Hududisation of Malaysia


May 28, 2o16

Hududisation of Malaysia: What Najib Razak would do for political survival

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Public Caning under Hudud

After being dormant for more than a year, the issue of hudud – harsh seventh-century Islamic law prescribing the amputation of limbs for theft and stoning of adulterers – has suddenly come alive in Malaysia again.

The government appears to be fully behind the move, although debate has now been postponed until October. The move has raised deep concern among civil societies and human rights organizations and, according to some critics, could threaten the country’s standing with the international business community.

 Nonetheless, on May 26, the final day of the current parliamentary session, Azalina Othman Said, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, suddenly tabled a motion to fast-track amendments that would allow the nominally opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, to implement the criminal code in the east coast state of Kelantan, the only state PAS controls.

The Halal Entertainers

One source in Kuala Lumpur suggested the move was a strategy on the part of Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose United Malays National Organization faces two imminent by-elections forced by the death of two high-ranking UMNO officials in a helicopter crash last month while campaigning in Sarawak state elections. The two by-elections are in the state of Selangor.

“Now that Najib has messed up the economy he is so desperate to win these coming two by-elections that he is using religion knowing very well Malays would be hard pressed to vote against hudud,” the source told Asia Sentinel. He called the bill “the ‘Talibanization’ of Malaysia.

UMNO’s Peity–The Sheer Hypocrisy of it all

The measure, a so-called private member’s bill by PAS President Hadi Awang, had been languishing for months before Azalina’s decision to move the measure, an extremely unusual action. It appears to be unheard of for the government to back an opposition party’s bill. It is even unsure whether the bill, if passed, would be legal under Malaysia’s federal Constitution.

The action runs directly counter to Najib’s characterization of his country as a moderate Muslim society in international forums and before the United Nations.

The Most Corrupt Prime Minister of Malaysia

However, Najib and UMNO are caught in an enormous scandal that threatens the government’s legitimacy and stretches across at least seven international jurisdictions. Earlier this week, Singaporean authorities shut BSI Bank Ltd., the  Singapore-based arm of the Swiss BSI SA in what Singapore Monetary Authority Managing Director Ravi Menon called “the worst case of control lapses and gross misconduct that we have seen in the Singapore financial center.”

BSI handled a major chunk of the business for 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the scandal-wracked state-backed development fund that appears to have lost billions of dollars to theft and mismanagement. It has been called one of the biggest money-laundering cases in history, with authorities in the US, Abu Dhabi, Luxembourg, Hong Kong and other jurisdictions in addition to Switzerland and Singapore pursuing cases against the fund. Authorities are also seeking to find out the origin and disposal of an estimated US$1 billion that flowed into and out of Najib’s own accounts in 2013.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Najib’s most persistent domestic foe, has accused Najib of signing off on the hudud law in an effort to split an already-weakened opposition by getting PAS’s support in exchange for the law in order to protect himself in the scandal.

In an interview with The Australian, Mahathir said Najib is so desperate to cling to power that he is willing to sign off on the harsh Islamic law in exchange for PAS’s support.

“He’s prepared to support these so-called Hudud laws where you decapitate people, chop off their hands, stone them to death,” Mahathir was quoted as saying. “He doesn’t care what he does or what his policy is as long as he gets support. And he wants the support of the opposition PAS. The leader of PAS is talking to him.”

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi insisted to reporters that the bill would only apply to Muslims in Kelantan. But critics are worried that implementation in Kelantan would let the evil genie out of the bottle. With a rising crime rate and concerns especially over violent street crime, the issue has caught fire with the wider public and threatened to bring it to a national level. The independent Merdeka Center, which samples public opinion, found last year that 73 percent of Malay Muslims supported the Islamic law in principle, up from only 47 percent in November of 2013.

One UMNO source told Asia Sentinel there is a danger that once implemented in Kelantan, the rural northern tier of states that abut the Thai border including Perlis, Kedah and Terengganu. There is even rising sympathy in the moderate urban state of Selangor, the source said.

However, it has horrified the 35 percent of other races that make up the country’s polyglot population of 30.7 million as well as moderate city-dwelling Malays. In particular the Chinese, who make up about 20 percent of the population and the bulk of the political opposition, view it as a powder keg.

PAS has been pushing for hudud in Kelantan for decades. But over the past couple of years, as the opposition headed by now-imprisoned leader Anwar Ibrahim gained popularity, sources in Kuala Lumpur have said, Najib saw a behind-the-scenes embrace of hudud as a way to split PAS off from the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party and Anwar’s own Parti Keadilan Rakyat. The Barisan’s own minority-dominated component parties including the Malaysian Chinese Association, Gerakan and the Malaysian Indian Congress have also opposed implementation.

Today, however, the reasoning in Najib’s camp seems to be that with ethnic Malays making up at least 60 percent of the population, they can ignore the minorities.

With Parliament closing, the bill requires further debate before it would become law. It remains unknown if Najib and his forces would actually inflict the law on the population.

Under its provisions, hudud would impose age-old punishments for certain classes of crimes under Shariah law including theft, sex out of wedlock, consumption of liquor and drugs and apostasy. There appear to be no punishments for corporate crime, which is rife in Malaysia.

But, as Mahathir said when the issue arose in 2014, “There are Muslims and non-Muslims in our country. If a Muslim steals, his hand will be chopped off but when a non-Muslim steals, he goes to jail. Is that justice or not?”

As Mahathir has said, although the law would apply only to Muslims, it sets up the specter of a dual class of punishments, with a Chinese, Indian or other minority facing perhaps two months in jail for theft, for instance, and a Malay facing the prospect of losing his hand. Adultery in Malaysia is rarely punished today for any of the races and although it is not talked about, it is rampant among the leaders of UMNO.

Malaysia’s Travel Ban


May 27, 2016

Malaysia’s Travel Ban: Administrative Stupidity or Political Insecurity?

by Azmi Sharom

http://www.thestar.com.my

BOY, was I worried last week. This paper reported that the Immigration Department was going to bar those who disparaged or ridiculed the Government from traveling abroad.

And those who did so overseas would be barred from traveling upon their return home. For up to three years!

Crikey. This was most concerning. In my job I speak about laws and government policies all the time; at home and abroad.We, lecturers, go to seminars and conferences and we discuss ideas.

So, even if I take special care to say only the sweetest things about the Government, I could still be faced with questions like “Why is your government-owned strategic development company facing so much trouble?”.

What a conundrum. Do I spout some inanity (“err … that is a good question, Malaysia is truly Asia. Thank you.”) or give my opinion and risk being unable to eat authentic Nasi Gudeg for three years?

I suppose I could say something brilliant like “Look, is that an ostrich in the aisle?”, and then make my escape. And furthermore, The Star reported that these disparaging comments can be done in any manner. Good lord, does that include private conversations?

What if I am in a café in Madrid and my Spanish host asks me, “Señor Azmi, why does your Government prevent people from going overseas to get human rights awards?”

What do I say then? “Manuel, I am Malaysian, I cannot answer your question. Please pass the paella.”

Then fortunately, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs comes swooping in and says that there will be no ban on travelling for critics of the Government.

Phew, that’s a relief then. I guess those guys in the Immigration Department just got together and decided amongst themselves to make up this policy.

I did not realise that government agencies had so much autonomy that they could make far-reaching unconstitutional, anti-human rights-type decisions without the OK from the minister or his faithful deputy.

Just shows what I know.

But then the Deputy Minister goes on to say that the ban only applies to those who are a threat to national security and who have violated the Constitution.So I guess Maria Chin is a national security threat and habitual violator of the Constitution then.

It is as though the Constitution is a high-born Roman lady in danger of being attacked by a ravaging Visigoth.How can a private citizen violate the Constitution?

Hey, we are not the ones who make laws that blatantly go against the Fundamental Liberties listed in Part 2 of the Constitution. We are not the ones who say that this is an Islamic state when the Constitution says no such thing.

We are not the ones who obtusely say that there is no separation of powers because the Constitution does not use the term “separation of powers” (even though the executive, legislature and judiciary are each given separate chapters and have clearly defined powers).

It is virtually impossible for a private citizen to violate the Constitution.Short of perhaps companies that treat their workers like slaves or practise gender bias.

So the idea that citizens who violate the Constitution can have their passports taken away is laughable.It’s as though by throwing big words into the mix, this ludicrous and unlawful attack on our freedom of movement is all hunky dory.

Really, all this business about keeping us stuck at home is ridiculous.Do we need to go overseas to belittle the Government when their actions can be spread far and wide via existing technology? Why worry about citizens belittling or disparaging them abroad when they do it so well by themselves?

Message to Perak’s Mullah Harussani Zakaria


May 27, 2016

Message to Mullah Harussani Zakaria–Islam is not about exclusivity

by Azrul Mohd Khalib

http://www.malaymailonline.com

Perak’s Mullah Harussani Zakaria with his political patron, Najib Razak

Warning: If this column starts to sound like you have read it before and you think that you are having a déjà vu moment, you are probably right. It sometimes feels like a broken record dealing with and responding to our recalcitrant and wayward religious authorities.

We have just been told that it is a crime to publish, and to read the Quran in non-Arabic languages without accompanying Arabic text.

Stop the press! All printing of the Quran in Chinese, Spanish, Afrikaans, Russian, Chechen, Indonesian and English around the world must cease! After all, if it is supposedly a wrong practise here, it must be wrong elsewhere too. After all, Islam is a global religion.

The recent warning from Harussani Zakaria, chairman of the Home Ministry’s Al-Quran Printing, Control and Licensing Board, is representative of what’s gone wrong with the practice and teaching of Islam in this country.

While Muslims in other countries are busy making their religion increasingly accessible, friendly and inclusive to those not of the Islamic faith, our religious authorities are moving in the exact opposite direction.

Far from sounding enlightened, progressive and welcoming, individuals such as Harussani are making Islam in Malaysia sound and appear to others as arrogant, irrational, suspicious and disdainful of other religions.

Maybe Harussani is more knowledgeable than I am in this matter, but I am almost certain that this kind of paternalistic approach is neither in accordance with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad nor adhering to the principles of Islam. But what do I know? I don’t write or understand Arabic so Harussani can perhaps provide some enlightenment.

I am tired of our religious authorities treating Islam like it is some exclusive club and they alone determine who gets to join and the conduct of those who are members. Historically, we have seen this behaviour before where the clergy of an institutionalised religion attempts to impose a monopoly on faith and its teachings under the guise of “only the learned and knowledgeable” (i.e themselves) can communicate with God and not be led astray.

The reality has less to do with God but more to do with the very earthly pursuit of power and control over others. Over the years, the ever-expanding sphere of influence of Islamic institutions in Malaysia have gone increasingly unchecked and it can be argued that through their actions, have repeatedly violated Constitutional limitations and even expressed disdain for those limits. Yet, very few have dared to challenge them and even fewer have stood to defend those who have done so. Just ask Rosli Dahlan.

I have travelled to many places in the world where Islam has taken root and flourished. Based on my own understanding, Islam is not and has never been about exclusivity and superiority of faith.

It is arguably a violation of Islamic teachings to insist on exclusivity as touted by Harussani as it prevents others from acquiring knowledge, learning and understanding Muslims and Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself, through his own documented practises and teachings, practised inclusivity, humility, and believed in the importance of knowledge and most importantly, sharing it with others.

Exclusivity results in misunderstanding, ignorance, conflict, bigotry and irrational fear. It breeds contempt for others and arrogance.

One of the most common complaints and gripes by the Islamic authorities and clergy in this country is that they are frequently misunderstood and that others must seek understand and learn about Islam.

Fair argument, until you make important texts like the Quran inaccessible. Read the notice from the Kementerian Dalam Negeri again and you will realise that what it is actually saying is that reading the Quran is off limits to non-Muslims (need to take Islamic ritual ablutions to touch and read the Quran) and to those not proficient in the Arabic language.

Speaking of reading, I have struggled to explain to those who are non-Muslims how it is possible for a person to be able to read the Arabic in the Quran yet not understand a single word of it.

Because that is how the Quran is often taught (can a person be taught when the language of the lesson itself is not understood?) here in this country.

Harussani’s statement itself affirms that you can read without understanding and it is okay. I really don’t understand that and never have. Wouldn’t it be meaningless without understanding the words of what you are reading? Maybe it’s just me but that is my individual cross to bear.

Oh, final question for the mandarins of the Kementerian Dalam Negeri: is it also a crime to download digital versions of the Quran such as eBooks or apps in other languages? Are we allowed to think for ourselves or do we need to ask for your permission?

Those who demand for exclusivity and impose such restrictions and monopolies of knowledge convey a lack of depth in their awareness and understanding of how Islam is practised elsewhere around the globe and of its co-existence with other world religions.

Get a grip.

It takes a Najib Razak to sink a 143-year old Swiss Bank


May 26, 2016

Malaysia Boleh: It takes a Najib Razak to sink a 143-year old Swiss Bank

http://www.malaysiakini.com

KINIGUIDE: The 1MDB saga has left a trail destruction across three continents, with key corporate and banking figures having to resign, bankers charged and accounts frozen.

However, the biggest casualty to date is BSI Bank, which faces criminal proceedings for, among others, failing to adhere to anti-money-laundering regulations in handling transfers linked to 1MDB. An international investigation, primarily led by Swiss and Singaporean authorities, has unravelled the 143-year-old bank.

Malaysiakini looks at the significance of these developments and BSI’s role in the 1MDB saga.

About BSI

Banca della Swizzera Italiana, or BSI, was founded in 1873.It began an international expansion in 1969 and spread its wings to Hong Kong in 1981 and later Singapore in 2005.

According to BSI’s 2015 annual report, it had 1,256 employees in Switzerland and 656 employees outside the country, with 310 in Asia.

It is currently owned by Grupo BTG Pactual but is in the process of being acquired by EFG International for 1.33 billion Swiss franc. The amount is expected to be lesser following regulators’ action against BSI.

The unmaking of BSI

Even before Swiss and Singapore authorities hammered the nail into BSI’s coffin, the bank was already disintegrating as the 1MDB probe gained momentum.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that several senior employees had left BSI Singapore, including committee members who vetted major clients during 1MDB’s time as well as its head of compliance.

The chief operating officer for BSI’s Asia operations, Gary Tucker, had also left the bank, while BSI’s head of Asia operations, Hanspeter Brunner, announced his retirement. But the most devastating blow came when Singapore on Tuesday ordered BSI Bank in the city state to be shut down.

It was the first such action by Singapore authorities in 32 years.Switzerland’s financial regulator, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) also ordered similar action, approving EFG International’s complete takeover of BSI. This was on condition that BSI will be dissolved within 12 months through its integration into EFG International.

What did BSI do wrong?

Both Switzerland and Singapore authorities have released general statements on BSI’s offences, which have been short on specifics.In Switzerland, Finma concluded that BSI was in serious breach of the statutory due diligence requirements in relation to money laundering and serious violations of the principles of adequate risk management and appropriate organisation.

In Singapore, authorities found BSI to be in “serious breaches of anti-money-laundering requirements, poor management oversight of the bank’s operations and gross misconduct by some of the bank’s staff.” These were in context of investigations linked to 1MDB.

Connecting the dots

Prior to the investigations initiated by Swiss and Singapore authorities, whistleblower portal Sarawak Report had highlighted the role of BSI in the diversion of 1MDB’s funds.It started with the US$1.83 billion which 1MDB had channelled overseas for its joint-venture activities with PetroSaudi International between 2009 and 2011.

This is the same amount that Bank Negara later ordered 1MDB to repatriate, which the Malaysian fund had failed to do and for which it was fined. Of this sum, US$1.03 billion did not go to the joint-venture. It was instead diverted to Good Star Limited’s account at RBS Coutts in Zurich, whose beneficiary owner is Penang-born billionaire Jho Low.

Here is where BSI comes in.More than half of the diverted sum, or US$529 million, was transferred to Abu Dhabi Kuwait Malaysia Investment Corporation’s (BVI) account at BSI Singapore between June 28, 2011 and September 4, 2013. The beneficiary owner was also Jho Low.

Sarawak Report, based on leaked Singapore investigation papers, had as early as April last year reported that Jho Low controlled at least 45 bank accounts at BSI under various company names.

These revelations appeared consistent with the findings of Finma which noted: “In the context of the 1MDB case, the bank (BSI) failed to adequately monitor relationships with a client group with around 100 accounts at the bank.”

It said funds were moved within these accounts without proper justification. Coincidentally, 1MDB’s subsidiary Brazen Sky Limited also banked with BSI where its US$1.1 billion in ‘fund units’ was held.

Furthermore, Singapore court proceedings showed that SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB, also had its accounts at BSI. BSI banker Yeo Jiawei was charged for allegedly signing a fraudulent reference letter in the name of BSI to Citigroup Inc’s head of anti-money laundering to facilitate the transfer of US$11.95 million from SRC International to Equity International Partners Limited.

The beneficiary owner of Equity International Partners Limited was Tan Kim Loong, an associate of Jho Low and also the original beneficiary of Tanore Finance that funnelled US$681 million to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal bank accounts.

Singapore prosecutors described this component as a “new front” in its investigation but it is unclear how it is linked to Jho Low’s movement of US$529 million into, within and out of BSI.

Information disclosed to the public is likely just a small portion of the investigations but more details are expected as court proceedings in Switzerland and Singapore commence.

Is this the end of the 1MDB saga? On the contrary, it is just the beginning. Sarawak Report claimed that the US$529 million in Jho Low’s account in BSI was cleared out of BSI Singapore and was believed to have been moved to Hong Kong.

It is unclear which financial institution it went to. Hong Kong authorities have acknowledged an investigation but little information has been provided so far.Finma is also reportedly looking into RBS Coutts, from which the US$529 million came from before it entered BSI’s system.

Furthermore, other banking institutions are also expected to be in the line of fire.One key institution is Falcon Private Banking, which Tanore Finance used to transfer US$681 million (often referred to as RM2.6 billion) into Najib’s AmBank account.

Sarawak Report claimed that US$650 million of this money was transferred back to Tanore Finance’s account at Falcon Private Banking in Singapore on Aug 30, 2013.

Interestingly, EFG International, which is set to take over BSI, had also acquired Falcon Private Bank’s Hong Kong arm for 800 million Swiss francs from Aabar Investments PJS in 2014.

This KiniGuide was produced by Nigel Aw.

Philippines’ Man of the Moment: Rodrigo Duterte


May 26, 2016

Philippines’ Man of the Moment: President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte

by Mong Palatino

Mong Palatino explores the many sides to the Philippines’ new President, revealing there is far more that meets the eye than Trump comparisons alone can offer.

President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte–The Man from Mindanao

The landslide victory of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the recent Philippine presidential election has been reported already across the world. Perhaps many in Southeast Asia are asking: Who is Duterte?

The reaction is understandable. After all, it was only five months ago when Duterte announced his bid for the presidency.

Duterte’s electoral success is historic and politically significant for the Philippines. Not only did Duterte receive the most number of votes in the history of the Philippines, he is also set to become the first President from Mindanao.

Mindanao is the country’s second biggest island known for its rich natural resources but plagued by poverty and numerous local conflicts. When Mindanao people speak of historical injustice, they are referring to the state-sponsored displacement of Muslims from their homeland and the continuing plunder of the island’s wealth by corrupt politicians from ‘Imperial Manila.’

Duterte’s victory suddenly gave hope that the national government will start to prioritize the needs of Mindanao. Duterte, who claims to understand the history of the Muslim struggle for self-determination, also promises to pursue the peace process in Mindanao.

That a politician from Mindanao will assume the presidency on June 30 is unprecedented in Philippine politics. It’s like a Buddhist mayor sympathetic to the self-determination struggle of Thailand’s ‘Deep South’ becoming prime minister.

Unfortunately, Duterte’s anti-crime platform is given more attention by the mainstream global media. Because of his aggressive methods to rid Davao of crimes and his plan to kill all drug lords once he becomes President, he is called the ‘Punisher’ and Dirty Harry’. Perhaps he deserves the nicknames and he has no one to blame but himself if the world thinks his only crusade is to enforce discipline and order in society. He is like Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who believes that reforms can be achieved through extralegal and even authoritarian means.

Like Prayut, Duterte’s scandalous statements ridiculing women and the LGBT sector often attract wide condemnation. Both Prayut and Duterte think that crass talk can make them more popular among ordinary citizens. But when commentators condemn Duterte’s behaviour, most fail to mention his similarity with Prayut. Right or wrong, Duterte is often compared to American presidential candidate and business tycoon Donald Trump.

The comparison is inaccurate and unfair to Duterte. First, he is not a billionaire. Second, he does not mouth anti-Muslim statements. Third, he is proud of his so-called Leftist background. And fourth, he has been serving the country as an elected leader for three decades already.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen: Making a Difference

If making politically-incorrect pronouncements is the measure for comparison, Duterte’s image is closer to Prayut or Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The latter is like Duterte, a veteran politician who uses obscene language to ridicule his critics and political enemies.

But perhaps matching Duterte with Trump can also help to make the Filipino leader realize that his public antics are increasingly being viewed by many as offensive and divisive.

Persuading Duterte to abandon his ‘Trump’ reputation is easy.  He only needs to remember his record as a politician who has consistently worked well with progressive groups and NGOs in drafting social welfare programs for the poor. Unlike Trump who is part of America’s traditional elite, Duterte is seen as an ‘outsider’ who challenged the rule of oligarchs and big landlords in the Philippines.

In many ways, Duterte is like Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo. Both made a name by being effective city mayors before running for a national position. Both gained popular support among the poor and the youth. And both tapped into the widespread frustration of ordinary voters against the inefficiencies and inequities of the bureaucracy.

The Philippines today is like Indonesia in 2014 after the electoral victory of Jokowi. There’s high expectation that Duterte will deliver change and uplift the conditions of the poor and marginalized.

Duterte is no democracy icon like Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi but many Filipinos now see him as a leader who will lead the struggle against elite oppression, criminality, and corruption.

The defeat of the military-backed party in Myanmar remains the most meaningful political event in Southeast Asia in recent years but Duterte’s rise to power is a political phenomenon that deserves serious attention too. Indeed, Duterte has cultivated a strongman image like Hun Sen and Prayut; but unlike the two, he gained power in a more democratic way similar to how Jokowi and Suu Kyi’s party won a convincing mandate to lead in their countries.

There’s a persistent anti-communist bias in the Philippines, and in the whole Southeast Asian region as well, but here’s an incoming president who introduces himself as Leftist or socialist. If Duterte turns out to be a real socialist, will this start a trend in Southeast Asia?

Will he become a genuine reformer or will he degenerate into a conservative populist? He has six years to establish his true legacy but this early he is already facing corruption allegations. It’s noteworthy to mention that his rivals are suspicious about his bank transactions. The issue is quite similar to the ‘political donations’ received by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (pic above) in his dollar bank accounts. Although, to be fair to Duterte, Najib’s corruption scandal is definitely far worse.

Duterte’s detractors want to unseat him already even if he has not yet taken his oath as president. His supporters, however, expect him to bring change in three to six months which is part of his election campaign pledge. Of course substantial change is difficult to achieve in six months but he must try to show some concrete results during this period if he wants to retain the support of the majority who voted him to power.

Duterte is more than just the Trump of East Asia. To understand his politics, it’s useful to compare him to other leaders in the region. And once we see the many sides of Duterte, he appears less scary; although he remains an enigmatic political figure who can either strengthen or destroy democracy in the Philippines.

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the Southeast Asia editor of Global Voices, a social media platform.

How to introduce Duterte in Southeast Asia