Hillary Clinton Looks Back in Anger in What Happened


September 19, 2017

Hillary Clinton Looks Back in Anger (and Frustration Too)

She talks about Trump, Comey, collusion, “deplorables,” and the power of sexism.

When I told Clinton that I had looked her up that morning on Twitter, she smiled knowingly and said, “A dangerous thing to do!” She knew all too well what was there, and it wasn’t merely the usual filth about her appearance or her marriage. It was the kind of material that allowed men like Trump, Michael Flynn, and Chris Christie to get in front of roaring crowds and inspire chants of “Lock her up!”

“I’ve thought a lot about this,” Clinton told me. “And for whatever combination of reasons—some I think I understand, and others I don’t—I am viewed as a threat to powerful forces on both the right and the left. I am still one of the favorite subjects for Fox TV. With the return of [Steve] Bannon to Breitbart, we’ll see him utilizing that publication. It’s because I do speak out, and I do stand up. Sometimes, you know, what I say is not fully appreciated for years, to be honest. At least, it seems to me that way. But I’m going to continue to speak out. And on the left—there is a real manipulation of the left. In addition to those who are calling me names, we know that Russia has really targeted, through their trolls and bots, a lot of accounts—a lot of Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, of people on the left—feeding them a steady diet of nonsense.”

Such talk was not a matter of wishful conspiracy thinking. Scott Shane, of the Times, recently published an article in which he, with the help of the cybersecurity firm FireEye, detailed the Russian efforts against Clinton in the campaign, far beyond the hack of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta’s e-mail accounts. Shane reported that a “cyberarmy” of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bloggers and bots with fake American identities spread disinformation about Clinton on various platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

These tactics, Clinton told me, were “right out of the playbook of Putin and one of the generals whom he listens to, who talked about the kind of war planning and preparation that Russia needed to be engaged in. It was no longer just large, conventional forces and nuclear warheads—it was also cyberwar, covert and semi-covert, even overt, as we saw in Ukraine. This attack on our electoral system was at least publicly encouraged by Trump and his campaign. I hope the investigation in the Congress and by [Robert] Mueller, as well, will give us more information and understanding of what else they really did to us. It’s not going away.”

I asked Clinton if she thought Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians. “I don’t want to overstate what we already know publicly, but I think the compilation of coincidence adds up to something more than public support,” she said, referring to Trump’s refusal to criticize Putin (“Why should I tell Putin what to do?”) and his encouragement of Julian Assange (“I love WikiLeaks!”).

She went on, “The latest disclosure by Facebook about the targeting of attack ads, negative stories, dovetails with my concern that there had to be some information provided to the Russians by someone as to how best to weaponize the information that they stole, first from the Democratic Committee, then from John Podesta. And the refusal of the Trump Administration officials, both current and former, to admit to their involvements with Russians raises a lot of unanswered questions.” Putin’s motives, she said, went well beyond destabilizing a particular campaign. “Putin wants to undermine democracy, to undermine the Atlantic alliance, to undermine the E.U., to undermine NATO, and to resurrect Russian influence as much as possible beyond the borders,” she said. “So the stakes are huge here.”

If, as Clinton told me, the Russians had deployed a “new form of warfare” to upend American democratic processes, what should President Obama have done in the closing act of the campaign? At a summit in China, Obama told Putin to back off from any election tampering, and he talked about the issue at a press conference. But he did not raise the stakes. Figuring that Clinton would win, Obama was wary of being seen as tipping the election to her and confirming Trump’s constant assertions that the vote was rigged against him. When the C.I.A. first told Obama, in August, that the Russians had been meddling in the Presidential race, the agency shared the information with the Gang of Eight—the congressional leadership and the chairs and the ranking members of the intelligence committees. The Administration asked for a bipartisan statement of warning. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, adamantly refused, muffling for weeks any sense of national alarm.

“I feel we sort of choked,” one senior Obama Administration official told the Washington Post. Another former Administration official said that national-security people were feeling, “Wow, did we mishandle this.” Clinton, in her book, gingerly “wonders” what the effect might have been had Obama gone on national television in the fall of 2016 “warning that our democracy was under attack.” I asked her whether Obama had failed—whether the issue should have been treated less as a narrowcasted political problem and more as a grave national-security threat.

“Well, I think that I’m very understanding of the position he found himself in,” she said. “Because I’ve been in that Situation Room, I know how hard these calls can be. And I believe that they struggled with this, and they were facing some pretty difficult headwinds.” She was less restrained in her description of the Senate Majority Leader’s behavior. “Mitch McConnell, in what I think of as a not only unpatriotic but despicable act of partisan politics, made it clear that if the Obama Administration spoke publicly about what they knew, he would accuse them of partisan politics, of trying to tip the balance toward me,” she said. “McConnell basically threatened the White House, and I know that was on the President’s mind. It was a predicament for him.” She also lambasted James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, who “refused to publicly acknowledge that there was an investigation, and, with the height of irony, said, ‘Well, you can’t do that so close to the election.’ ” (Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the investigation had not progressed to the point where disclosure would have been appropriate.)

All the same, I asked, did President Obama blow it?

Clinton paused, and spoke very carefully: “I would have, in retrospect now, wished that he had said something, because I think the American people deserved to know.”

In “What Happened,” Clinton, by way of demanding national resolve against a Russian threat, quotes a maxim attributed to Vladimir Lenin: “You take a bayonet and you push. If you hit mush, you keep going; if you hit steel, you stop.”

“Were we mush?” I asked about the Obama Administration’s response.

Now she did not hesitate. “I think we were mushy,” she said. “Partly because we couldn’t believe it. Richard Clarke, who is one of our nation’s experts on terrorism, has written a book about Cassandras,” unheeded predictors of calamity. “And there was a collective Cassandra out there—my campaign was part of that—saying, ‘The Russians are in our electoral system, the Russians are weaponizing information, look at it!’ And everybody in the press basically thought we were overstating, exaggerating, making it up. And Comey wouldn’t confirm an investigation, so there was nothing to hold on to. And I think that the point Clarke makes is when you have an initial occurrence that has never happened before, some people might see it and try to warn about it, but most people would find it unlikely, impossible. And what I fear is we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what the Russians did.”

Surprisingly, Clinton and her advisers believe that the most dramatic day of the campaign, October 7th, the day of the “Access Hollywood” tape, was a disaster for them. Early that day, the director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Homeland Security released a statement concluding that the Russians had been attempting to interfere in the U.S. election process. But when, shortly afterward, the Washington Post released the tape—in which Donald Trump describes how he grabs women by the genitals and moves on them “like a bitch”—the D.H.S. statement was eclipsed. “My heart sank,” Jennifer Palmieri, a top Clinton adviser, recalled. “My first reaction was ‘No! Focus on the intelligence statement!’ The ‘Access Hollywood’ tape was not good for Trump, obviously, but it was more likely to hurt him with the people who were already against him. His supporters had made their peace with his awful behavior.”

That evening, a third media vortex formed, as Julian Assange went to work. WikiLeaks began to dole out a new tranche of stolen e-mails. “It seemed clear to us that the Russians were again being guided by our politics,” Clinton said. “Someone was offering very astute political advice about how to weaponize information, how to convey it, how to use the existing Russian outlets, like RT or Sputnik, how to use existing American vehicles, like Facebook.”

Clinton has little doubt that Assange was working with the Russians. “I think he is part nihilist, part anarchist, part exhibitionist, part opportunist, who is either actually on the payroll of the Kremlin or in some way supporting their propaganda objectives, because of his resentment toward the United States, toward Europe,” she said. “He’s like a lot of the voices that we’re hearing now, which are expressing appreciation for the macho authoritarianism of a Putin. And they claim to be acting in furtherance of transparency, except they never go after the Kremlin or people on that side of the political ledger.” She said she put Assange and Edward Snowden, who leaked extensive details of N.S.A. surveillance programs, “in the same bucket—they both end up serving the strategic goals of Putin.” She said that, despite Snowden’s insistence that he remains an independent actor, it was “no accident he ended up in Moscow.”

In assessing all the reasons she was defeated last November, Clinton believes that the critical factor was not her failures of tactics or rhetoric, not her misreading of the national Zeitgeist, not her inability to put her e-mail-server blunder to rest, and not even the manipulations of foreign cyberwarriors. The critical factor, in her view, was “the Comey letter”—James Comey’s announcement, eleven days before the election, that the F.B.I. had, in the course of a criminal investigation of the former congressman Anthony Weiner, discovered a cache of e-mails from her that required further study. This revived the e-mail issue that had plagued the campaign from the day in March, 2015, when the Times broke the story that Clinton, while Secretary of State, had maintained a private server and merged her personal and professional accounts. The polling expert Nate Silver concluded, “Clinton would almost certainly be President-Elect if the election had been held on October 27,” the day before Comey released his letter. Silver’s analysis was that Comey’s announcement led to a three-point plunge for Clinton, reducing her chances of winning from eighty-one per cent to sixty-five. Moreover, Silver said, had it not been for the Comey letter and the WikiLeaks publication of stolen e-mails, Clinton would have taken Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida. In the end, she lost Florida by 1.2 points, and the others by less than a point.

Clinton talked about the spike in Google searches about WikiLeaks which had been spurred by the Comey letter—particularly in Pennsylvania, “where maybe Obama had squeaked out a win in a town or a county.” “That’s when the bottom fell out,” she said. “Particularly with women in the suburbs of Philadelphia and elsewhere, who thought, Well, that’s it, I wanted to vote for her, I was fighting with my husband, with my son, with my employer, and I told them I was going to vote for her, but they’re right, she’s going to jail, we’re gonna lock her up, I can’t vote for her.”

Time and investigation will tell whether Donald Trump or his surrogates colluded in any foreign interference in the election; what is entirely clear is that he was, with his penchant for exploiting an enemy’s weakness, eager to add weight to the heavy baggage that Clinton, after thirty-five years in public life, carried into the campaign. Trump, who lives in gilded penthouses and palaces, who flies in planes and helicopters emblazoned with his name, who does business with mobsters, campaigned in 2016 by saying that he spoke for the working man, that he alone heard them and felt their anger, and by branding Hillary Clinton an “élitist,” out of touch with her country. The irony is as easy as it is enormous, and yet Clinton made it possible. She practically kicked off her campaign by telling Diane Sawyer that the reason she and her husband cashed in on the lecture circuit on such an epic scale was that, when they left the White House, in 2001, they were “dead broke.” As earnestly as she has worked on behalf of women, the disadvantaged, and many other constituencies, Clinton does not, for many people, radiate a sense of empathy. A resident of a bubble of power since her days in the Arkansas governor’s mansion, she makes it hard even for many supporters to imagine that her feet ever touch the ground. In “What Happened,” she describes how, when considering whether to run again in 2016, she had to consider all her negatives—“Clinton fatigue,” the dynastic question, her age, the accumulated distrust between her and the press—and then says that she completed the deliberative process by going to stay with Oscar and Annette de la Renta at Casa de Campo, their retreat in the Dominican Republic. “We swam, we ate good food, and thought about the future. By the time we got back, I was ready to run.” This is perhaps not a universally relatable anecdote. Nor did she see much wrong with giving twenty-odd million dollars’ worth of speeches, including to Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions, conceding only that it was, in hindsight, bad “optics.” (“I didn’t think many Americans would believe that I’d sell a lifetime of principle and advocacy for any price,” she writes. “That’s on me.”)

In 2012, Obama won over many working-class voters in the Midwest and elsewhere by reminding them that he had saved the automobile industry and, through strokes broad and subtle, by painting Mitt Romney as the heartless boss who would have handed out the pink slips. Despite Trump’s wealth and his televised role as a big shot who took glee in firing people, “Hillary somehow got portrayed the way Romney did,” a close adviser to Clinton told me. “Those people felt she was against them. It was super gendered and classist. It’s hugely complicated, but she was the uppity woman. . . . Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump drove the message that ‘she looks down on you.’ The ‘deplorable’ thing was awful, but she was losing those people hard by then.”

Clinton’s relation to the press has always been vexed. In the book, Clinton singles out the Times for hammering away at her e-mail issue in a way that she says overwhelmed any negative coverage of Trump. “The Times covered her like she was a Mafia figure,” one adviser said.

This dynamic has a long history. It was the Times that, during the 1992 Presidential campaign, initially broached the Whitewater story—a saga of relatively modest indiscretions and misdeeds. In the White House, the Clintons responded to further inquiries with defensiveness and stubborn resistance, which reinforced suspicion in the press, and the cycle led to conspiracy thinking all around. This cycle of mutual mistrust has continued on and off since then. It was not long before reporters, many of them broadly sympathetic to left-of-center politics, came to view the Clintons with weary skepticism. For other pundits, Hillary Clinton, in particular, came off as sanctimonious, with her New Age homilies about “the politics of meaning.” The Clintons, in turn, came to see the press as the enemy.

In 1993, I was invited to a White House dinner for about fifty people. The Clintons evidently wanted to reëstablish some rapport with the press. I was seated next to Hillary. For much of the dinner, she complained about “Saint Hillary,” a caustic profile, by Michael Kelly, published in the Times Magazine. Kelly saw Clinton as a self-righteous First Lady who thought she could help concoct a “unified-field theory of life” that encompassed the social gospel of the nineteenth century, the “temperance-minded Methodism” of the twentieth century, the liberation theology of the sixties and seventies, and “the pacifistic and multiculturally correct religious left of today.” Kelly sternly concluded that Clinton “clearly wants power” and had “amassed more of it than any First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt.”

From those days onward, Clinton has known that she inspired hostility. Twenty-one years ago, in an article for this magazine called “Hating Hillary,” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., she admitted, “I apparently remind some people of their mother-in-law or their boss, or something.” In the same piece, Arianna Huffington remarks on Clinton’s “self-righteousness,” Peggy Noonan on her “apple-cheeked certitude.” Gates observed that Clinton was widely perceived as Mrs. Jellyby, the character in Charles Dickens’s “Bleak House” who is as “intent on improving humanity as she is cavalier toward actual human beings . . . the zealous reformer with a heart as big as all Antarctica.”

Such ingrained habits of media antagonism proved to be another factor that allowed Trump, the biggest liar in the history of Presidential politics, to be seen by tens of millions of people as a figure of rude authenticity, their champion. In Clinton’s view, she could never win with people who had been trained to regard her as a high-minded phony. Her wariness and evasions drained their sympathy; her strained attempts to win people back too often fell flat. Why couldn’t she be admired for her intelligence, her competence, her experience?

In “What Happened,” she voices her sense of exasperation:

I’ll bet you know more about my private life than you do about some of your closest friends. You’ve read my e-mails, for heaven’s sake. What more do you need? What could I do to be “more real”? Dance on a table? Swear a blue streak? Break down sobbing? That’s not me. And if I had done any of those things, what would have happened? I’d have been ripped to pieces.

She acknowledges that her caution had sometimes made her seem guarded (and “prompted the question, ‘What is she hiding?’ ”), but she notes that many men in politics, though far less scrutinized, aren’t asked to “open up, reveal themselves, prove that they’re real.”

Clinton has come to believe that there is an overriding reason that she has aroused such resentment: her gender. In the book, she points out that both Bill Clinton, as the fatherless son from “a town called Hope,” and Barack Obama, as the son of a Kenyan father and a white idealist, had capsule life stories that helped them reach voters. Clinton was the first woman to have a serious chance to win the Presidency, but “I was unlikely to be seen as a transformative, revolutionary figure. I had been on the national stage too long for that and my temperament was too even-keeled.”

When I asked about this, I pointed out that her popularity was always high when she ran something—when she was Secretary of State, her approval rating was nearly seventy per cent—but suffered when she ran for things.

“I was running something in service to someone else,” she told me. “A man. Who I was honored to serve. And so I knew that if I did get into the Presidential race again I would face what women face when you are not serving someone, but you are seeking power yourself.”

Clinton said that she has learned from life, as well as from studies and from conversations with the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, that “the more successful a man becomes, the more likable he becomes; the more professionally successful a woman becomes, the less likable she becomes.” Her situation, she said, “was Clinton-specific, plus sexism and misogyny.”

But why, when half the voters are female, should gender prove an even greater barrier in American electoral politics than race? I mentioned other countries that have female heads of state, including Great Britain and Germany.

“I think part of it is our system,” she said. “And we don’t yet have that audience. I hope it will change, especially for young women. We have a Presidential system. We have one person—head of state, head of government. Most of the places you mention have a different head of state, to carry on all of the symbolic continuity, whether it’s the crown or the nation, and the head of government is charged with the responsibility of being a political leader. . . . Parliamentary systems, historically, have proven more open to women. And why would that be? Because you have a party apparatus to support you. You can build relationships and a good sense of competence with your fellow party members. And they can see how effective you are and elect you leader. But you only have to run in your constituency, which is a much smaller and more defined—and, in many ways, open—opportunity to build personal relationships with those who are in your constituency. You know, when I ran for the Senate the first time, here in New York, I won, I think, fifteen counties. Next time I ran, I won all but three.” Close: all but four. “Because I could build that personal relationship, I could produce results, I could demonstrate that I was fighting for the people of New York.”

It’s true that, throughout the campaign, Clinton was described—by Trump, by his surrogates, and by countless people on social media—in the ugliest terms: weak, sickly, a criminal, physically repellent. Clinton, in her book, tells of how, during the second debate, just two days after the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape, she wanted to wheel around at Trump, who was “breathing down my neck,” and say, “Back up, you creep, get away from me, I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.” Instead, she bit her tongue and kept going.

She castigates Trump for inflaming and giving “permission” to misogynists and racists. “Those attitudes have never gone away,” she told me. “But we had successfully—and this is part of the role of civilization—we had rendered them unacceptable: being an overt racist, being an overt misogynist, saying the terrible things that Trump said about immigrants or Muslims. All of that was not political correctness. It was respect. It was tolerance. It was acceptance. But there was a growing resentment, anger, that came to full flower in this election. . . . The Internet has given voice to, and a home for, so many more people. And so with Trump to light the match, from the first day of his campaign to the last, there was a sense of acceptance, liberation, empowerment for these forces.”

Did Clinton stand by her campaign line that a substantial number of Trump’s voters were “deplorables”? She shifted quickly from self-reflection to attack mode.

“I think Trump has behaved in a deplorable manner, both during his campaign and as President,” she said. “I think he has given permission to others to engage in deplorable behavior, as we did see in Charlottesville and elsewhere. So I don’t take back the description that I made of him and a number of his core supporters.”

In conversation and in the book, Clinton’s pain is manifest. When it comes to feminism and her role in the women’s movement, she says, she never figured out “how to tell the story right.” And the country, she believes, is not ready to hear it. Or, at least, not from her. “That’s not who we are,” she writes. “Not yet.”

Elsewhere in the book, she writes, “As the campaign went on, polls showed that a significant number of Americans questioned my authenticity and trustworthiness. A lot of people said they just didn’t like me. I write that matter-of-factly, but believe me, it’s devastating. Some of this is a direct result of my actions: I’ve made mistakes, been defensive about them, stubbornly resisted apologizing. But so have most men in politics. (In fact, one of them just became President with a strategy of ‘never apologize when you’re wrong, just attack harder.’)”

The women in her circle of friends and advisers are particularly outraged by the way that Trump was able to win so many votes among working-class white women. “Trump was, like, I am going to paint a picture of her as someone who will come steal your children and take your guns,” one said. “The million-dollar question will be: What will happen when it isn’t Hillary Clinton, when it’s another woman? For now, neither women nor men trust the ambition of women.”

A few hours after our conversation, I went uptown to Riverside Church, where Clinton was scheduled to hold a public conversation with Bill Shillady, a Methodist minister and a family friend who during the campaign had e-mailed Clinton hundreds of morning devotionals—Bible passages with accompanying short sermons—and who had helped officiate at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, in 2010, to Marc Mezvinsky. Now he was publishing those devotionals as a book called “Strong for a Moment Like This.”

Clinton was doing Shillady a kindness, but even in this she couldn’t catch a break. The day before the event, the publisher, Abingdon Press, announced that it was withdrawing the book because it was filled with passages plagiarized from other pastors and sources. Shillady issued an apology, but, naturally, Clinton took the hit in the press. In her fashion, Clinton soldiered through, holding the conversation with another Methodist minister, Ginger Gaines-Cirelli.

The pews were filled with New Yorkers, a majority of them women, who had come to hear Clinton, to shower her with praise, to soothe her and themselves. In the introduction, Amy Butler, the senior minister at Riverside and a friend of Clinton’s, referred to the Trump Administration as a source of anguish and confusion, and everyone nodded solemnly. One got the sense that there would be hundreds of such events in the coming years for Hillary Clinton, and one wondered if they would do anything to ease the sense of failure, the anger at all the forces she could not begin to control. “We praise God for who you are,” a bishop said from the podium. “And most of all, Sister Hillary, we love you.”

Clinton was greeted with a long ovation, which she met with her signature slow head-nodding and an expression at once pleased and pained. She talked about her Methodist church in Illinois, her youth minister, Don Jones, and her trip to Orchestra Hall, in downtown Chicago, to hear Martin Luther King, Jr., deliver one of his most famous sermons, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.”

Asked how she was managing, she made her joke about drinking “my fair share of Chardonnay.” She quoted from Galatians: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Her message was endurance, which has always been her watchword. And she made it plain what the election had unleashed.

“Where does that cruelty, that mean-spiritedness, come from?” she said. “It’s not from Christianity. It’s not from people of faith.” This was another source of confusion for her: the evangelical vote went not to the devout Methodist but, rather, to the guy who referred to “Two Corinthians.”

Again, the applause came, but it seemed not to lighten her at all. After the event was over, after the last handshakes, after the last selfie, Clinton climbed in the back seat of her car, the Secret Service all around, and headed back to her white house in the woods. ♦

This article appears in other versions of the September 25, 2017, issue, with the headline “Still Here.”

*David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992. He is the author of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.

Unfinished business in Berlin: Why Angela Merkel deserves to win Germany’s election


September 10, 2017

Unfinished business in Berlin

And why she must become bolder in her (almost inevitable) fourth term

https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21728618-and-why-she-must-become-bolder-her-almost-inevitable-fourth-term-why-angela-merkel-deserves

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Angela Merkel; Germany’s Great Liberator and Towering European–She deserves to win a Fourth Term

Success will partly depend on Mrs Merkel picking the right partners in government. A continuation of the present grand coalition with the SPD threatens yet more sleepy stasis. Instead she should team up with the free-market Free Democratic Party and the Greens—who are wise on Europe and tougher on Russia. Such a coalition would stand a chance of shaking the country up. As its leader, the hesitant Mrs Merkel might even become the chancellor who surprised everybody.–The Economist’s editorial

TO HER many fans, Angela Merkel is the hero who stands up to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and who generously opened her country to refugees. To others, she is the villain whose ill-thought-out gamble on immigration is “ruining Germany”, as Mr Trump once put it, and whose austerity policies laid waste to southern Europe.

The fans are closer to the truth. Her country has indeed done well under her leadership and the world been better for her steady hand. But during three terms in office, Mrs Merkel has not done enough to prepare Germany for the future. If her many years at the top are to be viewed as more than merely sufficient, she must use her fourth term to bring about change.

A steady hand in a turbulent world

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Germany’s Chancellor with Canada’s Favorite Son, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

There is little doubt that Mrs Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union are coasting towards victory when Germany votes on September 24th. That is partly owing to the lacklustre Martin Schulz, her Social Democratic Party (SPD) rival. His party’s domestic policy is undistinctive and his foreign policy barely credible. He has also failed to put the chancellor on the spot. Their debate on September 3rd was more like the negotiation of a new “grand coalition” than a clash of ideas.

But her imminent victory also reflects how Germany has prospered since 2005, when Mrs Merkel took office (see Briefing). Unemployment has fallen from 11.2% to 3.8%; wages are rising; consumer confidence is at a high. The chancellor has stood by the labour-market reforms introduced by Gerhard Schröder, her SPD predecessor—though she has not extended them. She has provided stable and unideological political leadership. German society has become more open and relaxed on her watch; she allowed, for instance, a vote on gay marriage even though she personally opposed it.

And in trying to cope with the euro crisis and the influx of refugees from the Middle East and north Africa, Mrs Merkel has proved to be the indispensable European. Beyond that, she persuaded Germans that their country should take on more of the responsibilities its size demands but its history makes difficult. At summits she is a calm, well-informed presence, helping to broker European sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, and the Paris climate accord. Germany is also taking on international burdens, with troops in Afghanistan, Mali and Lithuania, a scale of deployment unthinkable a decade ago. Her commitment to NATO’s target for defence spending of 2% of GDP speaks of a country growing up in the world.

Yet, for all this, Mrs Merkel has often governed on the “easy” setting, especially in her policies at home. She has enjoyed a host of advantages. Mr Schröder’s reforms made German workers competitive. The euro, raw materials and borrowing have all been cheap for much of her chancellorship, too. Emerging economies such as China cannot yet make the things Germany does (like luxury cars), so they import them. Germany has the second-oldest population in the world, but its baby-boomer bulge is largely still of working age. The country has been living through a golden age.

Image result for angela merkel standing up to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

She is a Giant among Men–with Guts and Strong Convictions

The trouble is that none of the factors that brought this about is permanent. Mrs Merkel had a chance to prepare the country for the future. She has squandered it. Her government’s obsession with balanced books has led it to invest too little. The net value of German infrastructure has fallen since 2012. Since 2010 the country’s broadband speed has fallen from 12th to 29th in the world. New industries like the internet of things and electric cars are underdeveloped. The mighty German automotive industry took a bad gamble on diesel engines, and is now mired in allegations of faked emissions tests.

Little has been done to prepare Germany for its demographic crunch. Mrs Merkel’s outgoing government not only reversed a raise in the retirement age, but cut it to 63 for some workers and introduced a “mothers’ pension” for women who took time off to care for children before 1992, benefiting a generation that was already well-catered for. At the same time she did little for those Germans left behind. Inequality and the use of food-banks have both risen on her watch.

When she does take big decisions, Mrs Merkel has a habit of ducking the consequences. The switch to renewable energy is proving so slow and expensive that Germany’s coal usage and carbon emissions are rising—her sudden decision to shut the country’s nuclear plants after a meltdown in Japan only made the transition harder. Having helped to hold the euro zone together through a series of weekend crises, Mrs Merkel (along with Wolfgang Schäuble, her finance minister) has stood in the way of reforms that would mitigate the next crisis. The task of integrating legions of refugees has been left primarily to cash-strapped state governments and citizens. The chancellor barely talks about them these days, having reduced arrival numbers using a murky repatriation deal with Turkey.

In the election campaign Mrs Merkel has said little to confront her compatriots with the need to reform governance of the euro, to raise investment and to prepare the economy for a revolution in the nature of work. Instead, her manifesto is vague, and her public appearances have been banal.

Action needed in Act IV

And yet Mrs Merkel could accomplish a lot in her next—and possibly last—term. She could use Germany’s budget surplus, of €26bn ($31bn) last year and rising, to invest more in human and physical capital. She could look to Emmanuel Macron of France for ideas to strengthen institutions that govern the euro and for a sense of urgency about high-tech. She could cement Germany’s foreign-policy credentials, by pressing on towards NATO’s 2% goal. Her legacy depends on it.

Success will partly depend on Mrs Merkel picking the right partners in government. A continuation of the present grand coalition with the SPD threatens yet more sleepy stasis. Instead she should team up with the free-market Free Democratic Party and the Greens—who are wise on Europe and tougher on Russia. Such a coalition would stand a chance of shaking the country up. As its leader, the hesitant Mrs Merkel might even become the chancellor who surprised everybody.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Angela’s unfinished business”

1MDB Scandal–Tough Going for Washington-bound Malaysian Prime Minister


September 7, 2017

1MDB Scandal–Tough Going for  Washington- bound Malaysian Prime Minister

Sarawak Report

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The Indefatigable, Relentless  and Fearless Crusader–Sarawak Report Founder Clare Rewcastle Brown

Someone clearly thought it was a good idea to help out Malaysia’s unpopular and criminal Prime Minister, Najib Razak, with a high-profile visit to Donald Trump in advance of calling an awkward election.

That person must think that a broad coalition, led on a reform agenda by a previous highly sucessful Prime Minister of twenty years, would be a worse option for Malaysian or perhaps American interests than a notorious kleptocrat.

Image result for Najib to meet TrumpTrump to Najib: “Susah sekarang Jib, gua tak boleh tolong lu, tetapi kalau lu mahu tolong gua, boleh lah” (now it is difficult Jib, I can’t help you, but if you want to help, then fine).

They must also consider it would be better for Najib to remain as Prime Minister rather than his jailed opponent, a former successful Finance Minister, who won the popular vote in GE13 and has campaigned against the endemic corruption that wrecks the country.

However, it is a position that is getting harder by the day to argue, certainly in terms of public perception, because people are wondering why the Trump administration appears to be cynically ignoring its own legal action against theft and money-laundering that benefitted Najib and his own wife and family (the largest ever kleptocracy case)?

Also, why is it also contradicting its own policy on North Korea by welcoming Malaysia’s leader instead of blasting him for his various illegal dealings with the rogue nuclear state?

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Indeed, if Najib and Trump dare take questions during this White House visit they can be pretty sure these are the sort of things most journalists will want to ask about. Leo DiCaprio’s Piccaso gift; Miranda Ker’s diamonds, Rosie’s $27million dollar necklace and Jho Low’s yacht, all funded from stolen development money will make irresistible topics – and then there is also the tricky matter of Malaysia’s use of North Korean slave labour.

Why is Trump being advised to associate with such a tainted pair? One long-time Washington observer has suggested one frivolous reason to Sarawak Report, which would surely be inadequate:

Trump likes to meet with everyone. He likes to be distracted and entertained, by people coming to see him, in his space. He hates overseas trips. People have to come to the throne room to see him.

North Korea

It has been suggested things might in fact turn ugly in that Throne Room, given recent events, were Trump to receive a proper briefing on the nature of his husband and wife team guests.

North Korea is the foreign topic first and foremost on the President’s mind, followed by his steaming frustration over China over this and other matters, and Malaysia is negatively connected to these issues.

After North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb at the weekend Trump threatened to cut economic ties with all countries that trade with the pariah state and by now he ought to know that one of the worst offenders and violators of UN sanctions over North Korea in recent years has been Najib’s BN government.

In a recent article The Diplomat magazine succinctly summarised Malaysia’s wilful flouting of UN sanctions and its western allies in its dealings with North Korea. It makes highly disturbing reading:

Following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam (Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother, who was assassinated with nerve agent VX earlier this year at Kuala Lumpur airport), North Korea watchers and sanctions experts have turned their attention to North Korea’s relationship with Malaysia.
Two cases uncovered by investigators surrounding Malaysian-based companies Glocom and Kay Marine seemingly involve North Korea’s use of Malaysia to breach the UN arms embargo.

The article also highlights Malaysia’s “rare reciprocal visa-free travel arrangement” with North Korea, which undoubtedly assisted in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam. It goes on to point out that Malaysia’s lax import and export controls has made it a serious weak link over proliferation of arms and nuclear products.  This worried the Obama administration, says the Diplomat and it should worry Trump all the more so:

the Obama administration expressed concern – especially in relation to Iran – that “Malaysia was becoming the ‘new Dubai’ for illicit traders.”…Despite improvements, there are still limitations: the Financial Action Task Force noted in its 2015 review of Malaysian anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance controls that Malaysia still has significant technical gaps in the implementation of targeted financial sanctions, such as long delays in transposing new UN designations.

UN reports in 2013 and 2016 suggested that the country had been used as a meeting venue, and traveled through, by North Korean arms dealers….Glocom is said to be a “Malaysia-based company” advertising “radio communications equipment for military and paramilitary organizations.” While not officially registered in Malaysia, two Malaysian registered companies .. were said to be acting on its behalf. The UN report describes Glocom as a “front company of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea company Pan Systems Pyongyang Branch.

A second case involved Kay Marine, a boat builder sanctioned by the U.S. State Department in 2016….. Are there more Glocoms and Kay Marines in Malaysia or elsewhere? Likely so.

concludes The Diplomat.

There are other shocking human rights aspects to the Najib government’s self-interested exploitation of North Korea’s attempts at sanctions busting.  Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world that has permitted the provision of work visas for North Korean nationals and it was Sarawak Report which exposed how the families of BN government ministers have been exploiting the arrangement to import slave gangs of North Korean prisoners to do dirty jobs in mines and other work sites in Sarawak.

The shocking and disgraceful exploitation, a violation of basic human rights, came to light after two fatal explosions at the Lucky Hill coal mine of Sarawak. The victims turned out to be these unfortunate slaves, imported as one Sarawak Government spokesman explained, because local people were unwilling to do the unpleasant and dangerous work (especially not for free one assumes).

The owners of the Lucky Hill Mining company included a brother of the present Chief Minister of Sarawak and a sister of the former Chief Minister and present Governor of the state, Taib Mahmud.

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Trump’s Malaysian connection– Investor Joo Kim Tiah

No action was of course taken against these high-level folk either over human rights attrocities or plain safety failures. The surving workers have been dispersed from the mines, however activists have informed Sarawak Report that these free labourers have since been spotted on various construction sites around the state, meaning that the government of Najib Razak has done nothing to clean up its act on the use of slave labour from North Korea.

Sarawak Report suggests that Trump address these matters with Najib and that his administration should recognise that a regime that is corrupt and morally bankrupt is also a dangerous regime to his neighbours and supposed allies like the United States.

1MDB – Intimidation of Witnesses

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Malaysia’s Former Attorney-General replaced by someone who is close to Prime Minister Najib Razak

The other major concern over Najib and his wife is a domestic matter for the United States, since the FBI have been conducting a massive criminal investigation into the money launding of over $4.5 billion of stolen money through the purchase of assets in the United States.

Last month they confirmed that the asset seizures are part of a major criminal investigation, an announcement with Najib’s supporters attempted to spin into a claim that the entire case on 1MDB had been dropped. This could not be further from the case, although Trump’s invitation will of course enable the same spinners to further claim it represents ‘proof’ that the United States Department of Justice plans to let their leader off the hook over the largest global kleptocracy investigation ever undertaken.

Further developments over the last 24 hours have ratcheted up this matter further also with the FBI depicting Najib’s government in its latest court statements in the most sinister terms possible – willing to threaten, intimidate and even endanger witnesses to the case.

Sarawak Report has examined the court documents, placed before the Los Angeles Central Court at the start of the week, and they provide a damning assessment.  The string of filings make clear that the DOJ had applied to ‘stay’ (freeze) its civil action on 10th August for the simple reason that the legal teams representing Jho Low (and his family trust), Riza Aziz, Khadem al Qubaisi and their various companies under seizure had started to ask for disclosure of the FBI’s evidence on the case.

Since the latest FBI/DOJ court filing had consisted of 251 pages of closely detailed evidence the defence teams had come back demanding a list of no less than 358 items of disclosure representing thousands of documents, emails and witness statements from the parallel criminal investigation presently underway into the thefts from 1MDB.

It was in reponse to this that the DOJ applied to freeze the civil case until it has completed all its other criminal investigations. The defence lawyers opposed their motion and on Monday 5th September the DOJ lodged a rejection of that demand with a series of legal responses backed by statements from their investigators.  Their prime concern was that if the information being demanded by Jho Low’s lawyers were given out then witnesses would more than likely to be threatened an intimidated and indeed worse.  It paints an unflatering picture of the suspected criminals behind the 1MDB thefts and their position on the case looks sure to be upheld.

Testifying as to why such matters must not be disclosed FBI agent Robert Heuchling laid a declaration before the court including the following statement:

By obtaining discovery directly from the government or third parties about the government’s investigation, individuals and entities involved in the Criminal Phases could potentially conceal,alter, or destroy evidence, as well as intimidate and/or retaliate against potential witnesses.

The [complaints] allege that the individuals who were involved in the Criminal Phases include, but are not limited to, Low;Riza Aziz (“Aziz”), a Malaysian national and the step-son of the senior Malaysian official who oversaw 1MDB; and Khadem al-Qubaisi (“Qubaisi”).Moreover, the FACs allege that Low and several others, including Aziz and Qubaisi, were involved in or facilitated several multi-million dollar transfers that were made as part of the Criminal Phases. Many of these transfers and Low and others’ involvement in them are described in the FACs, underscoring the direct relationship between the 1MBD Actions and the ongoingcriminal investigation…..I believe that allowing discovery or other proceedings to occur in the 1MBD Actions will have an adverse impact on the United States’ ongoing criminal investigation.This concern is not hypothetical, but real, especially in light of some of the broad discovery requests that have already been served on the government….including the identity of witnesses who provided information to the United States, the sources of evidence from whom the United States obtained relevant information, as well as thousands of documents relating to the Criminal Phases….All or almost all of these documents are evidence of the conduct underlying the Criminal Phases of the 1MBD Actions. Providing these documents to any of the claimants in the 1MDB Actionscould result in their disclosure to other third parties. The disclosure of such information to subjects or targets of the criminal investigation could give these individuals and entities a preview of the United States’ criminal investigation as well as the opportunity to track the status of the criminal investigation.Disclosure of such materials also will potentially identify witnesses who have provided information to the government, including their identity and location; the sources of the government’s information; the…..By obtaining discovery directly from the government or third parties about the government’s investigation, individuals and entities involved in the Criminal Phases could potentially conceal,alter, or destroy evidence, as well as intimidate and/or retaliate against potential witnesses. Producing any identifying witness information could result in witness intimidation or jeopardize the safety and security of witnesses – a legitimate concern in this case, given that press reports have publicized potentially retaliatory or threatening acts linked possibly to the 1MDB investigation.

The FBI agent then provides the court with some examples of the threatening and extra-judicial tactics taken by the Najib Government against 1MDB critics and other forms of intimidation that have been carried out in KL. It makes for shameful reading:

  • On or about September 1, 2015, the media reported that Khairuddin Abu Hassan, an official in the United Malays National Organization, was arrested by Malaysian authorities after he announced that he intended to travel to New York to provide information about 1MDB to the FBI. (See “Arrested Najib Critic Was Scheduled to Meet FBI Agents to Lodge 1MDB Complaint,” (September 19, 2015)
  • Similarly, on or about August 1, 2015, the media reported that three Malaysian law enforcement officials, including a deputy public prosecutor, an official of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and an official from the Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia, all of whom were working on a special task force in Malaysia investigating 1MDB, were arrested by Malaysia’s Special Branch, Malaysia’s intelligence service, because of news reports relating to 1MDB published in the United Kingdom. (See “Special Branch Raids Deputy Public Prosecutor’s Office at MACC for 1MDB Documents,” (August 2, 2015)
  • On or about April 8, 2016, Malaysian media reported that Rafizi Ramli, a member of Malaysia’s Parliament, was arrested because he was suspected of disclosing information relating to 1MDB. (See “Malaysian Opposition MP Charged Over 1MDB Leak,” (April 8, 2016),
  • Just a few days ago, Malaysian local media reported that the driver of former Malaysian Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail, who opened the initial investigation into 1MDB in that country, was shot in public by two unidentified men. (See “Driver’s Shooting a Warning to Gani Patail from ‘MO1’ Not to Assist in DOJ’s 1MDB Criminal Probe? Bombshell – FBI Hit Bullseyes with Caution ‘The Safety of Certain Law Enforcement Personnel & Their Willingness to Co-operate will be Threatened,” Malaysia Chronicle (August 30, 2017),
  • A number of individuals, who have provided information to the government have expressed significant concerns relating to safety or retaliation if the identities of certain witnesses, especially those located in certain foreign countries, were disclosed publicly. These individuals have also expressed concern for their own safety

This is a shameful reminder of what has been going on in Malaysia now put before a US court.  A former US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott has also been writing about the situation in an article that like many others ought to be taken up and read by Trump’s advisors.  Malott also posted this succinct summary on his Facebook:

“Basic facts: Najib and his family and cronies have stolen somewhere between 4 and 8 Billion dollars from the country. The US Department of Justice has moved to seize the assets they bought with that money in the US. Malaysia consistently breaks UN and international sanctions on North Korea. Najib has imprisoned his political foes, charged them with sedition, and taken away their passports. He controls the newspapers, television, and radio. The police and judiciary are totally under his thumb. He and his corrupt wife run the government like a family business. Businesses tremble before him. Plus he likes to play golf. He’s really Trump’s kind of guy.”

As John Malott said in his article – “Welcome to Washington Mr Prime Minister”!

SARAWAK REPORT

Malaysia: Indian Votes Matter in GE-14, says a local think tank


August 18, 2017

Malaysia: Indian Votes Matter in GE-14, says a local think tank

 by  Ooi Heng, Elijah Khor and Yasmin
Image result for hindraf malaysia

It is easy for Najib Razak to win Indian Votes –Grant Blue ICs and Bumiputra status to the marginalised Indians together with those desperate mamaks who populate Pulau Pinang, and some duit raya courtesy 1MDB. UMNO’s racism will be forgotten and Hindraf’s struggle for Justice will be pushed aside. Money wins GE-14, not ideals . That’s pork barrel politics, isn’t it? -Din Merican

Talking about the general election results in the past, we would usually treat BN as a whole. As UMNO is facing a significant political split, it is necessary to take UMNO’s parliamentary election results out of BN for further assessment.

Whenever UMNO faced a political split, that had more meaningful impact, their Malay votes would drop, and their parliamentary seats would be subsequently reduced as well.

Before the 1990 General Elections, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah parted ways with Dr Mahathir Mohamad and splintered off from UMNO to form a new party, Semangat 46. As a result, the parliamentary seats won by UMNO dropped by 12 seats, from 83 seats in 1986 to 71 seats in 1990.

Image result for gua tolong lu, lu tolong gua

UMNO-BN Manifesto for GE-14–Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua–Najib Razak

Before the 1999 general elections, Anwar Ibrahim was brutally prosecuted, leading to the Reformasi political movement, thus party leaders and followers, as well as civil society activists, joined hands to form a new party, Parti Keadilan Nasional. As for the electoral result, the parliamentary seats won by UMNO dropped by 17 seats, from 89 seats in 1995 to 72 seats in 1999.

Later, on 3 August 2003, Parti Keadilan Nasional officially merged with Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

During both of the political splits mentioned above, Mahathir was the President of UMNO and also the Prime Minister. This time, Mahathir split with Najib Abdul Razak, who is the current UMNO President and also the current Prime Minister, to form a new party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

In this coming election, how many parliamentary seats UMNO will lose is crucial to determine the election result.

There are two scenarios.

The first scenario 

This time UMNO’s seat will lose 15 to 20 seats, out of 88 seats in the GE13.  Therefore, in this election UMNO will be left with 68 to 73 seats.

This scenario assumes that every “meaningful split” being faced by UMNO would result in a more severe split than before, and translates into a kind of electoral result. This would mean that UMNO’s performance in 1999 as compared with 1995 was worse than their 1990 result as compared with 1986.

Based on this, their result in GE-14 as compared with the GE-13, will be relatively worse than the GE-10 (1999) as compared with the GE-9 (1995), or comes close to that.

The second scenario

This time UMNO will not only perform worse than before, but also demonstrate the worst fall in history, reducing their number of parliamentary seats by 25 to 30 seats. If this is the case, in GE-14, UMNO will be left with 58 to 63 seats.

This scenario is considering the fact that out of the former UMNO leaders who have led the opposition coalition in the past to challenge UMNO, the highest-ranking one was a former Deputy Prime Minister.

This round, Mahathir is a former Prime Minister who was in office for 22 years, and the two elections before this – GE-12 (2008) and GE-13 (2013) – have successfully changed the political landscape, and also shaken up the one-party dominant system which used to be invincible.

Based on this scenario, other than UMNO showing a definite loss of parliamentary seats, the overall result of BN in GE-14 will not be a repeat of the situation in GE-10 (1999) where “the Malay voters opposed but the non-Malay voters did not oppose”, or a result where “BN saved UMNO”.

In the 1990 and the 1999 elections, even though UMNO was split, the one-party dominant system remained intact.

Today, however, after experiencing the change in political landscape through the 2008 and 2013 elections, the one-party dominant system has loosened. Based on this, this time there shall not be an outcome where “BN saved UMNO”.

The votes of marginalised groups

Let us take a look at the ethnic Chinese votes. BN’s Chinese votes in 2008 dropped by about 30 percent, and this did not stop falling in 2013 where it dropped further by 22 percent. Basically, the BN Chinese votes had dropped to its lowest. In GE-14, we assume an increase in Chinese votes for BN.

If BN gains Chinese votes by 5 percent to 10 percent, it will not be sufficient to result in “BN saving UMNO”. While Pakatan Harapan is fighting aggressively for Malay votes, they also need to manage their loss of Chinese votes, and also the percentage of votes regained by BN.

Image result for lu tolong gua, gua tolong lu

Awesome Najib Razak with a huge War Chest

What Pakatan Harapan cannot underestimate the most is the ethnic Indian voters. After BN lost Indian votes in 2008 by about 49 percent, the coalition regained 10 percent in 2013.

According to the electoral map in 2013, there were altogether 60 parliamentary seats in which Indians comprised 10 percent of voters. In 52 seats, Indians comprised 10 percent to 20 percent of voters, while in the remaining 8 seats, Indians made up 21 to 30 percent of the voting population.

Even though upon the 2013 election results Pakatan Rakyat had only 10 Indian MPs, these 60 constituencies with more than 10 percent Indian voters would also affect the chance of winning for the non-Indians in these constituencies.

Out of the 60 seats, other than the 10 seats with Indian MPs, Pakatan Rakyat had also 28 seats with non-Indian MPs, who were also affected by the Indian voters. In order to prevent the situation of “BN saving UMNO” from happening in the GE14, Pakatan Harapan should work more on addressing the Indian community’s needs and their issues of concern, and propose an effective policy for it.

The Indian community has a high proportion of lower middle class and lower-class families, and they are also experiencing the pressure of expensive goods and a high cost of living in this goods and services tax (GST) era. Other than this, many of them are having a hard time getting a low salary and having insufficient unemployment protection.

If we only focus on the 30 seats with more than 50 percent of Chinese voters, and being in delusion of controlling the back low of the Chinese votes, thinking that these would be sufficient to make use of the splinter in UMNO to obtain a good result, we are afraid that BN will be able to obtain a greater proportion of Indian votes in the GE-14.

Just as BN was greatly hit by Hindraf in the 2008 election, in this coming election, Pakatan Harapan will probably be quietly hit by the Indian community. Can the political elites feel the movements within the marginalized groups?

Ooi Heng is Executive Director of the think tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU). Elijah Khor and Yasmin are research officers at KPRU.

Malaysia: The Ambitious Home Affairs Minister


August 9, 2017

Malaysia: The Ambitious Home Affairs Minister

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Zahid Hamidi the racist

Prime Minister Najib Razak–There is a knife behind your back, watch it!

Is Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi a liability, a loose cannon or Najib Abdul Razak’s loyal henchman? It is never a proud moment when one scores an own goal, so what was Zahid thinking, when he attacked the lineage of the former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad?

In one fell swoop, Zahid undermined his boss Najib’s “1Malaysia” pledge of a diverse nation. On the other hand, many Malaysians feel that Zahid may have done them a favour by inadvertently airing the sensitive issue of “ethnicity”.

In the past, Malay nationalists have taken pot shots at the non-Malays, and told the Chinese to “balik Tongsan” and the Indians, to “balik India”. Now, the Malaysians of Indonesian stock can be told to “balik Indon”.

More importantly, when Zahid commented upon Mahathir’s Indian heritage, he attracted jibes of “The pot calling the kettle black” because of Zahid’s Indonesian origins.

With that attack backfiring, Zahid then criticised Mahathir for his role in the Memali massacre of 1985. This may damage Zahid more than it will Mahathir.

Zahid has grabbed the wrong end of the stick. Eye-witness accounts allege that Umno Kedah had warned Mahathir that the charismatic and influential PAS ustaz, Ibrahim “Libya” Mahmood, was their greatest threat in the (then) upcoming general election of 1986. They predicted that UMNO Kedah would lose to PAS.

Musa Hitam (photo) has already said that Mahathir was in KL and not in Beijing on the day of the incident. The critical question is, why 32 years later, PAS and its leader, Abdul Hadi Awang, are aligning themselves with UMNO-Baru? Mahathir once said, “Melayu mudah lupa”. Zahid should question PAS’ allegiance with UMNO-Baru after the betrayal.

Does Zahid’s personal staff enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing him make public gaffes? His speech, in English, at the United Nations, made Malaysians squirm with embarrassment. Even my grandparents’ generation, living in the kampung, speak better English. Zahid’s speech writer probably over-estimated Zahid’s proficiency in English.

When Zahid was the Defence Minister, in 2012, the English version of Mindef’s official website became a Twitter and Facebook sensation. His humiliation was made complete when he closed down the site and admitted that his staff had relied on the free online services of Google Translate. A similar Manglish caption was also used to welcome former President Barack Obama to Malaysia.

Zahid’s lack of commitment to the rakyat

Malaysians are furious about Najib’s assertion that an Arab Prince made a RM2.6 billion donation and yet Zahid took only three minutes to address Parliament about this serious issue. Three minutes is the time it takes to cook a perfect soft-boiled egg. Zahid’s casual attitude towards this matter shows his lack of commitment to the rakyat.

During the September 2015 Red Shirt rally, the red-shirts went on the rampage, damaging property, cussing and insulting others. Their leaders had little control over them.

Zahid publicly supported the red-shirts’ mission to “defend” Malay dignity, and said, “Do we keep quiet when our dignity is challenged, and when we are pushed against the wall? …we will rise to defend our dignity.”

What is so dignified about trashing public property during a rally? How had Malay dignity been challenged? Why defend MO1 and the missing billions of ringgit?

We want compassionate leaders, but two examples demonstrate their lack of empathy with the public. When seven Orang Asli (OA) school children disappeared from their rural boarding school, in August 2015, the security forces only conducted their search and rescue mission on the fifth day of their disappearance.

Valuable time was lost because the authorities dismissed the parents’ concerns. Seven weeks later, two children were found a stone’s throw away from the school. Five had perished.

In 1998, Zahid, who was a close ally of the former DPM, Anwar Ibrahim, criticised corrupt government officials during Mahathir’s tenure. Now, Zahid is the Home Minister and DPM. He has restricted Anwar’s family’s access to him and curtailed prison visits during Raya.

Anwar’s daughter, Hana explained her father’s treatment, when she said, “Power can change people. My family and I have seen this phenomenon, since 1998.”

When Zahid became the Home Minister in 2013, he claimed that 250,000 Shi’ite Muslims were hiding in Malaysia, and started a systematic witch-hunt to track them. Former PAS Deputy President, Mat Sabu, was also accused of involvement in Shi’ite activities.

This targeting of religious minorities is worrying. With a DPM who previously expressed support for the Malay gang, Tiga Line, one wonders if the abductions of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist, Amri Che Mat, are linked to the criminal underworld.

As DPM, Zahid may have the heads of departments and the Armed Forces at his beck and call, but now, he must be feeling isolated. His increasingly incoherent and personal attacks have isolated the non-Malays, virtuous Malays, the mamaks and the Shi’ites; in other words, decent, law-abiding Malaysians.

Incredibly, Zahid has managed to make both Mahathir and Najib look good.

Malaysia’s Economic Report Card: Positive


July 26, 2017

Malaysia’s Economic Report Card:  “Malaysia is on the right course”, says Prime Minister Najib Razak

In delivering his keynote address at InvestMalaysia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur today (July 25), Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak highlighted the economic transformation under his leadership.

He also launched a scathing broadside at the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, whose chairperson is his former mentor turned nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Among others, Najib claimed that there has been a concerted campaign to send misinformation overseas to damage Malaysia’s economy for selfish political objectives.

“So if you receive these smears, or you read it in publications that do not check the facts properly, please beware,” he told his audience, comprising local and foreign investors.–www.malaysiakini.com

Full Text of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Keynote Address (Salutations Removed)

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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, addressing some 2,000 local and international investors attending the Invest Malaysia 2017 Forum–July 25, 2017

As the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I want to lay out the foundations needed for our nation to be counted among the very top countries in the world. We want that competitive edge, and to be a knowledge-based society – but we must always work towards those goals in ways that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable. No Malaysian must ever be left behind. All must participate and benefit from this amazing journey that we are on.–Prime Minister Najib Razak

Seven years ago, in 2010, I introduced our New Economic Model – right here, at Invest Malaysia. This model was designed to transform Malaysia into a high- income nation, and our country into a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable society, with no one left behind, opportunity made available for all, and the right fundamentals put in place to secure a stable and successful future.

We had a plan of reform – economic transformation and taking the tough but responsible choices. And it is clear today, that, aided by the hard work of millions of Malaysians, the plan has worked and is continuing to work.

Let the facts speak for themselves:

Between 2009 and 2016, Gross National Income has increased by nearly 50 percent, and GNI per capita using the Atlas method increased to US$9,850. Based on the World Bank’s latest high-income threshold of US$12,235, we have narrowed the gap towards the high-income target from 33 percent to 19 percent.

2.26 million jobs have been created, which represents 69 percent of the 3.3 million target we want to reach by 2020. Clearly, we are making the right progress towards those goals.

Inflation and unemployment have been kept low. We have attracted unprecedented levels of Foreign Direct Investment, which shows the confidence the world has in Malaysia.

But no wonder. For our growth has been the envy of the advanced economies, even during years of turmoil in the global economy. This year, the World Bank has upped their estimate. We are expected to record a rise in GDP of 4.9 percent, considerably higher than their earlier prediction of 4.3 percent.

Others have also increased their predictions – Morgan Stanley now says 5 percent, while Nomura’s forecast is for the Malaysian economy to grow by 5.3 percent this year. Only yesterday, the IMF has reviewed their forecast from 4.5 percent to 4.8 percent. And growth is expected to be higher next year. So we are on the right trajectory.

Other sets of figures support confidence in Malaysia. In the first quarter of 2017 our trade, for instance, recorded an increase of 24.3 percent – up to RM430.5 billion – compared with the same period last year.

In March, exports breached the RM80 billion mark for the first time. At RM82.63 billion, it was the highest monthly figure for Malaysian exports ever recorded.

The capital market increased by nine percent to a level of RM3.1 trillion in the first six months of this year, and now ranks fifth in Asia relative to GDP. It continues to attract wide interest from both domestic and foreign investors. In fact, in the equity market, there were net inflows of RM11 billion in the first half of 2017, compared with RM3 billion of net outflows during the whole of 2016.

The Malaysian bond market grew to RM1.2 trillion in 2016, while our Islamic capital market has recorded a hugely impressive average annual growth of 10 percent over the last six years, reaching RM1.8 trillion in June 2017.

Malaysia is also home to the largest number of listed companies in ASEAN. At US$29 billion, Bursa Malaysia also recorded the highest amount of funds raised in the last five years in any country in our 10-nation association.

And our currency, the ringgit, has been described by Bloomberg recently as, and I quote, “easily the strongest major Asian currency this quarter, climbing twice as much as the next best, the Chinese yuan”.

All of this can point to only one conclusion – our economy continues to prosper, and we are stronger than ever as a result of the reforms and the programmes the government has put in place.

The markets, the business community and companies like strength and stability. They want the certainty provided by a government that understands that the prosperity of its people is best served by being business-friendly, and that sovereignty is not compromised one inch by the record Foreign Direct Investment this government has secured.

No. It will help build the new Malaysia of the 21st century, and bring many benefits, from knowledge and skills transfers to a rise in the standard of living for the people.

The business community wants the certainty of knowing that the government is committed to the necessary reforms, and is committed to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and to transparency, accountability, and good regulation.

On that note, I can announce that the government has, in principle, agreed to the establishment of an Integrity and Governance Unit at all GLCs, and state and ministry-owned business entities, under the supervision of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, precisely to strengthen the confidence all can, should, and do have in Malaysia.

The international business community knows that it has that certainty – with this government. Indeed, they are voting with their feet. HSBC is investing over RM1 billion to build its future regional headquarters in the Tun Razak Exchange, recognising Malaysia’s increasing status as an international financial and business centre.

Broadcom Limited, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies with a market capitalisation of nearly half-a-trillion dollars, is going to transfer its Global Distribution Hub from Singapore to Malaysia in 2017, from where it will manage the group’s global inventory of RM64 billion a year.

Huawei, a leading global ICT solutions provider which serves more than one- third of the world’s population, has made Malaysia its global operation headquarters, data hosting centre and global training centre, with a total project cost of RM2.2 billion and employing more than 2,370 people.

Saudi Aramco is investing US$7 billion – that’s its biggest downstream investment outside the kingdom – for a 50 percent stake in Petronas’ Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development in Johor. That is the single largest investment in Malaysia, and shows the confidence Saudi Arabia has in our people, our technology, and our ability to be a strong partner with their most important business.

Others who are already here are expanding their operations. Finisar Corporation, a global technology leader in optical communications, will invest a further RM610 million in its operation in Perak – bringing its total investment in Malaysia to RM1 billion.

Coca-Cola has already invested RM1 billion in Malaysia since 2010. It announced in March an additional RM500 million investment to expand the size and production capacity of its plant at Bandar Enstek.

I could go on and on. The point is that the confidence and certainty global businesses have in Malaysia brings jobs, lifts wages and helps our workforce upskill.

It is this government that offers that certainty to businesses both in Malaysia and overseas. The opposition offers none at all. They are in chaos. Two leading members of one party can’t agree if the old opposition alliance still exists in the state of Selangor. “Yes, it does”, says one. “Oh no it doesn’t!” says the other. It’s like a Punch and Judy show!

And the latest leadership structure the opposition announced is farcical, sounding a bit like a return-to-work programme for old-age political pensioners!

It is also cynical and deceptive, with three leaders but no clarity on who has executive power among them, and DAP kept deliberately invisible despite controlling the opposition behind the scenes with the vast majority of their parliamentary seats.

As for their Prime Minister candidate, the opposition is so desperate that they are now trying to make the people believe it will be a nonagenarian – who isn’t even a member of parliament, and whose party has just one seat!

But the truth is that in a democracy numbers don’t lie, and DAP remains by far the most dominant party in the opposition. The DAP leader of the last half century is now hiding behind the man who jailed him, trying to deceive Malays into thinking that former leader is their interim candidate for Prime Minister.

Neither can the word of the opposition be relied on. Just recently, a leading member in one party said that, if Malaysia had such good relations with Saudi Arabia, why had the hajj quota not been increased? But it has! Twice this year, from 22,230 to 27,900 and then up to 30,200.

That’s another example of the benefits this government’s policies bring to the people of Malaysia – in this case, our foreign policy of forging friendship abroad, rather than holding grudges for decades, as that certain former leader still does.

But you won’t hear about the very real benefits from our engagement with Saudi Arabia, China, India or anywhere else from the opposition. In fact, they’ll tell barefaced lies about it, just as they have been feeding lies about the economy and stoking fears of economic disaster in Malaysia.

There has in fact been a concerted campaign to send such misinformation overseas to damage Malaysia’s economy for their own selfish political objectives. So if you receive these smears, or you read it in publications that do not check the facts properly, please beware.

It is not fair to the Malaysian people, and it’s not fair to the business community, both at home and abroad.

They, and you, deserve the truth. So let me tell you what a cross-section of respected international bodies has to say about this government’s record.

The OECD’s most recent economic assessment of Malaysia stated, and I quote: “Malaysia is one of the most successful Southeast Asian economies… thanks to sound macroeconomic fundamentals and its success in transforming its economy into a well-diversified and inclusive one.”

We are ranked second in ASEAN in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2017 – and 23rd overall, among 190 economies globally.

We were ranked second among the Southeast Asian nations in the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index 2016, up one place from last year’s third spot.

We are ranked third among 190 economies, worldwide, for Protecting Minority Investors, by the World Bank Doing Business Report 2017.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 ranks Malaysia fourth among 138 economies for Strength of Investor Protection.

We rank eleventh out of 125 countries in the Venture Capital and Private Equity Attractiveness Index, by the IESE Business School in Spain.

The ratings agency Fitch recently reaffirmed our A- rating and stable outlook.

And a recent survey by BAV Consulting and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania declared Malaysia to be the “best country to invest In”. It said, and I quote, “Malaysia is the clear frontrunner in this ranking, scoring at least 30 points more than any other country on a 100 point scale.”

There is clear international unanimity that Malaysia is on the right course, and the figures and accolades I have reported to you today are the direct results of this government’s steering of the economy through uncertain and choppy global waters.

IMF reported that the resilience of our economy was due, and I quote, to “sound macroeconomic policy responses in the face of significant headwinds and risks”. And these sound policies are the reason why they said that: “Malaysia is among the fastest growing economies among peers.”

And lastly, the World Bank has shown that it agrees as well. In its latest report, issued just last month, it said that the government’s “macroeconomic management has been constantly proactive and effective in navigating near-term challenges in the economic environment”.

It concluded, and I quote: “The Malaysian economy is progressing from a position of strength.”

Does that really sound like the Malaysian economy is failing, and that we are in danger of going bankrupt, as the opposition would have you believe?

I think the World Bank, the OECD and the IMF know what they are talking about – and I’m sure, ladies and gentlemen, that you do too.

We have only arrived at that position of strength because we put in place a far-reaching economic plan; and because we have been unafraid to take the tough decisions to build up the resilience of the Malaysian economy.

We have diversified government sources of income, including reducing reliance on oil and gas revenues from 41 percent in 2009 to 14 percent today. Given the huge drop in the price of oil, just imagine how we would be suffering if we had not done that.

We also needed to widen the tax base, and so, in common with around 160 other countries, we introduced a goods and services tax, or GST. It was not popular, but it was the right thing to do – as every reputable economist has confirmed.

GST has helped us in our determination to steadily reduce the deficit – we are on course to reduce it to three percent this year, from 6.7 percent in 2009 – and GST has been crucial to retaining our good assessments by the international ratings agencies.

Yet the opposition says they would abolish it. Tell me, from where exactly would they produce the RM41 billion collected in GST revenue last year? Out of a hat?

If GST was abolished, it would not just be a matter of a revenue shortfall. The deficit would rise from 3.1 percent to 5 percent. Our ability to fund the construction of schools, hospitals and other essentials would be affected.

Government debt would rise above our self-imposed level of 55 percent of GDP. Our sovereign credit ratings would then be downgraded. Lending costs for all, such as loans for personal use, for business and for housing, would increase. The people would suffer, and they would suffer directly.

One of Malaysia’s prominent independent analysts, the Director of Economics at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, had it right when he said the idea of getting rid of GST was, and I quote, “preposterous” and “economically nonsensical”. “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to do that,” he said.

It is another example of what the opposition do when faced with tough decisions: they seek the easy or the populist way out, regardless of whether it makes sense or is even possible. They are not being straight with the Malaysian people.

This government, however, will always be straight with the people and we will always do right by the people. We will always put their interests first, from economic welfare to security. Even if it is not the most popular thing to do, we will not hesitate – because it is the responsible thing to do for the country.

This is also one of the reasons I am not very popular with that certain nonagenarian. Under his leadership many corners were cut, and the Malaysian people had to pay a very high price so that a few of his friends benefited, even when symbols of national pride had horrendous and catastrophic decisions inflicted on them.

But I say to you now that under this government, we are cracking down on crony capitalism. No more sweetheart deals. No more national follies kept going to stroke the ego of one man. No more treating national companies as though they were personal property.

Because it is the people who suffer, and we will not tolerate a few succeeding – and not on their own merits – while the many are denied opportunities, all for the interests of a selfish few.

Now some of you may be thinking that I have not mentioned national companies where there have been issues. At 1MDB it is now clear that there were lapses in governance.

However, rather than bury our heads in the sand, we ordered investigations into the company at a scale unprecedented in our nation’s history. Rather than funnel good money after bad to cover up any issues 1MDB may have faced – the model embraced by a former leader – I instructed the rationalisation of the company.

And it is progressing well. Indeed, many of the assets formerly owned by 1MDB are thriving. One only needs to drive past Tun Razak Exchange to see the new construction for confirmation.

But let’s not forget that while there were issues at 1MDB, certain politicians blew them out of proportion, and tried to sabotage the company, in an attempt to topple the government in-between election cycles.

At the time we knew the real issue was not 1MDB, and that if 1MDB hadn’t been around they would have chosen another line of attack to try to illegitimately change the government. So we stood steadfast, and resolute, in the face of this orchestrated campaign. Because we will not be deterred from our duty, as the democratically elected government, to serve the nation.

Our priorities were made crystal clear when we introduced the concepts of the “capital economy” – which refers to the macro perspective – and the “people economy”, which is focused entirely on the people, the most precious asset of our great country.

We face challenges ahead, of course. We need to improve productivity. We need to raise the levels of education and skills. We need to put innovation and creativity at the heart of the economy of the future.

This why we have partnered with the Chinese technology leader Alibaba to create the Digital Free Trade Zone, the world’s first special trade zone that will promote the growth of e-commerce, and provide a state-of-the-art platform for both SMEs and larger enterprises to conduct their digital businesses and services.

This initiative is part of the digital roadmap which aims to double e-commerce growth from 10.8 per cent to 20.8 per cent by 2020.

But we can only achieve such targets with the people, and by empowering the people. To ensure the dignity of all, we have virtually eliminated poverty, to less than one percent. We are delighted that the income of the bottom 40 percent households has been increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent since 2009, when I took office.

But we know that cost of living issues hit those with low incomes the hardest; which is why we distributed RM5.36 billion in 1Malaysia People’s Aid, or BR1M, to 7.28 million households in 2016. This is why we ensured that essential foods and necessities are zero-rated for GST.

At the same time, we have many agencies promoting affordable housing programmes, and why we built and restored nearly 95,000 houses for the rural poor last year. Other affordable housing projects include PPA1M, for civil servants; PR1MA, for the urban middle income group; and the People’s Housing Programme for the lower income group, or Bottom 40, with monthly rents as low as RM124.

Infrastructure, too, is absolutely vital. It is crucial for our cities, and life-changing for rural communities. From 2010 to 2016 we delivered 6,042 kilometres of new rural roads, provided 350,000 houses with access to clean water, and connected 154,000 houses to electrical services.

At the end of last year, the first phase of the Mass Rapid Transit project was completed, and recently, the second phase of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line has been launched. We now have 51 kilometres of operational line with 31 stations.

This will take 160,000 cars off road, making Kuala Lumpur more liveable. It created 130,000 new jobs, of which 70,000 are direct employment. And best of all, it was completed ahead of schedule and RM2 billion below budget. We are now planning for MRT 2 and 3.

The Pan Borneo Highway in Sarawak and Sabah will be a game changer for our people there, encouraging greater mobility, boosting industry and tourism and creating thousands of new jobs.

In a few years time, we will have the first high-speed rail link connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, which will cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes, as compared to more than four hours by car.

And the East Coast Rail Link will bring huge benefits, jobs and a new connectedness to the people of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan in particular.

In other areas, we are seeing the benefits of our programmes for all the people. The national pre-school enrolment rate rose to 85.6 percent in 2016, for instance, as opposed to 67 percent in 2009; and we have achieved almost universal enrollment for the five years and upwards age group.

Women have seen great strides as well. The female labour force participation rate has increased from 46 percent in 2009 to 54.3 percent last year. That’s over 700,000 more women in the workforce.

And I am delighted to be able to announce that Malaysia has reached its target of women making up 30 percent of top management – that’s 1,446 women, out of a total of 4,960 in top management excluding CEOs, as of December 2016.

We want to go further, though, and have set 2020 as the date by which we want all public listed companies (PLCs) to have at least 30 percent women at board level. Because we know that when women succeed, we all succeed.

Unfortunately, we still have 17 “top 100” PLCs that have no women at all on their board. This just is not good enough, and I call on these companies to immediately address this lack of diversity. I would like to announce that, from 2018, the Government will name and shame PLCs with no women on their boards.

As many of you will know, SMEs make up 97 percent of businesses in Malaysia, and one of the hallmarks of my administration has been its support and encouragement for this backbone of our economy.

So I am pleased to be able to officially launch today the Leading Entrepreneur Accelerator Platform Market, or LEAP Market, by Bursa Malaysia. This is a new qualified market which will offer an alternative way for small and medium companies to raise funds and grow their business to the next level.

It is in line with our SME Masterplan which aims to raise the share of GDP contributed by SMEs, their numbers of employees, and their volume of exports.

And it is another of the many initiatives that my government has put in place in pursuit of our transformation, and that prove our trustworthiness as a business-friendly government of a vibrant economy.

We want you to see Malaysia as a gateway to ASEAN and the region, and with the eventual conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, we want you to see Malaysia as a base from which to access almost 50 percent of the world’s population, and over 30 percent of global GDP.

This year, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of independence. From relatively humble beginnings, we have grown and evolved into a modern economy and society with a record to be proud of. But we are looking to the future as well – which is why we have produced the 2050 National Transformation, or TN50, initiative.

Through TN50, we want to listen to our rakyat. We want them to be heard. And through our dialogue sessions, we are listening to the aspirations of our youth for what they want the Malaysia of 2050 to be.

As the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I want to lay out the foundations needed for our nation to be counted among the very top countries in the world. We want that competitive edge, and to be a knowledge-based society – but we must always work towards those goals in ways that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable. No Malaysian must ever be left behind. All must participate and benefit from this amazing journey that we are on.

We invite you be to part of that journey, and I hope today we are able to shed light on the tremendous opportunities that Malaysia has to offer. We urge to you to look at our potential; to look at the great achievements the government’s transformation programme has delivered, and continues to deliver; and invest in Malaysia.