On Taib Mahmud and The Rape of Sarawak


January 25, 2015

Taib Mahmud: Money Logging and The Rape of Sarawak

http://sarawakheadhunter.blogspot.com/2015/01/taibs-kleptocracy-money-logging-on.html

Also READ

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/01/150111-borneo-rainforest-environment-conservation-ngbooktalk/

Book Review on Money Logging By Lukas Straumann, Bergli 

A sad tale of the Asian timber mafia and the man who did more than anything to create it, Abdul Taib Mahmud.

On October 3, 2011, a depressed and paranoic former Chief Operating Officer for a San Francisco-based property company called Sakti International named Ross Boyert slipped a plastic bag over his head, taped it tight and suffocated himself to death in a Los Angeles hotel room. He was 61.

But Boyert, however delusional he was when he died, left behind him an explosive legacy – the details of virtually all of the properties owned by Abdul Taib Mahmud, the longest-serving public official in Malaysia.

It is a breathtaking collection according to the documents that Boyert – who was fired by the Taib interests — gave to a crusading journalist named Clare Rewcastle Brown. They show that Taib, through nominees, family members and other subterfuges, is worth in excess of US$21 billion.

Taib and Timber

Taib is not mentioned on the Forbes list of Malaysia’s richest, but if he were, he would be worth almost twice as much as the man listed as richest — Robert Kuok, whose fortune is in property, sugar, palm oil and shipping. He would also be about halfway up the list of the world’s 50 richest billionaires although his name is not mentioned there either.

That is because, according to this book by Lukas Straumann, Taib amassed his entire fortune illegally, as undoubtedly a handful of others have around the world that remains hidden. Nonetheless, according to Boyert’s documents and the research by Rewcastle Brown and Straumann, he is an engine of corruption the likes of which the world has never seen.

Taib built his real estate empire in Canada, the United States, Australia and the East Malaysia state of Sarawak on timber. In the process, in his 33 years as Chief Minister, he staged some of the most depressing environmental destruction on the planet. An estimated 98 percent of the old-growth timber of Sarawak, a state three times the size of Switzerland, is gone, sold via timber permits to logging companies, many of them connected to him, that shipped the logs to Japan, China and across much of the rest of the world.

Using the documents furnished by Rewcastle Brown, and with considerable additional reporting, the story of Taib’s looting of Sarawak is told by Straumann, the Director of the Basel-headquartered Bruno Manser Fund, an NGO named for a Swiss naturalist who fought to save the indigenous Penan tribe from the depredations of the loggers’ bulldozers, and who disappeared into the forest in 2000 and has never been found.

Sarawak--Rape of the ForestMassive Deforestation in Sarawak

It is an explosive book. Taib has threatened to sue Amazon if it distributes it. So far, Amazon has backed away from delivering it.

The book, Money Logging: On the Trail of Asia’s Timber Mafia, published by Bergli Books, also of Basel, tells the story of Taib’s rise to power, starting in 1965 as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

By the end of that decade, he would be Sarawak’s richest politician. Today he holds interests in property companies that own prestigious buildings in Seattle, San Francisco, Ottawa, London, Adelaide and in Malaysia itself. The major companies he controls through family members or by proxies, according to Boyert’s documentation, include Sakti International, Wallyson’s Inc., Sakto Group, Citygate International, Ridgeford Properties, Sitehost City and literally scores of smaller ones. He is believed to control more than 100 companies.

One of the most important things about this story is that Taib was first anointed by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Father of Malaysia and the country’s first Prime Minister. Abdul Rahman was followed in office by five other prime ministers who sat in Kuala Lumpur and later the Putarjaya government complex and did nothing about him.

It was hardly a secret that he was both looting the country and stealing, on a breathtaking scale, the resources that belonged to the Dayak, Murut, Penan and other local tribes that make up the peoples of Sarawak.

Nothing was done about him because he developed a political machine that could deliver votes to the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition in Peninsular Malaysia. Taib is a Muslim. Most of the Sarawak tribes are either Christian or animist. And, to the government across the South China Sea, it would have been unthinkable to have a non-Muslim government leader in charge.

Later, during the current administration of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, it became clear that the Barisan’s very survival depended on Taib and his fellow kleptocrat, Musa Aman, who continues stealing the people of the neighboring state of Sabah blind, although on a smaller scale.

What’s worse is that Taib’s activities in Sarawak, according to the book, spawned a series of giant timber companies including Concord Pacific, Samling, Shin Yang, WTK and Ta Ann Holdings – all of which have received backing from the international banking community including HSBC and others – and have expanded far outside of Malaysia to Cambodia, Australia, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville, Papua New Guinea and just about every other country with less than reputable governments and tropical timber to loot.

“Virtually all of this timber (from Papua New Guinea) was exported to China in the form of logs and other Asian destinations and the trickle-down of wealth in the country itself remained minimal,” Straumann writes. That is true of virtually every country in which the Malaysia-based lumber companies operated.

There is one more sad corollary to this story. As a December. 23, 2014 story in the New York Times about Costa Rica’s rainforests demonstrates, tropical forests will regenerate, and, given the space of time, return to their former state. The forests of Sarawak, if not all of Borneo, once one of the world’s greatest green lungs, will not. Sarawak’s forests are being replaced with oil palm plantations.

Taib has stepped aside as Chief Minister and is now the state’s governor. He ostensibly is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission after the Swiss government forwarded allegations to the Malaysians of money-laundering into Swiss banks.

Straussman

“It is up to his successors (as Chief Minister) to correct the state’s course of action and the government’s condescending attitude towards its indigenous peoples,” Straumann writes. “Now, the Malaysian Judiciary and Anti-Corruption authorities need to live up to their responsibility. While it is a good thing that Sarawak’s last ‘White Rajah’ has finally stepped down, he does not belong in the governor’s residence. He belongs in jail.

P.S: That last sentence is sadly unrealistic. Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission and the Attorney-General have no intention of doing anything about Abdul Taib Mahmud. He remains far too valuable to the ruling coalition in Putrajaya to keep the state in loyal hands.

Charlie Hebdo and the Ugly side of Religious Zenophobia


January 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the Ugly side of Religious Zenophobia

by Lim Teck Ghee@www.themalaymailonline.com

teck-ghee-limAs they went on their rampage, the men who killed 12 people in Paris this week yelled that they had “avenged the prophet.” They follow in the path of other terrorists who have bombed newspaper of ices, stabbed a filmmaker and killed writers and translators, all to mete out what they believe is the proper Koranic punishment for blasphemy. But in fact, the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy.

US-FRANCE-ATTACKS-MEDIA-DEMOLike so many of the most fanatical and violent aspects of Islamic terrorism today, the idea that Islam requires that insults against the Prophet Muhammad be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda. (—Fareed Zakaria, “Blasphamy and the Law of Fanatics,” January 8, 2015.)

The recent massacre of journalists and other innocents in Paris by Muslim extremists has resulted in a spontaneous and universal wave of sympathy, mourning and concern.

Leaders and ordinary people all over the world have joined in widespread condemnation of these dastardly killings; and rightly so. These are acts of twisted minds. There is no way in which the actions of the Muslim jihadists can be justified.

Political satire has a long and honoured tradition in France and in other democratic nations. The satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo — the target of the cold-blooded massacre – has mocked people of all faiths and backgrounds. One cover of the magazine in April 2011 has listed the major religions by rolls of toilet paper marked “Bible,” “Torah” and “Coran” and has the headline “In the toilet, all religions…”

This irreverence towards all and sundry who are in power or authority is one of the distinguishing features of the democratic system that French Muslims have fled towards and now call their own.

One would expect that the Muslim community would be amongst the first to cherish and protect the secular and democratic way of life in France.

If Charlie Hebdo has lately been seen as paying more attention to lampooning Muslim politicians and Islam, it is because both the religion and their adherents have drawn public attention and scrutiny to themselves. In doing so, in standing up for the freedom of expression, the staff of Charlie have had to pay the ultimate price. All thinking and good people must pay tribute to the murdered cartoonists and their colleagues and unreservedly condemn the barbaric acts aimed at silencing them.

Putrajaya and opposition response

So what has been the response of Malaysia and Malaysian Muslim leaders to this abominable act.On the one hand, we have the correct and restrained response of Putrajaya and the opposition parties.

Kudos to our Prime Minister. In a posting on his Twitter account, Najib said that Malaysia, a Muslim ­majority country, stands in unity with France after the attack at the publication’s Paris office. He tweeted “Msia condemns in the strongest terms all acts of violence. We stand in unity with the French people. We must fight extremism with moderation.”

Kudos also to Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad who said that the sensitive nature of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons on Islam cannot be used as a reason to justify the multiple killings of the satirical magazine’s staff members. He said terrorism is a far greater evil than satirical comments and articles against Islam, and that although PAS does not agree with the French magazine’s works, the party believes extremism is not the way to protect the religion.

Anwar Ibrahim, leader of Pakatan and PKR, perhaps belatedly recognising that the source of Islamic religious intolerance and hate is embedded in the leadership of the religion, has urged Muslim leaders across the globe to denounce such acts of terrorism “in the strongest possible terms.”

His colleague, Azmin Ali has noted that “[t]he culprits who committedAzmin Ali these murders purportedly in the name of Islam are actually the enemies of Islam…” Azmin has also been forthright in stressing that “such acts of terrorism and sheer cruelty are completely unacceptable in Islam and we reiterate the paramount importance of justice and moderation and reject all forms of violence and fanaticism.”

Two who are not with Charlie

That’s one end of the spectrum in which our leaders have shown by their measured response that they are or can be part of the civilised world. At the other end of the scale, we have two political leaders — one retired, and the other an up and coming — who have made public comments which are reprehensible and irresponsible.

Khairy_Jamaluddin_(cropped)The first is Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who mocked the need to protect satire that is “racist, xenophobic, bigoted.” Posting on Twitter in response to the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur which said satire should be protected because it is “intended to provoke thought,” Khairy alluded that exceptions had to be made when the content of the satire is offensive. “Even racist, xenophobic, bigoted satire? Please. I condemn the murders. Like I condemned the cartoons,” he posted on Twitter.

This response coming from the UMNO Youth Chief is beneath contempt. It will deservedly haunt him for the rest of his political life. If he thinks that people or organisations that are racist, xenophobic and bigoted deserve to be murdered in cold blood, he needs to look into the mirror himself before he repeats this message.

The other Malaysian whose response is reverberating over the internetDr.Mahathir is former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He has said that Charlie Hebdo had on numerous occasions showed disrespect towards Islam and often derided Prophet Muhammad via caricature.

“Is there a need for them to ridicule Prophet Muhammad knowing that they are offending Muslims? We respect their religion and they must respect our religion,” he said when commenting on the killings.

By his stance, Dr Mahathir is implying, even if he is not directly saying it, that violence is justified against those who do not accord the respect towards Islam that he and his fellow Muslims think the religion deserves. Dr Mahathir has made a great many cynical, inflammatory and instigative statements in the past. This set of comments must rank amongst his most odious.

In some ways, the attack on Charlie can be considered to be the equivalent of the United States 9­11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Like the Twin Tower event, the impact of the killings will be long lasting. It will lead to the hardening of European and world public opinion towards Muslims and Islam. That cannot be good.

Unfortunately the comments by Dr Mahathir and Khairy are not helpful in any way. They will lead to the stigmatisation of Muslims even as they embolden Muslim extremists to engage in “revenge” acts aimed at punishing those (including from their own religion) who do not show the proper respect or are perceived to be disrespectful towards their religion.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

Where values begin


January 8, 2015

Where values begin

by Tricia Yeoh@www.thesundaily.my

Tricia YeohFOR all of our technical analysis of how to improve such-and-such a public policy, the most current of which being the deforestation decisions that may have contributed largely to the flood disaster, the main question often asked is whether there is political will to follow through.

This is the conundrum that policy wonks like us in think-tanks have to face squarely each day: whether or not facts and figures really influence policymakers at the end of the day (both civil servants and politicians).

Sure, it is still crucial that someone does the job of number-crunching and doing comparative policy research. But perhaps it is equally – if not more so – important that non-governmental organisations like ours get our feet dirty to wade in the more difficult waters of changing cultural values in a more direct way.

It is our values that shape us, which influence our weltanschauung (worldview), sometimes “through a glass darkly”. These values are inculcated at a young age, influenced by the society we keep, both family and otherwise. The great divide we have observed in the ethno-religious debate in Malaysia is a perfect example. Just like how you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it is near impossible to convince several deeply entrenched NGOs that the Sedition Act should be abolished, for instance.

If I were to recall my personal motivations for doing the things I do today, one would need to trace the values imbibed from a young age. Books that I read, experiences encountered during those very impressionable years of teenagehood, and most profoundly, people I looked up to as leaders, who eventually became – and still remain – mentors to me during periods of vocational self-doubt in this journey.

It is for this reason that IDEAS, after much deliberation, decided to embark on a new and exciting project, based on the understanding that it is the shaping of values from a young age that can truly transform the future of this now fragile nation. Through this, we hope to provide the same experience that many of us now working hard in civil society had the opportunity of having those many years ago.

We are calling for 20 of the brightest young Malaysian leaders from all over the country to be part of a nine-month National Unity Youth Fellowship programme, during which they will engage in a series of roundtable discussions, seminars and national conference where they will interact with community and religious leaders and other speakers we will identify. This is being done with the support of the National Integration Research and Training Institute at the Department of National Unity and Integration.

We hope that by the end of this period, we would have built up a strong and united, multi-ethnic and diverse “fellowship of 20″, whom, through their close-knit interaction, discussions and purposeful sessions of working together to formulate solutions, will become advocates for liberal ideas in tackling the problem of unity that we face today.

Values TreeIt is not enough that the youth of today have access to online media. Being connected to the internet ensures young Malaysians are exposed to the many dimensions of a particular issue. But a structured programme like this allows for young leaders with the greatest potential to be given specialised training on technical skills, the opportunity to build relationships with academics, opinion-shapers and thinkers, and most importantly, the ability to network with other like-minded leaders from different states across both Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.

It is a continuing challenge for the moderate-minded in Malaysia who feel frustrated over the way this nation of great potential has instead regressed. Overhauling the system would be ideal, but it will also take a long time, with many corresponding layers to tackle.

We have instead chosen to channel those frustrations into this programme that can have an immediate impact upon the young. It is hoped that at least one or two eventually feel that this intervention was meaningful to them, and that the right leadership, mentorship and training helped them reframe the way they see Malaysia and its plethora of identities. Perhaps we would then have contributed to the values of these future leaders, whatever they choose to do next with them – this is where values begin.

Dedicated to the families of those affected in the floods and the recent AirAsia crash.

Reasons why TPPA must be defeated


January 4, 2015

This commentary is intended for  Prime Minister Najib and Din Merican lastestour MITI Minister. To both of them, this is my message on TPPA. Thread carefully.Please don’t sell Malaysia’s interest to Obama and his cohorts and corporate America. What did Najib say to the US President during his golf diplomacy in Hawaii on this subject? I wonder since his administration, like the Obama’s, is always opaque when it comes matters of public interest.–Din Merican

Reasons why TPPA must be defeated

by Bernie Sanders

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy. It will also negatively impact some of the poorest people in the world.

Najib dah sampaiWhat was the Deal with Obama?

The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process. Further, all Americans, regardless of political ideology, should be opposed to the “fast track” process which would deny Congress the right to amend the treaty and represent their constituents’ interests.

The TPP follows in the footsteps of other unfettered “free trade” agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR). These treaties have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world. The result has been massive job losses in the United States and the shutting down of tens of thousands of factories. These corporately backed trade agreements have significantly contributed to the race to the bottom, the collapse of the American middle class and increased wealth and income inequality. The TPP is more of the same, but even worse.

During my 23 years in Congress, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA and PNTR with China. During the coming session of Congress, I will be working with organized labor, environmentalists, religious organizations, Democrats, and Republicans against the secretive TPP trade deal.

Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a “free trade” agreement. It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system. If TPP was such a good deal for America, the administration should have the courage to show the American people exactly what is in this deal, instead of keeping the content of the TPP a secret.

10 Ways that TPP Would Hurt Working Families

1. TPP will allow corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the TPP is agreed to, the U.S. will lose more than 130,000 jobs to Vietnam and Japan alone. But that is just the tip of the iceberg… Service Sector Jobs will be lost. At a time when corporations have already outsourced over 3 million service sector jobs in the U.S., TPP includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers; computer programming; engineering; accounting; and medical diagnostic jobs.

Manufacturing jobs will be lost. As a result of NAFTA, the U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs. As a result of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, the U.S. lost over 2.7 million jobs. As a result of the Korea Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has lost 70,000 jobs. The TPP would make matters worse by providing special benefits to firms that offshore jobs and by reducing the risks associated with operating in low-wage countries.

2. U.S. sovereignty will be undermined by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals.

The TPP creates a special dispute resolution process that allows corporations to challenge any domestic laws that could adversely impact their “expected future profits.” These challenges would be heard before UN and World Bank tribunals which could require taxpayer compensation to corporations. This process undermines our sovereignty and subverts democratically passed laws including those dealing with labor, health, and the environment.

3. Wages, benefits, and collective bargaining will be threatened.

NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, and other free trade agreements have helped drive down the wages and benefits of American workers and have eroded collective bargaining rights. The TPP will make the race to the bottom worse because it forces American workers to compete with desperate workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is just 56 cents an hour .

4. Our ability to protect the environment will be undermined.

The TPP will allow corporations to challenge any law that would adversely impact their future profits. Pending claims worth over $14 billion have been filed based on similar language in other trade agreements. Most of these claims deal with challenges to environmental laws in a number of countries. The TPP will make matters even worse by giving corporations the right to sue any of the nations that sign onto the TPP. These lawsuits would be heard in international tribunals bypassing domestic courts.

5. Food Safety Standards will be threatened.

The TPP would make it easier for countries like Vietnam to export contaminated fish and seafood into the U.S. The FDA has already prevented hundreds of seafood imports from TPP countries because of salmonella, e-coli, methyl-mercury and drug residues. But the FDA only inspects 1-2 percent of food imports and will be overwhelmed by the vast expansion of these imports if the TPP is agreed to.

6. Buy America laws could come to an end.

The U.S. has several laws on the books that require the federal government to buy goods and services that are made in America or mostly made in this country. Under TPP, foreign corporations must be given equal access to compete for these government contracts with companies that make products in America.

Under TPP, the U.S. could not even prevent companies that have horrible human rights records from receiving government contracts paid by U.S. taxpayers.

7. Prescription drug prices will increase, access to life saving drugs will decrease, and the profits of drug companies will go up.

Big pharmaceutical companies are working hard to ensure that the TPP extends the monopolies they have for prescription drugs by extending their patents (which currently can last 20 yea rs or more). This would expand the profits of big drug companies, keep drug prices artificially high, and leave millions of people around the world without access to life saving drugs. Doctors without Borders stated that “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”

8. Wall Street would benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Under TPP, governments would be barred from imposing “capital controls” that have been successfully used to avoid financial crises. These controls a range from establishing a financial speculation tax to limiting the massive flows of speculative capital flowing into and out of countries responsible for the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s. In other words, the TPP would expand the rights and power of the same Wall Street firms that nearly destroyed the world economy just five years ago and would create the conditions for more financial instability in the future. Last year, I co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Harkin to create a Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.03 percent on trades of derivatives, credit default swaps, and large amounts of stock. If TPP were enacted, such a financial speculation tax may be in violation of this trade agreement.

9. The TPP would reward authoritarian regimes like Vietnam that systematically violate human rights.

The State Department, the U.S. Department of Labor, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all documented Vietnam’s widespread violations of basic international standards for human rights. Yet, the TPP would reward Vietnam’s bad behavior by giving it duty free access to the U.S. market.

10. The TPP has no expiration date, making it virtually impossible to repeal.

Once TPP is agreed to, it has no sunset date and could only be altered by a consensus of all of the countries that agreed to it. Other countries, like China, could be allowed to join in the future. For example, Canada and Mexico joined TPP negotiations in 2012 and Japan joined last year.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont’s at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

 

Mariam Mokhtar on Najib and Crisis Leadership


January 1, 2015

Mariam Mokhtar on Najib and Crisis Leadership

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Najib and Obama in HawaiiPosing with Obama in Hawaii

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has more than just the rising flood waters to worry about. He probably returned home  to stop being swamped by the efforts of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who said that Najib need not abandon his holiday to deal with the flooding.

Few people believe Najib’s declaration that he has genuine concern for the welfare of the flood victims. Did he return for the rakyat, or to save his own skin? We will probably never learn the true reason. The truth is always suppressed by UMNO Baru.

najib and his deputyPartners or Rivals for Power?

On Christmas Day, Muhyiddin said, “The PM is overseas, but I’m in charge here. I am running the country”. His comment is insignificant if taken as a single remark, because a deputy should take control, when his boss is away.

However, when other things are taken into consideration, it is an indication of the level of animosity between the two men and the swirling discontent within UMNO Baru.

When one includes the recent barrage of verbal assaults and criticisms of Najib, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and his administration, it looks like a repeat of the drama at the time of the KL112 rally, dubbed the People’s Uprising Rally, two years ago.

At that time, in January 2013, one political pundit claimed that Najib, who was on a family holiday in Europe, had to rush back to Malaysia immediately after his audience with the Pope at the Vatican.

It was alleged that Muhyiddin had conspired, with other UMNO Baru warlords in Malaysia to act against his boss. Then, as now, the criticisms against Najib have been loud and unrestrained. Najib has much to worry about.

Floods, Obama and NajbNajib needs Obama

With critics lambasting Najib, for abandoning the country while it suffered from the worst flooding in decades, Muhyiddin poked fun at Najib, when he said, “The PM has worked very hard. Be fair to him…”

Muhyiddin also said, “If I can’t do the job then I will call him to come back”. So, poor Najib had to return. Perhaps, Najib should consider sacking Muhyiddin, who has made a hash of everything he has touched.

Intense rivalry between PM and DPM

There is no doubt that there is intense rivalry between the two, but Najib was being insincere when he claimed that he was glad to be with the flood victims. It had taken public humiliation, on the social media, to drag him away from Hawaii, and  his golfing buddy, the President of the United States.

NAJIB / BANJIR

Najib said that he did not mind foregoing his family vacation, in America, to deal with the flooding at home. Few of us are moved by this trite comment. We know from experience that Najib is always abroad when the nation is in crisis. He may as well form a government in exile, judging by the number of times he has issued comments from abroad.

A country needs its leader to assume control in times of disaster. Najib should also realise that his bloated Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) acts like a lumbering container ship, rather than a sleek vessel. Instructions take a long time to filter to the bottom.

With factions existing in many Malaysian institutions, the heads of department of the 45,000 civil servants in the PMD, may not want to make decisions, nor be held accountable for their actions.

The UMNO Baru cybertroopers will never understand that it is pointless asking where the opposition leaders are. The opposition does not have the authority to deploy the army to help the relief effort. They cannot tell the Treasury to allocate funds for food or medical equipment. UMNO Baru controls Putrajaya and is in charge of the resources of the nation.

Floods not a one-off incident

An aerial view of flooded streets of the National Park in Kuala Tahan, Pahang

On his return, Najib headed straight to Kota Baru, in Kelantan, and instructed cabinet members who were on holiday to return and help manage the situation.

Does Najib have to “order” them to return? Are these men and women so irresponsible and immature that they have to be told what to do? They probably own smartphones and the latest electronic gadgetry to inform them of what is happening in Malaysia. Must they be summoned like errant school children?

A leader should set a good example and this experience should tell Najib that when he absconded to Hawaii, his minsters decided to emulate him, and also go on holiday.

The floods are not a one-off incident. They are an annual occurrence. The signs that this year was going to be worse than previous years have been evident. Why ignore them?

If I had a ringgit for every insult our politicians hurl at the Malaysian rakyat, I would be a millionaire. If I were given a sen for all the lies they tell us, I would be a billionaire.

There are three mysterious allegations that Najib may want to clear up: Did he go on a private vacation using a government jet? Why did he not take the direct route home, instead of stopping off in Indianapolis? How many planes were used to fly him to Hawaii and back?

The floods are an annual occurrence, exacerbated by illegal logging, deforestation and the destruction of the mangrove swamps. The problems are not helped by development on the flood plains.

Najib should plan flood mitigation measures to prevent a recurrence of this disaster. A tiny proportion of the illegal outflow of money, from this country, would pay for dredging and widening of rivers and many other methods of water control.

So, why has Najib not mentioned anything about flood mitigation measures? He should consult Ahmad Maslan, the expert geographer and Deputy Finance Minister.