Anwar Ibrahim: A Lone Voice from Prison delivers a Message of Hope

July 25, 2015

MALAYSIA: A Lone Voice from Prison delivers a Message of Hope

Anwar --The Prisoner

Anwar Ibrahim


With the Najib Administration facing even more pressure now to explain the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has seized the opportunity to rally his supporters, saying although tough times are expected ahead for Malaysians, the country’s growing opposition cannot be silenced.

Anwar, who was given the opportunity to pen an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the international daily now facing the possibility of lawsuit by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said Malaysia is ready for the change long-trumpeted by the federal opposition, one that he claimed would see a return to the underpinnings of the Federal Constitution.

The PKR de facto leader, now five months into his five-year jail sentence for sodomy, also said a “brighter future” is possible with good governance and the rule of law.

“We believe in the dismantling of Malaysia’s system of race-based privileges that has devolved into nothing more than rent-seeking for the privileged few. We believe that corruption is a slow bleed that robs future generations of the education and business opportunities that will make them prosper,” he wrote in the piece.

Anwar, who was the Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998, said his decision to stay in the country to face prosecution had not been easy and had put a “tremendous burden” on his family but insisted that he had done so because he believes the country is ready for change.

“Malaysia is ready for change.This is why, rather than flee my country, I chose to stay and continue the fight for peaceful, democratic reform from my prison cell,” he said.

He also said in four decades in public service, this was the first time racial and religious sensitivities have become so inflamed, and at the same time so poorly managed by the country’s political leadership.

He said the “real danger ahead” is that Malaysia could devolve into a failed state after several decades of economic mismanagement, opaque governance and overspending.

“The irresponsible manner in which the current leadership is handling religious issues to curry favor from the extreme right is fueling sectarianism.Increased political repression may drive some to give up on the political system altogether and consider extralegal means to cause change, thus creating a tragic, vicious cycle,” Anwar added.

The only way out of this “mess”, he said, was to uphold the Malaysian Constitution, to ensure better checks and balance in the administration, keep the elections free and fair; and a media that is not afraid to challenge authority.

The Najib government is currently under pressure to explain the 1MDB scandal, following the series of exposes by media outfits claiming to be in possession of documents that show impropriety in the state investor’s allegedly opaque deals.

In its July 2 exposé, WSJ, citing documents from Malaysian investigators currently probing 1MDB’s financials, said a money trail showed that US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had been funnelled into what is believed to be Najib’s accounts.

Malaysia :1MDB Scandal Spurs a Credibility Crisis

July 23, 2015

Malaysia :1MDB Scandal Spurs a Credibility Crisis

by Giulia Zino

SINGAPORE – Malaysia has generated a considerable volume of negative press coverage over the past year, but none as eye-catching as the recent scandals surrounding controversial debt-ridden sovereign investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). After brewing for months, the 1MDB saga took a startling turn on July 2 when the Wall Street Journal published details of leaked bank documents, apparently showing that nearly $700m had been channelled through the investment company and directly into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Scandal that ate MalaysiaNajib has lost both legitimacy and  credibility

Najib established 1MDB in 2009 with the visionary aim of facilitating investment and trade with the Middle East, and of developing a new financial district in Kuala Lumpur. Najib chairs 1MDB’s advisory board and also heads the Ministry of Finance, which fully owns the company. 1MDB has collected a portfolio of 16 power and desalination plants in Asia and the Middle East and launched two ambitious, high-profile real estate developments in downtown Kuala Lumpur, accumulating debts of MYR 42bn ($11bn) along the way. Critics have centred on the company’s auditing problems: particularly MYR 8.24bn ($2.17bn) allegedly hidden somewhere in the Cayman Islands, its bond issuance program, and allegations that it has overpaid for its Malaysian power assets, essentially bailing out politically connected independent power producers.

The July 2 report dealt a huge blow for the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and brought to a head a long-brewing struggle within the party to oust the prime minister. Conservative circles surrounding former Prime Minister and UMNO kingmaker Mahathir Mohamad have relentlessly tried to eject Najib, whose weakness and unpopularity they view as extremely detrimental for the party’s survival. Najib appears far too compromised to see the end of his term in 2018, even if the multiple ongoing investigations do not directly implicate him in wrongdoings within 1MDB.

The most tangible impact of Najib’s removal would be felt in the cabinet, the bureaucracy, and government-linked and state-owned companies, where some personnel changes would be all but inevitable. The local business community would also see some victims. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is Najib’s likeliest successor, and would almost surely sideline tycoons close to the Prime Minister (and his formidable and highly unpopular wife Rosmah Mansor) in favor of his own cronies. This is a concern for foreign businesses in Malaysia, as most rely on their local partners’ or agents’ political connections.

Otherwise, it will very much be business as usual in Malaysia. Muhyiddin is known to harbor markedly more nationalist and pro-ethnic Malay views than Najib, but UMNO as a whole is a pragmatic party that would be unlikely to depart from the current administration’s pro-business and pro-FDI stance. However, some of Najib’s pet projects and initiatives – particularly his flagship Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) – would be quietly shelved under a conservative leadership.

The 1MDB scandals are greatly distracting the government from broader economic problems. Malaysia has been the biggest loser in Asia Pacific from lower global prices for oil and particularly natural gas, and is grappling with high government debt, a large fiscal deficit, Asia’s highest household debt and one of its worst-performing currencies. The government has ambitious plans to transform Malaysia into a developed, high-income nation by 2020—a vision that dates back to the Mahathir years—but the plan appears overly optimistic and the numbers do not add up.

Also at stake are the reputations of the otherwise respected Bank Negara (the central bank) and some of the larger domestic banks. They have come under fire for failing to notice or facilitating suspiciously high transactions and transfers in Najib’s accounts.

Social unrest remains a real possibility—especially if the public feels the investigation into Najib and 1MDB is inadequate. The influential Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) has threatened a fourth wave of protests if Najib does not step down; previous Bersih rallies regularly ended in violence.

Perhaps more worryingly, the heated political climate increases the scope for religiously or ethnically motivated acts of violence, like the riots earlier this month in the Bukit Bintang neighbourhood of Kuala Lumpur. UMNO has increasingly nurtured a siege mentality and presented the party as the only true protector of Malay interests, worsening communal tensions. UMNO’s strategy requires the preservation of an image of external threats. These threats can be domestic, such as other religious and ethnic groups, or they can be foreign, such as the influence of Western culture. One effect of the latter is the potential for boycotts against products from Western countries perceived to have acted disrespectfully toward Islam.

An increasingly conservative society has also become a breeding ground for radical Islamist groups and individuals. Police have arrested at least 107 terrorist suspects, most with no previous record of involvement in terrorism-related activities, making it difficult for authorities to anticipate or prevent one-off attacks. A terrorist attack would have the potential to cause significant public alarm in a country that is relatively unaccustomed to terrorist violence.

The 1MDB scandal, combined with all of the contingent challenges that it affects, puts in sharp relief the fundamental challenge facing Malaysia’s leaders. The image the country is keen to portray to the outside world—that of a modern, moderate and multi-ethnic country—is increasingly losing credibility.

*Guilia Zino is a senior analyst for Southeast Asia at Control Risks, the global risk consultancy. 

1MBD Scandal: Seeking the truth is a crime, only in Najib’s Malaysia

July 19, 2015

WATCH and LISTEN to this Youtube –PKR’s Wong Chen

COMMENT: Well done, Joe for your article. I am at loss for adjectives, phrases, words, and labels to describe whatKamsiah and Din 2015 CNY is happening in Malaysia. Our government and public officials are not trying to resolve the 1MDB financial scandal with the facts so that we can begin to solve the sovereign fund’s massive debt problem (Rm42 billion is not peanuts by any measure).

We have read statements from the Prime Minister, his ministers and public officials, the Public Accounts Committee Chairman and opposition politicians but they all add to nothing on the IMDB’s situation. Confusion reigns when facts and fiction are one and the same thing.

As far as the government is concerned, its priority is to ensure that the Prime Minister Najib’s political career is protected since his defenders have a vested interest  in ensuring that he remains in power. A lot of goodies is available for their picking. As a nation, we are not going Greece’s way any time soon, only heading in that direction.

Ascertaining and verifying facts takes a back seat. Cover-ups, yes. Those who seeks facts are made to look like criminals. So any attempt to get to the bottom of the scandal is a crime.  Are we as  a nation  a bunch of perverts? I am beginning to realise that we indeed are. We can no longer  distinguish between right and wrong. Those who we put in positions of high responsibility and trust have failed us by sucking up to Najib.

Those of us who speak up and offer constructive non-partisan views are damned. The Inspector-General of Police, for example, is interested in arresting those who seek to expose 1MDB’s mismanagement of borrowed funds. We are branded prophets of doom because we cannot acknowledge that our economy is “fundamentally sound” and we will be a developed nation by 2020 under Najib. We imagine that our leaders are corrupt and self- serving when they are paragons of virtue and symbols of probity. My MCA friend, for example, labeled us unpatriotic  and ungrateful (tak bersyukur) for not appreciating Najib as a transformational leader.–Din Merican

Seeking the truth is a crime, only in Najib’s Malaysia

Those who allege tampering of documents would have to prove it in Court through subject matter experts taking the witness stand

DIGP Khalid Abu BakarHis mission: Protect his political master, that is Patriotism

It appears that apologists for the Najib administration are trying to imply in the mainstream media in particular that opposition leaders, an UMNO leader and The Sarawak Report Editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown met with ex-Petro Saudi International director Xavier Andre Justo, 49, apparently in Singapore.

If so, it would seem to indicate that something positive, on their part, did take place in search of the truth on the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Such meetings by themselves are not a crime. There must be a law before there can be a crime. No law, no crime. Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege poenali (there exists no crime and no punishment without a pre-existing law.)

The apologists would like the people to believe that the meeting or meetings with Justo was actually part of a conspiracy, based on tampered documents, to bring down Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. In law, those who allege tampering would have to prove it through subject matter experts taking the witness stand in Court, not in the media.

The theories of the apologists, to digress a little, don’t explain the Wall Street Journal Report of Friday 3 July which alleged that nearly USD700 million entered Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal banking accounts at AmBank Islamic private banking services.

Najib himself has never denied the allegations.

Instead, his lawyers have merely sent a letter to the WSJ demanding to know whether the American paper stood by its story. The letter was in fact sent after the WSJ had issued a statement confirming that it stood by its story and that it would vigorously defend any law suit launched against it over the said allegations.

new-najibHe is corrupt to help UMNO

Najib meanwhile keeps saying that he would never steal (for himself) the people’s money, that he had never used any monies (meaning AmBank) for personal purposes, that he would not be so stupid as to steal government money and keep it in the country in his personal accounts, and that he would never betray the people i.e. steal their money and use it for personal purposes.

The jury is not out on the WSJ report.

Away from that little digression, the Thai Police have confirmed in a media statement that Justo did confess that he tried to “blackmail” his former employers and that he handed over company documents in his possession to certain parties. These documents were not tampered. The Thais are holding him on the basis of a Police report lodged in Thailand by PetroSaudi, alleging that Justo was trying to blackmail it and extort RM10 million using company documents he had in his possession.

Justo, in a statement after his arrest, claimed that he wanted to claim the balance of RM15 million in compensation promised to him by the company before his departure under somewhat unhappy circumstances.

If Justo did sign a non-disclosure agreement with the company, the onus is on it to take him to Court. The state would not take action on behalf of any party, in civil suits.

The company did indicate in an earlier media statement, in conjunction with Justo’s arrest and detention, that it paid him RM15 million in compensation after they had to dismiss him on the grounds of “misbehaviour”. Misbehaviour would merit summary dismissal, not compensation.

Interestingly, the Thai Police have confirmed that they would not hand over any material on the Justo case in Thailand to Malaysian authorities.

Also, they are keeping him in detention for another 60 days — perhaps in protective custody — pending final resolution on the case.

Greek Politicians Vs EU hardliners

July 13, 2015

Greek Politicians Vs EU hardliners

Leading politicians from Greece’s ruling Syriza coalition have rounded on German-led resistance to a third bailout, with one accusing EU hardliners of trying to bring down the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Greek PM  Alexis Tsipras.

In the run-up to a decisive eurozone leaders’ summit on Sunday, a German proposal that Athens could take a five-year timeout from the eurozone has sparked fears that Berlin has little interest in keeping Greece in the single currency.

The recalcitrance from countries such as Germany, Finland, Slovakia and the Baltic states piles huge pressure on Mr Tsipras, who is widely expected to reshuffle his cabinet to try to prevent a political breakdown in Athens next week.

“What is at play here is an attempt to humiliate Greece and Greeks, or to overthrow the Alexis Tsipras government,” Dimitrios Papadimoulis, a Syriza politician who is Vice-President of the European Parliament, told Mega TV. More broadly, Greek politicians are arguing that the opposition to Syriza is based on a political agenda that runs far deeper than calculations about whether the reform proposals stack up.

In a briefing about Saturday’s negotiations, government officials told Greek media: “While there was agreement in principle at the eurogroup yesterday, a group of countries brought up the issue of ‘credibility’, but without specifying what exactly should be done. It is clear that some countries, for reasons not related to the reforms and the programme, do not want a deal.”

In a thinly veiled swipe at Germany, Nikos Kotzias, Foreign Minister, said “powerful countries in the EU and its recent members” were pandering to vested interests at home. Although Greece’s parliament overwhelmingly supported the reform package on Saturday, Mr Tsipras faces the threat of fissures within his own coalition.

Prominent Syriza politicians such as Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, Parliament Speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou and Deputy Labour Minister Dimitris Stratoulis abstained from the vote. Yanis Varoufakis, the former Finance Minister, did not attend the session and travelled to the island of Aegina, citing family problems.

In a sign of potential rifts on the home front, Stavros Theodorakis, leader of the centrist To Potami party, has stressed the need for a “true national unity government”. In an interview with the Efimerida Ton Syntakton newspaper, he said: “What is needed is a determined team of 20 capable and progressive people that will say ‘let’s do it’.”

Najib Razak :Our smartest, noblest and most altruistic and ethical Prime Minister

July 9, 2015

COMMENT: I have said enough, at least for the time being,din-merican-and-dr-kamsiah1 about the Najib-WSJ affair. I am coming around to thinking that out of 6 Prime Ministers since Independence in 1957, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak is our smartest, noblest, most altruistic and ethical Prime Minister.

I should feel sorry that he has to go through this ordeal for political and personal problems of his own making. Let us all pray that he survives this stressful period of his long political career  and continues to remain in office. I am appealing to the Special Task Force comprising the dominant Attorney-General, the Twitter champion Inspector-General of Police, the Ringgit wrecker Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia and the Smooth Talking MACC Chief Commissioner to clear Najib’s name. Just be creative and innovative in seeking an end to this controversy. Our Prime Minister deserves a second chance (and more chances if necessary) to get on with the job. He has only been 6 years on the job. Tun Dr. Mahathir had 22+ years in office to do things his way.

Personally (and I do  not know about my fellow Malaysians), I need Najib to be around to take our country down the road of Greece and destroy UMNO as well. Only then UMNO leaders and their fawning and hand kissing grassroots members realise that they deserve the leader they chose. More goodies are coming your way, folks, until there is no more money left in the Treasury to pilfer and squander away. Rakyat DiDahulukan, Prestasi diUtamakan dan Malaysia DiBinasakan.–Din Merican

Najib: I didn’t take any money for personal gain

by Victoria

Najib in Prayer2

Amidst allegations of 1MDB funds having been channelled into his personal accounts, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic) has reiterated that he did not take any money for personal gain.

“I want to reiterate that I have never taken 1MDB funds for personal gain,” said Najib in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Wall Street Journal ‘s aim is to incite malice and this is backed by certain quarters in the country whose aim is to make me step down as Prime Minister and UMNO President,” he said.

Najib added that he had instructed his lawyers to send a letter to WSJ to ask for confirmation on their article before taking legal action.

 “My lawyers will take further action after receiving the confirmation from the newspaper,” he said.

Najib further acknowledged that an investigation is being carried out by a special task force to verify the claims made by WSJ. “The investigation needs to take into account the authenticity of the documents that were published to support the newspaper’s allegations,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Police raided the office of 1MDB at Jalan Sultan Ismail. They were later seen carrying documents as they were leaving the building.

WSJ last week published an article quoting an “unnamed investigator”, claiming that almost US$700mil (RM2.6bil) of 1MDB funds had been channelled into the Prime Minister’s personal accounts before the 13th general election.

The international business daily has since stood by its report, saying that it possessed “solid” documents to back its claim. On Tuesday, the publication uploaded nine pages of documents that showed alleged bank transfers from various companies to Najib’s personal accounts.

Waning Investor Confidence will have Knock Effects on Malaysian Economy

July 8, 2015

Waning Investor Confidence will have Knock Effects on Malaysian Economy

by Joseph Sipalan

Waning investor confidence may end up dragging Malaysia’s economy through the mud, economists have said, despite agreeing with a recent assessment by ratings firm Moody’s that the ongoing 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) debacle will not have a direct effect on Malaysia’s economy.

Financial experts acknowledged that while significant, 1MDB’s reported RM42 billion debt pile is relatively minor when viewed from a macroeconomic perspective.

Jayant MenonJayant Menon of the Asian Development Bank noted that in comparison, Malaysia’s foreign exchange reserves have remained above US$100 billion (RM308 billion) this year, even after “some intervention” by Bank Negara Malaysia to try to limit the depreciation of the ringgit.

“Therefore, any economic fallout associated with 1MDB is likely to be indirect, operating through perceptions of confidence and stability in the political leadership,” he told Malay Mail Online in an email yesterday.

On Monday, Moody’s was quoted by newswire Reuters as saying that Malaysia’s banking system and government finances are not under systemic risk despite the brewing controversy in state-owned 1MDB.

The ratings agency said the country’s sovereign rating will only be affected if 1MDB-related developments “materially affected the trend of fiscal consolidation that supports its positive outlook”.

Dr Lim Teck Ghee of the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) warnedlim-teck-ghee that while 1MDB’s “expensive” liabilities are not large enough to bring down the country’s economy, the danger is in losing support of both local and foreign investors.

“Less easy to compute is the knock-on effect on investor confidence — local and foreign and other ripple effects related to political stability. These ripple effects if not contained could cost the economy dearly,” he said via email.

Lim said Moody’s assessment, along with Fitch’s decision against downgrading Malaysia’s sovereign rating, do not mean that the country is insulated from any negative press surrounding 1MDB as perception of the standard of governance and confidence in a government’s management of the economy are key considerations among investors.

“Foreign investors and the financial flows they engage in have a choice of countries to put their money in.

“If Malaysia is seen as unstable and is not able to meet the expectations of return or sustainability owing to a declining ringgit and other factors, they can take out their money just as quickly as the 1MDB key players have done,” he said.

irwan serigarYesterday, Treasury Secretary-General Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah told business wire Bloomberg that Malaysia plans to cut more subsidies and move billions of ringgit in government employee housing loans off the books to strengthen Malaysia’s fiscal position, amid questions over Najib’s ability to implement potentially unpopular policies.

Mohd Irwan said this will mean a gradual removal of subsidies for petrol, liquefied petroleum gas and cooking oil in coming years, after Fitch decided to pull back from downgrading Malaysia’s rating to give it space to reinforce its financial credentials.

Despite deciding to upgrade its outlook to stable from negative, Fitch noted on June 30 that Malaysia is incurring additional contingent liabilities beyond explicit guarantees. Mohd Irwan, however, repeated Putrajaya’s position that 1MDB is not in trouble and has enough assets to pay off its debts.

The ringgit slid to its lowest level in 16 years Monday, plummeting to 3.8050 against the US dollar as of 2.15pm Malaysian time amid a report alleging some US$700 million in funds were funnelled into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts through 1MDB. Bloomberg rated the ringgit as Asia’s worst-performing currency this year, having gone below the scrapped peg of 3.80 to the dollar — a rate fixed from 1998 to 2005 to protect businesses in Malaysia from the effects of the Asian Financial Crisis.

The country’s central bank was forced to intervene for a third successive trading day yesterday to support the ringgit, Reuters reported, adding that the currency lost only 0.8 per cent since a political storm broke last Friday in the wake of the latest allegation directly linking Najib to 1MDB’s dubious financial situation.

The ringgit closed at 3.8060 at the end of the trading day yesterday, helped off a low of 3.8100 by the heaviest day for intervention so far as foreign investors sold Malaysian assets.