Whither ASEAN–The View of a Pessimist?


April 30, 2016

Whither ASEAN–The View of a Pessimist?

by Philip Bowring

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/obituary-association-southeast-asian-nations/

As 2016 chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Laotian People’s Democratic Republic is leading the group toward political irrelevance. And that is doubtless how China, the hand controlling the Laotian glove puppet, would like to see it.

The three minnows of ASEAN, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos, have just undermined ASEAN’s efforts to present some sort of a united front questioning China’s claims and activities in the South China Sea. Feeble though these have been, with endless talk of a developing a Code of Conduct making scant headway, they have at least been commonly agreed.

Meanwhile China has continued aggressive actions, reclaiming land, driving Filipinos from the Scarborough Shoal which lies well within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and sending fleets of fishing boats protected by armed Coast Guard vessels operating 1,000 miles from the China coast to steal the fish from the exclusive zones of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

But creating facts in the sea while stalling the Code of Conduct, is not sufficient for China. On April 24 in the Laotian capital Vientiane, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced, with an understandable sense of triumph, that an “important consensus” had been reached with the three that disputes over the South China Sea should be resolved entirely on a bilateral basis and not involve ASEAN.

According to the Chinese, the consensus criticized any efforts to “unilaterally impose an agenda on other countries” and vowed that national sovereignty would prevail over the regional grouping. None of the other parties has contradicted Wang.

Timed for Hague Decision 

This China-created “consensus” was timed in advance of the decision expected in June from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on a Philippine case against China. Beijing refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the court but needs to find some diplomatic support given that the court is widely expected to rule largely in the Philippines’ favor.

The statement also comes at a time when Indonesia, which long claimed not to be involved in the South China Sea disputes, is making more determined efforts to protect its fisheries and is growing concerned about the proximity of China’s nine-dash line claim to its gas fields off the Natuna islands.

In February, ASEAN expressed serious concern about developments in the South China Sea, with only Laotian and Cambodian opposition preventing a stronger statement. But now the three minnows have effectively said that neither ASEAN nor international courts play any role in regional issues.

In which case, why bother to treat ASEAN as having any political or diplomatic role? Just leave ASEAN as a loose economic grouping with some extra benefits such as visa-free travel and stop pretending that it is anything more. It has long been clear that the overriding national interests of the states abutting the South China Sea were not fully shared by Myanmar or Thailand, let alone landlocked Laos.

As it is, tiny Laos with its long Chinese border, is already the focus of massive Chinese investment and is a bridgehead for the advance of Chinese road and rail systems into Thailand. The Hun Sen regime in Cambodia was installed by the Vietnamese (?) but has come increasingly under Chinese influence thanks to money and historic Khmer suspicion of Vietnam.

Brunei Sultan Blazes Islamic Path

As for Brunei, making sense of the decisions of its autocratic Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is never easy. Two years ago he announced that full Islamic law would be introduced in three stages, culminating in such features as cutting off limbs and stoning adulterers and homosexuals. At the same time, he is trying to reduce dependence on oil and make his petty kingdom into an Islamic version of Singapore, which would call for a far more open society than he consents to envision. All this is very confusing particularly given the Brunei royal family’s past reputation for gross extravagance and as a paradise for beautiful rent-seeking women who dare serious sexual harassment from randy royal children.

Brunei’s EEZ is known to contain oil and gas it needs to replenish its dwindling reserves. Much of its 200-mile EEZ lies within China’s nine-dash line so Brunei’s interest should be in expressing solidarity with Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. But Chinese money may have been more persuasive. Or the Sultan may figure that being a tool of China makes it less likely that Brunei, population 250,000, will eventually be swallowed by Malaysia or Indonesia.

The current divide makes it a good occasion to re-think both the name and the concept of the region. The very name Southeast Asia is of recent creation – by the British in the 1940s to describe territories occupied by Japan from Burma (previously part of British India) to the Philippines vis so-called Indochina, the Malay Peninsula and the Indian (or Malay) Archipelago (Indonesia). ASEAN in turn was invented in the 1960s as an anti-Communist bloc from which grew something bigger but more oriented towards trade.

ASEAN Minus Five?

Trade cooperation is still needed but as a political tool for its three largest states, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, which between them account for 75 percent of its population, ASEAN is now counter-productive. Likewise Malaysia needs close South China Sea allies not merely to defend its own islands and exclusive zones but to protect the integrity of a nation divided by roughly 600 km of sea, some of which lies within China’s nine-dash line.

In other words, these four states plus Brunei, if it could be released from the clutches of a newly medieval ruler, need a new grouping, could find sensible compromises on their own overlapping claims and confront China with a firm and united voice.

Convincing Indonesia of the merits of such as idea would be difficult. Jakarta not only hosts the ASEAN secretariat, such as it is, but harbors a sense that it is both the leader of the group and voice of moderation on all issues. That may have been the case in the past when it still basked in its non-aligned legacy and China was on the margin of regional affairs. But now China’s power and expansionist interests have divided ASEAN and made a myth of Indonesian assumptions of quiet leadership.

Wang Yi’s April 24 statement was a blunt description of a reality that has long been evident but fervently denied by foreign ministries in many capitals wedded to ASEAN illusions. It can be denied no longer. China has spoken: ASEAN is irrelevant.

1MDB confirms that cross defaults have been triggered


April 26, 2016

1MDB confirms that cross defaults have been triggered

 1MDB Statement

 www.freemalaysiatoday.com

1mdb-ipic

PETALING JAYA: 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) states that the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) has not made payment of USD50.3 million in interest as required under the terms of a binding term sheet executed on May 28, 2015 (Binding Term Sheet), under which IPIC assumed the obligation to pay the interest and ultimately the principal for, amongst others, the USD1.75 billion fixed rate 5.75% notes due 2022, issued by 1MDB Energy (Langat) Limited (Langat Notes).

Accordingly, due to a dispute between the parties, neither 1MDB, nor its subsidiary, 1MDB Energy (Langat) Limited, have made payment either, and are now in default per the terms of the Langat Notes.

Notwithstanding the dispute with IPIC, 1MDB reiterates that it will meet all of its other existing financial obligations and has ample liquidity to do so. 1MDB withheld the interest payment following claims by IPIC that certain payments and other obligations were still owed it.

1MDB has been surprised by IPIC’s comments and unequivocally asserts that it has attempted to meet all its obligations to IPIC, whereas IPIC has publicly denied receipt or knowledge of various financial transactions and/or guarantees entered into between the parties. Accordingly, whilst 1MDB has the funds to have made the interest payment, it is 1MDB’s position, as a matter of principle, that it was IPIC’s obligation to do so. Until IPIC accepts that all obligations have been met, 1MDB is obliged to withhold payments and will seek legal recourse and resolution.

Limited cross defaults

As a result of the default on the Langat Notes, 1MDB confirms that cross defaults have been triggered on the 1MDB RM5 billion Sukuk due 2039 (1MDB Sukuk) and the RM2.4 billion Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd Sukuk due between 2021 and 2024 (BMSB Sukuk).

There is no 1MDB cross default on an RM800 million loan from the Social Security Organisation (Socso Loan). However, there is a possibility that the “material adverse effect” clause may be triggered due to the developments highlighted above.

The 1MDB Sukuk and the Socso Loan both benefit from guarantees issued by the Government of Malaysia.1MDB confirms that there is no cross default on its other remaining debt, i.e. the USD1.75 billion fixed rate 5.99% 1MDB Energy Limited notes (Energy Notes) and the USD3.00 billion fixed rate 4.4% 1MDB Global Investments Limited notes (GIL Notes). 1MDB has no other debt.

Over the past week, 1MDB has proactively met with and explained the consequences of the IPIC dispute to the Trustees and investors of the 1MDB Sukuk and the BMSB Sukuk. 1MDB has also engaged with Socso. 1MDB trusts that the respective parties and the financial markets in general, will understand this unfortunate default as being very specific to its dispute with IPIC and is not due to an inability to make payment when due.

Engaging with all bondholders

1MDB has and will continue to undertake discussions with all bond and Sukuk holders to explain the background of the dispute; clarify why it has taken the position to not make the interest payment on the Langat Notes; and reiterate that it has a successful rationalisation plan in place that enables it to meet all its existing debt obligations.

1MDB wishes to underline that it is committed to working openly with IPIC to resolve the dispute in order to minimise the impact on all stakeholders and to avoid the need for accelerating bond or Sukuk payments in a way that would pose significant risks to its rationalisation plan.

1MDB welcomes dialogue with all its bond/Sukuk holders and urges them to make contact at investor.relations@1mdb.com.my

Notes:

On June 4, 2015, the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) publicly announced it was assuming the Issuer’s obligation to pay the interest due under the Langat Notes in exchange for certain undertakings to transfer assets and cash to IPIC.

Interest was payable on the semi-annual interest payment date of April 18, 2016 in respect of the USD1.75 billion 5.75% Notes due 2022 issued by the Issuer.

Rationalisation plan

1MDB’s rationalisation plan is centred on three main pillars: first, the sale of the Edra Global Energy power assets; second, the sale of land at Bandar Malaysia; and third the debt-for-asset swap that was agreed with IPIC. Through these pillars, all 1MDB debt would be repaid, transferred or matched, as per current assumptions.

To date, the rationalisation plan has delivered on the sale of Edra Global Energy and the 60% equity stake sale in Bandar Malaysia. Proceeds from the sales have been utilised to repay all bank and short term debt of 1MDB. 1MDB now retains a cash surplus of approximately RM2.3 billion for infrastructure and other debt service requirements.

Future debt obligations are fully matched by the sale of Bandar Malaysia land, the development and sale of TRX lands as well as the eventual monetisation of the Pulau Indah and Air Itam land.

Statement issued by 1MDB.

Malaysia: Azalina and Tomb of Lies


April 22, 2016

READ THIS: Singapore Banker charged in connection with 1MDB scandal for money laundering:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-22/from-1mdb-probe-singapore-charges-former-banker-with-laundering

Tomb of Lies

by Rihaku (received vi e-mail)

 

Lina O wants to know: Who lied?

Answer: You did, Lina. And so did Najib Razak, and Zahid Hamidi, and Adnan, and Apandi, and Arul…. and, of course, Chubby Low. Unfortunately, very unfortunately, you were being human.

1MDB was built on a tomb of lies

Dear Azalina/Lina:

You’ve been lying and lying and lying, but you can’t help it. How can you? You don’t even know your own lies.

Let’s begin with the Saudi Foreign Minister, whose remarks centered on two ingredients. One, the Saudi government is ‘aware’ of investigations into a certain ‘donation’, amount unstated, source anonymous, and so on (see Chedet: Money Trail). Two, the ‘donation’ was unconditional.

Now, contrast those remarks against the unknown and the unstated. The minister’s remarks are actually regurgitation, vomit, that on countless occasions had been recycled by Najib Razak’s ministers (‘recycle’ is Arul’s favorite red herring word used to throw our scent off from getting straight answers). As a result, those words resurrect old problems that hadn’t been addressed before.

One, when is a ‘donation’ a donation? An example in this question: ‘A’ steals from Bank X then transfers to ‘B’ who in turn deposits half the loot into A’s Bank Y. Is B donating to A — technically? Two, why don’t those towel head Saudis come straight, right out to say it: “Here’s the donor, here is proof of yearly earnings, in USD billions, here’s the remittance receipt, here is the money back. We consider the case closed.” Instead, the minister actually recycles Najib’s Arulian spittle. Why?

The worse for the inanity is this, Lina: with those remarks, you went to town gloating, and that in writing, too. Why? There was nothing new in them. On the contrary, the Saudi man doesn’t even say the donation is a ‘political fund’ which, if you remember, Lina, you said late last year was the purpose of the US$681 million. First, there was no such money, after that the money was a form of Islamic ‘reward’, then ‘political funding’, and now it’s a ‘genuine’ personal donation.

Can you, Lina, sense the lie on the lie on the lie on the lie? Said so often, you are beginning to believe your own lies. You can’t even tell one lie from another, much less the truth from them. You can’t even tell when a donation ceases to be a donation and, therefore, see that a donation can be a form of gratification — words contained in the  MACC Act. Look it up, since you are lawyer, ableit a kaki ampu bodek.

Then there is the matter of conditionality. For someone to drop US$681 million into your bank account, expecting nothing in return, is an un-human feat and, worse for it, when this is done in the name of your God. Think about it for a minute, Lina: Why is it un-human?

But to pass around embezzled money, whether this is done by thieves or politicians, is pure human reaction. Consequently, it has to be unconditional. In colloquial terms, it is called splitting the loot. What need is there to expect anything in return when the money hadn’t originally come from nor does it belong to the donor? Nor recipient.

Lina, can you not see? Your lies cloud your judgment. After which, you mentioned of a letter published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation which you say reaffirms the Saudi’s remarks. Is this it?

375m-pledge-letter-to-Najib-Razak-from-HRH-p1-normal

Click on image for an enlarged view.

It was with that letter plus two consecutive findings you cited from Apandi Ali and parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that led you to believe Najib is innocent of all the accusations. So, let’s go into your arguments. Apandi (A-G)first.

Essentially, the A-G says (a) there is ‘no evidence’ to trace money going from 1MDB to Najib. Instead, (b) there is evidence to show that money went from a Saudi national to Najib. Therefore, no crime.

Before going further, a little history. But, re-read the Saudi letter above, dated 2011, alongside the two statements from International Petroleum Investment Co, below, five years later.

On September 2009, Najib signed a deal with the Saudis, creating the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture (JV) with Malaysia putting in US$1 billion. Then from March 2011 onwards, barely 18 months after the JV, 1MDB began raising US$3.5 billion in two bond tranches through Goldman Sachs (there was a third in Mar 2012, raising US$3 bn). If Goldman were to raise that kind of money, it needs guarantees. So Najib goes not to his business partners, the Saudis, but their neighbors, the UAE, IPIC to underwrite both deals.

Some Saudi may give to Najib US$681 million for nothing, but not IPIC. It has shareholders and the London Stock Exchange (LSE) to answer to. So, in its turn, IPIC asks Malaysia for collateral but at that early stage, year 2010, what has 1MDB got other than MYR1 million as paid-in capital? Nothing, not the JV, no Argentinian oil fields, no Turkmenistan. Nothing, except this: a lien on the power assets — later known as Edra Energy — with which US$3.5 bn was supposed to buy, starting with Tanjung Power.

Most of the money never went to those power plants anyway but transferred instead to some island bank accounts. Now, worse for IPIC, Arul has sold all of Edra, alongside the Bandar Malaysia land (used partly as justification to raise the third, US$3 bn tranche of bonds). Those sales left the Emirate holding what for collateral? Nothing, but a worthless piece of promise on paper.

This train of affairs isn’t a matter of speculative conjecture but constitutes an easily traceable chain of events but are now unraveling. And this event series is documented, such as with bank transactions and, now, the Saudi letter and IPIC’s most recent two LSE statements (below). IPIC statements are most revealing, saying as if they had had enough not only of 1MDB but also — and get this right — the Ministry of Finance. Meaning, Najib. They must have reasoned, ‘why is it that Najib can, at the snap of finger, get up to a billion but can’t show us any money to honor 1MDB deals with us? Have we been exploited — no, cheated — to cover a scam?

IPIC statements exposed the terrible experiences they had in making deals with Malaysians: Above, 1MDB lied to us, IPIC says, and in their accounts. We didn’t get the money. Below, IPIC to MoF in a statement for the London Stock Exchange, all deals are off, we might sue.

1MDB Debt Settlement Arrangements

On 28 May 2015, International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), Aabar Investments PJS (Aabar), Minister of Finance, Inc., Malaysia (MOF) and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) entered into a binding term sheet that provides for the following principal matters:

·    on 4 June 2015, IPIC provided US$1 billion to 1MDB for 1MDB to utilise immediately to settle certain of its liabilities (the Cash Payment);

·    from 4 June 2015, IPIC has assumed the obligations to pay (on an interim basis) all interest due under two IPIC guaranteed 1MDB financings amounting to US$3.5 billion in aggregate principal amount (the Notes);

·    upon the completion of the transfer of assets as described below, IPIC will directly assume liability for all payment obligations under the Notes (the Assumption of Debt) and forgive certain financial obligations of the 1MDB Group to the IPIC Group (the Debt Forgiveness); and

 ·    by 30 June 2016, IPIC is to have received a transfer of assets with an aggregate value of an amount which represents the sum of the Cash Payment, the Assumption of Debt and the Debt Forgiveness.

 1MDB and MOF have agreed to perform the obligations contemplated in the binding term sheet and to indemnify IPIC and Aabar for any non-performance, and vice versa.

 IPIC has met the Cash Payment and will meet the interim interest payments under the Notes from existing liquidity available to IPIC.

ENDS

The point is this: Apandi finds what he wants to find, sees what he wants to see. He won’t find evidences if he isn’t interested to look. Yet, if he did then recent developments made him looked like a fool, contradicting his exoneration of Najib and, paradoxically, showed that he lied in that judgment. The way out for Apandi, is simply to turn around and blame the MACC for failing to come up with those evidences. But this would be disingenuous.

Consider evidence from IPIC and from the PAC.

Apandi Ali

One, IPIC’s statements this April tell, in bottom line language: ‘we hold Najib ultimately responsible to give us back our money (US$1 billion) and we hold 1MDB complicit in lying to us, and in lying in their accounts about a payment that never arrived‘. After receiving the 1MDB money, Aabar BVI was wound up in June 2015. Yet this evidence means nothing to Apandi. You don’t think this strange, Lina?

Two, the US$1 bn owed to IPIC is just 14% of US$7.04 billion (MYR28 bn) the PAC has documented to be unaccounted for, a disappearance that started in Sept 2009 with US$1.03 billion and then continued until 2014. That is, for five years, evidences piled up to show not only a pattern in which money was siphoned out of 1MDB but they also pointed to fraud on an international scale. If a bunch of politicians closeted in a parliament room with little time, limited resources and limited access to documentary evidences can come close to such a conclusion how could the expert AG lawyers and Apandi himself see nothing?

malaysians

Malaysians  made Stupid by UMNO Lies

Today, even Arul concedes that some of the monies have disappeared, adding that 1MDB might have been scammed. This is a startling admission which contradicts numerous, earlier statements of his own. In particular, are his repeated assertions (a) that everything in 1MDB have been accounted for, (b) that assets exceed liabilities, and (c) rationalization, meaning the sale of nearly everything 1MDB once owned, will put a clean slate to 1MDB. Now, it looks like 1MDB will never, never, never come out clean.

So Lina, tell us, who has been lying?

For Apandi to say there are no evidence that traced 1MDB’s money back to Najib is not the same as saying the money never went to him. This raises a question: If the money is not with Najib, where the fuck is it? How about the like of Jho Low, with a turkey for a prince, and the Emirates men? How about those dodgy companies created to look like the real. How about Blackstone BVI, mentioned in the letter by the Saudi ‘prince’?

*

blackstone2013Click on image to read.

For you to appreciate the depth and the severity of the 1MDB scam, begin with names: Blackstone, Merryl Capital, Bridge. These aren’t just ordinary names, chosen for no good reason, then registered in some far-flung Caribbean  islands. But, in taking on those names, Jho Low, Tarek Obaid, et al, gained overnight reputation and credibility they hadn’t earned.

The original companies — the Blackstone Group LP, Merrill Lynch (since 2009 renamed as Ridgemont Equity Partners) and Bridge Equity Partners — are US-registered private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) firms. They act like banks without being subjected to banking laws because, instead of funding a corporate or an individual person they lend directly to projects with money they themselves had raised from banks, insurers and pension funds. Last year, Blackstone was managing assets worth US$311 billion, making it one of the world’s top three largest PE firms, and drawing 2014 revenues of US$7.5 billion.  This makes it wealthier than Petronas.

It was, therefore, not without reason that Jho Low and the ex-Aabar and PetroSaudi officials, Badawy al Husseiny, Khadem al Qubassi, Tarek Obaid should pick those names for their island companies. It is called, fraudulent misrepresentation; more commonly known as lying. Aabar BVI wasn’t the only, nor their first, dummy company. There were: Blackstone BVI (as opposed to Blackstone Group), Merryl Capital (v. Merrill Lynch), Bridge Partners International Investment (v. Bridge Equity).

Riza Aziz–Rosmah’s Son

Yet, Apandi sees nothing wrong in all that: a string of dummy companies, all set up at short notice by the same clique, all short-lived, all resident in some Caribbean island, all shell companies.

Take Blackstone Real Estate that’s mentioned in the letter from the ‘prince’. It was registered in the British Virgin Island (BVI) on Nov 2010, stating at the time that foreign exchange was its business. Seven months later, it changed its name to Blackstone Asia Real Estate and in 2013 wound up barely 2 years and a half into its existence — and note, the year after money was remitted to Najib. In short, a bogus company set up for laundering money.

You see, Lina, Apandi didn’t want to know all that. Not wanting to know, not wanting to find evidences, Apandi would deny all MACC request for foreign assistance to inquire into those companies as well as the people behind them and the money deposited in them. The creation of these dummy companies, made to look identical to reputable ones, are the clear, irrefutable evidences of fraud.

But why did Apandi, and others like you, deny their existence? Or, deny that something seriously is amiss, lying instead? This is not some boys peddling cigarettes behind a schoolyard. Bogus princes, bogus companies, bogus ventures, bogus assets, bogus oil fields, bogus accounts, and bogus lovers are a dime a dozen in the World of Fraud. Even money may not be real, Lina. Ask Arul or Jho Low.

Inside secret desert and island places, the like of Arul  mirror the sweet, Wharton business school talks of Jho Low, so hiding their fraudulent conduct. Fact is, US$7 billion is now formally acknowledged to have disappeared.

But Arul lied about that from the beginning, producing fancy charts and hiding their disappearance in financial jargon. (Bet you this, Lina: you had never heard of ‘Level 3 assets’ or financial ‘units’ before 1MDB.) Arul also says his work at 1MDB is done. What ‘work’ would that be? Cover up? In offering to resign over money vanished, he lies farther, suggesting that 1MDB is the victim when all the evidences point to it being the conduit and the vehicle in an international scam.

Arabians-Donate-Arabians-Love-Najib1

Arul’s statements, and those by the Saudi Minister, by your statement and your peers, as well as by Apandi himself have collectively become the evidences that demonstrated a concerted, deliberate attempt calculated to hide a scam, and the money and its trail leading — irrefutably — to Najib Razak. In repeatedly lying, Lina, you become complicit to the crime even though you might have no part of it.

You see, when you enter a profession such as the government Cabinet there is in it the means to do good to society. But even a greater temptation to do harm. You may encourage genius, you may chastise the incompetent, expose falsehood, correct error, and guide the lives of this age in no small degree by the speeches you make and the actions you recommend. Yet you commit to everything the precise opposite….

What are you, Lina? Why do you make a big deal out of the tongue of a towel head? Because, you know, no one believes Apandi? That being so, why should the few words of an Arab, minister or no minister, make a difference?

The problems surrounding Najib don’t rest in matters of beliefs. It is in a simple fact: the reality of a theft, billions. That has been Najib’s secret for a long time, which a thousand more Arab tongues can’t change nor erase. Is far too many secrets also weighing you down, Lina? You have a secret life you live? A secret nest somewhere, like Najib’s secret Mongolian women and secret deals?

Scaffolds don’t support buildings. It only looks like that; in truth it’s the other way around. Therefore, understand this, Lina: you are but a piece of scaffold around an edifice called 1MDB after — and this part is critical — it had been wrecked and laid to waste. You stand holding on to nothing.

1MDB is today way past been a legal and a political issue that you, Najib, et al have been flogging to no end. It is an ethical issue, which explains why all the Apandis and all the towel heads in the world, won’t make go away. As an ethical problem — that is, a question of being right or wrong, being true or false — it must have an ethical resolution. Guess what’s that?

Yours truly,

rihaku

rihaku

Above, is the sort of language of Seet Li Lin and the kind of Wharton business talk, the Wolf of Wall Street culture, you’d hear from Najib (recall him saying: ‘you help me, I help you’; ‘this is the deal…’) and Arul and Jho Low and Tim Leissner — all those financial scammers, gaming the system: “big on fluff, light on content, says a lot yet very little“.

You see, Lina, duplicity is characteristic hallmark of a scam. And guess who uses, who deploys, such language with so much frequency and regularity? Arul Kanda top the list. Next, Najib Razak. Recall him telling The Star: “Yes, the bank account is in my name. But, understand, although the account is my name, it is not personal.”

This sort of gobbledegook is the language of snake oil salesmen — and financial salesmen as well, people like Jho Low, and Tim Leissner, and Seet, and Goldman Sachs, and Tarek Obaid and their band of Arabian camel traders masquerading as sheikhs and princes.

Then there are ministers, people like you and that Saudi bloke.  Who’s been lying, Lina? You. You have been scammed, deceived, lied to, after which you repeat their lies. Can you feel your own lies moving the earth… (see Seet’s email below)?

The earth began moving on September 30 2009. But why? That was the opening bid in the Great Malaysia Scam — starting with US$700 million, now way past US$4 billion, all gone, and still rising. Two years later, Seet would be gloating: ‘he and others had gamed the system’.

This ‘gaming the system’ went on for five straight fucking years, billions upon billions, all right under Najib’s nose while you, Lina, holds up his flag with the gall to say he told the truth. But the truth is you, Lina, don’t want to know — to know that Najib Razak, human as he is, is capable of thievery on an unprecedented global scale in such a short time, unmatched by any head of government, democrat or dictator, dead or alive.

*

It began with MYR 2.6 bn; now it’s going through the roof. Why, Zaid, is that so hard to understand, even by the kampung?

*Altantuya All Over Again & the 1MDB Calculus

*

 

Variants of the above calculus, the Black-Scholes financial equation, are circulated in stock and financial trading halls. This is done by constructing ready-to-use formulae then bundling them into the hand-held calculators for Wall Street bankers and derivatives, options and bond traders like Nick Leeson.

Those equations are rarely in use today, victim of Black-Scholes fallibility and incipiency. Here is a list of its victims: Metallgesellschaft, Orange County, Sears Roebuck, Proctor & Gamble, all came to near collapse from heavy derivatives trading losses before and during 1994.

A year later there were Daiwa and Barings Bank and the latter’s employee Nick Leeson, the Briton in Singapore who relied on those equations to buy and sell bonds and Japanese index options, that is, ‘I-owe-you’ debt papers based on the high and lows (volatility is another word) of the country’s stock exchanges. Bank Negara’s losses in the 1990s’ sterling-USD-ringgit trades follows a similar pattern.

Barings was a century-old when it collapsed, done in single handedly by Leeson, whose losses wiped out the bank’s entire 1 billion Pound capital base. But this was not because Leeson, a high school dropout (like Petra Kamarudin), couldn’t fathom Black-Scholes. What is there to understand anyway? It was because high finance, like Las Vegas, has no morality, no God.

That amorality — no, immorality — underlies the same Wall Street culture taught in Wharton business school, driving the energies in the like of Tim Leissner and Low Taek Jho and Arul Kanda and their schoolmate hangers-on and underlings like Sharol and Tiffany, and like Casey Tang and Seet Li Lin.

Zaid Ibrahim made the observation that Malays, unable to understand the workings of Wall Street and high finance, turns readily to God, Zakir Nair being their conduit to Heaven. If only that is true: we, too, would queue up to get some of the Zakir holy sprinkles.

But Zaid was wrong on two counts. High finance being impenetrable to common people is a myth: just ask Leeson. And that, in its turn, leads to Zaid’s second error, which is that God is far more readily accessible than Black-Scholes, which for those still puzzled by it is actually a third-level differentiation of this; just two steps up:

A derivative (from the root word, differ) is simply the measure of a slope or its steepness:

202345.image2

Give the above equation a formula, the result is this:

202345.image3

Add many more variables other than x and y, insert a time-line into the chart, you will get the Black-Scholes’ formula. At its root it is algebraic, a third-level differential calculus. That is, it being derived from the difference in the steepness of slope and, of that, one more difference. In sum, a differential three times over. Another way of saying the same thing: the change over a change over a change. There is nothing incomprehensible about that.

If Zaid is indeed wrong, then his task, in speaking to the kampung, isn’t to teach Malays how Goldman Sachs created, then bought and sold bonds through a Black-Scholes formula. That would be completely unnecessary, and it would be fallacious as well.

Rather, it is to speak simply of the immorality in 1MDB and SRC, the godlessness of its people, Najib and Arul in particular. Worse than the godlessness, is today the trade of lives — Najib himself breaking even his own ‘you-help-me, I-help-you‘ credo. And this godlessness is in spite of his frequent Saudi visits, there trading the souls of Malay soldier-boys for princely Arab favors.

Now, with formal admission that up to US$7 billion might have been embezzled (vanished is the polite word), Najib’s sycophants, beginning with Azalina, are clearly attempting to completely severe the man from any association with 1MDB. After which — and you can see it coming — they will help Najib wash his hands clean of the affair by throwing out the rest of 1MDB people under the bus, beginning with Sharol Halmi.

Such a thing is the trade of lives; buying and selling people, first with cash and now it is with god and piety, or the pretense of it.

All this charade follows the same pattern in the Altantuya Shaariibuu’s murder. It is Mongolia all over again. Recall Najib texting Razak Baginda: ‘be cool’, things are being sorted out. And, lo and behold, Razak, after some minor inconveniences, gets to live out the rest of his life in the UK; Sirul Azhar Umar gets to slip out to Australia from under his jailers’ noses, plus that of an entire police force and all Immigration. Nobody gets hanged.

In Malaysian morality, if you can get away with murder you can get away with US$7 billion — and still counting. That’s the godless morality message for the kampung, Zaid, not Black-Scholes, and not how bonds are created and traded. Those are just money in the form of an A4 letterhead. In a word, a derivative.

Now, Zaid, is all that so hard to understand? As humans we can only take in so much. Malays in the kampung are so filled with gods there is really little room left in them for this world. Take out the god then you, Zaid, might just make some room for them to know Black-Scholes and its worldliness, both ugly and beautiful. This eagerness to tackle the world, if you hadn’t been told, occupies much of Chinese philosophical thinking…

To put the politics technically: We’ll have to get rid of God, then to take back our morality and return it to politics with the primacy it deserves over other basic forces, including Law, Money and King. Cash must be defeated as the King of Politics. Long live the Revolution!

Looking Forward: Singapore


April 21, 2016

Looking Forward by a Distinguished Singaporean

I have just returned from Kuala Lumpur after being away for 10 days from Phnom Penh and my work at The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia. It was a useful and refreshing personal cum business trip.

I had the opportunity to be with my wife, Dr. Kamsiah, meet my friends, and complete some assignments for my University. That said, it was also a depressing one since I saw a lot of sour and disgruntled Malaysians who are unhappy with what is happening to the politics of our country and the state of our economy under the leadership of the most corrupt and tainted Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak. It is, therefore, a such relief to be back on campus among young Cambodians and my colleagues.

Najib and his bunch of kleptocrats are running our country to the ground and Malaysians are apparently helpless about changing their government. They hope that they can vote Najib out of office come GE-14. Wishful  thinking? Why not? How sure are we that there will be  a General Election? Why would Najib want to have a general  election, if he knows that UMNO will be thrown out of Putrajaya? He may be corrupt and incompetent, but he is not politically naive and stupid.

What Malaysians can do now  is to join  a ragtag team led by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to dislodge the man in power. So far, Najib has been able to outsmart and outlast the onslaught from opposition forces. And sadly, we are now hoping  that external forces can fight our battle to bring our 6th Prime Minister down. What a shame?  But let us face the fact that Najib will not give up the job, and UMNO power brokers will keep see to it that he  remains in charge until the cash runs out.

UMNO and Najib’s political future are intertwined. We all know that, yet we assume that we can cut the umbilical cord. Keep dishing out that hope; it is exactly what Tun Dr. Mahathir and friends are doing.  Still, there are enough Malaysians who will buy snake oil solutions to our political nightmare. It is a tragedy of sorts that we have to rely on the 4th Prime Minister wh0 created a political and patronage system which now imprisons us all.

In contrast, our neighbour down south is thinking forward. The Singaporeans are doing well, but their political  leaders and intelligentsia are looking ahead  to avoid getting stuck in the past by  giving free rein to self agency. This lecture by Ho Kwon Ping, a successful business entrepreneur turned public intellectual, offers some ideas for his country and some lessons for us in Malaysia. –Din Merican

Joko Widodo prefers nuts and bolts approach


April 16, 2016

Joko Widodo prefers nuts and bolts approach

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b8a0ea4a-0165-11e6-99cb-83242733f755.html#axzz45zKt6k6J

As Joko Widodo clicks through a presentation on infrastructure projects he has launched, an adviser hurries him along, warning that his time is running out. But the Indonesian President is having none of it.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo gestures during an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 10, 2016. Indonesia on Thursday opened dozens of sectors to foreign investors in what President Joko Widodo has described as a "Big Bang" liberalisation of its economy, Southeast Asia's largest. Picture taken February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside - RTX26FW2

“No, it’s better I show you,” he says, pointing at photograph after photograph of port, highway and dam schemes he kick-started after years of delays caused by land acquisition problems and intra-governmental disputes.

Eighteen months into his five-year term as leader of the world’s fourth most populous nation, Mr Widodo is persisting with an approach he honed as a small-town mayor and then governor of Jakarta: driving progress, project by project, through spot checks.

“I’ve already been to the toll road in Sumatra six times to check land acquisition and construction,” he says in an interview with the Financial Times, explaining this was the only way to start work on the much-needed highway after 30 years of abortive efforts.

A rare G20 leader happier talking about cement and building permits than big-picture vision, Mr Widodo’s prosaic style has disappointed some of his most enthusiastic backers. But his focus on managing the budget, building infrastructure and trying to reduce regulation has helped see him through a difficult start to his presidency, which was beset by a slowing economy and political problems.

Investor sentiment towards Indonesia has improved of late, with its stock market and currency among the best performing in Asia this year.

Before departing on Sunday for a trip to Europe to drum up trade and investment, Mr. Widodo insists he will push ahead with his plans to deregulate the economy and accelerate infrastructure development.

“I will continue to make economic reforms, removing excessive permits, licences and restrictions,” he says, speaking sometimes in broken English.

“My commitment is to make Indonesia’s economy open and competitive.”

For much of last year Mr Widodo looked uncomfortable as he stumbled from one political problem to another, while the economy continued to weaken because of reduced Chinese demand for Indonesia’s commodities.

A dispute over the appointment of a graft-tainted police chief damaged his reputation for clean government. Policy U-turns, ministerial infighting and protectionist measures undermined hopes for reform — and his uncompromising defence of the execution of foreign drug traffickers prompted a diplomatic backlash.

Chart: Indonesia growth and the rupiah

 

But now the President who grew up in a riverside shack — the first democratic leader of Indonesia from outside the nation’s crony-ridden elite — is looking more at home in the palace. “I enjoy my job,” the 54-year-old says.

Not a bead of sweat forms on Mr Widodo’s forehead, even though the temperature is well over 30C and the air conditioning in the Dutch colonial-era Independence Palace is off.

A close adviser jokes that the President is a “cool customer”. Perhaps too cool, he adds, because he made a slow start to his presidency. “At the beginning, he did not know many people in Jakarta and many of the ministers initially appointed were not his choice,” he says. “But he is improving.”

Mr Widodo’s preoccupation with the nuts and bolts of road and bridge projects upsets those who were hoping for a bolder figurehead. However, for analysts who have seen previous plans for infrastructure investment and economic reform come up short, his approach is what Southeast Asia’s largest economy needs.

“He is not the guy who wants to come up with a grand plan, but [he is] a doer,” says Ray Farris, Asia strategist at Credit Suisse.

“I will continue to make economic reforms, removing excessive permits, licences and restrictions. My commitment is to make Indonesia’s economy open and competitive.” Mr Widodo’s focus on tactics rather than strategy has proved less effective in tackling Indonesia’s broader social and political problems.

When asked if he is concerned about rising discrimination against homosexuals, Mr Widodo’s perfunctory response is that “we respect human rights but Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country”.

As for the challenge of attracting investment from China while also pushing back against Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, he simply says that “all activities that may increase tension must be stopped”, before adding that it is not only Chinese boats that regularly plunder Indonesia’s fisheries.

After a recent skirmish between Indonesian and Chinese patrol vessels near Indonesia’s Natuna islands, his cabinet members offered wildly conflicting views on how to react. Analysts say the disarray betrayed Mr Widodo’s weakness when it comes to co-ordinating more complicated policy areas.

“The question is whether he can really control his cabinet,” says Yohanes Sulaiman, a political analyst in Jakarta. Others warn that he needs to lay out a more convincing plan to raise the money needed to fund his pet infrastructure projects. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of focus or leadership on addressing the core revenue problem,” says Mr Farris of Credit Suisse.

Unperturbed, Mr Widodo insists that running a country of 255m people and 17,000 islands is ultimately not that different from being mayor of a city of 500,000. But is the bigger-scale job pushing him to become a stronger leader? “It’s better you ask the people,” he says with a chuckle.

Happy Khmer New Year, 2016


April 6, 2016

“Sus’ Dei Chnam Thmei”2016

To President HE Dr. Kao Kim Hourn and HE Khem Rany-Kao,  my Cambodian colleagues  at The University of Cambodia and Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, Cambodians who read this Blog and my Facebook and other Cambodians throughout the Kingdom, Dr. Kamsiah and I wish you a Happy and Prosperous Khmer New Year.

May Cambodia under the dynamic and people-centered leadership of HE Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen continue to be in peace and security and enjoy continued economic prosperity in ASEAN. Thanks for taking good care of me.–Din Merican

Here is what is very special  about this important occasion in the Khmer Calendar:

Sus’ Dei Chnam Thmei” is a 3-day festival starting  on April 13 or April 14 to celebrate the New Year. Everyone is out on the streets wishing each other and their families success, peace and happiness.  Much earlier, during Angkor times, the New Year was celebrated 4 months earlier on the 1st day of the first lunar month. This was abandoned after Angkor, as a solar calendar was adopted and gained popularity.

The main reason for the change was the end of the dry season, when the peasants finished their work in the fields and the harvest had been put away safely before the start of the rainy season, and people had more time to celebrate. Therefore, one of the Kings decided to change the New Year festival to the month of April and to follow a solar calendar.

The first day of the Khmer New Year is called Moha Songkran.

On that day, a new god or angel is appointed to protect the world for the year ahead. To welcome him, people clean and decorate their houses and themselves, to make sure that the New Year does not start with bad luck or unhappiness. Each home “competes” to welcome the new god or angel individually by offering a table full of fruits, a cake with candles, incense sticks decorated with flowers, and flashing light chains to ensure that the house and the family are protected for the rest of the year.

The time around New Year is the only time when young Cambodians are allowed to meet and engage in “mixed” plays. It is also the opportunity for young men to look for potential brides. That’s the tradition.

The Second Day of the New Year is called Wanabat.

This means “Day of Giving”. Traditionally, on this day one gives gifts to parents, grand-parents, and elderly people. Children receive new clothes, and poor people are given money or clothes. In the evening, the monks in the pagodas are asked to give a blessing.

The Third Day of the New Year is called Tanai Lieang Saka and means “new beginning”.

After seeking the blessings of the monks in the morning, a joyful farewell celebration is held in the afternoon. In the streets and in public places, people pour water on each other. Children and young people throw baby powder and flour at each other. People that usually work far away from their families in other provinces make it a point to return to their families to celebrate the New Year together.

Cities, especially the capital Phnom Penh, are very quiet during that time, as most people who live and work in Phnom Penh are not born there. They come from other provinces, such as Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kompong Thom, Svay Rieng, and others of the 24 provinces that make up the country.

At the beginning of the festival, people usually cook food and bring it to the monks in the pagodas. The pagodas are also a good place for Cambodians to meet other people who are also born in their region or who went to school together, but now live and work in other places. The pagoda thus becomes a place of reunion, meeting old friends and exchanging news about their lives. During the festival, many traditional plays are played, such as throwing of “Ongkunhs”, rope pulling contests, and others. After the festival, people return to their places of work and wait for the next festival, Pchum Ben Tag. That will be the next time when the whole family and friends get together again .http://www.visit-angkor.org