Chairman Lodin, come clean on 1MDB, figures don’t lie


November 19, 2014

Chairman Lodin, come clean on 1MDB, figures don’t lie

by Kharie Hishyam @www.kinibiz.com

Like a toddler learning to walk, controversial state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd is slowly coming out to refute its critics. But proper explanations are yet to come and its latest public statement only spawns more questions.

Amid the burning fire of controversy over its questionable dealings, state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) has come out and “assured” Malaysians that its investments were carefully made and professionally managed. Alas, the same characteristic of being professionally managed can also probably be said about many of the 23 public-listed companies in Bursa Malaysia’s PN17 list. But what’s in labels anyway?

In the corporate world results, not reputation, is what delivers and one wonders why 1MDB, with all the professionalism within its managerial ranks, has bled losses year after year with only paper gains papering over the red ink.

lodin-wok-kamaruddinA corporate figure once said that numbers tell a thousand stories and it is in 1MDB’s numbers that the story contradicts what its chairman, Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, said about 1MDB’s investments.

So what had 1MDB so prudently invested in? According to its audited accounts, 1MDB invested a total of RM13.4 billion for the financial year ended March 2014 (FY14) in various places globally. This figure includes the RM7.7 billion parked in a structured investment company called a Segregated Portfolio Company (SPC) based in the Cayman Islands, managed by Hong Kong-based Bridge Partners.

And for these investments, 1MDB gained dividend income of RM437 million, which represents a paltry return of 3.26% on its investments. Considering the point that 1MDB could have parked the money in fixed deposit or government bonds and still get similar return — with an added bonus of less foreign exchange risk — it begs the question of why 1MDB bothered to go overseas in the first place.

Of course there is an even uglier side to the investment story: 1MDB’s audited accounts reveal that the investment fund is earning a mere 0.68% interest on its cash pile of nearly RM4 billion.

On the other side of the coin is that 1MDB’s finance costs or interest rates range from roughly 5% up to as high as 18% per annum.In effect, 1MDB is earning much less with its money compared to how much it is paying to have that money in its coffers. Worse, a big chunk of its money is left idle after paying so much to borrow the money in the first place, earning next to nothing in interest.

Why? Simple logic dictates that to make profit, capital must be put to work such that it earns more money than it costs to acquire the capital in the first place. That’s how you earn profit.

1MDBLeaving the capital idle definitely does not qualify as “investing”, unless having idle cash qualifies as investment (a poor one if you have loan repayments to meet). Why incur borrowing costs for nothing?

No wonder 1MDB is finding it difficult to service its loan commitments. Speaking of which Lodin stated that the investment fund believes it can meet its financial commitments.

“Some of the loans are long-term in nature but we believe this financial commitment can be met,” Lodin was reported as saying by Bernama, adding that 1MDB is looking to restructure its short-term loans to match its longer-term investments. “We are also in the process of adding and unlocking value to the assets that we have acquired.”

Najib and 1MDB

Recall that 1MDB already extended its RM5.5 billion bridging loan, originally part of a RM6.2 billion loan from Maybank Investment Bank in 2012, multiple times, even delaying its power assets listing due to negotiations on its debt obligations.

Now this begs yet another question: why borrow on such short horizons if the capital is intended for long-term investments? Would it not make more sense to match the repayment timeline with when the returns on investment are expected to flow in?

And unlocking value to the assets 1MDB had acquired, of course, would not be too difficult. Its properties were acquired cheap from the government, after all, and from there it is simply a matter of bringing valuations up to market benchmarks.

As for its power assets, KiniBiz had previously examined why 1MDB grossly overpaid for them, even borrowing money to do so despite having much cash lying around. Now is this prudent investing as 1MDB Chairman Lodin so generously claimed? Hardly. Numbers don’t lie and in 1MDB’s case, red ink remains red however you call it otherwise.

Perhaps 1MDB is revolutionising investment before our very eyes. Maybe there is a deeper wisdom to its strange madness of borrowing at high cost and making low-return investments.

Or maybe, just maybe, 1MDB simply made poor investment choices and consequently lost some RM5 billion over the past few financial years bar paper gains from revaluing its properties.

In which case what 1MDB seems to be saying right now fits right into the first part of the Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief: denial. And we have not even talked about its losses of up to RM4 billion from its bond mispricing yet…

 

 

Finger on the UMNO Pulse


November 17, 2014

COMMENT by Din Merican : Reading Jocelyn’s article allows me the opportunityNajib_Obama to add my observations on the coming UMNO General Assembly. I will try to speculate a little about Najib’s Amanat Presiden.

True, as Jocelyn says, Najib’s position in UMNO is secure. Not even the former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir and his loyalists in UMNO can unseat him at this point in time. Najib has done well to keep UMNO members under control, although that has come with a high price tag.

The fact that his popularity among Malaysians is at an all time low does not affect his hold on power in UMNO and the country. That makes him a smart politician aided by a group of loyalists, anyone of whom can succeed him when the time comes. Names like Hishamuddin and Zahid Hamidi have been mentioned as potential successors, if the incumbent Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister decides to retire.

Coming to his Amanat Presiden 2014, I think he will be tough and uncompromising in his defence of Malay special rights and Islam.  He must as UMNO cannot deviate from its raison d’etre. But let us hope he will not overlook that he is also the Prime Minister for all Malaysians and must, therefore, tone down his rhetoric on Malay rights and UMNO’s defence of Islam.

His message should be a call for unity under a more enlightened and inclusive UMNO leadership. Neither the Malays nor Islam is under threat.There will, of course, be some goodies in store of UMNO members. More contracts and handouts, among other things.

With regard to the economy, he will likely crow about his achievements since his last speech before the UMNO General Assembly. A forecast real GDP growth of 5%+ is not something to be easily dismissed, given the less than optimistic outlook for the global economy, especially China and Europe and to some extent the United States.

Our growth will be domestic consumption driven, led by public expenditure. Najib will not talk about our mounting national debt and 1MDB borrowings. At the assembly, he cannot be a deliverer of bad news. He must rally the UMNO troops and sound upbeat about his economic policies which will remain Malay-bumiputra centric. After all, the UMNO general assembly is also fiesta time. And Najib must play to the gallery.

najib_razak_xi_jinpingOn foreign policy, he will have plenty to say. He has very good reasons to go to town on his achievements. Malaysia enjoys good relations with the United States, China and Europe. He is seen as a moderate and progressive Muslim leader. In ASEAN, he is well regarded. Our country will become a non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council in 2015.

In addition to that, Malaysia will assume the ASEAN Chair when it takes over from Myanmar next year. Both these roles give our country a very high profile in international affairs. Even his detractors will concede that Najib has done a good job on foreign policy.

Let us hope his domestic political plays and statements will not affect Malaysia’s image abroad. His speech will be listened to, analysed, and discussed at home and abroad. He has grown to be a regional leader with strong foreign policy credentials and must remain so.

Finger on the UMNO pulse

by Jocelyn Tan@www.the star.com.my (11-16-14)

The UMNO general assembly next week will have to take note of the growing restlessness among party members about UMNO’s direction and the way it is dealing with issues close to their heart.

IT has been quite a turnaround for Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. Athishamuddin-hussein around this time last year, the Defence Minister was lying on a hospital bed, recovering from “chest pains”, that euphemism that public figures use when they get a heart attack.The year 2013 had not been good for him. He had come under severe criticism for his handling of the Sabah incursions, his image was down and there was even speculation that he would be removed from his Defence portfolio.

The effect of all that caused him to come in last among the three UMNO Vice-Presidents and he was almost beaten by newcomer and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.He had hit a low point in his career. But he became a grandfather shortly after that. His grandson is now a cute and chubby toddler while the new grandfather is looking fit and healthy. Hishammuddin smells better these days because he has stopped smoking, he eats fruit and biscuit for lunch and he works out.

A year is a long, long time in politics and the sun is shining again for Hishammuddin.  “His image has lifted following his role in two tragic disasters involving our national airline. He is probably one of our best known leaders overseas,” said publisher Juhaidi Yean Abdullah.

His mother’s death a few months ago was another rite de passage and that hehe-haha boyish style he used to be known for has disappeared, replaced by a more serious demeanour.  He has put a lot of effort into his role as chairman for the UMNO resolutions committee. He wants to bring greater meaning and result to the hundreds of resolutions that come in from UMNO branches and divisions every year ahead of the UMNO general assembly.

His committee has received a total of 755 resolutions from 191 UMNO divisions all over the country. These resolutions range from localised matters like calls for better roads to weighty stuff like defending Islam.

In previous years, the relevant resolutions were selected for debate at the assembly while the rest were usually acknowledged with a simple reply. This year, Hishammuddin has sifted through the resolutions and brought them before the relevant ministries for attention and action. His argument is that these resolutions reflect the needs, requests and aspirations of the party grassroots and must be acted upon. That was what the round-table meeting involving ministry officials on Wednesday was about.

“He is looking at the scenario beyond the general assembly. He wants the UMNO folk down there to know that issues which are of concern to them are being taken seriously by the party leadership. Taking action on views from the grassroots is a way of empowering them,” said Pasir Salak Youth chief Dr Faizal Tajuddin.

The man who had struggled to retain his Vice-President post is on a comeback and comparisons are being made with top Vice-President and Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The charismatic Dr Ahmad Zahid was the man of the moment a year ago, celebrated as much for his God-given people skills as for his tough stance on organised crime. The moment has passed, and his profile has slipped somewhat. But it is to his credit that gangland violence has also gone down and several states have reported lower crime rates.

Last year’s UMNO assembly had been a sort of mixed feelings type of gathering. The rank and file were euphoric that they had successfully conducted a landmark party election without too many boo-boos. There was a celebratory mood as they ushered in the new batch of leaders.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin retained their posts uncontested, a sign of the party’s stability despite a bruising general election.  They could also see the second echelon taking shape in the form of Vice-Presidents Ahmad Zahid, Hishammuddin and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

KJ2In particular, Khairy Jamaluddin’s spectacular second-term win as UMNO Youth chief means that he is the one to watch in the years ahead. Khairy has brought the wow-factor to his position as Youth and Sports Minister, and he is one of the most watched UMNO politicians among those outside of UMNO.

His opinions on issues have shown that he is a cut above the rest and, more recently, many thought that he handled the doping issue involving Malaysia’s No. 1 badminton star with great maturity.

UMNO is still struggling between the old and the new. It wants to hold on to its traditional core values as a Malay nationalist party but it is also under immense pressure to adapt to the changing political landscape.

At the same time, there was the painful fact that UMNO is no longer the political powerhouse that it used to be and they were still hurting over what they saw as the “Chinese betrayal”. The hurt is still there and they are uncertain about what the future holds for UMNO.

The general expectation is that issues like the Sedition Act, vernacular schools and the attacks against Islam and the Malay rulers will dominate the debates.  “Warning shots” have been fired in the run-up to the assembly, with some politicians claiming that Chinese schools are creating “two nations in one country” while another politician urged that all Malay-majority seats should be contested by UMNO.

The euphoria of last year has dissipated. In its place is a restlessness for measures that can prepare the party to face the next big battle.

There is the sense that party members are impatient for answers and solutions. They are tired of excuses and inaction, they are not going to be satisfied with sweet talk and feel-good stories. They want the leaders to get tough and address issues in a concrete way.

In that sense, the debates should not be over-controlled. There was one year prior to the general election when the debate guidelines were so strict that everyone sounded like robots reading from the same script.

Frank views and reasonable criticism should be welcomed to help the leadership keep the finger on the pulse and also for delegates to let off steam.

The party has not moved forward very much since the last general election. The inability on the part of Barisan Nasional to present itself as the alternative in Selangor even as Pakatan Rakyat was fighting like crazy over the Menteri Besar post was testimony to that.

UMNO members were also incredulous that in Terengganu, a defiant Menteri Besar who was not ready to go, had arm-twisted the party and almost brought down the state government. It was so old politics.

The bright point was the UMNO win in the Pengkalan Kubor by-election. That was a real victory – a much bigger winning majority despite a lower voter turnout. The political fatigue seen everywhere is not only because of too much politicking over everything but also because people are disillusioned that the promise of new politics has not materialised.

“The PM’s political transformation is in danger of becoming a mere slogan. UMNO leaders need to put more beef into the transformation agenda or else it will become like Islam Hadhari. No one talks about that anymore,” said political analyst Dr Azmi Omar.

UMNO people are still adjusting to Najib’s political style. One of their grouses is that he is “too quiet”. They say it is important that he makes known the government’s stand and opinion on an issue so that UMNO politicians down the line know how to respond on their own part. It is also a form of taking the lead and shaping public opinion on issues.

Shortly after Najib took over as Prime Minister, Pakatan leadersMahathir Mohamad claimed that he wanted to bring back what they called “Maha­thirism”, whatever that meant. They insisted that Najib’s cordial relations with Dr Mahathir meant he was taking orders from the former Premier.

It was an idiotic story, yet so many people swallowed it. The fact that Dr Mahathir has withdrawn his support for Najib for not doing what the elder man thinks is the right thing, says it all. Ties between the two men are rather choppy at the moment. Dr Mahathir has openly criticised Najib but he still loves UMNO and wants the party to survive and recover its former glory.

It has been a challenging year for Najib who is now into his fifth year as UMNO president and Prime Minister. But despite everything, said Juhaidi, Najib’s position in Umno is solid, more so than most UMNO presidents in their fifth year on the job.

“Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was already shaky in his first term while Dr Mahathir had fallen out bigtime with his deputy Tun Musa Hitam. Tun Hussein Onn lasted only a term because of heart problems while his predecessor Tun Abdul Razak Hussein’s health problems took his life in his sixth-year in office,” said Juhaidi.

Only Tunku Abdul Rahman could declare that he was the “happiest prime minister in the world” but the happiness did not last. Najib, said Juhaidi, has won the general election and the UMNO election. “Internally, I don’t see any challengers to his leadership. The UMNO  general assembly will not be like what happened at the PAS muktamar where the guns were pointed inwards. The UMNO guns will be pointing outwards,” said Juhaidi.

Auditor-General can do a lot on 1MDB


November 16, 2014

Auditor-General can do a lot on 1MDB

by P.Gunasegeram@www.malaysiakini.com

AmbrinQUESTION TIME: Perhaps – perhaps – the Auditor-General may not be able to or have to audit the accounts of scandal-ridden national strategic investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd or 1MDB. But surely he can make an assessment of the impact of 1MDB on government finances and the threats it might pose. And more.

It’s easy for Auditor-General Ambrin Buang to throw his hands up in the air and say there is no reason for him to audit 1MDB because it has already been audited by a big four accounting firm – Deloitte.

To quote him: “Why are we not auditing 1MDB? My answer is that its accounts have already been audited by one of the ‘big four’,” Ambrin told a town hall meeting session with the media on Wednesday on the third series of the 2013 Auditor-General’s Report that was released on Monday.

“So, there is no reason why we should come in again,” he said, responding to media questions on why it had not taken any audit action on the controversial 1MDB. Auditing financial statements is a very labourious examination.”

Indeed it is. But does that mean that the auditor-general sits around and twiddles his thumbs while a major scandal involving a company fully owned by the government’s Minister of Finance Inc unfolds right before his eyes? Surely he has been reading the newspapers.

Don’t highly questionable things like raising funds willy-nilly, underpricing bonds while paying too much for assets, paying high interest rates, keeping billions of ringgit in low yielding deposits while raising even more funds and paying a fortune in fees to Goldman Sachs not pique the auditor-general’s curiosity?

Let’s put down some facts first about 1MDB for the benefit of the auditor-general. It would not have made any profits since its inception in 2009. If not for revaluation of government property sold cheaply to it, its losses to date would have been RM5 billion as at end March 2014.

Najib and 1MDB
On the liability side, it is funded by RM1 billion in share capital by the Minister of Finance Inc. But its borrowings as of March 31, 2014 amount to a massive RM42 billion, 42 times the share capital.

The gearing ratio, the percentage of debt to shareholders funds or equity of RM1.7 billion, is a massive 24 to 20 percent which could be among the largest if not the largest for any large company in Malaysia. In the private sector, that kind of gearing will be considered unbearable.

To cap it all, it is doing very little with that kind of borrowings. It has bought power assets worth some RM10.5 billion for which it took a loan despite there being considerable liquidity within the firm. Even if we subtract that RM10.5 billion from RM42 billion, some RM31.5 billion is substantially unaccounted for.

Available for sale assets, a vague term for financial assets which are held for sale and for which there may be no provision for diminution in value, comes up to a massive RM13.4 billion, including RM7.7 billion tied up in Cayman Islands in a mysterious segregated portfolio company which no one knows anything about.

Apart from that, there are various cash or near cash assets which account for a further RM9.1 billion. Add these up and the total amount of assets doing practically nothing comes up to a massive RM22.5 billion. Why keep these assets in near cash and then borrow some more?

In the first few years alone of its life, after stripping out revaluation gains, it is obvious that 1MDB has not been able to earn more than the interest on borrowings as shown by the RM5 billion losses. Why? And why is it continuing to borrow? And can it ever get assets that will earn significantly more than the interest costs?

Loan mispricing

What about 1MDB’s loan mispricing, which is already over RM4 billion and could eventually amount to RM7 billion or more if new loans were made on the same basis? And what about the massive fees paid to Goldman Sachs of over RM500 million for arranging some loans?

Surely the Auditor-General can do something about these. After all, the Minister of Finance Inc, is a government company, no different from any company owned by a ministry. 1MDB is that company’s wholly owned subsidiary. Surely the auditor-general has every right to probe any government company which poses a threat to government finances.

Remember that the government originally said that it guaranteed explicitly only RM5.8 billion of loans and denied there was any letter of support for anything more. But now after the support letter came out in the press, it now concedes there was indeed such a letter for a further RM10 billion.

How many more letters of support could there be for 1MDB? And what about other government companies and bodies? Legal opinion is that the letters of support are in substance no different from guarantees and that the government will have to pay up in the event of default by 1MDB. Surely this is an area which concerns the auditor-general and the amount of contingent liabilities the government has to bear.

The Auditor-General plays a role as the watchdog of the government and the public. It is his obligation to publicly highlight potential threats to government finances and to make recommendations to avoid them, and probe them if need be. He has done this commendably well for other government departments and bodies. Why should any exemption be given for 1MDB? What’s so special about 1MDB?

To the so-called Malay Defenders: Stop Insulting the Malays


November 15, 2014

To the so-called Malay Defenders: Stop Insulting the Malays

by Dr. Azmi Sharom

Azmi SharomI find it amusing that those who label themselves as the defenders of Malays are also the ones who, whether consciously or not, view Malay people in a most disdainful manner.

Ideally of course, one would not have to write about topics such as this, but the reality is that ethnicity is still a major issue in any discussion on politics, society, religion, law and governance in Malaysia.

 And even on a personal level, although ethnicity plays a tiny part in my life, in the sense that it is not something that pre-occupies me, I would be lying to say that it has no effect on my life at all.

I was, after all, raised in a Malay family, and my cultural practices are based on Malay culture. Thus, when ethnicity is mentioned, it is always at the back of my mind that I am Malay.

This being the case, when reading comments made by these “Malay defenders”, I must then be a very weak, intellectually challenged, spiritually infantile, economically dependent and all-round pathetic human being.

I am unable to make any choices of my own regarding religious matters. I must be shown the way by people who declare themselves more able to determine what is spiritually good for me.

I must remember always that my capabilities as a man are worth nothing. I can’t take care of myself and my loved ones based on my own talents, strengths and merit.

Instead, I must always depend on a BN, sorry, an UMNO government. Without it, I will just die, I suppose. I have no ability to make any sort of political change. The only people who can change the government are the Chinese.

I am obviously unable to come to the conclusion that when one party has been in power for too long, their arrogance and lust for power then lead to poor governance that affects all Malaysians.

I also believe in stone-aged-style superstition, one which tells me that touching dogs can lead to tornadoes. So, who thinks Malays are so pathetic?Who says the things which imply all the statements above? It is the great Malay defenders of Malaysia.

Really, as a man who identifies himself as culturally Malay, I wish they would stop defending me because all they are doing is insulting me and pissing me off.

 http://www.rakyattimes.com/index.php/columnist/1458-am-i-so-intellectually-challenged-i-need-defending-dr-azmi-sharom

 

 

The Avaricious, the Corrupt and the Uncaring


November 15, 2014

The Avaricious, the Corrupt and the Uncaring

by Balan Moses

Balan-Moses-ENG NEW-1THE mudflow and landslides that killed five in Cameron Highlands last Wednesday and caused untold misery to scores of others is a tragedy in more ways than one.

The human toll and damage notwithstanding, the price the public had to pay due to official malaise was astronomical. People who had been living their lives peaceably and in harmony with the environment were rudely awakened by mudflows and landslides caused by extensive land clearing and poor management of the same.

They had thought that last October 23rd’s incident where a mudflow had tore up houses and other buildings and tossed cars about was the last of this intrusion into their lives.But they were sadly mistaken as events last week amply proved.

CAMERON HIGHLANDSIllegal Land Clearing in Cameron Highlands

Thirteen months later a rural community that was minding its own business was shaken to its roots by the bitter fruits of the labour of the corrupt, the avaricious, the careless and the uncaring.

While many businessmen will generally do anything they need for the extra ringgit (as can be seen in the case of greedy people in the Cameron Highlands issue), I take exception to the continued malaise of government – in this case, the relevant federal authorities, the state government and its related agencies and the local authority  – in the matter.

The proliferation of farming activities, both legal and illegal, has been ongoing in the former hill station for decades with little being done to monitor such activities.If something had been done at the genesis of the problem, the people of Cameron Highlands, more specifically those in the Ringlet, Bertam Valley, Kampung Raja and surrounding areas, would not have been caught in this most distressing situation.

The rivers became silted over the years, the temperature rose, the beauty of pristine Camerons Highlands was desecrated by vegetable farms.But no one really cared. The businessmen continued with the expansion of their farms and the powers that be with the nominal supervision of such activities.

Last October, there was general umbrage in Malaysia, especially in government circles, over the mudflows amid promises that something would be done to ensure that this would not recur.

But they could not exercise authority over the perpetrators of such environmental carnage. Neither could they control nature, which did what came naturally to it, and moved tonnes of mud down an impossibly narrow and shallow river into  homes and habitation.

At this point, the northern Malay saying comes to mind. Pi Mai, Pi Mai. Dok Tang Tu.’So what happens now? Enough of finger-pointing, I say. It has got us nowhere. The only thing that can be achieved with this exercise is placing fault with those responsible. It cannot change the situation unless people are shocked out of their inertia and into action.

I am amazed that Government and elected officials are telling us the same thing that they did last year when a similar occurrence took place.Statements are now being made that should put the fear of God in those engaged in illegal land clearing. But will they work?

To be fair, I do not really know. The government appears to be well-intentioned in making these statements as it did the last time around. Only time will tell.

I believe the key to a change in the situation in careful and accurate mapping of the entire Cameron Highlands area by the local authority with the necessary equipment to perform the task in a particularly difficult terrain.

Helicopters may be the answer to this long and tedious task on mapping out areas of legal activity and otherwise. In this respect, I am astounded by statements alluding to the belief that the authorities may not have known the extent of illegal clearings in the Camerons.

This is unbelievable. It may be part of the Malaysians malady of government officials sometimes not seeing and acting on problems that overtly affect the people. One thing is sure: We need dedicated and conscientious officials who are willing to go the extra mile to keep our hills safe for future generations.

I believe I speak for all Malaysians when I say that we are unwilling to see another tragedy anytime down the road. We must act now. There is no other choice.

http://news.abnxcess.com/2014/11/the-avaricious-the-careless-the-corrupt-and-the-uncaring/

The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?


November 13, 2014

Your Choice: The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

by William Leong Jee Keen

Morpheus: It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

Morpheus:This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (The Matrix)

Malaysians have taken the road of racism for 57 years because our minds have been imprisoned. A leader may show us a path to a better tomorrow but we will miss the turning if we cannot liberate ourselves from the prison of our minds. Only by choosing good over evil can we see the true path. The time for choosing has come.

anwar_ibrahim2He will not be silenced

After seven days hearing submissions from the defense and the prosecution, the five Federal Court Judges will decide whether to acquit or convict Anwar Ibrahim. If Anwar is convicted, he will be imprisoned for a term that will end his political career. The Opposition Leader said this is his final sacrifice, his last final service for Malaysians. He will not be silenced. But will Malaysians grasp the opportunity he paid for with his freedom?

Whether there are flying carpets, briyani suits and what happened to the missing KY jelly is for the court to decide. The target audience for the remake of the stage production of Sodomy I, updated by DNA forensic investigation replacing the old fashion mattress prop, is not the court. It is always the Malaysian public especially the Malay Muslims. The impresario, whoever he or she may be, thought Malaysians are either gullible or easily intimidated or both. Now Malaysians will show whether they are indeed a timid and feeble-minded audience or they are bold and resolute judges firmly punishing evil and rewarding the good. Malaysians will have to decide whether to take the red pill or the blue pill.

The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill are popular culture symbols representing the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (the red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (the blue pill).

The term is popularized in the 1999 film, “The Matrix”, where the main character Neo (Keanu Reeves) is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain living in the “ignorance of illusion”, while the red pill would lead to living in the “truth of reality” even though it is a harsher, more difficult life.

Martin Luther King JrAmericans chose the red pill when Martin Luther King Jr was shot. The civil rights movement marched on because they knew oppressors would never give up their privileges on their own. President Johnson in his speech before Congress to pass the Voting Rights Bill allowing men and women to vote whatever the colour of their skin said:

“The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this Nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change, designed to stir reform.”

In 2008, America elected a President based not on the colour of his skin but on the content of his character. They had overcome.

South Africans chose the red pill when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. For the 27 years he was in jail, South Africans continued his struggle for freedom and equal opportunity. They fought for the idea, which Nelson Mandela in his statement from the dock said: “Was one he cherished, he hoped to live for but if needs be which he was prepared to die for.”

Mandela and TheronMandela and Actor Theron

Internal resistance to apartheid came from organizations dedicated to peaceful protests, passive resistance and armed insurrections. It came from Steve Biko, Bishop Desmond Tutu, white activists like Harry Schwarz, Joe Slovo and Trevor Huddleston. It came from the Black Sash, an organization of white women against apartheid. It came from students and churches. In 1994 the long walk for freedom was finally over, apartheid ended.

Anwar chose the red pill 16 years ago when he rejected the offer to go away quietly and instead took the path of “reformasi”. It took him from the heights of being the acting Prime Minister to the depth of being the lowest convict. On his release from prison, he crafted the New Economic Agenda for affirmative action based on needs and not on race and to restore the country’s international competitiveness. On his qualification to stand for election, he announced on April 15, 2008 at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman Kampong  Baru, the venue where Malay nationalists gathered to fight for independence, that while the constitutional rights of Malays would be protected, it was time to change from “Ketuanan Melayu” to “Ketuanan Rakyat”

The Eight of March  2008 General Election proved to be the birth of a new era where the millstone of race and religion which had been the burden for Malaysians to bear was finally shattered and it transformed the political landscape of the nation. In 2013, Pakatan Rakyat secured 89 parliament seats and won 52% of the popular vote but was thwarted by gerrymandering, and unfair electoral practices from forming the government.

When Anwar chose to awaken Malaysians and give them hope that there can be another Malaysia, he was fully aware he would be challenging the twin pillars of UMNO politics, the first is being thst Malay unity must be maintained at all cost and the second is that UMNO’s dominant political position must be maintained.

Anwar was aware that those who left UMNO would be ostracized and made an outcast of his community. UMNO had accused Dato’ Onn Jaafar, the father of Malay nationalism and founder of UMNO as having sold out Malay rights and his heritage when he formed the multiracial Independence of Malaya Party (IMP). Dato’ Haji Zainal Abidin bin Haji Abas, who with Dato’ Onn was one of UMNO’s founders and its first General Secretary became another example of UMNO’s punitive deterrence. He left UMNO to join IMP and later became the chairman of the United Democratic Party. He was completely alienated from the community.

Aziz Ishak, once out of UMNO was hounded, all kinds of charges were laid against him and he was later arrested under the Internal Security Act. However, nothing prepared Anwar for what they did to him.He was arrested, beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed and denigrated by scurrilous attacks against him and his family, ostracized, made an outcast and labeled a traitor to his own race. The raucousness of the venom, the ferocity of the hatred and the viciousness of the attacks were at levels never seen before. He is now more prepared mentally but physically he is not as strong and as young as he was 15 years ago.

If you choose the blue pill you will carry on in your blissful ignorance of illusion. You can choose to ignore and jettison the teachings of your religion, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or other faith and ignore your conscience not to harm your fellow men or to help him because the “common good” of your race demands that you disregard the needs of those of a different colour or religion.

The illusion however, demands that your life as an individual belongs not to you but to the group or society and in this case, to your race of which you are merely a part, that you have no rights and  must sacrifice your rights, your values and goals for the greater good of your race.

The illusion further demands you are not to question why but to do and die. You are not to question what is the greater good for the Malays for one person to control Malakoff Corporation, Gas Malaysia, Aliran Ihsan Resources (water utility), Port of Tanjong Pelepas, Johor Port, Senai Airpor Terminal Services, SMART Tunnel, MMC-Gamuda, Proton Bhd, Edaran Otomobil Nasional, MODENAS, Honda Malaysia, Bank Muamalat, PUSPAKOM, Alam Flora, POS Malaysia, Defence Technologies, Tradewinds (M) Bhd which subsidiary BERNAS has a monopoly of rice importation and distribution, Central Sugar Refinery and smaller stakes in Malaysia Sugar Manufacturing which together holds a monopoly for sugar, hotels and property development companies.

The illusion demands that the individual sacrifice you are called upon to make is for the common good for the greatest number of your race. Your income from 2009 has risen by only 8.1% while your household expenditure increased by 12.1% and 88.6% from 1994. Your household expenditure for housing, water, electricity has gone up by 102% since 1994, transport 94.6%, food and drinks by 60.9% while your household debt has increased by 13%. It is difficult to make ends meet with the increased price of petrol, the higher tolls for privatized highways and bridges, the tariffs for the privatized water and electricity, even your rubbish and sewage collection have been privatized. You have no idea how to pay the increased school bus fares but you will be proud that you have contributed to the many monopolies owned by Syed Mokthar Al-Bukhary, one of you.

The illusion says your sacrifice in being unable to afford your own home is for the greater good. While you are seeking to rent a house, the rent-seeking elite buys luxury bungalows and condominiums. After payment of the car installments, credit cards, food and other bills you have no money for emergencies much less a holiday while the elites are flying first class and staying in five star hotels.

The illusion says your government has provided your children with a university education but they are not employable. The June 2014 World Bank Malaysian Economic Monitor reports 60% of the unemployed are aged 20-24 and 25% are graduates. Your children hold a university degree but employers find they lack soft skills; 47% inability to work independently, 49% lack problem solving skills, 51% lack analytical skills, 56% lack creative/critical thinking and 81% lack communication skills. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 Malaysian students rank 52 out of 65 countries and the bottom one-third among more than 70 countries in international assessments like Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMMS). The results show the education standard of our 15 year olds are three years behind Singapore, Korea, China, Japan and even Vietnam.

No matter how you seek to justify you cannot ignore that while a responsible government builds a floor for the weakest students to stand, it encourages the best and the brightest to fly as high as they can. It is wicked to clip their wings because 150 years ago their great grand parents came to work in the estates, railroads, tin mines or to seek a better life.

While all accept that the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak are disadvantaged and neglected under colonial rule for more than 200 years and ought to be assisted what justification is there to allow Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Filipinos who came yesterday to enjoy these same privileges so the elite can maintain power?

The blue pill unfortunately, will not be able to provide the answers and will not save you from the rude awakening one day when Malaysia ends up like Rwanda, Serbia, Sri Lanka or Zimbabwe.

If you choose the red pill, you will realize the painful truth that you yourself are part of the oppressed and you must fight for your own freedom and not that of the elites who can hardly claim to be identifiable with you.

Malcom X

Your life as an individual belongs to you and you have an inviolable right to live it as you see fit, to act on your own judgment, to pursue the values of your own choosing. The basic tenet is that each individual has an inalienable right to the pursuit of his own happiness in a society where men and women deal with one another as equals. The only happy society is one of happy individuals. We cannot have a healthy forest made up of rotten trees.

You will recognize that no race holds a monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of strength and there is more than enough room for all in this country. You will understand what Malcolm X said:

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the colour of the skin”

Anwar has given Malaysians the keys to the door of change, if Malaysians grab hold of them once opened the door cannot be shut but if Malaysians do not use them once shut the door cannot be opened.

What will you choose reality or illusion?

William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament Selayang
12 November 2014