The Rebranding of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s Surrogate Lover–Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda


December 14, 2017

The Rebranding of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s Surrogate Lover–Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for perfume of arabia macbeth

“Here’s the smell of blood still. All perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”–In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Oxford-educated Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda, the one-time adviser and close confidante of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was once romantically linked to the murdered jet-setting Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, has popped up after years of discreet absence in the UK.

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The  disheveled and frightened-looking Abdul Razak Baginda

For someone who has been out of the public eye for the past decade, Razak Baginda has wasted no time, propelling himself onto the Malaysian lecture circuit over the past six months but at the same time inadvertently reminding the public he had been a key figure in what had been the biggest scandal in the country’s history until an even bigger one blew up over the state-backed investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the subject of a US Justice Department investigation into the looting of public assets.

Razak Baginda is very different from the disheveled and frightened-looking man who emerged from jail on October 31, 2006, acquitted without trial of abetting the murder of Altantuya, who was alleged to have once been Najib’s paramour. The 28-year-old mother, who was believed to have been pregnant at the time, was shot twice in the head by one of Najib’s bodyguards and her body was blown up with military explosives in a patch of jungle outside the suburban city of Shah Alam.

The allegation that Altantuya had been Najib’s mistress was revealed by the late private investigator P Balasubramaniam, engaged by Razak Baginda to stop Altantuya from creating a scene outside his house. According to a letter found after her death, she was demanding a cut of kickbacks from a multi-billion ringgit Malaysian government deal to purchase submarines from the French.

Razak Baginda once was one of the closest advisers to Najib, then the Defense Minister and Deputy PM (2000-2008), on government arms procurement projects. The political analyst was involved in the purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines and one Agosta-class submarine from the French naval dockyard unit DCN (Direction des Constructions Navales). The deal was worth around RM5 billion.

Hasty departure for the UK

On his release and acquittal, Razak Baginda was swamped by reporters who tried to interview him, but was guarded by a wall of policemen. A month later, at a press conference, he was guarded by a team of lawyers who monitored his answers. He immediately decamped to England, ostensibly to complete a doctorate at Oxford.

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 The Rebranded Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda–Founder, Center for Global Affairs (ICON).

Seven years later, on October. 26, 2015, Razak Baginda emerged to deliver his first public talk in Kuala Lumpur at a “Special Forum” called “Reforming Malaysia: A Conversation with Razak Baginda.” The session was organized by a new think tank he had founded, called the Center for Global Affairs (ICON).

The former Malaysian PrimenMinister, Mahathir Mohamad once said, “Melayu mudah lupa” (Malays easily forget) and Razak Baginda probably thought that Malaysians would have forgotten about him and the brutal murder.

Living abroad helped Razak Baginda avoid the glare of publicity and the anger of the Malaysian public who were furious at the High Court’s handling of the trial. The motive for the murder was never established although the murderers were said to have been offered RM50,000 for the killing.

Wife Implicates Najib

Few can forget the hysterical shout of Baginda’s wife, Mazlinda Makhzan, at the time of his arrest: “Why charge my husband, he does not want to be the prime minister?” an apparent reference to Balasubramaniam’s statement that Najib had passed Altantuya on to the political analyst because it wouldn’t look good to have a foreign mistress when he was elevated to become the country’s leader.

Importantly, there were also unexplained phone texts between Najib and Razak Baginda’s lawyer, Mohamad Shafee Abdullah, which alluded to Najib’s alleged interference in the case. One message read, “Pls do not say anything to the press today. i will explain later. RB (Razak Baginda) will have to face a tentative charge but all is not lost.”

Altantuya’s father, Setev Shaariibuu, has not received any justice for the murder of his daughter and has continued to demand that the Malaysian government give him answers about her death.

Two policemen, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, were found guilty of Altantuya’s murder in a trial that critics said was carefully orchestrated to keep from answering questions who had hired them to kill her. Sirul is now languishing in the Villawood Detention Center outside Sydney, vigorously wheeling and dealing for his release and asylum. Azilah remains in a Malaysian prison.

Razak Baginda probably thought that he could lead a quiet life by relocating to England but he didn’t reckon on the persistence of SUARAM, the Malaysian Human Rights NGO, which complained to the French authorities about the Scorpene deal in November 2009. That triggered a preliminary inquiry and a judicial investigation in Paris in 2012.

Investigative stories Tell Tale of Scandal

The investigation was the subject of a multiple series of investigative stories by Asia Sentinel that won the Society of Publishers in Asia award for excellence in investigative reporting – Asia’s version of the Pulitzer Prize.

Finally, years later, on July 18, 2017, Razak Baginda was indicted in France for “complicity of bribery, acceptance of bribes and concealment of misuse of company assets.”  Two officials of a DCN subsidiary were also indicted on charges specifically of having bribed Najib Razak.

On August 4, the SUARAM adviser, Dr Kua Kia Soong said, “The first indictment of the arms maker shows that SUARAM’s suspicion of commission paid to Malaysian officials in the Scorpene deal is well founded, and we have been vindicated.”

Asia Sentinel reported that the French investigation had revealed that Terasasi HK Ltd., a company owned by Razak Baginda and his father, received €30 million in “consultancy works,” the accepted terminology for kickbacks. Terasasi existed only as the name on the wall of a Hong Kong accounting company. As Asia Sentinel reported, French investigators also uncovered evidence that a Malaysia-based shell company, Perimekar, owned by Baginda’s wife, had received another €114 million in “consultancy services.”

The money was said to have been passed on to the United Malays National Organization with the full knowledge of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, among others, according to evidence provided to Asia Sentinel.

Timely Rebranding

Baginda’s rebranding is timely, especially as Malaysia’s 14th General Election is due soon. He could have retired a rich man from his alleged kickbacks from Scorpene and lived a life of luxury in England. He could have avoided the scrutiny of the Malaysian public.

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Malaysia’s Infamous Couple–Prime Minister Najib Razak and his FLOM Rosmah Mansor

“He probably thinks that the Malaysian public have forgotten (and forgiven him),” said a social cynic who declined to be named. “He believes he has done nothing wrong, especially as the courts did not find him guilty of Altantuya’s murder.”

It is highly likely that Razak Baginda is repositioning himself in the Malaysian political world, according to a Kuala Lumpur-based political analyst. “Perhaps, Najib summoned him to return as his confidante,” he said. “Najib’s Washington trip was a wash-out. It was probably arranged on the advice of his foreign advisers. The Malays disapprove of Trump’s anti-Islam and anti-Muslim policies.”

A Malay, Muslim and Malaysian, the political analyst “will be in a better position to advise Najib on foreign matters. He is probably testing the waters and seeing how the Malaysian public react to him over a range of issues like education, religion and radicalization.”

However, it is more likely that the French indictment may have spurred Baginda’s return to Malaysia over a desire to remain free.  Malaysia does not have an extradition treaty with France, unlike Britain. His stay in England would be risky.

Razak Baginda dismissed the French charge and said, “The French legal process is different from the Malaysian legal process. The term ‘charged’ in the context of the inquiry means placing the said individuals under ‘formal investigation’.”

We now see the comeback kid, Razak Baginda, re-engaging with Malaysian politics. He appears to be pushing the right buttons on many subjects. More importantly, as long as Najib is around, there is money to be made. ICON has held several forums and issued press releases with alarming regularity.

Pretensions as Oracle

This is proof that he wants to be heard on a range of subjects, upon most of which many Malaysians agree. On radicalization, he has urged the Home Ministry to monitor students, who studied in the middle-east, and warned that Malaysia was losing its reputation as a moderate nation. He has warned that the prominence of religion in schools will lower the quality of education. He questioned the failure of Malaysian leaders to confront the nationalists.

Razak Baginda has defended the bloated Malaysian civil service and blasted the journalist John Pennington for an article in “Asean Today” that unfavorably compared the Malaysian civil service with its Singaporean counterpart.

He also criticized Najib for his silence on the Rohingya issue at the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, saying it was a “missed opportunity” and then, on the following day, offered a groveling apology to Najib, saying “I got it wrong.”  He praised Najib’s sincerity in helping the Rohingyas, raising the issue with the Myanmar state counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi, and with President Trump. Saying that Najib’s actions were unprecedented, Razak Baginda described him as bold and strong, willing to voice his displeasure over a matter he cared about.

“Never before has a fellow ASEAN leader brought out what could be regarded as a domestic issue of another member country,” he said. “Kudos to the prime minister, as it shows his commitment to help the Rohingya.”

Still Buddies?

So are Najib and Razak Baginda in constant contact? Or is he positioning himself and working towards a smooth transition to become Najib’s political analyst? On his re-emergence onto the Malaysian socio-political scene, Suaram’s Kua said: “He seems to have a knack of seeking publicity when he’d be better off staying out of media attention. He’s more of a liability for Najib by showing up all over the place and reminding us of Altantuya. But he seems pretty gung-ho about his ‘freedom from prosecution’. We shall see.

Both men have to tread a cautious path, said a political analyst, “but do they care? There is only so much Razak Baginda can do to help Najib, because one wrong step could make the whole Altantuya and Scorpene scandal blow up in Najib’s face, and further reduce his chances in GE-14. Even if it were true that Najib and Razak Baginda have resumed their cozy ties, it is established that they need one another to keep their secrets safe. Remember the adage about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer still.

Perhaps Najib is willing to take that chance, especially after the warning issued by the American Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, on Dec. 4, when he said that Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal was the worst example of kleptocracy he had ever seen. Razak Baginda may need Najib to prevent an attempt by the French to subpoena him to the Scorpene trial, but Najib has an equal need to prevent Razak Baginda from giving evidence.

Mariam Mokhtar is a Malaysia-based journalist and a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

 

The Political Manipulation of Fear by UMNO


December 12, 2017

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My short message to Rais Hussin: Please do not invoke God’s name whenever we are in a crisis. That is most convenient way out when we are in a fix. The problems we as Malaysians face today especially in politics are of our own making. Therefore, the fear you talk about is something we created  for ourselves. We are scared of our own shadow.. It is better to admit for  all of us that we are all cowards  than throw our hands in the air in despair.

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Najib Razak is not endowed with supernatural powers, although it is said that our FLOM Rosmah Mansor is protected  by a number of powerful shamans from the Indian subcontinent.Our incumbent Prime Minister can be removed from office through the ballot.  If we in large numbers vote against UMNO-BN in GE-14, Najib Razak is gone in a jiffy. No Shamans can help Rosmah too. But the question is will we? –Din Merican

The Political Manipulation of Fear by UMNO

by Rais Hussin

Image result for Najib Razak Bulllshit
He should fear us, not the other way round

COMMENT | Fear is a primal instinct, driven into our brain, to survive the harshest environment since the dawn of the Homo sapiens.

No one can be blamed for exhibiting various forms of fear. During the Jurassic age, where dinosaurs roamed the world, humans existed purely as hunter-gatherers, armed with sticks and spears.

Without the help of iron and bronze, powerful catapults, and fire, Homo sapiens would have lived at the bottom of the food chain.

Things have, of course, taken a dramatic change over the last five centuries. With the advent of what anthropologist Jared Diamond called “guns, germs and steel,” Homo sapiens have transformed their sense of powerlessness not merely against the animal kingdom, but their fellow kind.

Spanish colonialism of the entire American continent, which obliterated the native tribes, where millions died, began on such account. Invariable, to steal a march on their Iberian neighbour, Portugal did the same.

The likes of Vasco Da Gama and Alfonso di Albuquerque first rounded the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, then Goa in India, before crossing the Andaman Sea, to hold the Sultanate of Malacca to a complete siege between 1511 onwards.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra–The First Decent Malaysian Prime Minister

When UMNO, together with other coalition partners, liberated Malaya from the clutches of colonialism from the British in 1957, one of their goals was to free Malaysians from the politics of fear.

But with the communists breathing down their neck, they couldn’t emancipate the country completely and psychologically. From time to time, UMNO and their coalition partners had to point to the threats that exist.

However, there are no communists anymore. In fact, UMNO and MCA appear to enjoy stronger and better trade relations with the Communist government of China now. Each loan from China is ledgered in the  billions of ringgit.

Yet, in spite of this, UMNO has warned Malaysians that it is Pakatan Harapan that they must fear. In the words of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, it is better to have UMNO ruling for “1,000 years”, than the opposition front.

Dr. Zahid Hamid and his Boss united the face of the Political Opposition

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi averred that the opposition front has “six captains in the cruise ship” and will drive the country to nowhere.

But psychologist John Bargh has shown through numerous studies that ruling politicians thrive in striking fear in the hearts of the people. The fear they instil is manufactured to create a sense of sheer panic or crisis, in order to cannibalise the voters.

By making the opposition small and insignificant, the ruling party would stand a better chance of consolidating their iron grip. As John Bargh explained: “research has found that when people become new parents of a tiny, vulnerable baby, they begin to believe their local crime rate is going up, even if it is falling.”

“That happened to me,” to which Bargh admits. “After my daughter was born, suddenly we felt that the neighbourhood was getting so dangerous that we had to leave.”

UMNO and BN have always introduced new stop gap measures, such as BR1M (cash transfers) when elections are near. Even the 2018 budget that Najib presented in the Parliament was screamingly front-loaded, that even BN MPs privately admitted that was indeed an election budget.

 

That is not fear-mongering, but vote buying

Front-loaded in the sense that many different cash payouts are dished out to many group of voters targeting the low middle-income and low-income groups, which includes, but is not limited to Felda settlers, farmers, fishermen, civil servants, military, police, teachers etc.

When Malaysians find some petty cash in their hand, they begin to believe that a new government will take them away — not realising the new entity can actually eliminate corruption, malfeasance, abuse of power and other malpractices allegedly perpetuated by UMNO and its coalition partners, to better the living standards of Malaysia.

Ask the voters in Selangor or even Penang, has their welfare improved after UMNO was defeated in 2008? The answer is undoubtedly, and a resounding yes. Even the Malays stood to gain more in terms of support from the Penang and Selangor state governments. With such positive records, Malaysian voters should not be lulled and fooled by Umno again and again.

As the late US President Franklin Delani Roosevelt once said: “One has nothing to fear but fear itself.” How one eliminates fear, in other words, is to stop others from manipulating them. In Malay adage, the advice is even more poignant: “Berani kerana benar.” One should be brave because one is truthful.

Having fleeced the country of billions, making it the worst “kleptocracy in the world,” it is UMNO that has all to fear from the wrath of the people at the 14th general election.

God save Malaysia.

Malaysia enters Winter of Discontent


December 9, 2017

Malaysia enters Winter of Discontent

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | What’s in a name? In Malaysia, everything!

In Malaysia and many Third World countries, your father’s (or grandfather’s) name, can mean the difference between a life of untold riches, without having to work. Or a miserable existence.

The right name opens up a world of business, educational and business opportunities. With the right name, the victim of any burglary would receive a speedy police response, jump the queue for medical attention, or easily obtain a loan.

The children and family members of the top politicians, and civil servants who trade on their fathers’ names, deprive other hardworking Malaysian adults of a fair chance at the economic pie. The “right names” grab the lucrative contracts.

At one time in Perak, a company which was allegedly owned by the MB’s wife was envied, despite her lack of business acumen.

The nephew of the Selangor MB is alleged to have been involved in illegal sand mining operations. Would he have been arrested by the MACC if he were just another Joe Bloggs and not Azmin Ali’s nephew? Perhaps he was roped into the “business” because he was Azmin’s nephew?

Would Red Granite Films have done business with Riza Aziz, if he was just boring Riza Aziz bin Mat Temberang, and not the stepson of the second most powerful man in Malaysia?

If one was called Juwiza binti Mat Tembak, and did not have a former top-cop as a dad, would one have been able to enter the firearms trade?

 

 

The former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Khalid Abu Bakar (photo), said that there was no conflict of interest between him and his daughter’s firearms business. She had been awarded the licence before he became the IGP. He failed to mention that the list of potential candidates, to succeed the retiring IGP, was an open secret.

Planning for the future always helps. Would UMNO-Baru cyber-troopers have attacked Meera Alyanna, daughter of Mukhriz and granddaughter of Mahathir, if she was just plain Meera Alyanna binti Mat Siapa?

Mahathir is a thorn in Najib Abdul Razak’s side. Despite having lost the perks of a former PM, like the services of his personal aides, and the sale of his pet projects like Proton, Mahathir is undeterred.

A sign of Najib’s desperation

Targeting Mahathir’s family members is a sign of Najib’s desperation. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The same scrutiny should be extended to the children of current Umno-Baru and BN leaders.

Sabah businessman, Michael Chia gave a Hum-Vee to a politician’s son. Would Chia have done that if that man was just plain old Nedim bin Mat Rempit? In 2012, Sarawak Report exposed Nedim’s ties with Chia, and the allegation behind the American Hum-Vee 2 SUV.

They say that you can learn much about a person’s subconscious, by the vehicles he drives. In his mind’s eye, did Nedim imagine himself to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who helped to promote the Hum-Vee? What Nedim lacked in muscle he made up for it in other ways. His behaviour matches the big, brash, and unattractive Hum-Vee.

The Apologist for UMNO Kleptocracy

Two weeks ago, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz (photo) reacted to the attack on Mahathir’s grandchild, by saying that there was nothing wrong with flaunting one’s wealth, as long as it was from halal (permissible) sources.

Nazri said, “I have asked Mahathir, many times, how his children became rich when they don’t have business acumen.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Did Nedim graduate from the Harvard Business School or did he trade on daddy’s name, when he purchased a multi-million ringgit home and a fleet of imported sports cars?

To be fair, we should inspect the garages of the various ministers and their children. Allegations of businessmen presenting cars to ministerial spouses and family members are rife.

What would you do if your father was an influential politician, or a high ranking civil servant, and you were given cars, designer accessories, land, luxury holidays, gems, shares or directorships?

Would you realise that you would be expected to put in a good word for the businessman? Or would you just think that the kindly businessman had given you the things which your father could never provide? Would you reject the gifts? If you say no, then you are also part of the problem. You cannot cherry pick from the smörgåsbord of moral decisions.

Some of us praise Najib for his BR1M, because it helps the poor. Remove his father’s name, and you are left with just another washed-out and corrupt politician, who is clueless about helping the poor, except to make them more dependent on the government.

Take away the political fathers’ names from many people, who are prominent in public life, and you will see them for what they are. They are moronic characters.

Until you remove the spotlight, which you shine on them, you will stop yourself from seeing the true problem. You also prevent yourself from finding solutions.

 

Malaysia: Malaysian Ingenuity Knows No Bounds when it comes Corruption


December 5, 2017

Malaysia: Malaysian Ingenuity Knows No Bounds when it comes Corruption

by R Nadeswaran

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib as a corrupt Prime Minister

Yes, indeed, Prime Minister Najib Razak is as pure as Caesar’s Wife and a role model for Malaysian millennials. He showed them how to make RM2.6 billion without forking out a single cent.

COMMENT | Experience tells us that Malaysian ingenuity knows no bounds when it comes to addressing issues, or rather getting around them. Malaysians are also noted for being able to provide complicated answers to confuse the questioner. They can side-step, out-talk and out-manoeuvre all and sundry.

We can leave it to our leaders, politicians, civil servants and sometimes even drivers and bodyguards to come out with a plethora of explanations which would put artspeak to shame. (For the uninitiated, artspeak is described as “obscure, esoteric, or pretentious language used to discuss art.”)

Last week, Malaysiakini broke the news that a group of Malaysians allegedly made about RM60 million from a property deal apparently without forking out a single sen. It involved the sale of a Melbourne property to Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd (Mara Inc), a government agency whose mission is to help poor Malays.

With documents and graphics, Malaysiakini showed the shenanigans in the purchase of a property known as UniLodge, a 12-storey building at 746, Swanston Street in central Melbourne. It was “sold” to Mara Inc for A$41.8 million (about RM138 million) against its then market price and transacted value of A$23.5 million (about RM77.6 million).

Mara Inc entered into an agreement to buy the assets of Scarlett Nominees Ltd, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which included another BVI shell company called Thrushcross Ltd, which later changed its name to Thrushcross Land Holdings Ltd.

This transaction involved payment of A$41.8 million by Mara Inc to Scarlett supposedly for Unilodge but neither Scarlett nor Thrushcross owned the property at the time of the sale. After having received full payment, the perpetrators paid A$23.5 million for the building and allegedly pocketed the remainder.

However, this is where Malaysian resourcefulness and memory usually work in tandem to produced (un)desired results. When contacted by Malaysiakini, then Mara Inc chairperson Mohammad Lan Allani said he could not remember the details of the transaction.

“What I can say is if the company (Thrushcross) is a shell company, there is no way Mara Inc board would approve the deal. Our SOP (standard operating procedure) is very thorough.

“While I was chairman, I was very meticulous. The SOP must be comprehensive. We had an evaluation process. Only when all these were completed, only then we would proceed.”

But the documents which were made available to Malaysiakini and Fairfax Media in Melbourne show that directors were appointed and removed in a pattern so as to ensure the deal is closed without hitches.

These documents are obtained from the authorities in Melbourne. Sale and purchase agreements signed by solicitors, statement of finances prepared by accountants, valuation reports done by valuers, and there is even a receipt from the Australian government – the stamp duty paid on the transaction of the property.

If Mohammad Lan claims that “there is no way Mara Inc board would approve the deal”, he is being generous with the truth. The dossier leaves a trail of evidence leading to the soiled hands of a few within and outside Mara Inc.

But as in all issues which need specific answers, Mohammad Lan too had a ready answer in his SOP – as chairperson of Marc Inc, he is required to sign all documents. “For details, you have to ask the (then) CEO (Abd Rahim Halim).”

End of matter? Not exactly.

Lofty valuation

Another player entered the fray. Raine & Horne International Zaki + Partners who did the first valuation of A$43 million, defended its lofty price tag. Its executive director Rosli Atan said he was “confident” that the survey, conducted five years ago, was carried out in accordance with proper methods.

If not for semantics, for purposes of getting to the bottom of this whole rigmarole, the word “confident” is somewhat a giveaway or is it redundant? Without wanting to cast aspersions on the individual or the company, the journalistic mind wonders what difference would it made that he said “the survey was carried out according to the proper methods.”

As if to reinforce his confidence, Rosli noted that it was “not true,” when asked about the valuation, which was purported to have been inflated to benefit several Mara Inc officers and their cronies.

“I am confident with my evaluation. In 2012, I was confident. As of the date of the evaluation, I was confident,” Rosli reiterated when contacted by Malaysiakini last Thursday.

But valuations on the same property by two other companies two years later in a booming property market in Melbourne put the price very much lower. CBRE Valuations Pty Ltd valued the UniLodge property at A$25.5 million, while Charter Keck Cramer put the price at A$29.7 million.

It is common knowledge that various factors determine the valuation of a property including supply and demand as explained by Rosli, but it difficult to swallow the fact that the building actually changed hands a few months after Rosli’s valuation for A$23.5 million – leaving a massive profit for those involved in the deal.

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Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob–Reckless and Irresponsible but loyal to UMNO President

Also joining the fray and putting his name into the hat on Malaysian inventiveness was Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who spoke on behalf of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

He said MACC is currently waiting for a report from Australian authorities regarding the transactions.

“So it is better for us to just wait for that, there’s no use raising the matter again,” Ismail Sabri was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.

Mr Minister, we beg to differ. This is not raising the matter again. This is a new matter altogether. These documents on Unilodge only emerged two weeks ago and even Mara Inc officials were not aware that they bought a shell company for A$41.8 million. This alone speaks of the internal checks and balances and the mechanisms within Mara Inc.

Until those involved in this self-indulgent floundering of people’s money are brought to book, every Malaysian has his or her right to keep these issues in public domain. It may add to the long list of “unfinished” business of the MACC or it may land in its ‘morgue’ where files gather dust and are subsequently forgotten over time.

 

Pakatan Harapan– The One Platform Party in Disarray


November 29, 2017

To  Anwar Ibrahim from an old Friend–Open Letter

There is reliance on only one policy plank. Label Najib a kleptocrat and attack him non-stop on 1MDB…In strategic terms, it is an instance of what Dr Wong Chin Huat terms “strategic ambiguity” – avoid the thorny issues and focus on safe issues like corruption and living costs. Mahathir’s strategy goes even further – “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

It is easy to see why PH is adopting this strategy. Dr Wong calls it “communal incoordination”. In more simple language, it means if you try to please the Chinese, you lose Malay votes; if you try to please the Malays, you lose Chinese votes. So just concentrate on the issues both sides can agree on i.e. corruption.–Dr. Ronnie Ooi

by Dr. Ronnie Ooi

Dear Anwar,

You may remember me from the time we worked together in Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM) when I was chair of MBM Penang and worked with your late brother Rani and others.

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Anwar Ibrahim cannot do much since Najib Razak has placed him in Sungei Buloh Prison

I left for the UK in 1990 mainly because of disillusionment with the political situation. I returned in 2008 as Prime Minister Najib Razak was in his liberal phase and things looked quite hopeful.

I feel somewhat guilty that, as a friend, I had not come forward earlier to offer to help, but I wanted a quiet life. I now put pen to paper with some reluctance but unfortunately, I think the warning lights are flashing for Pakatan Harapan (PH).

I feel I cannot in good conscience keep quiet any longer. I point to these warning signs not to discourage people from continuing or joining the fight, but as an indication that PH has weaknesses which must be reviewed.

I am making this letter public as I do not know how else I can be certain of getting my views to you. Besides these proposals will be of interest to the rakyat.

The resignation of three founding members of Bersatu (PPBM) on the grounds that the leadership is unable to accept criticism, is worrying. One bad apple is to be expected, but three all at once?

Image result for Najib and Rosmah visit Anwar Ibrahim in hospital

UMNO style shadow play (wang kulit)–Advantage Najib Razak

The Merdeka Centre Youth Opinion Survey shows that high dissatisfaction with the government is not translating into support for the opposition. Most telling of all is Zaid Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s greatest cheerleader, now advises Malays to emigrate if they have the chance.

The weaknesses of Pakatan Harapan

There is reliance on one man, Dr Mahathir, in the belief that his name plus the 1MDB and other financial scandals will be sufficient to trigger a Malay tsunami. I truly admire him for coming out of a comfortable and privileged retirement to lead the opposition. But I do worry whether his age prevents him from understanding the demands and aspirations of today’s voters, especially the youth.

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That’s Fine, Tun Dr. Mahathir when you were the Prime Minister. Today, Najib Razak is in charge of Malaysia and he can shut you up.

There is reliance on only one policy plank. Label Najib a kleptocrat and attack him non-stop on 1MDB.

In strategic terms, it is an instance of what Dr Wong Chin Huat terms “strategic ambiguity” – avoid the thorny issues and focus on safe issues like corruption and living costs. Mahathir’s strategy goes even further – “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

It is easy to see why PH is adopting this strategy. Dr Wong calls it “communal incoordination”. In more simple language, it means if you try to please the Chinese, you lose Malay votes; if you try to please the Malays, you lose Chinese votes. So just concentrate on the issues both sides can agree on i.e. corruption.

Politics of hope vs politics of hate

I do not want to hurt your feelings Anwar, but it is best to be blunt. What PH is offering the voters of GE14 is the politics of hate (hate Najib), and the politics of personality (Mahathir can solve everything).

There is no message of hope, nothing of policy. It looks back to the past (what Najib and Mahathir have done), not how to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Elections are won on the politics of hope, although I admit the politics of hate can be a useful aid.

Trump won the American presidency elections because his message of hope to his right-wing supporters was very clear and powerful i.e. “Build the wall, keep Muslims out, make America great again” and his message of hate was also useful – “Crooked Hilary”.

Hilary lost because, although she had a message of hate (“Trump temperamentally unfit to be President”), her message of hope was muddled and unclear.

Chong Eu won Penang on the politics of hope i.e. “Economic development, Free Trade Zones, Penang bridge”. He had no message of hate.

In the urban areas and amongst the educated elite, hatred of what Najib is doing is very strong and for many of them, probably even a majority, the politics of hate is sufficient. They willingly accept Mahathir’s position of “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

But the rural Malays have received benefits from the government, and although they may be disturbed by allegations of systemic corruption, they will not have the hatred of Najib that the urban voters have.

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The registration of Pakatan Harapan is held up by the Registrar of Societies–Checkmate?

To say to the rural Malays “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later” is like saying, “Your house is in bad condition. We will tear it down for you. When you are homeless by the road side, only then we will think how we can build a new house for you.” No sane normal person will allow his house to be torn down until he is certain he will get a better replacement.

Four steps to bring about the politics of hope:

1. Mahathir’s position of “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later” has to be discarded

This position prevents PH from telling the people how life under PH will be better and it prevents PH from hearing what the people want to say.

The Merdeka Centre Youth Opinion Survey found that 40% of respondents were not registered as voters, 70% were not interested in politics and 71% felt politicians do not listen to them.

If PH says to these youths “Mahathir knows best”, they will turn their backs on PH. If PH is willing to listen to them, to discuss how best to meet their hopes and aspirations, PH will win their support and votes and by doing so, win GE14.

2. Saving Malaysia requires a two-election process

Those who think that toppling Najib will solve all problems mistake the PM to be the cause of the country’s problems, whereas he is only the symptom. The real cause is the growing distrust and antagonism between the Malay and non-Malay communities, which sustains and protects leaders like Najib.

Removing Najib will not prevent a Najib clone from emerging a few years later if this inter-communal antagonism is not tackled.

There is a deep fault line in PH. Bersatu (PPBM) is constructed to be like UMNO to attract discontented UMNO members. But, as a result, their core political ideology of discriminating in favour of Bumiputeras conflicts with PKR’s and DAP’s core ideology of economic policies based on need and not race.

This means that whilst Bersatu and PKR/DAP/Amanah are completely united that Najib must be toppled to save Malaysia, there is no agreement over what Dr Wong terms inter-communal bargains on issues like economic redistribution and social inclusion, religion and lifestyle, language and education.

The way to resolve this contradiction in objectives is simple: use GE14 to defeat the BN government to bring about institutional change and use GE15 to resolve the breakdown in the inter-communal bargains concerning economics, education, etc.

GE14 is about whether voters want an honest government, GE15 is for voters to decide how best to resolve inter-communal antagonism.

In GE14, Bersatu (PPBM) and PKR/DAP/Amanah work together to fight Najib’s BN. In GE15 Bersatu (PPBM), possibly in combination with a BN without Najib, may be contesting against PKR/DAP.

If we try to solve everything in one election, a voter who would like to vote for an honest candidate may instead vote for a dishonest candidate of his own race if he fears domination by another race.

If we do not separate out an election for an honest government from an election over communal anxieties and inter-communal bargains, we may have a dishonest government for a very long time.

I am excited to see Dr Wong Chin Huat recently come up with roughly the same idea, which he terms a two-step transition pact.

3. PH must show its commitment to institutional reform

PH must set up a readily available central reference of all its proposals for institutional reform.

Some of the questions PH must answer are:

  • What oppressive laws are they going to repeal or amend? We must remember that when Najib proposed repealing the Sedition Act, Mahathir was in the forefront of UMNO criticism of the move. Mukhriz is on record expressing “his disappointment at the abolition of the ISA”.
  • How should the Universities and University Colleges Act be amended to enable the brightest of our youth to play their proper role in our society?
  • How does PH intend to prevent a recurrence of the 1MDB scandal?
  • The Prime Minister has too much power. How does PH intend to reduce the power of the PM?

Proposals for institutional reform require only mental effort, unlike physical projects which require time-consuming study and planning. It is too late now for PH to promise the rakyat it will build 100,000 low-cost homes but there is still plenty of time before the election for PH to say whether it will or will not repeal the Sedition Act. Besides, there are many social activists who can help PH draft and finalise details of proposals for institutional reform.

To prove the truth of what I am saying, Anwar, in the second part of my letter to you, I will set out my ideas on how the powers of the Prime minister should be reduced.

4. Announce a limited-time fixed programme election manifesto

Because institutional reforms require only changes in laws and legal procedures, they can be implemented in a short time, say a year, especially if a lot of work has been done before the election.

PH should therefore announce that, if they win GE14, they will govern for only one year, to implement a limited, specific and publicly-agreed programme of eradicating corruption in government, carrying out institutional reform, repealing oppressive laws, and undertaking any such other programmes as PH component parties can agree on, such as abolishing the GST.

Following this, an early GE15 will then be called, at which the parties will be able to fight each other over their different political ideologies.

Advantages of a limited-time fixed programme election manifesto:

  1. Policy differences in economic re-distribution, education, etc cannot be postponed for the normal government term of five years. But they can be postponed for a period of one year.
  2. Many people have doubts about a PH government. They are more likely to give PH a chance if they can throw out a bad PH government after one year.
  3. With a fixed programme, Malays who fear that PH will be dominated by the DAP, can see exactly what they will get under a PH government.

Go where no one else has gone before

Confronted with difficult questions, Malaysians, both politicians and the general public, have a habit of sweeping them under the carpet and pretending to themselves that there are no problems.

They insist on remaining within their comfort zones, rejecting the mental discomfort of thinking new thoughts. They bury their heads in the sand, dreaming of a PH victory in GE14.

They get very angry when disturbed from their dreams, demanding why their side’s weaknesses are being advertised to the enemy.

But exposing weaknesses before the election campaign starts allows time for them to be corrected. Burying heads in the sand prevents solutions to problems being found. If solutions are missed, we suffer defeat when it could so easily have been a victory.

My voice is not loud enough to be heard by the people. But if you, Anwar, speak, people will listen. If you think my ideas are good, let us work together to implement them. If you think them bad, do not hesitate to say so, in order that better solutions can be found.

To members of the public reading this, I say: we best serve the party we support not by keeping quiet but by giving them feedback and ideas. Those who have feedback and ideas to give are invited to contact me at roonieooi@malaysiabebas.com so that by banding together, we have a stronger voice.

To solve Malaysia’s problems, we need to go where no one else has gone before. Remember: he who dares, wins.

Your old friend,
Dr Ronnie Ooi

Dr Ronnie Ooi is a former politician and medical practitioner based in Penang.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2017/11/29/an-open-letter-to-anwar-ibrahim-4/

Beware Public Private Partnerships


November 29, 2017

Beware Public Private Partnerships

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Prof. Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are essentially long-term contracts, underwritten by government guarantees, with which the private sector builds (and sometimes runs) major infrastructure projects or services traditionally provided by the state, such as hospitals, schools, roads, railways, water, sanitation and energy.

Embracing PPPs

PPPs are promoted by many OECD governments, and some multilateral development banks – especially the World Bank – as the solution to the shortfall in financing needed to achieve development including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since the late 1990s, many countries have embraced PPPs for areas ranging from healthcare and education to transport and infrastructure with problematic consequences. They were less common in developing countries, but that is changing rapidly, with many countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa now passing enabling legislation and initiating PPP projects.

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Nevertheless, experiences with PPPs have been largely, although not exclusively negative, and very few PPPs have delivered results in the public interest. However, the recent period has seen tremendous enthusiasm for PPPs.

Financing PPPs

Undoubtedly, there has been some success with infrastructure PPPs, but these appear to have been due to the financing arrangements. Generally, PPPs for social services, e.g., for hospitals and schools, have much poorer records compared to some infrastructure projects.

One can have good financing arrangements, e.g., due to low interest rates, for a bad PPP project. All over the world, private finance still accounts for a small share of infrastructure financing. However, concessional financing arrangements cannot save a poor project although they may reduce its financial burden.

PPPs often involve public financing for developing countries to ‘sweeten’ the bid from an influential private company from the country concerned. ‘Blended finance’, export financing, and new aid arrangements have become means for governments to support their corporations’ bids for PPP contracts abroad, especially in developing countries. Such business support arrangements are increasingly passed off and counted as overseas development assistance (ODA).

Undermining rights

PPPs often increase fees or charges for users of services. PPP contracts often undermine consumer, citizen and human rights, and the state’s obligation to regulate in the public interest. PPPs can limit government capacity to enact new policies – e.g., strengthened environmental or social regulations – that might affect certain projects.

PPPs are now an increasingly popular way to finance ‘mega-infrastructure projects’, but dams, highways, large-scale plantations, pipelines, and energy or transport infrastructure can ruin habitats, displace communities and devastate natural resources. PPPs have also led to forced displacement, repression and other abuses of local communities and indigenous peoples.

There are also growing numbers of ‘dirty’ energy PPPs, exacerbating environmental destruction, undermining progressive environmental conservation efforts and worsening climate change. Typically, social and environmental legislation is weakened to create attractive business environments for PPPs.

PPPs often expensive, risky

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Since the late 1990s, many countries have embraced Public-Private Partnerships for areas ranging from healthcare and education to transport and infrastructure as a solution to persistent underdevelopment. Credit: IPS

 

In many cases, PPPs are the most expensive financing option, and hardly cost-effective compared to good government procurement. They cost governments – and citizens – significantly more in the long run than if the projects had been directly financed with government borrowing.

It is important to establish the circumstances required to make efficiency gains, and to recognize the longer term fiscal implications due to PPP-related ‘contingent liabilities’. Shifting public debt to government guaranteed debt does not really reduce government debt liabilities, but obscures accountability as it is taken ‘off-budget’ and no longer subject to parliamentary, let alone public scrutiny.

Hence, PPPs are attractive because they can be hidden ‘off balance sheet’ so they do not show up in budget and government debt figures, giving the illusion of ‘free money’. Hence, despite claims to the contrary, PPPs are often riskier for governments than for the private companies involved, as the government may be required to step in to assume costs if things go wrong.

Marginalizing public interest

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Malaysia’s Corrupter-in-Chief Najib Razak

Undoubtedly, PPP contracts are typically complex. Negotiations are subject to commercial confidentiality, making it hard for parliamentarians, let alone civil society, to scrutinize them. This lack of transparency significantly increases the likelihood of corruption and undermines democratic accountability.

PPPs also undermine democracy and national sovereignty as contracts tend to be opaque and subject to unaccountable international adjudication due to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) commitments rather than national or international courts. Under World Bank-proposed PPP contracts, national governments can even be liable for losses due to strikes by workers.

Thus, PPPs tend to exacerbate inequality by enriching the wealthy who invest in and profit from PPP projects, thus accumulating even more wealth at the expense of others, especially the poor and the vulnerable. The more governments pay to private firms, the less they can spend on essential social services, such as universal social protection and healthcare. Hence, PPP experiences suggest not only higher financial costs, but also modest efficiency gains.

Government procurement viable

One alternative, of course, is government or public procurement. Generally, PPPs are much more expensive than government procurement despite government subsidized credit. With a competent government doing good work, government procurement can be efficient and low cost.

Yet, international trade and investment agreements are eroding the rights of governments to pursue such alternatives in the national interest. With a competent government and an incorruptible civil service or competent accountable consultants doing good work, efficient government procurement has generally proved far more cost-effective than PPP alternatives. It is therefore important to establish under what circumstances one can achieve gains and when these are unlikely.

http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/beware-public-private-partnerships/