Prominent Historian Bernard Lewis dies at 101


May 20, 2018

Prominent Historian Bernard Lewis dies at 101

https://www.dailysabah.com/history/2018/05/20/prominent-historian-bernard-lewis-dies-at-101

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Note: Prominent British-American historian Bernard Lewis, a leading scholar on Oriental and Middle Eastern studies, died Sunday at the age of 101, twelve days before his 102nd birthday.

Born to a Jewish family in London in 1916, Lewis completed his studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London in 1936. Three years later, he earned his PhD on History of Islam. He served in different agencies of the British military, intelligence and foreign office during World War II, and returned to SOAS. He was appointed Near and Middle Eastern History department chair in 1949. Between 1974 and 1986, he taught at Princeton University in New Jersey, a period that included some of his most famous works. He continued teaching at the Cornell University until 1990.

Known as one of the leading names in Oriental studies in the Western hemisphere, Lewis is widely recognized as the first foreign academic to deeply study Ottoman archives.

His works on the Islamic world were important at a time when terrorism and extremism were at the rise in the Middle East, and cited as the first academic to use the term “clash of civilizations,” which was later made famous by his Harvard colleague Samuel Huntington in 1993.

However, Lewis also faced criticism for ignoring colonialism or external effects as the source of problems and conflicts in the region. At a time when the U.S. and other partners invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in early 2000’s, he was one of the top-sought names for policymakers, including neo-conservatives of the U.S., and media.

During his career, he wrote more than 30 books and hundreds of articles. He was also competent in at least a dozen languages, the Post wrote. Speaking Sunday at an event in Istanbul, Professor Ilber Ortaylı, considered the most popular and influential Turkish historian alive, said that Lewis was very fluent in a number of languages, including Turkish, Persian, Arabic and classical Latin.

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Lewis is also known in Turkey for his stance on the Armenian issue. He argued that the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 and afterwards cannot be defined as genocide and should be linked to World War I and other atrocities surrounding it.

Bernard Lewis at 100: An Appreciation

National Review asked friends and admirers of Bernard Lewis to say some words about the man and his achievements to mark the occasion of his 100th birthday today.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Bernard Lewis once asked me, Is there anyone who as a leader has really impressed you? And I said, well, you do. He smiled and said he was flattered, but asked about a political leader. And I had to think about it. He said the fact that you have to think about it so long is a mark of our time.

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From left: U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief Mort Zukerman, Prof. Bernard Lewis, former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and AFTAU National Chairman Jon Gurkoff

Bernard Lewis was born in 1916, into a world writhing with conflict from all corners. A world poised for a century of war, of revolt, of treaties, of fighting for and against modern values. He watched as, from the ashes of destruction, there rose a world transformed: a world embarking farther down the path for freedom, equality, and prosperity than was previously thought possible. Bernard Lewis watched the birth of the modern world.

Having lived through the good times and the hard times, Bernard has truly become a leader whom I admire greatly. An unparalleled mind, a prescient adviser to many, he stands out for his humility, his warmth, and his honesty. There are few who are as respected by their foes as they are by their friends. An ardent historian of the Middle East, Bernard published his book The Middle East and the West in 1964. It was translated into Arabic by the Muslim Brotherhood. The translator wrote in the preface: “I don’t know who this person is but one thing is clear. He is, from our point of view, either a candid friend or an honest enemy and in any case one who disdains to distort the truth.”

I want to thank Bernard for his dedication, for his courage, and for his vast legacy. For this is what truly makes a leader and his work timeless. There is so much to celebrate in the life of Bernard Lewis. Happy birthday to a dear friend.

— Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Founder of the AHA Foundation, a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the best selling author of Infidel (2007) and Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now (2015).  

Claire Berlinksi 

I met Bernard Lewis only once, in 2010. I had been living in Istanbul for nearly six years and so had special reason to be awed by his reputation as the Heimdall of Ottomanist Valhalla.

He had been the first Westerner to examine the Turkish government archives, in 1950. The Emergence of Modern Turkey, published in 1961, revolutionized the study of the late Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. It consigned his successors to writing footnotes.

The Turkish proverb “Türk’ün Türk’ten başka dostu yoktur” — the Turk has no friend but the Turk — is true and self-fulfilling. Turkey inspires in Arab and European countries suspicion and rancor. The sentiment is reciprocated. Fears of foreign conspiracies endlessly poison Turkish political debate; Turks believe they are under siege, and sometimes they are even right. Lewis had paid Turkey the compliment of curiosity and deep, honest study. In doing so, he had loved the country as no other Westerner had. The proverb is sometimes amended in Turkey:“Türk’ün Türk’ten ve Bernard Lewis’ten başka dostu yoktur” — the Turk has no friend but the Turk and Bernard Lewis.

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I was introduced to him by one of his disciples, Harold Rhode. Our drive to his home in Princeton had the aspect of a pilgrimage. Rhode carried with him a digital recorder. He followed Lewis around with it, he told me, just in case. There was something a bit ghoulish about this.

I was expecting a terrifying figure. But to my surprise, he was loveable. He was sweet and avuncular with me, and inspired instant affection and the urge to settle in for a good gossip. “His students call him Uncle Bernie,” Rhodes whispered. Uncle Bernie’s manners were exquisite, and while he walked slowly, he was otherwise suffering no obvious infirmity, nor the characteristic self-absorption of the elderly.

We discussed Turkey, of course. For reasons I wish I better understood, it was at the time widely reported and believed in the West that Turkey, under then–Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was “liberalizing.” This was not true. The government had for years been arresting its opponents, staging show trials, and terrifying journalists into cowed compliance.

Lewis likened Erdogan to Adnan Menderes, who was hanged by the military after the 1960 coup. He recounted an anecdote that subsequently made a translated appearance in his Notes on a Century. He’d been sitting in the faculty lounge in Ankara, he told me, several years into the Menderes regime. To everyone’s bewilderment, a professor said suddenly that Menderes was the father of Turkish democracy. What on earth could you mean, asked another. Well, said the first, Demokrasinin anasini s**ti – “he screwed the mother of Turkish democracy.” I had heard exactly the same joke about Erdogan.

Over lunch he said that while his memory for the archives remained unerring, his ability to commit to mind recent events was less reliable. For my part, I’m not sure if my most vivid recollection of him is true (it’s possible I later superimposed it over my real memories). But this is what I seem to remember him saying to me, in a voice low enough to escape Harold Rhode’s recorder: that I was not wrong, that the situation was as bleak as it looked, that the West and the Islamic world would exhaust and destroy each other, leaving the world to China and India.

The remark weighs on my mind. It’s easy to dismiss my own assessment as so much pessimistic self-indulgence. After all, what do I know? But it is not so easy to say, “What does he know?”

— Claire Berlinski is the author of Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too. She writes for Ricochet.com. 

Victor Davis Hanson 

Bernard Lewis reached a considerable popular audience after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when his earlier assessments of Muslim anger at the West (e.g., “The Roots of Muslim Rage”; What Went Wrong?) proved prescient. From the 1990s onward, Lewis, almost alone among scholars of Islam, had warned that the traditional diagnoses of contemporary Muslim and Arab furor at Europe and the United States, the dysfunction of the Middle East, and the either/or nihilism of Middle Eastern theocracy and autocracy were misguided and politicized. For Lewis, the implosion of the modern Middle East was not attributable to the usual academic bogeymen: imperialism, colonialism, Westernization, exploitation, or Zionism. Rather, he drew on a rich learning of Muslim history and literature, both to pay homage to earlier Islamic cultural achievements and to suggest that the recent spate of Islamic terrorism was largely aberrant and a reflection of late-19th- and 20th-century dysfunctions in Middle Eastern societies, which had mostly failed to adopt constitutional systems, transparency, human rights, free-market capitalism, religious tolerance, and equality of the sexes — at least in comparison with modern Western and Westernized nations that have found such protocols the keys to economic progress and social stability.

Millions in the late-20th-century Middle East, who had not found parity with the West and who lived in poverty and danger, were persuaded by both religious and autocratic authorities to redirect their rage at supposed Western oppressors — and especially at their own modernist detours from religious purity, which had left Islam weak and a shadow of its supposedly glorious past. In other words, if a man in Damascus or Cairo could not get a job, it was the fault of the West — and it was his own lack of religious purity that had permitted such injustice.

Because Lewis, a classical liberal, was not an activist and had enjoyed a half-century-long reputation as a sympathetic student of Islam, critics were at first dumbfounded and unable to deal with his bleak analyses. Detractors on the left charged that he was “blaming the victim”; even as some on the right, although more sympathetic to Lewis’s views, nevertheless objected that he was naïve in that the roots of Muslim rage were hardly new, but discernible throughout East–West tensions since the seventh century, that Islamic culture was fundamentally different from Christian culture (i.e., inherently more violent and intolerant), and that Lewis danced around issues such as the Armenian genocide.

Yet, because of his calm demeanor, engaging prose style, wit, and prolific and long record of scholarship, Lewis usually came out on top in these many disputes that arose in the second half of his career. Such was Lewis’s historical insight that almost alone he fashioned a framework for understanding the modern Middle East in ways that were both empirical and commonsensical — and more or less remain the standard Western understanding of why global terrorism is largely an Islamic phenomenon: Middle Eastern political, social, cultural, and economic failure — widely apparent to the Arab masses in the age of instant global communications — is blamed on the West rather than addressed through reform by the various countries’ autocratic rulers, who in turn buy off internal opposition from Islamic theocrats by subsidizing their extremism and terrorism as long as it is directed westward.

Until there is massive reform inside the Middle East and within Islam, we should expect the post–September 11 world to continue to be a place of instability and violence. In sum, the events of the new century seem to keep proving Lewis right about his diagnoses of the prior one.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

Andrew C. McCarthy

As a federal prosecutor in 1993, I was placed in charge of one of the most important and unusual criminal investigations in the United States.

Its focus was the terrorist cell that had just bombed the World Trade Center and was at that moment engaged in an even more ambitious plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The case was important for obvious reasons. It was unusual because we did not know what we were dealing with.

That’s where Bernard Lewis comes in.

We were straining against the Nineties manifestations of what today is rampant political correctness. Our suspects were all Muslims and proclaimed Islam as their motivation for war against the United States. Yet the official position of our government — then as now — was that Islam had nothing to do with their atrocities.

Having had little intersection with the faith that boasted over a billion adherents worldwide, I badly wanted our official position to be true. But doubts gnawed. Khomeini’s 1979 revolution, a self-proclaimed jihadist upheaval, was still fairly fresh history. So was Hezbollah’s mass murder of our marines in Lebanon, the emergence of Hamas, and the mujahideen triumph in Afghanistan, which seemed a pivotal domino in the Soviet Union’s collapse. Plus, my top suspect, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, was a blind man unfit to perform any acts useful to a terrorist organization, yet he was its unquestioned leader — a fact that obviously owed to his status as a renowned scholar of Islamic jurisprudence. Why, I wondered, would anyone figure that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno knew more about “true” Islam than the Blind Sheikh did?

Prosecutors can’t prove cases unless they can demonstrate what motivated the defendants to act. Political correctness is for the press room, not the courtroom. I needed to get a grip on what we were dealing with — fast.

So I made my best professional decision ever: I bought a copy of Islam and the West by Bernard Lewis.

What the West’s preeminent scholar of Islam taught this grateful student was that it was possible to acknowledge the richness of Muslim history yet still see Islam plain. One could appreciate the diversity and accomplishments in Islamic traditions and still see as sheer nonsense the notions that Islam was monolithically peaceful and tolerant, that its legal and political systems were seamlessly compatible with Western democracy, and that jihad was merely, as modern Western apologists insisted, an internal struggle for personal betterment. To the contrary, Lewis explained, “the overwhelming majority of early authorities . . . citing relevant passages in the Koran and in the tradition, discuss jihad in military terms.”

Professor Lewis made me realize that Islam was not one thing but several, many of them internally contradictory, often to the point of bloody conflict. Perhaps none of them have a monopoly on authenticity. The Blind Sheikh was an Islamic scholar and a dyed-in-the-wool terrorist. Emad Salem, my main informant witness who infiltrated the Blind Sheikh’s cell and almost single-handedly thwarted the New York City landmarks plot, was Egyptian-educated and patriotically drawn to America and the West. They are both devout Muslims.

Lewis is also an observer of incomparable insight. Over a half-century ago he foresaw the difficulty of democratizing Islamic societies, noting that attempts “to show that Islam and democracy are identical” were “usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both.” Islam, in fact, traditionally had a tyrannical streak, a culture of obedience to authority that was depressingly reminiscent of Communist societies, including in its antipathy to the West. Lewis ruefully wrote, “The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as ‘There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet’ was laying his finger on a real affinity.”

In 2004, Professor Lewis told Die Welt that “Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.” A dozen years later, London has just elected its first Muslim mayor, an Islamist. I wouldn’t bet against Bernard Lewis.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review

Douglas Murray 

After the very few occasions I have been invited to speak at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London my feeling has tended to be that the place should be knocked down and the earth salted over. The memory of a single person reminds me to refrain from such uncharitable thoughts. For though it may now be unpleasantly radical, this part of the University of London once helped produce the young Bernard Lewis. For this, almost any subsequent sin ought to be forgiven.

But the truth is that scholars and writers of Lewis’s stature do not appear anywhere very often, not even in the course of a lifespan as considerable as the one he has lived. There have been few enough experts in any discipline of such depth, range, and influence. I doubt that there is any scholar — professional or amateur — of the Middle East or Islam who does not have a shelf dedicated to the works of Bernard Lewis. From The Arabs in History to Notes on a Century, his output is striking for its depth and broad accessibility as well as its extraordinary span. His works have long been the indispensable resource of academics, journalists, and policy makers alike.

If few people have matched Lewis’s depth of research, even fewer have returned to tell the tale without falling through the looking glass. Lewis came back time and again to tell the world what he found, in works filled with respect not only for his subject but also for his readers.

In recent decades the world has come to have special need of that learning. Always appreciated by the best among his peers, Lewis has also become the possession of the widest — and most grateful — possible public. Our public discussions on Islam and the West are always in need of improvement, but if they are more informed than they once were (and, despite some evidence to the contrary among a certain subset of elites, I sense that they are), it is in no small part because a young British scholar immersed himself in his subject, went to America, and helped influence the course not only of scholarship but of ideas. His mother country, as well as his alma mater, should feel enormous pride at the centennial of this son’s birth.

–Douglas Murray is the author of a number of books, including Bloody Sunday and is working on an expanded version of his earlier work Islamophilia

Jay Nordlinger

I first heard about Bernard Lewis in the 1980s, when I was in college. I took some courses in Middle East studies. My professors (leftists) mentioned him, as a Big Bad Conservative. But they couldn’t help speaking of him with respect. I was intrigued.

Flash forward to National Review after 9/11. We prevailed on Lewis to write a piece for us on the general situation. I say “we”: It was really our senior editor David Pryce-Jones, an old friend of Bernard’s. When people at other magazines saw Lewis in our pages — they might have been a touch envious. One couldn’t blame them.

In later years, I asked Bernard, “Did you ever think your expertise would turn out to be so useful to the world, and craved by it?” No, he said, absolutely not.

He has been a frequent guest on NR cruises: a sparkling guest, as well as a learned one, of course. I can see him holding court in a lounge, wearing a tuxedo, delighting his listeners, especially the women. But the woman he cares most for is Buntzie.

I have prized every meal, every conversation, with Bernard Lewis. One always learns things, and expands one’s repertoire of stories. I expect to be drawing on what Lewis has taught me for a lifetime. His teaching includes not a few jokes (from assorted countries).

In 2011, I filmed an interview with him, for a series called “The Human Parade.” In his home, two chairs had been set up: a big, comfortable armchair and a quite modest, uncomfortable-looking one. Bernard insisted he would be more comfortable in the second chair — leaving me in the grand one, and feeling sheepish.

Have you read his memoirs, Notes on a Century? When you do, you will know Bernard, pretty well.

In 1966, he was a founding member of MESA, the Middle East Studies Association. Forty years later, he was a founding member of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA). This had been created as an escape from MESA. The older organization had been taken over by radicals and ideologues, just as the Maoists had taken over Chinese studies.

That’s the way Bernard put it. He was genuinely hurt, I sensed, at what had happened to his field.

In his address inaugurating ASMEA, he quoted Dr. Johnson: “A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than by an eminent degree of curiosity. Nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations.” That is Bernard.

He is obviously one of the greatest historians of the Middle East we have ever had. He is a great historian, period, and a great scholar.

One year, a book of his was published in Hebrew translation — by the Israeli Defense Ministry. That same book was published in Arabic — by the Muslim Brotherhood. In his preface, the translator of the Arabic version said, “I don’t know who this author is, but one thing about him is clear: He is either a candid friend or an honorable enemy, and in either case is one who has disdained to falsify the truth.”

Some former students of Bernard’s refer to him as “the Imam.” I know just what they mean. Happy birthday, great one.

— Jay Nordlinger is a senior editor at National Review.

Daniel Pipes

Three quotes establish Bernard Lewis’s career. Martin Kramer, a former student of Lewis, sums up his teacher’s accomplishments:

Bernard Lewis emerged as the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East. His elegant syntheses made Islamic history accessible to a broad public in Europe and America. In his more specialized studies, he pioneered social and economic history and the use of the vast Ottoman archives. His work on the premodern Muslim world conveyed both its splendid richness and its smug self-satisfaction. His studies in modern history rendered intelligible the inner dialogues of Muslim peoples in their encounter with the values and power of the West.

The University of California’s R. Stephen Humphreys notes “the extraordinary range of his scholarship [and] his capacity to command the totality of Islamic and Middle Eastern history from Muhammad down to the present day.” And, as the late Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University put it on Lewis’s 90th birthday, he is “the oracle of this new age of the Americans in the lands of the Arab and Islamic worlds.”

Lewis’s career spanned a monumental 75 years, from his first article (“The Islamic Guilds”) in 1937 to his autobiography in 2012. Midway, in 1969, he entered my life. In Israel the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college, with my aspirations to become a mathematician in doubt, I thought of switching to Middle East studies. To sample this new field, I visited Ludwig Mayer’s renowned bookstore in Jerusalem and purchased The Arabs in History, Lewis’s 1950 book.

It launched my career. Over the next 47 years, Lewis continued to exert a profound influence on my studies. Although never his formal student, I absorbed his views, reading nearly all his writings and favorably reviewing seven of his books, far more than those of any other author. His name appears on 508 pages of my website. Beyond numbers, he more than anyone else has influenced my understanding of the Middle East and Islam.

That said, Lewis and I argued strenuously during the George W. Bush years, narrowly on Iraq policy (I was more skeptical of U.S. efforts) and broadly on the matter of bringing freedom to the Middle East (ditto).

I first met Professor Lewis in 1973 in London, when he generously invited me to his house and offered advice on my Ph.D. studies. I saw him recently at his small apartment in the Philadelphia suburbs. He’s impressively fit in body and mind, spending time on the computer, ever the raconteur (“What’s a Jewish joke? One which non-Jews can’t understand and Jews have heard a better version of”), and conjuring up anecdotes from a time before the rest of us were born (such as his 1946 discussion with Abba Eban about the latter’s career choices). It’s wonderful to see him doing well even if it’s sadly understandable that he no longer engages in scholarship nor opines on current events.

Lewis was born a mere 15 days after the Sykes-Picot agreement that defined the modern Middle East, and their common May centennial finds Syria and Iraq in shreds. And yet Bernard Lewis more than ever is an inspiration to his many self-identified disciples, including this one.

–Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. He tweets @DanielPipes.

David Pryce-Jones 

Bernard Lewis knows more than anyone else about the world of Islam. That world is beyond the experience of most of us. Specialists, or “Orientalists” in the academic jargon, have familiarized the unfamiliar. Nowadays, pretty well all such specialists are either narrow-minded partisans in one or another of the causes that have turned the Middle East into an extensive battlefield, or else immersed in trivia of interest only to professors. Bernard is different; he’s the last in the Orientalist tradition of interpretation based on careful scholarship. There’s no one like him, and probably never will be.

Already as a teenager, he showed himself to be a born linguist, and it’s impossible to be interested in languages without also being interested in the people who speak them. I once heard him wonder if his Italian were good enough to give a lecture in it in Siena. He’s published authoritative studies illuminating some aspect of Turkish, Persian, or Arab society and culture, studies on faith and ethnicity, or race and slavery and Jews, war and politics and modernity. Brilliantly original books like The Muslim Discovery of Europe and What Went Wrong? are based on a lifetime’s research, reaching the painful conclusion that Muslims have believed in their superiority so uncritically and for so long that they lost contact with reality. However bad things may be, though, he never quite rejects hope for a better life.

Objective analysis of the sort was too much for Edward Said, a Christian who became the foremost apologist for the Arabs of his day. In his view, there was no such thing as Western scholarship about the world of Islam: Each and every Orientalist was an aggressor, sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, and in any case disqualified from any comment about the Middle East, especially where Israel was concerned. In the polemic that ensued, Said attempted to fit Bernard into this fanciful conspiracy. Bernard got the better of it by insisting on the universality of knowledge and reason.

A day came when I received a letter from Bernard approving of a book I had written. Since then, it has been my privilege to discover that friendship is as much part of his personality as scholarship. I see the humor in his face when he told me that the United States ought to deal with Iran and Iraq in alphabetical order. I see it again when he described the first Gulf war as “Kuwaitus interruptus.”

Among his wonderful stories is one about training Cypriot waiters as possible intelligence agents in 1940. I can recall almost word for word his warning that a clash of civilizations was now upon us. Sometimes I am asked if I have met any great men — Bernard is certainly one. In the words of the Jewish blessing, may he live to be 120.

–David Pryce-Jones is a senior editor at National Review and the author of The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs.

 

Arul Kandak Kandangsamy and his 1MDB Bull


May 5, 2018

GE-14: 4 days to go to Polling Day, May 9, 2018. Vote Pakatan Harapan and resoundly reject corrupt Najib Razak and his UMNO-BN

Arul Kandak Kandangsamy and his 1MDB Bull

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

[youtbe=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKwvK7SvUQw]

QUESTION TIME | 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy has launched a vitriolic, personal, and unwarranted attack against me which, of course, has no substance but let me deal with the most preposterous of his claims first – the so-called achievements he has made at 1MDB.

I have reproduced in full the “achievements” he claims since 2015 when he joined 1MDB in italics followed by my comments in each case:

1. Transparency: the company has become much more open, transparent and accessible, both to the media and to the public.

I wanted to roll around in laughter at this. Truth is, not one 1MDB annual report has been released since he came on board. Instead during his time, the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB was made secret under the Official Secrets Act, probably on his advice. He never told the government to make the report public.

These two documents are all that is needed to condemn or exonerate 1MDB.

2. Cooperation: full assistance and cooperation have been provided to investigators from Bank Negara, the National Audit Department, the Public Accounts Committee and the Royal Malaysian Police.

Did you have a choice, Arul? Are you not supposed to help investigations by the relevant authorities?  Would you not be contravening the law if you hid some things? So for you, abiding by the law is an achievement?

3. Massive debt reduction: 1MDB debts have been massively reduced from RM50 billion to RM31 billion.

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I already explained this in the last article I wrote. You did this by selling the power assets, extinguishing the bank loans. The sale simultaneously removes the loans from the books of the power companies. That’s nothing.

4. No short-term loans: all short-term loans and bank debt have been fully repaid with RM43 billion of long-term assets now fully backing RM31 billion of long-term debt.

The excess of assets over liabilities is simply because of the revaluation of land obtained cheaply from the government in the first place for both TRX as well as Bandar Tun Razak, not because you did anything, Arul.

However, it has been widely reported that the auditor-general said that US$7 billion of 1MDB assets could not be accounted for or verified – almost RM30 billion gone missing, evaporated into thin air. Where is the money Arul, you have not told us yet.

5. TRX a success: the Exchange 106 Tower in TRX will be the tallest tower in Malaysia upon completion in 2018. International investors such as HSBC and Prudential have collectively committed billions of ringgit to their headquarters in TRX. Lendlease, one of the most well-respected global property developers is in a joint venture with TRX to develop 17 acres of land.

 

TRX was a ruse for 1MDB to borrow money and then have it allegedly stolen by the kleptocrats. There is no evidence to show that any money borrowed went to TRX – TRX does not need RM30 billion for development – all it needs to do is to sell the land for others to develop.

6. 30,000 high-income jobs will be generated in TRX, upon completion, with RM3 billion being spent on infrastructure in and around TRX.

This is, again, a lie. If you have a building, people will work in it especially if you force them to move here, but that does not mean you created those high-paying jobs. Instead, by building so much of commercial space – too much – you will create excess and cause a glut in office supply. Go read the Bank Negara report on that, Arul.

7. Bandar Malaysia relocation completed: practically all of the eight new and upgraded bases for the air force and police with 1MDB as the developer and LTAT as the contractor are now completed thereby paving the way for the development of Bandar Malaysia.

Again, your bond money did not go into this project – it allegedly went into the pockets of your benefactors. All these could have been done without 1MDB and at much lower cost.

8. 200,000 high-income jobs will be generated in Bandar Malaysia, which will be a premier transport-oriented development and will house the terminus of the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail link.

Again, this is a lie. High-income jobs are not being created. What happens is high-income earners will shift and work in this area, which is not the same thing. And you don’t need to lose RM40 billion in the process.

Want to know how to make RM90 billion from Bandar Malaysia? Read this article I wrote.

A dishonourable career

Now that the substance of this debate is over, we know that Arul, despite what he said, did not stick to the facts. Let’s move on to the vitriol and the personal attacks.

When I set up KiniBiz together with Malaysiakini in 2013, I was already 60 years old, and had been managing editor at The Star and group executive editor at The Edge. I had no desire to go any further than that in either organisation. Earlier I held other editor jobs and was head of equity research at local and foreign brokerages.

I lost money at KiniBiz, Arul, but I made no secret of the fact that KiniBiz was shut down – we announced it on the website. But it was not your money I lost or the country’s, and I am not defending someone else’s alleged robbery at 1MDB and thereby becoming complicit in that act the way you are.

I am proud that my team and I tried to do something about good business journalism in Malaysia, although we could not, at the time, make it financially viable for various reasons. We were the ones who broke the 1MDB story in March 2013 as you very well know. We helped uncover this story which you are so desperately trying to bury – and we won’t let you do that.

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This time, I am not going to mince my words about this excuse of a man who not only lacks, sorry, is devoid of, not only integrity and morality but intelligence. People tell me he is smart and a great debater but all I have seen demonstrated repeatedly is the stupidity and banality of the desperate, trying to cover up with words his lack of achievement.

He could have made an honourable career in the financial industry but was duped and drawn in as the CEO of 1MDB to do his master’s bidding of engaging in systematic deception to deny the biggest kleptocracy the earth has ever known. No amount of money is worth that, Arul.

While Jho Low was until recently sailing around the world in a billion-ringgit yacht, enjoying the spoils of the 1MDB money, this man sits here and blithely says 1MDB did not lose any money. What a clown!

And if Pakatan Harapan wins this election, you will see this man flee from this country with his tail between his legs. He will not have the balls to stay and face the music. Which is why he is campaigning so hard for his political masters for it is also his own future that he is fighting for.

 

For us Malaysians, we will say good riddance and chalk up one more reason we should vote against this government which continues to allegedly steal from its people and appoints ball-carriers to important positions in government-linked companies, which is a sure way to ensure they fail.

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And if BN wins, you still lose Arul, because you lent your name to the biggest kleptocracy in the world and your support to an immoral, incompetent and corrupt regime. Your name will go down in the halls of shame but perhaps you don’t care about that, do you?


P GUNASEGARAM says the country is in danger when alleged thieves and their co-conspirators flaunt themselves in the open instead of being brought to account and locked up. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

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

Ibn Khaldun: the man who invented modern history


May 1, 2018

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Ibn Khaldun: the man who invented modern history

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Ronald Reagan once cited him. Mark Zuckerberg picked his great work as one of his book club choices. And the British historian Arnold Toynbee described it “as undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.” These are pretty unusual encomia for a 14th-century North African historian—but then Ibn Khaldun was an unusually gifted man. His Muqaddimah is a book-length introduction—or prolegomena—to a much longer history of the world. Such histories were common among Arab writers, but no one before him had developed such an advanced theory about why civilisations rise, and why they fall. He looked at material factors in history and cast a sceptical eye over the outlandish stories and tall tales of previous works. A devout Muslim, he nonetheless didn’t ascribe events solely to divine ordinances: the human factor always prevailed.

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Robert Irwin’s new book Ibn Khaldun: An Intellectual Biography (Princeton) is both an introduction to his work and an original intervention in Ibn Khaldun studies. Irwin, the Middle East Editor of the Times Literary Supplement and author of acclaimed books on The Arabian Nights and the Alhambra, spoke to Prospect’s Managing Editor Sameer Rahim. They met at Irwin’s home in south London where they talked about what Ibn Khaldun can teach us about the way modern societies work.

Sameer Rahim: What is it about Ibn Khaldun that appeals to figures like Mark Zuckerberg and his other modern fans?

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Robert Irwin: It is the delusive appearance of modernity in Ibn Khaldun’s thinking. Sociologists and anthropologists and cultural studies people think: aha, I’ve found an intellectual ancestor. They argue he’s the father of ethnography, or sociology. But there are other factors: he did have a remarkably colourful career: he spent time in prison, fought in battles with the Bedouin, encountered the would-be world conquerer Tamerlane. He visited Granada and Pedro the Cruel. Moreover the scope of the Muqaddimah is enormous: it’s nothing less than the study of the principles of how to do history. He talks about the cyclical rise and fall of dynasties. For Ibn Khaldun, a wave of nomadic invaders bonded by Asabiyyah—a kind of social bonding force or esprit de corps—conquer a city. But as they settle down they become weak and decadent and therefore ripe to be conquered by another set of people. That’s the core argument of the Muqaddimah, but there’s so much else: discussions of music and Berber literature, pedagogy and economics and the occult. It’s an encyclopaedic guide to all knowledge as it existed in the 14th century.

SR: This is an introduction to his longer multi-volume history, but no one really reads that these days?

RI: The general consensus is that it’s a great disappointment. He sets out these wonderful dynamic principles and then he plods along with what is mostly a pretty conventional history. There is some stuff that is original, especially on the Berbers and the horribly complicated history of North Africa in the period. He did know important Mamluk figures including the Sultan. But generally it’s really boring.

SR: Did he write the Muqaddimah after he wrote the history?

RI: The conventional view is that he wrote them at the same time, but I’m wondering if he didn’t write the history first and then thought hang on a moment—what about the underlying meaning of all this? And then does the Muqaddimah second. But he doesn’t have the time to rethink the history before he dies?

SR: Ibn Khaldun does have a very modern-seeming impatience with the old Arab chronicles and their exaggerations though?

SR: Ibn Khaldun does have a very modern-seeming impatience with the old Arab chronicles and their exaggerations though?

RI: He’s impatient with Masudi [the 10th century historian, author of The Meadows of Gold] when he talks about the existence of a City of Brass with no gates and the inhabitants all dead. Ibn Khaldun does not accept that history can and might be entertaining. Masudi was an intelligent man who didn’t believe in the City of Brass any more than Ibn Khaldun did, but he puts it down because it’s a jolly good story. But Ibn Khaldun is very dour and very serious.

SR: It is serious but it’s also compelling because he has a very curious mind. He observes something and then says: I’ve got a theory about it.

RI: There are other theorists in the Arab tradition: al-Farabi, Ibn Sina [Avicenna], Ibn Rushd [Averoes]. But they tend to theorise from theory, not direct observation, which is what Ibn Khaldun does mostly.

SR: He’s not that interested in al-Farabi’s idea, drawing on Plato, of the ideal city either.

RI: Not in the slightest. The city’s the wrong place to be: the ideal, for Ibn Khaldun, is to live rough and hard as a Bedouin. His idea of the Golden Age of Islam was not what the west thinks of as the Golden Age: the Abbasid era, with its dancing girls and poetry and wine-drinking. Instead the Golden Age was the time of Mohammed and the first four caliphs. He looked back with huge nostalgia for when things were simpler and people didn’t wear fancy clothes, and they didn’t eat expensive meals.

SR: He lived in cities, he was a courtier, he was an administrator. Can you trace his own scepticism about city life and courts to his own experience?

RI: He’d not had a happy experience as an administrator in North Africa. He doesn’t have a good word to say about Marrakesh or Tunis—which was a place of great unhappiness because of the Black Death. I don’t think he has much good to say about Granada. He spent an awful lot of time in the desert on official missions, tax collecting or recruiting troops. But when he gets to Cairo, he really loves it. His panegyric to Cairo is one of the great passages in the Muqaddimah so he’s not totally hostile to cities. Perhaps he was careful what he wrote about Egypt so as not to alienate the sultan or his other patrons.

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Tamerlane

SR: Is that also why he’s so complimentary about Tamerlane , whom he met and discoursed with for a month?

RI: Tamerlane is just very impressive; a totally uneducated man but very sharp. And loved talking to historians. And for Ibn Khaldun, he fits the theory of his book completely. He’s in charge of this huge nomadic horde, the Chagatai Turks, who have all this Asabiyya and nomadic vigour. It’s like a scientist meeting a new laboratory rat; he’s taking careful notes.

SR: About this term Asabiyya. It’s still invoked in Muslim circles today. (I saw someone on Twitter say: what British Muslims need is more Asabiyya.) What exactly is it: esprit de corps, group identity?

RI: Asabiyya is a kind of social bonding. The German travel writer Wilfred Thesiger describes how it develops in the desert because you’re heavily dependent on each other to survive. But it’s not just esprit de corps, it’s also elan vital, a drive to conquer, supplement that with religion and you’re just about unbeatable.

SR: It feels like a heavy male bonding—tough guys in the desert.

RI: There’s no room for women in the Muqaddimah. The only reason we learn that he had at least one wife is that he mentions casually that she drowned just off Alexandria. He was a pretty tough man: he fought in battles, he travelled in deserts, he spent time in prison, he took great risks. His brother was murdered, his best friend Ibn al-Khatib was executed. It was very dangerous to be an official in those days.

SR: And his idea was that once you move into the city, you lose the Asabiyya because you become more individualistic and atomised. The Ottomans used this theory to discuss the decay of their empire, didn’t they?

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Suleiman the Magnificent

RI: The Ottomans are looking at it from a very practical point of view. After the great days of Suleiman the Magnificent and Selim the Grim, they were worried they would go the way of the Umayyads and the Abbasids. They’re trying to find a loophole in Ibn Khaldun, and break this cycle of decline. So they’re starting from that point of view. The French take him up in colonial times because he apparently does down the Arabs and praises the Berbers, which suits their divide and rule project. In Britain it’s Toynbee, who’s always questing for intellectual ancestors—and then he finds Ibn Khaldun, hooray! But for him he’s a solitary genius among these dark and barbarous Arabs. Pure ignorance on Toynbee’s part, of course.

SR: The word Arab means different things in the book.

RI: He’s sometimes using Arab to mean a racial group and sometimes he’s referring to nomadic looters.

RI: He’s sometimes using Arab to mean a racial group and sometimes he’s referring to nomadic looters.

SR: But he was proud of his own Yemeni provenance.

RI: Yes, but the irony is that it looks from his name that he may not have been an Arab at all but a descendant from a Christian convert to Islam in Spain.

SR: Despite having a reputation for rationalism, he also had an interest in the occult.

RI: Occult phenomenon were everyday experiences then. Ibn Khaldun saw someone pointing at a sheep and its stomach splitting. He’s interested in predictions of the future but predicting the downfall of the dynasty is politically dangerous.

SR: How did he marry together his material theory of the rise and fall of civilisations with astrology, say?

RI: There’s a double causation: dynasties fall because of socio-economic factors and because God has doomed them.

SR: How far has your own interest in the occult shaped your reading of Ibn Khaldun?

RI: [Laughing] I would probably have to plead guilty. To some extent I put myself, rather impudently, in Ibn Khaldun’s shoes.

SR: Do you identify with him?

RI: Ibn Khaldun is a very stern, aloof figure. I don’t feel an affinity with him. If anything I feel a little bit frightened of him.

SR: The whole thing about him having predicted the Laffer curve, and Ronald Reagan citing him in a speech about cutting taxes. Was he original in his economic thinking?

RI: I’ve read some very bad accounts of Ibn Khaldun from the economic point of view. What comes over mostly is very conventional Muslim approaches: that copper coinage is awful, debasing the gold and silver coinage. State monopolies are wrong. There has to be trade, but he’s very suspicious of it. He wishes that we didn’t have shopkeepers, and we didn’t have to bargain for things. He really despises it. Where he’s doing economics, he’s really moralising.

SR: To what extent does his “Muslim-ness” run through his work?

RI: He’s a strictly conventional Maliki Sunni Muslim, never goes against religion. He was a master of the religious sciences, jurisprudence and theology. He’s suspicious of Shias and extreme Sufis.

SR: Did that give him a solidity that meant he could come up with all these ideas which are not really to do with Islam at all?

RI: The principles of Maliki jurisprudence helped him when looking at history: what is good evidence and what is bad evidence. But his cyclical theory of history is totally original with him. And that’s why I originally got interested in Ibn Khaldun: because I was interested in the laws of history. I have compared him to Machiavelli, Montesquieu and to Vico.

SR: One final question. Would you have felt more at home in 14th century North Africa than now?

RI: No, it was a terrifying place (laughs). The Black Death? Tribal fighting? Timur’s invasion? Ibn Khaldun didn’t think it was a Golden Age at all; he thought it was awful.

Malaysia’s national shipping line: The Robert Kuok Memoirs


November 27, 2017

How I launched Malaysia’s national shipping line (and what Genghis Khan had to do with it): the Robert Kuok memoirs

In the fifth extract from Robert Kuok’s memoir, the Malaysian-born tycoon reveals how patriotism drove him to launch the country’s national shipping line and how he drew inspiration from the Mongol warrior.

By Robert Kuok

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2121108/how-i-launched-malaysias-national-shipping-line-and-what-genghis

CUT THE APRON STRINGS AND CAST OFF

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Shipping Magnate Frank  WK Tsao

In 1967, word reached my ears that the Blue Funnel Group was coming to set up the national shipping line of Malaysia. Blue Funnel was probably the largest shipping conglomerate in Britain at that time. It owned Blue Funnel, Glen Line, Straits Steamship Co in Singapore, and many other lines. The Executive Chairman, a man whom I recall walked with a bad limp, was making frequent lobbying trips from London to Kuala Lumpur. I was interested in applying for the licence, so I chatted with a few of my Malay civil-servant friends. They agreed that I should put in a similar application to be considered for the right to establish the national shipping line.

My interest was partly patriotism … to help Malaysia not be tied to the apron string of the ex-colonial government

My interest was partly patriotism – a desire to help Malaysia to launch its own independent shipping line and not be tied to the apron strings of the ex-colonial government of Britain through Blue Funnel. I had become interested in shipping from about 1964, due to our large-scale buying of sugar for our refinery, wheat for our flourmill and our international commodities-trading activities. For example, we bought free-on-board sugar from India and delivered it to the Government of Indonesia on a cost-and-freight basis (sellers only wanted to sell on the basis of delivery at their own ports; buyers wanted the sugar delivered to their ports. Thus, covering the span of the ocean was my risk).

Robert Kuok

In those days, shipping was quite volatile and freight rates could sometimes shoot up 25-30 per cent. Since margins on sugar trading were small, you could easily make money on your trade, but lose on the freight. There was one problem: I knew nothing about shipping. I did know that in any business, unless you know the tricks of the trade, you can be badly burnt. I couldn’t even submit a decent memo for the application. So I looked for a partner.

A FRANK ADMISSION

On one trip to Hong Kong, I had been introduced by a Malay civil-servant friend to a man called Frank WK Tsao. I remembered that Tsao was a shipping man, Chairman of International Maritime Carriers, so I telephoned him. I said I would like to come and see him to discuss a business proposal. He gave me an appointment and I flew to Hong Kong. When I went to his office, Tsao was only mildly friendly. I was quite humble in my approach. I told him that we had met. He said, “Oh yes, we have met, we have met.” In business life, you learn early on that you must swallow your pride. I told him that some Malay civil servants, who wanted to stir up competition, were encouraging me to submit an application to set up a national shipping line.

There was one problem: I knew nothing about shipping. I did know that in any business, unless you know the tricks of the trade, you can be badly burnt.

I said, “I can’t differentiate between the front and rear ends of a ship,” which was a bit of an exaggeration, “so why don’t you come and help me to set up the Malaysian national shipping line? You’re well known in the shipping business. Are you willing to become my partner?” Without thinking for a second, he retorted, “Do you know, so and so and so and so have also approached me. They are Tan Sris, and I turned them all down.”

He was virtually saying “And who are you? I’ve turned down people way ahead of you in the pecking order in Malaysia.” When I heard these remarks and saw his body language, I said, “I’m sorry then. I thought I would give you first crack. I am going to go at it.” I didn’t tell him what a determined man I am in life.

I concluded, “Never mind, nothing has been lost by this little chat we’ve had. Thank you for receiving me.” I got up and was walking out when he shouted, “Oh, no, no. Please, Mr Kuok. Don’t go! Don’t go! Sit down, sit down.”

To this day I don’t know what made Frank change his mind. I had one shipping expert on staff, Tony Goh, a Singaporean- Chinese who was running my plywood factory. Tony had been a manager at Ben Line, a Scottish liner, before he joined me in 1964. So I sent Tony Goh to draft the memo with Frank Tsao.

I rewrote certain parts to suit the reading style of the Malaysian civil servants, and we submitted the memo in the joint names of Kuok Brothers and Frank’s International Maritime Carriers. A little later, I heard that we were one of the leading contenders. I asked Frank to meet me in Kuala Lumpur. I had made up my mind that we should pick one day to call on as many important ministers as possible. From eight in the morning we whipped around Kuala Lumpur at a furious pace, such as you can’t do today due to the traffic, and saw seven ministers by lunchtime. Some of them gave us good time and good hearings, and we told them the same story. In the afternoon, we visited one or two more.

I remember calling on the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister Tun Dr Ismail, Finance Minister Tan Siew Sin, Minister of Works Sambanthan and Minister of Transport Sardon Jubir.

Tun Dr Ismail, the former Malaysian interior minister.

OUR SHIP COMES IN

Within two or three weeks, we were picked at a cabinet meeting to start the national shipping line, Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC). We were like a dark horse coming from behind in the last furlong and pipping the favourite at the post!

I was Chairman of the Board and provided business management guidance. Frank Tsao’s side provided the shipping expertise. Just around the time of MISC’s formation in 1968, my dear friend Tun Dr Ismail resigned from government when he found that he had cancer. I immediately invited him to be the first Chairman of MISC.

I was inspired by the example of Genghis Khan, who, when he conquered cities, usually turned the spoils over to his generals and soldiers

Frank Tsao already knew Tun Dr Ismail through a textile-mill investment Frank had made in Johor (Dr Ismail resigned from MISC after the May 13, 1969, riots to return to the Cabinet. I then took over the chairmanship until the 1980s). Our first two ships came from the Japanese. Simultaneous with our moves to start the shipping line, there was an initiative by the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) to demand war reparations from Japan.

The Chinese community was angry about the Japanese massacre of innocent Chinese and was seeking compensation for this blood debt. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Malaysian Prime Minister, supported the demand and raised the issue during official trips to Japan. The Japanese finally agreed to give two blood-debt ships to Malaysia, which the Japanese called “goodwill ships”. MISC started with these two cargo ships and paid for them on a monthly bare-boat, hire-charter basis. Frank’s ship architects and engineers in Hong Kong supervised the design and construction in Japan. Tunku Abdul Rahman made some very cogent suggestions about the design of the flag for this new national flag carrier.

Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, left, and finance minister Tan Siew Sin in 1969.

MISC had an initial paid-up capital of 10 million ringgit. Since Kuok Brothers led the show, we took 20 per cent; Frank Tsao took 15 per cent. As the ships were reparation from the Japanese to the Malayan Chinese Association, not to the Malaysian nation, the vessels were assessed a reasonable value and the MCA was given MISC shares in lieu of payment.

MCA and other Chinese associations, combined, took 20-30 per cent, so in the beginning the holding of Kuok Brothers, Frank and the MCA group together was easily over 50 per cent. We had a fairly united board in the beginning. MISC started business in the second half of 1969 and quickly flourished. Much of the credit must go to Frank, the deputy chairman, who recommended capable managers such as Eddie Shih. Shih, another Shanghainese who had settled in Hong Kong, ran the show with Tony Goh. Very early on,

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MISC Managing Director Leslie Eu Peng Meng

Tony recommended his one-time colleague in Ben Line, Leslie Eu, who at the time was manager of Ben Line Bangkok. Leslie, the son of Burmese Chinese who had settled in Malaysia, quit Ben Line and came in as Managing Director of MISC.

YES, PRIME MINISTER

Within a year of our launching MISC, Tun Razak, who by then was prime minister, sent for me. Razak said, “I want you to make a fresh issue of 20 per cent of new shares. I’m under pressure because there is not a high enough Malay percentage of shareholding.” I said, “Tun, are you quite serious about this request?” He answered, “Yes, Robert.” So I replied that I would do it. I went back and, with a little bit of arm-twisting, persuaded the board to pass a resolution waiving the rights of existing shareholders to a rights issue (MISC was not yet a public company). Razak allocated all the new shares to government agencies. So, I was diluted to 20 upon 120 – the enlarged base – and Frank became 15 upon 120.

Tun Razak.

One or two years later, Razak again sent for me. He said, “I’m under a lot of pressure at Cabinet meetings. You know, Robert, it’s just the price of your success. MISC is doing well, people are getting envious. But now, instead of giving in to those factions, what I’ve decided is this: Issue another twenty per cent, five per cent to each of four port cities in Malaysia.”

I have always believed in some degree of socialism when you have made money

This entailed enlarging the capital base to 140 from the original 100, making the Malaysian Government the largest single shareholder and relegating Kuok Brothers to second position. And he again wanted the shares issued at par – the original issue price.

I said, “Tun, I have always cooperated with you, but it’s getting very difficult. Three, four years have elapsed from formation, but I would be loath to ask you for a premium since we are a growing company. So I will go back and ask the board again to issue shares at par to you. But Tun, can you please promise me that this is the last time?” He smiled and very gently signified his agreement, without saying the words.

GIVING LIKE GENGHIS

Then Frank and I decided that we should go public. Before we listed in 1987, I made quite a radical move, adopting a practice that I had used within Kuok Brothers. I explained to my Kuok Brothers senior directors that the MISC shares were now worth a lot of money, but only because of the great effort put in by other members of the board and many of the very deserving staff. I wanted to take about 15 per cent of our shareholding and sell the shares at par to deserving directors, staff and ship captains. Quite a number of people benefited from this move. I have always believed in some degree of socialism when you have made money. You know very well that you alone didn’t make it; it was a joint effort.

I was inspired by the example of Genghis Khan, who, when he conquered cities, usually turned the spoils over to his generals and soldiers. He was not selfish, and that is why he became the greatest general the world has ever seen.

Robert Kuok, A Memoir will be available in Hong Kong exclusively at Bookazine and in Singapore at all major bookshops from November 25. It will be released in Malaysia on Dec 1 and in Indonesia on Jan 1, 2018

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee’s latest book will be launched on November 8, 2017


November 7, 2017

Congratulations to Dr Lim Teck Ghee with this quote from the late Steve Jobs to commemorate the launch of your book, Challenging Malaysia’s Status Quo:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. –Steve Jobs

Teck Ghee,

It has been indeed my pleasure to host your writings on Malaysian issues of public interest on my blog for the benefit of readers around the world.

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Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Your commentaries on various aspects of contemporary Malaysian political economy have been critical, fair and balanced, succinct  and very readable. I look forward to owning a copy of this book and reading your articles with a fine tooth comb. I share your concerns and like you, I am optimistic about the future of our country.

You and I and all our friends like Patricia Martinez, Azmi Sharom,  Ooi Kee Beng, Thayaparan, et.al have been identified with the political opposition for having the guts to speak the truth to power.  Nothing is further from the truth. We are loyal and citizens of Malaysia with certain inalienable rights under the Constitution. We seek to hold our leaders accountable for their decisions and actions. –Din Merican

Challenging Malaysia’s Status Quo Book Launch

Strategic Information and Research Development Centre is pleased to invite you to the launch of our latest and highly-anticipated book, Challenging the Status Quo in Malaysia.

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We are proud to have as our guest of honour Tan Sri Datuk Yong Poh Kon to launch the book.  He, together with the book author, were members of a 5- man committee chaired by then Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi to draft the final report of the National Economic Consultative Council (NECC)  in 1990 as inputs for the successor policy to the NEP.

Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon was a President of the Federation of Manufacturers (FMM) and the Co-Chairman together with the Chief Secretary,  of PEMUDAH, the Task Force to Facilitate Business from 2007 to 2013.  He was also  a founding Commissioner of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and Board Member of Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia) and EPF. From  2009 to 2014, he served as a member of the Advisory Board of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and in 2013 he was appointed a member of the Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s office.

 

Present at the launch will also be Dr. Lim Teck Ghee and Dr. Azmi Sharom, Commander (retired) Thayaparan and Dr. Patricia Martinez who will make short remarks about the book and their take on the book’s subject matter.

Following the formal launching of the book there will be a question and answer session. Copies of the book will be available for sale after the event. Light refreshments will also be provided.

 

Endorsements:

No Malaysian concerned with the future of Malaysia or anyone with an academic interest in the country can afford not to read this superb collection of essays by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, one of Malaysia’s foremost public intellectuals. With his impressive critical eye, deep historical insights, and extensive experience in political and social activism spanning almost five decades, Dr. Lim offers his critical analysis and reflections on several political, economic and social issues in Malaysia with the vision of making change happen in a country on the brink of becoming a failed state. – Alberto Gomes, Professor LaTrobe University, Australia

 

Malaysia has been in a low-intensity crisis – punctuated by occasional moments of real confrontation – for so long that it is all too easy to normalise the status quo as the only imaginable world. The crisis encompasses every element of the social order. For nearly five decades Lim Teck Ghee has been one of Malaysia’s most principled and eloquent critics of this system, and of a ruling class that has entrenched itself, its ideas and its interests into the body politic. His writing and political engagement are the epitome of the public intellectual – thinking about and reflecting broadly upon the realities of society, and offering solutions. He straddles the worlds of rigorous scholarship, social activism and public discourse. He embraces every possible medium to circulate his message: acclaimed academic books, policy reports, position papers, online commentaries, op-eds and more besides. And his views remain steadfastly subversive. The publication of Challenging Malaysia’s Status Quo brings together some of  Teck Ghee’s most penetrating analyses from the past decade. They offer a critique, a challenge and a chance to imagine that another world is possible for all Malaysians. – Gareth Richards, Gerakbudaya Bookshop, Penang

 

History professor, consumer advocate, policy analyst and public intellectual par excellence Dr. Lim Teck Ghee has put together this important collection of critical essays on the existential crisis of the Malaysian nation today. The essays are sharply critical of Malaysia’s current economic policies and social practices as its title suggests. Essays cover topics on the New Economic Policy (NEP)’s prolonged and untenable extension of ethnic privilege into the New Economic Model (NEM), on the role of GLCs which may have helped over-achieve the 30 per cent threshold of Bumiputera equity, on the ruling coalition’s egregious use of electoral manipulation, on the rising tide of religious intolerance condoned or unchecked by the government and many other issues that make for riveted reading.Through these essays, Dr. Lim systematically exposes the poor state of governance in the Malaysian state and the flaws of its past and current policies. Although a bleak picture is presented about an apparent lack of progress, Dr. Lim’s explicit use of Ockham’s razor to dissect governmental practices show us clearly how we could construct a more progressive Malaysia in the future. His pointed analyses of how and why we must render change to ineffectual and moribund policies is essential reading for academicians, politicians and activists. – Johan Saravanamuttu, Adjunct Senior Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

 

The life time spent by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee on studying and analyzing issues affecting the well-being of Malaysia and the world is exhibited in impressive fashion in this collection of articles. Often controversial, always informed, his incisive words confirm his standing as one of the country’s most intrepid and resolute public intellectuals. – Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Deputy Director, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore

 

Malaysia: Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is a Statesman and a Patriot


July 11, 2017

COMMENT: As I see it, there are two sides of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. He is a technocrat-manager, and he is also a politician. It is easy to get your wires crossed when you judge him. I experienced this cognitive dissonance every time I commented on him, and painfully too. As a person, the Tun is gentle, kind and considerate. As a politico, he can be as tough and unbending as a nail of reinforced steel.

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Tun Dr. Mahathir –Technocrat-Manager and Politician and Prime Minister

I am familiar with the man as a technocrat-manager because I had the privilege of working for him directly in 1970s.  I also had worked for Tun Ghazalie Shafie (Wisma Putra), Tun Ismail Bin Mohamed Ali (Bank Negara Malaysia and later when he became successor to Tun Tan), and Tun Tan Siew Sin and Tunku Ahmad Yahaya (Sime Darby Group ) in 1960s-1990s.

What do these outstanding personalities have in common? To me, they were thoroughly professional, smart, decisive and demanding bosses who did not suffer fools easily. More importantly, they judged me for my work and fidelity to the institution, not for my loyalty to them, or capacity to flatter them. In fact, I was afraid to even compliment them for fear of being misconstrued. Of course, they all had their strengths and failings, but there was no doubt in my mind that they were patriots who served Malaysia with distinction. They led by example, and had a great impact on my professional career.

Then there is Tun Dr.Mahathir, the politician, the Senator, Member of Parliament (Kubang Pasu) and Prime Minister of Malaysia (for 22 odd years). I knew him when I was growing up in Alor Setar, Kedah too. But I have great difficulty in understanding his decisions and actions, although I understood and accepted his Vision 2020,  Look East Policy and other economic and social policies.

Up to a point, I was even willing to accept his rationale for wanting power. I remember him saying that he needed the power to get things done. Indeed, he got the power he wanted and he certainly got things done. Look around and you can see for yourself his many accomplishments. He has left an indelible mark on our national landscape.

I know that Prime Minister Najib Razak is trying to erase them.  I heard from my friends when my wife Dr. Kamsiah and I visited Langkawi recently that Najib’s cronies were trying to eliminate some landmarks of the Mahathir era in Kuah. How  low and immature one can get.

Unfortunately, the Tun had too much power. With unchecked powers, he systematically brought all institutions of governance under the control of a powerful Executive Branch, a legacy he left to the present Prime Minister Najib Razak to fully exploit.  Now, it is next to impossible to replace the incumbent Prime Minister for corruption and abuses of power. Even national elections can be rigged.

Image result for Tom Plate's Conversations with Mahathir

 I can change my mind too. When Tun Dr. Mahathir put his Deputy Prime Minister Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim in jail on trumped up charges of sodomy in 1998, I had a change of heart and  became critical of his political leadership.  I even wrote what I thought of Tun Dr. Mahathir the Politician in Tom Plate’s book’s Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad. I have remained steadfast to my views on the Political Mahathir.

But I will never stoop so low as to condemn our Fourth Prime Minister and deny him his place in our national history. He is a truly outstanding statesmen and role model for Malaysians of my generation, especially those from Kedah.  He belongs with Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, a fellow Kedahan, in my pantheon of heroes. –Din Merican

Malaysia: Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is a Statesman and a Patriot

by Rais Hussin@www.malaysiakini.com

It was John Maynard Keynes who said: “When the facts change, I change my view”. The philosophy served him well.

Image result for john maynard keynes the economic consequences of the peace

Keynes could see ahead of time. When France and its allies punished Germany with reparations after World War I, Keynes knew that Germany would rise again to seek its revenge. He even wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace [The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) is a book written and published by John Maynard Keynes.[1] Keynes attended the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 as a delegate of the British Treasury and argued for a much more generous peace. It was a best-seller throughout the world and was critical in establishing a general opinion that the Versailles Treaty was a “Carthaginian peace“. It helped to consolidate American public opinion against the treaty and involvement in the League of Nations. The perception by much of the British public that Germany had been treated unfairly in turn was a crucial factor in public support for appeasement. The success of the book established Keynes’ reputation as a leading economist especially on the left. When Keynes was a key player in establishing the Bretton Woods system in 1944, he remembered the lessons from Versailles as well as the Great Depression. The Marshall Plan, after the Second World War, was a similar system to that proposed by Keynes in The Economic Consequences of the Peace.–wikipedia]

True enough, within a short generation of 20 years after the conclusion of the Versailles Treaty in 1919, Nazi was led by Hitler, wrecking damage on the whole of Europe. Did Keynes insist on more revenge against Germany? No. True to form when the facts change, he changed his opinion.

After Second World War, Keynes was among the few to insist that Germany has to be integrated into Europe to keep the whole region safe.

Statesmanship is about peering into the future. Under Dr Mahathir Mohamad, well before Malaysia knew what was Vision 2020, he had spoken at the Malaysian Business Council in 1990 on the importance of creating a country that was morally and economically strong.

In contrast, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has run the ship aground with allegedly the brazen RM44 billion mismanagement, of which the likes of Khairul Azwan, the Umno Youth vice-chief, is still in denial. It is as if 1MDB is “Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu” (Come and go, come and go, and it’s OK too).

Well, too bad for Najib. Mahathir did not earn his “Tunship” by sheer ingratiation. If he did, the award would have been withdrawn given the government’s accusations that he has sold the country down the river with a wave and a bye.

Between 1981 and 2002, a full 22 years, Malaysia was the only one to have grown by leaps and bounds. Even at the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1999, Malaysia never so much as ask for a single dollar from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yet, had IMF come into the picture, the bumiputera economic program, right down to how the government payroll would be spent, would come under the scrutiny of IMF.

Almost overnight, the sovereignty and independence of Malaysia were saved, which is more than any Malaysians can ask for from their leader.

In contrast, at the height of the Global Economic Recession in 2009, what Najib did was well-nigh irresponsible. Instead of building our country’s human capital, allegedly some RM44 billion or more, were borrowed and squandered, saddling Malaysia with even more debt.

Khairul Azwan–The Super Ampu Najib character

Khairul Azwan (photo), being a junior politician, some believe juvenile too, can only claim that Mahathir is not worthy of the title of being called a statesman. If not Mahathir, then who?

‘Upset Mahathir can support Anwar again’

Khairul Azwan is upset that Mahathir can support Anwar Ibrahim again. Well, when the facts change, Mahathir’s opinion too. And the facts that have changed are these: Najib has allegedly mismanaged the funds that were leveraged on the name of 1MDB, and avoided coming head to head with Mahathir for a public debate. If there is nothing to hide, Najib must debate with Mahathir.

In avoiding the need to face Mahathir head on, the likes of Khairul Azwan have had to step to the fore to defend the Prime Minister. But how can Khairul Azwan even suit the role granted that most Malaysian had never heard of his name until today?

Is he crying out to attract attention? Like he did when he lodged a police report against three impeccable “Tan Sris” that include Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Abdul Gani Patail and Abu Kassim Mohamed for attention. And attention he got when he was instantaneously rewarded with a senatorship by Najib.

Is he now crying for attention so that he will be given a parliamentary or state seats to contest? Is he eyeing a ministerial position or who knows, the coveted Menteri Besar post of Perak? Khairul Azwan knows loyalty to Najib has instant rewards or remuneration.

He had experienced it first-hand. Time to accentuate his loyalty to Najib for instant rewards while negating the interest of the people or the nation?


RAIS HUSSIN is a supreme council member of Parti Peribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). He also heads the Policy and Strategy Bureau of Bersatu.