History Repeats Itself in A Different Place

March 12, 2015

History Repeats Itself in A Different Place

Najib and Marcos

God Help Malaysia. Be ready for difficult times ahead. Don’t take what The Governor, Bank Negara Malaysia says. She has become an apologist of the Najib Administration. In that role, she has destroyed the independence of our central bank. Tan Sri Zeti Aziz is disconnected from reality on the ground. That is her biggest problem.–Din Merican

Is Malaysia the last refuge of the scoundrel?

March 10, 2015

 A nation of scoundrels? A Big NO is my answer. It is true that some of us areDin Merican New subservient to plutocrats in UMNO. These people  are found in the Judiciary, the Civil Service, the Police and the military and include those who prosper as UMNO cronies. But thousands of decent Malaysians have shown(at BERSIH 1, 2, 3 and other rallies)  that they have got what it takes to make Malaysia a united, peaceful, and prosperous country where there is equal opportunity for all who are prepared to work hard. They are the patriots. They want to be a free people and resent government telling them how to live their lives and practice their religions.

Ambassador Malott, I agree with you wholeheartedly when you said that “[T]he majority of people in Malaysia want political freedom. They want free and fair elections. They want genuine democracy. They want all races and religions to be treated with dignity and respect. They are asking only for what the Malaysian constitution guarantees them and what the UMNO regime denies them…”

I believe change will come to my country, maybe not anytime soon since the process is painfully slow, but it will come. Most of my fellow Malaysians are sick and tired of the political games played by UMNO.   UMNO leaders and their supporters claim to be helping the Malays, when in truth the Malays do not realise that they are victims of greed and lust for power. Scandalous 1MDB is the litmus test.–Din Merican

Is Malaysia the last refuge of the scoundrel?

by John R. Mallot@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: One evening in April 1775, the English man of letters Samuel Johnson made a famous remark.”Patriotism,” he said, “is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”Johnson was criticising what he called false patriots – people who invoke the name of their country to advance their own political agenda.In America, we often refer to that kind of scoundrel as “people who wrap themselves in the flag.” It means people who pretend to do something for patriotic reasons or out of loyalty to their country when their real motives are selfish, and their real goal is their own personal and political gain.It means people who “play the patriot card” and try to diminish their opponents by suggesting they do not love their country, or are even traitors to it.

So it is in Malaysia. Anyone who has the courage to disagree with the UMNO regime today stands the risk of being arrested for sedition. Meanwhile, many hundreds of millions of dollars disappear because of corruption. The needs of the rural poor, primarily Malays, still are not being met after more than half a century of promises from UMNO.Instead, the government’s focus seems to be on checking Facebook accounts and Twitter postings, which are scoured for evidence of alleged disloyalty to the nation.Question: If you love your country, then why do you steal from it? After almost 58 years in power, the leaders of UMNO have come to see themselves and the nation as one and the same.
So if you say “damn UMNO,” or you make a humorous video about the Prime Minister’s wife, you will be arrested for sedition against the government, even though your target was UMNO and the self-styled First Lady of Malaysia. Just ask RSN Rayer and Teresa Kok and Zunar.

UMNO and Rosmah are not the government.

For years the government has tried to put the opposition on the defensive and imply that they are traitors to the nation, and that they are tools of foreign powers.Samuel Johnson would have understood the UMNO regime very well.”Scoundrels!” he would say. So the question arises – who are Malaysia’s real patriots? Who truly loves Malaysia and wants the nation to fulfill its great promise? Who really cares about making the dream that is Malaysia become a reality – a multi-racial, multi-religious nation, a genuine democracy, a model for Islamic nations around the world, a leader in Asia, and a developed nation where all its people may share in its prosperity? And who cares only about political power, money, and wealth for themselves, their families, and their cronies? Who are the greedy, selfish ones?

Not special treatment, but equal treatment

We know the answer. We know who the real patriots are and who really loves Malaysia.

 Fifty years ago this weekend, Americans, and primarily African-Americans, led by Dr Martin Luther King, were met with incredible violence on a bridge in Selma, Alabama. They were there to ask for their rights as Americans – to vote.The photographs and television videos of what happened that day were seen around the country – and shocked the American nation into action to counter the local racist authorities in the South, who suppressed democracy and political freedom “in the name of the law.”Like the violent racist white southern police of 50 years ago in America, the authoritarian political regime that controls Malaysia today still suppresses democracy and political freedom “in the name of the law.”As I watched the scenes of this year’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the confrontation in Selma, I thought about all the demonstrations for political freedom in Malaysia over the past few years that have been met by government force – and I realised that there is no difference between Malaysia and Selma.The majority of people in Malaysia want political freedom. They want free and fair elections. They want genuine democracy. They want all races and religions to be treated with dignity and respect. They are asking only for what the Malaysian constitution guarantees them and what the UMNO regime denies them, just like the racist white police of America denied African-Americans their rights 50 years ago.

The United States President Barack Obama spoke at the bridge last Saturday on the 50th anniversary. He said: “We gather here to honour the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their (goal) and keep marching toward justice… They didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.”

 What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?”Loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and (to) shake up the status quo.” And that is what so many brave Malaysians are doing today.They want Malaysia to be true to itself, to its constitution and its ideals, and to its potential.

JOHN R MALOTT is former United States Ambassador to Malaysia.


Indonesia–The Emerging Tiger of ASEAN

March 10, 2015

Indonesia–The Emerging Tiger of ASEAN with some challenges ahead

by Ajeya Bandyopadhyay, Kolkata, India | Opinion–http://www.thejakartapost.com

Indonesia's Open Government Partnership

Indonesia has experienced impressive growth in recent years. On the basis of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the gross national income per head doubled to US$4,730 during the decade to 2012.

The proportion of the population living in poverty fell by almost half, from 24 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2012 (World Bank). The booming young population joining the workforce created huge demand for real estate and brought foreign investment in construction and consumer goods.

Yet Indonesia’s growth has been quite uneven and perhaps unsustainable in the long run. Real consumption grew by about 4 percent a year on an average in 2003-2010. More alarmingly, for the poorest 40 percent of households it grew by only 1.3 percent.

In contrast the consumption by the richest 20 percent grew by around 5.9 percent. In other words the income disparity between rich and the poor is rising rapidly. Indonesia’s Gini Coefficient, a measure of income inequality, jumped from 0.29 in 2000 to 0.38 in 2011. High income inequality in the long run, hurts higher growth potential and disrupts social cohesion.

Growth momentum in the Indonesian economy has moderated somewhat over the past several months due to a weaker performance by the export sector, together with the impact of tighter monetary policy as the central bank has hiked interest rates to control inflationary pressures. This has resulted in GDP growth rate lowering from a 6 percent a year ago to around 5 percent year-on-year (year on year) till the end of 2014.

Although Indonesia made considerable progress in macroeconomic stabilization under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a key challenge for the present administration will be to implement crucial microeconomic reforms.  In other words, the crucial symptoms of a country falling into the so-called ‘middle income trap’ are quite apparent in all corners of the economy.

Over 3 million migrants from the countryside arrive each year in Jakarta and other cities. Many of them take recourse of jobs in low-end services, hawking food by the roadside or selling things from handcarts. They are part of Indonesia’s vibrant informal economy, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of the country’s GDP.

The “local content” restriction is acting as a deterrent for many manufacturers to open factories in Indonesia.

A large workforce engaged in the informal sectors rarely earns the minimum wage or gets access to government benefits.

The World Bank estimates that labor productivity in Indonesia’s low-end services is about double that of agriculture but it is still one-fifth of that in manufacturing. In nutshell, it means that poverty will fall much faster if agricultural laborers shift to manufacturing instead of low-end services. However, the manufacturing sector in Indonesia still remains highly uncompetitive due to decrepit infrastructure, rigid labor laws and the government’s protectionist policies.

Even though the share of Indonesia’s labor force in agriculture has been in decline for decades, manufacturing share has not changed really much at all from the 13 percent in 2012. Local manufacturing remains mostly confined to palm oil and a few other primary commodities.

To a large extent, the “local content” restriction is acting as a deterrent for many manufacturers, especially in the consumer goods category, to open factories in Indonesia. In contrast services now employ about 44 percent of the labor force, up from 37 percent a decade ago.

Jokowi WidodoAlthough it is too early to predict, it can be stated with a reasonable degree of certitude that Indonesia is likely to miss the bus in manufacturing if infrastructure and human skills continue to remain the biggest challenges. A very high level of energy subsidies (on fossil fuel and electricity), around Rp 300 trillion in 2013 equivalent to 3 percent of GDP, also pose a significant burden on the taxpayers.

Already under implementation, a phased and sequenced approach to energy subsidy reform, while protecting the most vulnerable consumers, will encourage energy efficiency, shift consumer behavior and free up resources for critical social investment.

Widening access to affordable housing, clean water, sanitation, education and healthcare might slowly start to trickle down the benefits of rapid economic growth to the less fortunate and create adequate purchasing power to sustain the next generation of industrialization.

But the defining question remains if the current level of investment (as a percentage of GDP) is adequate to support the next level of strong growth. Historical precedents reveal that sustained higher levels of investment are crucial, along with the improved efficiency of investment. China is a golden case in point with investment to GDP ratio being 46 percent in 2012.

Fortunately, Indonesia, among other middle income countries of East Asia (excluding China) is maintaining a nearly 33 percent investment rate which is above the 25 percent threshold prescribed by the Growth Commission as the necessary condition for robust and high growth.


Apart from creating world-class infrastructure — roads, airports, power plant, telecom and information super-highways, a significant proportion of investment and budgetary support should also be channelized into R&D, innovation and enrichment of human capital through high quality technical education and modern skill building.

Reforming the investment climate is essential; so are the conditions for innovation, to attract leading companies and a world-class talent pool. The present government should play a decisive role in determining Indonesia’s future economic policies: whether to pursue a strategy of globalization by encouraging greater international integration or adopt a more nationalist, protectionist approach. Each approach has its own pros and cons.

But what is apparent is that, the government needs to undertake a bunch of crucial policy and institutional reforms bundled with critical investment in hard and soft infrastructure.

All these should be accomplished with a sense of utmost urgency before it gets too late for the country to get out of the middle-income trap and graduates into a high income, industrialized nation providing a better quality of life to its citizens.
The writer is presently a senior executive of Ernst & Young (India), advising government, multilateral and bilateral clients in the area of public policy, economic growth, energy policy and governance. He worked quite extensively in the South and Southeast Asian region, including Indonesia. This is a personal view.

Dean Kishore Mahbubani shares Singapore’s success story

March 9, 2015

Dean Kishore Mahbubani at the Dili Convention Centre, Dili, Timor Leste shares Singapore’s success story



It is truly a great pleasure for me to finally visit Timor-Leste. As I was President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) whenTimor-Leste became independent on May 20, 2002, I have always felt a special bond withTimor-Leste. This is why I am truly delighted that Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, the Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary General forTimor-Leste, has arranged this very special and sentimental visit toTimor-Leste.On April 26, 2002, when Xanana Gusmão and Mari Alkatiri visited the UNSC, we had a debate in the UNSC on the future of Timor-Leste.

I said: “The lesson of the history of the past few decades is relatively clear: independence, even if it comes after a hard-fought struggle, may still be a relatively easy victory. Success after independence, unfortunately, has been relatively rare.” Since Timor-Leste became independent under very difficult circumstances as a conflict-afflicted country, it is remarkable how far it has come. Still, it has a long way to go.The history of the post-colonial period shows that few newly-independent countries have succeeded. It is therefore remarkable how well Singapore has done.

I was 17 years old when Singapore became independent in 1965. There was total gloom and doom when Singapore was expelled from Malaysia. At independence, Singapore was poor and struggling. The GDP per capita was $500 – the same as Ghana. I myself felt the pinch of poverty – I was so undernourished as a child that in elementary school, I was placed on a special feeding programme. Singapore was also struggling in other aspects. There were ethnic riots on the streets. I remember seeing men cutting each other with beer bottles at my doorsteps. Against this backdrop, Singapore’s current success is truly amazing.

Today, Singapore has one of the highest HDIs in the world – 9th in the world with a score of 0.901. Singapore has the 4th-highest GDP per capita in the world at $76,237 (in PPP terms), nearly double that of its former colonial master, the UK ($37,017). More than one in six households have $1 million in cash savings. In the past decade alone, the number of Singaporeans running their own business has doubled. The US is the only other country in the world with more entrepreneurs-per-capita. Singapore has consistently ranked as one of the best cities in the world to live in. People from all over the world come to our small city-state – attracted by our state-of-the-art education and health systems. We are also ranked consistently as one of the safest countries in the world.

10 reasons for Singapore’s success

The big question is: how and why did Singapore succeed? Unfortunately, we still do not have a good history book on Singapore. There is no consensus. In my efforts to understand why Singapore succeeded, I came up with 10 reasons. I am sharing these 10 reasons with you in the hope that it will be helpful to Timor-Leste in the coming 50 years. I believe that Timor-Leste can be as successful as Singapore. This is why I want to share the reasons for Singapore’s success.

The first reason is that Singapore has been lucky. By an accident of fate, Singapore, like the United States, was blessed with good founding fathers, such as Lee Kuan Yew, S. Rajaratnam, and Goh Keng Swee. These were 3 amazing individuals. I worked with all three of them. They were intellectually brilliant. They were totally dedicated to improving the lives of Singaporeans. They were also good learners. For example, Goh Keng Swee learned from the Meiji reformers in Japan. Hence, they formulated policies which benefited Singaporeans. Timor-Leste is as blessed as Singapore. It has also been blessed with good founding fathers, such as Xanana Gusmão, Mari Alkatiri, and Jose Ramos Horta. Timor-Leste has this in common with Singapore. With the right leadership in place, countries can succeed.

The second reason why Singapore succeeded was the implementation of meritocracy by its founding leaders. They selected other good people to lead the country and laid down meritocracy as the cornerstone of public service appointments. As Lee Kuan Yew himself said, “A strong political leadership needs a neutral, efficient, honest civil service. Officers must be recruited and promoted completely on merit. They have to share the same nation-building philosophy and development goals of the political leaders. They must be adequately paid so that temptations would not be difficult to resist. An impartial, capable Public Service Commission had to be shrewd at assessing character. Appointments, awards of scholarships must be made to the best candidates.” This is something that Timor-Leste can do as well. Meritocracy ensures that the best talent in the country is attracted to public service and also serves to create a fair society.

The third reason why Singapore succeeded was the pragmatic outlook of its leaders in terms of their willingness to learn from other countries. As Dr Goh Keng Swee once told me, “Kishore, no matter what problem we encounter, somebody, somewhere has found the solution. Let us find that solution and adapt it intelligently to Singapore.” Singapore is the most pragmatic country in the world and it has copied solutions from all other countries. This is also why Dr Goh studied the Meiji Restoration very carefully. Japan succeeded in becoming the first Asian country to modernise because the young Meiji reformers of that time had no hesitation to study, copy and adapt best practices into Japan from all around the world. Dr Goh tried to inculcate the same spirit of pragmatic learning in Singapore. Few would doubt that he succeeded in this goal. This is something Timor-Leste can do as well. In fact, the Lee Kuan Yew School’s Graduate Education and Executive Education programmes are dedicated to disseminating best practices from Singapore to developing cities across the world. I welcome civil servants from Timor-Leste to attend our programs and learn more about adapting best practices to suit Timor-Leste’s needs.

Fourthly, as a small country, Singapore was also pragmatic in its foreign policy. For example, during the Cold War, Singapore was friendly with the United States – but it did not shun the Soviet Union. When I visited the Soviet Union in 1976 with Mr S. Rajaratnam, the legendary Foreign Minister of Singapore, he said that Soviet ships would also be welcome to Singaporean waters. Small states like Singapore and Timor-Leste cannot afford to make enemies. As S. Rajaratnam said in his 1965 speech at the United Nations on Singapore’s foreign policy, “We want to live in peace with all our neighbours simply because we have a great deal to lose by being at war with them. All we therefore ask is to be left alone to reshape and build our country the way our people want it. We have no wish to interfere in the affairs of other countries or tell them how they should order their life. In return we ask other countries to be friendly with us even if they do not like the way we do things in our own country. This is why Singapore has chosen the path of non-alignment.” Pragmatism in foreign policy is something which Timor-Leste can do as well.

The fifth reason for Singapore’s success was the fact that the leaders focused on starting with small wins. An incremental approach to policy reforms is advised by many leading academics and scholars of public policy today. But even before these things became common knowledge, the leaders of Singapore recognised the need to make small improvements in order to achieve big changes. Lee Chiong Giam once said that in the early days, if they could just get a standing pipe in a village to provide water, the governing party would get the villagers’ votes. This would in turn lead to the provision of public housing and schools. Development cannot be achieved through big sweeping reforms alone. Small steps that have a huge impact on the everyday lives of people are necessary to ensure that progress happens in a meaningful way. This is something Timor-Leste can do as well.

Sixth, Singapore did not rely on foreign aid to achieve its development goals. As I said in my book The Great Convergence, “I believe that if a large-scale objective study were done of Western foreign aid, it would demonstrate that the primary intention is to enhance the national interests of the donors and not to help the interest of the recipients.” Furthermore, a large chunk (about 80%) of Western aid goes back to the donor country in the form of administration expenses, consultancy fees and contracts for donor country corporations. In short, there is very little actual transfer of aid to the developing countries. Singapore has always distrusted foreign aid. Instead, we believed in trade and investment: We believed that trade, not aid, was the way forward for us. When others shunned investment, Singapore welcomed it. In this regard, the Economic Development Board of Singapore is particularly worth studying. The EDB was set up in 1961 to create economic opportunities and jobs for the people of Singapore, and to help shape Singapore’s economic future. The EDB has been instrumental in Singapore’s success by bringing in FDI, and has been a driving force behind Singapore’s transformation into a financial hub that is at the forefront of several service industries in Asia. This is something which Timor-Leste can do as well. By setting up a one-stop specialised agency that focuses on foreign direct investment, Timor-Leste will also signal to the rest of the world that it means business when it comes to attracting FDI.

The seventh reason for Singapore’s success is its inclusive policy on ethnic groups. Singapore’s main ethnic groups are Chinese, Malay, Indian, and others. So we have four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. This way, everyone feels included.

Singapore’s founding father, S. Rajaratnam, said: “In a multi-racial society, one soon learns that no one people has a monopoly of wisdom and that one’s own culture is not without flaws. This breeds not only tolerance for different viewpoints but also a readiness to learn and borrow from the accumulated wisdom of other people.” It is remarkable that among the five small multi-racial states that the British decolonized all over the world (namely Guyana, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Fiji), Singapore was the only one to avoid ethnic strife.

In a multi-racial society, if there is no common language, the people cannot communicate. That is why the main language of instruction in Singapore schools is English. Singapore made English its common language for pragmatic reasons. Firstly, English was a neutral language. If another language, like Mandarin, had been chosen as the common language, non-Chinese Singaporeans would have felt marginalised. Secondly, English is the international language of commerce. Knowing English, Singaporeans would be able to do business with people from around the world.

Timor-Leste can also improve English literacy by teaching it in schools. It can also ask the parents of the children to choose if they want their children to learn English, Portuguese or Tetum, I believe many of them will start to ask for English, so that their children can work with people from all around the world. But they can still learn Tetum or Portuguese as well, so that they will remain in touch with their rich cultural and historical roots.

The eighth reason for Singapore’s success is that its leaders, like Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Keng Swee, believed in thinking long-term. For example, though Singapore had signed a 100-year water agreement with Malaysia in 1961, we knew that Malaysia could threaten us by cutting our water supply. Thus, we invested in ways to get our own sources of water. We built reservoirs, desalination plants and water reclamation facilities. In March 2013, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said: “We will certainly be water independent well before the expiry of the last agreement with Malaysia.”

Timor-Leste can also think long-term. For example, unlike Singapore, Timor-Leste has abundant oil and gas resources. But these oil and gas reserves will not last forever. So Timor-Leste can now think ahead about how to solve the problems which it could face when that day comes. Norway, for example, has invested its oil and gas money in a big sovereign wealth fund. Only 4% of the surplus from the fund is spent on public projects. I am glad to learn that Timor Leste is following the example of Norway in this area.

The ninth reason for Singapore’s success is that it avoided populist measures. Singapore has always been opposed to the welfare state. Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said, “Watching the ever-increasing costs of the welfare system in Britain and Sweden, we decided to avoid this debilitating system. We noted by the 1970s that when governments undertook primary responsibility for the basic duties of the head of the family, the drive in people weakened. Welfare undermined self-reliance. People did not have to work for their families’ well-being. The handout became a way of life… They became dependent on the state for their basic needs.”

The welfare state is too expensive for developing countries. It also undermines productivity. However, even though Singapore did not become a welfare state, it cared deeply about the welfare of its people. Singapore found other ways to make sure that its people would be well provided for. It invested in the welfare of its people through universal education, quality healthcare, affordable public housing and public transportation. In addition, it set up the Central Provident Fund, a compulsory savings fund. Singaporeans and their employers automatically contribute some money to this fund when they receive their salaries every month, and the money can be used to buy a house, for medical expenses, and, primarily, as a retirement fund.

Singapore also has trade unions, but they are pragmatic. The government, unions and employers cooperate in a tripartite system, which, as Mr Lee Kuan Yew says, “has brought benefits to workers, the government and employers because industrial peace creates confidence and increases foreign investments.  Whenever employers make above average rates of return on capital, profits are shared.”

Similarly, Timor-Leste can avoid the costs of welfare state spending by finding its own innovative methods of cooperating with employers and workers to make sure that employees can earn a fair wage to support themselves, and to make sure that every employee is able to save enough to provide for their own health care, housing, and retirement.

The tenth and final reason for Singapore’s success is honesty. This is the most challenging to achieve. The first generation of Singaporean leaders were brutally honest. In 1975, a minister of state was invited by a businessman friend to go on holiday. He said no, because he didn’t have the money, but the businessman offered to pay. So he went, and he was arrested when he came back.

When there is honesty, the people and the investors will trust that government policies are meant to benefit the country, not to benefit the politicians. Only then will they feel confident in the leadership. This also creates a more stable political system, which gives investors peace of mind. Thus, a remarkable degree of honesty in a country’s leadership will lead to success.

Although some may be difficult to replicate, these ten reasons are all things that other countries can do. But it is important to adapt these principles to the local context.

When many people visit Singapore today and see a modern city-state, they tend to assume that Singapore was always like that. Actually, Singapore was one of the poorest and most unlucky countries when it achieved independence. It had no natural resources. This is why it is useful to study Singapore’s experience. If Singapore can succeed against the odds, other countries can do so also. This is why I am happy to come to Timor-Leste to share Singapore’s experience. I hope that it will be helpful to all of you.

Najib says father Razak was principled man

March 2, 2015

COMMENT: We are not talking about Tun Abdul Razak. Our Second Prime Minister is known by all men and women of my generation as a leader who put people first before self. He left us a legacy that will remain unmatched for a long time. He was an astute politician who served us with distinction to be remembered as Bapa Pembangunan. I  am for one an admirer of Tun Razak’s leadership style and personal qualities. His son, the present Prime Minister, is not even a chip of the old block.

Tun Razak and Zhou Enlai

This issue today is the leadership  and policies of the sixth Prime Minister, Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak who took over in 2009. Najib is not focusing on the job. He has failed us all. As a result, our country has lost its sense of direction and is moving into a state of disrepair. It is in my view going to take drastic measures before we can move forward. Life is more than  just politics, be it of race or religion. It is about hard work, good governance and public accountability.–Din Merican

Najib says father Razak was principled man

najib-tun-razak-565x375All his Policies have failed–NATO

Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein was a principled man who had placed the nation’s interests before his own, said his son Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Najib, who is the current Prime Minister, also spoke of Razak’s integrity and frugal life throughout his political career.

“Throughout his service in the government, Tun Razak was never involved in any corrupt practices and power abuses. “He (Tun Razak) always placed national interests far above any personal interests until his deeds to the country became a public memory to the people,” Najib was quoted saying in the statement yesterday by local paper Berita Harian.

Najib added that Razak was well-known for living a moderate and thrifty lifestyle from the time he joined politics to the time he became the nation’s leader.

The same statement was also cited by UMNO-owned daily Utusan Malaysia, with both newspapers saying that Najib was backing his four siblings’ statement last week on Razak’s frugality and integrity.

The Malay-language papers said Razak had never used government funds to pay for his children’s education abroad, with his late father-in-law and key corporate figure Tan Sri Mohamed Noah fully footing the bill.

In the wake of a recent article in the New York Times speculating on the family’s wealth, four of Razak’s children last week said that he was a man of “utmost integrity” and a frugal man.

In a joint statement, sons Datuk Johari Razak, Datuk Nizam Razak, Nazim Razak and Datuk Seri Nazir Razak said the whole family was “extremely concerned” over news reports that speculated over the origins and size of Razak’s supposed wealth.

“We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well-known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation. We take issue with anyone who taints his memory, whatever the motive. We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue,” the four said in the brief statement on February 24.

Razak, now remembered in the footnotes of history as the nation’s Bapa Pembangunan (Father of Development), took over the reins of the country on September 22, 1970 at the age of 48. He died from leukemia on January 14, 1976, leaving behind five sons.

Source: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/like-brothers-najib-says-father-razak-was-principled-man#sthash.m7fIiNeA.dpuf


In Sungei Buloh, Anwar reacquaints with the Bard

February 21, 2015

In  Sungei Buloh, Anwar reacquaints with the Bard

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com (02-20-15)

Sungei Buloh JailAnwar returns to jail

A reform-questing politician striving against great odds must allow the worst of what he has to face pass through his soul, as if he is grinding sausage. With Anwar Ibrahim, now in his third spell of incarceration in a near 50-year political career, the buffer against the shriveling effects of the grind is reading.

A peripatetic life on the hustings and at endless meetings the last eight years could not have afforded him much time for this solitary pursuit, save perhaps in cars and planes – provided he was not trying to catch up on sleep – that transported him to the events of a hectic and harried schedule.

Anwar will never surrender

But now, behind bars for five years on a sodomy conviction so shaky his adversaries have to go on a road show to make it stick, prison time can seem providential in reacquainting himself with the states that singer-songwriter Paul Simon limned in The Sound of Silence – that signature ode to angst.

Initially, Anwar wasn’t allowed reading material during his second spell in prison (1998- 2004, the first was in 1974, under the ISA). However, after letters of appeal from world leaders, including then United States President Bill Clinton, the philistine disposition of his jailers altered.

Reprieved, Anwar rifled through the Shakespearean corpus several times, a familiarity notable enough to draw an invitation from the organisers to present a paper, Shakespeare in Prison, at a conference on the Bard in Australia shortly after he was released and while undergoing a spell in decompression in the grooves of academia, at Georgetown University in the US and at Cambridge in England.

After the two-year sojourn in academia, his return to the hurly-burly of the political round in 2007 and to the rigours of incessant stumping for his party, Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR), and the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat – not to mention his recurrent legal tangles – meant that there was not only very little time for leisurely reading, there was also no space for a contemplated project.

This was a book of vignettes mined from his encounters with world leaders, ranging from Indira Gandhi to Nelson Mandela. The hypothetical project – the provisional title was Glimpses from a Political Life – would almost certainly have been finished had Anwar not been incommoded by the contretemps with Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, his aide who turned out to be his accuser in his second trial for sodomy.

Anwar’s current reading-fueled spell in prison is not likely to be filled with lamentation for the loss of what Pope Gregory, who left the monastery for the Papacy, described as “borne onward by the disturbance of those endless billows”.

As Anwar’s Jesuit friends in Georgetown University would readily agree, a spell of immersion in the contemplative life – enforced by prison or self-willed matters little – is good preparation for a return plunge into political activism.

Analysts have predicted the end of Anwar’s career because at age 67, he cannot, they say, be expected to resurge after a five-year jail term and another five years, from the date of his release, of a ban from politics that convicted felons have to endure in Malaysia. This means a possible 10-year removal from the political fray from which a younger person can be expected to return but not, analysts say, a 67-year-old like Anwar.

But in political history, the wilderness of prison or of exile has been one of those romantic stretches from which the most triumphant of returns have been accomplished. For an inkling of the entelechy that drives his life, Anwar’s aides reveal that the next book from his home library he has requested is Robert Blake’s acclaimed 1966 biography of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), the outsider who became Prime Minister of Britain.

Disraeli, a writer who aspired – and successfully made – the transition to the activism of the political arena, is owner of that luminous phrase, “the top of the greasy pole.” That was how he described his arrival at the post of PM of Britain.

Anwar’s climb up the “greasy pole” in his own country has stalled, now that he is in the Sungai Buloh Prison. But it is not certain that this halt is terminal.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others.