Military Loyalty is to King and Country, not UMNO


May 25, 2017

It is elementary, military loyalty is  to King and Country, not UMNO

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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If you feel that strongly about something, you have an obligation to try and change my mind.”

– Aaron Sorkin

While some armed forces personnel – active and retired – have nothing but vitriol for my writings for Malaysiakini, I am glad to report on an anecdotal level at least, there has been far more support – most often qualified – for what I write amongst serving and retired members of our security services.

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Loyalty to King and Country

Anecdotal levels are of course cold comfort when the reality is that most people would rather not say anything unless cloaked in anonymity and people often confuse the echo chambers they live in as the “real world”, which is unfortunately far more complicated and diverse than what they read online.

I have always disliked the propagandising of the security services and while I believe that there are many people who do the hard work of keeping our country safe, they are hampered by the petty fiefdoms of their immediate superiors and hobbled by a self-serving political apparatus. The latter is more interested in maintaining political hegemony than by ensuring that these institutions are independent and serve the people of Malaysia.

The former meanwhile hampers the legitimacy of these institutions by eroding public confidence by its official statements, but more damagingly by engaging in practices that apes the accepted political culture that has resulted in our country being categorised as a kleptocracy.

Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans Association (PVATM) Deputy President Sharuddin Omar’s rejoinder to old soldiers, or in my case old sailors, “to the principle that we are always loyal to the current government” misses the point about loyalty, obligation and serving the country.

On a professional level, while I have always observed the chain of command, truth be told my duty – however, you define it – was always to the men and women under my charge. This of course is old school military thinking but one shared by many old timers who put the welfare of the men and women under their charge ahead of politics, racial or religious. Times have changed, of course.

While many would dismiss this veteran’s association as just another government appendage, I was impressed that they disavowed former soldier Mohd Ali Baharom’s (aka Ali Tinju) racist actions in the strongest possible terms. As reported in the media – “His actions are contradictory and incompatible with the principles and practices of all armed forces veterans in the country.

“In the future, we also hope that the media will only relate the actions of Ali Tinju as that of an individual and a Malaysian civilian, and not that of a Malaysian armed forces veteran,” said the association.

Quoting the Malay proverb “kerana nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga” (one bad apple spoils the whole barrel), the association expressed hope that its reputation and that of all armed forces veterans would not be ruined by the actions of one man.

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Many retired armed forces veterans make a distinction between loyalty to the institution and the people who make up those institutions. While I get that principle, I have never been unable to separate the office from the individual. To me, if the person in the office is corrupt then why bother defending the institution? I would much rather channel my energies in advocating change rather than spend my time defending the institution.

Honestly, what really bothers me is not that the “gomen is corrupt” but rather that our security apparatus is riddled with the kind of scandals that should make every retired armed forces personnel hang their heads in shame. To list the numerous corruption scandals perpetrated by service people is disheartening and we cannot solely blame the hegemon for that.

But what does loyalty to the government mean?

Compromised institutions

Does it extend to postal vote fraud? Remember in 2011, when four retired military personnel admitted they were marking postal ballots on order from higher up? To recap – “The four – Major (Rtd) Risman Mastor, Kamarulzaman Ibrahim, Mohamed Nasir Ahmad and Mohd Kamil Omar – said they were ordered by their commanding officers to mark postal votes for the hundreds and thousands of personnel who were out in the field.

“Their expose today is the second after an ex-army man came forward earlier this month, making a similar claim that he was ordered to mark postal votes for other personnel.”

The problem with advocating loyalty to compromised institutions is that armed forces personnel who have served with distinction and honour are tarnished by those who would dishonour the codes they claim to hold in service of their political masters. Besides the existential threat that a certain religion poses, this has been one of my main themes that I have revisited – unfortunately – over the years.

I wrote about how the armed forces was sinking in UMNO’s quagmire – “(Navy chief) Abdul Aziz (Jaafar), if you remember was one of the service chiefs lined up behind (looking rather sheepish) Armed Forces chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin when he made an emotional appeal, which also included subtle threats and comments which were unacceptable, not to mention unprofessional, for an officer holding the highest rank in the military to make. He made this appeal when confronted with accusations by retired service personnel of vote/voter manipulation in the armed forces.”

Another example is when the current Prime Minister had a sit down with retired personnel to discuss the Lahad Datu incident.

As reported to me by concerned retired service personnel – “The whole atmosphere seemed surreal to some who attended. When the Prime Minister walked in, ‘Negaraku’ was sung and the armed forces marching song ‘Barisan Kita’ (which one general quipped ‘Has the song been annexed by Barisan National?’) also got an airing. Apparently, it got quite comical when one retired air force general was frothing at the mouth that stern disciplinary action should be taken against generals who showed support for the opposition, the PM was chuffed up of and reminded those who attended that ‘spirit of this general’ was what was needed.”

These days many young people are speaking up. I am not talking about mainstream oppositional politics. I am talking about young people who rightly feel that current establishment politics is nothing but the same manure but with a different shovel.

What veterans should be doing, and this applies to anyone who has worked in the civil or security services, is to encourage these young people in their efforts to change the paradigm. We had it our way and we should encourage and support those people who truly believe in what this country could be.

Ultimately when we pledged to serve the King and country, our oath goes far beyond loyalty to the government. We are really serving the people of this country and our loyalty is with them. It does not matter if you support the establishment or the opposition, your loyalty should be with the people and not with political elites, especially when they dishonour the institutions you pledged to serve and protect.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Scapegoating Hannah when UMNO Malays can’t deal with Reality


May 23, 2017

Scapegoating Hannah when UMNO Malays can’t deal with Reality

by Dennis Ignatius

Becoming Hannah

How long must our nation suffer the narrow-mindedness and bigotry of insecure people who still find it hard to accept that Malaysia is a secular, multiracial nation? When will they start taking responsibility for their own choices including the books they choose to read?–Dennis Ignatius

My answer to Dennis Ignatius’Q1: For as long as UMNO remains in power with leaders like Najib Razak and his cohorts. These leaders are corrupt in body and spirit and they will retard the Malay mind and manipulate Islam for their own benefit by making the Malays insecure and bigoted.–Din Merican

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Once again, Christians are in the spotlight following allegations that they are trying to confuse Muslims, undermine their faith and subvert the nation. For good measure, tiresome old canards about a global plot by Christian and Zionist groups to destabilise Malaysia are being recycled.

Never mind that our own leaders are doing a pretty good job of destabilizing the country all on their own.

The confusion of the confused

The latest furore is over Hannah Yeoh’s book, ‘Becoming Hannah,’ in which the Selangor State Assembly Speaker chronicles how her faith inspired her to seek political office to help secure, by God’s grace and much prayer, a better future for all Malaysians.

It is an amazing narrative that speaks not just of Hannah’s courage and character but about a beautiful side to our nation where a young Malaysian Chinese-Christian could become speaker of Malaysia’s most populous state.

While many would celebrate such success stories, it was apparently too much for one university lecturer who, according to his own words, as reported by the press, found himself admiring the greatness of the God of Hannah and being impressed by her faith in the person of Jesus Christ. That in itself is an intriguing statement but in this environment, the less said the better, I suppose.

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The Not Stupid but idiotic Universiti Utara Malaysia Academic who made a police report in Changloon, Kedah. UMNO will reward idiots like him.He knows how to get ahead in Malaysia

Apparently shocked to discover that a Christian autobiography would “contain parables and excerpts from the Bible,” he lodged a police report alleging that it was an attempt to “coax, influence and instigate” non-Christians [including himself] to convert or deepen their interest in Christian teachings. He was also apparently disturbed to find references to Jesus as the Son of God in the book.

What was he expecting anyway when he picked up a book written by a Christian? It’s hard to make sense of such convoluted and confused reasoning. That it should come from a university lecturer speaks volumes about the calibre of those now occupying positions of influence in our universities today.

How long must our nation suffer the narrow-mindedness and bigotry of insecure people who still find it hard to accept that Malaysia is a secular, multiracial nation? When will they start taking responsibility for their own choices including the books they choose to read?

Standing with Hannah

Thankfully, there are still political and civic leaders around who are committed enough to the vision of a united, multiracial and multi-religious nation to ensure that Hannah did not have to stand alone against this latest outbreak of bigotry and wanton prejudice.

Muslim leaders and activists like former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim, lawyer Art Harun, PKR’s Nik Nazmi, Amanah’s Salahuddin Ayub, DAP’s Syerleena Abdul Rashid and Bebas’ Azrul Khalib defended her integrity and praised her for the respect she has always shown to other faith and ethnic groups. Many also expressed open admiration for the way her faith inspires her to serve with integrity and commitment and called her an outstanding politician and role model.

Their courageous and timely intervention helped to quickly put things in perspective and prevent the whole issue from getting out of hand. Though the voices of tolerance and moderation are all too few these days, they help push back the darkness of prejudice and bigotry that now hover over our nation.

The silence of the BN crowd, however, was noticeable. Some of them were quick to criticise Hannah when she respectfully covered her head at a mosque gathering but couldn’t find the courage to speak out when an important national principle was at stake.

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The Pakhanggog  Leaders from Gerakan, MCA, and MIC

At times like this, all those who value freedom and cherish our constitutional rights and privileges must take a stand irrespective of party, ethnic or religious affiliation. When we stay silent we cede the public square, that space that rightly belongs to all Malaysians, to bigotry and prejudice.

As Edmund Burke famously noted, the surest way for evil to prevail is for the rest of us –good people–to do nothing.

Faith in the public square

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The Pak Hunggok Leaders of Gerakan, MCA and MIC Leaders

The furore over Hannah’s book is also a timely reminder that faith that inspires integrity in public service, that leads men and women to serve their fellow citizens with honour, respect and dignity, is more needed than ever before.

God help that nation that has a deficit of such men and women of faith in public office.

By her actions, Hannah has come to exemplify the Christian perspective that faith in Jesus Christ compels them to work with their fellow citizens to build a nation defined by love, compassion, justice and righteousness. It lays upon them, as well, a burden to reach out to the poor, the hurting, the marginalized people all around us and, when asked, to give the reason for the hope they carry in their hearts.

Let somebody tell me that all that is wrong, that it is against the national interest, that it undermines national security, that it has no place in our society.

Becoming Hannah

I admire Hannah. I admire her integrity, her courage, her transparency, her service to the people who elected her, and her fealty to the constitution of our nation. And I am thankful that such a person has felt called to give herself to public service. In an age of corrupt, cynical and conniving politicians, Hannah is a breath of fresh air. She inspires me and gives me hope.How I wish more of our politicians would become like Hannah.

Trump’s Simplistic Strategy on Jihadism


May 23, 2017

Trump’s Simplistic Strategy on Jihadism

by Robin Wright

http://www.newyorker.com

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Trying to appease Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World and isolate Iran

Six days after the 9/11 attacks, in 2001, President George W. Bush went to the Islamic Center in Washington to dampen fears of a clash of civilizations between the Islamic world and the West. “The face of terror is not the true face of Islam,” he said. “Islam is peace.” Three days later, at a joint session of Congress, Bush defined the challenge from Al Qaeda in political rather than religious or cultural terms. “This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom,” he told Congress. “This will not be an age of terror. This will be an age of liberty here and across the world.” A central theme of Bush’s Presidency was fostering democracy through nation-building.

President Barack Obama’s main speech to the Islamic world, in 2009, called for a “new beginning” between Muslim and Western nations, noting “civilization’s debt to Islam.” Declaring to Cairo University students that “we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems,” he, too, envisioned political and economic solutions to countering extremism.

“All people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose,” Obama said. “Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.” He also outlined plans to spend billions in U.S. aid to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and to help those displaced by conflicts in the Islamic world.

Donald Trump took a starkly different tack during the campaign. “I think Islam hates us,” Trump told Anderson Cooper, on CNN, fourteen months ago. He told both MSNBC and Fox News that he’d be willing to close mosques in the United States.  At the Presidential debate last October, in Las Vegas, he was particularly critical of Saudi Arabia. “These are people that push gays off buildings,” he said. “These are people that kill women and treat women horribly, and yet you take their money.” He continued the theme in his first days in office, with an executive order that banned travel from seven countries (later downgraded to six) with predominantly Muslim populations. It was ruled unlawful by U.S. courts, but the Trump Administration is still appealing the decision.

On Sunday(May 21), on his first trip abroad as President, Trump tried to hit the reset button in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. He heralded Islam as “one of the world’s great faiths,” and his visit as the beginning of “a new chapter” between the United States and the Islamic world. In a palace of dazzling opulence, he spoke to dozens of leaders assembled by the Saudis from the Arab and Muslim world. In turn, the oil-rich kingdom, which is weathering its own political and military turmoil, treated him like royalty, with billboards across the Saudi capital covered with Trump’s face.

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Trump does not the know the difference between Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabish and Iran’s Shiaism

Trump’s main message was  that Muslims must do more—much more—to fight militants who have proliferated from North Africa to South Asia since 9/11. “The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them,” he said. Reading slowly off a teleprompter, Trump urged, even demanded, “Drive them out! Drive them out of your places of worship! Drive them out of your communities! Drive them out of your holy land! And drive them out of this earth!”

Some of Trump’s language about Islam was right out of the Bush-Obama playbook. “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations,” he said. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion.” He declared it “a battle between good and evil.”

Trump notably did not use one of his favorite terms—“radical Islamic terrorism.” His national-security adviser, H. R. McMaster, has tried to get the President to avoid using the term, at least in public. During the campaign, Trump railed against Obama for not using it—and even charged that “anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country.” In Riyadh, Trump’s original speech called for him, instead, to talk about “Islamist extremism.” He veered off script, however, and talked about “confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds.” Many Muslims are sensitive to the implication that Islam and extremism are synonymous.

Trump’s strategy differed most strikingly from Bush’s and Obama’s in its largely military approach to extremism. One of the top objectives of his maiden foreign tour is to create a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries to tackle extremism, confront Iran, and foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The coalition has been informally dubbed an “Arab NATO“.

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First Lady Melania Trump watches as President Donald Trump poses for photographs with leaders at Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The President seems to have largely abandoned notions of promoting political openings or addressing economic grievances that have fuelled so much of the dissent and militancy, especially among Arab youth. Even oil-rich Saudi Arabia has high youth unemployment, estimated to exceed thirty per cent. The kingdom has produced thousands of jihadis who have joined both ISIS and Al Qaeda.

“We are not here to lecture,” Trump told the Muslim leaders, who were seated on throne-like leather chairs under enormous crystal chandeliers. “We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership—based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.”

Trump framed his counterterrorism policy in Let’s-Make-a-Deal terms: Washington will sell weaponry to the Arabs, which will in turn create defense-industry jobs in the United States. In his speech, the President digressed from the main theme to claim that his Administration has created almost a million new jobs—adding that the kingdom’s pledge to invest billions more in the United States would create thousands more new jobs.

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly complained that the United States got very little from its relationship with the kingdom. “Tell Saudi Arabia and others that we want (demand!) free oil for the next ten years or we will not protect their private Boeing 747s. Pay up!” Trump tweeted, in 2014.

That year, he also tweeted, “I just want to know how much is Saudi Arabia and others who we are helping willing to pay for our saving from total extinction. Pay up now!” In 2015, he tweeted that Saudi Arabia “must pay dearly! NO FREEBIES.”

In Riyadh, however, he bragged about the low prices his Administration was offering the Saudis. “We will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies.” His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly intervened personally with Lockheed to negotiate a better deal for the Saudis.

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Nepotism in 1600 Penn. Avenue, Washington DC

In one of his more astonishing comments, the President expressed optimism about the future of the Middle East, despite wars in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria that have killed hundreds of thousands; the greatest humanitarian and refugee crises since the Second World War; and the return of authoritarian rule—disasters which have dashed the hopes sparked by the Arab Spring.

“The potential of this region has never been greater,” Trump told the Muslim leaders assembled in Riyadh. Maybe it was the brilliant glare of the chandeliers that blinded his vision.

Robin Wright is a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and has written for the magazine since 1988. She is the author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.”

Afraid of May 13?


May 21, 2017

Afraid of May 13?

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that, in our democracy, government is us.”

– Barack Obama

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They say we are afraid of what we do not understand and if this is true, we should be afraid of May 13 because we do not really understand what happened that day. Each side has a narrative, the official narrative and narratives such as author Kua Kia Soong’s which I happen to subscribe to.

They also say that ignorance breeds fear, which again points to why we should be afraid of May 13 because many people are ignorant of what happened on that day and are fed a steady diet of fearing the other, of losing power but most importantly, of their religion in danger of becoming irrelevant.

I have often referenced May 13 not because I wanted to be provocative but because especially in the alternative media, the issue of May 13 is not provocative enough. In ‘Ghost of elections past’, I wrote – “So the reality is that all these ‘ghost’ from our past don’t really scare us any more, not because we have not learnt from them but because there are more than enough monsters in our present to give us pause.

“If we discount the bravado of those who would make light of these threats of violence and those who would propagate such threats, what we are left with is the certainty that the only option we have is to vote with our conscience and let the chips fall where they may.”

However, because threats of racial violence have been normalised in this country, because people in power have Janus-faced agendas towards Malaysians of different ethnic origins, what we have become is numb to threats of racial violence. We are also cavalier to the very real threats of Islamic violence that lurk around the corner, hatched in the hearts of zealots raised on a diet of religious and racial supremacy and stamped with the imprimatur of foreign devils.

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What really is terrifying of May 13 is the way how the state uses it to demonise Malaysians based on ethnicity. The people making the threats, the aggressors become the victims and heroes of their own narratives, and Malaysians who do not subscribe to orthodoxy become the villains and scapegoats for all that the system has wrought.

A really interesting complex example of this can be found in Lim Kit Siang’s blog post – “Ex-top cop Yuen Yuet Leng confirmed that the May 13, 1969 ‘urination’ incident at the Selangor MB’s residence was totally fictional as he never heard of it although he was based in KL during the riots.”

Readers are encouraged to read it because Lim references an email by former top cop, the late Yuen Yuet Leng (to The Sun daily) in a discussion about a very specific lie against the DAP leader. I’ll quote the opening because I think it summarises what most people forget about that day –

“While I appreciate your article in general summarised well what I wanted to be known to the nation on what were greater truths, I have to make clarifications. Information I imparted are in deliberate interest of objective nation and so that nation gets the right tutoring message and feel strongly why May 13 incidents should not ever be allowed to happen again either because of too much insensitivities or too much sensitivities on any side.

“The major redeeming factor in 1969 was the courage of non-racial Malaysians who were still there to put to shame the worse of their respective communities who rampaged, hurt or killed. This best of Malaysians dared to risk their lives in saving or sheltering fellow Malaysians of another ethnic community.”

Official narratives

Readers may not really be interested but one of the reasons I began writing about the state of our nation was because of a public disagreement I had with Yuen about the Bersih 2 rally. In a response to his piece, I wrote by first establishing my credentials – “… having worked with his predecessor, the late Tan Sri ‘Jimmy’ Khoo Chong Kong, who was assassinated by communists in Ipoh. I worked with Khoo in Kuching where I was the resident naval officer and a member of the State Executive Security Committee.”

Readers interested in such subjects should track down my piece, ‘Abandon immature rhetoric of our past’. Here is the ending which I think sums up the piece – “Lastly, I end with this rather telling quote from Tan Sri. ‘The timing is such that there appears to be a united front against the government, and this frightens them.’

“Firstly, there seems to be a united front against the Barisan Nasional. I think this difference is very important. For far too long, this refrain of being ‘anti-government’ has been labelled against the ‘opposition’. The opposition is not anti-government. It may be anti-BN, but this is par for the course in any mature democracy, and I think we are indeed a maturing democracy and that we should abandon the immature rhetoric of our past.”

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The consequences of May 13 have had far reaching implications. I have argued that it heralded the birth of the Malay middle class and the social engineering that came after it changed the racial landscape of this country.

It also meant that the opposition had to fight all its political battles with one hand (sometimes even two) tied behind its back. Actually, if you have seen the brilliant David Mamet film ‘Redbelt’, the idea of fighting with one hand tied behind your back has deeper intellectual and moral implications but again I digress.

The only reason why there has been a slow change in this lopsided way of fighting is because the hegemon is failing, mired in infighting and stumbling because of the corrosive effects of unchecked corruption. The alternative media and the anonymity of the internet mean that the market place of ideas has destabilised the official narratives of the state.

I think most young people today are not, and should not, be afraid of May 13. What they should be concerned about is the threat of religious extremism that is invading our public and private spaces. Combatting this is difficult because race and religion are not mutually exclusive in this country.

I would argue that the official narratives of the state about May 13 is the earliest example of “fake news” but no matter, apparently we are living in a “post-truth” world and ultimately people will be afraid of what they do not understand or because of their ignorance.


UUM Lecturer flaunts his Academic Qualifications, so what?


May 21, 2017

UUM Lecturer flaunts his Academic Qualifications, so what?

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

What is your hangup? It’s Hannah Yeoh’s Autobiography. If you want your  freedom of expression, then respect Hannah’s right to tell her story. There is no need to make a Police Report against her. Of course, it has nothing to do with UUM. Your academic qualifications are not the issue. But it certainly has a lot to do with your mentality and your character. As my good friend Dr. M. Bakri Musa once said to me, “Din, we can take the Malay out of the kampong, but we cannot remove the kampong from the Malay mind.”–Din Merican

Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff has touted his academic credentials in the face of derision after he accused Subang Jaya Hannah Yeoh of proselytising by making Christian references in her book.

“The Bachelor of Arts with double major that I obtained from Indiana University at Bloomington (IUB) was with highest distinction, which is reserved only for graduates with a cumulative grade point average of between 3.90 to 4.00.

“Apart from that, I was also a recipients of the Senior Achievement Award, an award reserved for students who have outstanding academic records and who are designated by their departments or schools as having unusual potential in their field),” he said in a statement.

Listing out the list of unflattering comments against him, Kamarul said his record proved that they were wrong.

“Therefore, it is very wrong to describe me as stupid, without quality and credibility, unqualified, without calibre, half-baked, narrrow-minded or extremist,” he said. Kamarul said he had no problems mixing with non-Muslims while he was studying in the US.

“I also do not have any problems working and mixing with non-Muslims in Malaysia.I am very comfortable and well-received by my colleagues and students at UUM,” he said.

Kamarul stressed that his views are based on facts and law and are not stupid nor extreme.He added that his opinion and police report against Yeoh over her book, ‘Becoming Hannah: A Personal Journey by Hannah Yeoh’, also had nothing to do with UUM.

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“Both (my opinion and police report) are unrelated to the education institution at which I currently serve, which is UUM.It is inappropriate for everyone to associate the actions I did in my personal capacity with UUM or any other educational institutions,” he said.

Kamarul said he only served at UUM beginning January 26, 2016 and does not hold any senior position apart from being the Director of Institute for Malaysia Political Analysis (Mapan).

“The ones who are stupid and extreme are those who do not argue based on facts and law, which include those who belittle anything that has to do with Malays or Islam, merely to get votes,” he said.

‘Attempt to silence academic freedom’

Meanwhile, a group of NGOs also defended Kamarul, claiming that there was an attempt to silence his academic freedom.

Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ), Muslim Lawyers Association Malaysia (PPMM), iPeguam and Young Professionals (YP), in a joint statement, pointed out that Yeoh was the one who had first lodged a police report against Kamarul over his comments about her on Facebook.

“Her report clearly amounts to the deprivation of the right of an academician to his academic freedom of speech and expression, a fundamental right that is guaranteed by Article 10(1)(a) of our Federal Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

“Further, the report aims at intimidating and suppressing academicians in Malaysia from expressing their valid and substantiated academic and professional opinion on any political party or politician.

“We also abhor and denounce the various comments made on social media directed at the Kamarul for his opinion and condemn the attempt at diverting the issue to one of his own faith in his own religion when clearly that has never been the crux of the issue at hand, which is Yeoh’s own refusal to countenance Kamarul’s opinion of her autobiography,” they said.

They also urged the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) as well as the Police to probe Yeoh.

Japanese companies need to open up or shut down


May 21, 2017

Japanese companies need to open up or shut down

by  Alicia Ogawa, Columbia University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/05/16/japanese-companies-need-to-open-up-or-shut-down/

 

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Corporate governance has long been a hot topic for investors worldwide, but it is still a new concept in Japan. The increasing number of Japanese corporate scandals points to the need for a new approach to management. Many once-prominent companies seem to be unable to adapt to the pace of global change. The domestic market no longer offers much growth potential, so Japanese firms need to actively engage with the world or perish.

There is strong global interest in Japanese corporate governance for two key reasons. First, from the point of view of investors, the fact that rates have been low or negative in virtually all major developed economies has encouraged a sharper focus on equity markets for real returns, and Japanese companies fall woefully behind their global competitors in terms of profitability.

Second, as the pace of global competition accelerates, management is under constant pressure to react quickly to changing opportunities, such as the development of new technologies or the consolidation of capacity in maturing industries. Dialogue with outsiders, from shareholders to independent directors, is a prerequisite to navigating this terrain safely.

Japanese companies are at a distinct disadvantage in this new world because of key features of their organisational structures that served them very well in the past, such as lifetime employment. Decision-making is slow and dominated by consensus-seeking groups of senior men who have never worked outside their own firms, who rarely have specialised expertise and whose loyalties are first and foremost to each other.

The first of the major traumas at Toshiba, which came to light in 2015, involved the 152 billion yen (US$1.33 billion) deliberate overstatement of earnings between 2008–2014. This scandal illuminated the unspoken trade-off inherent in a lifetime employment contract: staff must not question decisions made by top management.

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Japan is No Longer a Tiger Economy

An independent investigation into Toshiba’s overstatement of earnings revealed that no CEO during that period directly instructed anyone to falsify the accounts. Rather, there was a long-standing corporate culture which mandated that managers ‘couldn’t refuse’ the profit targets set by the CEOs, no matter how unrealistic. Nevertheless, after the first accounting scandal, Toshiba chose Shigenori Shiga as the new chairman after his predecessor resigned in disgrace. Not only was Shiga yet another lifetime company man, but a former head of Toshiba’s subsidiary Westinghouse — which is now in the process of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States.

Many Japanese companies have raced to create better governance on paper — Toshiba was in fact a trailblazer in this respect, having chosen to replace a traditional Japanese system of governance with US-style executive committees, including independent directors on the board. But despite appearances, an inability to encourage and respect independent thinking has led to the collapse of the former world leader in high-tech products.

Failure by Japan’s corporations to embrace both the letter and the spirit of Prime Minster Abe’s new governance reforms will jeopardise Japan’s future prosperity. CEOs must encourage challenges by their subordinates and aggressive supervision by their independent directors.

Investors are the other key class of outsiders who need to be welcomed into the discussion. The traditional silence of friendly shareholders is yet another wall that insulates management from outside competition.

Much attention has been paid to the unwinding of friendly cross-shareholdings by banks. But most of these shares have been transferred from friendly banks to friendly corporations, who will likely never vote against management; to the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), whose size makes it ill-equipped to exercise any positive influence; and to the Bank of Japan, who cannot be a force for better governance. The protection afforded by acquiescent shareholders does not seem to have changed very much.

A survey undertaken by GPIF indicated that 21 per cent of executives regarded investors’ increasing scrutiny of capital efficiency to be a positive development, while 32 per cent regarded this as a very negative trend. Clearly, Japanese managers are a long way away from being comfortable discussing fundamental strategies with investors who own shares in their firms, or with their junior staff. But they had better hurry up.

In the case of Toshiba, lawsuits have been brought by several foreign investors, the world’s largest public pension fund GPIF, and several of the largest domestic banks. Refusing dialogue with your outside stakeholders can carry a devastating price when mistakes are made. It’s better to choose an openness to new ideas and critiques from your independent board directors and your investors, and thereby reap the benefits of dynamism and sustainability.

Alicia Ogawa is Director of the Program on Corporate Governance and Stewardship at the Center on Japanese Economy and Business, Columbia Business School.