Scramble for Scapegoats begins as 1MDB scandal deepens

March 3, 2015

Scramble for Scapegoats begins as 1MDB scandal deepens

by FMT

Analyst says it looks like PMO has started trying to distance Najib from a possible scandal.

1mdb-scapegoats2Lodin Wok Kamaruddin (Center)

It appears that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has begun the process of trying to wash PM Najib’s hands clean of what may turn out to be the biggest political and financial scandal in recent Malaysian history, according to analyst Shahbudin Husin.

Tied to that process may be a search for a scapegoat, he writes in a blog entry that indicates his belief that the 1MDB controversy is close to reaching a climax.

He refers to a recent report in London’s Sunday Times which quoted the PMO as saying that Najib was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.

Rosmah with NajibHe needs Divine Help on 1MDB

“It’s obvious that this was an attempt to distance Najib from any problems 1MDB may now be facing,” he says. “But it’s not so easy to lift the burden off Najib’s shoulders for he is the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and Chairman of the company’s board of advisors. Can we believe that funds in such large amounts can be invested or disbursed without Najib’s knowledge or consent?”

If 1MDB had been successful, he adds, there’s no doubt that the success would have been attributed to Najib’s acumen in his day-to-day involvement with the company. Shahbudin wonders who will become the scapegoat or scapegoats in the event the 1MDB affair unravels and turns out to be a major scandal or, as DAP’s Tony Pua has put it, “the heist of the century”.

“Will the scapegoat be Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, the current Chairman of 1MDB? Will the second and third scapegoats be its former CEO, Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman and his successor, Arul Kanda Kandasamy? Will there be other scapegoats still?”

Shahbudin notes that the PMO’s statement to the Sunday Times came after a claim by whistleblower website Sarawak Report that it was in possession of emails and documents showing that 1MDB’s joint venture with PetroSaudi in 2009 was allegedly a front to channel funds to a company controlled by tycoon Jho Low.

Riza and Jho Low

Riza Aziz and his Penang born Buddy

He says it would be difficult for Najib to deny any association with Jho Low because the playboy tycoon is a close friend of his stepson, Riza Aziz.“Besides reports that Jho Low has become close to the Prime Minister’s wife through Riza, there have also been reports that Najib himself has met him several times overseas,” he says.

“With the new allegation that Jho Low tried to make off with RM2.5 billion of 1MDB’s money, the call for the truth to be revealed to the public, perhaps through a royal commission of inquiry, has grown louder.”

Najib is tough to dislodge as Prime Minister

March 3, 2015

Najib is tough to dislodge as Prime Minister

by RK

Najib and RosmahNajib has tenacious and loyal Rosmah

Unlike Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, his successor is cast in a different mould. He had collaborated with Dr Mahathir Mohamad to remove his predecessor from office. And now, Najib Abdul Razak finds himself in a similar situation.
With Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim incarcerated and the opposition struggling with internal problems, the situation appears ripe for the juggernaut in UMNO to be unleashed again.

The attacks have intensified, especially on the Prime Minister’s links  to the reported problems faced by his brainchild 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). With most UMNO ministers maintaining a wall of silence, the party grassroots are given the impression that their President is a political liability.

This has prompted the question as to whether Najib, now in his sixth year as Prime Minister, will survive to celebrate his seventh.

Najib’s toxicity

However, PKR Vice President Rafizi Ramli believes that unlike Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, dislodging Najib will not be a simple task. “The interests of his family and associates are too deeply entrenched,” Rafizi told Malaysiakini.

“Abdullah is a soft man. Najib appears soft in public, but he is cast in a different mould,” he added.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Setting aside partisan politics, the opposition lawmaker agreed with those in UMNO who are bent on ousting the Prime Minister. Without mincing words, Rafizi described Najib as “toxic” for the nation.

“UMNO has never been in such a situation where there is no clear successor and the incumbent Prime Minister is proven to be toxic to his party and the government.In a way, the dilemma extends all the way to the public in general – while we do not cherish the thought of more right-wing UMNO leaders taking the helm, allowing Najib to continue a single extra day diminishes the country’s potential even more,” Rafizi said.

Is Zahid next in line?

Some speculate that Najib’s exit will clear the path for Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s ascension to the top post. Being the UMNO Vice President with the highest number of votes, he may be named as number two should Muhyiddin Yassin take over the leadership reins.

With UMNO shifting to the right, Zahid is seen as the best man for the job. In order to retain its hold on federal power by playing up racial and religious sentiments, an observer noted, UMNO needs a hatchet man.

Two Cousins
“Someone who is not concerned about his international reputation unlike the ‘WOGs’ (Western-oriented gentlemen) in the party, such as Najib and his cousin Hishammuddin Hussein. A leader who does not bow to pressure and repeal laws that are crucial to ensure the continuance of UMNO’s dominance,” he added.

However, Rafizi pointed out that Zahid’s credentials received a bruising with regard to his infamous letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The PKR leader said Mahathir, the chief architect behind the rise and fall of Prime Ministers, is also suspicious of the Home Minister, who was once a close ally of Anwar.

“Then again, Mahathir never sees things in the long-term. He may agree to Zahid rising, just to take out Najib. But a rapid change of guards in UMNO, more so when each one after Mahathir is pushed out of office, will only weaken UMNO.

“UMNO is used to the authoritarian style of Mahathir and it is as if UMNO now is trapped in its own doing when it doesn’t seem to be able to unite behind any leaders – all of whom are considered weak,” Rafizi added.


Transparency International Malaysia calls for Investigation into 1MDB Scandal

March 3, 2015

Transparency International Malaysia calls for Investigation into 1MDB Scandal

by  The Malaysian Insider

Pressure is mounting on Putrajaya as anti-graft organisation Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) has joined in the calls for an investigation into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the government-owned strategic investment fund embroiled in a financial scandal.

1MDB-The Scandal1MDB

TI-M said a “special high level task force” was needed to probe the debt-ridden 1MDB, adding that an audit of its accounts by the Auditor-General’s Office would not suffice as its financial irregularities had drawn international attention and cast doubts over Putrajaya’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

“Furthermore, 1MDB’s finances a‎re high level issues of public importance as well as of national interest as it involves tax payers’ money and the potentially consequential damaging impact that it poses to the banking system and the nation’s economy.

“TI-M calls for the immediate formation of a special task force comprising agencies such as Commercial Crime Division of Police, Auditor’s General Office, Bank Negara Malaysia, Ministry of Finance and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate 1MDB’s finances,” said TI-M in a statement.

It suggested that 1MDB’s former auditors, Ernst & Young and KPMG, be included in this task force as their “unexpected withdrawal” could provide explanations and leads into the investigation.TI-M said the collaboration of these various agencies were necessary, given the complicated nature of 1MDB’s financial transactions.

It said the task force must have the power to call relevant organisations and individuals to assist in its investigation.”It may uncover a plethora of larger issues such as corporate crime, embezzlement, corruption, misappropriation, mismanagement of funds, inappropriate decision making and unethical behaviour including and not limited to misuse of public office,” said TI-M.

Najib as 1MDB advisorIt also urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, to come clean on the fund and assure the public that their interests were safeguarded.

“Hence, it is timely for the government to prove its seriousness with this issue and act in a decisive and transparent manner. Less, the perception of corruption is not a misperception,” said TI-M.

Last weekend, whistleblower website Sarawak Report claimed to have obtained documents revealing that Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, had orchestrated the 2009 joint venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International (PetroSaudi). It claimed Low did this so that PetroSaudi could act as a “front” for him to siphon US$700 million (RM2.5 billion) from the deal.

‎Sarawak Report’s expose has received international attention and prompted opposition politicians and anti-corruption organisations here to call for an investigation into 1MDB’s accounts.

However, 1MDB and PetroSaudi have denied any irregularities in their finances, while Najib said he would not allow anyone to misappropriate public funds in the government-owned company for personal gain.

“1MDB, as a corporate citizen, has a role to play and must exercise their professional obligations both to their client and society even though 1MDB has repeatedly stated that its finances are in order,” said TI-M today.

On Sunday, PetroSaudi denied reports that funds from 1MDB went to third parties, adding that its subsidiaries had received the entire cash for a joint-venture company, while 1MDB confirmed that it received back its investment in full from the deal, besides making a profit.

The privately-owned oil exploration and production company in a statement said that upon 1MDB’s exit, PetroSaudi had paid the Malaysian strategic investment fund in full and both parties no longer had any financial or legal relations.

1MDB’s audited accounts as at March 31, 2014, shows that the company received the US$2.3 billion and made a profit of US$488 million.

In a separate statement, 1MDB President and Group Executive Director ArulKanda, newly appointed president and group executive director of Malaysia's state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd, poses for photographs in Kuala Lumpur Kanda Kandasamy also said the firm “notes with concern” the claims reported about its business arrangements with PetroSaudi.

“1MDB exited the relationship in 2012, and received back its investment in full, with a profit of US$488 million.These facts, and all details related to this transaction, may be verified by reference to our audited accounts, which are publicly available on the Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia website,” he said.

On February 21, Arul Kanda also said the same, in response to earlier criticism about 1MDB’s joint venture with PetroSaudi.



The need for Mr. Spock in an Age of Madness

March 2, 2015

The need for Mr. Spock in an Age of Madness

A Tribute by Dr. Farish

Leonard-Nimoy-image-2 AN ICON: Nimoy’s Mr Spock was a role model for humanity and a voice of logic and reason

THIS week, I would like, if I may, to write about something rather differ­ent from what I usually write about. Regular readers would know that this writer has focused more on issues of re­gional politics in the past.

The pass­ing of actor Leonard Nimoy has struck a chord with many who grew up in the 1960s-80s, and who are familiar with the TV series, Star Trek. Among the characters of the series, the character that Nimoy played – Mr Spock the scientist ­was perhaps the most familiar and iconic. For youngsters like myself who were at school then and who were hooked on the series, he was an icon and role model for book-de­vouring nerds and geeks who enjoyed the sciences and were fasci­nated by the charms of modernity.

Actor Leonard NimoyMr. Leonard Nimoy

While tributes to Nimoy the actor have come from all over the world, it is interesting to note that he was, and remains, in the eyes of many the same figure as Mr Spock whom he played. There is, however, one as­pect to the character of Spock that particularly deserves mention today, in the context of the troubled times we live in where irrational sectarian violence is rife across the world: Spock was a man of science and in the series Star Trek he was often presented as the contrarian voice to the more emotional Captain Kirk.

Indeed, the legacy of Mr Spock’s character is precisely that: That he was a man of reason, science and cool temper, in contrast to the vi­olent characters that often appeared in the many episodes of the series. We need to place him in the context of the times, and note that Star Trek appeared at the height of the Cold War where fear and animosity on both sides of the iron curtain was also high.

Star-Trek-001The Original Cast of Star Trek

At a time when Hollywood TV series often featured men of vi­olence and brutish action, his was perhaps one of the very few char­acters that constantly professed the opposite: A belief in the power of logic and reason, and the hope that science would uplift the lot of hu­man beings. In contrast to the cow­boy and war films being made then, it is astounding that Star Trek became a hit, and the character of Spock a popular hero.

In so many respects the figure of Mr Spock offered an alternative model of masculinity that was in stark contrast to the male stereo­type of that age. Eschewing vi­olence and irrationality, his char­acter placed his faith in the ability’ of reason and logic to discover truths and to enlighten the igno­rant. In total contrast to the image of the man of violence being pop­ularised elsewhere, his image of­fered a reversed interpretation of what masculinity could and should be like.

Today, we live in a world where religious and political sectarian vi­olence has led to terror attacks, indiscriminate killing of civilians and hostages, the burning of li­braries and the wanton destruction of relics and monuments of the past. All of this violence has been justified in the name of political ideologies or religions, by people who profess belief in things they may not even understand. If one were to take a snapshot of the age we live in today, one might conclude that we do indeed live in an age of madness and unreason.

Bust_of_Mahatma_Gandhi,_Saughton_Park,_Edinburgh_(1997)Mahatma Gandhi

Now, more than ever, we need role models and heroes of non­violent nature who can point to an alternative vision of the future that is more enlightened and tolerant of everyone. Now is the time when the world needs a Spock-like vision of a common humanity united in ra­tional thinking, fair and balanced discourse and objective analysis. Sadly, popular media today has in­stead fed us with a steady stream of popular nonsense, and no film to­day would be complete without some monster, alien, zombie, ter­rorist or murderer on the loose.

The passing of Leonard Nimoy was not merely the passing of an actor, but of a character who managed to get a generation to pause and think. Now is when we need such models most, and now is when reason has to be seen as an act of valour.

Farish Noor is an Associate Professor and Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and Visiting Fellow at ISIS Malaysia



Measuring Islamicity yet again

March 2, 2015

Measuring Islamicity yet again

by Zainah Anwar (01-03-15)

Zainah AnwarA Syariah Index funded by taxpayers’ money remains unused and unknown to the public while a new study has been launched.

FOR some five years during the premiership of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Malaysian Govern­ment spent millions on a major effort to develop the Maqasid al-Shariah Index to measure the “Islamicity” of a country, both in terms of governance and society.

A team of over 10 international Islamic scholars from diverse parts of the Muslim world, representing all schools of law in Islam, worked with ratings and indexing experts from the Gallup Poll to develop the methodology and measurable indicators for what is supposed to be a rigorous index that can be used to measure how Islamic a country is on the basis of how well it has delivered on the goals of Syariah – to protect and promote life, religion, intellect, family and property.

It seems there was much debate among the scholars on how best to go forward with this huge project. None of them believed that a focus on hudud law and punishments was the way to go to measure how Islamic a country is. But all agreed that nothing but justice can be objective of Islamic law. They developed documents to define the essential features of syariah-compliance governance and embarked on a rigorous exercise over several years to define in scientific, measurable ways what each objective of Syariah should be.

What does protecting and promoting life, religion, family, intellect, and property mean today, and in accordance with Islamic principles? And what are the indicators and ratings indexes that should be used to measure if OIC governments have delivered on the objectives of Syariah to deliver justice, to do good, to advance life and society for all?

For example, in developing the index on protecting life, they looked at data to indicate a govern­ment’s achievement on providing food, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, and other basic needs. The focus was on deliverables to advance the life of citizens.

Except for one public presentation at the International Institute forImam Feisal Rauf Advanced Islamic Studies last year, nothing more has been heard of this study, which was led by Imam Feisal Rauf from the Cordoba Institute, and included two Malaysian experts. A book on its methodology and findings was supposed to be published by the end of last year, but until today there is no news of the publication. Malaysia, not surprisingly, came out well among the OIC countries measured by this Index.

But now another study has been launched by the current Prime Minister to develop yet another Syariah Index based on the maqasid principles. Why? Has anyone examined the Maqasid Index already developed with millions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money? Why is there a need to launch yet another project to develop a similar index? Do they even know this Maqasid Index was initiated, completed and funded by the same Prime Minister’s Office, just by the last office holder?

The methodology of this new Syariah Index project is already under question. Looking at the survey questionnaire sent out to UMNO members, this new project seems like an approval rating exercise.

The 13-page questionnaire made up of 146 questions covers six issues – Islamic law, politics, economics, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and social. For each issue, a list of questions is prepared to measure how well the government has done under the five categories: religion, life, intellect, family and property. Respondents are asked to rate on a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

For example, to measure whether Islamic laws in Malaysia have protected life, it asked three questions: whether zakat, wakaf institutions, JAKIM and the state religious departments uphold Islam; whether government “shelter centres” for syariah criminals are effective and whether distribution of zakat is effective.

On protecting intellect, it asked if laws to prevent alcohol consumption are effective, if the quality of human resources is adequate and if information on Islamic law is easily obtainable.

In its measurement on social issues, it asked questions on the effectiveness of enforcement agencies’ efforts to prevent Christianisation activities, the system to determine the qualification of religious preachers, the process of inculcating understanding of fardu ain and fardu kifayah in society, and the adequacy of programmes in mosques throughout the country!

And it goes on and on in this random mode of haphazard and arbitrary leading questions being asked of respondents. They were in fact asked to rate if the Malaysian Government has done enough to measure how Syariah-compliant Malaysia is.

I am not sure if the research team has any clue how serious and rigorous a process for deve­loping an index that is meant for global use should be. What is the purpose of setting up yet more committees and spending more money to duplicate what has been done just a few years ago by the very same office of the Prime Minister?

Perhaps the team can start by examining the Maqasid Index book manuscript, titled Islamic Government and Rule of Law Index. Have they consulted the experts from the previous team? Why the need for a new team and a new Index? What is the budget for this new initiative?

rehman-scheherazadeThey could also read the academic papers available online writtenhossein_askari by two Professors at The George Washington University, Hossein Askari (right) and Scheherazade Rehman (left), who have developed the “Islamicity Index” and the “Economic Islamicity Index” and who are now working on their own Maqasid Index. They are also working with the Islamic Development Bank to develop a Syariah-based index of socio-economic development.

Their Islamicity Index mea­sured economic and human development, laws and governance, human and political rights, and international relations in accordance with a set of Islamic principles. For example, for economic and human development, they developed 12 fundamental Islamic economic principles that included indicators on equal economic participation, economic equity, personal property rights and sanctity of contracts, poverty prevention and reduction, etc.

Compare this to some of the indicators on economic achievements in the Malaysian Syariah Index survey: “numbers of Islamic insurance consumers are increasing” (how is a respondent supposed to know that?), “financial institutions practising syariah-­compliant finance principles expand” and “prostitution and LGBT phenomena is not a concern in Malaysia (?)” It is hard to fathom the methodology and logic behind these questions and what they are really trying to measure.

As with so many things to do with religion in this country, much suspicion has been aroused as to whether this effort to ­develop yet another Syariah Index on the heel of one just completed, unused and unknown to the public, is yet another effort to lull Muslims into believing how Syariah-compliant this government is.

Never mind if in the end, it is the Muslims that they proclaim they want to protect and serve who will become the biggest losers in this race to prove who is more Islamic than the other. In Kelantan, we see a state government desperate to implement the Hudud law even while any right-minded citizen would think that it should be focusing its attention on helping the rakyat to rebuild their lives and property and repair the massive damage to infrastructure and goods caused by the devastating floods.

When you have nothing much to showcase for your achievements, press the Islam button and hey presto, the rakyat will be pleased – so they think.

Rosmah with NajibAt the federal level, a government that has lost popular support in two successive elections and that is desperate to prevent further regression, again and again turns to race and religion to create a siege mentality that the Malays cannot survive without the dominant ruling party in power.

This is all a charade. The sooner we wake up to the games politicians play with religion in order to stay in power or to win power, the more strategic we can be to bring about the real change that we the rakyat are desperate for.

Zainah Anwar is the internationally acclaimed co-founder and former executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum) and the co-­founder and director of Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. She is a former member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.


PM dodges 1MDB scandals

March 2, 2015

PM dodges 1MDB scandals


DAP’s Tony Pua says PM is either complicit in the company’s hanky-panky or guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in managing 1MDB.

najib-tony-puaTime to Fix 1MDB mess

Tony Pua has said that the Prime Minister cannot continue to disassociate himself from the gross failings of 1MDB in light of the current revelations detailing how the company played a role in an elaborate scam to siphon money.

He said this in response to recent documents involving a US$1billion Petrosaudi investment transaction that was exposed by the Sarawak Report and which pointed clearly towards “an elaborate scam to siphon money from 1MDB into a Swiss bank account owned by Jho Low’s private company”.

The MP for Petaling Jaya Utara said, “Even if the Prime Minister is indeed not complicit in the serious hanky-panky in the company, he is guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in managing 1MDB under his Ministry.”

Condemning Najib’s continued assertion that 1Malaysia Development Berhad was in “sound financial health” Pua pointed out three facts that were in direct contradiction to the PM’s statement namely that the company was unable to repay a RM2 billion loan without “begging” billionaire Ananda Krishnan for help; that 1MDB had requested for a RM3 billion emergency bailout fund from the Cabinet; and that 1MDB was unable to show proof that it had US$1.1 billion (RM3.9 billion) parked anonymously overseas after disposing of its Cayman investments.

“How can the Finance and Prime Minister allow the 1MDB shenanigans to sink to the current level of RM42 billion in debt while becoming practically insolvent?,” Pua asked.

He also pointed out Najib’s attempt to dismiss the Sarawak Report as being politically motivated, saying that in his triple roles as PM, Finance Minister, and Chairman of the 1MDB Board of Advisors, it was irrelevant whether this was so and that Najib was duty bound to get to the bottom of the scandal.

“I, for example, would seek to expose all corrupt activities of the ruling government to remove them during the next general elections. What is more important, is whether the documents and email communications are genuine,” Pua said.

Kanda, newly appointed president and group executive director of Malaysia's state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd, poses for photographs in Kuala Lumpur1MDB’s New Miracle Man

He added that if indeed the documents are proved to be genuine, then the government must answer for the “brazen abuse of power” and added that Najib cannot continue to distance himself from 1MDB by claiming he was not directly involved in its day-to-day operations.

Throwing his support behind DAP elder statesman Lim Kit Siang who has called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into 1MDB’s RM42 billion debt, Pua added that the move is important so the truth would come out and that the “crooks behind and abetting the scams will be punished and put behind bars”.