Najib at the end of the road, but… for Rosmah Mansor and UMNO

July 7, 2015

Najib at the end of the road, but… for Rosmah Mansor and UMNO

by Norman Goh

After being dealt a devastating blow last week, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s career, according to certain quarters, is on tenterhooks.

The Wall Street Journal reported that RM2.6 billion of 1MDB funds was transferred into the personal bank accounts of the Prime Minister.

Najib has vehemently denied this, but former Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the opposition and civil society want his head to roll.

Malaysiakini asked two political analysts -Universiti Malaya’s Department of International and Strategic Studies senior lecturer  Khoo Ying Hooi (photo) and University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute Director James Chin – to gaze into their respective crystal balls over three questions.

1. Is Najib in a Catch-22 situation?

Khoo: A short answer, yes. 1MDB has not only caused an uproar among opposition parties and the public in general, but what is important to note is that it has also worsened the already shaking ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.


Chin: Not really, all he has got to do is deny and as long as the UMNO Supreme Council and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin accept it, then he (Najib) is safe. The problem is that he does deny it and the rumours is that the accounts were actually controlled by Rosmah Mansor. Only DPM can force him to step down.

2. He cannot step down as it would give the impression that he is guilty of all the allegations, and it could ignite calls for a witch hunt against him and his family?

Khoo: By putting Malaysians in a state of political uncertainty, what more, with the Malaysian ringgit now hitting the lowest since 1999, the question of whether he is guilty or not is no longer the main concern as the damage has taken place. The unclear statements and information provided to the people on this issue have shaken public confidence to its lowest. The way it is now, it is possible that a public uproar might take place.

Chin (photo): He will never step down as Rosmah will not allow it. He will fight to the last man, so to speak.

3. By staying on, his credentials would continue to plunge, and with it, the perception of Barisan Nasional as well. Is there no way out?

Khoo: Doesn’t seem like it (there is a way out). In many countries, the exercise of leaders stepping down and apologising after a controversy is normal. You don’t need to be guilty to resign, it is more of a ministerial responsibility. But by staying on and coupled with ambiguous statements, moreover with many questions remaining unanswered (for example, the bank accounts), the Prime Minister is worsening his already damaged reputation and leadership. What more, this affects the confidence of people in public institutions that could cause a lot more harm in the near future for the country.

Chin: There is a way out- an international authority. For example, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) or the international banks say there is no such transaction. Malaysians don’t trust our MACC (Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission) or Police. So the clearance will have to come from international bodies. AmBank and Bank Negara can also come out to say these accounts do not exist. If these accounts can be proven to be directly controlled and used by Najib, he’s toast.

Teflon Najib clings precariously to his Premiership

July 7, 2015

Teflon Najib clings precariously to his Premiership

by John Bethelsen

In this April 7, 2015 photo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin attends the launch of the Malaysian Education Blue Print at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In an interview Thursday April 9, 2015, Najib pledged there will be no cover-up in the investigation of a debt-laden state investment fund and reiterated he is not involved in the murder of a Mongolian woman nine years ago. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

Malaysia appears almost in a state of suspended animation – on the surface – over allegations on July 3 by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report that the state-backed investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd had directed nearly US$700 million into Prime Minister Najib’s personal accounts prior to the 2013 election.

“We have never had a disclosure like this before,” said Ambiga Sreenavasan, the former head of the Malaysia Bar Council, who is an increasingly influential figure in the opposition. “We would expect some response, that there would be a complete statement. Everybody is waiting to see what is going to happen.”

One well-placed Kuala Lumpur lawyer said bringing down the Prime Minister is a long shot.  Najib, he said, has survived a decade of scandals as Defense Minister and Prime Minister and “Malaysia has a huge carpet and there are a lot of bumps under it.  This is going to be a bigger bump than before. But it’s still a bump under the carpet.”

Others disagree.  The slow drip of support away from Najib within his United Malays National Organization, while not public, is increasing as party leaders grow deeply worried that the massive corruption revolving around the revelations will destroy the party’s 60-year hold on power. But despite growing and widespread anger throughout the country, the opposition has been torn apart by dissent and there appears no unified  opposition that could bring it down.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the 68-year-old UMNO Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister who has been waging a behind-the-scenes campaign allied with former Premier Mahathir Mohamad, is said by friends to be increasingly confident that “the Teflon Prime Minister,” as one source said, is facing growing certainty that he will be forced to stand down.

barack-obama-dan-khairy-jamaluddinThe ambitious Sports Minister

If Najib does go, and Muhyiddin displaces him with Mahathir at his back, the outlook is probably ominous for those closest to the Prime Minister, particularly Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of former Premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who Mahathir also disposed, at least partly because he was so angered by what he felt was Khairy’s use of his influence as the man closest to Badawi’s. When Badawi fell, Khairy, out of favor for a time, managed to maneuver close to Najib and in effect became one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisors. Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, is also likely to become a target.

“This time it’s different [from previous scandals],” a source with close ties to the party said.  “This time there is evidence that the money went into [Najib’s] account. That is against the law. The party leaders know that.”

Officials of Arab-Malaysian Bank, or AmBank, where the money was directed according to the Journal and Sarawak Report, were said to be holding an emergency meeting on July 6 to determine strategy.  While bank secrecy laws protect disclosure of Najib’s alleged account, the accounts are legally accessible to investigators and Bank Negara, the country’s central bank.

Although Najib has threatened to file suit against the Wall Street Journal for its allegations, that is highly unlikely. Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail said he had seen the documents of the companies affiliated with 1MDB that directed the money to Najib’s account which the Journal and Sarawak Report used for the stories and that they were given to him by a task force made up of members of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Police and Bank Negara.

Gani Patail also acknowledged that a special multi-agency task force had raided the companies linked to 1MDB – SRC International Sdn Bhd, Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd and Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd – which were said to have channeled the funds into what is believed to be Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Najib, said a western observer, “has flatly got to say ‘those aren’t my accounts.’ And he hasn’t.  Can he control the various investigations? That’s crucial.”

1MDB Task ForceA-G Gani Patail and 1MDB Task Force

With that in mind, Patail’s careful statement that he had seen the documents and that the three companies had been raided is significant. For years, there have been few officials as loyal to UMNO as Gani Patail. He has done the government’s bidding, going back 1999 when he was the lead prosecutor in a wholly spurious sodomy case against now-jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. That verdict has been universally condemned by human rights organizations across the world. If he is showing some independence, that is an ominous sign for Najib.

With a long skein of scandals brewing for more than a decade, Najib has preserved the loyalty of the two thirds of the 60-member UMNO Supreme Council and most of the party’s 191 division chiefs plus the Cabinet. The allegation that the money from Najib’s personal account was steered to buy the 2013 general election in the face of a strong challenge by the opposition is an indication of how he was able to preserve that loyalty.

As Asia Sentinel reported in March, an unceasing river of money also flows from government coffers to UMNO cadres from various government agencies including the Village Security and Development Committee, to which the cadres are appointed.  They are also appointed to four propaganda agencies under the Ministry of Information Communications and Culture, which have offices in each of Malaysia’s 13 states and three federal territories. The bulk of the money to support these propaganda agencies comes from the 1MDB Foundation, from which more than RM1 billion was siphoned off, purportedly for charity work. 

The question is whether, in the face of the devastating charges and the lack of a Clinton-like denial [I did not have sex with that woman], he can manage to replicate the repeated votes of confidence he has wrung from UMNO leaders in the past.

najib-haron-dinNajib  and  his Protector Shaman

According to several sources in Kuala Lumpur, the revelations might help to speed a realignment of the country’s long-standing political structure. That was signaled by a statement of seeming support for Najib on Saturday by Harun Din, the spiritual leader of the fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, which for the past seven years has been an integral part of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition.

Najib later thanked Harun who is a shaman with special power to fight evil spirits, for his remarks. PAS has been pulling away from the opposition coalition for more than a year with its leader, Abdul Hadi Awang, delivering an ultimatum last month that made the survival of the coalition a thing of the past. Hadi is said to believe that an alliance with UMNO would allow the two to capture the 60 percent of ethnic Malay voters, ensuring that Malays would dominate the country’s political apparatus into the future.

Somewhat more doubtfully, a meeting is expected to be held tomorrow, July 7, among a possible new coalition that would include moderate members of PAS who were pushed out of party leadership positions last month at the party’s general assembly by Hadi and the conservatives. Others are expected to be officials of the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party. Nazir Razak, Najib’s brother, has been seeking for several weeks to put together a unity coalition but that effort has been given little chance of success by political analysts, although the deteriorating political situation could revitalize it, the sources said.  But the chances for the building of a strong coalition seem to be slim at the moment.  There is really no major opposition that can capitalize on the implosion going on in UMNO.

Najib’s Malaysia: The New Sick Man of Asia

July 7, 2015

Najib’s Malaysia: The New Sick Man of Asia

by Steve

COMMENT:  CIMB chairperson Nazir Abdul Razak is spot on in saying that Malaysians live in ‘dark times.’ Is this the diagnosis confirming the country as the new ‘sick man of Asia’? Corruption, which is more than just financial wrongdoings, includes the bastardisation of all public institutions in a country.

Nazir knows all about bastardisation, in particular the questionable implementation of national development plans, and probably of the country’s democracy.

The different arms of government are not independent or working vigorously to check one another against abuses of power and corruption.

The Executive Branch has total control over everything unlike in a proper democracy with separation of powers that ensures abuse of power is difficult.

The country appears stricken with a strange psychosis. The ‘dark political times’ are here because the politicians believe in their own spin ans lies. The medical doctors have a term for this condition: pseudologia fantastica, the fancy term for pathological liars, people who have the habit of compulsive lying and cheating.

It explains why they make public statements only to blame the media for misquoting them after they change their story when it suits them. Lying is the modus operandi of the corrupt.  “In this darkest of political times, we must remember to place the country and the rakyat first,” said Nazir.

Tell it to the Electoral Commission, the Police and the Judiciary, among other tainted offices, which are prone to siding with the powers-that-be and where stifling dissent is in the national interest.  Obeying political orders can be perilous as the killers of Altantuya Shaaribuu will testify. ‘Who gave the orders?’ is still the other unanswered question.

Where is the money?

Among the unsung heroes who have no monuments, we can’t overlook those Malaysians who have willingly and sacrificially endured years of ‘deprivation’ in ‘lost opportunities’ because of their race to accept affirmation policies however apparently unfair.

Why are politicians, present or past, among the richest Malaysians though they may not be named in Forbes magazine’s richest list? Today more and more Malaysians are not buying into the deception and it is a treacherous act to have a government programme like the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) teaches racism.

This dubious programme allegedly and evidently poisons the minds of young Malaysians of one race against another while the government funds a council to promote national unity. Sheer hypocrisy.

How sick is that?

The 1MDB presumably was meant to enrich the nation and attract foreign investments. But why were much-needed billion dollar funds taking a tax-holiday in Singapore and foreign banks?

Keep CalmNot just Gone, but to Jail you Go

How has 1MDB helped development when all its profits seem to come from wheeling and dealing in real estate or buying and selling assets? There is no real industry, no development, only quick speculative profits. So much for the key performance index that does not seem to apply when the government plays guarantor.

For a government that legislated against property speculation why does it brag about its profits from buying and selling properties? No wonder Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tony Pua and Rafizi Ramli think the sums don’t add. Others do too.

“Where is the money?” Mahathir demands. The Wall Street Journal says US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) found its way into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s bank account. Checkmate? Not quite, not yet. But you wonder if the leader will recover and still retain enough credibility to be effective. When a leader has to appeal to the people for sympathy then you know the government will soon be saying ‘Houston, we have a problem.’ And it is one not only of perception but reality.

Will Najib still retain the moral authority and respect of the people and his political peers to lead despite the millstones around his neck from the many personal scandals?

Suspected criminal activity
The 1MDB cannot be allowed to pass as just another political scandal. Attempts to get answers are not an alleged political conspiracy like Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial. At its core is suspected criminal activity and there has to be a proper investigation to dispel the allegations and exonerate the suspected or convict the corrupt.

No one is above the law and no one is guilty until found guilty. But how do you get to the bottom of the suspicions, the allegations and the contradictions, if there is no proper inquiry into the much-publicised scandal?

ambrin-buangHoping to be rewarded on retirement

Why is the Auditor-General taking so long to give us the audit report on 1MDB since it was ordered in March, more than three months ago? As a former auditor, I dare say, I would have completed the assignment and gone for a summer holiday in Europe and returned in all that time.

Three auditors were changed since the company’s inception in 2009 and that ought to have raised eyebrows and sounded the alarm.  Is anyone that naive to believe the audit trail of the vast sum of RM42 billion does not need to be investigated and that the country should move on with business as usual? That indeed would be the most sickening thought of all.

STEVE OH is the author of the novel ‘Tiger King of the Golden Jungle’ and composer of the musical of the same title. He believes in good governance and morally upright leaders.


Malaysian Parliamentarians meet outdoors to discuss 1MBD Scandal

July 7, 2015

Malaysian Parliamentarians meet outdoors to discuss 1MBD Scandal

Police have stepped up security at Parliament ahead of a scheduled bipartisan meeting of lawmakers on the1MDB controversy.

According to Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, the Police have even denied the lawmakers a room for the meeting. “We should be at least entitled to use a hall,” he said when contacted. However, the hall requested by the MPs had been booked by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Thus, the MPs decided to hold the meeting at a shaded area at Parliament Square instead. The meeting was organised by opposition leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

In a tweet, Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang described the security overkill as an attempt to strike fear in MPs.

“Big security crisis in Parliament! Why? Because MPs want to have meeting on WSJ (Wall Street Journal) allegation against Najib with NGO reps,” wrote Lim.

It is unsure why the Police presence is even heavier than when the Dewan Rakyat is in session. However, there has been news reports that several NGOs in Penang had lodged police reports aimed at preventing former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad from showing up at Parliament today. According to Mahathir’s aide, he was never scheduled to attend any function in Parliament today.

Convict NajibFOOTNOTE: This is what we Malaysians expect to happen to someone who betrayed our trust. We want Prime Minister Najib Razak to be investigated and charged for criminal breach of trust, abuses of power and corruption and if found guilty, he should spend sometime in jail. We have had enough of his weak and incompetent leadership and lies.–Din Merican

On Greece’s Rejection of Creditor Demands

July  7, 2015

On Greece’s Rejection of Creditor Demands

by Paul Krugman

Paul KrugmanEurope dodged a bullet yesterday. Confounding many predictions, Greek voters strongly supported their government’s rejection of creditor demands. And even the most ardent supporters of European union should be breathing a sigh of relief.

Of course, that’s not the way the creditors would have you see it. Their story, echoed by many in the business press, is that the failure of their attempt to bully Greece into acquiescence was a triumph of irrationality and irresponsibility over sound technocratic advice.

But the campaign of bullying — the attempt to terrify Greeks by cutting off bank financing and threatening general chaos, all with the almost open goal of pushing the current leftist government out of office — was a shameful moment in a Europe that claims to believe in democratic principles. It would have set a terrible precedent if that campaign had succeeded, even if the creditors were making sense.

What’s more, they weren’t. The truth is that Europe’s self-styled technocrats are like medieval doctors who insisted on bleeding their patients — and when their treatment made the patients sicker, demanded even more bleeding. A “yes” vote in Greece would have condemned the country to years more of suffering under policies that haven’t worked and in fact, given the arithmetic, can’t work: Austerity probably shrinks the economy faster than it reduces debt, so that all the suffering serves no purpose. The landslide victory of the “no” side offers at least a chance for an escape from this trap.


But how can such an escape be managed? Is there any way for Greece to remain in the euro? And is this desirable in any case? The most immediate question involves Greek banks. In advance of the referendum, the European Central Bank cut off their access to additional funds, helping to precipitate panic and force the government to impose a bank holiday and capital controls. The central bank now faces an awkward choice: If it resumes normal financing it will as much as admit that the previous freeze was political, but if it doesn’t it will effectively force Greece into introducing a new currency.

Specifically, if the money doesn’t start flowing from Frankfurt (the headquarters of the central bank), Greece will have no choice but to start paying wages and pensions with IOUs, which will de facto be a parallel currency — and which might soon turn into the new drachma.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the central bank does resume normal lending, and the banking crisis eases. That still leaves the question of how to restore economic growth.

In the failed negotiations that led up to yesterday’s referendum, the central sticking point was Greece’s demand for permanent debt relief, to remove the cloud hanging over its economy. The troika — the institutions representing creditor interests — refused, even though we now know that one member of the troika, the International Monetary Fund, had concluded independently that Greece’s debt cannot be paid. But will they reconsider now that the attempt to drive the governing leftist coalition from office has failed?

I have no idea — and in any case there is now a strong argument that Greek exit from the euro is the best of bad options.

Imagine, for a moment, that Greece had never adopted the euro, that it had merely fixed the value of the drachma in terms of euros. What would basic economic analysis say it should do now? The answer, overwhelmingly, would be that it should devalue — let the drachma’s value drop, both to encourage exports and to break out of the cycle of deflation.

Of course, Greece no longer has its own currency, and many analysts used to claim that adopting the euro was an irreversible move — after all, any hint of euro exit would set off devastating bank runs and a financial crisis. But at this point that financial crisis has already happened, so that the biggest costs of euro exit have been paid. Why, then, not go for the benefits?

Would Greek exit from the euro work as well as Iceland’s highly successful devaluation in 2008-09, or Argentina’s abandonment of its one-peso-one-dollar policy in 2001-02? Maybe not — but consider the alternatives. Unless Greece receives really major debt relief, and possibly even then, leaving the euro offers the only plausible escape route from its endless economic nightmare.

And let’s be clear: If Greece ends up leaving the euro, it won’t mean that the Greeks are bad Europeans. Greece’s debt problem reflected irresponsible lending as well as irresponsible borrowing, and in any case the Greeks have paid for their government’s sins many times over. If they can’t make a go of Europe’s common currency, it’s because that common currency offers no respite for countries in trouble. The important thing now is to do whatever it takes to end the bleeding. — The New York Times


Culture–The Social Glue and Identity

July 7, 2015

Culture–The Social Glue and Identity

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

culture-and-exportingEvery group of humans whether dwelling in the same cave or working for the same corporation must share some common goals, values, and worldview, as well as everyday routine practices. This is what culture means; it is the social glue that binds the members together and differentiates them from others. Far from being society’s oppressor, culture is its savior.

The human baby is not born a carnivorous hunter or a vegetarian ascetic anymore than it is born an Aryan or Chinese. The baby may have Aryan characteristics (sharp nose, blond hair, and blue eyes) or that of a Chinese (moon face, jet black hair, and epicanthic folds) but those features do not make what it will be. Whether that baby will turn out to be a proud bearer of a swastika or marches the streets waving Mao’s Little Red Book depends upon the culture in which it has been raised.

Tune to BBC News. If you close your eyes you would assume the announcer to be a lithe English lassie. Look at the screen and your preconceived images would be shattered for behind that flawless British voice might be a lady of African descent or a Semitic-looking Arab woman, minus the purdah of course.

The process by which a group instills its collective ways and values upon its new members – acculturation – is by nature conservative, to uphold prevailing norms and standards. The dark-skinned BBC announcer could not possibly sound so elegantly authoritative had she been brought up in Southside Chicago or a Soweto township.

I had a childhood friend back in the old village. Born as I was during the terrible deprivation of the Japanese Occupation, his family, like so many poor Chinese families in rural Malaysia at that time, was forced to give him up. Growing up in his adopted Malay family, he was no different from the rest of us. I was not even aware that he was adopted despite his obvious non-Malay features.

Later as a teenager he became extremely chauvinistic, espousing fanatical sentiments of Malay nationalism. Even that did not trigger any irony on my part. On one occasion he was particularly virulent in his denunciations of the immigrants while within hearing distance of my parents. When he was gone my father laughed, remarking that someone ought to hold a mirror to my friend’s face whenever he was indulging in his racial demagoguery. Only then did it register on me that he was Chinese looking. The incongruity of his being a Malay supremacist.

My digressing short story here must have an uplifting ending. My friend did indeed outgrow his adolescent delusions and become a successful businessman with a multiracial and international clientele. Today he is the paragon of the liberal, progressive Malay, the ones the PERKASA (the acronym of a Malay ultra right-wing group) types love to hate.

Just as my friend’s upbringing (his acculturation) turned him into an insular, chauvinistic nationalist, his later vocation reformed him into an open, worldly businessman. Later, I will pursue this unappreciated but important role of trade and commerce in liberating minds.

The Dayak WarriorCulture provides the backdrop for much of our learning and experiences, as well as the environmental (both physical and social) stimuli that our brain is exposed to. These are what shape our view of reality, or in the language of neuroscience, the subsequent patterns of neural networks. Culture conserves the values and norms of that society and transmits them unchanged to the next generation.

Culture is also internally consistent even though to outsiders some of its norms and practices may appear destructive or non-productive. To the Mafia of southern Italy, being violent and vengeful are valued traits, to maintain family ‘honor.’ In not-so-ancient China members of the triad maintained their strict code of silence through uncompromising and merciless enforcement; the price for breaching being gruesome death. Then there are the “honor killing” of the Pashtuns and the self-immolation suttee where a widowed Indian would throw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Those destructive acts must have served some purpose otherwise the culture would have abandoned them long ago. The Chinese code of silence was perhaps a protective reaction to the brutish local warlords, while “honor killing” and suttee were meant to demonstrate the supreme value of family honor and marital fidelity. In that culture a widowed woman would be treated so harshly and discriminated against so mercilessly that she would be driven to prostitution or home wrecking.

To someone from a culture where infidelity is the norm (if we can believe Hollywood movies and the scandals involving Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger), suttee and honor killing seem barbaric and way out of proportion.

Likewise hudud’s stoning to death for adultery; to Muslims it reflects the sanctity of marriage and the high premium we place on marital fidelity. Humans being human, the culture does provide an outlet to minimize the possibility of imposing this harsh penalty; thus multiple wives or even “temporary” ones. The ancient Chinese accepted concubines.

As an aside, despite hudud’s current notoriety, it is well to remember that during the four centuries of Ottoman rule, the actual number of cases of “stoning to death” was only one. Compare that to the number of deaths through suttee burning and gentleman’s duel.

The Anglo Saxons’ “duel unto death” is on the same plane as suttee and honor killing; the difference merely in means and methods. The underlying principle and end result are the same – a matter of “honor” and the senseless taking of a life respectively. It illuminates my point that culture is internally consistent. It is futile for anyone, especially outsiders, to pick and choose a particular element of a culture and pronounce it regressive or uncivilized. The true and only meaningful test of a culture is how it prepares its people to stresses and changes, especially when those are sudden and dramatic, or imposed from the outside.