Former Prime Minister Dr.Mahathir Mohamed allowed in Sarawak. Congrats to Chief Minister Abang Jo and Sarawakians


September 24, 2017

Former Prime Minister Dr.Mahathir Mohamed allowed in Sarawak. Congrats to Chief Minister Abang Jo and Sarawakians

by Francis Siah

http://www.malaysiakini.com

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At long last, former Premier and Pakatan Harapan chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be stepping onto Sarawak soil again. He is scheduled to speak at a Pakatan Harapan event in Kuching on September 24.

Mahathir’s visit this time is significant as he is visiting the Hornbill State for the first time as a leader of the opposition.

In the past, I paid little or no attention to Mahathir’s visit to my home state when he was Prime Minister. Those were normal, ordinary events – yeah, what is so extraordinary about a Prime Minister visiting a state within his own country? Like many others, Sarawakians or not, I must honestly concede that I didn’t really care when Mahathir came a-visiting.

This time, however, I care. Why? I had wanted to arrange a Mahathir visit to Sarawak since late last year. No, my intention was not political. I would be inviting him under the auspices of my NGO, the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS).

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Welcome to Sarawak, the mystical Land of the Hornbills, where the legendary headhunters of Borneo originated. A land rich in cultural heritage and colourful ethnic tribes, discover the excitement of traditional animistic beliefs and immerse in this festive paradise.

Be mesmerised by Sarawak’s treasure of natural wonders; from ancient rainforests to national parks, wild caves to spectacular limestone pinnacles, pristine beaches to sparkling azure ocean, and rare flora to exotic fauna. Seeped in old-world exotic charm, Sarawak is also blessed with modern technology, infrastructure and facilities and is ready to take on the world. Sarawak’s brand new state-of-the-art hotels and convention centre are supported by a fantastic range of great eco-tourism products, adventure destinations and world-famed hospitality. Sarawak joined Malaysia on Septmber 16, 1963–54 Years ago.

My objective? I feel that Mahathir owes it to the people of Sarawak to explain what he has been doing or intends to achieve for the nation should he be successful in unseating Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in the 14th General Election (GE14). There are so many questions Sarawakians would want to ask him.

It has been more than two years since he came out with his guns blazing at Najib Razak and all throughout, the people of Sarawak were left in the dark about his intentions. A visit to the state to personally explain his goals and future plans for the nation would be in order, or so I thought.

Early this year, I spoke to a Mahathir aide (I will not mention his name as I did not obtain his permission to do so) about my plan to invite Mahathir to visit Sarawak. He was very positive about my proposal and got back to me after a while, informing me that his boss has agreed in principle to visit my home state at the invitation of MoCS.

On May 15 this year, I met up with the aide at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Cyberjaya to discuss my plan in detail on the proposed Mahathir visit to my home state.

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Kuching–The Enchanting Cat City–welcomes former Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

By this time, it was not just a visit to Kuching and a meet-the-NGOs session as I had originally planned. A friend who leads a Dayak NGO has also asked whether a visit to Betong to meet the Iban community leaders could be arranged in Mahathir’s itinerary. This was put forward in our discussion that morning and as always, Mahathir’s aide was very positive about including it in the itinerary.

Then came the all-important question which he placed before me. Would Mahathir be barred from stepping foot in Sarawak?

A ‘mortal sin’

To be honest, that question had not crossed my mind but that was a valid question indeed. A number of opposition politicians and prominent social activists have been barred from Sarawak but would Mahathir, a former long serving Prime Minister, receive the same cold treatment?

Faced with that poser, my immediate reaction was, “Surely, the Chief Minister of Sarawak would have more in him than to find some flimsy excuses to stop a 92-year-old former Prime Minister from stepping foot in Sarawak.

No, that couldn’t and shouldn’t happen, I thought to myself. It would be a mortal sin to bar Mahathir’s entry into the state.

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Surely, my Chief Minister, Abang Johari Openg (photo), would not stoop that low in imposing a ban on a highly revered Malaysian statesman just because Mahathir has aligned himself with the opposition now. Abang Jo should understand politics better than anyone else in Sarawak since he is the Chief Minister.

Must I also mention that Abang Jo should know what a “mortal sin” is since he also received his early education in a Catholic institution, St Joseph’s School, in Kuching?

But in planning for Mahathir to visit Sarawak, I had to ensure that he is allowed in. Oh, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if the nonagenarian former PM were to be stopped at the Kuching Airport and sent back to Kuala Lumpur on the next available flight? We could not afford for this to happen. It would be a total disaster.

The very next day, I quickly checked with my sources in the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Office and was greatly relieved to find out that Mahathir was not on the “blacklist” of unwelcomed visitors, whether in the political or other categories. He is “clean”.

Yes, why should Mahathir be barred at all? Sarawak BN leaders should have no quarrel with Mahathir. All of Sarawak should consider this an internal UMNO problem which has spiraled out of control. And there is no UMNO in Sarawak.

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Mahathir and Najib have reached a point of no return. One is adamant on staying in power, come what may, and the other is determined to oust a sitting Prime Minister, no matter what it takes.

I have to say that I am very happy that not a single BN leader from Sarawak has come out publicly to criticise or condemn Mahathir since he formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and teamed up with the opposition. Not a squeak came from them against the former Prime Minister.

Call it what you like, political wisdom or political maturity, but the fact remains – Sarawak BN leaders have no axe to grind with Mahathir. Wisely, they have stayed above the fray, and Abang Jo and his team should continue to do so.

Since May, other commitments have delayed my plan to organise a Mahathir visit to Sarawak. But I am most glad that he will be in my home state on September 24.

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Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at The White House with America’s Political Icon President Ronald Reagan

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Najib Razak pays hormage to an American Political Novice President Donald Trump

This is the opportunity for him to explain in person to Sarawakians his plans and programmes for the nation should Pakatan Harapan win GE14, and what will happen if BN retains power.

I hope Mahathir will have a dialogue with leaders of civil society while he is in Kuching and answer all their lingering questions. Confusion and doubts on his plans of action for the future and progress of the country must be cleared.As a Sarawakian, I extend a warm welcome to Tun to my home state. May your first visit as an opposition leader to Sarawak be fruitful, meaningful and memorable.

Welcome to the Land of the Hornbill again, Tun.


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com.

Home and away, Najib has a China dilemma


September 22, 2017

Home and away, Najib has a China dilemma

While the Malaysian leader relies on Beijing for economic succor, he’s still viewed skeptically by his country’s ethnic Chinese voting bloc with tight polls on the horizon

Singapore
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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak looks on duringIndependence Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia August 31, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

 

Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed Malaysia’s Chinese community at a well-attended gathering last week to urge support for his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government ahead of new national polls.

The leader called for stronger Chinese representation in his United Malays National Organization-led (UMNO) government and doubled down on promises of delivering prosperity and quality education across all of the country’s ethnic groups.

“If the Chinese voice is stronger in BN, then you are able to shape the policies and possibilities of this government even better and even stronger,” Najib said. “Without peace in the country, the Chinese will be the first to be targeted and that is why we are a moderate government committed to peace and mutual harmony.”

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While Najib placed emphasis on Malaysia as a multiracial nation and struck an overall moderate tone, others interpreted his remark as a fear-mongering veiled threat. Opposition parliamentarian Liew Chin Tong accused the premier of trying to win votes by “singling out the ethnic Chinese,” a move he said would actually undermine support for his government.

Malaysia’s next election is due by August 2018, though there is speculation that early polls could soon be announced. Najib’s outreach to the Chinese community signals an attempt to re-engage the minority voter bloc following general elections in 2013 where the BN coalition delivered its worst-ever election performance.

At the time, Najib acknowledged how ethnic Chinese voters had supported the opposition in droves, controversially characterizing their voting behavior as a “Chinese tsunami.” Najib initially vowed to undertake national reconciliation following the electoral upset, but instead has moved to burnish his Islamic credentials in a bid to consolidate support from conservative and rural ethnic Malay voters.

Ethnic Chinese communities make up around 23% of Malaysia’s population and are seen to be largely in opposition to Najib’s continued rule. His term has been defined by the international multi-billion dollar money laundering controversies related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state development fund he created and until recently oversaw.

Lesser noticed, however, have been perennial allegations of money politics, elite corruption, stark political polarization and a widening cultural divide between Malaysia’s ethnic and religious groups that some fear could tip towards instability if not effectively reconciled.

Image result for Najib and HadiThis strange alliance with Hadi Awang may prove costly to Najib Razak in East Malaysia where Islamisation is viewed with anxiety and suspicion.

Recent studies show nearly half the country’s ethnic Chinese population have a strong desire to leave Malaysia due to perceived discrimination, political disenfranchisement and fears of Islamization. Nearly 88% of the 56,576 Malaysians who renounced their citizenship in the decade spanning 2006 to 2016 were ethnic Chinese.

Shortly after assuming office in 2009, Najib introduced the 1Malaysia national concept, a governing philosophy which placed emphasis on ethnic harmony, national unity and efficient governance. Following the 2013 election, the Prime Minister has placed less pretense on the talking points of the scheme, opting to posture as a defender of Islam and Malay unity.

“Political parties from both sides of the divide are centered around the Malay agenda, winning votes in Malay majority constituencies. Meanwhile, government efforts like 1Malaysia and its subsequent rebranding has neither substance nor strategy,” political analyst Khoo Kay Peng recently wrote. “The concept of unity is not even at the forefront of societal discussion.”

An important aspect of Najib’s domestic agenda in recent years has been the formation of a loose alliance with the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has an electoral stronghold in Malaysia’s rural and conservative north and advocates a hardline sharia punishment code known as hudud.

Abdul Hadi Awang, PAS’ influential President, was given tacit government approval to table a controversial hudud bill in parliament in 2015, which sought to ease some of the constitutional restrictions imposed on sharia courts in order to implement more severe punishments, subjecting offenders to longer prison sentences and corporal punishment.

Though observers were initially dismissive of Najib’s support for hudud, his government attempted to take over Hadi’s bill last year. The prime minister reversed course in March due to strong opposition from other BN coalition partners – notably from the Malaysian Chinese Association and other ethnic minority parties – and concerns it would dampen foreign investor sentiment.

Against a backdrop of political controversies and a deepening cultural divide, Malaysia’s upcoming general election is expected to be one of the tightest in decades. The political opposition, once a fractured grouping of disparate parties, appears more cohesive under the leadership of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who defected from UMNO and embraced opposition parties to form the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Comeback kid: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, 92, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 30, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

 

Trump’s meeting at The White House with Malaysian crook Najib reeks of the swamp


September 19, 2017

Trump’s meeting at The White House with Malaysian crook Najib reeks of the swamp

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | It’s hard to imagine why Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak thought it was a good idea to try ‘cleansing’ himself of suspicions of involvement in the alleged laundering of billions from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) by staging a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

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The Venue of President Donald Trump’s Meet with the Malaysian Crook, Najib Razak–The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC

Considering his well-known penchant for unconsciously employing truth-revealing puns in his proclamations, perhaps he suddenly perceived the word “washing” in “Washing-ton” and the connotation of “white-wash” in “White House” as signs that he should take his personal dirty laundry there.

Or else it occurred to him that by appealing to the White House incumbent as not only a fellow golfer but even more so as fawning golfer in support of the President’s trumped-up crusade to “make America great again,” he could create the kind of mutual admiration and assistance situation in which, as Najib never tires of repeating, “I help you, you help me.”

In other words, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, or more appropriately to the Washington and White House context, the classically proverbial “one hand washes the other.”

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Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua Value Proposition

The trouble being, in the case of Trump and Najib, both hands were dirty, or at least allegedly so. In fact, the very same US Department of Justice (DOJ) that is investigating alleged dirty electoral deeds in cahoots with Russia by supporters of Trump, if not yet specifically the man himself, is also hot on the trail of the alleged Najib’s 1MDB gang of money-launderers.

And, as gleefully told and re-told by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, CNN and other US media so inconveniently truthful and accurate about Trump’s wash-out of a presidency that he’s resorted to falsely slandering them as ‘fake news’, Najib has a whole laundry-list of scandals to his name.

As a member of the Malaysia’s ruling UMNO-BN for 40 years or so, he’s allegedly implicated in all of the regime’s countless dirty deeds, from its systematic corruption of the nation’s judicial, electoral and other institutions and ceaseless plundering of public funds, to the still-unresolved Scorpene submarines scandal and associated murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu under his watch as Defence Minister, in addition to the 1MDB swindle.

In short, Najib is even more of a wash-out as Prime Minister of Malaysia than Trump is proving to be as President of the US, and has been a total wash-out for far, far longer than Trump has been or can ever be.

As Josh Rogin of the Washington Post wrote in advance of Najib’s arrival to try and treat the White House as his personal laundromat, his ‘authoritarian power grab’ is worse than anything Trump has done.

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As former US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott noted in a similarly hard-hitting article, Rogin pointed out that, while Trump has made empty threats to jail political opponents, “critics of the Malaysian government have been routinely imprisoned”.

“While Trump uses mere rhetoric to undermine the credibility of the free media, Najib uses criminal law to silence them,” Rogin continued.

“While Trump may wish for more compliant judicial and legislative branches, in Malaysia all checks and balances on executive power have been essentially stamped out.”

Now, with an election looming, having lost the popular vote in the previous one, and “engulfed by allegations (that) he pilfered billions from his own country’s sovereign wealth fund,” Rogin further wrote, Najib “craves international legitimacy.”

As it turns out, Najib craves “international legitimacy” so desperately that he’s happy to buy it.

Though by promising Trump that his UMN0-BN regime will buy more US aircraft and invest more Employees Provident Fund (EPF) money in US infrastructure, as if he was somehow offering aid to the world’s richest nation, he has arguably made himself look even less internationally legitimate and more internationally laughable than ever.

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Certainly former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz thinks so, according to an article he has written for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and that Newsweek has re-published under the heading ‘Trump’s meeting with Malaysian crook Najib reeks of the swamp’.

A great many Malaysians find Najib’s Washington antics laughable too, to judge by the general run of comments that I’ve seen on Malaysiakini accounts of announcements by the man himself and his UMNO-BN minions that his image-washing and spinning Trump trip has positioned him as a ‘player on the global stage’.

What a dismal joke. What a total wash-out. And what a great day it will be for Malaysia and indeed the entire planet, when both Najib and his bosom buddy Trump, not to mention the countless other grubby heads of state devoted to doing the dirty on their citizens, from Russia, Syria, China and North Korea, through the Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia, to South Africa and Nigeria and on and on, will finally find themselves all washed-up and down the drain.

 

Najib Razak: The Donald called me “my friend”


September 6, 2017

Malaysia’s Statesman who gave away our Kitchen sink to gain the endorsement from The Donald.  That is no great shakes.

At the same time, he goes to China with a begging bowl to save 1MDB and obtain concessional loans to develop our infrastructure. En route home, he drops by in London for a photo op with Britain Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May at No. 10 Downing Street. Why does not he need external endorsement? Y The answer is very obvious–he is unpopular back home.–Din Merican

Najib Razak: The Donald called me my friend’

by Zikri Kamarulzaman

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said US President Donald Trump was so honoured to host the Malaysian delegation at the White House on Tuesday that the latter personally saw them off.

Recalling the end of his meeting at the White House Cabinet Room, Najib said one of Trump’s aides had wanted to arrange a handshake photo-op outside the president’s office.

“Trump said ‘No, I want to send him to the car.’

“The officer then said, ‘But sir, the car is right down at the basement.’

“What did Trump say? He said ‘never mind, he is my friend’,” Najib told some 1,000 supporters at the Bunga Raya Complex, next to KLIA, tonight. He said this was a sign of respect, even though his critics mocked his US visit.

Najib visited Trump on Tuesday, on invitation of the White House.

Unlike Trump’s meetings with other heads of governments, there was no handshake photo-op with Najib before news agencies in the Oval Office.

The only images of Najib in the US President’s office appear to be from the official White House media team.

 

Likewise, the duo also opted not to have a customary joint press conference at either the East Room or the Rose Garden, which is the norm for leaders visiting the US president at the White House.

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Instead, a joint press statement was issued after their meeting in the Cabinet Room, and journalists were not allowed to ask questions.

It is believed that the lack of media access was to prevent uncomfortable questions about the US Department of Justice’s investigations into the 1MDB scandal.

 

Malaysia’s Grand Poobah’s Chequebook Diplomacy in Washington DC


September 15, 2017

Malaysia’s Grand Poobah’s Chequebook Diplomacy in Washington can be strategic, admits Ambassador Emeritus Dennis Ignatius

www,malaysiakini.com

 

COMMENT | Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent White House soirée has brought Malaysia an unprecedented level of scrutiny and negative publicity. All major US newspapers, for example, unanimously panned the visit, highlighting the inappropriateness of inviting someone linked to an ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation (into 1MDB-related money-laundering charges).

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Najib’s Chequebook Diplomacy–Helping America Great Again impresses Donald J. Trump

It is a measure of just how far his reputation has fallen internationally after once having been feted everywhere as a reformist and moderate Muslim democrat. It is also a reminder of how little all of this really matters in a world dominated by realpolitik and the pursuit of strategic advantage.

Certainly, Najib himself didn’t appear to lose too much sleep over all the bad press. For him, the visit was clearly about positioning himself for the next elections and burnishing his credentials as a well-respected international leader able to run with some of the most powerful leaders in the world.

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Taken together with earlier high-profile meetings with President Xi Jinping, King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the meeting with Trump, as well as Britain’s Theresa May, lends credence to Najib’s narrative that under his stewardship, Malaysia has become “a rising star” and a “global player.”

While the urban crowd and opposition supporters will no doubt shake their heads in disbelief, it will play well with Najib’s rural base, effectively neutralising the 1MDB issue, arguably Najib’s most troublesome political challenge.

Najib’s grand strategy

Beyond the optics and the controversy over 1MDB, the visit also revealed a side to Najib that will surely drive the opposition to further despair: he is proving to be a far better strategist than he’s been given credit for.

He has parlayed the powers of his office and all the levers of state control at his disposal to successfully play off both China and the US to his advantage.

It might be recalled that he deliberately pivoted to China after his falling-out with the Obama Administration.

In Beijing, last year, he complained about foreign meddling, of being treated unfairly, of being lectured to by Western powers. In not so many words, he went on to contemptuously dismiss the US and other Western powers as has-beens with no future in Asia and hinted about a new strategic partnership with China.

It appears that Washington, already alarmed at China’s growing clout in the region, quickly got the message. Washington will now play along to get along.

Furthermore, with a more amoral (some would say unscrupulous) occupant in the White House to do business with, and with Beijing beginning to get too demanding (as witnessed by the unravelling of the Bandar Malaysia deal), Najib might have also seen the need to recalibrate the balance between the US and China.

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Playing the China-US Hedging Game

Better relations with Washington will now give Najib more room to manoeuvre. It will also allow Najib to undercut opposition criticism that he is too close to China.

He has thus put both Washington and Beijing on notice: be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. It is, in fact, the global application of his domestic political approach: as he once told Chinese Malaysians, “If you show support [for UMNO-BN] we have no problem giving more… if not, difficult lah.”

Though it is still too early to predict how all this will turn out, no other prime minister has displayed such a flair for big power gamesmanship as he.

Buying his way to respectability

In order to demonstrate to both the US and China that they have much to gain both strategically and economically by being supportive of his administration, Najib has resorted to a form of chequebook diplomacy hitherto only used by rich and powerful countries – promising contracts, investments and big-ticket purchases in exchange for support and endorsement.

With China, Najib generously granted PRC corporations billions of ringgit in infrastructure contracts, even favouring PRC contractors over our own.

He has also earned the undying gratitude of President Xi by wholeheartedly embracing the latter’s One Belt One Road (Obor) initiative, dismissing concerns about the viability and lack of transparency of many Obor projects.

And under his watch, Malaysia made its first purchase of defence equipment from China.

In Washington, Najib opened his chequebook once again promising to buy more than RM42 billion in new aircraft for Malaysian Airlines (MAS), RM300 million in fighter jets for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), and to direct RM12 billion to RM16 billion in new investments from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Kazanah Nasional to US infrastructure projects.

He also promised to “persuade” AirAsia to switch from British-made Rolls Royce engines to American-made GE engines.

No doubt, this was all music to Trump’s ears, a small contribution to making American great again.

American officials, of course, deny the visit will have any impact on the DOJ investigations but does anybody really believe that Najib would have made all those expensive promises simply to make Trump feel good?

After this, expect European and Japanese salesmen-politicians to come knocking at our doors with hat in hand and high praise for Najib on their lips. For so long as there’s money to be made, inconvenient issues like human rights and good governance will not be allowed to get in the way.

Cost of Najib’s generosity

The downside, however, is that Malaysia’s already beleaguered opposition, as well as its human rights defenders, can now expect no sympathy or moral support from the US and other democracies.

Najib has neatly turned the tables on his detractors; far from isolating him internationally, he has now marginalised them at home.

Worse still, the nation will have to pay a heavy price for Najib’s extravagant chequebook diplomacy.  We are already heavily indebted to China; now we will be driven into even greater debt with billions of new borrowing to pay for Najib’s Washington promises.That the government of a cash-strapped developing country, which has had to impose a new tax (GST) on its own hard-pressed and long-suffering populace just to stay afloat, would offer such an extravagant economic boost to one of the richest economies in the world is both unprecedented and mind-boggling.

DENNIS IGNATIUS, a former Malaysian ambassador, firmly believes that we should put our trust not in the leadership of politicians but in the sanctity of great institutions – our secular and democratic constitution, a democratically-elected parliament, an independent judiciary, a free press and a government fully accountable to the people. He blogs here.

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When Two Grand Poobahs Meet, there are Fireworks–Of Najib and Donald


September 15,2017

Note: Malaysia’s Grand Poobah cum Corrupter Numero Uno,Najib Razak, will make his triumphant appearance at The Bunga Raya VIP complex at around 8 pm today to a hero’s welcome after a “successful visit”  to The Trump White House. A hero? Well, I am aghast at our lack of understanding of the concept of hero. To his supporters in UMNO and Barisan Nasional, one has to a robber and also an unconvicted felon to qualify.

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Welcome Home Wira Negara from The United States

A reader of this blog from Silicon Valley with a Masters Degree from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California and former Malaysian and Vietnam War Veteran wrote this about Najib’s taxpayer funded trip:

“One crook playing host to another crook. Nothing new here. Donald Trump is turning the White House into a Club House for criminals, kleptocrats and dictators, where they exchange tips on how to tap into different government assets to transfer directly into their bank accounts. Kleptocrat Najib is Trump’s kind of guy. Trump is figuring out how to scam him out of the money he criminally stole from the Malaysian people.

And oh ya, Najib has paid a lot of money coming to pay homage at this Club House. It’s called Pay For Play… yeah, I didn’t invent the phrase, I plagiarized it. No red carpet. No state dinner. And, of course, no press conference because there’re plenty of something to hide. Najib just needed a pat on his head from Trump, so that he can return home to brag and boast and lie to his people that he’s the blessings from Trump to screw them up more.

Sure, all these criminal politicians,dictators and kleptocrats, when booking rooms for coming to pay homage at the Club House, have to pretend not knowing that the “Trump International Hotel” belongs to Donald Trump. Of course they know they’re lining Trump’s pockets by staying at his hotel, and easy enough to leave “something extra for the proprietor” without it going through official channels. It’s a bribe that isn’t officially a bribe. In country like Malaysia where bribes and cronyism are extensively common, Najib is the Grand Poobah who knows how to do it.”

I am now posting Dr. Lim Teck Ghee’s article on Najib’s pilgrimage to The White House to pay homage to America’s Grand Poobah to welcome Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Seri and  Yang Amat DiKasihi Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor home.

At that brief meeting, our Prime Minister pledged to help the United States economically with a value proposition comprising  Malaysia Airlines’ purchase of Boeings and investments by EPF and Khazanah Nasional Berhad plus expenses incurred at Trump International Hotel which are underwritten by Malaysian taxpayers.–Din Merican

When Two Grand Poobahs Meet, there are Fireworks–Of Najib and Donald

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Observers of the recent meeting of the US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Najib Razak may have underestimated the admiration that the two leaders have for each other and their shared ideological leanings, besides their common interest in spending time with golf buddies.

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Trump has gone on record during his recent Republican Presidential campaign to famously declare:

My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money. I’m going to be greedy for the United States.

The first part of his declaration no one should have any doubt about.

As to the second part, let history judge if Trump is able to protect the interest of the United States through his principle of greed and me-first and last. For now, he has severe problems with his home audience, recording the lowest rating of any president since approval rating polls on US Presidents started in the 1940s.

In the last few days there has been a slight uptick in Trump’s approval rating. But this cannot be attributed to Najib’s visit.

The visit of our esteemed Prime Minister – Trump’s “favourite Prime Minister” according to a signed photo apparently prominently displaced in Najib’s office – may be trumpeted by the local media as a triumph and coup. The New Straits Times, for example, has given pride of place to an article by the foreign affairs magazine, The Diplomat, which noted that it was the second visit by a Southeast Asian leader to Trump’s White House (after Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam) and assessed the visit as “a feat within the context of the bilateral relationship”.

Visit An Own Goal?

However, more astute Malaysia watchers are wondering if the Prime Minister’s side may have kicked an own goal in pushing for the visit which appears planned to boost Najib’s image and the Barisan Nasional’s prospects in the coming 14th General election.

The feedback of respected media in the United States and internationally has not only been unanimously critical. It has also put the spotlight again on the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) probe – its largest kleptocracy investigation ever – into potential fraud surrounding the 1MDB fund and, among other alleged crimes, as to whether the prime minister – indirectly referred to as “Malaysian Official 1” diverted more than $1billion to his own bank account.

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In a stinging op-ed on  September 6, the widely read and influential, The Wall Street Journal urged Trump to cancel the meeting using domestic concerns as a pretext. Assessing it a mistake to accord Najib a visit, the paper identified him as an authoritarian who may be implicated in the money-laundering scandal involving 1MDB.

“Any embarrassment is better than giving a scandal-tainted leader a White House photo-op,” the editorial concluded.

Now that the visit is over, follow up news reports have focused on whether it was appropriate for the Prime Minister and his entourage to stay at the Trump International Hotel – a move seen as injudicious, if not unethical, in view of the President’s personal interest in the hotel. Cynical reports have described stays by foreign delegations at the hotel, which is managed by Trump’s children, as creating opportunities for special interests to enrich the President as well as attempts at currying favour with him.

So what did the Prime Minister actually bring home from the visit, assuming like Trump, he was greedy for Malaysia. The visit ostensibly was to mark 60 years of bilateral relations of the two countries so there was no new breakthrough in relationship to pursue. All that was achieved was the reaffirmation of the US as a strategic partner in trade and ally in regional and security issues against ISIS and North Korea.

But Najib did bring a shopping list to help Trump “in strengthening the US economy”. Included in this list was the purchase of Boeing planes estimated at more than US10 billion in value and a possible similar sum to be invested in the US by Khazanah Nasional and EPF.

In return for this generous contribution from our fund strapped national treasury to the world’s strongest economy, Najib did not return empty handed. Trump praised Najib for his “major role in not allowing Islamic State and others (terror groups) to exist”. And apparently that was all that Najib was able to squeeze out of his “greedy for the United States” golfing partner.

Will his visit derail the ongoing DOJ investigation into the 1MDB scandal? According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when asked if Trump would address the DOJ investigation:

“We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation being led by DOJ, and that investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place [during the meeting of the two leaders]”.

Whether the visit will influence the DOJ in any way is a big unknown. But it must be clear to the Prime Minister’s backroom boys assessing the outcome that the Prime Ministers’s position on domestic issues such as human rights violations, religious extremism and political abuses remain subject to international scrutiny and that the Prime Minister will have even less wriggle room in the event of another controversy or crisis.