“Don’t slander Rosmah over jet ride, Dr M told.”

February 20, 2018

Comments of an UMNO serf in a resurgent feudal society-“Don’t slander Rosmah over jet ride, Dr M told.


The UMNO Serf- Rizal Mansor

The Special Officer to the Prime Minister’s wife, Rizal Mansor, said it was regretful that a statesperson such as Dr Mahathir Mohamad would resort to slander Rosmah Mansor.

“How can a statesperson (like Mahathir) listen to and believe in such hearsay? As a statesperson, he should check and research facts before making accusations. “Don’t put political interests above laws and adab (civility) until you create slander,” Rizal said in a statement uploaded onto Umno Online today.

He was referring to a video clip that depicted Mahathir’s speech, where he criticised Rosmah for boarding a private jet, unaccompanied by her husband.

Is her conduct and extravagant lifestyle  not subject to public scrutiny? If she wants to avoid negative comment, she should stay as an ordinary housewife and  not be the First Lady of Malaysia.

Rizal reiterated his previous explanation that Rosmah’s tight schedule necessitated the government having to rent a private jet for her to receive an award in Istanbul on May 25, 2016, and return to Malaysia the next day.

Also used by King and Queen

Rizal also rubbished the claim that the Airbus ACJ319 A6-CJE corporate jet was hired for Rosmah’s use alone, explaining that it is also used by other dignitaries, such as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Raja Permaisuri Agong.

“The jet was rented by the Malaysian government temporarily for the two-month period (May and June 2016) as a replacement for the ACJ320 9M-NAB jet that was being serviced at the time.”

Rizal also slammed Mahathir’s apparent attempt to paint the PM’s wife as “wasteful”, by countering the RM86 million jet rental figure, first brought up by PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli based on his own calculations.

“The calculation for the RM86.4 million cost is not true at all and is intended to deceive the public. The calculation does not make any sense because Rafizi is taking the flight cost of RM60,000 an hour and multiplying it by 24 hours and 60 days.

“Of course the plane cannot fly 24 hours a day for two months,” he said.

Excess baggage

In his statement, Rizal also repeated his claim that the cargo hold of the government-chartered jet used was full of the Permata Seni group’s performance paraphernalia, and not Rosmah’s own luggage.

Rafizi had disputed this claim at the time, pointing out that Permata Seni’s performance at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport took place before the jet touched down in the Turkish capital that day.

After using the “Plane Finder” application in 2016, Rafizi had revealed that Rosmah used a private jet for her trip to Istanbul. He took issue with the use of the private jet chartered from the Emirates airline, since she was accepting an award on behalf of the public-funded Permata.

“She has to answer this since she was the one who took the flight, and (Prime Minister) Najib Abdul Razak too has to answer because he has to be responsible for this,” he said at the time.

Rafizi had also questioned the need for the government to charter another private jet when it already has three existing aircraft. He had explained that the government has another ACJ319, the 9M-NAA, which was bought several years earlier, besides the ACJ320 9M-NAB under service that the chartered jet was supposed to replace.

Rafizi also highlighted that the government had announced that the ACJ320 9M-NAB was purchased to replace the BBJ737-700 M53-01 – which he found was still in active use, despite being advertised as being on sale in August 2015.

“I urge Najib, as Minister responsible in managing all of the government’s jets, to explain why BBJ737-700 has yet to be sold and why it is still being used, as this involves the rakyat’s money,” he had said.

Trump’s Son-in-Law Jared Kushner’s gargantuan debt matters

February 20, 2018

Note: Sorry guys, for being silent for most of last week as I was outstation. Since I am the master of this blog and do not employ an assistant, my silence is understandable (health wise at 79 this May, I am fine both mentally and physically), and also a relief to some in my country, Malaysia.

I am, of course, being presumptuous here to believe what I think, say and write matters.  I am just one person no different from you who are  caring and proud Malaysians,  and good friends of my country who believe  people in positions of power and public trust in government and the private sector must be held fully accountable.

That’s why I say the Sword of Damocles awaits our Prime Minister Najib Razak too. It may not be in GE-14. But look at recent examples like Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Jacob Zuma (South Africa). Change will come when it comes.–Din Merican

Politico reports:

Commentary by Jennifer Rubin


Trump’s Son-in-Law Jared Kushner’s gargantuan debt matters 

“Perhaps those Trump lawyers were right — the President would have been much better off without the Russian-entangled Kushner in his administration”.–Jennifer Rubin

Image result for jared kushner

A  President is known for the character, integrity, experience and competency of his team since he will be known by the company of the advisors he keeps. President Donald Trump should not be judged differently from his predecessors. The beauty of the American system is that it makes no exceptions. Change comes fast and the transition is smooth and orderly.

So far President Trump’s appointments to his Cabinet and The White House are of dubious quality, and that could eventually lead to his fall from grace. Of course, he cannot see this happening since he is obsessed with his larger than life ego and consumed by the power that comes from being President of the United States. The “Sword of Damocles” hangs over his head.  –Din Merican

Jeniffer Rubin writes:

Jared Kushner, a White House aide and President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law, appears to have drawn more money out of three separate lines of credit in the months after he joined the White House last year, a newly released document shows.

“Recent revisions to the financial disclosure form filed by Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, bumped up each of those debts to a range of $5 million to $25 million.

“Versions of the couple’s disclosures made public in July valued those debts at $1 million to $5 million apiece. The loans were extended by three banks: Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Signature Bank. … One debt did drop in value as Ivanka’s form was revised: The amount owed on a Visa account went down to a range of $50,001 to $100,000, from $100,001 to $250,000.”

(As an aside, who carries that much credit-card debt? Are the Kushners’ liquid assets so low that their lifestyle has to be paid for by borrowing at presumably outrageous rates?)

Kushner’s financial problems relating to his 2007 purchase of the 666 Fifth Ave. building for $1.8 billion have come up in the context of the Russia investigation. Last September, The Wall Street Journal reported:

“Some of President Donald Trump’s lawyers earlier this summer concluded that Jared Kushner should step down as senior White House adviser because of possible legal complications related to a probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and aired concerns about him to the president, people familiar with the matter said.

“Among their concerns was that Mr. Kushner was the adviser closest to the president who had the most dealings with Russian officials and businesspeople during the campaign and transition, some of which are currently being examined by federal investigators and congressional oversight panels. Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, has said he had four such meetings or interactions.

“Another issue was Mr. Kushner’s initial omission of any contacts with foreign officials from the form required to obtain a security clearance. He later updated the form several times to include what he has said were more than 100 contacts with foreign officials.”

Kushner met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, to discuss a secret back channel and with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank, VneshEconomBank (VEB). (“The conversation is curious not only because it represents a top Trump official secretly meeting with an arm of the Russian government, but also because accounts of the meeting differ in important ways,” The Atlantic’s David Graham noted at the time. “Kushner says he attended the meeting in his capacity as an adviser to President-elect Trump. But VEB says that the meeting concerned Kushner’s family real-estate business.”) And he was present at the now-infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

Kushner’s financial problems make these contacts all the more troubling. As he was racking up debt, Fordham Law School professor Jed Shugerman tells me, Kushner “also just coincidentally was setting up secret lines to the Kremlin and was meeting with (Russian President Vladmir) Putin’s banker a month after the election. And he just coincidentally was meeting with Russians offering dirt in Trump Tower during the election.” He explains, “Kushner’s massive debts are an important piece of the entire Russia conspiracy on some of the parties’ motives (Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump) for such inexplicable behavior and such risk-taking.”

Image result for could shoot someone and not lose voters

This sheer arrogance of the 45 Potus, HE Donald J. Trump

In addition to the Russia investigation, prosecutors in Brooklyn have subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, which has lent “hundreds of millions to the Kushner family real estate business.” (As The New York Times noted, “there is no indication that the subpoena is related to the investigation being conducted by Robert S. Mueller III.”) The Washington Post has reported that a month before Election Day 2016, “Kushner’s real estate company finalized a $285 million loan as part of a refinancing package for its property near Times Square in Manhattan. The loan came at a critical moment. Kushner was playing a key role in the presidential campaign of his father-in-law, Donald Trump. The lender, Deutsche Bank, was negotiating to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charges from New York state regulators that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme. The cases were settled in December and January.”

In sum, Kushner has huge and growing debt, many suspicious Russian contacts and a close relationship (perhaps second only to Ivanka’s) with Trump. “The more money Kushner owes, especially to lenders or guarantors who do not have America’s best interests at heart, the more he and his father-in-law the President are subject to compromising pressures at best and outright blackmail at worst,” constitutional lawyer Larry Tribe tells me. “The fact that Kushner, without full security clearance, is permitted to peruse the president’s daily briefing, containing the most secret information that exists, makes all of Kushner’s financial obligations and debts urgent threats to our national security. This situation is unconscionable.”

Perhaps those Trump lawyers were right — the President would have been much better off without the Russian-entangled Kushner in his administration.

The Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

In Conversation with Tukatube’s Hishamuddin Rais

February 13, 2018

In Conversation with Tukatube’s  Hishamuddin Rais

By Rosli Khan


Image result for hishamuddin rais

Hishamuddin Rais–A Civil Society Icon and Malaysian Rebel with  a Cause.

Meeting Hishamuddin Rais is always a refreshing experience and a candid affair, both rolled into one. As a social activist and critic, Hisham is not only knowledgeable and a forward-looking thinker, he is also equally at ease in digging out his past and colourful experiences. Our lunchtime conversation last week, however, centred on politics, another subject matter on which he has strong opinions.

Never a disappointment, Hisham is always full of new ideas. He strongly advocated that a number of well-known Malaysian bloggers, political writers and social critics be given seats to contest in GE14 by Pakatan Harapan component parties.

Image result for che guevara

He argued that what they have written over the online media and the number of followers that they command are sufficient considerations to determine their acceptance and popularity among voters. Meanwhile politicians, more often than not, tend to toe their party lines and speak up only when their leaders say so, especially on controversial social issues.

Hisham singled out Zaid Ibrahim, an old friend from his student demonstration days, as a good example due to his popular site, ZaidGeist.com He appeared firm and very serious about the three popular electronic media operators that tend to focus only on three bloggers for political news: Dr Mahathir Mohamad (chedet.cc), The Scribe Kadir Jasin (kadirjasin.blogspot.com ) and ZaidGeist (www.zaid.com).

ZaidGeist, which contains Zaid’s writings on current political and social issues, has proven to be a very popular site and going by the comments, it seems to resonate with the current thinking and political outlook of readers.

Image result for Zaid Ibrahim

From UMNO to PKR and on to DAP

As a matter of fact, Zaid has been consistently true to his beliefs and principles, according to Hisham. Hisham’s measure of Zaid’s consistency, taken from their student demonstration days in the 1970s when he first met Zaid, the events that led to his resignation as a minister in 2008 and his writings on many topics, views on politics and social development ideas that continue until today, represent a man of zero deviation from the basic principles he has espoused from then until today.

For his consistent beliefs and principles, Hisham argued that DAP should give Zaid a comfortable parliamentary seat in GE14.

Anti-Malay tag

DAP, of which Zaid has been a member since Febeuary 7, 2017, is busy preparing for GE14.

Image result for Kit Siang and Dr. Maa

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and DAP’s Lim Kit Siang–Strange Thing happens in Politics. A foe yesterday, an ally today. Common purpose –getting rid of corrupt Najib–brought these two giants of Malaysia together.

As a party, DAP has suffered from a mismatch of identity, poor perception and wrong publicity due to adverse propaganda by government parties. A common perception is that DAP is a Chinese-based party, the leaders only look after Chinese voters and their interests, and worst and perhaps most damaging of all, that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam.

Even though DAP has consistently had more Indian MPs than MIC at any given time, no one sees DAP as an Indian party.

The fact that DAP has had a few Malays in the party as state assemblymen in the past does not seem to count. Several Malays who won under DAP tickets in the past include politicians such as:

  • Ibrahim Singgeh, DUN Tapah Road, Perak (1969)
  • Hassan Ahmad, DUN Si Rusa, Negeri Sembilan (1969)
  • Daing Ibrahim, DUN Pasir Puteh, Perak (1974)
  • Mohd Salleh Nakhoda Itam, DUN Guntong, Perak (1974, 1978)
  • Fadzlan Yahaya for Pasir Bedamar, Perak (1982, 1986 and 1990 for Lahat)
  • Mohd Asri Othman DUN Dermawan, Perak (1990)
  • Ahmad Nor, first Malay DAP MP, Bayan Baru, Penang (1990)
  • Mohd Ariff Sabri, second Malay DAP MP, Raub, Pahang (2013)
  • Zairil Khir Johari, third Malay DAP MP, Bukit Bendera, Penang (2013)
  • Tg Zulpuri, Mentakab, Pahang (2013)
Image result for Zairil Khir JohariMP Zairil Khir Johari (DAP)
A tragic truth is that there was a 23-year gap between Ahmad Nor (1990), as the first Malay MP from DAP and the second and third, Ariff Sabri (Raub) and Zairil (Bukit Bendera) respectively, who contested and won in 2013.
Image result for Ariff SabriFrom UMNO to DAP



For many Malay supporters, the fact remains that with the exception of those three, there have not been many prominent Malay leaders joining the party. Many of the state assemblymen in the list above have been seen as a token representation of the Malay community when compared to the number of Indian or Chinese MPs or state assemblymen in DAP since 1969.

Fault finding is easy. As there was no internet then and the mainstream media was government-controlled, DAP succumbed to an onslaught of UMNO’s propaganda. The repeated lies, as rightly pointed out by Nazi strategist Joseph Goebbels, and probably copied by UMNO’s strategists, stuck badly on the party. DAP, which also controlled most of the urban seats including those in Sabah and Sarawak, could not get the chauvinistic Chinese party tag off its back.

Image result for Ahmad Nor of DAP

Ahmad Nor, the First Malay MP for DAP, honored by Penang

But now, 28 years after Ahmad Nor became the first Malay MP for DAP, in an age of internet technology, a more educated group of readers and obviously in an era of a failed BN government tainted with corruption and financial scandals, DAP’s struggles and fight against corruption, embezzlement and injustice seem to be seen in a better light.

DAP leaders, therefore, should seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get rid of the monkey on their backs, once and for all. A major publicity campaign to introduce a top Malay leader into the GE14 arena could nullify this racial slur and at the same time correct the racial imbalance in the party leadership.

DAP must not only be seen as trying to rectify this particular issue, it must be seen as taking a big step towards correcting this major flaw in the projection of several intellectually-minded and capable Malay leaders, of whom Zaid is one of them.

Iskandar parliamentary seat

If the news about fielding Zaid in Gelang Patah (to be called Iskandar in GE14) is true, then YB Lim Kit Siang has indeed made a very bold and honourable move to end this anti-Malay tag that has been hanging around DAP’s neck for so long.

This strategy, coming from a top leader in the party, will be seen by many voters as him making a big sacrifice in order to promote a Malay leader within DAP. This form of sacrifice will lead DAP into the hearts and minds of many Malay voters not only in Iskandar, but also throughout Johor and possibly the whole country.

Such a tactical move will reflect positively on the sincerity and trust of the DAP leadership, two formidable qualities that will touch the emotions of many Malays. In one stroke, Lim would turn the Malay doubts in him into trust, and suspicion into sincerity. This would be a major boost to DAP. How could you continue to be branded as anti-Malay or anti-Islam with such a big sacrifice being made to honour a Malay candidate?

This strategy must be fully supported by other DAP leaders, big and small, a reflection of their seriousness in winning the Malay votes and support. At the same time, the party’s publicity machinery must also be geared towards this objective.

Why Zaid?

According to Hisham, for many obvious reasons: Zaid is a successful Malay lawyer albeit an entrepreneur who built the biggest law firm in the country. As a lawyer, he is a person of high repute and high moral character (which is indeed very rare in Malaysian politics). A liberal-minded person, he is clearly endowed with a non-racist disposition and fights for all Malaysians regardless of race or creed. He is a Malaysian first and not part of the old race-based party politics.

In UMNO for instance, it seems that the more racist a leader is, the more support the person can command from the members. DAP is certainly not like that, which means a person of Zaid’s stature could progress further.

In parallel, DAP leaders must demonstrate their true commitment to the Malaysian Malaysia concept by:

  • Fielding more Malay candidates in the GE14
  • Ensuring that a few of the semi-urban seats where Malay voters are in the minority are given to Malay candidates to fight against BN candidates.

This would be similar to the approach adopted by BN where seats which have had Malay majorities were given to MCA or MIC candidates to contest. Examples of such seats are Tapah, Cameron Highlands, Hulu Selangor, Bentong and of course the famous Air Hitam in Johor.

If Malay voters voted for MCA or MIC candidates in the past, why can’t Chinese voters vote for Malay (DAP) candidates? As Hisham put it, Malay voters are no different from others. The significance of sincerity and trust factors play an important part in their psyche and logic, in the same way that they now no longer trust Umno and BN. There is no better time than now for DAP to start the ball rolling.

Rosli Khan is an FMT reader.

Singapore’s mystifying political succession

February 12, 2018

Singapore’s mystifying political succession

Why is the PAP so ambivalent about the idea of being led by the brilliant and erudite Tharman Shanmugaratnam of Ceylonese Tamil ancestry ?

By Cherian George


Image result for Lee Hsien Loong to retire at 70

Should Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong retire at 70 then?

Whoever emerges as Singapore’s premier-designate, two things are certain. First, he will come from the People’s Action Party (PAP), the only ruling party Singapore has known since it became self-governing in 1959. Second, he will want to preserve the PAP’s pro-business-but-socially-responsive philosophy, and its security-focused state apparatus with a dominant executive at its core.

Despite these givens, the succession question is currently a key preoccupation in the city-state. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said he would step down by the age of 70, which is now four years away. Three fourth-generation (“4G”) leaders are said to be on the shortlist to take over: Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 56, and two 48-year-olds, Chan Chun Sing and Ong Ye Kung. The uncertainty is testing people’s faith in a political brand associated with surprise-free long-term planning. Less talked about in mainstream media, but more troubling, is how the PAP has sidelined the individual who most inspires confidence—Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

In the larger scheme of things, these career technocrats may seem to be just different shades of white. Yet who will succeed Prime Minister Lee is not a trivial matter. Within the parameters of PAP ideology, there is scope for a new leader to embark on meaningful changes—or not. Despite the party’s strong showing in the 2015 general election, when it won 70% of the popular vote, one should not underestimate the need for internal reform. On Singapore’s political spectrum, people who prefer the PAP to stay the same—or, at the other extreme, to lose power—are probably outnumbered by those in the middle, who want a much-improved PAP.

In recent years, Singapore academics have contributed suggestions for radical reform that a bolder PAP should find thinkable and doable. Public policy scholar Donald Low, for example, has argued that Singapore needs to shake up its governance principles if it wants to respond effectively to current socio-economic challenges (Hard Choices, 2014). Sociologist Teo You Yenn makes the case for more compassionate social policy to address an alarming income divide (This is What Inequality Looks Like, 2018).

In my own recent book, I contend that enlightened self-interest should persuade the PAP to embark on liberal political reforms (Singapore, Incomplete, 2017). Even among Singaporeans who are generally pro-establishment, there is dissatisfaction with government leaders who seem far too quick to brush off lapses, whether it’s chronic breakdowns of the mass transit system or the massive corruption scandal involving the government-linked Keppel corporation.

Hence the interest in how the PAP’s rejuvenation plays out. Indeed, there is probably more curiosity about this round than ever before. It will be only the third occasion in more than 60 years that Singapore has changed prime ministers. The first time was when the nation’s patriarch Lee Kuan Yew stepped aside for Goh Chok Tong in 1991. This was a moment met with more disbelief than anticipation: it was assumed that Lee would still be pulling the strings. As for the identity of Goh’s successor, the writing was on the wall even before he moved into the Istana. When Lee Kuan Yew’s son Lee Hsien Loong took over in 2004, the only surprise was that Goh lasted as long as he did.

This is thus the first time in the republic’s history that there is a genuine and potentially far-reaching choice of leader. Singaporeans who are understandably seized by this moment, however, are beginning to feel frustrated by a closed and opaque leadership renewal process. Singapore has a Westminster-style parliamentary system in which citizens do not directly select the head of government. Like in Britain, Australia and India, Singaporeans elect members of parliament, but it’s the winning party’s leaders that decide who takes charge of the executive branch. In such systems, it is not uncommon for a ruling party, after internal wrangling, to suddenly announce a new prime minister in mid-term. Three of the last four Australian premiers came to power this way.

In Singapore, though, the problem is compounded by the lack of democracy within the party in power. Lee Kuan Yew gave the PAP a Leninist structure, ensuring that its summit could never be conquered from the base. The central executive committee, via cadres it selects, basically elects itself. It would be pointless for any leadership contender to appeal to the party membership, let alone the wider public. Popularity does not decide succession. It may even work against candidates, since the government’s elite technocrats have always been suspicious of the popular will. They would not look kindly on any colleague cultivating too direct and independent a connection with the ground.


On the plus side, this model protects Singapore from the kind of demagoguery associated with presidential systems: a Duterte or Trump is not going to emerge suddenly from the primordial ooze. On the other hand, though, the lack of any clear mechanism for managing a leadership contest denies the PAP the chance to engage in a radical reassessment of its direction. In most democracies, party conventions serve this function, but in this regard the PAP more resembles the Communist Party of China: party conferences are stage-managed occasions for the formal anointing of pre-selected leaders. In effect, this system puts Singapore’s political future in the hands of a very small coterie of men—the prime minister and perhaps two or three members of his kitchen cabinet.

The official line is that the next-generation ministers will get to choose their leader among themselves. There is precedent for this. Goh Chok Tong was not Lee Kuan Yew’s first choice, but the job went to him anyway because he was the consensus pick within his cohort. In that spirit, sixteen 4G office holders released a joint statement in January assuring the public that they “are working closely together as a team, and will settle on a leader from amongst us in good time”. It should be stressed, though, that any autonomy the 4G ministers enjoy is by the incumbent prime minister’s leave. If he and his lieutenants have a favoured successor, any other contender has to be extremely cautious and deft if he plans to lobby for job. The system isn’t just opaque to outsiders; even a potential challenger needs to feel his way, with no precedent to guide him.

It is also clear that the current incumbents want continuity more than change. Lee has occasionally spoken of the need to think outside of the box and slaughter sacred cows, but in recent years his administration’s overriding instinct has been to preserve the status quo. Thus, at a time when even Singaporeans close to the establishment understand the need for fresh thinking, the succession process has a strong bias in favour of conservatism.


In January, Lee said that it would take “a little bit longer” to name his successor, killing speculation that the matter would be more or less settled through a cabinet reshuffle after next month’s Budget debate. Although some saw this as a sign of reluctance to step down, it could also be because the 4G deliberations are not going according to script. Some say Lee’s presumptive first choice, Chan Chun Sing, may not be getting the unanimous backing of his peers. Ong Ye Kung, in an intriguing comment to the Straits Times, said he had in mind a colleague who, among other characteristics, had the ability to drive long-term, important policy—which seems to describe Finance Minister Heng better than Chan, who, unusually for a high-flier, has not held a key economic portfolio. Granted, there is a risk of reading too much into the precious few opinions the ministers have offered about succession. What is clear, though, is that the process is not progressing like clockwork.

Under our noses

The Straits Times obligingly offered a “neat solution”. Lee should eat his words and serve beyond the age of 70, one of its editors opined: “It gives enough time for the changing of the guard to happen smoothly and uneventfully.” There is, however, another obvious answer staring Singapore in the face. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 61, could take over until the 4G cohort produces a leader. Tharman, who held the education and finance portfolios with distinction, is Singapore’s most highly regarded politician. This lifelong public servant would never thrust himself into the race—indeed, he “categorically” ruled himself out last year—but by the same token it is unlikely that he would refuse if his party insists.

Conventional wisdom states that he is too close to Lee’s age to tick the rejuvenation box. Yet, they are five years apart, the equivalent of a full parliamentary term. Whatever the government now considers an appropriate retirement age for a prime minister, Singapore could benefit from a five-year Tharman administration in between Lee and a 4G successor.

Another question mark hovers over Tharman’s race. He is of Ceylonese Tamil ancestry in a country that is 70% Chinese. Detractors claim Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese premier. There’s no doubt that racial prejudices persist: in a 2016 Institute of Policy Studies survey, only six in ten Chinese said they would accept an Indian prime minister. But such polls are misleading. It is one thing to ask people to react to a hypothetical, nameless, faceless candidate of a given race. It’s another thing entirely to offer voters a specific, real-life individual. In the former case, there’s a high chance that survey respondents’ racial stereotypes will be activated—since race is the only biodata they’ve been given. In the latter case, voters are able to consider the whole person. Of course, some voters may not see past the candidate’s colour. But many will be drawn to other salient traits, such as character and experience.

Thus, in the real world, there’s no contradiction between harbouring generalised prejudices against a particular ethnic group and feeling positively towards specific persons of that very race, because they are not “that” kind of Indian or Malay or whatever. (Successful individuals from minority backgrounds are well acquainted with being patronised in this manner.) Thus, human beings are able to manage the cognitive dissonance of holding on to their racial prejudices even as they acknowledge the undeniable worth of specific members of that community.

Whether we label such inconsistency reasonableness or irrationality, Tharman is clearly a beneficiary. The same year as the IPS survey, a poll commissioned by Yahoo showed that seven in ten Singaporeans would support (not merely accept) Tharman as their next prime minister—twice as many as his fellow deputy prime minister, Teo Chee Hean, who came in second. In the 2015 general election, Tharman outperformed everyone else, including the prime minister, in the popular vote. His team secured more than 79% of the ballots in their constituency, significantly higher than the already-impressive 70% share that the PAP won nationally. No matter how racist Chinese Singaporeans may be, there is simply no evidence that this handicaps Tharman’s ability to rally the ground. Mystifyingly, though, Lee and his colleagues have declined to express such confidence. “I think that ethnic considerations are never absent when voters vote,” Lee said when pressed by the BBC about whether Singapore was ready for an Indian prime minister.

The real issue with Tharman may be the colour of his politics, and not his skin. More than any other minister, he has an appetite for progressive reforms. Ironically, his social initiatives addressing households’ economic insecurity were probably the most important policy-related reason why the PAP did so well in the 2015 election. (Another key factor, the tidal wave of sentiment following the death of Lee Kuan Yew, was an unplanned, one-off act of god.) But soon after, he was moved into a coordinating minister role, losing his finance portfolio to Heng.

The PAP has always taken pride in its adroit navigation of global tides. If it were to apply that skill to the succession question, it might appreciate the competitive edge that Tharman offers Singapore at this moment in history. Neoliberalism is wearing thin; citizens across the developed world are rebelling against elites and expertise, and finding false hope in identity politics; polarised politics is preventing publics from working for the common good; populism is drowning out sensible solutions to complex problems.

To the extent that any one leader can make a difference, Tharman is the man for these times. He is a world-class policy wonk who also happens to be extremely popular. He has won over the public, not with empty rhetoric or simplistic solutions, but through his palpable sincerity in wanting to build a country where people are treated with dignity and met at the point of their need, whether those needs are economic or more intangible. Some Singaporeans say picking a non-Chinese leader would be a triumph of imagination. On the contrary, if the PAP doesn’t take advantage of Tharman’s unique capacities, it’s not its imagination that should be questioned, but its grasp of reality.


Double Standards as Norm, particularly in Trump’s America First

February 11, 2018

Double Standards as Norm, particularly in Trump’s America First

by Bunn Nagara@www.thestar.com.my

Many countries can do a lot better than look to the rich and powerful among them which observe only the law of the jungle.

IN an ideal world, rich and powerful countries are righteous, gracious, confident and patient – possibly even wise and generous. It is about national character, particularly after having achieved an estimable rank. It is also about setting a good example to lesser nations that may one day also become rich and powerful.

In the real world however, self-righteousness just about substitutes all. Such unpalatable truths are seldom standard-fare in political science classrooms.

Image result for trump and the ostrichThe World according to Donald Trump but America is in a political gridlock as another Government shutdown looms large.
 It is not necessary to be cynical, or to subscribe to the cynical doctrine of neo-realism, to make honest observations approximating to cynicism. But it takes resolve. What is needed is an assessment of world affairs as they are and not as they should be. It will require a frank appraisal without fear or favour, or undue international relations theory.

After emerging as a world power in the late 1880s, the US grew into a global superpower by 1945. Britain and the Soviet Union were the other superpowers.

The British Empire was the most extensive in spanning the globe. Nonetheless the cost of two world wars had consigned it to advanced terminal decline, and the 1956 Suez Crisis ended Britain’s superpower status conclusively.

The US was clearly the world’s leading superpower, with the Soviet Union soldiering on in a distant second place. The Soviet economy bore inherent flaws that would soon prove fatal.

In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, its economy in tatters as it imploded into its several components. Since then the US became the world’s sole superpower, with the unchallenged capacity to project global power on multiple levels: economic, cultural, technological, political, diplomatic and military.

For nearly three whole decades the US dominated these spheres like no other country, perpetuating its dominance in each and seldom according to formal expectations of its international obligations.

With a deeply ideological polity, the US adheres to the constant mantra of “free markets” – in theory. This means a stated commitment to the notion of keeping private industry and the “public” state separate and distinct, a supposed adherence to laissez-faire free enterprise without state intervention.

And so trade battles raged between the US and Japan when the Japanese economy was the world’s second-largest with the prospect of becoming larger. Japan with its state-supported industrial policy and “closed” keiretsu system was said to be trading unfairly.

Today, the US is accusing China of unfair trade. China, now the world’s second-largest economy with the promise of going further, also has its version of industrial policy and public-private partnership.

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A cooperative partnership between state and industry is common to the rapidly growing economies of East Asia. It is a generic feature of the Newly Industrialising Economies (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) even if they were individually too small to be accused of “unfair trade.”

Yet when it suited the US, it would happily intervene with tariffs of its own. The 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff stands as a historic monument to state intervention by raising taxes on more than 20,000 imports, being among the most severe protectionist measures restricting US trade in a century.

The US Congress has even applied protectionist measures against parts of the country. The 1828 Tariff of Abominations imposed even higher taxes than Smoot-Hawley, aimed at the southern states and harmed their economy.

For a whole decade from the 1970s to the 1980s, the UN laboured on a set of rules and conventions for better order and safety on the high seas.

In later years more negotiations over the details for amendments followed. The US insisted on certain changes, and those changes were made.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force in 1994, and since then more than 160 countries around the world have ratified it. But until today the US still refuses to do so.

President Bill Clinton signed UNCLOS but Congress blocked it. Since then nobody in Washington has made a serious effort to push for ratification. Some US officials say that by not ratifying the treaty the US is able to observe it as and when it pleases, and that should be good enough. For other countries, that violates the spirit of law and makes a mockery of acceding to international treaties.

When Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency he vowed to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Soon after taking office he did just that.

Those who favour the TPP blame Trump, but the decision was bipartisan. In the final stages of his presidency Barack Obama did nothing for the TPP.

More tellingly, Hillary Clinton herself rejected the TPP in her campaign. As Secretary of State she was the TPP’s most ardent champion, being resolutely for it before she was firmly against it.

No serious candidate in the 2016 US presidential campaign favoured the TPP since an election season meant they had to champion their own national interests. Other countries have signed on to it with all its obligations and restrictions, while the US is left free to do as it pleases again.

For years, the US has been pressuring foreign tax havens like the Swiss banking community to release details of confidential client accounts. US pressure also focused on the Swiss government, supposedly to help US authorities trace possible terrorist financing, but it is more than that.

With East Asian economies on the rise, typically a cash-rich China, US authorities worry about outflows of US funds to evade taxes. Swiss bankers however say their foreign clients have secret accounts more for security than tax evasion purposes.

In recent years Swiss bankers have pressed their foreign clients to divulge details of their accounts to their own governments while systematically closing undeclared accounts. A result has been an outflow of funds from these accounts by clients seeking alternative havens.

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Like his comrade  Donald Trump, Malaysia’s Najib Razak is lying too. He is practices double standards. Good Governance in reverse.

The US introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act in 2010, requiring financial services companies abroad to provide details of accounts held by US citizens to US tax authorities.

For its part, the US has rejected the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard in providing details of foreign offshore accounts in US tax havens. A result: an inflow of funds from offshore accounts elsewhere, with a spike anticipated this year.

In East Asia the leading tax havens for offshore accounts are Hong Kong and Singapore, NIEs that have diversified well from the industrial sector. China itself is joining in on the mainland, but its offshore banking potential is still limited and underdeveloped.

Meanwhile US tax havens are racing ahead, reaping fresh dividends of new accounts once held in the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Panama, BVI and Switzerland itself. US bankers say their clients seek security rather than to evade taxes.

Where some set profitable examples, others are certain to follow. But double standards and rash laws can be counter-productive, exposing a country as a deceitful, self-seeking, double-dealing hypocrite – and worse.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff led to the Great Depression; protectionism is still protectionism even if it is claimed to “make America great again.” Reneging on a commitment to UNCLOS is emboldening China’s claim to the South China Sea, for which the US has no answer. It should not require an ideal world just to make the rule of law ensure due justice.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.