Caring about Malaysia


January 15, 2017

Caring about Malaysia

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Who cares about Malaysia? This is the question that fellow Australians most frequently ask me, and indeed that I frustratedly keep asking myself, about why I keep writing about Malaysian politics.

And it gets more difficult every week to come up with a convincing reply.

Back when I started in 2006, however, my motives seemed as simply and plausibly explicable to others as they were clear in my own mind.

My main motivation, as I recall explaining in the introduction I wrote for the my first book of collected columns, ‘Mad about Malaysia’, was to make some meaningful contribution to the country that my wife, daughter, extended family and a great many good friends and valued colleagues called home, and in which, though a foreigner, I was temporarily welcome to work.

Image result for Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran and Malaysiakini Staff

The courageous men and women of Malaysiakini led by  the now globally famous duo, Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan. I am proud to be associated with them as SEACEM Fellow a few years back. These committed Malaysians work hard and put in long hours to keep us all informed. Great 2017 and Keep Going.–Din Merican, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Less altruistically, but just as sincerely, I also felt driven to be involved with, and if possible help support, Steven Gan, Prem Chandran and their staff in their courageous struggle to ensure the survival of their inspired creation, the country’s first source of true news and independent views in living memory, Malaysiakini.

These days, however, now that Malaysiakini is no longer merely surviving but mightily thriving, and my wife and daughter have long-since embraced life in and become citizens of Australia, it’s not so easy to explain to myself or anyone else why I persist in writing columns calumnising the criminal regime that’s still apparently endlessly running and in the process ruining Malaysia.

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Din Merican’s Favorite Mat Salleh Dean Johns–He and I  and other Fellow Journeymen care about Malaysia since being dumb and  remaining silent is for us not an option.

Mainly what keeps me persisting in this frustrating and thus-far utterly futile endeavour, of course, is my feeling of sympathy, solidarity and comradeship with all those intrepid and truly patriotic Malaysians who have chosen to struggle to save their beloved country, not by leaving it and criticising its criminal misleaders from a distance, but staying at home to fight.

But despite their fighting with all their might, and my own and others’ efforts to support them from beyond the battle-lines if not out of sight, the vast majority of Malaysians are still apparently failing or refusing to see the UMNO-BN blight in its true lying and larcenous light, and so Malaysia remains in a terrible plight.

As the head of the allegedly blatantly UMNO-BN biased Election Commission (EC) Mohd Hashim Abdullah lamented recently in a laughable attempt to portray himself and his officers as politically-impartial, 4.2 million Malaysians citizens who are qualified to vote have not taken the trouble to register, and millions of those who have registered can’t be bothered turning up on election days to cast their votes.

A distraction from ‘manipulation of constitituencies’

What Mohd Hashim failed to mention, however, was that a great many voters have become hopelessly cynical about and thus alienated from participating in the electoral process by the EC’s shameless alleged manipulation of constituencies, which are constitutionally required to be of similar voter-population size with a maximum permitted variation of 20 percent, but currently range from around 5,000, as in the blue-ribbon UMNO seat of Putrajaya, to 150,000 or more.

He was also using his regret at low levels of voter registration and turnout as a distraction from this and also the lamentable reality that in many electorates a great many of those who do both register and show up to vote only do so in the expectation of allegedly receiving gifts or outright cash payments for supporting UMNO-BN candidates.

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The fawning UMNO henchman–Using Power of his Office to defend Malaysia’s No. 1 Criminal, Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Another UMNO-BN bigwig working hard this week to convey an illusion of care for the country more than for himself and his own privileged position as a prominent member of the UMNO-BN regime was Attorney-General (AG) Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Despite the universally-known fact that he was promoted over the politically dead body of the former AG to pander to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s allegedly dire need to be declared innocent of any larcenous intent or even meaningful involvement in the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial misappropriation and money-laundering scam, Apandi had the gall and audacity to hector his audience at a Conference of the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ Legal Officers in Malacca on the topic of corruption.

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Dean Johns and Din Merican are fighting to get rid of this toxic and bygon resistant termite –Najib Razak (and his consort Rosmah Mansor too).

“Corruption is like a termite infestation that will slowly weaken the country without the people realising it,” he thundered, as if his own legal officers, like the rest of us in Malaysia and around the world weren’t aware that the UMNO-BN regime he represents, or rather misrepresents, wasn’t a nest of the nation’s allegedly most notoriously voracious – and at the same time least veracious – political termites.

Just as former Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib ‘The Termite’ Mahmud, built a multi-billion mound of money by allegedly chomping his way through his state’s rainforest-timber resources, Najib has devoted his time as Prime Minister to systematically white-anting the entire nation of Malaysia.

With the aid, support and protection of his hordes of alleged sycophants in Government, the Judiciary, the Police Force, the ‘mainstream’ news media, the aforementioned electoral commission and all the other public services, he has allegedly consumed countless billions of Malaysian people’s rightful share of public money and natural resources, and allegedly undermined as many as possible of the Malaysian citizens’ civil rights and legal protections.

Yet there he was this week trying to kid attendees at the Prime Minister’s Department monthly assembly that the recent and current string of graft charges against civil servants “is a reminder that those in government must not take away what rightfully belongs to the people.” The sheer hypocrisy of it all!

The rest of us know very well that this just another Najib-style lie to conceal the fact that those being targeted for corruption are either small termites, or slightly larger termites who have made the mistake of failing to pass the expected cut from their country-consuming scams up the line to the termites at the top.

So, who cares about Malaysia? Certainly not Najib, Apandi, Mohd Hashim Abdullah or any other members, cronies or supporters of the UMNO regime. Which leads me to the conclusion that it’s up to all the millions of Malaysians who claim that they care about Malaysia but do nothing to show it, to finally summon-up the interest, energy, integrity, courage or whatever else it takes to demonstrate that they truly do give a damn about making a difference.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Malaysia’s Political Gridlock and Why Najib is not going to Jail


January 12, 2017

Malaysia’s Political Gridlock and Why Najib is not going to Jail

by Ooi Kok Hin

Despite protests, political realities will keep the prime minister’s coalition in power through 2017 – and beyond.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/why-malaysias-najib-razak-isnt-going-anywhere/

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

On November 19, tens of thousands of Malaysians assembled in the capital to demand for a free and fair election and the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is implicated in a massive financial scandal. Yet, Najib’s ruling coalition looks set to prevail in the next general election, rumored to be held this year.

Why is this so? I argue Malaysia’s political gridlock is prolonged largely by four factors: electoral malpractices, institutional failures, political fragmentation, and societal fault lines. Until and unless these are changed, reforms will be flimsy at best, and cosmetic at worst.

Electoral Malpractices: Keeping the Incumbent in Their Seats

In the previous general election, the ruling coalition won 47 percent of the popular vote but nearly 60 percent of the parliamentary seats. The opposition coalition won 51 percent of the votes but only 40 percent of the seats (the remaining 2 percent of the vote was split among marginal parties). The discrepancy is caused by the uneven weighting of popular representation. A constitutional clause grants over-representation for rural voters either spanning a large landmass or difficult to reach areas. However, even after taking this clause into account, electoral malpractices are severe.

In a study I co-wrote with fellow analysts from the Penang Institute, we found that at least 68 parliamentary seats and 162 state seats are either excessively under-represented or excessively over-represented under the latest redelineation proposed by the Election Commission. If the proposal comes into effect during the next general election, the outcome is effectively a forgone conclusion because of severe malapportionment and gerrymandering.

Malapportionment isthe disparity of constituency size caused by redelineation. It results in inequitable representation because it provides unequal vote value. For example, one voter in Putrajaya has a value equivalent to one voters in Kapar, as both constituencies have one seat each — even though Putrajaya has roughly 15,991 voters and Kapar has 144,159.

Even within the same state, the disparity of constituency size is striking. In the state of Selangor, Damansara is four times the size of Sabak Bernam. Any of the three excessively under-represented parliamentary constituencies in Selangor are bigger than the three small constituencies combined.

This is not a purely mathematical disparity of constituency size. It is a deliberate packing of opposition supporters into a mega-size constituency, diluting their ability to win other seats and making the neighboring marginal seats more winnable for the ruling coalition. Not surprisingly, Damansara is held by the opposition and Sabak Bernam is held by the ruling party.

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

Gerrymandering, meanwhile, is the practice of deliberately drawing constituency boundaries based on the voting pattern of constituents so that a party may benefit. Malaysia’s redelineation does this in three ways: the creation of constituencies spanning multiple local authorities, the arbitrary combination of communities without common interests, and the partition of local communities and neighborhoods. Voters living on the same street find themselves in different electoral constituencies. The confusion is compounded by the lack of information and publicity about the changes made to constituency boundaries and, crucially, voting districts.

Political Fragmentation: Weaker and Disunited Opposition

Given the steep electoral obstacles which the opposition has to overcome, it is no surprise that the National Front (Barisan Nasional, BN) is one of the longest ruling coalitions in the world. The then fully united opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, failed to unseat BN in the 2013 general election. The erstwhile alliance brought together three major opposition parties: the People’s Justice Party (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Any hope of taking advantage of Najib’s crisis has been dampened by the collapse of Pakatan Rakyat due to a quarrel over a chief minister’s position and the Islamist party’s insistence on the implementation of Sharia laws.

Amidst the open animosity between the opposition parties, pragmatist PKR is negotiating a miracle. They are appealing for a one-on-one fight; a scenario which even the most hardcore opposition supporter would find unlikely.

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

The Fractured Opposition

Hostility is mutual between PAS and DAP/Amanah. Bersatu, the new party setup by ousted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyddin Yassin and former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, is beset with internal issues and looks the least of a threat to Najib’s UMNO. A united opposition is anywhere but visible in Sabah and Sarawak, the two states which won the election for Najib, whose coalition took 47 out of 56 seats.

If PAS explicitly teamed up with UMNO, there is some hope that their grassroots and longtime supporters (who view UMNO as a nemesis) may vote for the opposition coalition as a protest against their leadership. Tacit cooperation is more likely, however, and in three-cornered fights, the ruling party will sweep all the marginal seats.

Institutional Failures: Culture of Unaccountability, Graft, and State Repression

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Institutional failures have doomed any formal case again Najib for the financial scandal centered on 1MDB. Former Attorney General Gani Patail was terminated just as he was allegedly drafting a charge sheet against Najib. The chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was replaced, its senior officers transferred out, and one investigating officer’s home was raided by the police. Three out of four figureheads of the special taskforce setup to investigate 1MDB were replaced within months.

The various institutions that were supposed to hold the government accountable have all faltered in one way or another. A concentration of power has enable the state leviathan to dismiss any institution that could actually hold it accountable.

Ideally, legislative institutions should uphold the principles of democracy and justice enshrined in the Constitution. But under the forceful thumb of the executive, they continue to either pass or fail to repeal draconian laws stretching from the colonial era. The Sedition Act, which criminalizes any speech deemed hateful or contemptuous towards the ruler or government, is routinely abused due to its vague clauses. The notorious detention without trial, another colonial legacy, gave powers to the executive to imprison political opponents for lengthy periods without a day in the courtroom. Most recently, the leader of a civil rights movement calling for free and fair elections, Maria Chin Abdullah, was detained under one such law.

The list of institutional failures includes that of the media. Some outlets fought and went down, like The Malaysian Insider. The mainstream press is owned directly by political parties or businessmen friendly to the establishment. Periodic license renewals keep them on their toes. Newspapers editors who did report on 1MDB were called in for police investigation.

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Malaysia’s Infamous Auditor-General

Institutional failure and lack of accountability are not limited to 1MDB. Year after year, the Auditor General has revealed staggering cases of mismanaged public funds. Government bodies bought wall clocks at RM 3,810 a piece (the market price is easily below RM 100) and scanners for RM 14,670 (market price: RM 200). The “normalization of corruption” is deeply embedded in the existing hierarchy, from the top to the bottom. In the newly released report, the auditors found that the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) lost hundreds of millions due to multiple transactions without proper authorization, dubious planning and execution, and complete mismanagement. It made news for two to three days before disappearing, like pretty much every other scandal. Corrupt acts are committed and revealed, followed by public outrage. But with no institution to exercise accountability, the news eventually disappears. It has become a normal cycle.

Late last year, the National Security Council Act was passed to enable the prime minister to declare an area of emergency as he deems necessary, without the approval of any other institution. Which raises the question: Are there any institutional safeguards to guarantee a peaceful transition of power even if the government fails to recapture popular support in the election?

Societal Fault Lines: One Cleavage Too Many

The fault lines of Malaysian society are too many and too deep, with groups frequently divided along ethnic and religious lines. Due to this, Najib can easily turn a once-unified opposition against one another.

Dr Jamil Khir Baharom, a minister in charge of religious affairs under Najib’s cabinet, paraded a bill amendment to increase the power of the Shariah court. PAS’s dream is to establish an Islamic state by implementing Islamic law, which cannot be fully enforced given the current restrictions on the maximum punishments the Shariah court can spell out. Under the revised version of the proposed amendment, the Shariah court will be strengthened by raising the punishment ceiling to 30 years in prison, a RM 100,000 fine, and 100 strokes of caning.

Image result for Najib and Hadi

Playing with the Islamic Fire

Najib’s olive branch to PAS is working, enticing the party away from cooperation with the opposition and thus sapping the opposition’s strength among the all-important Malay and rural areas.

In Malaysia ,where nearly everything is seen through the lens of race and religion, the push for Islamic law will effectively split society. Since all Malays are Muslims in this country (one’s professed religion is one of the constitutional definitions of being an ethnic Malay), debates on the bill can dangerously be turned into a sectarian conflict.

In the run-up to the November 19 rally, thugs dressed in red threatened the Bersih convoy. The Red Shirts, as they came to be known, are all ethnic Malays led by an UMNO division chief. Threats of violence aside, the racial rhetoric has become too discomforting. Last year, what was a typical robber and shopkeeper brawl turned into dangerous racial gatherings as the two groups called their friends, resulting in a mini-riot that night. In the aftermath of the previous election, the prime minister and the party’s de facto mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, denounced the Chinese as a scapegoat of opposition agents. All these societal fault lines testify to the enormity of the task to to unseat Najib.

The by-elections last year might provide some hint as to how the general elections will turn out. Najib’s coalition won both of them. I was in the suburban areas when opposition parties held a town hall panel session, inevitably speaking in English, touching on issues such as the removal of the Attorney-General. While these are big, national issues, it felt out of place. There is a visible gap between the politicians, the city folks, the demonstrators who so urgently and desperately want reforms, and the voters outside the cities, who voted for candidates affiliated to Najib’s party.

To speak plainly, people don’t mind the status quo as long as they are not affected at the most immediate and personal level. The whole 1MDB scandal has been too complicated to be explained to non-English literate voters with no understanding of the complex technical terms, in a five-minute rally. Financial scandals grow more complicated and people just lose interest. Maybe they underestimate the cost of it all, maybe they don’t care enough or just don’t lose enough; either way they are not angry enough to want to change the status quo.

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The partnership that can rattle the beleaguered Al-Kebas aka Malaysian Official 1–Najib Razak

What’s next? Even the unholy alliance between Anwar and Mahathir won’t be able to fight off the structural inequality of power and institutional failures. If political change is not sufficient, will it take an economic downturn to bring change in Malaysia, like Indonesia? In 1998, a combined factor of internal dissidents and economic instability brought the dictatorial Suharto era to an end and ushered in the Reformasi period. If neighboring Indonesia can live embedded in a dictatorship for 40 years and then undergo rapid democratization in so short a time, we can’t and shouldn’t rule anything out yet in Malaysia. But it will take a miracle.

Ooi Kok Hin is an analyst with the Penang Institute. He writes on political and social developments and Southeast Asian affairs.

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Najib’s Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua Leadership


January 6,2017

Najib’s Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua Leadership–It is uniquely effortlessly great as it blatantly corrupting

…it is because of Najib’s greatness that he can stand unfazed in the eyes of the world, when he was being accused of human rights violations and culpability in embezzlement. A leader less great would have buckled under the untrue allegations. But Najib stood tall without even batting an eyelid.

Now, even Mahathir can’t do this without talking. Only Najib and his great leadership can affect such change. While all the while remaining mostly silent about all of it. God save Malaysia, and May He give our PM his just desserts, for being so great.–Hazlan Zakaria

by Hazlan Zakaria@www.malaysiakini.com

Lu Tolong Gua, Gua Tolong Lu Leadership

COMMENT: Leadership is not always about having charisma, and the ability to deliver truly great speeches, like former Indonesian President Sukarno could.Nor is it always about having intellectual wherewithal and caustic wit, to handle troublesome reporters’ annoying questions, like ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad did.

Sometimes, it is about making things happen without having to even talk about it, “effortlessly” by sheer force of will, or perhaps as some may contend, via the machinations of hordes of “little Napoleons”, behind the scenes.

Image result for president sukarno of indonesiaThe Charismatic President Sukarno with Marilyn Monroe

And that is why I believe that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is such a great leader, despite not having either Sukarno’s charisma or Mahathir’s witty repertoire. I am not saying that Najib suffers from a dearth of charm or wit, but to point out that he embodies this quality of effortless leadership, so effortlessly.

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Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad with Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

Like an emperor in new lightweight durable clothes, Najib strikes me like a true leader who glides before the rakyat without having to worry that anything thrown at him will stick.

The economy itself buckled before his great leadership, to ensure there is nothing that can be thrown, eggs and vegetables being mostly expensive nowadays.

And his being is such that anyone who have less than palatable things to say about him, let alone throw anything his way, will coincidentally find themselves busy having to fill up police multiple choice questionnaires and playing spot the judge in a courtroom.

That is why Najib is great, for the very laws of the nation themselves are being enforced to make sure that all those who have things to say, are only happy joy-joy ones. Everything in Malaysia being awesome as it is in the Lego Movie.

And justice knows well enough to bow before Najib’s great leadership, for enforcement agencies that investigate him, because of false news by detractors of course, will realise that their officers are better spent reassigned elsewhere and no evidence can be found to form a strong case against one as unsullied as he.

Image result for Najib uses Malaysian Government executive jet

How could the Attorney-General find a reason to charge Najib, for he is as innocent as he is great. And if scandalous stalkers and hack writers were to dare to defame Najib, they will find that this great leader’s aura will protect his name by making articles inaccessible online and even his official planes that the taxpayers paid for untraceable in the journeys and holidays that he takes.

 And it is because of Najib’s greatness that he can stand unfazed in the eyes of the world, when he was being accused of human rights violations and culpability in embezzlement. A leader less great would have buckled under the untrue allegations. But Najib stood tall without even batting an eyelid.

Now, even Mahathir can’t do this without talking. Only Najib and his great leadership can affect such change. While all the while remaining mostly silent about all of it.

God save Malaysia, and May He give our PM his just desserts, for being so great.


HAZLAN ZAKARIA is a member of the Malaysiakini team.

The Unending 1MDB Financial Scandal–Swiss Banker charged


January 6, 2017

The Unending 1MDB Financial Scandal–Swiss Banker charged

Former Falcon Bank Singapore head accused over more than $1.2bn of suspect fund flows

by: Michael Peel in Bangkok

https://www.ft.com

Image result for Najib and Imdb

A Swiss bank executive in Singapore has become the first western national to face criminal prosecution over the suspected looting of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB state investment fund.

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Jens Sturzenegger (pic above), former head of Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore branch, will plead guilty to some of a 16-count charge sheet related mainly to the alleged falsification or withholding of information, his lawyer told a court hearing in the city state on Thursday.

The case is the latest in a series mounted by Singapore over the 1MDB scandal, which has also spawned probes in the USSwitzerland and other countries where stolen money allegedly flowed. The affair triggered a political crisis in Malaysia and embroiled Najib Razak, the prime minister, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Sturzenegger, who was arrested in October, is charged with offences related to alleged money transfers totalling more than $1.25bn. Tan Hee Joek, Mr Sturzenegger’s lawyer, said his client planned to admit guilt, although he did not say to which charges.

The 42-year-old Swiss banker is accused of lying to authorities by denying that several Falcon bank accounts were linked to Taek Jho Low, a high-profile Malaysian businessman and socialite. Mr Low is close to Mr Najib and is accused by US authorities of being a main architect of the laundering of 1MDB funds.

Image result for Riza Aziz and his associates

Mr Low has previously denied any wrongdoing. He has not been charged with any offence. Falcon, which is owned by Abu Dhabi’s state International Petroleum Investment Company, has emerged as a central player in the 1MDB case. In October it was fined by Swiss authorities and shut down in Singapore for allegedly processing almost $4bn linked to 1MDB.

The Singapore action against Mr Sturzenegger also meshes with claims made in a lawsuit filed by US authorities in July to seize property and other assets allegedly bought with misappropriated 1MDB funds. Mr Sturzenegger is accused in the Singapore case of failing to report a suspicious transfer of $378m in March 2013 from a Falcon account held by Granton Property Holding to a company named Dragon Market.

US authorities separately allege the same transaction was part of a bigger plot to siphon off more than $2.5bn from a pair of bonds totalling $6.5bn issued by the Malaysian fund in 2012 and 2013 and backed by Ipic The US lawsuit, which does not name Mr Sturzenegger, claims Mr Low is the beneficial owner of the Dragon Market account.

Another Singapore charge is that Mr Sturzenegger allegedly failed to report a suspicious $9.19m transfer to a company named Helly Nahmad Gallery Inc. The US lawsuit does not name the gallery but alleges that Mr Low and others used 1MDB money to buy more than $130m of artworks, including two paintings by Claude Monet and one by Vincent van Gogh. Helly Nahmad Gallery Inc could not immediately be reached for comment.

Falcon bank has come under further scrutiny after Swiss authorities accused it of failing to adequately investigate the commercial background of $681m of “pass-through transactions” in 2013 and the return six months later of $620m. The $681m is the exact amount of mysterious payments made at that time to Mr Najib, who chaired 1MDB’s advisory board.

Malaysia’s Attorney-General(Najib crony Apandi Ali) has said the money sent to Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts was a gift from the Saudi Arabian Royal Family. The claim has never been independently verified.

Falcon declined to comment other than to confirm Mr Sturzenegger was a “former employee”. The bank has previously said it has put in place measures to prevent future problems such as those found by regulators in the 1MDB case.

Other banks have faced questions over their roles in the 1MDB affair, with fines already levied on Switzerland’s UBS and BSI, and DBS of Singapore. Goldman Sachs, which arranged the $6.5bn of bond issues for 1MDB, has denied any wrongdoing.

 

Politics in Malaysia–Old Timers make a comeback


Politics in Malaysia–Old Timers make a comeback

by Sebastian Dettman, Cornell University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for Mahathir on a Political Comeback

The most surprising twist of Malaysian politics in 2016 has been the rapid evolution of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad from ultimate regime insider to opposition leader. Mahathir now frequently shares the stage with the regime opponents he jailed during his 22 years in power. He made appearances at the rally of the pro-democracy group Bersih and even showed up at the opposition Democratic Action Party’s congress, saying his previous views on the party were wrong.

 

Yet Mahathir is not the only unlikely new opposition. Former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin and Mahathir’s son Mukhriz have joined up with Mahathir after both were fired from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party. These ‘three Ms’ now head a new political party — the United Indigenous Party of Malaysia (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia). A number of prominent UMNO leaders at the state level, including UMNO Sabah’s Shafie Apdal, have left the party, signalling simmering internal discontent.

All of this is evidence of how the enormous 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal continues to reshape Malaysian politics. Prime Minister Najib Razak has squashed domestic investigations that might definitively link him to the billions of dollars missing from the state investment fund 1MDB. But international investigations in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and elsewhere will likely result in more damaging and difficult-to-deny revelations.

These defections should be a major source of worry for Najib’s government. Scholars of competitive authoritarian regimes like Malaysia have long noted the key role of regime defectors in encouraging regime collapse.

Image result for the red shirts in malaysia

Yet there are a few reasons why Najib’s position seems temporarily secure — not least because of the powerful authoritarian tools he inherited from Mahathir. Perceived regime opponents have been sued, attacked and detained. The Red Shirt Group — led by UMNO division leader Jamal Yunos — have repeatedly threatened and attacked organisers of the Bersih protests. After their November rally in Kuala Lumpur, Bersih organiser Maria Chin Abdullah was detained for 11 days in solitary confinement. Independent media has suffered from website blocks, raids and criminal charges.

In another major realignment, Najib has slowly drawn in the Islamic opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). He pledged support for the controversial bill championed by PAS President Hadi Awang, which is widely seen as laying the groundwork for hudud (Islamic criminal law) implementation in Malaysia. In early December, Najib and Hadi shared the stage at a rally to highlight the plight of the Muslim Rohingnya community of Myanmar.

At the international level, Najib has found a welcome new partner in China. China has snapped up 1MDB’s assets at rock-bottom prices, and may help the company pay for its legal disputes in exchange for government land. There has been a series of high-profile Chinese investments in the East Coast Rail, real estate development in Malacca and Johor Bahru, and around the high-speed rail line between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Najib enthusiastically greeted Trump’s election in the United States, but it is unclear whether the change in government will affect the Department of Justice’s investigation into 1MDB.

Image result for Najib selling out to China

The next general elections are likely to take place in 2017, which places electoral manoeuvring at the top of all parties’ agendas. Opposition leaders hope high-profile defectors like Mahathir and his new party can help make unprecedented inroads into government territory. But the warming ties between PAS and UMNO will significantly complicate the opposition’s problems of divvying up seats and presenting a united image to voters. Najib — and UMNO — still have access to enormous state resources, control over the elections process and an array of authoritarian tools that will greatly aid them in retaining power.

Yet as elections loom, the more fundamental issues around Malaysia’s politics are being sidelined. Who or what comes after Najib? There is little sign that Najib’s ouster will trigger the protracted institutional reform needed to prevent future abuses of power. The party he leads has shown little evidence of soul-searching over the scandal.

It is also unclear how willing the new opposition leaders are to stay outside the ruling government if and when Najib leaves power. At the least their style of politics seems an uneasy match with the multiracial and progressive image cultivated by the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition. Mahathir’s race-based Malaysian United Indigenous Party, or PPBM, unapologetically harkens back to a racial paradigm of politics, seeking to sweep up discontented UMNO leaders and supporters. As a result, the newly expanded opposition is left with antipathy to Najib as their major unifying issue.

Image result for malaysia sold to china

Malaysia has entered a new and potentially dangerous chapter in its political history. At this point, it seems the opposition can only raise the stakes for Najib to further erode democratic institutions in a bid to keep his party — and himself — in power.

Sebastian Dettman is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government, Cornell University.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2016 in review and the year ahead.

Advice to DPM Zahid Hamidi –Be UMNO’s Hang Jebat


January 3, 2017

Advice to DPM Zahid Hamidi –Be UMNO’s Hang Jebat

by Stephen Ng@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Zahid HamidiBe UMNO’s Hang Jebat

COMMENT: Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) imbroglio has dragged on for far too long, making people becoming more impatient with the ruling party.

If I may use the word, it is ‘restless’. Yes, the people are getting very restless over the way that the economy is taking a beating as a result of the 1MDB scandal. 1MDB has been headlined in nearly every newspaper and magazine overseas, whereas in Malaysia, people are allegedly still being told one lie after another.

Everywhere I go, whenever I speak to people, whether old friends or new people I meet, everyone is fully aware of the scandal that has plagued the nation for far too long.

If UMNO’s own warlords do not unseat him as Party President before the next general election, it would do a great injustice to the entire coalition that has ruled the country for the past 60 years.

In fact, by August 31 this year, it would be exactly 60 years since Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra as the country’s first Prime Minister, declared Independence from the British colonialists.

Since his time, UMNO has morphed into something totally different from the times and era of the Father of Independence. Its alleged involvement in one scandal after another (since the days of Mahahir–read Barry Wain’s The Malaysian Maverick)has shocked the nation, yet Malaysians at large are to be blamed for being laid back and good at criticising others whom they expect to change the world for them.

It takes people like Anwar Ibrahim, Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Teresa Kok, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Lim Guan Eng, Lim Kit Siang and Tony Pua to expose the scandals.

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The latest scandal exposed by PKR Vice-President Rafizi (pic above) allegedly involves Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) where US$505million (RM2.26 billion) was spent on purchasing a 37 percent stake in Indonesia’s PT Eagle High Plantations.

The price Felda was going to pay for a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation, according to PAS Deputy President Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, raises an alarm, as Indonesian billionaire Peter Sondakh, who owns Rajawali Group, had taken up a 68.6 percent stake in EHP at only US$570 million.

Rafizi claimed he has “given information to assist authorities so that they can commence investigation into whether or not there was interference or instructions from superiors, whether at the board level or from politicians or government to Felda to proceed with the acquisition of Eagle High.”

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Felda Chairman–Le Crook Isa Samad–should be sacked and then investigated

Felda, on the other hand, plans to purchase a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation for US$505.4 million (RM2.26 billion), for 582 rupiah per share.

He also brought up another major issue regarding the highest spending of RM25 billion last year on Felda’s replanting scheme, citing that this exposed the scheme to various risks of abuse and corruption.

Najib’s personal accounts

Recently, Singaporean former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, who was linked to the 1MDB scandal, was found guilty and sentenced to a 30-month jail term. Yeo, who is also linked to Najib’s close associate, Jho Low, will be facing other charges soon.

All that the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) could say was that Yeo’s jail sentence had nothing to do with either 1MDB President Arul Kanda Kandasamy or Najib himself.

In two other recent cases down south, both Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah are now serving jail terms because of their links to 1MDB. Yak is now serving an 18-week jail term on forgery charges and failure to disclose suspicious transactions, while Yak’s assistant, Yvonne Seah, is in prison for two weeks after she pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Two former executives of Abu Dhabi-based lnternational Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and its investment arm, Aabar Investments PJS, Khadem Al-Qubaishi and Mohamed Badawy al-Huseiny were also arrested for their links to “fraud and money-laundering on 1MDB”.

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Najib Razak and his Financial Advisor– Together, they are running Malaysia into the ground

How then can Najib, through Jasa’s recent statement, deny that he had any link to the scandal, especially since he is all three – the chairperson of the 1MDB advisory board, the finance minister who came up with the brainchild, as well as the prime minister of Malaysia?

If Low was not involved, why did he not personally appear before the judiciary in the United States to claim the assets confiscated by the US Department of Justice? Why did his family members claim the assets on his behalf? I dare both the flamboyant Low and Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, to step foot on the US grounds at this juncture of their lives.

As for Najib, who claimed that RM2.6 billion that went into his personal accounts was donated by an unnamed generous Arab prince, why did he apply to intervene in the ex-parte lawsuit filed by Zaid Ibrahim to compel AmBank Islamic Berhad to disclose the details of how RM2.6 billion had been deposited into five accounts which are allegedly his?

Zaid did the right thing to pursue this matter, but hopefully, the court will uphold justice and rule in public interest. Like Zaid, we, too, want to know where the money came from and how it ended up in one man’s personal accounts, especially since the US Department of Justice had alleged that the money came from 1MDB.

It is not only RM2.6 billion, but another RM41 million which had allegedly originated from SRC International.

After all, the whole nation and the world is being told that the money was a donation from a generous Arab prince. Is there anything for Najib to hide now?

A question of our future

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Letting this Fox into the Hen House–Are we Malaysians stupid or what?

This year, 2017, Malaysians have yet again to make a decision of whom they would vote for. Would they continue to vote for Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan, which is now flanked by former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia?

Currently, Bersatu only has a small group of supporters, but it is well-received by most Malaysians especially people who are unhappy with Umno. Its Facebook page, which only has 3,215 likes at this juncture, needs to receive a boost from its supporters.

On the question of whether Dr Mahathir or Muhyiddin Yassin would eventually betray Pakatan Harapan, I think they better not betray the people’s trust, especially after the people have given them another chance.

It is better for them to work within the framework of the alternative front, so that the people now have a choice between Barisan Nasional and a stronger competitor than to be cursed for the rest of their lives.

As for Najib, a piece of sound advice to him for 2017 would be to think twice before acting further. To call a general election would be a disaster for both UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

When I read about MCA President Liow Tiong Lai going to speak to Najib about allocations for the Chinese school, my only response was, who, in the first place, failed to provide the allocation to the schools when they deserved it? Therefore, Liow should just stop pretending to be a saviour for the Chinese schools.

Even Najib’s harping around the Rohingya issue has become a bane to both international relations and dwindling support within UMNO. I asked a Malay gentleman about it, and his response was: “Najib cannot even care for the Temiang Orang Asli in Kelantan, does he even want to interfere into another country’s affairs?”