The Sins of Najib Razak


January 4, 2018

The Sins of Najib Razak

Image result for Trum[p and Najib razakMalaysia’s Kleptocrat shakes hand with America’s Super Mario at The White House last year

In a year that had its fair share of symbolic moments, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took home a fistful of trophies.

One prize was his cameo meeting in September with US President Donald Trump at the White House, which counts as a juicy political point for the coming general election.

 Najib brought “strong value propositions” for Trump in the form of a multi-billion dollar commitment to buy Boeing jets, an offer to push AirAsia to buy General Electric engines and a pledge to increase investments in American infrastructure.

With this gesture “to strengthen the US economy”, the premier secured numerous pay-offs, including blunting the barbs of his critics on the US Justice Department’s investigation into the troubled state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Though there was some collateral damage from the trip, the net gain from an electoral viewpoint would be in the PM’s favour, although Najib did remark that his comments on helping the US were misconstrued.

The tacit endorsement which Najib has earned from his meeting with the US leader would play well in rural electioneering, especially since his Washington trip was followed immediately by another photo op with British premier Theresa May.

On the home turf, Najib raised his score as the commander-in-chief of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition through a number of moves that served to blindside the opposition parties or at least, put them on the back foot.

In early April, the government made the unprecedented move of clearing the parliamentary order paper of its business to make way for a Private Member’s Bill.

Image result for Hadi Awang and Najib Razak

The next day, PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tabled a motion to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, seeking to grant the Syariah Court powers to impose stiffer penalties on all crimes except those with the death sentence.

The enhancement of the Syariah Courts’ powers, a prize long sought by PAS but hitherto beyond its parliamentary reach, is the clearest indication to date of the coming together of the Islamist party with Umno in an electoral alliance, despite their long history of political enmity.

The shifting alignment only reflects the growing importance of religion as a cement to hold together the fractured Malay voter base.

Another aspect of this theme is the hosting of the King Salman Centre for International Peace at the Islamic Science University of Malaysia, following Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud’s visit to Malaysia in March.

Not only does this move strengthen Najib’s legitimacy as a leader among Muslims, but it also burnishes his credentials as a key ally in the global fight against terrorism.

All this would go some way towards mitigating the damage that his one-time mentor turned nemesis, the tenacious former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has been inflicting on his image since the elder leader joined forces with the opposition parties.

 

Among the list of sins that is being laid at Najib’s feet is the view that he has sold out the country’s strategic interests to obtain a funding lifeline from China. The East Coast Rail Link, among a laundry list of infrastructure projects, has been singled out for particular criticism. The PM’s team has worked hard at fending off these claims, and Najib has retorted that he would never sell Malaysia’s sovereignty.

Helping to contain Mahathir’s virulent campaign to unseat Najib, the quick-acting Royal Commission of Inquiry into Bank Negara’s foreign exchange losses in the 1990s has shifted some attention away from his litany against the PM to the debacle that took place under Mahathir’s watch.

While the inquiry report is being challenged by Mahathir, it continues to have life enough to give Najib and his team ammunition for their battle with detractors.

Even if the electorate were unimpressed by their leaders’ quarrels over past and present scandals, they would likely be motivated by the long list of benefits that Najib announced in his budget for next year.

From a reduction in income tax rates to easier hiring of domestic help and discounts on study loan repayments, to name a few, the message that Najib has sought to convey to voters is that his government is listening to their needs.

In keeping with this softer touch, Najib paid a courtesy call on de facto Pakatan Harapan leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when the jailed opposition leader was in hospital for an operation on his shoulder joint in November.

If nothing else, the gesture would sit well with voters who see it as a sympathetic or even magnanimous act by the nation’s leader.

That’s a good feeling to ride, going into perhaps the toughest election challenge that the BN has faced in decades.

Image result for Mahathir takes on Najib razak

 

But still, for Najib, the coast is not as clear as he would wish it to be. He has to face the increasing number of voters unhappy with the rising cost of living, the never-ending problems with FELDA and its companies (whose settlements in the Malay heartland form the core support of UMNO and the issue of 1MDB that will not easily fade from the scrutiny of international media. Also, the emergence of new politics in Sabah and Sarawak, for which the political mantra — Sabah for Sabahans and Sarawak for Sarawakians — could sway both sides of the political divide.

– http://www.theedgemarkets.com

 

2018: Year of Change for Better or Worse?


December 31, 2017

2018: Year of Change for Better or Worse?

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

As the year comes to an end the latest press statements from two civil society organizations – the National Association of Patriots ( NPA or Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan) and G25 – provide renewed hope that the struggle for the freedoms and values of a robust democratic system will continue with key stakeholders providing overdue support.

Image result for Lim Teck Ghee
With scandals in his bag, Najib Razak needs to retain power and maintain the status quo. Keep praying Mr. Prime Minister.

For too long most Malaysians – outside the political arena who are well positioned to resist the authoritarian political and religious forces seeking to kill off moderate positions on regressive and illiberal socio-economic policies and programs – have remained quiet.

They have been spectators or have stood outside the political process hoping that the long entrenched ruling government is truly committed to building a cohesive and inclusive nation where no ethic, religious, geographical or class grouping is denied their rightful entitlements. They have also expected the BN to be consistent in pursuing a genuine pluralism that can be the foundation stone for peace and progress in our multi-racial society.

Many among our elite have also remained passive in the belief that opportunistic and repressive, and what constitute the more dangerous and real, not imagined, anti-national forces can be countered by institutional stake players located in the executive and legislative branches; as well as by the other constitutional checks and balances.

Image result for Lim Teck Ghee

That these two organizations – NPA and G25 – whose service and loyalty to the nation is irrefutable and unimpeachable have come out openly on developments which the government is in denial or prefers to draw a curtain of silence over reveals the deep concern and despair of respected armed forces and civil service leaders with current developments; and their lack of faith that the BN leadership is up to the task of steering the nation in the right direction to a better future.

Losers of the NEP and Religious Extremism    

The NPA’s subject of concern is the New Economic Policy and its successor policies, and their impact on the ethnic composition of the armed forces. Calling on the government to increase the recruitment of non-Malays by 10 per cent annually, the NPA statement explained that it was giving its views as truthfully as possible on “some of these issues that are ultra-sensitive.”

In its opinion, a policy favoring Malays in promotion and discriminating against non-Malays has made the latter feel demoralized and marginalized. Coupled with an increasing Islamic culture, this has negatively affected esprit-de-corps and comradeship in multi-racial military units.

According to NPA President Brigadier-General (Rtd) Mohd Arshad Raji Arshad these factors have not only affected the military but also the police force and other public service organizations.

Image result for Lim Teck Ghee

3 Penyamun Tarbus with medals

BG Arshad noted that “the problems faced today are an outcome of the policies and decisions of our government of the past few decades … The problem is endemic, a cause-and-effect of the ‘unwritten’ rules and regulations of the past.”

He pointed out that “to solve the problem, we have to first recognize the problem. The intention here is not fault finding, rather to fully comprehend the grievances from the perspectives of the non-Malays, and help those in position make decisions for the betterment of our country.”

A critical but balanced and rationally-based independent position can be similarly seen in the statements of G25 on the socio-economic and religious controversies that have beset the nation in the last few years.

In its statement on the latest controversies relating to the influence of political Islamic ideology in the country and the effort by Malaysian Islamic Research Strategic Institute (Iksim), the government-supported Islamic think-tank, to censure and punish University of Malaya Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi  and G25 member, Noor Farida, for their views on religious radicalism,  G25 has noted that while it “recognises the fundamental rights of individuals and Islamic activists to advocate their beliefs of political Islam”, government officials and leaders need to reassure the public that the government does not agree with such views as they are contrary to the intent and purpose of the Constitution and the Rukunegara.

Image result for g25 malaysia

To G25, it is “when the government leaders keep silent and pretend not to hear that the public gets worried whether the government is using religion for its own politics. It’s the official silence and apparent acquiescence that make locals and foreigners get the idea there is radicalisation of Islam in Malaysia.”

Standing up for all Malaysians

What is especially encouraging about the statements by these two Malay dominated organizations is not simply the commitment to what G25 describes as a “national ideology of tolerance and respect for the diversity and differences among Malaysians”. It is also their willingness to stand up for the rights and freedoms of “other” Malaysians.

One response by a Patriot member to criticism by the Defence Minister of the press statement of BG Arshad provides comfort that even if 2018 turns out badly for moderate and progressive minded Malaysians on the political and religious front, there will always be our true patriots to fall back upon.

This is what Major Mior Rosli wrote in his reply. It provides such a contrast to the saccharin sweet, vacuous and meaningless New Year messages that will soon flood our print media from the PR offices of the country’s political leaders.  His entire note should be required reading for all young Malaysians and those of us who have become cynical about developments in the nation:

“We, the veterans Armed Forces Officers and the ex-senior police officers are the real Patriots. More Patriotic than any of you, “power and kleptocracy” crazy politicians. Don’t ever belittle us. If there is a war to defend the soil, we will be the second or third liners behind the regular forces to defend this country. Please don’t mess us up with your political dreams. (capitals and exclamation marks omitted).”

The Rebranding of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s Surrogate Lover–Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda


December 14, 2017

The Rebranding of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s Surrogate Lover–Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for perfume of arabia macbeth

“Here’s the smell of blood still. All perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”–In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Oxford-educated Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda, the one-time adviser and close confidante of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was once romantically linked to the murdered jet-setting Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, has popped up after years of discreet absence in the UK.

Image result for Razak Baginda

The  disheveled and frightened-looking Abdul Razak Baginda

For someone who has been out of the public eye for the past decade, Razak Baginda has wasted no time, propelling himself onto the Malaysian lecture circuit over the past six months but at the same time inadvertently reminding the public he had been a key figure in what had been the biggest scandal in the country’s history until an even bigger one blew up over the state-backed investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the subject of a US Justice Department investigation into the looting of public assets.

Razak Baginda is very different from the disheveled and frightened-looking man who emerged from jail on October 31, 2006, acquitted without trial of abetting the murder of Altantuya, who was alleged to have once been Najib’s paramour. The 28-year-old mother, who was believed to have been pregnant at the time, was shot twice in the head by one of Najib’s bodyguards and her body was blown up with military explosives in a patch of jungle outside the suburban city of Shah Alam.

The allegation that Altantuya had been Najib’s mistress was revealed by the late private investigator P Balasubramaniam, engaged by Razak Baginda to stop Altantuya from creating a scene outside his house. According to a letter found after her death, she was demanding a cut of kickbacks from a multi-billion ringgit Malaysian government deal to purchase submarines from the French.

Razak Baginda once was one of the closest advisers to Najib, then the Defense Minister and Deputy PM (2000-2008), on government arms procurement projects. The political analyst was involved in the purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines and one Agosta-class submarine from the French naval dockyard unit DCN (Direction des Constructions Navales). The deal was worth around RM5 billion.

Hasty departure for the UK

On his release and acquittal, Razak Baginda was swamped by reporters who tried to interview him, but was guarded by a wall of policemen. A month later, at a press conference, he was guarded by a team of lawyers who monitored his answers. He immediately decamped to England, ostensibly to complete a doctorate at Oxford.

Image result for Razak Baginda's ICON Global Forum

 The Rebranded Dr. Abdul Razak Baginda–Founder, Center for Global Affairs (ICON).

Seven years later, on October. 26, 2015, Razak Baginda emerged to deliver his first public talk in Kuala Lumpur at a “Special Forum” called “Reforming Malaysia: A Conversation with Razak Baginda.” The session was organized by a new think tank he had founded, called the Center for Global Affairs (ICON).

The former Malaysian PrimenMinister, Mahathir Mohamad once said, “Melayu mudah lupa” (Malays easily forget) and Razak Baginda probably thought that Malaysians would have forgotten about him and the brutal murder.

Living abroad helped Razak Baginda avoid the glare of publicity and the anger of the Malaysian public who were furious at the High Court’s handling of the trial. The motive for the murder was never established although the murderers were said to have been offered RM50,000 for the killing.

Wife Implicates Najib

Few can forget the hysterical shout of Baginda’s wife, Mazlinda Makhzan, at the time of his arrest: “Why charge my husband, he does not want to be the prime minister?” an apparent reference to Balasubramaniam’s statement that Najib had passed Altantuya on to the political analyst because it wouldn’t look good to have a foreign mistress when he was elevated to become the country’s leader.

Importantly, there were also unexplained phone texts between Najib and Razak Baginda’s lawyer, Mohamad Shafee Abdullah, which alluded to Najib’s alleged interference in the case. One message read, “Pls do not say anything to the press today. i will explain later. RB (Razak Baginda) will have to face a tentative charge but all is not lost.”

Altantuya’s father, Setev Shaariibuu, has not received any justice for the murder of his daughter and has continued to demand that the Malaysian government give him answers about her death.

Two policemen, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, were found guilty of Altantuya’s murder in a trial that critics said was carefully orchestrated to keep from answering questions who had hired them to kill her. Sirul is now languishing in the Villawood Detention Center outside Sydney, vigorously wheeling and dealing for his release and asylum. Azilah remains in a Malaysian prison.

Razak Baginda probably thought that he could lead a quiet life by relocating to England but he didn’t reckon on the persistence of SUARAM, the Malaysian Human Rights NGO, which complained to the French authorities about the Scorpene deal in November 2009. That triggered a preliminary inquiry and a judicial investigation in Paris in 2012.

Investigative stories Tell Tale of Scandal

The investigation was the subject of a multiple series of investigative stories by Asia Sentinel that won the Society of Publishers in Asia award for excellence in investigative reporting – Asia’s version of the Pulitzer Prize.

Finally, years later, on July 18, 2017, Razak Baginda was indicted in France for “complicity of bribery, acceptance of bribes and concealment of misuse of company assets.”  Two officials of a DCN subsidiary were also indicted on charges specifically of having bribed Najib Razak.

On August 4, the SUARAM adviser, Dr Kua Kia Soong said, “The first indictment of the arms maker shows that SUARAM’s suspicion of commission paid to Malaysian officials in the Scorpene deal is well founded, and we have been vindicated.”

Asia Sentinel reported that the French investigation had revealed that Terasasi HK Ltd., a company owned by Razak Baginda and his father, received €30 million in “consultancy works,” the accepted terminology for kickbacks. Terasasi existed only as the name on the wall of a Hong Kong accounting company. As Asia Sentinel reported, French investigators also uncovered evidence that a Malaysia-based shell company, Perimekar, owned by Baginda’s wife, had received another €114 million in “consultancy services.”

The money was said to have been passed on to the United Malays National Organization with the full knowledge of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, among others, according to evidence provided to Asia Sentinel.

Timely Rebranding

Baginda’s rebranding is timely, especially as Malaysia’s 14th General Election is due soon. He could have retired a rich man from his alleged kickbacks from Scorpene and lived a life of luxury in England. He could have avoided the scrutiny of the Malaysian public.

Image result for Razak Baginda With Najib Razak

Malaysia’s Infamous Couple–Prime Minister Najib Razak and his FLOM Rosmah Mansor

“He probably thinks that the Malaysian public have forgotten (and forgiven him),” said a social cynic who declined to be named. “He believes he has done nothing wrong, especially as the courts did not find him guilty of Altantuya’s murder.”

It is highly likely that Razak Baginda is repositioning himself in the Malaysian political world, according to a Kuala Lumpur-based political analyst. “Perhaps, Najib summoned him to return as his confidante,” he said. “Najib’s Washington trip was a wash-out. It was probably arranged on the advice of his foreign advisers. The Malays disapprove of Trump’s anti-Islam and anti-Muslim policies.”

A Malay, Muslim and Malaysian, the political analyst “will be in a better position to advise Najib on foreign matters. He is probably testing the waters and seeing how the Malaysian public react to him over a range of issues like education, religion and radicalization.”

However, it is more likely that the French indictment may have spurred Baginda’s return to Malaysia over a desire to remain free.  Malaysia does not have an extradition treaty with France, unlike Britain. His stay in England would be risky.

Razak Baginda dismissed the French charge and said, “The French legal process is different from the Malaysian legal process. The term ‘charged’ in the context of the inquiry means placing the said individuals under ‘formal investigation’.”

We now see the comeback kid, Razak Baginda, re-engaging with Malaysian politics. He appears to be pushing the right buttons on many subjects. More importantly, as long as Najib is around, there is money to be made. ICON has held several forums and issued press releases with alarming regularity.

Pretensions as Oracle

This is proof that he wants to be heard on a range of subjects, upon most of which many Malaysians agree. On radicalization, he has urged the Home Ministry to monitor students, who studied in the middle-east, and warned that Malaysia was losing its reputation as a moderate nation. He has warned that the prominence of religion in schools will lower the quality of education. He questioned the failure of Malaysian leaders to confront the nationalists.

Razak Baginda has defended the bloated Malaysian civil service and blasted the journalist John Pennington for an article in “Asean Today” that unfavorably compared the Malaysian civil service with its Singaporean counterpart.

He also criticized Najib for his silence on the Rohingya issue at the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, saying it was a “missed opportunity” and then, on the following day, offered a groveling apology to Najib, saying “I got it wrong.”  He praised Najib’s sincerity in helping the Rohingyas, raising the issue with the Myanmar state counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi, and with President Trump. Saying that Najib’s actions were unprecedented, Razak Baginda described him as bold and strong, willing to voice his displeasure over a matter he cared about.

“Never before has a fellow ASEAN leader brought out what could be regarded as a domestic issue of another member country,” he said. “Kudos to the prime minister, as it shows his commitment to help the Rohingya.”

Still Buddies?

So are Najib and Razak Baginda in constant contact? Or is he positioning himself and working towards a smooth transition to become Najib’s political analyst? On his re-emergence onto the Malaysian socio-political scene, Suaram’s Kua said: “He seems to have a knack of seeking publicity when he’d be better off staying out of media attention. He’s more of a liability for Najib by showing up all over the place and reminding us of Altantuya. But he seems pretty gung-ho about his ‘freedom from prosecution’. We shall see.

Both men have to tread a cautious path, said a political analyst, “but do they care? There is only so much Razak Baginda can do to help Najib, because one wrong step could make the whole Altantuya and Scorpene scandal blow up in Najib’s face, and further reduce his chances in GE-14. Even if it were true that Najib and Razak Baginda have resumed their cozy ties, it is established that they need one another to keep their secrets safe. Remember the adage about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer still.

Perhaps Najib is willing to take that chance, especially after the warning issued by the American Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, on Dec. 4, when he said that Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal was the worst example of kleptocracy he had ever seen. Razak Baginda may need Najib to prevent an attempt by the French to subpoena him to the Scorpene trial, but Najib has an equal need to prevent Razak Baginda from giving evidence.

Mariam Mokhtar is a Malaysia-based journalist and a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

 

Malaysia: Malaysian Ingenuity Knows No Bounds when it comes Corruption


December 5, 2017

Malaysia: Malaysian Ingenuity Knows No Bounds when it comes Corruption

by R Nadeswaran

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib as a corrupt Prime Minister

Yes, indeed, Prime Minister Najib Razak is as pure as Caesar’s Wife and a role model for Malaysian millennials. He showed them how to make RM2.6 billion without forking out a single cent.

COMMENT | Experience tells us that Malaysian ingenuity knows no bounds when it comes to addressing issues, or rather getting around them. Malaysians are also noted for being able to provide complicated answers to confuse the questioner. They can side-step, out-talk and out-manoeuvre all and sundry.

We can leave it to our leaders, politicians, civil servants and sometimes even drivers and bodyguards to come out with a plethora of explanations which would put artspeak to shame. (For the uninitiated, artspeak is described as “obscure, esoteric, or pretentious language used to discuss art.”)

Last week, Malaysiakini broke the news that a group of Malaysians allegedly made about RM60 million from a property deal apparently without forking out a single sen. It involved the sale of a Melbourne property to Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd (Mara Inc), a government agency whose mission is to help poor Malays.

With documents and graphics, Malaysiakini showed the shenanigans in the purchase of a property known as UniLodge, a 12-storey building at 746, Swanston Street in central Melbourne. It was “sold” to Mara Inc for A$41.8 million (about RM138 million) against its then market price and transacted value of A$23.5 million (about RM77.6 million).

Mara Inc entered into an agreement to buy the assets of Scarlett Nominees Ltd, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which included another BVI shell company called Thrushcross Ltd, which later changed its name to Thrushcross Land Holdings Ltd.

This transaction involved payment of A$41.8 million by Mara Inc to Scarlett supposedly for Unilodge but neither Scarlett nor Thrushcross owned the property at the time of the sale. After having received full payment, the perpetrators paid A$23.5 million for the building and allegedly pocketed the remainder.

However, this is where Malaysian resourcefulness and memory usually work in tandem to produced (un)desired results. When contacted by Malaysiakini, then Mara Inc chairperson Mohammad Lan Allani said he could not remember the details of the transaction.

“What I can say is if the company (Thrushcross) is a shell company, there is no way Mara Inc board would approve the deal. Our SOP (standard operating procedure) is very thorough.

“While I was chairman, I was very meticulous. The SOP must be comprehensive. We had an evaluation process. Only when all these were completed, only then we would proceed.”

But the documents which were made available to Malaysiakini and Fairfax Media in Melbourne show that directors were appointed and removed in a pattern so as to ensure the deal is closed without hitches.

These documents are obtained from the authorities in Melbourne. Sale and purchase agreements signed by solicitors, statement of finances prepared by accountants, valuation reports done by valuers, and there is even a receipt from the Australian government – the stamp duty paid on the transaction of the property.

If Mohammad Lan claims that “there is no way Mara Inc board would approve the deal”, he is being generous with the truth. The dossier leaves a trail of evidence leading to the soiled hands of a few within and outside Mara Inc.

But as in all issues which need specific answers, Mohammad Lan too had a ready answer in his SOP – as chairperson of Marc Inc, he is required to sign all documents. “For details, you have to ask the (then) CEO (Abd Rahim Halim).”

End of matter? Not exactly.

Lofty valuation

Another player entered the fray. Raine & Horne International Zaki + Partners who did the first valuation of A$43 million, defended its lofty price tag. Its executive director Rosli Atan said he was “confident” that the survey, conducted five years ago, was carried out in accordance with proper methods.

If not for semantics, for purposes of getting to the bottom of this whole rigmarole, the word “confident” is somewhat a giveaway or is it redundant? Without wanting to cast aspersions on the individual or the company, the journalistic mind wonders what difference would it made that he said “the survey was carried out according to the proper methods.”

As if to reinforce his confidence, Rosli noted that it was “not true,” when asked about the valuation, which was purported to have been inflated to benefit several Mara Inc officers and their cronies.

“I am confident with my evaluation. In 2012, I was confident. As of the date of the evaluation, I was confident,” Rosli reiterated when contacted by Malaysiakini last Thursday.

But valuations on the same property by two other companies two years later in a booming property market in Melbourne put the price very much lower. CBRE Valuations Pty Ltd valued the UniLodge property at A$25.5 million, while Charter Keck Cramer put the price at A$29.7 million.

It is common knowledge that various factors determine the valuation of a property including supply and demand as explained by Rosli, but it difficult to swallow the fact that the building actually changed hands a few months after Rosli’s valuation for A$23.5 million – leaving a massive profit for those involved in the deal.

Image result for Ismail Sabri

Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob–Reckless and Irresponsible but loyal to UMNO President

Also joining the fray and putting his name into the hat on Malaysian inventiveness was Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who spoke on behalf of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

He said MACC is currently waiting for a report from Australian authorities regarding the transactions.

“So it is better for us to just wait for that, there’s no use raising the matter again,” Ismail Sabri was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.

Mr Minister, we beg to differ. This is not raising the matter again. This is a new matter altogether. These documents on Unilodge only emerged two weeks ago and even Mara Inc officials were not aware that they bought a shell company for A$41.8 million. This alone speaks of the internal checks and balances and the mechanisms within Mara Inc.

Until those involved in this self-indulgent floundering of people’s money are brought to book, every Malaysian has his or her right to keep these issues in public domain. It may add to the long list of “unfinished” business of the MACC or it may land in its ‘morgue’ where files gather dust and are subsequently forgotten over time.

 

Forex RCI blames Ex-Khazanah Nasional Vice Chairman Nor Yakcop


December 1, 2017

Forex RCI blames  Ex-Khazanah Nasional Vice Chairman Nor Yakcop

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

Bank Negara suffered losses amounting to RM31.5 billion in foreign exchange (forex) trading between 1992 and 1994, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the matter said.

The RCI also established that Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who was part of Bank Negara’s management at the time, was the person in charge of the forex dealing operations. The commission is also of the opinion that this incident involved a criminal breach of trust under Sections 406 and 409 of the Penal Code.

Image result for nor mohamed yakcop

Nor Mohamed (pic above) was in charge of portfolios at Bank Negara between 1986 and 1993, including managing external reserves and regulation of domestic financial markets.

However, the RCI said, other parties had to share the blame as well.“Although he had dominion over BNM’s funds and seemed to have had a free hand in forex dealings, he could not have carried on for such a long time without the direct or tacit approval of his superiors and/or other persons in authority.

“Therefore, the commission assessed the joint liability of these persons, which could fall either under Section 34 or Section 107 of the Penal Code and explained as having the common intention or abetting,” the commission adds in its report, which was released today.

Image result for Royal Commission on Bank Negara Forex Losses

A former deputy governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), Dr. Lin See Yan told the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) that he was shocked at the scale of the foreign exchange (forex) losses suffered by the central bank 25 years ago.

These individuals, according to the RCI, are then Bank Negara governor Jaafar Hussein, his deputy Lin See Yan, Bank Negara’s board of directors, then Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim and then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Dr M and Anwar’s role

Furthermore, the RCI said, the incident involved an element of cheating in violation of Sections 417 and/or 418 of the Penal Code.

“The possibility of joint liability was also examined. It could be proven that several persons from Bank Negara, the Finance Ministry, Auditor-General’s Department, including Bank Negara’s board of directors and the Finance Minister, had all the information on the forex losses and were involved in the concealment of actual losses in Bank Negara’s forex dealings.

Image result for Royal Commission on Bank Negara Forex Losses

“Therefore, they should be jointly liable for the offence,” the report states. The RCI also accused Mahathir and Anwar of withholding information on the forex losses from the cabinet.

“The Finance Minister was also the main person responsible for withholding the facts and information of the forex losses to the cabinet.

“The Prime Minister, who also had knowledge of the forex losses, did not correct or offer more information when the losses informed to the cabinet were not the actual losses,” reads the report.

No further recommendations

The RCI also concluded that Bank Negara’s forex trading activities at the material time contravened Section 31(a) of the Central Bank Ordinance 1958 as the volume of transactions exceeded the reserves.

The RCI also opined that there was a deliberate concealment of the forex losses as it was not accurately reflected in the Bank Negara annual reports.

“The commission is of the opinion that the then Finance Minister had deliberately concealed facts and information and made misleading statements to the cabinet.

“The commission is also of the opinion that the then prime minister had condoned the actions of the Finance Minister,” the report states.

Apart from criminal investigations, the RCI said, no further enhancements to Bank Negara were necessary as substantial measures had been implemented to improve governance of reserves.

“No further enhancements are being recommended, as the various measures for improvement in the overall governance and internal controls of the bank have been adequately addressed in the Central Bank of Malaysia Act 2009,” the report says.

The RCI began its investigations on July 15 and was tasked with establishing whether Bank Negara made losses in the 1990s through forex speculation, whether laws governing Bank Negara were violated, whether there was concealment of facts, recommending action against those responsible and recommending action to prevent the incident from recurring.

Image result for Royal Commission on Bank Negara Forex Losses

The five-member panel (pic above) comprised Mohd Sidek Hassan (chairperson), Justice Kamaludin Md Said, Tajuddin Atan, Saw Choo Boon and SAK Pushpanathan.

 

RELATED REPORTS

RCI brands Bank Negara’s forex activities ‘excessive’

RCI recommends Dr M and Anwar be probed, claims Daim abetted CBT

Lim Kit Siang’s Take on Najib Razak’s So-Called Mother of All Budgets 2018


November 2, 2017

Lim Kit Siang’s Take on Najib Razak’s 2018 BudgetThe So-Called Mother of All Budgets

The Budget is a tool or instrument for presenting a statement about the state of the economy, its prospects, and policy announcements for improving governance. A well-crafted budget statement should be an objective and honest presentation meeting the goal of accountability.

Sadly, the budget he (Najib Razak) presented fails these basic tests. His speech of almost 12,000 words was more akin to a laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements about the economic consequences that would result.–Lim Kit Siang

http://www.malaysiakini.com

MP SPEAKS | Prime Minister Najib Razak described Budget 2018 being about “gifts, rewards and incentives.” It is a most mistaken view.

The Budget is a tool or instrument for presenting a statement about the state of the economy, its prospects, and policy announcements for improving governance. A well-crafted budget statement should be an objective and honest presentation meeting the goal of accountability.

Sadly, the budget he presented fails these basic tests. His speech of almost 12,000 words was more akin to a laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements about the economic consequences that would result.

The speech omitted any reference to urgently needed policy changes to restore the competitiveness of the economy that would enable the nation to escape the middle-income trap it finds itself in. The speech was silent about measures to correct the stagnation in real income, and address the looming danger associated with the mountain of debt – public, corporate and household.

The budget has been turned into an unabashed and irresponsible first salvo in the campaign for the 14th General Election. Page after page of the speech detailed expenditures and proposed allocations; no group was ignored in the largesse being extended.

Najib’s laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements.-2018 BUDGET

Little was said about how the proposed expenditures were designed to advance the overarching economic goals; no reference was made to how the addiction to deficit spending was to be overcome.

The projected deficit was itself a meaningless figure as the profligate spending in some measure would be financed outside of the budget, and nor did the PM in his speech or in the economic report provide details about the level of contingent liabilities or the new liabilities being assumed.

Electioneering

The PM chose to describe the budget as the “mother of all budgets”. Ironically, he was on target as this budget was an exercise in deception and was an unvarnished sales pitch seeking votes in the upcoming election.

Najib’s claim about “good news” needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt. The reality is that the news as reported in the budget statement is more in the nature of “fake news”. The budget framework is built upon dubious interpretation of statistical data in a highly selective manner.

The PM gloated over the growth numbers but was being selective. He failed to make any reference to issues of a structural nature raised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in particular in the latter’s Annual Article IV Consultations and reported on its website.

Economic growth rates

Najib also made much about the revised growth rates issued by the International Financial Institutions and attempted to claim credit. He omitted to indicate that the revisions pertained to almost all countries – Malaysia being one in the group.

The revised growth rates should not therefore be interpreted as an approval of the competence of the government in managing the economy. Growth rates are revised to be higher because of global economic developments, primarily resulting from changes in monetary policies by the US Federal Reserve Bank and its counterpart the European Central Bank, and the partial recovery in prices for oil and gas.

The PM has been selective in the use of data. This is best illustrated by his use of the year 2009 as the base for measuring change. There is no rational reason for this choice other than an attempt to glorify his own tenure of office. It is also pertinent to note that 2009 marked a global recession. The choice of this low base amplifies the recovery in the years since.

Najib, however, chooses to remain silent about the negative developments, for instance, in the losses in the country’s external reserves (from a peak of US$ 140.0 billion in 2012 to US$101.2 billion in Sept 2017; total reserves as a percentage of external debt fell from a high of 121.1 percent in 2007 to 47.2 percent in 2016 or the decline in the value of the ringgit from US$1 = RM 3.34 in 2007 to US$1= RM4.20 in September 2017. These are not indicative of “efficient governance and prudent discipline” as he claimed.

Putrajaya’s fiscal situation

For two decades the government has operated with a deficit; the reported federal government debt now approximates 55 percent. Additionally, the Putrajaya has concealed its borrowings and the true size of its debt by making government-linked companies and other quasi-government entities undertake borrowings to finance public sector projects under the guise of so-called public-private projects.

The government has, at the same time, accumulated large hidden contingent liabilities by extending guarantees for borrowings by GLCs and other entities.

The fiscal situation has been worsened by corruption, mismanagement and other abuses including non-competitive acquisition of goods and services. The absence of competitive bidding results in price distorted costs. Tax revenues have been eroded by way of so-called “incentives” extended to government cronies without resulting in any discernable rise in private investment.

NEM goals

The reference in the speech to the New Economic Model (NEM) is more in the nature of a throwaway remark.

Certain clear-cut goals and policies adopted at the launch of the NEM have fallen by the way side. It should be recalled that there was a commitment to pursue further privatisation of the government’s non-financial public enterprises and reduce the government’s holdings in the GLCs which in reality function as state-owned enterprises.

It is significant that the speech contained no reference to the pursuit of these stated goals.

The findings from a recent highly professional study led by Terence Gomez has highlighted the dominant role played by GLCs in almost all sectors of the Malaysian economy, from aviation, banking, manufacturing, plantations to various modes of transportation.

In 2013, a total of 455 companies (including subsidiaries) were classified as government-linked investment companies (GLICs). There were 35 publicly listed companies which were among the top 100 companies listed on the Bursa Malaysia. The latter account for an overwhelming percentage of the capitalisation of the exchange.

Without a doubt, the government’s footprint is large in the business and commercial sectors. The entities in question act as monopolies or privileged entities, thus stifling private enterprise. This has led to flagging private investment despite tax and other incentives.

Of late several entities (e.g., Mara, Felda, Tabung Haji) have become mired in financial scandals. There is little or no accountability by such entities.

Furthermore, it is strange indeed that while Malaysia as a upper middle income country seeks to attract FDI flows, yet government linked agencies are currently exporting capital. These endeavors taken represent contradictions. But, more troubling is the fact that they give rise to abuses and corrupt practices.

The claims of successes in employment creation merit comment. While indeed some 2.3 million jobs have been created in the past eight years, most of these have been low paying jobs with many filled by migrant workers.

Serious shortages of skilled workers exist; paradoxically the brain drain continues unabated. These labor market developments along with the stagnation in wages are indicative of a failed set of policies that are contributing to the loss of competitiveness and entrapment as a middle-income country.

The self-congratulatory remarks about export growth are yet another example of delusion. While the current level of exports are expressed in ringgit terms, the PM has chosen to ignore the fact that he is comparing values based on different exchange rates.

The comparison of international reserve levels is rather devious – this is the only comparison linked to 1997!

The reporting of an increase in income per capita from RM27,819 in 2010 to RM49,713 in 2017. This trend is contradicted by the World Bank as the following numbers show:

The significance of these numbers points the extent to which Malaysia is lagging in terms of achieving “high income” status which in 2016 was set as income levels in excess of US$12,235.

Indeed, taking account of the current level of GNI per capita, projected exchange and growth rates, it is patently clear that the much-touted goal of achieving “high income” status by 2020 is a fading dream.

Budget allocations

The budget allocations for 2018 are projected at RM280.25 billion, an increase of RM20 billion, with RM234.25 billion for operating expenditure and some RM46 billion for development.

While further details are highlighted, Najib chose to be silent about a large item, namely debt service which amounts to 11 percent of the operating expenditure. The increased allocations are largely to restore cuts that were imposed earlier in the year.

Revenue collection in 2018 is projected at RM240 billion, an increase of approximately nine percent from RM220 billion in 2017.

No details are given either about the sources of revenue, or the amounts reduced by way of tax cuts and exemptions. The projected growth lacks credibility given GDP growth rate, reductions in revenue attributable to the exemptions from GST granted for big ticket items alongside the reductions in income tax rates.

In brief, the rosy estimates of modest growth in expenditure coupled with unrealistic levels of revenue receipts follow a pattern. Revenue projections are pitched high whilst expenditures are restrained in the budget.

Thus, there are inevitable supplementary expenditure requests later in the year. These approaches in budgeting enable the government to put out massaged numbers for the deficit. These practices appear to be sharpened in the preparation of the 2018 Budget.

Lip service was paid about fiscal consolidation without mention of how the PM proposes to reduce debt levels. While he was upbeat about all manner of “progress”, no mention was made about the record concerning deficits. It is noteworthy that it is now more than 20 years since Malaysia enjoyed a budget in surplus.

Once again total debt along with contingent liabilities will rise in the year ahead. These will represent burdens passed on to future generations. With an ageing population, the burden will be all the greater. The nation’s long-term interests are being sacrificed for short term political gains.

The claim that this budget will chart the course for building the nation for the next 30 years is a farfetched assertion. This is all the more questionable considering the fact that the Budget hardly lays out any long- term policies and goals but is only concerned with the “here and now” issues assumed to be of interest to a highly jaded electorate.

Rewriting history

Most remarkable, however, is the PM’s assertion: “Since we declared Independence, we have been fortunate as our forefathers have governed and administered this country embedded with shariah requirements”. Najib appears to be rewriting history by ignoring the fact that the country adopted a secular constitution and up until recently shariah played no major role in administration.

To claim that for six decades a shariah framework has operated with the federal constitution playing a secondary role is an outright distortion of the facts. The formulation used by the PM ought to raise a red flag about his coalition’s intentions regarding the status of the Constitution.

While acknowledging that “the framework has not been written in any government documents, but its practices are reflected in all inter-related national philosophies and policies” Najib appears to be outlining a position that the government will adopt in the event it is returned to power. It is thus a signal of how the secular federal constitution will be further sidelined.

Trends in investment

The PM set out several targets dealing with investment and trade. The statistics about trends in investment were selective.

Once again by choosing a low bench mark year (2009), a year that recorded a global recession, and inflated targets for 2018, he attempted to project progress.

These statistics appear impressive in attributing performance of private investment. A closer review, however, paints a different picture.

Given that the GLCs dominate the private sector, and that they largely operate as SOEs, much of the “improvement” can be attributed to government initiatives handled by these entities.

The process permits the government to by-pass concerns about the debt ceiling and at the same time permit nefarious projects as evidenced by the 1MDB saga.

The trends in private investment are erratic as inappropriate policies and political uncertainties have impacted on private investment, both domestic and foreign. The failure to announce corrective policy measures will result in sluggish investment patterns along with continuing outward capital flows

Passing reference is made in the 2018 Budget to accelerating exports. However, no indication is given as to what policies will be introduced to develop capacities in new products and promoting industries involving new technologies for instance the use of artificial intelligence.

No mention is made about how the government proposes to deal with the withdrawal of the US government from the TPPA; the PM was silent about what posture it intends to take viz. other trading arrangements within ASEAN or with the EU and the China-led proposals for a regional trade arrangement.

The claim that “…for the first time in the history of the nation’s budget…” a large allocation “is provided to assist farmers, fishermen smallholders and rubber tappers” appears to be a most strange claim. Every Five-Year Plan, every budget over the past six decades has contained allocations for these groups; it is disingenuous indeed to make claims that are short on a factual base.

 

The mega rail transportation projects that have been announced raise multiple concerns. For a start, cost benefit and feasibility studies have not been disclosed, assuming these have been done.

It is worthy of note that the projects will be financed by loans from China; the terms of these loans have yet to be announced. Reports in the media appear to suggest that major parts of these projects will be assigned to China’s enterprises who will invite some Malaysian entities to collaborate.

Najib evaded the entire issue of port expansion using loan funds in the face of overcapacity in the nation’s major port, Port Klang, following the departure of a major user. Many of the other transportation projects highlighted in the speech will not be financed from the Federal budget.

The following quote from his speech is most remarkable – it projects self-glorification and is somewhat insulting of past holders of the office of Finance Minister:

“This Budget that has never been crafted so well, even during the last 22 years or the past 60 years of our own nation, and marked in history, making this Budget the Mother of All Budgets.”

Ironically, this Budget may indeed qualify as the “mother of all budgets” for reasons other than those offered by the PM. The speech represents an open attempt to create fake news in pursuit of gaining credibility with an electorate that is largely disenchanted by the workings of a government tarred by endless scandals, led by someone viewed as a kleptomaniac.

The current budget also qualifies as such for its extensive giveaways, without a realistic vision or any demand for sacrifices. It provides no coherent strategies to permit the nation to escape the middle-income trap.

Malaysia urgently needs a course correction if it is to regain dynamism to enable it to move forward on the road to greater prosperity.


LIM KIT SIANG is DAP Parliamentary Leader and MP for Gelang Patah.