1Malaysia Development Bhd. Nears a Sorry End


May 5, 2016

With International Relations Student at University of Cambodia Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, Ven. Thy Theoun who is interested in Buddhist Economics and Ethics

COMMENT: The easy part of the whole saga is to dismantle  1MDB and then the Malaysian Treasury, basically the Malaysian taxpayers, will  absorb the losses. We are  now told that 1MDB directors have resigned and the Chairman of the Advisory Board who is also the Prime Minister cum Minister of Finance is absolved of any wrongdoing, despite irrefutable evidence that he admitted he had received money in the form of “donation” from a generous Arab into his personal bank account at Arab-Malaysian Bank.

This whole affair makes a mockery of transparency and accountability of directors and management. It is a disgrace that we haven’t done anything about coming to grip with our failure to hold our corporate leaders and their political leader to account. Recall that the Prime Minister of Iceland had to quit over the Panama Papers revelation and the President of Brazil is running the risk of being impeached for budgetary violations. What signal is the Najib administration sending to the banks and capital markets around the world? How long do  we in Malaysia want to perpetuate this culture of impunity.–Din Merican

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1Malaysia Development Bhd. Nears a Sorry End – Asia Sentinel | Asia Sentinel

by John Bethelsen

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Head of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, a think-tank in Kuala Lumpur, said: “The most powerful person in the country was chair of the advisory board. This is someone whose advice must be obeyed. It’s a serious conflict in terms of corporate governance — who is in charge, the Board of Directors or the Prime Minister?” 

The Malaysian government has begun to officially dismantle 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the Ministry of Finance-backed development fund that was brought into being by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2008 and which has morphed into what arguably is the biggest scandal in Malaysian history.

The implications for investors are unclear. What assets are not sold off are expected to be moved into the Ministry of Finance, with the Board of Advisers – headed by Najib – and the Board of Directors being dissolved. A well-connected businessman told Asia Sentinel last week that the government – and thus the taxpayers – will probably end up having to eat the losses.

However, the eight-year history of the fund is an astonishing tale of greed and chicanery, with billions of dollars apparently having been stolen or otherwise unaccounted for, diverted into accounts in the Cayman and British Virgin Islands. Investigators believe that as much as US$1 billion was routed into Najib’s own accounts in March of 2013 before being diverted out again in October of that year, to disappear into cyberspace.

The scandal has played a major part in fomenting distrust in the United Malays National Organization, the leading party in the national ruling coalition, with Najib firing his own Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, as well as Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, in an effort to contain the scandal. Other government officials have been sidelined or neutralized.

It has driven former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (above) to seek a deal with opposition figures including Lim Kit Siang, the head of the Democratic Action Party, whom he jailed in 1986, and others, in the vain attempt to bring down Najib. So far, propped up as head of UMNO and thus as Prime Minister by the votes of 196 district chiefs who are said to have been bought off with rent-seeking jobs and contracts as well as outright bribes, Najib has remained invulnerable, also by threatening opponents with jail, closing influential newspapers temporarily and short stopping a reported investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Crime Commission that was on the edge of recommending his indictment. A similar request from Bank Negara, the central bank, for an investigation into the movement of funds was simply ignored.

The scandal has also ensnared Goldman Sachs’ former Southeast Asia head, Tim Leissner, who engineered a huge US$3 billion sale of 1MDB bonds that earned Goldman an estimated US$500 million. Leissner left the firm and moved to Los Angeles, where he has reportedly been meeting with FBI officials.

The fund is believed to be RM42 billion (US$11.6 million) in debt against an unknown amount of assets, and with the government in a protracted squabble with an Abu Dhabi entity, the International Petroleum Investment Corp. (IPIC) over as much as US$3.5 billion of funds that 1MDB officials thought they were transferring to an IPIC subsidiary, Aabar Investments PJS.

The money instead went into a BVI-registered company called Aabar BVI and has since disappeared. IPIC officials refused to make a payment of US$50 million to bondholders when it discovered that the money had been diverted, stirring fears of a cross-default that could imperil the country’s financial system.

Rafizi Ramli, the Secretary -General of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat, in March reportedly displayed figures indicating that transfers from Tabung Haji, the fund that invests savings for Muslims to make the Haj to Mecca, were depleted to the point that the fund was endangered. Rafizi was charged with sedition and briefly jailed. Several other opposition figures including Tony Pua, spokesman for the DAP, have been threatened with sedition charges for questioning the 1MDB operations.

Officials of 1MDB and others associated with the sovereign investment company, with interests in power and property, are being pursued by investigators in five countries, most prominently the United States, whose US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, has sent FBI investigators to Malaysia to seek clues to allegations of money laundering on the part of the Najib family for the purchase of expensive real estate in New York and California and for the funding of the blockbuster movie Wolf of Wall Street.

Other law enforcement agencies include the Attorney General of Switzerland, which has accused unnamed individuals of laundering as much as US$4 billion from 1MDB through Swiss bank outlets in Singapore. Singapore is said to have frozen the bank accounts of several individuals as well. Most recently, officials in Luxembourg opened an investigation into 1MDB’s affairs.

The fund got its start in 2008 when Jho Taek Low, then a 27-year-old Penang-born financier and friend of the Najib family, persuaded Najib to take over a budding investment fund that he had proposed to the Sultan of Terengganu, who backed away from it. The fund embarked on a torrid acquisition process, buying vastly overpriced independent power producers from companies and individuals closely connected with the UMNO ruling clique including the Genting gaming and plantation conglomerate and Ananda Khrishnan, one of the country’s richest men. With 1MDB facing huge debts from the purchases, the government pushed through no-bid contracts to hand 1MDB’s power units lucrative deals at the expense of competitive bidding.

It was given the gift of the obsolete Sungei Besi air force base, close to downtown Kuala Lumpur, which it sought to turn into a high-priced financial center called the Tun Razak Exchange, named for Najib’s father

But hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly were diverted into Jho Low’s personal accounts. As Asia Sentinel reported in 2014, Jho Low – a private individual – attempted to use 1MDB guarantees in a vain attempt to buy three of London’s finest hotels, the Connaught, the Berkeley and Claridge’s. He acquired a 300-foot yacht and a flock of enormously expensive paintings that he has since begun to sell off.

Reuters reported in April that RM18 billion of 1MDB’s debt linked to its power assets would go under Edra Energy, which is due to be sold off in nine months’ times. It is also expected to sell off two high-profile property projects, the Tun Razak Exchange and Bandar Malaysia, after splitting them into separate entities. Critics have charged that the land under the stalled projects has repeatedly been revalued upward to unrealistic levels in an attempt to cover the indebtedness.  Once the assets are sold off, 1MDB is expected to be dissolved completely.

MALAYSIA: ‘Same Old’in Sarawak Election Campaign (Part 1 of 5)


May 4,2016

MALAYSIA: ‘Same Old’in Sarawak Election Campaign (Part 1 of 5)

by Dr. Bridget Welsh

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Billed as one of the most important elections in the Malaysian state’s history, Sarawak heads to the polls on 7 May. But the campaign has sent confusing messages and failed to inspire voters, reports Bridget Welsh.

As the lackluster 11th Sarawak 2016 election campaign comes to a close on Friday, consistency rather than change has predominated.Most Sarawakians on both sides of the political divide had made up their minds on how they will vote before the campaign began. So far, the campaign has done little to change their orientations, and even less to inspire Sarawakians to vote at all. Political parties have mainly relied on old strategies, offering little new in their engagement with the electorate.

Strongman versus pressure politics

The main substantive campaign issue is autonomy, the mantra of ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’. The prominence of this call is different than earlier campaigns but not new to Malaysian electoral politics as Sabahans will understand.

 Concerns about autonomy in East Malaysia have been long-standing and extend for decades to when the two Borneo states joined the Federation. Not surprising, all of the parties in the Sarawak polls are calling for greater control of decision-making at the state level in areas involving language, immigration, education, religion and resources (oil royalty). Where they differ slightly is in their priority in areas of governance, with those aligned with the BN tapping into immigration and those in the opposition pushing harder on issues of religion and resources.

The parties also differ in how they will implement autonomy. Current Chief Minister Adenan Satem has personified autonomy around himself, portraying the image that voting for him will assure the protection of state rights. He follows this pattern set by his brother-in-law, current Governor and former Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Adenan has projected the view that his working relationship with the federal government will assure protection, and that he is ‘his own man’. This argument runs that a strong mandate for Adenan will strengthen his hand with the federal government. The choice by ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) to focus on autonomy aims to neutralise traditional opposition demands for fairer representation for citizens in the state. It echoes electoral strategies adopted in the recent past, where the new incumbent co-opts ‘reform’ to win support.

The opposition on its part has repeated its call for checks and balances, arguing that a strong opposition is necessary to assure that the substantive issues related to autonomy are implemented. They are calling for pressure politics. Given that these issues have been traditional ones for the opposition, and they have been their strongest advocates by putting them into the public arena and introducing measures in the legislature, they are hoping that the electorate does not forget their commitment — even as these issues have been effectively co-opted by the incumbent government.

At stake for Sarawakians are two different visions of state representation, one based on repeating the independent strongman politics of Taib that Adenan is portraying versus the long-standing call for alternative voices in government.

Shadow of Pak Lah

Closely connected to calls for greater representation is the personification of political power in Sarawak. This is also not new. Personal politics and personality have been at the core of East Malaysian politics. They help us understand the fragmentation of the candidate slates and account for the long tenures of many of the incumbents. The campaign around Adenan and the use of his coattails for his team is not new. We saw this in the 2004 General Election, where former premier Abdullah Badawi, or Pak Lah, was showcased as ‘his own man’ and different than his predecessor.

Like Adenan, Abdullah was chosen by a predecessor who had become a political target for criticism. Although in Adenan’s case, he is part of the Taib family and has consistently been a part of the previous leadership, never challenging Taib or openly criticising his policies during his tenure. This is opposed to Abdullah, who was relegated to the political wilderness for a few years as ‘Team B’ and more openly campaigned against his predecessor to win support. Adenan has used the time since he was appointed in 2014 to try to distinguish rather than distance himself, featuring similar “nice guy,” “reformer” and “clean” traits that were part of comparable electoral efforts in Malaysia’s past. As with Pak Lah, the Adenan campaign has promised a new leadership.

Sarawakians are facing the difficult decision of whether Adenan can be trusted. Faith in Malaysian politicians is low, and the national politics of taking politicians down has become engrained in the fabric. Sarawakians are more trustworthy than their counterparts on the peninsula. They are also following the national trend and becoming more cynical.

Many Sarawakians recognise that the multitude of promises Adenan is making echoes unrealistic goals of the past. Adenan is building up expectations, with the repeated potential for disappointment.  Voters question whether he will have the power and political will to implement the promises after the election, especially given that Adenan will be a lame duck after he has won office as he has stated that he only wants one term.

Undermining leadership

Questions about Adenan’s leadership are understandable, given the prominence of his persona in the campaign. Two areas are prominent.

The first involves the perceived abuse of political power for electoral gains by Adenan, namely the use of Sarawak’s immigration authority to prevent opposition politicians and activists from entering the state. Scores of people have been denied entry, to prevent the opposition crowds from building and weakening the opposition machinery. On their part, peninsula-based BN politicians and government department and activists have been given access.

Deemed ‘extremists’ and ‘troublemakers’ many of those denied entry have used Skype to engage voters, but the dampening impact on ceramah crowds has been evident. This is in spite of more Sarawakians following the campaign online. This ‘strongman’ denial of entry and subsequent calls for politicians to write letters as pleas for entry as occurred for the female leader of the opposition, Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, feed the portrayal of a man in control. They simultaneously reveal a politician with weakness, as these measures suggest fear, and have raised questions about fairness in Adenan’s leadership. The denials of entries have backfired among many voters, who no longer see the chief minister as ‘Mr Nice Guy’.

Another factor undermining Adenan is Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. The relationship between the two men is challenging to navigate as they are mutually dependent, as Adenan needs funds from the federal government to support his campaign. Najib on his part needs a decisive victory in the Sarawak polls to sustain his power, given the seriousness of the corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of power allegations being made in multiple investigations in the 1MDB scandal.

Striking a balance where Adenan is in charge, but Najib gains credit is difficult. In the 2011 polls, the relationship between Taib and the Najib campaign was problematic, as the latter tried to control the campaign. A similar pattern has occurred in 2016, with Najib’s pictures of ‘Saya Sayang Sarawak’ and with Adenam himself featured all over rural areas, and coverage of his promises overshadowing Adenan’s.  It is not clear whether this is a Najib or Adenan campaign. Clearly, it is both.  Rural folk often highlight the similarity in the appearance of both men.  Najib’s significant presence is a liability for Adenan, as the premier is deeply unpopular and he undercuts the chief minister’s claim of independence. It appears as if Najib has hijacked Adenan’s thunder to serve himself.

Disconnecting messages

Amidst the personas, voters are navigating the messages of the various campaigns. The campaign messages showcase disconnection between their slogans and delivery. The Sarawak United Peoples Party’s (SUPP) slogan ‘United We Can’ is perhaps the most ironic, as the party remains dangerously divided. The splits in the party have the potential to lead to further downfalls of its leaders, as SUPP has yet to meaningfully justify why Sarawakians should vote for their party. They are effectively no longer their own players, as has occurred to other non-Malay parties in the BN.

The opposition parties are also delivering disengaging messages. The Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) ‘4Real Change’ raises questions about delivery, especially since they are not working with other parties in their campaign. One feature of the 2016 campaign is that for the opposition it is a step back to the past of 2001, even 1999 when parties worked against each other rather than together. While in urban areas there is little open vitriol against each other (with the BN the main target), the fact that they are competing with each other undercuts messages of ‘change’.

Voters are not clear what is meant by ‘real change’ as this theme has been so overused that is has lost meaning. Indeed, the fact that even the BN is using the word, in its call to remove the DAP from Kuching (notably the Kota Sentosa seat where DAP Chairman Chong Chieng Jen is contesting), shows how unclear the word has become. On its part, the People’s Justice Party’s (PKR) focus has been on autonomy, but the word ‘trust’ has featured in much of its campaign posters, with questions arising from its use given the distrust in the opposition evident in the split among the various parties. The opposition’s lack of collaboration in the campaign has undermined their momentum and undercut their connection with voters, especially younger and swing voters. They have damaged themselves.

Playing cards and scandals

As the campaign draws to a close, political parties are fighting hard. To date, what distinguishes Sarawak’s campaign has been the lack of prominence of the racial card. Religion, however, has been mobilised by the BN, which has used funds to woo Christians, estimated to comprise 40 per cent of the electorate.

The use of religion has been contradicted by broad trends to undercut freedom of religion in Sarawak and the slating of candidates by the BN that have conservative views that are not in line with more tolerant calls of moderation. Whether the BN can win back Christian support lies with the priorities of the churches themselves, whether they buy into the wooing effort, how they perceive Adenan’s sincerity and the choice of moral example they will set.

The opposition is relying on the 1MDB scandal to swing the electorate. This issue is difficult for many Sarawakians to connect to, especially in rural areas. Many do not believe it at all and do not see how the issue affects them directly. Others are outraged, and this undercurrent is strong among those who hold political leaders to standards. These issues about rights and scandals have become even more serious for Malaysia’s future, but it is not clear whether national concerns will displace local interests.

Sarawakians, like many Malaysians, are tired. The campaign has not yet inspired, and as such voter engagement has been markedly lower. There is a palpable lack of enthusiasm for either side, with a focus on livelihoods and ordinary routines. This is in part because the 2016 campaign has been in fact quite routine itself, offering little new and relying on the old strategies and tactics. The question ahead will be whether the same old campaign approaches will yield the same old results.

Bridget Welsh is Professor of Political Science at Ipek University, Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asian Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University, Senior Associate Fellow of The Habibie Center, and University Fellow of Charles Darwin University.

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2016/05/03/same-old-in-sarawak-campaign/

This article is part of a five-part series on the Sarawak 2016 state election. The next article will focus on voting trends and constituencies. Bridget Welsh thanks Sarawakians for sharing their views and kind hospitality.

Malay Stereotypes in Academia and Business


May 2, 2016

Malay Stereotypes in Academia and Business

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Malay Academic Inferiority stated at this age

This burden of self-affirmation and stereotype threat can crop up well beyond our formative years and at the most unexpected venues. During the Alif Ba Ta Conference a few years ago, organized by the UMNO Club of New York and New Jersey at which I discussed self-affirmation and stereotype threat, a group of students confided to me their experiences in the special matriculation class preparing them for American universities. Midway through that class they were given a test. Those who excelled were sent abroad earlier.

Even though the class was filled predominantly with Malays, for the group selected to leave earlier, non-Malays were over represented. How do I explain that, the students inquired? I immediately sensed their burden of stereotype threat – Malay ineptitude in academics.

Matured with a wrong attitude towards Learning

So I asked them what they had done between their school examination in November the preceding year until they were enrolled in that special class the following July. To a person they all replied “Nothing!” Yes, nothing! Then I also asked them whether they had discussed with their successful and predominantly non-Malay classmates how they managed to do so well, specifically what were they doing from January till July when they started their matriculation classes together. The Malay students could not answer me.

Obviously they never thought to ask or were too embarrassed to discuss that sensitive topic with their non-Malay classmates, or their teachers. For their part, their matriculation teachers, unlike my Mr. Peter Norton at Malay College in the 1960s during my Sixth Form years there, merely accepted the fact as it was.

Whenever I meet Malaysians at elite American campuses I always try to discern through casual conversation what schools they attended (in particular their matriculation classes) in Malaysia and what made them choose America and pick that particular university. Invariably those students (even Malays) came from other than our national schools, reflecting the quality of such schools. Further and far more crucial, they had spent the six-or seven-month hiatus following their November SPM examination enrolled in private pre-university classes.

So when they were selected into the government’s special matrikulasi class, they were already six months ahead as compared to their Malay classmates who did “nothing.” That is a significant advantage in what would typically be a two-year course at most.

The Malay College IB Program

Malay College recently (July 2011) started its International Baccalaureate (IB) program after over a decade in planning. Again, the students were those who did well in their SPM the previous November. Apart from its radically different learning and teaching philosophy, IB is all English. Meanwhile those students had spent the previous 11 years in Malay medium. I suggested to those in charge that they should enroll the students earlier (as in January) so they could have six months of “pre-IB” where they could improve their English and other skills.

The response? No funds lah! I hope the first batch of students had done well. Should they fail or even just not excel, then expect those ugly stereotypes to be resurrected. The burden would fall not only on them but also on those following and on Malays generally. They will certainly not blame the teachers or the organizers of the program.

The government had already spent hundreds of millions of ringgit to set up the IB program, yet it could not secure extra funds to ensure that it would succeed.

An UMNO Crony

Meanwhile in the business sphere, when Bank Bumiputra collapsed in the 1990s, ugly stereotypes on Malay aptitude for and competence in commerce were again resurrected, and not just by non-Malays. That too was very ugly, and the public behaviors of the key players merely reinforced those stereotypes. Conveniently forgotten was that the bank failed not because it was run by Malays, but because of corruption, incompetence and political patronage, the very same afflictions that burdened GLCs in China (CITIC), India (Air India), and America (Freddie Mac).

From BMBB to 1MDB

Today a generation later, the same tragic story is being repeated with 1MDB, another GLC, this time at a much greater cost and with the nation’s highest leader involved. Again here the main players are Malays. Just in case the point is missed, they brought in a non-Malay to resolve the mess. Never mind that he was no more successful than his predecessor.

The 1MDB scandal again resurrected yet another stereotype, this time on the Chinese. One of the players, the few except of course for Najib who came out like bandits literally, was a Malaysian Chinese character close to Najib’s family.  Here we have the all-too-familiar story of a scheming Chinese taking advantage of a dumb Malay leader. Well, that dumb Malay leader part of the stereotype is true. At least Malaysians should be comforted by that fact. Imagine if we had a Malay leader who was smart as well as corrupt. The damage he would inflict could be horrendous! Count your blessings, Malaysians!

He did not do well academically

Linked to stereotype threat is the maintenance of the integrity of self-affirmation. When we see something that threatens our self-image, for example, Malays not doing well academically, we shift the focus elsewhere. Thus we say we do not care for “secular knowledge;” we are more into “spiritual” and “real” knowledge, the kind that would get us into Heaven. In that way we protect ourselves as non-Muslims would certainly not be competing with us in that field. If Muslim Chinese and Indians were to later beat us and excel in the same field, then we would have to spin yet another fanciful narrative.

When I see Malays focused on religion and the Hereafter and neglect their worldly obligations, I see that as nothing more than a manifestation of this threat to their self-affirmation rather than a genuine love for religious knowledge or concerns with personal salvation.

A similar phenomenon is seen in children. When kids run a playground race, those who are left behind would rationalize that they are not really “racing” or competing. Or, it’s only a “practice.” Likewise when I am sailing; I am always racing, that is, when I am overtaking the other sailboats. When I am being overtaken, well, I am out just for a leisurely afternoon cruise!

Both stereotypes and self-affirmation threats can be remedied. We do not have to be resigned to being their victims. To do that however, we first have to free up our minds from those cluttered and unproductive mental patterns. We have to create new or modify existing narratives to be more reflective of reality, one that would also be more useful and productive.

We can learn much from the insights of modern neuroscience on how to better understand and appreciate our current particular dilemmas.

Save Malaysia from debilitating Bumiputraism


May 2, 2016

Save  Malaysia from debilitating Bumiputraism–The Agenda of the Third Force

Time to save Malaysia from neo-liberal capitalists, naked political opportunism, and racial discrimination.

by Dr Kua Kia Soong

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Kua-Kia-Soong

The Bigots and Extremists rule the day–How is this related to Neo-Liberalism, Dr. Kua? Socialism is Dead

In March 2008 the two-front system that we had called for in the 1990 general elections finally came about, producing an alternative, namely Pakatan Rakyat (PR), to the Barisan Nasional. Barely eight years later, those days of hope have been dashed by the recent split between DAP and PAS in 2015 and now, the bickering between DAP and PKR and their failure to present the BN with a one-to-one challenge in six seats at the Sarawak state elections.

The name calling by DAP leaders we thought was only reserved for the PAS leaders has now been used against PKR leaders as well.

Dearth of leadership & alternative policies in PR (now the so-called Pakatan Harapan–Coalition of Hope)

Without a doubt, the PR coalition was held together at the start by the PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, even though their alternative policies to the BN were never entirely clear. Their neo-liberal tendencies led to BN-type policies in the development of the states they controlled, ie. Selangor and Penang, policies which have produced little change in the living conditions of the lower income groups.

Private developers have had a field day in these PR-held states since 2008 with the promise of more multi-billion projects in reclamation, undersea tunnels, highways and luxury development.

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The Rosmah-Centered Authoritarian of Malaysian Politics

Policies aside, Anwar’s leadership in holding the PR coalition together started to suffer a setback possibly because he was deflected by his sodomy trial as well as self-centred opportunistic tendencies among the component parties in PR.

This was clearly seen during the asinine ‘Kajang Move’ in 2014 when there was a “resignation of convenience” by the incumbent PKR Adun after internal politicking between the PKR Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and the PKR strongman Azmin Ali who was opposing him.

The cost of this short-sighted ‘Kajang Move’ was to force a by-election and leave constituents without representation for weeks. It exposed an irresponsible attitude of PR in taking the Malaysian electorate for granted by forcing a by-election just to facilitate the entry of Anwar Ibrahim into the Selangor state government. It was a most cynical violation of the public trust.

The Checkmated Anwar Ibrahim

More costly for the PR coalition, the Kajang Move had been carried out without adequate consultation with the other PR partners and fissures soon began to appear between them. Three decades of engagement with PAS, the largest Malay-based party in the coalition, was about to come asunder.

The dearth of leadership in PR was clear when the former Menteri Besar was openly maligned as inept and corrupt by lesser DAP politicians to justify his ousting. It was also clear the PAS President was not consulted over this irresponsible political move. The Kajang Move showed not only contempt for the voters in Kajang but also insensitivity toward the PAS leaders who were part of the PR coalition.

Bad mouthing the PAS President

Malaysia’s Political Nightmare–Corruption

After months of name calling against the PAS President Hadi Awang, which can only be described as ‘kurang ajar’, Pakatan Rakyat was officially disbanded on 16 June 2015 after the DAP declared it could no longer work with PAS. It was a sad day for all Malaysians who had hopes for a viable alternative to the Barisan Nasional.

The long-term effect of such uncouth bad mouthing of the PAS leader remains to be seen. The DAP will have to measure the relative weight of their token Malays in the party against the loathing towards DAP among not only UMNO supporters but now also PAS supporters.

Is this behaviour the result of insensitivity, the lack of wisdom or naked opportunism that has blinded the DAP leaders to common sense needed to engage with PAS leaders and members if they are genuinely interested in “winning over Malays to the DAP”?

The DAP is now willing and able to work with the man who has been responsible for privatising practically all of Malaysian industry and destroying whatever semblance of democracy we had in his 22 years in office – all because of the stated need to “save Malaysia”.

Naked opportunism the main culprit

The DAP’s significant political turnaround in their current readiness to work with the erstwhile oppressor and autocrat of Malaysia requires a more responsible political economic analysis by the DAP leadership to justify this volte face. They also owe the Malaysian people an analysis of class oppression in Malaysia today and how this ties in with their new agenda to “save Malaysia”.

It is certainly a sad day for Malaysians who have hoped for an alternative to the BN and who have carefully nurtured a working relationship with PAS since the Eighties, to see this Alternative Coalition wrecked by total lack of sensitivity to coalition principles, human relationships and dearth of leadership.The DAP leadership is now banking on their token Malay centrists and the former PAS “New Hopers” to get by.

No doubt the DAP will be complacent to rule Penang but succeeding to drive PAS out of PR is undoing more than thirty years’ work engaging with PAS to build the Alternative Coalition. The positive aspect of the last thirty years included PAS’ participation at so many May Day, anti-war and Bersih rallies. This has been an important contribution to inter-ethnic integration in Malaysia and the attempt to build an alternative to the BN.

What is to be done?

The squabbles within Pakatan Harapan over the apportionment of seats have to do with naked opportunism and the lack of higher principles in their respective party ideologies. The politics of opportunism can also be seen with the party elite monopolising federal seats and state seats in the same term and with no fixed term set for the party leader.

Nevertheless, with leadership and an adopted procedure as can be seen in the BN, even that naked opportunism can be managed with due diligence.

For now, we are back to square one as far as engagement with PAS is concerned. It remains to be seen how DAP’s alliance with PKR will hold. It is time for progressive Malaysians to take stock of the political situation and to consider what is to be done in the struggle to make Malaysia truly democratic, free and just for all Malaysians, and especially for our working peoples.

Building the socialist alternative

While there was hope of an alternative coalition to challenge the Barisan Nasional that has been in power for nearly sixty years, Malaysians were prepared to be patient until BN was deposed. It is now clear that some of these opposition parties are ideologically similar to BN in their commitment to neo-liberal capitalism evident in their own state policies.

With our hopes dashed, it is time to build a Third Force that is people-centred, free and equal and led by those who are committed to a common platform set on an alternative road to development.It is time to reclaim the national assets that have been sold to private magnates and to ensure there is fair redistribution of income to the people. There is a need for state intervention and nationalisation of basic resources such as oil and gas; utilities such as water, energy; health, education and social services.

We need progressive taxation to check unfettered capital transfers by speculators and finance moguls and to balance rampant income inequality. Such a socialist alternative differentiates itself from the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan.

Save Malaysia from Neo-liberal capitalism

Malaysia needs to be saved from neo-liberal capitalism that was unleashed by Mahathir when he came to power in 1981.

Mahathir is indeed the “father of neo-liberalism in Malaysia” after selling off our national assets through his privatisation policies in his 22 years, our national resources hived off to crony capitalists under the guise of affirmative action. Mahathir succeeded in creating private Malay capitalists out of the erstwhile state capitalists who had entrenched their power after May 13, 1969.

Privatisation in Malaysia since the eighties has not demonstrated that increase in efficiency, productivity, or competition, the elimination of sources of state deficit as privatisation has been purported to produce. The failures of MAS, Proton, KTM and other corporations testify to this fact. In most cases, privatisation has merely substituted a private monopoly for a public one without producing any of the benefits that are supposed to come from competition.

Neoliberal policies represent the political requirements of global capital, harmonising the national with the global economy, freeing capital from social forms in which it is under or open to state control and thereby turning those forms into corporate private property as Mahathir succeeded in doing. It will be more and more difficult to maintain a public sector to alleviate the living conditions of workers and the poor when all these public services have been privatised.

Save Malaysia from racism and racial discrimination

Malaysia needs to be saved from racism and racial discrimination. For years now and especially since the New Economic Policy, “race” (“bumiputeraism”) has been used to divide the Malaysian masses so that they cannot unite against their common oppressors and exploiters. Racial discrimination further worsens the plight of workers in the non-Bumiputera communities. Neither the BN or PH have categorically pledged to abolish the New Economic Policy that has been the racist/ populist strategy to try to win over the Bumiputeras and to enrich the well-placed Bumiputeras.

Powerful capitalist interests control our resources and markets and thrive on the cheap labour of Malaysian workers and migrant labour even in the states run by Pakatan Rakyat. The price has been paid by workers and the poor whose living standards continue to be pushed downwards.

If voting changed anything, they’d have made it illegal’

This resistance to neo-liberal capitalism can only be led by a Third Force that tries to empower oppressed people in the process of democratic participation. Popular democratic participation is not just in economic but also political institutions. Real democracy will never be attained merely through periodic general elections and relying on parliament alone. As Emma Goldman put it, “If voting changed anything, they’d have made it illegal!”

Peoples’ power comes about through direct action, based on the self-organisation of workers and other communities in their struggle against capital, with directly elected workplace and community councils taking responsibility for their own affairs and linked to decisions for society at large. The idea is to create an entirely new form of politics centered on direct popular power. When working class people are organized, they can start to believe in their capacity to change the world.

This is the task before us. Can you see any alternative?

Kua Kia Soong is the advisor of SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia).

 

President Bill Clinton’s Lecture @Georgetown-Purpose


May 1, 2016

President Bill Clinton’s  Lecture @ Georgetown University, Washington DC–Purpose

Earlier today I posted this April 21, 2015 Lecture by the 42nd President of the United States, President William Jefferson Clinton, to guests, faculty and students at Georgetown University, Washington  DC–where he attended the Walsh School of Foreign Service  in 1968 before going to Oxford and Yale– on  Facebook of The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh for the benefit of my colleagues and Masters and Doctoral students.

In his Lecture, President Bill Clinton spoke about inclusive politics and inclusive economics and the purpose of public service, citing many examples of leaders in politics, business and civil society when he was in the White  House. I hope my fellow Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of our country, my associates and friends and readers who support my blog can get the drift of Bill Clinton’s message  and reflect on his thoughts about the true purpose of public service.

I am sure our Prime Minister has own purpose to be in public service. But you can bet that  Najib’s  purpose is not something the 42nd President of the United States has in mind.–Din Merican

Through The Looking Glass – Into The World Of Najib Razak COMMENT


May 1, 2016

Through The Looking Glass – Into The World Of Najib Razak COMMENT by The Sarawak Report

'Seditious' cartoonist Zunar gives his take on the Sarawak scene

The present election abuses in Sarawak, spearheaded by Najib Razak, present a truly appalling spectacle.Blatant and jaw-dropping bribery, bullying and law-breaking by the ruling BN party have reached unprecedented levels, even for Malaysia, as every day reports of new excesses continue to shock.

But the desperate Prime Minister plainly does not care.  He has personally taken charge of the whole charade, touring around the state handing out money “from BN” to everyone he wants to bribe.

The Chief Crook and Associates in Laughter–Rakyat Bodoh da!

Meanwhile, opposition leaders and activists are being openly barred from the state or told by the score that they have to leave in advance of the election, so that they cannot be present to assist in monitoring the count. So much for Adenan reforming the bad old ways of Taib Mahmud.

Postal votes from thousands of absent West Malaysian soldiers are being utilised to flood constituencies they are not from;  the practice of refusing to issue ID cards to opposition communities persists and of course the gerrymandering alone means that the opposition would have to win over 70% of all votes to even gain a simple majority of seats.

Browbeaten and exhausted opposition folk, who have no money, compared to resources of hundreds of millions of ringgit, fleets of helicopters and all the apparatus of the state in the hands of BN, can only stand by and protest.

Public money from 1MDB is being thrown at Sarawak

RM2 million for St Jude’s Church in Bunan Gega - even more for mosques

Najib and Adenan are clearly perfectly willing to use money that has been stolen from the state, through 1MDB and timber cronies, to lavish on communities, who know that they only see this manna from heaven when elections come around.

Gifts of a couple of million ringgit to a church here, cheques of thousands of ringgit to schools there, crackly notes for every voter….The fact that these gifts are peanuts, compared to what BN’s politicians have looted from the people of Sarawak, in terms of their natural resources and land rights, is something they have taken care to hide. During their decades of cynical exploitation this ruling clique have sneered that Sarawakians are “blind” to the wealth of their own state.

The shocking and blatant examples are numerous - here from one of our own comments

To observers from the outside world it is all, therefore, a total shocker: a sham election if there ever was one.

And another instance from our comment column

Najib no longer cares about appearances

However, Najib has plainly ceased to care about appearances, if he ever did.  In his looking glass world it simply doesn’t matter that he is blatantly indulging in such outrageous abuses and illegalities, because he will make sure his client Malaysian media reports a completely different story for his domestic audience.

Those who don’t comply are already being harassed and threatened by Najib’s stack of new laws designed to ‘protect a democratically elected government’ from ‘seditious forces’ etc etc.

Adenan bought in

The Institute of Journalists has protested at this persecution of their members, trying to report the truth, but Najib, supported by Adenan, has shown no hesitation in abusing his authority over the Election Commission, the police, the civil service and even the once independent judiciary to ignore all such complaints.

Thus he determines to bludgeon a “great victory” in Sarawak.  If in the end this also demands a further bit of cheating at the ballot box, so what?  The opposition can always be banned from the count or their officials bought over by huge bribes, the logic goes. It’s all happened before.

Najib will then announce through the looking glass world of his Malaysian media that the glorious result has entirely vindicated his position – in a nutshell, that he has been “cleared” by the electorate. “Foreign” critics and domestic “subversives” will be told to take a hike.

The fact that the world knows that the money Najib has been lavishing in Sarawak was stolen from the public purse will be ignored – the anonymous ‘Saudi Royal donor’ can always be said to have returned back what was previously allegedly returned to him – who cares?  The Prime Minister will present himself as an all Malaysian hero and the whole of the domestic media will be forced to report the matter in this fashion – or else risk jail.

Maybe this ‘victory’ will present him with his widely mooted opportunity to slam his own former party leader, the 90 year old Dr Mahathir behind bars, for having dared point out his grand theft from 1MDB?

Looking Forward to being in Jail with Bro Anwar Ibrahim

The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has already been trapped in jail for over a year, for the sin of being far too effective an opponent for Mr Najib …. another outrageous advantage granted to BN over the leaderless PR coalition in Sarawak.

To Najib’s way of thinking it simply doesn’t matter if the world knows the truth, even most Malaysians, because as long as he can mobilise huge sums of cash then he can control the party leaders in charge of UMNO and control the electoral charade he calls democracy.

The reality is different

However, in the real world on the other side of the looking glass from Malaysia, an entirely separate scenario is starting to unfold, which Najib Razak appears determined to ignore, in a triumph of wishful thinking over stark reality.

Najib and those around him have lost their judgement if they think Malaysia can defy the rest of the world economy, along with the global regulators and enforcers of law and order, simply to save the position of one man, who has been caught stealing vast sums from his own country.

Yet whilst he has cavorted around Sarawak the past few days, handing out cash, the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister has failed to issue one word about the fact that the instrument of this theft, 1MDB, has now gone into default.  A US$6 billion cross default looms large and he stays silent.

Add to that the demand yesterday from Bank Negara that 1MDB further repay the US$1.8 billion it deceptively ‘invested’ into PetroSaudi.And to that the blood-curdlingly deadly investigations that are daily progressing in Singapore against the managers of BSI Bank, who processed the cash stolen through Good Star by Jho Low along with other key accounts for 1MDB, SRC and Aabar Investments PJS Limited.

Not only has the Singapore Commercial Affairs Department described this BSI investigation as the most complex cross-border money-laundering exercise they have ever undertaken, they have also highlighted the “staggering amounts of money” involved.

The rest of the world, Luxembourg, Abu Dhabi, Switzerland, the United States and a growing list of other investigating jurisdictions are all shocked too – and they clearly mean business given the actions and statements of recent weeks.  Now the wheels are in motion does Najib seriously think he can stop this process in a wider world, where he has no powers whatsoever?

This is money that was taken out of 1MDB and then laundered through a network of companies managed by Jho Low and later his accomplices from Aabar.  A great deal of this money went to Najib and his step-son’s Hollywood production company.

The details are complex and need to be teased out, but sooner rather than later players are going to be prosecuted and the money trail revealed.Does Najib think he can escape the situation by continuing to say black is white in his looking glass bubble of Malaysia and handing out yet more of the stolen public cash to his client party fixers?

What happens when the global economy inevitably reacts to the revelation that Malaysia is being run by a master thief and criminal, whose bank accounts are frozen world-wide and whose pet fund is billions of dollars in the red? How will Malaysian business respond to a plunging ringgit, which this will inevitably trigger?  Suddenly, Najib’s cash will seem less helpful to his crony clients and business borrowers.

Malaysians will discover that their country has become an international scandal with a world record thief for a leader, taxes rocketing to bail him out and a plunging currency to boot.

So, although Najib thinks he can use all his concentrated powers to force black to be called white in the domestic media, the truth is that this Prime Minister has lost control. He can no longer steer events, even though he tells himself he can….. because the alternative is something he fears to contemplate.

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