Taking on Adam Smith (and Karl Marx)


April 21,2014

Taking on Adam Smith (and Karl Marx)

PARIS — Thomas Piketty turned 18 in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, so he was spared the tortured, decades-long French intellectual debate about the virtues and vices of communism. Even more telling, he remembers, was a trip he took with a close friend to Romania in early 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet empire.

piketty-“This sort of vaccinated me for life against lazy, anticapitalist rhetoric, because when you see these empty shops, you see these people queuing for nothing in the street,” he said, “it became clear to me that we need private property and market institutions, not just for economic efficiency but for personal freedom.”

But his disenchantment with communism doesn’t mean that Mr. Piketty (left) has turned his back on the intellectual heritage of Karl Marx, who sought to explain the “iron laws” of capitalism. Like Marx, he is fiercely critical of the economic and social inequalities that untrammeled capitalism produces — and, he concludes, will continue to worsen. “I belong to a generation that never had any temptation with the Communist Party; I was too young for that,” Mr. Piketty said, in a long interview in his small, airless office here at the Paris School of Economics. “So it’s easier in a way to reopen these big issues about capitalism and inequality with a fresh eye, lbecause I was too young for that fight. I don’t have to justify myself as being pro-communist or pro-capitalist.”

In his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (Harvard University Press), Mr. Piketty, 42, has written a blockbuster, at least in the world of economics. His book punctures earlier assumptions about the benevolence of advanced capitalism and forecasts sharply increasing inequality of wealth in industrialized countries, with deep and deleterious impact on democratic values of justice and fairness.

Branko Milanovic, a former economist at the World Bank, called it “one of the watershed books in economic thinking.” Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel in economic science and a columnist for The New York Times, wrote that it “will be the most important economics book of the year — and maybe of the decade.” Remarkably for a book on such a weighty topic, it has already entered The New York Times’s best-seller list.

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” with its title echoing Marx’s “Das Kapital,” is meant to be a return to the kind of economic history, of political economy, written by predecessors like Marx and Adam Smith. It is nothing less than a broad effort to understand Western societies and the economic rules that underpin them. And in the process, by debunking the idea that “wealth raises all boats,” Mr. Piketty has thrown down a challenge to democratic governments to deal with an increasing gap between the rich and the poor — the very theme of inequality that recently moved both Pope Francis and President Obama to warn of its consequences.

Mr. Piketty — pronounced pee-ket-ee — grew up in a political home, with left-wing parents who were part of the 1968 demonstrations that turned traditional France upside down. Later, they went off to the Aude, deep in southern France, to raise goats. His parents are not a topic he wants to discuss. More relevant and important, he said, are his generation’s “founding experiences”: the collapse of Communism, the economic degradation of Eastern Europe and the first Gulf War, in 1991.

Those events motivated him to try to understand a world where economic ideas had such bad consequences. As for the Gulf War, it showed him that “governments can do a lot in terms of redistribution of wealth when they want.” The rapid intervention to force Saddam Hussein to unhand Kuwait and its oil was a remarkable show of concerted political will, Mr. Piketty said. “If we are able to send one million troops to Kuwait in a few months to return the oil, presumably we can do something about tax havens.”

Would he want to send troops to Guernsey, the lightly populated tax haven in the English Channel? Mr. Piketty, soft-spoken, barely laughed. “We don’t even have to do that — just simple basic trade policy, trade sanctions, would do the trick right away,” he said.

A top student, Mr. Piketty took a conventional path toward the French elite, being admitted to the rarefied École Normale Supérieure at 18. His doctoral dissertation on the theory of redistribution of wealth, completed at 22, won prizes. He then decamped to teach economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before returning two years later to France, disappointed with the study of economics in America.

“My Ph.D. is mostly about pure economic theory because that was the easiest thing to do, and I was hired at M.I.T. as a young assistant professor doing economic theory,” he said. “I was young and successful at doing this, so it was an easy way. But very quickly I realized that there was little serious effort at collecting historical data on income and wealth, so that’s what I started doing.”

Academic economics is so focused on getting the econometrics and the statistical interpolation technique correct, he said, “you don’t really think, you don’t dare to ask the big questions.” American economists too often narrow the questions they examine to those they can answer, “but sometimes the questions are not that interesting,” he said. “Trying to write a real book that could speak to everyone meant I could not choose my questions. I had to take the important issues in a frontal manner — I could not escape.”

He hated the insularity of the economics department. So he decided to write large, a book he considers as much history as economics, and one that is constructed to lead the general reader by the hand.

He is also not afraid of literature, finding inspiration in the descriptions of society in the realist novels of Jane Austen and Balzac. Wealth was best achieved in these stories through a clever marriage; everyone knew that inherited land and capital was the only way to live well, since labor alone would not produce sufficient income. He wondered how that assumption had changed.

As he extended his work on France to the United States in collaboration with Emmanuel Saez, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, he saw that the patterns of the early 20th century — “the top 10 percent of the distribution was full of rental income, dividend income, interest income” — seemed less prevalent from the 1970s through the early 1990s.

“It took me a long time to realize that in effect we were returning slowly in the direction of the previous equilibrium, and that we were part of a long transitory process,” he said. When he started working on the issue in the late 1990s, “there was no way this could be understood so clearly — having 20 additional years of data makes a big difference to understanding the postwar period.”

His findings, aided by the power of modern computers, are based on centuries of statistics on wealth accumulation and economic growth in advanced industrial countries. They are also rather simply stated: The rate of growth of income from capital is several times larger than the rate of economic growth, meaning a comparatively shrinking share going to income earned from wages, which rarely increase faster than overall economic activity. Inequality surges when population and the economy grow slowly.

The reason that postwar economies looked different — that inequality fell — was historical catastrophe. World War I, the Depression and World War II destroyed huge accumulations of private capital, especially in Europe. What the French call “les trentes glorieuses” — the roughly 30 postwar years of rapid economic growth and shrinking inequality — were a rebound. The American curve, of course, is less sharp, given that the fighting was elsewhere.

A higher than normal rate of population and economic growth helped reduce inequality, along with higher taxes on the wealthy. But the professional and political assumption of the 1950s and 1960s, that inequality would stabilize and diminish on its own, proved to be an illusion. We are now back to a traditional pattern of returns on capital of 4 percent to 5 percent a year and rates of economic growth of around 1.5 percent a year.

So inequality has been quickly gathering pace, aided to some degree by the Reagan and Thatcher doctrines of tax cuts for the wealthy. “Trickle-down economics could have been true,” Mr. Piketty said simply. “It just happened to be wrong.”

His work is a challenge both to Marxism and laissez-faire economics, which “both count on pure economic forces for harmony or justice to prevail,” he said. While Marx presumed that the rate of return on capital, because of the system’s contradictions, would fall close to zero, bringing collapse and revolution, Mr. Piketty is saying the opposite. “The rate of return to capital can be bigger than the growth rate forever — this is actually what we’ve had for most of human history, and there are good reasons to believe we will have it in the future.”

n 2012 the top 1 percent of American households collected 22.5 percent of the nation’s income, the highest total since 1928. The richest 10 percent of Americans now take a larger slice of the pie than in 1913, at the close of the Gilded Age, owning more than 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. And half of that is owned by the top 1 percent.

Mr. Piketty, father of three daughters — 11, 13 and 16 — is no revolutionary. He is a member of no political party, and says he never served as an economic adviser to any politician. He calls himself a pragmatist, who simply follows the data.

But he accepts that his work is essentially political, and he is highly critical of the huge management salaries now in vogue, saying that “the idea that you need people making 10 million in compensation to work is pure ideology.”

Inequality by itself is acceptable, he says, to the extent it spurs individual initiative and wealth-generation that, with the aid of progressive taxation and other measures, helps makes everyone in society better off. “I have no problem with inequality as long as it is in the common interest,” he said.

But like the Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz (right), he argues that J Stiglitzextreme inequality “threatens our democratic institutions.” Democracy is not just one citizen, one vote, but a promise of equal opportunity.

“It’s very difficult to make a democratic system work when you have such extreme inequality” in income, he said, “and such extreme inequality in terms of political influence and the production of knowledge and information. One of the big lessons of the 20th century is that we don’t need 19th-century inequality to grow.” But that’s just where the capitalist world is heading again, he concludes.

Mr. Saez, his collaborator, said that “Thomas combines great perfectionism with great impatience — he both wants to do things well and do things fast.” He added that Mr. Piketty has “incredible intuition for economics.”

The last part of the book presents Mr. Piketty’s policy ideas. He favors a progressive global tax on real wealth (minus debt), with the proceeds not handed to inefficient governments but redistributed to those with less capital. “We just want a way to share the tax burden that is fair and practical,” he said.

Net wealth is a better indicator of ability to pay than income alone, he said. “All I’m proposing is to reduce the property tax on half or three-quarters of the population who have very little wealth,” he said.

Published a year ago in French, the book is not without critics, especially of Mr. Piketty’s policy prescriptions, which have been called politically naïve. Others point out that some of the increase in capital is because of aging populations and postwar pension plans, which are not necessarily inherited.

More criticism is sure to come, and Mr. Piketty says he welcomes it. “I’m certainly looking forward to the debate.”

READ onhttp://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/business/international/taking-on-adam-smith-and-karl-marx.html?ref=books

In Death as in Life, Karpal abided


April 23, 2014

In Death as in Life, Karpal abided

COMMENT by Terence Netto: In life, he wasn’t really a unifying figure: his politics were little too partisan for him to be the glue that could have helped hold things together in our diverse society.

imageIn death, however, he drew respect from all shades of the political spectrum; even a vulgarian like Zulkifli Nordin (of PERKASA) was compelled to retract his bigoted reflexes.

At life’s close, Karpal Singh not only commanded the admiration of legions of his admirers and supporters but also the doffed hats of adversaries. In one brief, soaring moment, his death, with its near universal outpouring of sympathy, appeared to unite the country in collective mourning.

This was an unexpected accomplishment, given that he had in a long and fervent political career vented opinions that were volatile and divisive in a religiously sensitive country.

In his defence it could be said that these were opinions consistent with the man’s political ideology and that they were not out of sync with mainstream constitutional opinion.

But that these opinions were voiced at all and were of high voltage, sufficient to bring on him a label as anti-this or anti-that, and then seeing as we did that a good number of visitors to his wake were in the attire that reflected a religious allegiance at odds with those opinions – all this added to the extraordinariness of Karpal’s accomplishment in death.

If this was additionally odd, it must be because only a few weeks before his death on April 17, he was found guilty of sedition and imposed with a fine that had him headed for disqualification from Parliament, where he was resolutely oppositionist for all but one term since the 1978 general election.

The fates must be fickle if in one instance, a votary is found to be on the wrong side of the law and a little later, he becomes an object of ubiquitous admiration and respect for his devotion to advocacy of the law.

Or was it because the hand of death, in passing over Karpal, had rendered his image simplified and summarised, the figure retained by memory compressed and intensified, the accidents having dropped away and the shades ceasing to count, with the life standing sharply for a few estimated and cherished things rather than for a swarm of possibilities?

No doubt a long career of unparalleled devotion to the law and politics helped to crystallise the image so that at life’s close, it was easy to say about the man that his advocacy of the law and fidelity to his political principles shone like two beacons.

Also, his indomitable spirit reduced the auto accident in 2005 that had him confined to a wheelchair to the status of a mere punctuation in the discharge of professional duties as a lawyer and as a politician.

His triumph over physical adversity added to the grandeur of the obsequies that followed his death and the mourning it evoked; no doubt, it gave special meaning to the motto of his alma mater (labor omnia vincit – labour conquers all) – St Xavier’s Institution in Penang.

Irony in last message

It is said that the last message he conveyed as Parliament adjourned a week before his death was “Don’t mess with the constitution.” There was irony in the words of this message.

There is actually “mess” sutured into parts of our constitution, the part that says the federation is a secular state and the part that establishes Islam as the religion of the federation.

In the mid-1950s when the constitution was drawn up, nobody could have predicted that the meaning of the term ‘secular’ would come to be seen as antithetical to the concept of a state-religion.

Nobody, too, in the 1950s could have visualised that ‘secular’ would also come to refer to a sphere void of any influence by religion and, as such, a term that a certain type of religious sensibility would find highly repugnant.

Thus evolutionary semantics has combined with an upsurge in religious consciousness to render parts of our constitution as problematic as children trapped in bitter custody fights between parents of abruptly differing religious affiliation.

Of Karpal Singh it could ultimately be said that he did not possess the seer-like qualities that could anticipate and resolve a dilemma such as the country is presented with by his party’s Pakatan Rakyat partner, PAS, who are adamant on introducing hudud law in Kelantan.

But Karpal possessed the political solidity and professional integrity to compel allies and adversaries to reckon with his qualms.

Both qualities helped him write a compelling subscript to our mortality such that the life that embodied them has now become a gem in the cosmic sands.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for four decades now. He likes the profession because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.

 

Penang to give Karpal official send-off


The Penang government will provide veteran lawmaker Karpal Singh an official send off.
The Penang government will provide veteran lawmaker Karpal Singh an official send off.

April 17, 2014

A Tribute to The Tiger of Jelutong:

Legacy of the ‘Tiger of Jelutong’ will endure

by Aimee Gulliver @www.malaysiakini.com

  • Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.

    • Julius Caesar Act II, scene 2, line 33.

Karpal Singh’s story may have come to an abrupt end this morning, but the author of his biography says the legacy of the ‘Tiger of Jelutong’ will endure in Malaysia, where he was a warrior in the fight for equality and justice.

image

New Zealand journalist Tim Donoghue first met Karpal in Penang in 1987 and spent nearly 30 years researching the biography he wrote on the fearless lawyer and advocate, titled “Karpal Singh – Tiger of Jelutong”, which was published in 2013.

“I’ve done a few things in journalism, but I’m particularly proud of that because this man was the ultimate scrapper, but he had a sense of humour,” Donoghue said.

“The things he had to deal with, the life and death issues that he had to deal with, he smiled his way through them all, and he helped a lot of people out along the way. There was always that great twinkle in his eyes, and you just knew that no matter what anyone was ever going to throw at that guy, he was never going to kow-tow to any man.”

Karpal and his aide Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, were killed in a road accident about 1.10 this morning near Kampar in Perak. The former DAP chairperson’s sudden departure has shocked the nation, and elicated a flood of eulogies from both sides of the political divide.

His death comes as the 74-year-old was gearing up to appeal his recent conviction for sedition that was cross-appealed by the government, which is seeking have the wheelchair-bound politician jailed.

Karpal

“I don’t think the legal system has brought any great credit upon itself by convicting this man of sedition.“I think that is something that those in the ruling political and legal establishment of Malaysia do need to think about.”, Donoghue said.

The government’s persecution of the man who stood up and fought for human rights in Malaysia had made a martyr out of him, Donoghue said.

“Now that Karpal has gone to his death under threat of imprisonment for this sedition charge, I think he will be a great rallying point come the next election – there will be a huge groundswell of support among the opposition parties in the country.”

A long line of challenges

Karpal’s conviction for sedition was just the latest in a long line of challenges for the “Sikh warrior in legal attire”. “Back when he was 65, after the car accident, most people said he was gone. Even his best friends, with the best intentions in the world, were saying it would have been a far more merciful end if he had died at that time.”

“But the Tiger of Jelutong had a message for those who doubted him.

“He suffered a huge amount of pain as a result of that accident, but he vowed, with the help of his family, to get back out there into the realm of both politics and the law in Malaysia and to keep challenging those in power.”

“Karpal continued his work, and some of his most notable achievements came in the years following his debilitating accident”, Donoghue said.

“After his car accident, his life was totally shattered. But I do think he did his best work, both in the law and in politics, in the seven or eight years that he had after his accident. He did some amazing things in his life. “He would say to me, ‘retirement is not a word in my dictionary’. And the reason I think he hung on was as a result of the pain he suffered because of that accident.”

Donoghue said the manner of Karpal’s death could be considered a merciful release in some ways, but his family would not agree.

Backed by family, every step of the way

“Every step of the way they backed him, they fought with him, and they lifted and laid him. They fought to keep him going.” It was with the support of his family, and his devoted assistant Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, who was also killed in this morning’s accident, that Karpal was able to continue his work after the 2005 accident.

“Michael gave his life for this man. He worked around the clock, 24 hours a day, just to support Karpal, and the whole family is very, very, grateful for the job he has done.

“Everything Karpal has done in the last few years has been with the support of (his wife) Gurmit Kaur and Michael. They’ve kept him going, really.”

When he came to Malaysia to launch Karpal’s biography in 2013, Donoghue said he could tell Karpal was extremely proud of what he had achieved in his life.

“Basically, his legacy is one of uncompromising challenge to human rights on a number of fronts throughout his 40-plus years in legal practice.

“I suppose what endeared him to me was he challenged, he challenged, he challenged – and he did it in such a way that everybody enjoyed the trip.”

Although he was an eminently patient man, Donoghue said, Karpal would occasionally get frustrated with him, and ask when the book would be completed.

“I would tell him we would finish when he gave me an ending. We had the final ending this morning, and I think Karpal Singh will go down as one of the great warriors of the Malaysian legal and political fraternities.”

“He was a man who, as long as he had breath going into his lungs, was always going to fight. And in the wake of this man’s life, the fight will go on in Malaysia.”


AIMEE GULLIVER is a New Zealand journalist interning with Malaysiakini for six weeks, courtesy of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

ASEAN-US Security Relations Moving to a New Level


 
east-west-center-asia-pacific-bulletin
Number 256 | April 15, 2014
ANALYSIS

ASEAN-US Security Relations: Moving to a New Level

by Mary Fides Quintos and Joycee Teodoro

Chuck Hagel -The United States has just completed hosting a three-day forum with the ten ASEAN Defense Ministers in Hawai’i, fulfilling US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s invitation to his ASEAN counterparts during last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The agenda of the US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum included a roundtable discussion on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR), site visits to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the USS Anchorage–an amphibious transport dock ship designed to respond to crises worldwide–and discussions on various pertinent security issues in the region.

The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum marked the beginning of Secretary Hagel’s ten-day trip to Asia which included visits to Japan, China, and Mongolia and is his fourth official visit to the region in less than a year, all part of the ongoing US rebalance policy to Asia. This event was the first meeting that the US hosted, as previous gatherings were conducted on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) Summit.

The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum was conducted under the ambit of the ADMM-Plus which was established in 2007 to serve as a venue for ASEAN to engage with eight dialogue partners–Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the United States–in promoting peace and security in the region. To date, ADMM-Plus has established five working groups for practical cooperation covering maritime security, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster management, peacekeeping operations, and military medicine.

This most recent meeting was held amid another wave of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea. For ASEAN, a recent water cannon incident near Scarborough Shoal involving Filipino fishing vessels and Chinese Coastguard ships, the standoff at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal again between the Philippines and China, and China’s naval exercises at James Shoal which is claimed by Malaysia are all issues of concern.

Indonesia’s strengthening of its military presence in the Natuna Islands which China included in its nine-dash line is another indication of the increasing insecurity and instability in the region. The meeting provided a good opportunity for informal dialogue on the overall security environment in Asia and the possible implications of developments in Ukraine for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity within the international order. It also served as an opportunity for the United States to reemphasize that it can be relied upon by ASEAN members in supporting the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law and in upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

With regard to humanitarian assistance and disaster response, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines Hishamuddin Husseinlast year and the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has demonstrated the lack of capacity of individual ASEAN countries or ASEAN as a bloc to immediately respond to a crisis. Not disregarding the efforts made by the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia, these incidents highlighted the need for the participation of other states particularly in terms of sharing of expertise, technology, and information. The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum explored areas where cooperation in these areas can be further strengthened. It was a reiteration of the need for multilateral cooperation in non-traditional security challenges that do not respect territorial boundaries.

The increased frequency of high-level visits by US officials to Asia, the provision of resources to its allies in the region, the reallocation of military hardware, along with ongoing military activities demonstrate that the US intent is to have a closer engagement with the region over the long term. These actions are also manifestations of the US commitment to Asia despite fiscal restraints and the looming crises in other regions where the US is also expected to be involved.

Moreover, they send a strong signal that the United States remains the region’s security guarantor regardless of doubts on its capacity to perform that role. However, the US-led hub-and-spokes alliance security model can be perceived as an act of containment against a particular country, hence the importance that bilateral alliances are supplemented by a multilateral institution that is open and inclusive such as ASEAN in shaping the regional security architecture.

The conclusion of the first US-initiated US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum highlights the growing importance of ASEAN to the United States, especially if the event becomes more institutionalized. The message is that the United States views ASEAN as a central and strategic player, not only in the US rebalance to Asia but more importantly in the building of a strong and credible regional security architecture for the Asia-Pacific.

The move by the United States to actively engage ASEAN in its rebalance also shows the maturation of ties between them. By acknowledging ASEAN as an important regional actor, the relationship between the two has clearly been elevated. This also raises a key point with regard to respecting ASEAN’s centrality in the region. Economic power and military size notwithstanding, major powers need to recognize that any credible regional security architecture must include ASEAN.

These deliberate and sustained efforts involving ASEAN in devising the region’s security architecture are clear manifestations that the United States is actively engaging more actors in the region for maintaining peace and stability. More importantly, by involving ASEAN, there is the added assurance that the region’s security environment will work under a framework that is not dominated by a single power.

ASEAN, for its part, should see changes in the regional security environment as both opportunities and challenges. While ASEAN has been successful in engaging the major powers in the region, its centrality must continuously be earned. First, it needs to maintain unity amid differences; it should not be influenced by any external actor that seeks to advance its national interests at the expense of regional interests. ASEAN members must learn how to pursue their respective interests not only through national strategies but also through regional unity.

As a community, ASEAN is expected to act as a bloc championing the group’s interests and not only those of the individual member-states. Second, there should be greater commitment to cooperation not only in HA/DR but also in other non-traditional areas of security. Non-traditional security challenges are often transnational in scope and include multiple stakeholders. ASEAN must continuously enhance regional cooperation and coordination in times of crisis, although individual countries must also develop domestic capacity to respond to security challenges.

ASEAN should start addressing this deficit now otherwise institutional mechanisms will remain only on paper. These challenges will force ASEAN to build and improve on its usual practices and move beyond its comfort zone, in the long run benefitting the bloc as it matures institutionally.

About the Authors: Ms. Mary Fides Quintos and Ms. Joycee Teodoro are both Foreign Affairs Research Specialists with the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies at the Philippines Foreign Service Institute.

The views expressed here belong to the authors alone and do not reflect the institutional stand of the Philippines Foreign Service Institute. Ms. Quintos can be contacted at fides.quintos@gmail.com and Ms. Teodoro at joyteodoro@gmail.com.

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MH370: Is the story credible? Watch this lengthy video–30-Day Update


April 16, 2014

MH370: Is the story credible? Watch this lengthy video–30-Day Update

Presented by Lauren Moret (Part 1)

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world. If so, why are you, Mr. Prime Minister, keeping things from us, your citizens? The truth will be known eventually and you will answer for this.

http://exopolitics.blogs.com/peaceinspace/2014/04/part-1-leuren-moret-confirmed-mh370-shot-down-by-us-over-singapore-airspace-as-uk-inmarsat-leads-30-day-false-flag-psy.html

Obama and Malaysia


April 16, 2014

Obama and Malaysia

US President must walk a delicate line in a country facing increasing international criticism.

Obama-for-BERSIH2Obama for Clean and Fair Elections in Malaysia?

US President Barack Obama is expected to visit Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia this month as part of his push to increase US diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. But despite the relative size and strategic importance of the other countries, it is his April 27 trip to Malaysia that arguably gives the President his biggest problems.

Given the events of the past few months, Obama will visit a country that has earned some of the worst press in Asia, not only for its fumbling response to the loss of its jetliner, MH370, with 239 people aboard, but to revelations of growing racial and religious intolerance, blatant attempts to silence the Opposition through spurious legal action and bizarre charges by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s own newspaper that the Central Intelligence Agency kidnapped the plane to foment trouble with China, 152 of whose citizens were aboard the missing craft.

The same newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, repeated as a real possibility speculation by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the CIA brought down the World Trade Towers in 2001 as a plot to blame Muslims for the destruction.

anwar-ibrahim2In recent weeks, an appeals court has reversed a lower court decision against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, declaring him guilty of what were clearly trumped up charges of sodomy. The decision, apparently rushed forward, was designed to deny Anwar an almost certain win in a Kuala Lumpur suburban by-election that would have paved his way to becoming Chief Minister of the country’s most populous and prosperous state and would have given him a potent rhetorical platform to challenge the government.

In an equally dubious decision, Karpal Singh, chairman of the Democratic Party, the biggest in the troika of opposition parties, was declared guilty of sedition for saying a decision by the Sultan of Perak could be questioned in court.  The conviction, which is being appealed, bars him from politics. 

The international press that showed up in Kuala Lumpur after the disappearance of the airliner began asking questions that exposed a regime unaccustomed to facing independent scrutiny – questions that a kept mainstream media, all of which are owned by the political parties in power, have ignored for decades. While a vibrant opposition press exists on the Internet, the government simply ignores it or tries to neutralize its reports. Those questions include crony capitalism, gerrymandering and political repression. CNN, the major US and British newspapers and other media assailed the government as authoritarian, corrupt and befuddled.

The feeling in Washington, however, is that the cost of cancellation to the strategic relationship between the two countries would be too high. Obama reportedly is being urged to visit a Christian church while in the country to show US commitment to human and religious rights. Advocates say the President should make at least some gesture of recognition of the fact that a 50.87 percent majority of Malaysians voted against the ruling coalition in 2013 general elections at 47.38 percent but still hold only 89 of the 222 seats in parliament because of gerrymandering. It’s unsure if he will do so. There is speculation that he may just opt for a “meet and greet” and get out of town as quickly as possible to avoid international criticism for propping up a regime that is starting to assume Zimbabwean characteristics of repression and kleptocracy.

“I don’t have any problem with Obama visiting Malaysia, provided he reaches outmalott1 to Malaysians on both sides of the aisle and all sectors of society, including the Christian community, whose rights are being trampled on by their government,” said John Malott, a former career foreign service officer who served as Ambassador to Malaysia from 1996 to 1998 and who has emerged as Malaysian government’s severest western critic. “But this has to be a visit that is based on the reality of what kind of country Malaysia really is today – and not to believe the talking points that Malaysia is still a tolerant multi-racial, multi-religious, harmonious, moderate Islamic nation, an economic success story, and a role model for others. It no longer is.”

Najib visited the White House in 2011 and was given a wholehearted endorsement by the President, who said Najib has “showed great leadership, I think, not only in continuing to show great leadership not only in Malaysia’s economy but on showing leadership on a wide range of multilateral issues.”

Najib PMThe President is said to like Najib personally despite the fact that a wide range of issues have never been cleared up, going back to allegations of Najib’s personal involvement in the US$1 billion purchase of French submarines that according to French prosecutors was said to have netted US$114 million in bribes and kickbacks to the United Malays National Organization. The case is still making its way through French courts.

There is also the matter of the still controversial 2006 murder by two of Najib’s bodyguards of Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, who according to a now-dead private detective had been Najib’s girlfriend before she was allegedly passed on to his best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, a key figure in the purchase of the submarines. The bodyguards were acquitted on appeal despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, raising questions about Malaysia’s legal system as well.

There have been some rude shocks. Six months ago, in the run-up to his previous delayed visit to the region, the US President hailed Malaysia as an “an example of a dynamic economy” and praised its multi-ethnic, moderate Muslim-dominated society only to see just three days later a court decision ordering Christians not to use the word “Allah” when referring to God, making it the only Islamic country in the world to do so.

After that, the government ordered the confiscation of Malay-language Bibles containing the word – but only in Peninsular Malaysia. Christians using Malay-language Bibles in East Malaysia were allowed to keep them. That is because most of the Christians are tribes indigenous to Borneo that are aligned with the ruling party. In Peninsular Malaysia, they form the bulk of the Opposition.

“So the issue is — how can you talk about establishing a ‘strategic partnership’ with such a government?” Malott asked. “Maybe that is what will have to be downplayed or even canned for this visit. To me, the idea of a declaring a strategic partnership with a government whose faults have now been revealed to the world, day after day, seems politically unwise.”

Malott also questioned what strategic benefits the US can obtain from Malaysia.“What strategic value does Malaysia have that it warrants America to hold its nose and ignore the trampling of democracy and political freedom, not to mention the corruption and cronyism that hurt American business interests there?” he asked. “And with Mahathir, the great anti-American, increasingly calling the political shots and Najib’s popularity the lowest of any Prime Minister in polling history, will a ‘strategic partnership’ with the US survive Najib’s departure?”

Obama in Malaysia: A Strategic Partnership?


by Joshua Kurlantzick via Council on Foreign Relations
April 8, 2014

During his upcoming late April trip to Asia, President Obama will visit two nations in Southeast Asia, Malaysia and the Philippines, in addition to stops in Northeast Asia. The White House already has been briefing reporters on the overall messaging of the trip, and the specific themes the president plans to hit in Malaysia and the Philippines. In Malaysia, it appears from several news reports and from speaking with several administration officials, President Obama will add to the Malaysian government’s self-promotion that Kuala Lumpur is a successful and democratic nation, an example of other Muslim-majority countries, and a force for moderation in the world. The president apparently plans to hit these themes despite the regional anger at Malaysia’s handling of the Malaysia Airlines vanished plane, which exposed to the world many of the problems with Malaysia’s governance.

No matter, say some Southeast Asia experts. Some of Obama’s advisors, and many Southeast Asia experts, are urging the president to use the trip to cement a strategic partnership with Malaysia and establishing a roadmap for the kind of higher-level strategic cooperation that the United States already enjoys with Singapore and Thailand, among other countries in the region.

This approach to the Malaysia visit would mean downplaying – or simply not even discussing – serious regression in Malaysia’s domestic politics, including the recent sentencing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to five years in jail for sodomy, the highly flawed 2013 national elections that barely kept Prime Minister Najib tun Razak in office, and the increasingly shrill, anti-Chinese and anti-Indian rhetoric and legislation of the Najib government, hardly the kind of sentiments a supposed leader of political moderation should be espousing. According to this logic, if President Obama were to bring up such unpleasant issues as the Malaysian government’s crackdown on opponents over the past year or its unwillingness to reform pro-Malay policies that have entrenched a culture of graft and self-dealing at many Malaysian companies, that would sink the visit.

Under Najib, Malaysia and the United States have, on a strategic level, moved beyond some of the acrimony of the Mahathir and Abdullah years, and have made progress on a wide range of military-military and diplomatic cooperation. Najib definitely deserves some credit for this rapprochement, though growing Malaysian fear about China’s South China Sea policies are probably the main driver behind closer strategic ties with Washington.

But simply ignoring the disastrous Najib policies on human rights, political freedoms, and economic liberalization would not be a wise move by Obama. For one, it would play into the narrative that Obama cares little about rights and democracy promotion, a narrative that has gained significant force not only in Washington but also among many Southeast Asian activists and young people in general. And ignoring Malaysia’s opposition politicians, who won the popular vote in the 2013 national elections and enjoy their strongest support among young Malaysians, would be alienating the biggest growing pool of Malaysian voters. As in other countries in the region, like Cambodia and Indonesia, these young voters are increasingly favoring opposition parties or new figures like Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, breaking from long-ruling, autocratic parties. The United States should be cultivating these young voters who will prove critical to the region’s democratization. This new generation will eventually power the Malaysian opposition, in some form, to the prime minister’s office. It would be a shame if the United States president had ignored them, and their party leaders, before then.

Utusan’s claims of US role in MH370 disappearance aren’t the paper’s first wild charges


April 9, 2014

Utusan’s claims of US role in MH370 disappearance aren’t the paper’s first wild charges

Written by Our Correspondent, TUE,08 APRIL 2014

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/govt-backed-malaysian-newspaper-crosses-line-cia-charges/

utusan-online

Utusan Malaysia, the Kuala Lumpur-based Malay-language broadsheet newspaper that Sunday accused the CIA of having a hand in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, has a long history of heated invective as the attack dog for its owner, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the country’s biggest political party.

NAJIB_RAZAK_091213_TMINAJJUA_05_540_360_100It is a publication that could be simply dismissed because of its often-irresponsible diatribes. But presumably it is the mouthpiece for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, the Party President. And from his standpoint, the story had to be an utter disaster.  US President Barack Obama is due to visit Malaysia sometime over the next few weeks, a visit that Najib, whose popularity is fading, needs to prop him up.

There has been no public reaction in the United States. However, certainly Washington would be less than amused by the story, which accused the US of engineering the plane’s disappearance in order to disturb the growing relationship between Malaysia and China.  One source close to the government last week told Asia Sentinel the US has been instrumental in helping Malaysia behind the scenes, providing technological and forensic help from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other organizations in the search for the missing Boeing 777-200, which disappeared on March 8 into the Indian Ocean.

The paper targets a domestic audience and has traditionally felt it could indulge in any necessary rhetoric to help preserve loyalty to the party.  However, over the past three to four years, it has veered into strident invective. In 2011, the company drove senior journalist Hata Wahari, then the president of the National Union of Journalists, out of the paper after he complained about its agenda and urged it to go back to its traditional role of presenting unbiased news to the public. 

Now, it is reaping more unfavorable publicity and runs the danger of once again affecting international relations because of the perception that is has official standing.  But Najib, according to one senior source close to the party, has lost control of the Board of Directors and the editors and has been unable to rein them in despite the fact that his own press secretary sits on the board.

Earlier, the newspaper accused Indonesia of conspiring with the United States to hide the missing airliner after radar communication was lost over the gulf of Thailand.  The Indonesian online news portal Merdeka.com quoted the senior officer for foreign affairs at Indonesia’s Defense Ministry, Sumardi Brotodiningrat, as saying the allegation was “funny” and that his country was already doing its best to assist Kuala Lumpur in the search.

Najib already faces strained relations with the United States over the conviction on Anwar-Kajangappeal of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, a favorite of many US politicians and financier George Soros, among others, on what were obviously trumped up charges of sodomy. According to several sources including the purported victim’s father, the charges were cooked up in the prime minister’s office.  The country is also facing criticism over confiscation of Christian bibles that use the word “Allah” to denote God and other issues.

US officials have had a habit of publicly observing diplomatic niceties in dealing with Kuala Lumpur and it is uncertain what kind of conversation Obama is going to have with the Malaysian premier.  

Najib has repeatedly gone to the US – and the White House – and to the United Nations to characterize Malaysia as a moderate Muslim nation only to take no action against growing religious extremism on the part of Malay nationalists ‑ much to the distress of the country’s other races.

Utusan Malaysia has been at the forefront of racial attacks on ethnic Chinese and Indians. In 2012, a columnist called former Indonesian President B J Habibie a traitor and a “dog of imperialism” for meeting with Anwar. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the comments were unethical and overstepped the bounds of decorum, adding that they had jeopardized relations between the two countries.

However, Utusan’s vitriol is usually reserved for members of the opposition and for Christians. In 2011, for instance, the newspaper printed allegations that Christian pastors were seeking to install a Christian prime minister who would change the country’s official religion from Islam.

The story was ridiculous on its face. Muslims make up at least 60 percent of the population. Some Chinese are Christians, others are Buddhists.  Islam is the country’s official religion, enshrined in the constitution although other religions are guaranteed freedom to exist. Any attempt to change the status of Islam would result in a racial conflagration.

In the current flap, according to a translation by the website Malaysian Insider, assistant editor Ku Seman Ku Hussein said it was time “to think outside the box” about the tragedy to Malaysia and world aviation, repeating baseless allegations that the US had also engineered the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda.

“If the CIA could arrange for the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, it is not improbable to link MH370 with the intelligence agency,” he wrote, referring to speculation on the involvement of American intelligence in the 9/11 attacks.

“What if the MH370 tragedy had been arranged by certain parties to put Malaysia’s relationship with China in jeopardy?” Ku Seman asked in an opinion piece in the paper’s weekend edition, Mingguan Malaysia.

“The September 11 conspiracy which had been previously treated as nonsense was now a fact, and Putrajaya must look at it from a different point of view.” Ku Seman wrote.

Memali: Not late for truth and justice


April 6.2014

Memali: Not late for truth and justice

dr-kua-kia-soongBy Kua Kia Soong@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Early on November 19, 1985, the Malaysian Police under the direction of the Home Minister laid siege on a house in the Kedah village of Memali in which PAS leader Ibrahim Libya and his comrades were staying in a bid to resist arrest under the Internal Security Act.

There were no lengthy negotiations with the besieged and by noon 14 men, including Ibrahim Libya, lay dead. Four police personnel also died, apparently as a result of friendly fire and several of the survivors were arrested under the ISA.

Certainly this 1985 massacre at Memali shares the same moral shame as the 1948 Batang Kali massacre, when 24 innocent villagers were mowed down by British troops at Batang Kali.

Instead of a remorseful apology to Ibrahim Libya and the other deceased, the Barisan Nasional government has used the Memali massacre as a spectre to warn the electorate against involvement in extremist or “deviant” Muslim sects.In the same way, the May 13 pogrom is continually resurrected as a warning and threat to the Chinese electorate should they choose to vote for the Opposition.

Musa, Dr M, IGP collectively responsible

Musa HitamThe Home Minister at the time, Tun Musa Hitam has recently tried to shift the responsibility for the massacre to the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

In fact, what Musa asserts had been disclosed three years ago, by the then OCPD of Baling, YM Tunku Muszaffar Shah, in his book entitled ‘Memali: A Policeman Remembers’.

The ex-OCPD said that the poor decision-making at the time was the result of political interference and an underestimation of the tenacity of Ibrahim’s followers.

The fact that Mahathir was still in Malaysia when the Memali massacre took place TDMhad also surfaced during the launch of the book. But whether Mahathir was still in Malaysia at the time or already on a visit to China is immaterial – collective responsibility binds those in the relevant positions of power together.

Thus the Home Minister has to take full responsibility for such an executive action as well as Amin Osman, the then Acting Inspector General of Police at the time, for his role in executing the bloody plan.

As with Operation Lalang, May 13 and other historical tragedies in our country, the Government White Paper on Memali attempts to whitewash over the government’s responsibility for the crisis.

Next, the official propagandists dutifully echo the whitewashed rendition of these events, which then becomes immortalised in school textbooks and in officially sponsored films such as Tanda Putera.

In the case of the Memali massacre, The Star’s recent ‘fact box’ cited Ibrahim Libya and his followers among the list of “major violent cases involving deviant groups in the country.”

Defiance against detention without trial

The Memali massacre must also stand out as one of the bloodiest episode of defiance against detention without trial.

After my arrest under the ISA in the early hours of October 28, 1987, I have often pondered what would have happened if I had resisted the Special Branch that morning and decided to barricade myself in my house with a bunch of my supporters.

Would a similar massacre have taken place?In hindsight, I had no intention of providing the Malaysian Police with an excuse to take such drastic action!

Nonetheless, the indignation I felt as an innocent political activist against detention without trial is real and I can understand the emotions of the villagers in Memali when confronted with such a huge Police mobilisation to arrest and detain their leader Ibrahim Libya.

According to Federal territory PAS Youth Chief, Khairil Nizam Khirudin, the Alor Setar High Court had decided that the government should pay compensation to the families of those who were killed.The widows received a small compensation, which suggests culpability on the part of the government, in wrongfully attacking the victims.

And if the victims were “deviants”, why did the National Fatwa council not issue a fatwa against Ibrahim?

According to the White Paper tabled in Parliament in February 1986, the government justified attempts to arrest Ibrahim under the ISA by accusing him of establishing the “Islamic Revolutionary Movement” which aimed to topple the federal government by force.

Ibrahim was reported to have amassed an arsenal of dangerous weapons. That alleged stockpile remains hidden, to this day and it is the responsibility for a commission of inquiry to uncover the truth of this allegation.

Never too late for truth and justice

The 1985 Memali massacre is in our relatively recent past. The Dutch government has only just agreed to pay families from Indonesia reparations for a colonial-era massacre that occurred around the same time as Batang Kali, in 1947.

Talking of Indonesia, their government has still not accounted for the massacre of close to a million people in 1965.

A group of Kenyan survivors, mostly now in their 80s, won the right in 2011 to sue the British government for damages over claims of torture during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising.

A judicial review of the government’s repeated refusal to hold a public inquiry into the alleged massacre at Batang Kali was heard in 2012.

The Malaysian state must take responsibility for the Memali massacre. It has a moral responsibility to apologise to Ibrahim and the other deceased for the tragedy and to compensate the families adequately for the senseless loss of their loved ones.

For the sake of the families of the victims and our collective conscience, we also need to get to the bottom of what happened at Batang Kali in 1948, Kuala Lumpur in May 1969, Memali in 1985, Kampung Medan in 2001.Extrajudicial killings still go on with impunity today.

Pressing need for IPCMC

The report by the police on the events leading to the killing of Ibrahim reads like any of the reports of deaths through police shootings that you can read in Suaram’s annual Human Rights Reports:

“Attempts by a large Police delegation to arrest Ibrahim at his home in November 1985 saw supporters attacking the police with firearms and sharp weapons, before the charismatic preacher was killed…”

If we had had an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) in 1985, the standard operating procedure would have been for the IPCMC to step in to investigate how the casualties were inflicted and if the police could have avoided the killings.

Unfortunately, we can only surmise and conjecture about why the police did not do more to prevent the bloodshed, since they had the house surrounded with hundreds of police personnel.

At a time when our government is at pains to tell the world in regular press conferences that they are being open and transparent, it is fitting and long overdue to open a commission of inquiry on the Memali tragedy and to institute the long overdue IPCMC.

Kua Kia Soong is advisor to human rights watchdog Suaram.

Tengku Razaleigh’s Speech at the launching of “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians”


April 4, 2014

Tengku Razaleigh’s Speech at Sultan Sulaiman Club, Kg Baru, Kuala Lumpur, 8 pm on April 3, 2014 on the occasion of the launching of “RICH MALAYSIA, POOR MALAYSIANS”, authored by Anas Alam Faizli

Ku LiYBM Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

I am honoured at having been invited by Anas Alam Faizli to launch his book, “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians”, a collection of essays reflecting his thoughts on energy, the economy and education of our beloved country. I applaud Anas for his intellectual discipline to pursue writing which demands mental toughness, quiet tenacity and absolute patience. Indeed, he deserves our admiration.

He deserves our respect given that Malaysians are notoriously apathetic to reading, let alone writing. I respectfully submit that we do not write enough, both fiction and otherwise in comparison to, say, our sprawling archipelagic neighbour to the south. It is in this context that our author deserves our commendation – my commendation in particular – for a task well done, even though the themes are serious and difficult. Well done, Anas.

Book Launch on April 3, 2014Having skimmed through the book, I must admit that I have more than just a passing interest in it; and at least for two reasons. I am always interested in writings on the subject of energy, be they articles for lay reading or academic treatises. I feel especially close when oil and petroleum are discussed. This is because of my task previously to see through the legislation of the Petroleum Development Act, 1974; the negotiation of the production sharing contracts with oil majors whose roles were redefined as contractors to the national oil company in the post-PDA era; and, establishing and developing PETRONAS into a professionally reputable and internationally respectable national oil company.

Secondly, having been schooled in economics, I follow its development keenly, both at the national and international levels. This is strengthened further by my having once been the Minister of Finance charged with the financial and economic management of the country. And of course, given the collective responsibility of the Cabinet, national policies on such subjects as education interest me greatly.

Let us reflect, for a moment, upon the situation regarding the supply and consumption of petroleum in the country and the downstream role of PETRONAS in the retailing of this essential and strategic product. Given our continuous inability to guide the country out of the middle income trap into the high income bracket, we have been using, for long spells, petroleum subsidisation to solve the problem of its affordability by ordinary people in the lower strata of the economic chain. While the subsidising of consumer goods is not the most efficient of ways in managing the high cost of living, it is fairly understandable if the government extends a helping hand to the small man in that manner.

What is sinful and cannot be forgiven is the ease with which the power that be had been dishing out subsidies to such entities as the national power supplier, the independent power producers and some other non-power outfits. As has been pointed out by Anas, since 1997 this subsidy has amounted to RM136.5 billion. The sad part is that while these power producers continue to enjoy subsidised fuel price, petroleum subsidy to the consumers – which purportedly cost the government RM14 billion in 2011 – was partly discontinued recently.

It is glaringly obvious that the government has been treating PETRONAS as a cash cow. Anas continues to point out that over 37 years from 1974 – 2011, the government had been paid some RM529 billion in dividends, taxes, petroleum proceeds and export duties from the national oil company. The reliance on PETRONAS to help outfits with strong linkages to the government out of financial trouble has been going on from as far back as 1985. In that year it rescued Bank Bumiputera with a RM2.5 billion bailout and again in 1991 when it coughed up another RM1 billion. In 1997, Petronas had to rescue the financially ailing Konsortium Perkapalan Berhad for RM2 billion.

The national oil company was also made to underwrite the construction of the Twin Towers in the heart of the KL golden triangle for RM6 billion and the building of the extravagant Putrajaya for RM22 billion. In all, more than a half trillion ringgit have been spent. This amount could have been used more productively to fund a national pension programme for Malaysians as has been done by a certain Scandinavian country.

This extravagance that had been forced on to PETRONAS has also deprived the company from the much needed cash build-up for reinvestment which would ensure its business sustainability. Given the finite nature of hydrocarbon as a resource, it is important for PETRONAS to look further afield at investments in businesses outside of oil and gas.

Looked at from this perspective, it is all the more critical for the corporation to have a strong cash reserve for reinvestment purposes. It was this need for prudence that had led Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of the day, to impress upon me the need to ensure that Petronas would enjoy parity with such multinational companies as the once much touted seven sisters, two of which ultimately became its contractors.

Today PETRONAS is at par with the oil majors and it is ranked as one of Fortune 500’s largest and most profitable oil and gas companies. But sadly, it is being abused and treated as the piggy bank whenever the government needs cash in a hurry.

Ladies and gentlemen, why is this so? Why is there a discrepancy between what was visualised by the founding fathers of PETRONAS and what it has turned out to be 40 years on; that is, as a banker of sorts to the government.

The truth is that there had been consistent political interference and this had affected PETRONAS, even though it is a professionally well run corporation. There is a blurring of lines demarcating the party in power and government, and by extension, the party supremo and the head of government. Cynics would contend that it was done on purpose to facilitate the development of politics of patronage. This, in turn, led to the growth of crony capitalism.

This inter-ethnic dichotomy is no more than a duplication of effort which result in the inefficient application of resources. It is worsened by the economic disparity that continues to be persistently reflected along racial line, notwithstanding the efforts made to blur and wipe it out. As explained by Anas, the bottom 40% of Malaysia in economic terms is still made up of Bumiputera households.

Transpose this against the notion that about 90% of their incomes are made up of wages and salaries which are hardly commensurate with the relatively more rapid increases in living costs, this problem takes on a much darker hue. As an illustration of how low Malaysian income generally is, it is worthwhile noting that the EPF had been known to report that about 79% of its contributors earn RM3,000 or less a month.

This reality becomes more significant when we realise that disposable income contributes much to purchasing power, especially among the relatively poor as opposed to the wealthy where purchasing power is additionally sourced from assets other than salaries and wages. A report on the national human development goes further to say that the “Chinese has a higher purchasing power compared to other ethnic groups…” More problematic and easily a potential source of politico-economic problem is the assertion by the report that there is “homogeneity in the purchasing power gap.” It asserts that the super-rich, regardless of ethnicity, has about 18 to 20 times more purchasing power.

Purchasing power has a graver ramification from the standpoint of economic wellbeing. This has to do with the reality that a person who enjoys a high income is not necessarily guaranteed a better quality of life. Neither does the effort to improve the quality of life through high income mean much if the cost of living rises rampantly. Again, an observation by Anas is very illuminating here. He contends that a graduate who entered the job market for the first time, say, in 1978 on a monthly salary of RM1,000 could afford a lower-end car of RM12,400 or 12 months’ salary and take out a mortgage, perhaps, on a RM62,000 house in a fairly upscale Kuala Lumpur suburb.

Today, a fresh entrant into the labour market on a monthly salary of RM2,500, which is two and half times higher than his earlier counterpart, would find a roughly similar car costing him RM178,000, roughly 71 months of his salary. A house outside the Greater Kelang Valley area, in Nilai for example, would set him back by RM350,000. This situation could get worse in all probability.

Ladies and gentlemen, the challenge before us is to mitigate the socio-political issues and problems to a minimum. This will ensure that they do not become a part of our political culture and, by extension, our way of life. We must have the will to stop patronage and cronyism. In this way rent-seekers would be cut off. But herein lies the problem.

Political leaders are loath to upsetting the apple cart and disturb their cosy symbiosis with rent-seeking cronies. More often than not, these are the people whom they rely upon for political funds in their effort to continue to latch on to power.

What then could be done given this near-checkmate type of a situation? I say pressure must be brought to bear and it must be made known that we will not tolerate any more politics that is less than ethical. We must clearly and loudly make it known that politics must be practised with a high level of integrity. No, politics is not dirty but its practitioners, more often than not, are. In the longer run and in order to ensure that ethical politics of impeccable integrity is practised, we must overhaul our education system.

We need to shift our education paradigm from a system that emphasises regurgitating what is learnt by rote to amass distinctions to one that puts a premium on logical and critical thinking in which source as well as general reading is a major activity in providing the primary material. We must revisit our educational philosophy in order that we may give equal importance to classroom and off-classroom activities in educating the young Malaysian into a potential leader material for the public or private domains. Of course, this is a huge and important subject that needs proper addressing at, perhaps, another forum.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the last several minutes I have shared with you my thoughts on the subjects addressed by Anas in his book. I hope it has generated enough interest to trigger off your critical thoughts on the subjects or other related subjects. In the process it is hoped that some of you will go a step further to put pen to paper as Anas had done. On that note, I take this opportunity to congratulate the author for making the book available to the public which I have much pleasure in introducing. Thank you and I wish you a pleasant day ahead.

*This speech was delivered by former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah at the launch of the book “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians” by Anas Alam Faizli.

Anas Alam Faizli speaks in Bahasa Malaysia on his book, “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman, Kg. Baru. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 3, 2014 (below):

Book, Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians

Yang dihormati dif-dif jemputan yang terhormat,

YBM Tengku Razaleigh

Dr Syed Husin Ali, YB Saari Sungib, Tan Sri Kamal Salih, TokSu Norizam,

Pak Chong, Siraj, Azlan, Dato Din Merican, Sharaad,…

Para hadirin-hadirat yang dihormati sekalian,

Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh dan salam sejahtera,

 Saya ingin merakamkan setinggi-tinggi penghargaan kepada YBM Tengku Razaleigh yang sudi merasmikan buku Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians dan Malaysia Kaya, Rakyat Miskin. Kredibiliti Tengku tidak dapat dipersoalkan – pengalaman Tengku sebagai Founding Chairman dan CEO Petronas yang juga pernah memegang tampuk kementerian kewangan dan perdagangan antarabangsa serta mantan pengerusi Bank Bumiputra.

Dalam pendidikan pula, Tengku pernah mengatakan pada bulan Julai yang lalu bahawa “Sistem pendidikan negara kita gagal dan kita tidak boleh mempertahankannya lagi. Tambah beliau, satu tindakan yang ikhlas, berani dan radikal diperlukan bagi mempercepatkan proses pembaharuan dalam pelajaran dan pembelajaran.”

Buku kerdil ini juga telah diangkat nilainya ke tahap yang lebih tinggi kerana sumbangan dua orang pemimpin yang saya sangat kagumi dan hormati- pemimpin yang mewakili gen-Y dan juga generasi veteran. Terima kasih yang tidak terhingga diucapkan kepada YB Nurul Izzah dan Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali yang telah mencurahkan pemikiran mereka seterusnya menyuntik kehebatan permulaan kepada buku kerdil ini. Terima kasih juga buat barisan panelis yang sangat tersohor, En Mohamed Siraj, En Azlan Awang, Dato’ Din Merican dan juga moderator Mr Sharaad Kuttan.

Anas Alam FaizliBuku ini merupakan himpunan esei yang telah ditulis dalam tempoh setahun. Manuskrip versi Inggeris dan Bahasa telah siap serentak tetapi versi Inggeris diterbitkan dahulu untuk menilai sambutannya. Walaupun ia merupakan himpunan esei tetapi Alhamdulillah berjaya disusun dalam satu bentuk kronologi yang mempunyai kekuataan tersendiri. Sebuah himpunan esei yang berbicara tentang isu-isu nasional dan global seperti isu tenaga, ekonomi, pendidikan dan kesukarelawan, yang saya harap mampu mencetuskan wadah bicara kritis dan berguna untuk semua.

 Penulisan dimulakan dengan berkongsi amanat almarhum Atok saya, Mohd Zain bin Abu dengan tiga prinsipnya iaitu:

1-  Pendidikan ialah perkara paling penting dan akan sentiasa menjadi keutamaan

2- Elakkanlah seberapa banyak permusuhan dengan orang lain

3-  Dan jadilah orang yang memberikan banyak manfaat kepada orang lain

Buku ini antara lainnya satu usaha untuk memenuhi wasiat Atok, dengan kerendahan diri, satu percubaan kecil untuk menjadi seorang yang bermanfaat.

Idea utama buku ini ialah satu penerimaan bahawa , Malaysia ialah sebuah negara kaya dengan hasil mahsul bumi.  Beratus tahun di jajah dan hasil kekayaan di larikan penjajah,  kita kembali memegang daulat sebuah tanah yang kaya dan mewah. Maka kerana itu,  sebaik sahaja merdeka, tanah ini tidak pernah  putus memberi sumbangannya baik daripada bijih timah, getah, kelapa sawit, bijih besi, bauksit, kayu balak dan terkini minyak dan gas yang menyumbang 40% hasil pendapatan negara.  Semua ini ialah sumber tidak ternilai yang perlu dihargai dan digunakan sebaik mungkin.  Oleh itu,  adalah sangat penting masyarakat umum memahami sebanyak mungkin mengenai industri yang menjadi “cash cow” negara ini.

Bahagian sumber petroleum Malaysia ini dimulakan dengan persoalan adakah kisah Petronas ialah kisah si tanggang? Beberapa soalan penting seperti – bilakah minyak akan habis? Dimanakah industri perkhidmatan tempatan dan isu-isu yang lain telah dikupas malah diakhirnya turut diberikan beberapa cadangan penyelesaian. Kemudiannya, satu penerangan mengenai sejarah Petronas, bagaimanakah ia beroperasi dan sistem fiskal Malaysia diperjelaskan. Konsesi vs PSC. Persengketaan Royalti Minyak juga telah disampaikan secara terperinci daripada perspektif semua negeri yang terlibat. Bahagian ini ditutup dengan cadangan pemberian ekuiti Petronas kepada negeri pengeluar minyak berbanding penambahan Royalti.

Bahagian Sosio-Ekonomi pula dimulakan dengan merungkai 8 realiti Malaysia dan mengapa pendidikan tinggi wajar dibiayai oleh kerajaan. Saya ambil jalan berbeza dan tidak membandingkan dengan negara lain tetapi melihat perspektif kaca mata Malaysia itu sendiri dan menyimpulkan mengapa kita perlukan pendidikan tinggi. Slogan saya dalam buku ini, 1 Keluarga 1 Graduan.

Esei berikutnya menghuraikan dengan panjang lebar apa yang dimaksudkan dengan Negara Berpendapatan Tinggi, Rakyat Berpendapatan Rendah. Malaysia Kaya, Rakyat Miskin.

Ilustrasi disampaikan dengan fakta dan diterangkan secara halus. Kemudiannya saya membuka kisah Mitos Si Kaya dan Si Miskin diikuti dengan penerangan bagaimana sebuah Negara Berkebajikan akan meluncurkan Malaysia kearah masa depan yang jauh lebih baik.

Menuju kearah demokrasi yang lebih kukuh dengan dua parti dominan negara, saya juga menulis bagaimana kaedahnya untuk memahami dan membuat analisis kritikal ke atas manifesto yang dijanjikan oleh parti-parti bertanding.

Bahagian ini ditutup dengan penjelasan panjang mengenai perjanjian TPPA yang sedang dirunding oleh Malaysia.

Seterusnya,  saya mengupas isu pendidikan dengan analisis pencapaian ranking antarabangsa Malaysia. Saya kemudiannya menyeru membina budaya membaca buat menuju mentaliti negara dunia pertama. 1996 – 2 muka surat, terkini 2 buku berbanding Jepun Perancis 10, AS dan Kanada 17 buku. Kemudiannya saya menyeru kepada penyemaian budaya berfikir dengan beberapa cadangan. Saya juga mempersoalkan jika sekolah moden itu satu pengkhianat kepada pendidikan. Bahagian ini ditutup dengan cadangan mendefinisikan semula falsafah pendidikan negara dengan cadangan Cinta sebagai Pedagogi dan FPN yang baru.

Saya percaya pendidikan boleh dijadikan penyelesaian kepada semua masalah yang dihadapi negara.

Bahagian terakhir menyentuh mengenai kesukarelawanan dan satu penulisan panjang yang menghuraikan mengenai bagaimana kesukarelawanan boleh berjaya dan menyumbang kearah pendidikan yang lebih baik. Saya juga nukilkan konsep kuasa ketiga dan bagaimana kesukarelawanan boleh menjadi agen menyubur demokrasi dengan memberi ruang suara kepada semua pihak.

 Buku ditutup dengan epilog bahawa gerakan massa Reformasi adalah milik semua  dan rakyat perlukan satu Rejuvenasi.  Seperti yang saya sering utarakan, penulisan ini adalah milik umum, dan saya seru warga umum untuk mengulas, mencabar dan memperkembangkan idea-idea di dalam buku ini. Usul-usul kritis yang padat di dalam buku ini saya mohon diperhaluskan dan semoga dapat dimanfaatkan oleh semua.

Akhir kata, Baca, Faham, Fikir dan Bertindak. Berjuanglah!

Terima Kasih.

 

Dr. John remembers Irene Fernandez


April  4, 2014

Dr. John remembers Irene Fernandez

by K J John@www.malaysiakini.com–04-04-14

Irene Fernandez is a personal friend of our family. We grew up in the same neighbourhood in the early 60s. Therefore, my feelings about her passing are mixed at best. Of course, since we are Christians, death is something we can look forward to, because of our personal and relational faith we have with Jesus Christ. He is the Judge at the Second Coming.

We believe he destroyed the dividing wall of hostility between Man and God by his death and resurrection. What a reminder about why we must take this season of Lent more seriously, as we reflect on both; his realities in history of time to define Good Friday and Easter. Good Friday was the good work of Jesus on the cross to redefine our eternity, and Easter is our similar hope through his resurrection; because he still lives.

Nonetheless without getting into the theology of ‘what quality of personal and relational faith defines our eternal life in Heaven’, I will believe that I will see the late Dr Irene Fernandez in Heaven. I will look forward to that day.

Even so, allow me to reflect on this question; did Irene deserve better from all of us? What do I mean?Irene was a great lady who lived out her dignity and destiny of her calling through her life. She lived and died for her beliefs. That is now her legacy for those of us who know her and have been influenced by her ‘good works’.

She was more than her value of saltiness and the light she shone into the systemic level of bribery and corruption at all levels of society. I will miss Irene. Farewell my good friend until we meet again on yonder shore.

The abuse of Irene’s dignity

Almost in identical style and execution but learning from their mistakes of the past, especially with the Lim Guan Eng incident, the Attorney-General’s Chambers selectively prosecuted and persecuted Irene for telling the truth about bribery and corruption related to especially naming Bangledeshi workers and documenting of their case stories. She was charged in court with “lying about truths”, sentenced to jail, and finally released by the appeal court. What misjustice!

Muslim theology also states that all humans have a God-ordained dignity which must therefore be honoured and respected by all in positions of authority. These authorities do not deny God or ignoring the person they call ‘Allah.’Now, we even see Muslim judges practice ‘rule by law and not really rule of law,’ because they do not understand Muslim theology well. They think God has ordained them to behave like God and decide some other’s destiny and deny their dignity.

My doctoral thesis was on this subject of dignity in the workplace. Dignity so defined is a God-quality of honour and respect for human beings, as the highest of all created beings, including angels. All other humans must grant such mutual respect and regard for the other; without fear or favour. But, systems always fail to do this well, especially because the ‘powerful’ always assume they are already on God’s side and no one can question their ‘abuse of authority.’ How untrue!

Even Muslim theology has a similar concept of trusteeship or stewardship. Therefore, all authorities, by name, must be both accountable and responsible to Almighty God on Judgment Day, for things done or left undone.

Therefore, I feel guilty, because I worked for this ‘authoritarian government’ which caused great and severe abuse to Irene Fernandez by wrongly ‘prosecuting, but which resulted in severe persecution’, with even her passport and travel rights being denied. Then finally, she was released by the Court of Appeal.

Did not Irene deserve better from all of us, especially when this so-called legitimate government abused her dignity and denied a proper destiny. For that the global community gave her the ‘Right to Livelihood Award’; often called the alternative Nobel Prize.

Irene’s lifeline

Born in 1946, we became neighbours sometime in 1961, when our family moved to the first-ever housing development in Jalan Kolam Ayer in Sungai Petani. We had some glorious times of friendship and family fellowship as they were also Malayali Christians, like us. Then I left to go to school in the RMC in 1965.

I reconnected with Irene when her case hit the newspapers. I was then writing a column in the NST. I wrote and supported Irene’s findings and they published my views, without edit. Then when we started Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute’s (OHMSI) National Congress on Integrity in 2005, Irene was one of the keynote speakers, apart from Bishop Paul Tan and Clifford Herbert, former secretarygeneral of the Finance Ministry.

We were a multi-ethnic and multi-faith community as we sought to define the word ‘integrity.’ One of the best definitions on this concept of ‘integrity’ which was publicised by the mainstream newspaper was by the chief secretary to the government, Sidek Hassan (right). He popularised the definition that “integrity is what you do when no one else is watching”.

Of course, whether Sidek or us, we know that “when no one else is watching” is not such; as God is always watching. Therefore what Sidek means by that ‘definition’ is integrity makes requisite for us to do what is right, good, and true when no one else human is watching. But, we are reminded by scriptures that God is always watching and keep a record of the same; which becomes our basis for judgment at Jesus’s Second Coming.

Did not Irene do what is good, true, and right by defending the dignity of Bangladeshi workers? Why then did we prosecute and persecute her? Who are really the guilty ones? Do you really think God was not watching when we do the same? Did not Irene Fernandez deserve better, as she lived her life of dignity, integrity, and destiny?

Is not wrongful prosecution equal to persecution?

Can the citizens of Malaysia not take the attorney-general (AG) to court over wrongful prosecution of so many public cases? Every time a senior public servant is charged with corruption and then finally discharged by the higher courts for the lack of conclusive evidence, I feel the same way about each and every one of them; their dignity and destiny which God intended for them is denied by my mortals.

We are not gods; in fact let me quote the father who said, “the police are not god”. They cannot cause death and not be held responsible and fully accountable. Let me modify the same argument; the AG is not god and the cabinet must hold him responsible for the Irene case and make good their ‘uninformed incompetence in prosecuting and persecuting her’.

Irene deserved very much more from all of us. The reason evil governance begins because good and ordinary people choose to close on eye and think they cannot make a difference. Irene showed us otherwise she could. Let us follow her legacy and not follow the crooks. May God bless our soul and spirit.

Judges dancing to tune of UMNO


April 3, 2014

Judges dancing to tune of UMNO

It has to take one stupid, perverse and farcical court to agree with another stupid, perverse and farcical court.

 
COMMENT@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Anwar-Ibrahim-2011-mantan-PMBy Anwar Ibrahim

Talking about political winds, it appears that lately, the Malaysian judiciary, particularly the judges of the superior courts, are caught in the whirlwind and are frantically racing against each other to please the powers that be of the day.

In the frenzy to curry favours from their political overlords, these minions have stopped at nothing to ensure that they will be the first to reach the finish line.

Pots of gold await the backscratchers and lackeys. And where financial gratification may appear a tad blatant, there’s always elevation to the higher rungs of office to whet the appetite.

Unlike parliamentarians, judges will never be content to be backbenchers. The preferred place is the front and the top where they can tower over ordinary mortals, even if they be law-makers or members of the Bar.

They fear no one except their political masters because they know on which side their bread is buttered. And they shall not bite the hand that feeds.

Throwing judicial decorum to the wind, they bare their fangs and sharpen their claws in order to cow supplicants in their courts into submission, and in the process, their demeanour and conduct leaves no one in doubt about their bias.

And though they know that an adversarial system dictates that judges must not just act impartially but must be seen to be so, they bend backwards to don the hats of prosecutor and executioner as well.

When this happens, as indeed it is happening now with unprecedented frequency, we know justice has gone to the dogs. It is happening because Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, in flagrant abuse of power, has launched a new campaign of political persecution.

“Even if we can’t defeat them at the polls, all is not lost (remember Altantuya?). We still have our judges to do our bidding. See how they fall over each other at the snap of our fingers!”

This is the alarming trend in our judiciary where judges work hand in glove with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to deny leaders of the federal opposition, duly elected representatives of the people in parliament, their right to justice.

In taking this unconstitutional and nefarious line, they have turned the doctrine of the separation of powers on its head.Hence, apart from me, MPs Karpal Singh, Azmin Ali, Antony Loke, Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Syed Azman and Shamsul Iskandar just to name a few, are marked for the judicial abattoir by the executioners.

It may be sodomy, it may be sedition, or it may be illegal assembly, or whatever. These bootlickers know less of law and the principles of justice than lording over the courts parading proudly as peacocks (and peahens) their colourful judicial plumage overflowing with the arrogance of power.

Life after retirement

As for those judges who used to sit on the throne, there is still life after retirement. The involvement of former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad in the National Unity Front, closely linked to Perkasa, Malaysia’s icon of racism, while not shocking remains scandalous.

It makes a mockery of the institution of the judiciary which he once headed and contradicts the principles of equality, equity and justice that the judiciary is supposed to stand for.

Is it conceivable for a former chief judge to head an organisation that is adamantly opposed to the National Unity Consultative Council, and to be notoriously engaged in race-baiting and the trumpeting of the superiority of one race over other races in our multi-racial and multi-religious country?

It would appear that it is not only conceivable but that it is lauded with much fanfare by UMNO going by the prominent coverage given to it by the UMNO-controlled media.

Incidentally, this is the same judge who, in his Federal Court judgment, had written that “the court’s decision must only be based on the evidence adduced and nothing else and (hence) it had to acquit because of lack of evidence,” but qualified it with the illogical and manifestly asinine statement that “we find evidence to confirm that the appellants were involved in homosexual activities”.

In other words, “we find him NOT guilty but at the same time guilty”. Anything more stupid, perverse and farcical than that cannot be found in our judicial annals (no pun intended) except for the judgments and pronouncements of Augustine Paul and Ariffin Jaka in respect of Sodomy 1 and the current decisions in respect of the application for expunging and the Sodomy 2 appeal.

As they say, it has to take one stupid, perverse and farcical court to agree with another stupid, perverse and farcical court.

UMNO must fight its own political battles and not be such a coward to use the judiciary to help them fight the opposition. How long more are our judges going to dance to tune of UMNO?

When will they stop becoming stooges and lap dogs of UMNO leaders? How long more must the rakyat endure this sham? Who are the puppeteers in this shadow play?

Are these judges not aware that UMNO will not be there forever to cover their tracks, or their backs, or that not only will history judge them, but that the rakyat are not going to sit idly by – forever – while they continue to pervert the course of justice?

Parliament, as the vox populi, must make its voice heard before we reach the tipping point and the situation gets out of our hands.

There is a tide in our affairs which, unless we seize it, will see our voyage for democracy and rule of law in shallows and in miseries.This is the rising tide of judicial impropriety, arrogance of power and transgression. As one of the three branches of government, parliament must reassert the sanctity of the separation of powers principle.

It is therefore morally incumbent and constitutionally expedient that parliament acts accordingly to break up the illegal and unconstitutional collusion between the Executive and the Judiciary.

Anwar Ibrahim is the federal Opposition Leader.

Irene In Memorium


April 2, 2014

Irene Fernandez: Champion of the Helpless and the Explioted

by Steve Oh (April 1, 2014)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

OBITUARY: A beacon of hope is extinguished and Malaysia is a darker place for its irreplaceable loss. News of the passing of Tenanganita Co-founder and Director Irene Fernandez was not what I had expected to read in Malaysiakini yesterday.

Irene F

I am saddened by the death of a remarkable and irreplaceable woman, a towering and selfless Malaysian who devoted her life to helping the helpless, comforting the exploited and soothing the wounds of the tortured in a once bright place that is blackened by corruption and that has lost its way.

Often she faced insurmountable odds against the might of the powers-that-be and its institutions of persecution. The political tyrants made life unfairly difficult for this intrepid, irrepressible and humble Malaysian ‘Joan of Arc’ of maltreated migrants and repressed refugees in her country.

It is incredible how such an amazing woman who spoke out for the voiceless and right-less can be charged in court for doing good for others, and it is an indictment of ourselves that we allowed the good to be called evil and the evil good and Irene to be bullied by those who abuse their powers and disgrace their humanity and country.

It is hard to speak of Irene without recalling the hostile environment where the authorities are unwilling to be scrutinised and held accountable for their deeds. She overcame the untold hardships she suffered at the hands of the overbearing authorities that had harassed her.

I first learned of this amazing woman some years ago when news of her court case emerged in the local newspapers and Malaysiakini. This unassuming and soft-spoken woman had been unfairly persecuted and prosecuted for her role in highlighting the plight of migrant workers.

It was the irony of her plight and her unwavering commitment to her cause and forbearance under unfair persecution that earned her a place in my heart. She was my hero not found among men in her ‘jihad’ for the unjustly treated. When proud men pursued gain and glory,  this woman of women chose to side with the poor and oppressed.

Twisted persecution

Malaysiakini co-founder Steven Gan, then a reporter for The Sun, and his colleagues had in 1995 written an incriminating report of the government on 59 primarily Bangladeshi inmates who had died of preventable and treatable diseases such as typhoid and beri beri at the Semenyih immigration detention camp.

The Sun had refused to publish the damning report so Gan turned to Irene who published information from it under the title, ‘Abuse, Torture and Dehumanised Conditions of Migrant Workers in Detention Centres’ and for that she was hounded for the rest of her life by the government.

She was arrested and charged in 1996 with “maliciously publishing false news” and found guilty in 2003 after a seven-year trial. But her trials, courtesy of the government, continued outside the court. They are well-documented in local newspapers and even some outside.

In this sort of twisted persecution when politicians abuse their powers in government to prosecute the innocent who help others against the politically connected, Irene is no different from Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng when he was jailed for not dissimilar reasons.

As with Opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim and Karpal Singh, what Irene’s political enemies could not achieve in the popularity stakes, they did by using the court to hamper her attempt to attain political office by turning her into a criminal, thus disqualifying her from running for Parliament.

While the wielders of power in darkness tried to tarnish her name, the enlightened world saw differently, and she was chosen in 2004 to receive a Right Livelihood Award, also referred to as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize.’

A woman not filled with bitterness

I have met Irene twice, and regrettably, not more. The first was when my wife and I saw her in her office in Petaling Jaya when we visited Kuala Lumpur. My wife, a medical doctor, had always been interested in the plight of sex slaves and wanted to find out more from her about the subject.

Some months later, Irene and her husband and son were sitting in front of me as we shared dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Perth. I had asked her to give me a call when she visited her son in Perth and she did. Then I noticed that Irene had looked frail and had trouble walking and used a walking stick as aid.

During our dinner, my wife and I learned more about her work. I got a greater insight into her work and role and I remember a woman not filled with bitterness or one would expect to be full of acrid remarks for her cruel persecutors and political enemies after all the injustices she had been put through.

Instead she merely stated what was true regarding the plight of the migrants, what they were up against, and even in such normal discourses, it is difficult not to note the injustice of all she had undergone. But Irene had shown no ill-will toward her cruel persecutors and our conversation was about those who she helped.

She overcame what her persecutors had dished out to her and with her passing, the plight of the refugees becomes more urgent with the need for more people to stand behind the work of Tenanganita she began.

I had learned much from our brief time together and if I have regrets in life, surely one must be in failing to follow up with Irene because we were overtaken by other pressing things and soon lost touch with her.

As I write, I recall the strength of this remarkable woman in whose stoic countenance were etched the sufferings of a saintly woman, sufferings not the fruit of personal making but from helping the helpless in their pitiful plight. The troubles and sorrow of the suffering became as much hers. I was with greatness and regret not having realised it.

A life of many trials

Malaysia came to its senses when on November 24, 2008, justice Mohd Apandi Ali overturned Irene’s conviction of ‘maliciously publishing false news’.

For 13 years since her arrest and charging in 1996, Irene had lived a life of many trials, her passport was held by the court, she could not stand for parliament in 2004, and was the subject of many police visits to her office and questioning.

Yet I had observed she had not been shy in making timely and relevant comments when needed on the plight of migrant workers and refugees. In a place where many are cowed and timid, Irene roared like a lioness without fear and favour, and political correctness was not in her vocabulary.

In her quiet dignified manner, she seemed a tower of insurmountable strength on an unshakeable urgent mission. In fact, I see in her a regal quality that only great  people like Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa display. Such people of conviction are rare these days.

Malaysia has many women of noble character who make their country a better place. They are the salt of the nation. Irene stood tall among them, if not above most, and has left a legacy that will be a challenge to match, if at all possible.

With other Malaysians and those who have been beneficiaries of her compassion and commitment, I share the grief of the passing of a great Malaysian and I know would have been a great friend had we had not let that opportunity slip.

My wife and I pass on our condolences to Irene’s family. Good night, Irene, good night – see you in the morning.

Inside Singapore’s Socio-Economic Success


April 2, 2014

Singaporean Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam  on Singapore’s Socio-Economic Success

port-of-singaporePort of Singapore

Is Hishammuddin Hussein headed for the top?


March 31, 2014

Is Hishammuddin Hussein, voice of Malaysia on flight MH370, headed for the top?

After a brush with death and addressing world’s media on flight MH370, Hishammuddin Hussein’s personal journey may yet take a dramatic turn

by Satish Cheney in Kuala Lumpur

 PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 6:08am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 7:21am

 

MH370: Questions for the US and its Intelligence Services


March 30, 2014

Disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370: The Trillion Dollar Question to the U.S. and Its Intelligence Services

Malaysian media should pose critical questions to the US and its Intelligence Services and not to the Malaysian Government

Let me state from the outset that I totally agree with the press statements by Malaysia’s Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that “we have conducted ourselves fairly, responsibly and history will judge us for that.”

And to a mischievous and presumptuous question from a correspondent of the Financial Times, Datuk Seri with confidence and integrity rightly said without any fear of contradiction that, “I don’t think we could have done anything different from what we have already done.”  Well done!

What technological innovation would prompt the Pentagon's military intelligence agencies to electronically interdict a civilian airliner in mid-flight, while disposing of the collateral passengers as shark bait?

What technological innovation would prompt the Pentagon’s military intelligence agencies to electronically interdict a civilian airliner in mid-flight, while disposing of the collateral passengers as shark bait?

The Financial Times, CNN and other foreign media ought to pose similar questions to the US and its intelligence services and stop insinuating that Malaysia has not been transparent and/or engaged in a cover-up. Foreign media should stop engaging in dirty politics!

 It is my hope that following the publication of this article, Malaysian mass media will focus on questioning the integrity of the US’s assistance to Malaysia in the first three weeks of the SAR mission, notwithstanding its recent offer of more assistance.

I take comfort that my reservations about the US and its intelligence services as well as other intelligence services closely linked to the US, especially British secret service, have been more than vindicated by Reuters in its news report on 28th March, 2014 entitled Geopolitical games handicap hunt for flight MH370

The search for flight MH370, the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that vanished over the South China Sea on March 8, has involved more than two dozen countries and 60 aircraft and ships but has been bedevilled by regional rivalries.

… With the United States playing a relatively muted role in the sort of exercise that until recently it would have dominated, experts and officials say there was no real central coordination until the search for the plane was confined to the southern Indian Ocean, when Australia largely took charge.

Part of the problem is that Asia has no NATO-style regional defence structure, though several countries have formal alliances with the United States. Commonwealth members Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia also have an arrangement with Britain to discuss defence matters in times of crisis.

As mystery deepened over the fate of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew, most of them Chinese, it became clear that highly classified military technology might hold the key.

But the investigation became deadlocked over the reluctance of others to share sensitive data, a reticence that appeared to harden as the search area widened.

“This is turning into a spy novel,” said an envoy from a Southeast Asian country, noting it was turning attention to areas and techniques few countries liked to publicly discuss.

Ultimately, the only country with the technical resources to recover the plane – or at least its black box recorder, which could lie in water several miles deep – may be the United States. Its deep-sea vehicles ultimately hauled up the wreckage of Air France 447 after its 2009 crash into a remote region of the South Atlantic.

While Putrajaya has been forced to reveal some of the limits and ranges of its air defences, the reluctance of Malaysia’s neighbours to release sensitive radar data may have obstructed the investigation for days.

At an ambassadorial meeting in the ad hoc crisis centre at an airport hotel on March 16, Malaysia formally appealed to countries on the jet’s possible path for help, but in part met with polite stonewalling, two people close to the talks said.

Some countries asked Malaysia to put its request in writing, triggering a flurry of diplomatic notes and high-level contacts.

‘It became a game of poker in which Malaysia handed out the cards at the table but couldn’t force others to show their hand, a person from another country involved in the talks said.

As in the northern Indian Ocean, where Chinese forces operate alongside other nations to combat Somali piracy, current and former officials say all sides are almost certainly quietly spying on and monitoring each other at the same time. (emphasis added)

WantChinaTimes, Taiwan reported,

The United States has taken advantage of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight to test the capabilities of China’s satellites and judge the threat of Chinese missiles against its aircraft carriers, reports our sister paper Want Daily.

Erich Shih, chief reporter at Chinese-language military news monthly Defense International, said the US has more and better satellites but has not taken part in the search for flight MH370, which disappeared about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of March 8 with 239 people on board. Shih claimed that the US held back because it wanted to see what information China’s satellites would provide.

The above is the reality which we have to confront. Therefore, desist any attempt to label the above mainstream media articles as a “conspiracy theory”. Reuters has let the Genie out of the bottle!

Malaysia’s Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Hishammuddin gave hints of Malaysia’s difficulties (as his hands were tied by intelligence protocols and or refusal by the relevant foreign intelligence services and diplomatic reluctance) but our local media failed to appreciate the nuances of his statements by not directing their questions at those parties that have failed Malaysia as their neighbour and in their duties under various defence treaties and arrangements.

Malaysian media, please read at the minimum three times, the sentences in bold AND WAKE UP TO THE REALITY that our country has been badly treated even though our country put all its national security cards on the table so that countries whose nationals are passengers on flight MH 370 could come forward with sincerity to assist in resolving this unfortunate tragedy which is not Malaysia’s making.

Malaysia is but a victim of this tragedy whose plane, MH 370 was used for a hidden agenda for which only time will reveal. 

On the 27th March, 2014, I exposed how Israel is exploiting the tragedy to create public opinion for a war against Iran, a Muslim country that has close ties with Malaysia.

At the outset of the SAR Mission, all concerned stated categorically that every scenario, no matter how unlikely would be examined critically with no stones left unturned – terrorist hijacking, suicide mission, technical failures, inadequate security, criminal actions of the pilot and or co-pilot etc.

Given the above premise, families of the passengers and the crew of MH 370 have every right to ask the following questions of the US and other countries that have sophisticated technologies to track and monitor airplanes and ships in all circumstances.

Such questions should not be shot down by those who have a hidden agenda that such queries amount to “conspiracy theories”. Far from being conspiracy theories, we assert that the questions tabled below and the rationale for asking them are well founded and must be addressed by the relevant parties, failing which an inference ought to be drawn that they are complicit in the disappearance of MH 370.

Let’s us begin.

1)        Was the plane ordered to turn back, if so who gave the order?

2)        Was the plane turned back manually or by remote control?

3)        If the latter, which country or countries have the technologies to execute such an operation?

4)        Was MH 370 weaponised before its flight to Beijing?

5)        If so, what are the likely methods for such a mission – Biological weapons, dirty bombs?

6)        Was Beijing / China the target and if so why?

7)        Qui Bono?

8)        The time sequence of countries identifying the alleged MH 370 debris in the Indian ocean was first made by Australia followed by France, Thailand, Japan, and Britain via Immarsat. Why did US not offer any satellite intelligence till today?

9)        Prior to the switch of focus to the Indian ocean, was the SAR mission in the South China seas, used as a cover for the deployment of undersea equipment to track and monitor naval capabilities of all the nations’ navies competing for ownership of disputed territorial waters? Reuters as quoted above seems to have suggested such an outcome.

10)     Why was there been no focus, especially by foreign mass media, on the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of Diego Garcia, the strategic naval and air base of the US?

11)     Why no questions were asked whether the flight path of MH 370 (if as alleged it crashed in the Indian Ocean), was within the geographical parameters of the Intelligence capabilities of Diego Garcia? Why were no planes deployed from Diego Garcia to intercept the “Unidentified” plane which obviously would pose a threat to the Diego Gracia military base?

12)     The outdated capabilities of the Hexagon satellite system deployed by the US in the 1970s has a ground resolution of 0.6 meters;  what’s more, the present and latest technologies boast the ability to identify objects much smaller in size. Why have such satellites not provided any images of the alleged debris in the Indian Ocean? Were they deliberately withheld?

13)     On April 6th, 2012, the US launched a mission dubbed “NROL-25” (consisting of a spy satellite) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The NROL-25 satellite was likely rigged with “synthetic aperture radar” a system capable of observing targets around the globe in daylight and darkness, able to penetrate clouds and identify underground structures such as military bunkers.

Though the true capabilities of the satellites are not publicly known due to their top-secret classification, some analysts have claimed that the technology allows the authorities to zoom in on items as small as a human fist from hundreds of miles away. How is it that no imagery of MH370 debris was forwarded to Malaysia, as this capability is not classified though other technologies might well remain classified? (Source: Slate.com)

14)     Could it be that the above capabilities were not as touted?

15)     However, in December, 2013, the USAtlas V rocket was launched carrying the spy satellite NROL-39 for the National Reconnaissance Office, an intelligence agency which is often overshadowed by the notorious National Security Agency (NSA), only it scoops data via spy satellites in outer space. The “NROL-39 emblem” is represented by the Octopus a versatile, adaptive, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide. The emblem boldly states “Nothing is beyond our reach”. This virtually means that the tentacles of America’s World Octopus are spreading across the globe to coil around everything within their grasp, which is, well, everything (Source: Voice of Moscow). Yet, the US with such capabilities remained silent. Why?

It cannot be said that it is not within the realm of probabilities that the US may not want the plane MH 370 to be recovered if rogue intelligence operators were responsible for the disappearance of MH 370.

If the above questions have been posed to the US and other intelligence agencies and answers are not forthcoming, I take the view that the Malaysian government ought to declare publicly that our national sovereignty and security have been jeopardized by the disappearance of MH 370 and that the relevant intelligence agencies have been tacitly complicit in the disappearance of MH370.

 By coming out openly to explain the predicament faced by our country, Malaysia may prevent a hostile act against a third country.

 I therefore call upon Malaysian mass media to be courageous and initiate such queries as only the US and other intelligence agencies can give definitive answers to the above 15 questions.

It is futile to demand answers from Malaysia as we are not in any position to supply the information as we do not have the capabilities of the global and regional military powers.

 Malaysians must unite behind the government so that our leaders need not feel that they are alone shouldering this enormous burden.      

Matthias Chang is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and author, who served as political secretary and adviser to former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/disappearance-of-malaysian-airlines-flight-mh-370-the-trillion-question-to-the-u-s-and-its-intelligence-services/5375780

 

 

Dr. M’s unbearably convenient memory


March 30, 2014

Dr. M’s unbearably convenient memory

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

Predictably,(Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamed cannot quite remember whether he was in the country when the Memali incident occurred in November 1985, four years and four months into his 22-year premiership.

His Deputy then, Tun Musa Hitam, said in Kota Baru last Thursday that Mahathir was in the country, not just when the incident occurred on November 19, but also up to four days after the episode in which 14 police personnel and four villagers were killed in Mukim Siong, Baling. At that time, the Malaysian public was given to understand that their Prime Minister was abroad – in China, to be sure.

Mahathir held the customary press conference at the airport upon his return from abroad. He took questions on the Memali incident in which Police opened fire on a house where religious cult leader Ibrahim Libya was holed up with several villagers. The ensuing shootout became a cause celebre.

Pressed for a response to what Musa had said about him being in the country during that incident and then affecting to show he was not, Mahathir (right) parried his former Deputy’s implied attack on his probity with, “I can’t remember.” Mahathir pleaded his advanced years (he will be 89 in July): “Since this happened a long time ago, I need to check back to see what he [Musa] said is true.”  Mahathir has a convenient sense of recall: he remembers what it is expedient for him to remember and trots out pleas of amnesia when it suits his purpose.

At the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam videotape in January 2008, Mahathir not infrequently responded with “I don’t remember” to critical questions on his role in the matter in which a senior lawyer was captured on video attempting to fix the appointment of judges during the period of Mahathir’s tenure as Prime Minister (1981-2003).

At that time Mahathir’s infamous chiding of Malays – “Melayu mudah lupa” (The Malays easily forget) – for their supposed ingratitude came back to haunt him.

“Dr M mudah lupa,” (Dr M easily forgets) became his critics’ catch-phrase of raillery against him when it was seen that the former PM’s powers of recall were conveniently self-serving.

Musa’s motive

Musa HitamPolitical observers are wondering about the motive of Musa, a one-time ally-turned-opponent of Mahathir’s in raising a matter that took place almost 29 years ago. They ought to wonder no more.

Musa (left) is attempting a block. He knows Mahathir wants Prime Minister Najib Razak out as PM. The incumbent PM is beleaguered by the disappearance of flight MH370, now three weeks into the greatest mystery in civil aviation’s history.

The circumstances of the plane’s mysterious disappearance with 239 people on board places Najib, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi and Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein on notice of grave lack of fitness to hold office. Incidentally, all three of the abovementioned individuals are stalling points in the career path of Mukhriz, the Menteri Besar of Kedah, regarded as inheritor of the Mahathir mantle of national leadership.

In most countries in the world, North Korea excepting, an incident like MH370’s disappearance would have had the trio of Najib, Zahid and Hishamuddin with their necks on the chopping block. Not Malaysia where the 47 percent of the voters who endorsed the ruling BN coalition in the general election last May are embodiments of the validity of the philosopher George Santayana’s dictum: “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat.”

Command and control

Twice in the recent days Mahathir has talked about matters that bespeak a desire to return to a command and control role in Malaysian politics. First, he advised that the government should get ready to tackle a financial crisis and trotted out his expertise at prescribing for just such a malady.

Days after this advice, analysts toted up expected losses to the economy from the suspension of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 because of flight MH370’s disappearance, and from the anticipated further bleeding of our already loss-hobbled national carrier, MAS. They said it would be RM4 billion at the very least.

The second alarm Mahathir sounded was even more unsettling. He said that if he were to return as PM, he would censor the internet which would be a clear violation of the bill of rights he vouchsafed cyber practitioners when inaugurating the Malaysian Multimedia Corridor in 1996.

Well, no prizes for guessing what the former PM would say if reminded of his promise of no restrictions on freedom to publish on the internet: “I can’t remember.”

It has become a mantra of the man who had ruled the country for 22 years (1981-2003) during which he built it up physically and emasculated it morally. The country’s problem is that it has enough masochists who may want more of the same. Not Musa Hitam, though.