Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying

June 30, 2015

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying till the end of time

by Mariam

Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that anyone who slanders Najib Abdul Razak and the government over 1MDB would be punished. This demonstrates two things: that Umno Baru promotes ministers to their level of incompetence, and that spending taxpayers’ money is easy, because it does not appear to belong to anyone in particular.

The irony is that it took former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, with his severely blemished past, to show that the only way UMNO Baru politicians assuage temptation (spending public funds) is by yielding.

Ismail, who is UMNO Baru supreme council member, reminded the rakyat to be wary of unsubstantiated sources such as Sarawak Report and The Edge, with their evil agendas. He said that those who discussed Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal could be relying upon inaccurate information about the dealings between 1MDB and PetroSaudi.

Warning that stern action would be taken against Sarawak Report and The Edge for harming national interests, he said, “When the 1MDB issue erupted, many people believed in The Edge, which frequently reported biased news and was criticised for sabotaging the economy.”

Ismail, who is also the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, pleaded with Malaysians to have faith in the government, and said, “We should trust the government and the minister’s explanation…”. He urged the rakyat to ignore information garnered from social media or from bloggers and refer instead to the authorities for verification.

Asking the authorities to verify information is an impossibility and shows how naïve Ismail is to think he can fool the rakyat. Najib has dodged answering questions about 1MDB and helped extend the 1MDB scandal.

Integrity flies out the window, where party politics are concerned. Everyone has a price and Najib knows that UMNO Baru divisional heads are demanding, and expensive. Would Ismail like to verify the allegations about UMNO Baru heads receiving substantial contracts and fiscal rewards for showing their loyalty to Najib?

Veteran UMNO Baru politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said, “These days UMNO Baru divisional leaders as well as parliamentary members earn up to RM50,000 a month, some even earn hundreds of thousands”.

He said that on March 8, over 160 UMNO Baru divisional leaders, including those who support Mahathir, had attended a meeting with Najib to show their allegiance to him.

‘No lah. Everything is above board!’

The typical response from the authorities, on whether this meeting took place, or that loyalty is accompanied by a price tag is this; “No! UMNO Baru politicians are clean and law-abiding. No one is above the law. We love Najib.”

The opposition MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua, claimed that the purchase of property by Mara in Melbourne is a covert attempt to save 1MDB. Do similar property purchases, by government-linked companies (GLCs), both in Malaysia and abroad, constitute a form of illegal kickback for corrupt officials?

We can predict the response; “No lah. Everything is above board! Mara is not corrupt.” Ahmad Maslan, the UMNO Baru Information Chief, announced that his party’s elections would be postponed till after the 14th general election (GE14), to strengthen the party and focus on the needs of the people. UMNO Baru secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor admitted that the postponement was because of an internal political crisis.

Critics claim otherwise and say that the delay is due to Najib needing more time to resolve the 1MDB crisis. Additionally, UMNO Baru has to resolve its in-fighting, and more importantly, Dr Mahathir’s relentless attacks on Najib. The authorities’ verification? “No. The postponement has nothing to do with 1MDB or Mahathir’s criticisms.”

PAS’ Pokok Sena MP, Mahfuz Omar wants Muslims to reject Najib’s ploy, to use RM20 million from Yayasan 1MDB to pay for the redevelopment of a mosque in Kampung Baru and turn it into a “national landmark”. Mahfuz accused Najib of using Muslims to “forgive 1MDB”, and that Najib wanted to “sanitise” 1MDB’s controversies by giving money to build mosques and helping to fund the pilgrimages of religious scholars to Mecca.

We can predict the response of the authorities to Mahfuz’s assertions, “No. It is not true that 1MDB’s funding for mosques is used to appeal to the Muslims. UMNO Baru is merely helping to protect Islam and promote the Malays.”

Ismail knows, and his knowledge is confirmed by the preceding examples, that trying to verify any facts with the authorities is a pointless exercise.

He may be interested to know that the rakyat’s list of queries is much longer and includes questions on who killed Altantuya Shaariibuu, the purchase of the Scorpene submarines, the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), the cargo manifest of MH370, the RM24 million ring, the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges, human trafficking, Taib Mahmud, Batang Kali, Memali, Kampung Medan, Mahathir and May 13.

UMNO Baru treats information, in one of the following ways – denial, pay-out, violence, threats of jail, lawsuits and silence. UMNO Baru politicians have spun so many webs of deceit, that they now believe their own lies. Naturally, they think that Najib and UMNO Baru can do no wrong.

The Ringgit down to a 10 -Year Low

June 29, 2015

The Ringgit down to a 10 -Year Low

By Elffie Chew, Bloomberg
The ringgit fell to a 10-year low as investors weighed whether Fitch Ratings would downgrade Malaysia and a worsening situation in Greece deterred risk-taking.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined for a fourth day as Greece imposed capital controls and shut lenders Monday to avert the collapse of its financial system. Fitch, which ranks Malaysia at A- with a negative outlook, the fourth-lowest investment grade, will review its assessment before the end of June, Andrew Colquhoun, head of Asia Pacific sovereign ratings in Hong Kong, said last week. The country is “more than 50 percent likely” to be downgraded, he said in March.

“Concern’s over Fitch’s action continues to weigh on sentiment,” said Saktiandi Supaat, head of foreign-exchange research at Malayan Banking Bhd in Singapore. “The external risk-off environment sparked by Greece also doesn’t help.”

The ringgit dropped 0.4 percent to 3.7830 a dollar as of 9.13am in Kuala Lumpur, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It fell to 3.7843 earlier, the weakest since July 2005, and has lost 7.5 percent this year in Asia’s worst performance.

Fitch’s Colquhoun cited Malaysia’s worsening trade balance and concern about the ability of 1Malaysia Development Bhd, a state investment company, to meet its debt obligations, when he warned of a downgrade in March. Exports fell 9 percent in May from a year earlier, following a 8.8 percent decline in April, according to a Bloomberg survey before data due July 3.

Malaysia’s government bonds fell. The yield on the five- year notes rose two basis points to 3.65 percent, while that on the 10-year securities was steady at 4.04 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.


The PSI Whistleblower does not exonerate 1MDB and Prime Minister Najib Razak

June 25, 2015


The PSI Whistleblower does not exonerate 1MDB and Prime Minister Najib Razak

by Dato’Ariff Sabri aka Sakmongkol AK47

Mohd-Ariff-SabriThe 1MDB people and their mindless trolls and mental gnomes, who are perhaps on the payroll of Najib’s people are celebrating. The arrest of a Swiss citizen in Thailand, one Mr Justo is the source of the euphoric premature smirk and merrymaking.

They claim that Sarawak Report, The Edge and those public spirited individuals have been feasting on tampered documents after all. They have been spinning untruths. Dr Mahathir lied. They have removed his banner at Putra World Trade Center, the UMNO Headquarters, reflective of their desperation.

We must be careful here- what did Mr Justo blackmail Petro Saudi International (PSI) on?- one can only blackmail if the party affected has actually done something wrong. secondly, what is the nature of the temperance? did the temperance go to the root of the matter and therefore destroy the integrity of the information?; and did Sarawak report base its investigation on adulterated material?

The arrest of Mr Justo is irrelevant to the fact that 1MDB is a bloody financial scam to steal money from Malaysia. We must not be sidetracked by this episode which may be sponsored by PSI anyway. And Ahmad Maslan, Chief Propagandist of UMNO, is quick off the mark, exhorting UMNO members not to believe the social media now that it is a known fact, that the social media has been publishing from adulterated sources.  But UMNO members Herr Maslan, read only Utusan Malaysia where spinning stories and circulating fabricating news is their raison d’etre. As to his spirited suggestion  that the social media derives information from the now known fact we must say, not so Herr Maslan- that has not been established.

The social media didn’t know of the existence of this individual until PSI alerted the Thai Police to arrest him. For all you know, PSI did a rat on this poor fellow asking him to rest and recreate in Thailand and alerting the Police to arrest him. That single clutch of straw was enough to send the Najib fan club into a state of frenzy. Out  beloved Prime Minister  has been speaking the truth.

The problem is- the substance of the leaked documents were also accepted by and corroborated by the various accounting and auditing firms employed by 1MDB at one point or another. Many of them saw, got scared and left.The material from the audited reports gave life to the social media, not one Mr Justo.

So 1MDB and PSI can crow  what they want, the arrest of that individual, on whatever grounds yet to be established,does not destroy the heart of the matter which is, PSI defrauded Malaysians through 1MDB and plunged the nation into a debt of RM42 billion or more.

Najib and 1MDB

It is pathetic to see the 1MDB people rushing to use the arrest of an individual to clear itself from the 1MDB scandal. Nothing is cleared yet. Najib has still to give a full and honest account of 1MDB finance. The arrest of an individual who is of Swiss national has done nothing to exonerate anyone. The illegal things that this individual was alleged to have committed were reported by a private investigation team. This team will be questioned in court to explain how they arrived at the conclusion that this Swiss citizen had blackmailed PSI and was discovered to have passed on tampered information to others regarding 1MDB.

This whole incident looks like a contrived effort to dig up some dirt, any dirt, on anybody, maybe even from a ‘plant’ just to discredit the facts on 1MDB. The ‘plant’ then, when arrested will sing like a canary using scripted lines.

I hope we are not over excited about the arrest of an individual by the Thai authorities who is cited as the source who gave tampered but not incorrect information on 1MDB. The thieving Arabs were quick to welcome the arrest of Justo and that it would fully co-operate with Thai authorities. “We are considering further legal action in other jurisdictions.” Please don’t just consider, but do so through the courts so that much more will be revealed. Just don’t bring the legal action in Malaysian courts. The complexities of the fraud may be too overwhelming on our courts.

“We are relieved that Mr Justo will now face justice through the courts. To face justice for what? For blackmailing and tampering with documents? “We have been the victims of a regrettable crime that has unfortunately been politicised in Malaysia,” a PSI spokesperson said.

Wrong the victims are  Malaysians. PSI has cheated Malaysians into getting itself sucked into a debt whirlpool of RM42 billion. And it was all started by PSI when it conspired to channel more than USD1 billion into an account of one of its conspirators. Don’t try to act saintly and innocent.

The chap may have done some illegal things which may have nothing to do with the expose on what Petrosaudi  did to 1MDB.

The material reported by the accounting firms was also the same. Which part was tampered? This temperance is not yet verified and ascertained by an independent body. It’s just a suggestion given by a paid investigation team out to discredit the person but will not be able to disturb the substance of the scandal on 1MDB.

Loud Mouth Zahid HamidiThe Man from Pornorogo

So why is the Home Minister rushing ahead and warning the Edge against spinning tampered documents? How sure is he that the alleged temperance has destroyed the credibility of the vile things done by 1MDB? Or is his outburst just a reflection of his wishful thinking that this nightmare called 1MDB will just go away.

Does the Home Minister understand the complex issues of 1MDB or is he just flexing his home minister’s muscles?  Zahid may be the Home minister but all of us in parliament knows he has no substance and that deficiency is hidden by a show of bravado.

When he gets irritated and when he cannot answer, his body language is that of a delinquent asking you to fight. His eyes will be blinking uncontrollably when he is overcome by his emotions. He will shift from facing you frontally to position himself in a profile-like manner as though preparing to go airborne and do a Bruce Lee flying kick, but let’s not get over the top about Zahid Hamidi.

Please don’t intimidate The Edge or any public spirited individuals in Malaysia. The Edge and others have a duty to publish and make public whatever material they have and obtained in good faith and the matter regarding IMDB is of public interest.

The 1MDB people appear to have anticipated the arrest and gave out exuberant statements alluding that all this while, this chap gave doctored documents only to discredit our beloved pirate-DNAed Prime Minister.

On that point, I hope those politicians harbouring the fanciful idea that lets allow Najib to lead BN at the next elections because he is so weak that he can easily be defeated will get real.

Well, this is an example of what he can do. He has control over the media complex, has huge war chest, has resources and can easily come out with a creative solution to throw a spanner in the works. Just this arrest, has caused confusion and doubts and encouraged the village idiots to come out and clean up Najib’s tarnished image.

1MDB is still the agent that has caused us to incur a debt of RM42 billion or even more. We don’t know the integrity of this fellow arrested by the Thai authorities. The Thais have said nothing about 1MDB being asked to cooperate.

And I see the cyber trolls have congregated at some portals and gave mindless comments befitting the mental retards. Every one of them says now the people defending 1MDB were telling the truth.

The response by the critics of 1MDB. When you stop telling lies, we will have no reason to tell the truth.

Transformation Blues Minister rebutts Bloomberg’s William Pesek

June 20, 2015

COMMENT:I am very skeptical about whatever Mr.dato-din-merican Transformation Blues  says on the state of our economy. He uses statistics with amazing ease  in  his rebuttal to Mr Pesek’s article. We know that statistics can be massaged for purposes for which they are intended. Malaysians are familiar with this kind of public relations exercise.

Minister Jala has been spinning too often and now has a serious credibility problem. Throwing statistics  around  will not  change public perception about the Prime Minister’s mismanagement of the economy.

Let us face reality. The 1MD debt problem is like an albatross around our national neck.  It has been badly handled by  company and Treasury officials and the Prime Minister himself. Minister Jala should be providing the answer to what happened to the RM42 billion debt? Why has he not commented on it in his rebuttal?  He must know that the issue has undermined public trust and investor confidence.

What transformation is he talking about when we know that our economy is up against some very  serious challenges in the years ahead. For example, we are in the middle-income trap and I have not seen any attempts on the part of the Najib administration to deal with this major challenge. We are still a commodity export economy, dependent on palm oil and oil and gas.

We have been talking about a knowledge economy for as long as I can remember, yet we are unable to fix our standard of education from primary to tertiary level. Our Research and Development policy is shrouded in mystery.

We know that the Prime Minister is not providing the leadership the country badly needs since he is pre-occupied with his own political survival.

Minister Jala should be talking to ordinary people to get a better understanding of their situation and  listening to economists who have contrarian views on our government’s  fiscal policy, and development strategy as  outlined in the 11th Malaysian Plan (2015-2020).

What is Minister Jala’s intention in making this point:

Because of our achievements, I was invited to share our experience at both Harvard and Oxford universities this year. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I had the privilege to share Malaysia’s success story with government ministers from many countries. Last month, I was invited to share our experience with Russian ministers in Moscow.”

What success story is he telling his audience at Oxford and Harvard and the Russian Ministers in Moscow?  Are they gullible? My readers and I on this blog are not.–Din Merican

In addition to the above, I wish to add my good friend Dr. Bakri Musa’s  rebuttal to our Tranformation Blues Minister’s response to Mr. Pesek’s article as follows::

“The facts, however, are these. Between 2009 and 2014, Malaysian Gross National Income grew by 47.7 percent …”

Facts and figures by themselves mean nothing. What is the comparable figures for our peers – Taiwan, South Korea or even Vietnam. Not to mention Singapore or China. To quote the man, let me repeat again (… and one more time!), facts and figures must be put in proper perspective!

Oops! I forgot that our peers are now Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in which case Jala’s figures are indeed impressive.Yes, our growth rate is higher than Japan, Western Europe and other advanced countries but those countries are already there, cruising at high altitude. Malaysia is still trying to take off and ascending. It cannot afford a low growth rate without risking a stall.

As for our devalued ringgit, Jala seems impressed by Zeti’s confidence rather than what the market is telling us. It is pathetic that Jala would consider his invitation to Harvard as an endorsement of the government’s policies. Jala should instead visit our universities and schools and discover how pathetic they are.

More important than what Jala tells those Harvard folks or how honored he was to be invited, what did Jala learn when he visited Boston and what lessons can he impart onto our local institutions. Or was Jala, like so many ministers on their “study” visits abroad impressed only with the glitz and ceremonies?–M. Bakri Musa

Transformation Blues Minister rebutts Bloomberg’s William Pesek

by Dato Seri Idris

Guitar Playing Singer Idris JalaRebutting with Pemandu Statistics

When I read William Pesek’s latest commentary on Bloomberg View, I barely recognised the country he was writing about.

He starts by referring to Malaysia’s “underlying economic distress” and “prolonged slow growth”, which he says are caused by “race-based policies that strangle innovation, feed cronyism and repel multinational companies”.

The facts, however, are these:

1. Between 2009 and 2014, Malaysian gross national income grew by 47.7%.

2. Growth last year was 6%, and over the next four years the OECD predicts Malaysia will enjoy annual growth of 5.6%.

It would be perverse to characterise this as “slow”. By contrast, the Economist reported last month that “The European Commission is forecasting growth in 2015 of 1.5%, which would be the euro area’s best outcome since 2011.” A growth rate nearly four times that of some of the most advanced economies in the world hardly suggests “distress”.

3. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme in 2010. Let me highlight some key achievements:

  • Third, as detailed in the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report 2014, Malaysia’s efforts at reducing poverty have been a great success, virtually eliminating absolute poverty to less than 1%. Since 2009, the income of the bottom 40 per cent households has increased by a compound annual growth rate of 12%, even higher than the national average of 8%. Inflation has been kept in check at only 2.4%. And through the implementation of minimum wage legislation, we have lifted 2.9 million people immediately out of absolute poverty.
  •  First, in the last five years, annual investment growth has been 2.5 times more than in the preceding years. Each year, total investment reached a new record for Malaysia. The bulk of this investment is from the private sector. If the private sector has no confidence in Malaysia as alleged by Pesek, why would they put in record investment year on year under the Najib administration?
  •  Second,‎ the country’s fiscal reforms are being successfully implemented, cutting Malaysia’s fiscal deficit for the past five years, while keeping public debt at only 53% of GDP.This level of public debt level is far lower than in many countries, such as the US, UK, France, Japan and Singapore.

4. We touched the lives of five million people through rural roads, electricity and water projects. This represents possibly the biggest government expenditure over a five-year period in the history of Malaysia. All of these were done in the name of inclusive economic development.

That should be enough to dispel the suspiciously negative picture Pesek paints. But let me address some of his other inaccurate accusations, too.

5 As for the alleged failure to “dismantle race-based policies that strangle innovation”, let me quote from a report in a respected international news organisation:

  • “Malaysia eased rules governing overseas investors, initial public offerings and property purchases, peeling back decades of benefits to ethnic Malays. Foreign companies investing in Malaysia and locally listed businesses will no longer need to set aside 30% of their equity to so-called Bumiputera investors, Prime Minister Najib Razak said today. He also raised overseas ownership thresholds in the fund management industry and at local stockbrokers.” At Initial Public Offerings, “Publicly traded companies will no longer have to meet any Bumiputera equity requirement under today’s liberalisation measures.” If Pesek disagrees with any of the above, perhaps he might discuss it with his editors. The report was published, after all, by none other than Bloomberg.
  •  At another point, he writes that Najib has “deepened the economy’s reliance on oil and gas production”. The International Monetary Fund believes otherwise. The headline on its “Economic Health Check” report this March was: “Favourable Prospects for Malaysia’s Diversified Economy”.

6. Pesek rounds off his imaginative piece of writing by declaring that “the ringgit’s fluctuations are a decent summary of the country’s wayward course in recent years”.

Perhaps he would like to discuss this with Malaysia’s Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, one of the most admired central bank governors in the world. She has repeatedly said that the ringgit is undervalued. Here is what she said recently: “When the oil price plummeted, the wrong perception of the degree of dependence of the Malaysian economy on the oil and gas sector led markets to think that we would be more affected than others. Of course, the ringgit is undervalued. It doesn’t reflect our underlying values, which are solid and strong.”

7. Pesek’s opinions do not seem to have a strong connection to the facts. He gives away his true agenda when writes that “Asia-based journalists have missed (Tun Dr) Mahathir Mohamad since he left office in 2003” and suggests “a return to old political leadership” is “urgent”.

It may be that nostalgia for the past and his distance from Malaysia have clouded his judgment, and led him to write an unsubstantiated hatchet job on the current prime minister in order to please a former Prime Minister about whom he gushes, his “mercurial governing style and fiery rhetoric made for great copy”.

He certainly seems to have changed his mind about Dr Mahathir. Only last year he wrote: “The insular and jury-rigged system of affirmative action, national champions and fat subsidies over which Mahathir presided now holds the economy back. The Malaysian leader also had a tendency to embarrass his nation on the international stage with his nutty anti-Semitic tirades.”

He concluded: “Malaysians must find fresh inspiration by looking forward, not back to 1990.” We agree. Why does Pesek now think we should look back to a system he described in such a derogatory manner last year?

8. Malaysia has undergone an impressive economic transformation under Najib and the country is on course to reach the goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020 – as the figures and achievements I have mentioned above make clear.

Because of our achievements, I was invited to share our experience at both Harvard and Oxford universities this year. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I had the privilege to share Malaysia’s success story with government ministers from many countries. Last month, I was invited to share our experience with Russian ministers in Moscow.

9. I wonder why it is that many countries and institutions can see the progress we are making, but Pesek chooses not see any of it? His latest outburst is consistent with a series of slanted articles that unfairly run down Malaysia and its leadership.

10. Differing opinions are bound to be expressed on Bloomberg View. The defence of “fair comment”, however, does not apply to getting facts so woefully wrong. We would hope that the editors at Bloomberg agree, and will correct or take down such a disgracefully biased and ill-informed article.

* Datuk Seri Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

UMNO and all its linen are out on the international washing line

June 20, 2015

UMNO and all its linen are out on the international washing line

by Terence

COMMENT The unremitting battle between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has now overflowed domestically to reach the pages of the New York Times (NYT).

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman  has taken to the letters column of the NYT to denounce Mahathir’s washing of allegedly fabricated linen in overseas media outlets.

Anifah’s letter is in presumable response to adverse comments made by Mahathir to the NYT on the imbroglio surrounding sovereign wealth fund, IMDB, and other issues affecting Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In an intervew with the NYT, Mahathir has described Najib’s conduct as verging on the “criminal”, a term that must have prompted Anifah’s epistolary response which contains the accusation that it was Mahathir who created the “yes men” culture in UMNO, a charge that is certain to beget another round of bitter recrimination in an already acrimonious tussle between the ex-PM and the sitting one.

Reverberations of domestic disputes in foreign capitals are a sign that the the crisis has raged past the point of local containment; it is the closest thing one could have to confirmation that the contretemps has gone beyond the bounds amenable to mediation and negotiation.

In times past, UMNO-BN leaders would lambast opposition politicians whenever the latter spoke badly about the government in foreign councils and shores.

This practice of hanging dirty linen out to dry in foreign forums has come in for a bad rap in domestic circles since the time Australian Labor Party leader Arthur Calwell hailed Lee Kuan Yew as a progressive leader during a visit by the PAP chief Down Under in the mid-1960s when Singapore was part of the federation.

“But he has some tough nuts to crack in UMNO,” quipped Calwell, whose remarks touched off a barrage of criticism of Lee from UMNO types at the time.

Thus began the era in Malaysian politics where domestic critics who vent their spleen about their country in foreign circles are held up to the opprobrium reserved for fornicating preachers and shady scientists: they are told that their betrayals consign them to the lower rungs of the social totem pole.

Even when these criticisms are uttered by somebody of nonpartisanTun Suffian Hashim stature such as Suffian Hashim (photo), the former Lord President who in 1990 told a Singapore audience that had sought his views on the judicial crisis involving Salleh Abbas’s impeachment in 1988, that the average UMNO leader cared only for his Mercedes Benz and other perks, the reaction is unseemly adverse.

In recent months, with respect to Mahathir’s differences with Najib on the IMBD issue, the former PM has made similar remarks about the moral fibre of UMNO leaders to that made by Suffian to his Singapore audience a quarter century ago.

Marking a nadir in relations

Mahathir joined in the imprecations hurled against Suffian at the time of former judicial chief’s oft-repeated public dismay at what had happened to Salleh Abbas and how it marked a nadir in relations between the executive and the judiciary in Malaysia.

The issue of the morality of berating one’s country abroad aside, the spilling of the crisis between Mahathir and Najib in the newspaper of record in America represents the first time a local conflagration has generated publicity in far away places.

On the Richter scale of political earthquakes, this dispute is not far short of 10. Previously, reverberations from domestic political earthquakes would only register in one or two ASEAN capitals, Jakarta more likely than the others, because of ties of language and kinship between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Even then, interest in Jakarta in what some luminary from Malaysia says about someone under interdiction in Kuala Lumpur would not bulk large in the public estimation.

One remembers the derision that Tun Ghafar Baba was subjected to when he went to the Indonesian capital to explain the action taken by Mahathir against Anwar Ibrahim in late 1998 after the Prime Minister had sacked his deputy from government and UMNO and had him charged with corruption and sodomy.

Tun Ghafar Ghafar (photo) hurriedly returned home after he reacted caustically to Indonesian cynicism about the accusations against Anwar by saying that Malaysia did not want leaders of Anwar’s alleged sexual orientation but that if Indonesia did, Malaysia would be glad to offer them to its neighbour.

The remarks caused a furore that was doused only by Ghafar’s swift exit from the Indonesian capital and Wisma Putra’s backroom diplomacy at mollifying ruffled Indonesian feathers.

Malaysia’s domestic imbroglios usually do not resonate in capitals beyond the ASEAN perimeter, but the IMDB contretemps, due to the transnational reach of its money trails and the subterranean alleyways in which some of its operatives appear to have forged its schemes, is the juiciest thing to have happened since sovereign wealth funds became a matter of interest to unelected business coteries blithely unmindful of French novelist Honore de Balzac’s warning – that behind every great fortune there lies a crime.

Honore de Balzac

For these reasons, 1MDB has become an issue whose reverberations have drawn the attention of the NYT, still the biggest name among newspapers of record. Now UMNO and all its linen are out on the international washing line, a dubious distinction in this the 69th year of its founding.


Malaysian leader gets a needed dose of real talk

June 19, 2015

Malaysian leader gets a needed dose of real talk

by William Pesek

Mahathir Mohamad-2014Asia-based journalists have missed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad since he left office in 2003. The former Malaysian Prime Minister’s mercurial governing style and fiery rhetoric made for great copy. I was in a Hong Kong ballroom in 1997 when Dr Mahathir ― the man credited with turning the agricultural backwater Kuala Lumpur, which literally means “muddy river,” into one of Asia’s most impressive skylines ― responded to his country’s crashing economy by castigating hedge fund managers. He singled out George Soros as a “moron.”

Dr Mahathir now has a new target – Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Malaysia’s current Prime Minister. The daily squabbling between Najib and his predecessor has unsettled Malaysian markets, with the ringgit falling to its lowest value in a decade. But Najib has nobody to blame but himself for the attacks, given the country’s underlying economic distress. Malaysia’s prolonged slow growth, which has Fitch now threatening a downgrade of the country’s credit ratings, traces back to Najib’s refusal, or inability, to make good on his pledges to dismantle race-based policies that strangle innovation, feed cronyism and repel multinational companies.

You don’t have to take Dr Mahathir’s word for it ― Malaysia’s most successful entrepreneurs say the same thing. Just ask Tan Sri Tony Fernandes of AirAsia.

Tony-Fernandes-007The man often referred to Asia’s Richard Branson has been waging his own battle with the government on Twitter. Fernandes has been decrying, 140 characters at a time, the Malaysian government’s misguided priorities and its utter lack of accountability. “Government and opposition spend so much time on race and religion. Will there ever be a truly Malaysian party that puts people first?” he tweeted recently. Another message reads: “Good education, good hospitals, fair distribution of wealth, an economy that creates jobs, honest clean government. Transparent leadership.”

My favourite was Fernandes’s take on the kind of national culture the government should be cultivating: “Where all Malaysians respect each other’s culture, religion but work together to benefit all. If you need an example look at AirAsia.”

This last point deserves closer attention. AirAsia has admittedly had a rocky six months, beginning in December with its first crash (killing all 155 on board) and culminating in today’s share-price plunge (its accounting practices are being questioned by GMT Research). But Fernandes has earned his status as a major player ― and Malaysia’s most recognisable face ― on the global stage. With his Bransonesque daring and social-media savvy, the billionaire Formula One team owner personifies the heights to which the Malaysian economy might climb if the country’s dysfunctional politics didn’t stand in the way.

Indeed, AirAsia might never have gotten off the ground if Najib had been in office at the time of its inception, rather than Dr Mahathir. Fernandes had three big strikes against him when he started out 14 years ago: He’s not Malay (the majority ethnicity coddled by Malaysia’s affirmative-action policies); he was intent on challenging the flagship Malaysian Airlines; and he was starting an airline just as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US was sending the industry into the throes of an existential crisis.

Nonetheless, Dr Mahathir’s government gave Fernandes the green light to create the company. In the interim, AirAsia has literally changed the world. Although the company’s “Now Everyone Can Fly” slogan seemed somewhat trite at the time of its founding, it has gone on to inspire myriad developing-world copycats.

Malaysia needs more homegrown success stories that raise living standards and the country’s global status. Sadly, when Malaysia makes headlines these days, they’re often about the government’s dysfunction ― whether the never-ending effort to jail opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges, legal tussles over who exactly is permitted to utter the word “Allah,” or clueless castigations of foreign tourists (a group of whom allegedly caused an earthquake by taking nude photos atop Mount Kinabalu).

Najib and the Mad Mullah of PASSince becoming Prime Minister in 2009, Najib should have worked to level Malaysia’s playing field for would-be entrepreneurs. Instead, he has protected race-based quotas and deepened the economy’s reliance on oil and gas production. Najib seems to be more concerned about retaining power for his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power for almost six decades, than attending to the aspirations of Malaysia’s 30 million people.

Meanwhile, some of his supposed reforms are dragging down the Bloombergeconomy. A case in point is 1Malaysia Development, the state investment company Najib created, and which Dr Mahathir claims is missing “huge sums of money” and buckling under debt. The scandal has contributed to the plunging of Malaysia’s currency some 13 per cent over the past 12 months.

The ringgit’s fluctuations are a decent summary of the country’s wayward course in recent years. It’s now close to 3.80 to the dollar, the level where Dr Mahathir pegged it during the 1997-1998 Asian crisis. Dr Mahathir now says it may be time to peg the currency anew to stabilise it. That speaks to how little progress Najib has made internationalising the economy ― and how urgent new political leadership (or a return to old political leadership, as it were) would be for entrepreneurs like Fernandes.


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