrone Chua Soi Lek, one of Malaysia’s top ethnic Chinese politicians, who was forced to resign as minister of health and to leave politics after a sexually explicit videotape was widely circulated that showed him getting into bed with an unnamed woman whom he later described as a friend.

Political enemies believed to be rivals for power in the Malaysian Chinese Association were thought to be behind the filming, which included four secret cameras in a hotel room. Chua, however, recovered from the scandal and has since assumed the presidency of the MCA.

Likewise, almost immediately after Mohamad Sabu was elected deputy president of Parti Islam se-Malaysia in June with a mandate to broaden the party’s appeal to Malaysia’s ethnic Malays, a VCD and flyer titled “Skandal Seks Mat Sabu” (Mat Sabu sex scandal) was mailed across the country. PAS leaders charged UMNO officials with being behind the distribution of the film.

http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3884&Itemid=178

The Bankers’ Capital War


October 27, 2011

The Bankers’ Capital War

by Howard Davies (10-19-11)

Almost everyone nowadays agrees that banks need more capital. Christine Lagarde chose to make it her first campaign as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. And conventional analyses of the financial crisis focus on the weak capital base of many banks, which left them with insufficient reserves to absorb the losses they incurred when asset prices fell sharply in 2007-2008.

Taxpayers, notably in the United States and the United Kingdom, were obliged to step in to fill that hole. The same disaster movie is now playing in the eurozone. We can only hope that the bankers are eventually rescued from the burning eurotower by Super-Sarkozy and Wonder-Frau Merkel – and that the Basel Committee of Banking Supervisors ensures that there will be no sequel.

The Basel Committee has proposed strengthening considerably both the quantity and the quality of capital in the global banking system. This would mean much larger core equity capital for all banks and a range of additional reserves – a capital conservation buffer, a counter cyclical buffer, and a surcharge for systemically vital institutions – to be added by local regulators as they see fit. Unfortunately, the final implementation date for these new obligations has been deferred until 2019 – by which point a few banks might still be left standing.

In fact, the view that banks need more capital, while widespread, is not unanimous. Two notable holdouts are Jamie Dimon and Walter Bagehot. Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan, has been making his contrarian views known to regulators, most recently almost coming to blows, according to eyewitnesses, in a spat with Governor of the Bank of Canada Mark Carney, who chairs a group that is designing parts of the new regime.

Walter Bagehot (right) is in no position to threaten Carney, or any other regulator. He died in 1877. But in his great work on finance, Lombard Street, published in 1873, he asserted that, “A well-run bank needs no capital. No amount of capital will rescue a badly run bank.” I expect that Dimon, who has steered Morgan through the crisis without the need for public support, would say “amen.”

Of course, regulators cannot easily require all banks to be “well-run” in Bagehot’s sense. So banks require capital as a backstop. It is not a bad substitute for perfect judgment, and at least it can be defined and measured. But how much capital is enough?

Even if, at heart, they take the Bagehot view, all bankers recognize that market confidence requires them to demonstrate a more solid capital base to attract wholesale funding, as well as to satisfy the stricter demands of regulators. But a wide gap has opened up between the financial authorities and the banks on the costs and benefits of the much higher requirements now demanded by Basel.

Basel 3, the Basel Committee’s new global regulatory standard on banks’ capital adequacy and liquidity, will more or less double the equity requirements, and will impose extra costs on banks deemed “too big to fail.” The Committee’s analysis of the economic consequences found that the impact on growth would be modest, perhaps reducing GDP by 0.33% after five years – easily within the margin of forecast error. The OECD took a different view, putting the growth impact at about twice that level, and rather higher in Europe, where companies rely far more on bank financing than they do in the US.

In sharp contrast, the Institute of International Finance, the leading trade association for the world’s top banks, believes that the impact of higher capital requirements could be far stronger. The IIF believes that GDP could be fully 5% lower after five years, with unemployment more than 7% higher.

The IIF’s forecast may seem alarmist, but the competing estimates are based on some intriguing analytical differences. Regulators take the view that the impact of higher capital requirements on the cost of credit to borrowers will be modest, as the overall cost of funds to banks will not rise much. They rest their case on the famous Modigliani-Miller theorem, which implies that a company cannot alter its capital cost by changing the balance between equity and debt on its balance sheet. If there is more equity, then logically debt should be cheaper, as the company (or bank) is better insulated from default.

Bankers accept that, in the long run, the theorem might hold, but argue that it will take time, especially given recent events, to persuade investors that banks are genuinely safer, and that their shares should be thought of as closer to utility stocks, yielding a lower return. Indeed, Franco Modigliani also argued that investors have a “preferred habitat,” and that coaxing them out of it carries some cost. That does not bode well for banks, which have been a very poor investment in the last few years. Moreover, the banks assume that they will need to hold more capital than regulators ostensibly require in order to maintain a margin of safety.

These assessments are unusually divergent. Though economists are notoriously disputatious, their estimates do not often differ by a factor of ten. It would be wise, before the rules are set in stone, to refer the issue to the World Institute for the Resolution of Economic Disputes in Baltimore, or “The Wire.”

Unfortunately, there is no such institute, in Baltimore or anywhere else. There is no one who can offer a timely and, above all, authoritative view on which forecast is the more compelling scenario. The stakes of not knowing are very high.

Sir Howard Davies, a former chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, and Director of the London School of Economics, is a professor at Sciences Po in Paris.

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

Samy’s Con-Job on Diwali Day


October 26, 2011

http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com

MIC’s Samy Velu, Gone but Back with RM10 billion Con-Job on Malaysians and RM 9 billion Loan to Bangladesh

by  Ismail Dahlan, Malaysia Chronicle

Having achieved absolutely nothing in his capacity as ‘Envoy to South Asia’, Samy Velu now decides to pull off what is essentially a confidence trick on Malaysians. First he announces RM 10 billion in ‘deals’ for Malaysian companies from Bangladesh. Then he announces that Malaysia will be lending RM9 billion to Bangladesh for the Padma Bridge that the World Bank has refused to finance because of corruption allegations.

The projects that Malaysian companies are supposed to get are MOUs. MOUs are not worth the paper they are written on because they are not legal documents. Malaysian politicians are fond of signing pretend MOUs that never materialize into real contracts.

This is for the purpose of creating headlines that will make you think they are doing a good job. Najib is also fond of this neat little trick. He is always signing MOUs when he travels. You never hear about the MOUs after that. Because they never happen.

But the money is real

The money we will have to give Bangladesh is real and we will have to hand it over right away. In the end there will be no projects for Malaysian companies, there will probably be no bridge constructed and Malaysia will lose RM9 billion in what will inevitably be written off as a bad loan.

It’s a shell game, Samy Vellu style. But what’s another RM9 Billion when Malaysia already owes RM400 Billion. Samy doesn’t care, Najib doesn’t care, nobody in the entire BN administration appears to care.

In the first place, there is no such job as ‘Envoy to South Asia’. Malaysia does not need any such envoy. Samy Vellu was given the job by Najib so that he would quit as MIC chief. Najib didn’t know how else to get rid of him.

Samy Vellu now holds a ministerial rank with ministerial pay and ministerial perks, paid for by the Malaysian taxpayers i.e. you and me.

He regularly travels to South Asia because he has to pretend to be working. More likely, he likes the food there. His waistline certainly gets wider all the time. Again, the taxpayer foots the bill.

Even the Bangladeshis will know better than to believe Samy Vellu

Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. Bangladesh does not have RM10 Billion in projects to hand out. Samy Vellu is really scraping the barrel with this Bangladesh story. Amazingly, he seems certain of fooling everybody with this poorly concocted piece of fiction. His story is like a Tamil movie plot; predictable and full of holes. And we definitely do not want to watch Samy sing and dance.

Bangladeshis labor in Malaysia as construction workers, waiters, cleaners and all the other menial jobs that Malaysians are no longer interested in doing. They live in close and often filthy quarters. They are paid a pittance and often treated disrespectfully and badly. They still come here because there are no jobs for them in Bangladesh. Because the Bangladesh economy is a mess and because corruption is endemic.

I wonder what they will have to say about the ‘news’ that Bangladesh is handing out RM10 billion in projects to Samy Vellu. If they have any sense, they will not believe it. Neither should we.