Trump’s Interview with The Times and Germany’s Bild


January 17, 2017

Trump’s Interview with The Times and Germany’s Bild

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/full-transcript-of-interview-with-donald-trump-5d39sr09d

Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, right, interviewing Donald Trump in his eponymous tower in New York– Daniel Biskup

This is the full transcript of Donald Trump’s interview with Times’ Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, former chief editor of the German newspaper Bild.

Mr President-elect, your grandfather is from Germany, your mother is from Scotland. As you know, Michael is Scottish, I am German. How will you manage relations with our countries?

Trump: Well, it’s similar. We have great love for both countries. These are great countries, great places. It’s very interesting how the UK broke away. I sort of, as you know, predicted it. I was in Turnberry and was doing a ribbon cutting because I bought Turnberry, which is doing unbelievably, and I’ll tell you, the fact that your pound sterling has gone down? Great. Because business is unbelievable in a lot of parts in the UK, as you know. I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.

So do you think we will be able to get a trade deal between the US and the UK quite quickly?

Absolutely, very quickly. I’m a big fan of the UK, uh, we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly — good for both sides. I will be meeting with [Theresa May] — in fact if you want you can see the letter, wherever the letter is, she just sent it.

Image result for Theresa May

UK’s Theresa May–The Midwife of BREXIT

She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it’ll be, I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly.

Why do you think Brexit happened?

People don’t want to have other people coming in and destroying their country and you know in this country we’re gonna go very strong borders from the day I get in. One of the first orders I’m gonna sign – day one – which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday. Right? I mean my day one is gonna be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration, but one of the first orders we’re gonna be signing is gonna be strong borders.

We don’t want people coming in from Syria who we don’t know who they are. You know there’s no way of vetting these people. I don’t want to do what Germany did.

And I’ve great respect for Merkel, by the way, I have to say. I have great respect for her. But, I, I think it was, I think it was very unfortunate what happened.

And you know I have a love for Germany because my father came from Germany and I don’t want to be in that position. You know the way I look at it, we have enough problems.

You said during the campaign that you’d like to stop Muslims coming to the US. Is that still your plan?

Well, from various parts of the world that have lots of terrorism problems.

There will be extreme vetting, it’s not gonna be like it is now, they don’t even, we don’t even have real vetting. The vetting into this country is essentially non-existent as it is, as it was at least, with your country.

Are there any travel restrictions that could be imposed on Europeans coming to the US?

Well, it could happen, I mean we’re gonna have to see. I mean, we’re looking at parts of Europe; parts of the world and parts of Europe, where we have problems where they come in and they’re gonna be causing problems. I don’t wanna have those problems. Look, I won the election because of strong borders and trade. And military, we’re gonna have strong military.

You mentioned you have German ancestors. What does it mean for you to have German blood in your veins?

Well, it’s great. I mean, I’m very proud of Germany and Germany is very special Bad Dürkheim, right? This is serious Germany, right? Like this isn’t any question — this is serious Germany. No, I’m very proud of Germany. I love Germany, I love the UK.

Have you ever been to Germany?

Yes, I have been to Germany.

When Obama came for his last visit to Berlin, he said that if he could vote in the upcoming election he would vote for Angela Merkel. Would you?

Well, I don’t know who she’s running against, number one, I’m just saying, I don’t know her, I’ve never met her. As I said, I’ve had great respect for her. I felt she was a great, great leader. I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from. You’ll find out, you got a big dose of it a week ago. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake. Now, with that being said, I respect her, I like her, but I don’t know her. So I can’t talk about who I’m gonna be backing — if anyone.

When are you coming to the UK as President?

I look forward to doing it. My mother was very ceremonial, I think that’s where I got this aspect because my father was very brick-and-mortar, he was like, and my mother sort of had a flair, she loved the Queen, she loved anything — she was so proud of the Queen. She loved the ceremonial and the beauty, cause nobody does that like the English. And she had great respect for the Queen, liked her. Anytime the Queen was on television, an event, my mother would be watching. Crazy, right?

Is there anything else you take from having a Scottish mother?

Well, the Scottish are known for watching their pennies, so I like to watch my pennies — I mean I deal in big pennies, that’s the problem.

Is there anything typically German about you?

I like order. I like things done in an orderly manner. And certainly the Germans, that’s something that they’re rather well-known for. But I do, I like order and I like strength.

In your campaign you said Angela Merkel’s policy on Syrian refugees was insane. Do you still think so?

Image result for angela merkel

Germany’s Outstanding Chancellor, Angela Merkel

I think it’s not good. I think it was a big mistake for Germany. And Germany of all countries, ’cause Germany was one of the toughest in the world for having anybody go in, and, uh, no I think it was a mistake. And I’ll see her and I’ll meet her and I respect her. And I like her but I think it was a mistake. And people make mistakes but I think it was a very big mistake. I think we should have built safe zones in Syria. Would have been a lot less expensive. Uh, get the Gulf states to pay for ’em who aren’t coming through, I mean they’ve got money that nobody has.

Would have been a lot less expensive than the trauma that Germany’s going through now — but I would have said — you build safe zones in Syria. Look, this whole thing should have never happened. Iraq should not have been attacked in the first place, all right? It was one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. We’ve unleashed — it’s like throwing rocks into a beehive. It’s one of the great messes of all time. I looked at something, uh, I’m not allowed to show you because it’s classified – but, I just looked at Afghanistan and you look at the Taliban – and you take a look at every, every year its more, more, more, you know they have the different colours – and you say, you know – what’s going on?

Who do you blame? Obama, Pakistan? Who do you blame?

Afghanistan is, is not going well. Nothing’s going well — I guess we’ve been in Afghanistan almost 17 years — but you look at all of the places, now in all fairness, we haven’t let our people do what they’re supposed to do. You know we have great military, we’re gonna have much greater military because we’re gonna have — you know right now it’s very depleted, we’re gonna have great military, but we haven’t let our military win.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are you know big contractors for this country and we have an F-35 program that has been very, very severely over budget and behind schedule. Hundreds of billions of dollars over budget and seven years behind schedule. And, uh, they got to shape up.

And what’s your priority for the military as Commander-In-Chief?

Isis.

And how are you going to deal with Isis?

Well, I’d rather not say, I don’t want to be like Obama or others where they say — I always talk about Mosul, you know Mosul’s turned out to be a disaster — brutal.  So Mosul, so they announced four months ago we’re going to attack Mosul — I said, “Why do you have to announce it?”. Like you said, “What’s going to be your priority?”. When are you going to attack? When are you gonna, how are you gonna do it? What kind of weapons are you gonna use, right? What time of the day?

You think Obama telegraphed his punch?

Mosul turned out to be a disaster because we announced five months ago that we were going into Mosul, in five months. In four months we said, “We’re getting ready”, by the time we get in, it’s been so much talk — and it’s been very hard to take — you know that, right?

Do you think that what’s happened in Syria now with Putin intervening is a good thing or a bad thing?

Nah, I think it’s a very rough thing. It’s a very bad thing, we had a chance to do something when we had the line in the sand and it wasn’t — nothing happened. That was the only time — and now, it’s sort of very late. It’s too late. Now everything is over — at some point it will come to an end — but Aleppo was nasty. I mean when you see them shooting old ladies walking out-of-town — they can’t even walk and they’re shooting ’em — it almost looks like they’re shooting ’em for sport — ah no, that’s a terrible — that’s been a terrible situation. Aleppo has been such a terrible humanitarian situation.

Talking about Russia, you know that Angela Merkel understands Putin very well because he is fluent in German, she is fluent in Russian, and they have known each other for a long time — but who would you trust more, Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin?

Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.

Can you understand why eastern Europeans fear Putin and Russia?

Image result for Vladimir PutinThe Tough and Enigmatic Russsian

Sure. Oh sure, I know that. I mean, I understand what’s going on, I said a long time ago — that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago. Number two — the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right — and now — it was on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, they have a whole division devoted now to terror, which is good.

And the other thing is the countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries but a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States. With that being said, NATO is very important to me.

Britain is paying.

Britain is paying. There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much, from 22.

For decades now, Europe has depended on America for its defence. Will that guarantee be there in the future as well?

Yeah, I feel very strongly toward Europe — very strongly toward Europe, yes.

Do you support European sanctions against Russia?

Well, I think you know — people have to get together and people have to do what they have to do in terms of being fair. OK? They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But you do have sanctions and Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.

Will you rip up the Iran deal?

Well, I don’t want to say what I’m gonna do with the Iran deal. I just don’t want to play the cards. I mean, look, I’m not a politician, I don’t go out and say, ‘I’m gonna do this — I’m gonna do —’, I gotta do what I gotta do. But I don’t wanna play. Who plays cards where you show everybody the hand before you play it? But I’m not happy with the Iran deal, I think it’s one of the worst deals ever made, I think it’s one of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen, one of the dumbest, in terms of a deal. Where you give — where you give a $150 billion back to a country, where you give $1.7 billion in cash — did you ever see a million dollars in hundred-dollar bills? It’s a lot. It’s a whole — it’s a lot. $1.7 billion in cash. Plane loads. Of, of — think of it — plane, many planes. Boom. $1.7 billion. I don’t understand. It just shows the power of a president — when a president of this country can authorise $1.7 billion in cash, that’s a lot of power.

And you think that money is now funding terror?

No, I think that money is in Swiss bank accounts — they don’t need that money, they’re using other money, I think they’ve taken that money and they’ve kept it for themselves. That’s my opinion.

What did you think of Obama’s approach towards the UN Security Council resolution on Israel just before Christmas?

I think it was terrible. It should have been a veto. I think it was terrible.

Do you think the UK should have vetoed it?

Well, the UK may have another chance to veto if what I’m hearing is true, because you know you have a meeting as you know, this weekend. And there are a lot of bad stories being circulated. The problem I have is that it makes it a tougher deal for me to negotiate because the Palestinians are given so much — even though it’s not legally binding it’s psychologically binding and it makes it much tougher for me to negotiate. You understand that? Because people are giving away chips, they’re giving away all these chips.

And do you think the UK should veto any UN Security Council resolution on Israel put forward this week so that you are in a stronger position to get the right deal for the Middle East?

Well, I’d like to see the UK veto. I think it’d be great if they veto because I’m not sure the United States is gonna veto, amazingly. They won’t, right? You think the United States is gonna veto? I’ll have friends who are Jewish have a fundraiser for Obama and I’ll say, “What are you doing? OK — what are you doing?”

Is it true you’re going to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

Well, I don’t want to comment on that, again, but we’ll see what happens.

You know that famous saying by Henry Kissinger: “Which number do I dial if I want to talk to Europe?” Which number are you going to dial?

Yeah, well I would say Merkel is by far one of the most important leaders. ’Cause you look at the UK and you look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out and you were there and you guys wrote it — put it on the front page: “Trump said that Brexit is gonna happen”. That was when it was gonna lose easily, you know, everybody thought I was crazy. Obama said to go to the back of the line. Meaning, if it does happen — and then he had to retract — that was a bad statement to make.

And now we are at the front of the queue?

I think you’re doing great. I think it’s going great.

What is your view on the future of the European Union? Do you expect more countries to leave the European Union?

I think it’s tough. I spoke to the head of the European Union, very fine gentleman called me up.

Mr Juncker?

Yes, ah, to congratulate me on what happened with respect to the election. Uh, I think it’s very tough. I think it’s tough. People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity but, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it, you know, entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. It probably could have worked out but, this was the final straw, this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.

As a successful businessman, do you trust the European currency?

Image result for Trump and The US Dollar--I trust the Dollar

“I trust the dollar”. –Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States (w.e.f. January 20, 2017)

Well, it’s doing OK. I mean, you know. What do you trust? I trust the dollar, I’m gonna trust the dollar a lot more in four years than I do now, but sure I mean it’s a currency, it’s fine. But I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different part of Europe. I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together cause people are angry about it.

What is better for the United States — a strong European Union or stronger nation states?

Personally, I don’t think it matters much for the United States. I never thought it mattered. Look, the EU was formed, partially, to beat the United States on trade, OK? So, I don’t really care whether it’s separate or together, to me it doesn’t matter. I can see this — I own a big property in Ireland, magnificent property called Doonbeg, what happened is I went for an approval to do this massive, beautiful expansion — that was when I was a developer, now I couldn’t care less about it — but I learnt a lot because I got the approvals very quickly from Ireland and then Ireland and my people went to the EU to get the approval — it was going to take years — that was a very bad thing for Ireland.

Do you think that the EU is holding back all its member states? Is it an obstacle to their growth and prosperity?

Well I can tell you from the environmental standpoint, they were using environmental tricks to stop a project from being built — I found it to be a very unpleasant experience. To get the approvals from the EU would have taken years — I don’t think that’s good for a country like Ireland so you know what I did? I said forget it I’m not gonna build it.

People in Europe and beyond have expressed concern that America may have a protectionist trade policy that will hurt America’s friends. What would you say to them?

Well, I can tell you that in the last … I think I’ve done more than any president-elect ever — Many factories now, many car plants, that were going to be built-in other locations are building in Michigan and Ohio — ya know Ford announced a big one, Fiat Chrysler announced a big one, General Motors is announcing, they’re all announcing and I’m not just talking about cars I’m talking about other things, there will be many other things — you can’t allow companies to leave our country, fire all of its employees, move to Mexico, make whatever the product is, and then sell it back in with no tax — and there will be a very substantial border tax for companies that do that. And when people hear that — they say we’re gonna stay here or we’re gonna build in the US — so they’ll go and they’ll build their car plant or they’ll build their air-conditioning plant and they’re gonna sell their air conditioners but they’re gonna pay 35 per cent tax . . . there’s not gonna be any tax because they’re not gonna leave — see there’s not gonna be any tax — but the conservative theory is open borders, open borders is all fine. First of all it’s bad for security — for trade it’s fine — the problem is the US is always taken advantage of — we have hundreds of billions of dollars of trade deficits with China — we have $805 billion in trade deficits with the world — ya almost say, who’s making these deals when you’re losing that kind of money, right — we actually have almost $800 billion — almost $800 billion in trade deficits with the world — so you say, who’s making these deals?

Well, Germany is obviously benefiting because we are the world champions at exporting?

Well you’re very good at export — we buy lots of your cars.

Do Europeans have to fear something similar to what you might announce for China — higher custom duties?

It’s going to be different — I mean Germany is a great country, great manufacturing country — you go down Fifth Avenue everybody has a Mercedes-Benz in front of their building, right — the fact is that it’s been very unfair to the US, it’s not a two-way street. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Maybe none — not too many — how many — you don’t see anything over there — it’s a one-way street — it’s gotta be a two-way street — I want it to be fair but it’s gotta be a two-way street and that’s why we’re losing almost $800, think of it, $800 billion a year in trade so that will stop — ya know we have Wilbur [Ross, his choice for commerce secretary] as one of our guys, ya know Wilbur . . .

And I will say most of it . . . most of it is China ’cause China is a tremendous problem.

You just mentioned Mercedes, BMW, even VW — do you expect them to build more plants in the US? For example, BMW wants to open a plant in 2019 in Mexico . . .

I would tell them, don’t waste their time and money — unless they want to sell to other countries, that’s fine — if they want to open in Mexico, I love Mexico, I like the President, I like everybody — but I would tell BMW if they think they’re gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35 per cent tax, it’s not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen — so if they want to build cars for the world I would say wish them luck — they can build cars for the US but they’ll be paying a 35 per cent tax on every car that comes into the country . . . so what I’m saying is they have to build their plant in the US, it will be much better for them and what we’re doing — maybe more importantly, is we’re lowering taxes — corporate taxes — down to from 15 to 20 per cent and were getting rid of 75 per cent of the regulations — from 35 down to 15 to 20, we haven’t picked the final but from 15 to 20, and we’re also gonna let the companies bring back their money with the inversion, corporate inversion.

That will affect people like Google?

Well, we’ve got five — I think it’s five, they say it’s 2.5-3, I think it’s five, but it’s $5 trillion over there and they can’t bring back their money so that’s part of our tax bill, the money comes back.

Given your views on free trade, would you say that you’re a conservative?

I’m pragmatic, look I go in front of crowds — I had the biggest crowds anybody’s ever had for a presidential election and that’s tough and when I was fighting with Jeb Bush, ya know “low energy” Jeb, he would say, ‘Donald Trump is not a conservative’, so I’d go in front of 25,000 people and, like in Michigan, where there’s massive — 32,000 people — and I’m screaming, ‘Jeb Bush says I’m not a conservative’, they’re screaming, ‘Who cares?’, and I said, ‘What do you want? Do you want conservative or a good deal?’ And the reason, because Jeb Bush said I’m not a conservative because I don’t believe in free trade — well I do believe in free trade, I love free trade, but it’s gotta be smart trade so I call it fair trade — and the problem, so I said to the people, ‘Do you want a conservative or do you want somebody who’s gonna make great deals?’, and they’re all screaming, ‘Great deals, great deals’ — they don’t care, there are no labels — ya know there’s some people, he is not — Jeb Bush would stand up — ‘He is not a true conservative’ — who cares — I am a conservative, but I’m really about making great deals for the people so they get jobs . . . the people don’t care ya know when you’re talking — they don’t care, they want good deals — ya know what? They want their jobs back.

Do you have any models — are there heroes that you steer by — people you look up to from the past?

Well, I don’t like heroes, I don’t like the concept of heroes, the concept of heroes is never great, but certainly you can respect certain people and certainly there are certain people — but I’ve learnt a lot from my father — my father was a builder in Brooklyn and Queens — he did houses and housing and I learned a lot about negotiation from my father — although I also think negotiation is a natural trait, I don’t think you can, you either have it or you don’t, you get better at it but basically, the people who I know who are great negotiators or great salesmen or great politicians, it’s very natural, very natural . . . I got a letter from somebody, their congressman, they said what you’ve done is amazing because you were never a politician and you beat all the politicians. He said they added it up — when I was three months into the campaign, they added it up — I had three months of experience and the 17 guys I was running against, the Republicans, had 236 years – ya know when you add 20 years and 30 years — so I was three months they were 236 years — so it’s sort of a funny article but I believe it’s like hitting a baseball or being a good golfer — natural ability, to me, is much more important to me than experience and experience is a great thing — I think it’s a great thing — but I learned a lot from my father in terms of leadership.

Your policy platform of America First implies you’re happy to see the rest of the world suffer. Do you?

I don’t want it to be a disruption — I love the world, I want the world to be good but we can’t go — I mean look at what’s happening to our country — we are $20 trillion — we don’t know what we’re doing — our military is weak — we’re in wars that never end, we’re in Afghanistan now 17 years, they told me this, really — 17 years, it’s the longest war we’ve ever been in.

Given what’s been reported this week, what does that say about your relations with the intelligence community?

Well, we have to have, ya have to have the right people and as you know Pompeo — who’s really been received, did a good job yesterday, head of the CIA — might I think we have some very great people going in — I think we have some great people — ya know I have a lot of respect for the intelligence but a lot of leaks, a lot of fake news coming out, a lot of fake news.

It’s been reported that a British former diplomat was involved in this whole thing — do you think that we, in Britain, need to look at our intelligence services?

Well, that guy is somebody that you should look at, because whatever he made up about me it was false — he was supposedly hired by the Republicans and Democrats working together — even that I don’t believe because they don’t work together, they work separately — and they don’t hire the same guy — what they got together? See the whole thing is fake news because it said the, whoever it was, intelligence, the so-called intelligence, said he’s an operative of Republicans and Democrats — they don’t work together, they don’t work together.

Who do you think, then, is behind it all?

I think probably could be intelligence or it could be, it could be, the Democrats.

When I just heard it — I ripped up the mat . . . if I did that in a hotel it’d be the biggest thing — they’d have me on the front page of The New York Post, right? And the other thing, I can’t even, I don’t even want to shake hands with people now I hear about this stuff — ugh.

It’s fake news, it was totally made up and I just got a letter from people who went to Russia with me — did you see that letter — very rich people, they went with me, they said you were with us, I was with them, I wasn’t even here when they said such false stuff.

I left, I wasn’t even there . . . I was there for the Miss Universe contest, got up, got my stuff and I left — I wasn’t even there — it’s all . . . so if this guy is a British guy you got a lot of problems.

How is being President going to change how you operate?

Ya know this is a very, very big change — I led a very nice life and ya know successful and good and nice and this is a lot different — but ya know my attitude on that is when you’re president, you’re in the White House which is a very special place — you’re there for a limited period of time — who wants to leave? Like I’ve liked President Obama, he’s been very nice, yeah he’s been nice one on one, but maybe not so nice in other ways — but who wants to leave the White House to go to some other place and be away on a vacation? The White House is very special, there’s so much work to be done, I’m not gonna be leaving much — I mean a lot of work to be done — I’m gonna be in there working, doing what I’m supposed to be doing — but who wants to leave the White House?

They say Camp David is very nice.

Yea, Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it. You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes…

When you’re President will you still tweet? And if you do will it be as the Real Donald Trump, as POTUS, or probably as Real POTUS?

@realDonaldTrump I think, I’ll keep it . . . so I’ve got 46 million people right now — that’s a lot, that’s really a lot — but 46 million — including Facebook, Twitter and ya know, Instagram so when you think that your 46 million there, I’d rather just let that build up and just keep it @realDonaldTrump, it’s working — and the tweeting, I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press — so dishonestly — that I can put out Twitter — and it’s not 140, it’s now 140, 280 — I can go bing bing bing and I just keep going and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out — this morning on television, Fox — “Donald Trump, we have breaking news” — I put out a thing . . .

. . . You were tweeting a lot this morning?

I tweeted a little bit, yeah.

And you do it on your own?

I tweeted about the intelligence agencies because it all turned out to be false information.

And you do it on that phone there?

This — I have numerous, I have numerous — I have iPhones, I have . . .

But nobody else knows how to log into your Twitter account?

No, I do — I have one or two people who do during the day I’ll just dictate something and they’ll type it in.

So, Steve Bannon or someone else?

No, not Steve, but I have people who do it. But ya know the tweeting is interesting because I find it very accurate — when I get a word out and if I tell something to the papers and they don’t write it accurately, it’s really bad — they can’t do much when you tweet it and I’m careful about, it’s very precise, actually it’s very, very precise — and it comes out breaking news, we have breaking news — ya know, it’s funny, if I did a press release and if I put it out, it wouldn’t get nearly — people would see it the following day — if I do a news conference, that’s a lot of work.

Although the media have been better lately, which is shocking, shocking — in fact today they have a front-page story saying that Trump’s people will never leave him — ya know all of the voters that I have will never leave — which is very interesting cause we have great support in the country, tremendous support, I was very surprised at that story.

What role will [your son-in-law] Jared [Kushner] play?

Image result for jared kushner

Harvard educated Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and 45th POTUS

Oh, really . . . Ya know what, Jared is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can — ya know he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural — ya know what I was talking about, natural — he’s a natural deal-maker — everyone likes him.

And will [your daughter] Ivanka play a big role in the administration?

Well, not now, she’s going to Washington, and they’re buying a house or something, but ya know she’s got the children, so Jared will be involved as we announced — no salary, no nothing. If he made peace — who’d be better at that than Jared, right — there’s something about him . . .

Are you looking forward to meeting our prime minister?

Well, I’ll be there — we’ll be there soon — I would say we’ll be here for a little while but and it looks like she’ll be here first — how is she doing over there, by the way, what do you think?

Theresa?

Yeah, May.

She’s got very strong approval ratings.

Popular. How are they doing with the break-up? How’s the break-up going?

Well, the PM wants to get a strong deal with the US.

Well, we’re gonna get a trade deal. Well, how is our Nigel doing? I like him, I think he’s a great guy, I think he’s a very good guy and he was very supportive. He’d go around the US — he was saying Trump’s gonna win. He was one of the earliest people who said Trump was gonna win. So, he’s gotta feel for it. Michael, you should’ve written that we were gonna win.

Well, at least let me give you a copy of my book on how to fight terrorism.

Good, I’d love that. That’s fantastic — how to fight terrorism, I can use that.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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‘We have lost a great son of Sarawak’


January 11, 2017

‘We have lost a great son of Sarawak’

Netizens, including politicians, speak highly of the Sarawak chief minister who died at 1.20pm today.

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By popular acclaim, the late Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, was a strong leader who stood up for the rights of all Sarawakians. He will be sorely missed. Dr. Kamsiah Haider  and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family.

His passing will no doubt have decisive impact on the politics of this fiercely nationalistic state. My inclination on this sad day is to dedicate Al-Fatihah to the Late Tan Sri and pray (doa) that there will be a smooth transfer of power. I also hope that Sarawak will have a successor Chief Minister who will be strong enough like Tun Taib Mahmud and Tan Sri Adenan to resist any move by UMNO to establish  a branch in Sarawak.–Din Merican

Tributes have begun pouring in from netizens, including politicians, following the news that Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem passed away at 1.20pm today.

Many Twitter users spoke highly of the PBB President. Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) president and local government minister Sim Kui Hian said: “We have lost a great son of Sarawak who devoted his whole life to the rakyat.”

Political leaders from the Barisan Nasional poured out their grief on Twitter with Prime Minister Najib Razak revealing that he would be heading to Sarawak.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai echoed similar sentiments saying: “Malaysia lost a great leader today.”

Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan tweeted: “Greatly shocked. Great loss to all #Malaysians. My sincere condolences to the family and the people of Sarawak.”

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin expressed condolences to Adenan’s wife Jamilah, family and Sarawakians. Sabah lawmaker Rahman Dahlan said Adenan’s struggles for a better Sarawak would be continued.

“Our sincere condolences to the family members of CM Adenan & the people of Sarawak. His struggles for a better Sarawak will be carried on.”

The public, too, have been taking to Twitter to express their condolences over Adenan’s passing. One user with the Twitter handle Ahmad Tarmidzi described Adenan as a true Sarawakian fighter.

“He fought for us, Sarawakians,” he tweeted, adding that he prayed the senior politician would be placed with the pious.

Another user Miz_PhinzSJ said it was a sad day for Sarawak because the state had “lost a good leader”. Meanwhile, Twitter user syazwan said Adenan was his own man.“I actually like Adenan Satem. He is more his own man than I thought he would be as CM. Great loss.”

The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir.


January 10, 2017

The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir. That’s rather bizarre logic

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini

“I’m a realist, I do what I can do, if I can’t do, I don’t.”

De facto Opposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad

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What if I said that Malays have a lazy, rent-seeking culture, relying on political and social influence to gain wealth and unable to retain power despite all their special privileges? Would this be wrong? Would this be racist? Would this be seditious?

How about if former Prime Minister and now de facto Oopposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this? Would it still be “racist”? Would this be considered some sort of truth telling? Would it make a difference when he said this last week or when he was Prime Mminister of this country?

More than a decade ago, in an UMNO General Assembly speech (which also coincided with a celebration of sorts – 21 years in office), Dr.Mahathir as UMNO President engaged in some “realist” assessment of the Malay community he had led for over two decades.

As reported by Malaysiakini, he claimed – “If today they (Malays) are colonised, there is no guarantee they will have the capacity to oppose the colonialists.” The former Premier said Malays had failed because they were lazy and sought the easy way out by reselling their shares, licences and contracts to non-Malays.

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“They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little, they want to be rich this very moment… no work is done other than to be close to people with influence and authority in order to get something. After selling and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more”,he said.

Therefore, there is a rather bizarre logic in his thinking when he said that he had no regrets about stifling dissent in young Malay people during his tenure. Bizarre because the former Prime Minister has never been afraid of using the stereotype of the Malay community as a means of galvanising support.

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And this extends to the other communities as well. Well by “others”, I really mean the Chinese community because as we all know the Indian community is absent from the discourse. In the same speech at the 2002 UMNO General Assembly, he also referenced the Chinese community – the very community that UMNO has always demonised as a threat to Malay hegemony but in reality, meant they were perceived as a threat against UMNO hegemony.

He said, “If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays. Learn from the Chinese.”

Only Mahathir could balance such contradictions, playing the racial card against communities, including the one UMNO claims to represent. Which is why in Mahathir’s thinking there is really no reason why he should not be standing shoulder to shoulder with his former opponents in an attempt to bring down the Najib Abdul Razak regime.

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This is  truly bizzare

He really does not care what political pundits, who seek to remind people of what he did during his tenure, say because he knows that he then enjoyed the support of the majority of Malaysians and he did this using the kind of realpolitik that oppositional parties during his regime did not grasp or were uninterested in learning.

While some opposition supporters blather on about “truth and conscience” but offer no real evidence that these form the desideratum for oppositional forces in this country, the former prime minister has no problem twisting the facts on the ground or contorting social and economic realities to fit his narratives.

A clear example of this would be when in an interview, he acknowledged that discrimination was part of the system but that there were communities who thrived in spite of it – “The Chinese in Malaysia have no special rights, they experience discrimination. But they are more successful than us.”

This is exactly the system a Gerakan political operative was talking about when he mocked the opposition for subscribing to the same system as BN. And the same kind of thinking that for years sustained BN which led to the creation of the leviathan which in the Najib regime. We get the world we deserve.

Slaying sacred cows

And keep in mind that during Mahathir’s tenure, UMNO defined oppositional racial preoccupations because the slaying of UMNO sacred cows were the very definition (and still is) of any kind of egalitarian agenda that would truly “save Malaysia”. All those other so-called racial preoccupations, religious, social and economic are a direct result of the UMNO agenda and the mendacious ‘social contract’.

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Not True, Mahathir forgets easily

However, since the short-term goal of saving Malaysia means removing Najib, the real power brokers, those invested in the system – and they are not only Malays – would like to keep the gravy train moving, only with a different railroad engineer.

Unlike some oppositional voices who pontificate about “principles” or at least attempt to control the discourse, demonising those who dredge up so-called ancient history and engaging in victimhood to facilitate political expediency, the former prime minister is clear about the purpose of his alliance with the oppositional forces in this country.

As he told me when I brought up the trust deficit when it comes to opposition supporters and his new role as oppositional leader – “If Najib is there, the opposition will suffer. If Najib is there, even UMNO will suffer, the whole country will suffer. I think the opposition is not supporting me, they are interested in removing Najib. I have the same interest. It is okay to work together – only on that issue, not on other issues.”

Furthermore, he has had no problems claiming that he would slay Malay sacred cows for the benefit of the community – “I cannot predict how much longer this (affirmative action) will go on but at the moment, we are trying out… some kind of experiment… by withdrawing some of the protection in education,” he said. “We want to see whether they will be able to withstand the competition or not. Obviously if they prove themselves able to, we can think of reducing further some of the protection.”

This was always the stick component of the carrot-and-stick approach, and the former Prime Minster knew very well that affirmative action programmes had a deleterious effect on the Malay community.

Moreover, when he hinted that he would slay sacred cows, he was greeted with rapturous applause as some sort of truth sayer by the very same Umno who now endorse the Najib regime’s attempt to further consolidate power and engage with Mahathir’s sworn enemy, PAS.

But of course, now that the Malay community is fractured and the Malay opposition needs to reassure the Malay community, all those special privileges, all those affirmative action programmes, everything that the former prime minister said was holding back the Malay community, are off the table.

The only thing that discerning Malaysians have to take away from any of this is that Mahathir acknowledges that he failed to change the Malay community – “What else (can I do) … I have tried to be an example, tried to teach, scolded, cried and even prayed. (But) I have failed. I have failed to achieve the most important thing – how to change the Malays.”

When asked if there was anything he would do differently, he claimed that he wanted to be a “normal” UMNO member because he could not do anything for the Malays. Well, he is not even a member now and he is the power behind a nascent Malay power structure.

The big question is, will he fail again. More importantly, is changing the Malays really the agenda of the game for him or anyone else.

Crony capitalism–Dealing with murky moguls


December 4, 2017

Crony capitalism

Dealing with murky moguls

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21698261-how-disentangle-business-government-dealing-murky-moguls

THE past 20 years have been a golden age for crony capitalists—tycoons active in industries where chumminess with government is part of the game. As commodity and property prices soared, so did the value of permits to dig mines in China or build offices in São Paulo. Telecoms spectrum doled out by Indian officials created instant billionaires. Implicit state guarantees let casino banking thrive on Wall Street and beyond. Many people worried about a new “robber baron” era, akin to America’s in the late 19th century. They had a point. Worldwide, the worth of tycoons in crony industries soared by 385% in 2004-14, to $2 trillion, or a third of total billionaire wealth; much of it (though by no means all) in the emerging world.

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Now cronies are on the back foot. Their combined fortunes have dropped by 16% since 2014, according to our updated crony-capitalism index (see article). One reason is the commodity crash. Another is a backlash from the middle class. Corruption scandals have lit a fire under governments in Brazil and Malaysia. Elsewhere, pressure is coming from the top down. India’s reforming prime minister, Narendra Modi, is trying to subject his partly closed economy to a blast of competition. Xi Jinping, China’s autocrat, thinks graft is the big threat to one-party rule, and is trying to root it out.

Crony capitalism—or “rent-seeking”, as economists call it—shades from string-pulling to bribery. Much of it is legal, but all of it is unfair. It undermines trust in the state, misallocates resources and stops countries and true entrepreneurs from getting rich. So the dip in crony activity is welcome. To stop it roaring back, governments need to seize the moment.

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A few will not want to. Cronyism is central to Vladimir Putin’s vision of Russia, the country that scores worst in our ranking. Others, though goaded by public anger at inequality and corruption, will find it hard to confront vested interests. On April 29th Mexico’s Senate failed to pass two anti-corruption measures (see article). Often the biggest difficulty is knowing where to start. It is all very well to demand efficient courts, fair regulators and an end to illicit political funding. These matter, but are the work of generations.

The quickest fixes

So governments should focus on four quicker steps. The first is to take care when public resources pass into private hands. Botched privatisations created Russia’s oligarchy—and many cronies elsewhere. Mexico is opening up its oil monopoly; Saudi Arabia plans to; and other developing countries, from Brazil to India to China, may privatise state-controlled firms to raise cash and improve efficiency. Unless the sales are fair, a new generation of cronies will be born.

Second, governments must rein in state-owned banks. In the past decade state-lending booms in Brazil, India and China have enriched well-connected moguls—and built mountains of bad debt. Rather than prop up the banks, governments should overhaul the way they are run.

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The third step is to make it harder to stash crony cash overseas. Global capital flows have made the world richer, but also allowed cronies to hide in tax havens. Public registers of “beneficial ownership”—the humans behind the trusts and shell companies—would make that harder. This is on the agenda of an anti-corruption summit in London next week (see article).

Finally, be prepared for cronyism to adapt. China’s epic industrial boom will not be repeated; the days of making billions by shipping iron ore from Goa to Guangdong are over. Technology may be cronyism’s next frontier. It is ripe for rent-seeking: profits are huge and monopolies arise naturally. Governments should not seek to micromanage tech firms, but ought to push vigorously for competition and transparency.

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America’s original robber barons provoked a reaction that led to the Progressive era. At the turn of the 20th century, politicians passed antitrust laws and corruption ebbed. America became richer, stronger and more politically stable. Emerging economies face a similar moment. They should not waste it.