Prompt and Concrete Measures Needed, says Malaysian Bar


May 20, 2015

Phnom Penh

Rohingya and Bangladeshi Boat People Crisis: Call for Prompt Action

steven_thiru

The Malaysian Bar is appalled by the ongoing saga of the fate be- falling boatloads of thousands of people heading for our shores. It is a humanitarian catastrophe. The tragedy of suffering and even loss of life — through drowning and fights for survival on board boats left to drift on the high seas — is heart-rending.

 Boat People 1Regardless of the identity and status of the people on board these many boats, the first order of priority must be to prevent further suffering and loss of human life, bearing in mind that there are pregnant women, women who are nursing infants, and children, on board the boats. This means the Malaysian Government must allow these boats to land, set up reception centres to receive the people on board, document them, and provide them with basic amenities. There is a precedent for doing this, in the way Malaysia treated the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s.

The Malaysian Bar acknowledges that some of the people on the boats may well be nationals of Bangladesh looking for better economic prospects than those available in their home country. They will have to be identified and, if necessary, repatriated. There are proper channels for dealing with the recruitment of foreign labour and other forms of legitimate migration from Bangladesh.

Be that as it may, there are also allegations that some of these nationals of Bangladesh on the boats have actually paid human traffickers to assist them to leave.This must be investigated and, if confirmed, the human traffickers must be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law. Moreover, these victims of human trafficking should be accorded proper protection under our laws, including under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007. However, many amongst the people on the boats are from the Rohingya community, fleeing from Myanmar due to religious persecution.

While it may seem unneighbourly to accuse a fellow ASEAN Government of wrongful conduct, it cannot be disputed that the Rohingyas have not been granted citizenship in Myanmar, thereby rendering them stateless.  Further, they have been deprived of all political rights and systematically displaced from their traditional places of abode.

Regrettably, Malaysia has indirectly contributed to the exacerbation of this problem involving the Rohingyas, by repeatedly ignoring the matter for many years. The misguided and undue respect for the hallowed principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a fellow ASEAN member state has meant that Myanmar has been allowed to pursue a domestic policy of persecution of the Rohingyas, and even to dispute the historical evidence of their presence in areas in present-day Myanmar. Malaysia and other ASEAN nations have the responsibility to protect the Rohingyas so as not to compound the issue of ethnic cleansing that is being allegedly carried out by Myanmar.

The Malaysian Bar welcomes the fact that the Malaysian Government has scheduled a meeting tomorrow with the Governments of Indonesia and Thailand to discuss the situation.  However, the Malaysian Bar calls on the Malaysian Government to do more than just convene discussions, and to do it quickly. It is critical to address this issue head-on, and Malaysia as the Chair of ASEAN must take the lead and show the way forward.  The fact that Myanmar is reported as not being willing to attend tomorrow’s meeting with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia means that the process already begins with a huge handicap, namely the refusal of the country of origin to participate in a process of finding a solution.

Boat People 2

Ironically, 2015 is the onset of the much-touted ASEAN Economic Community.  ASEAN cannot only be about the rich and well-off, the educated and the employed.  An ASEAN community that has no room for, and which says nothing about, the poor and the downtrodden is a sad shadow of a caring community.  The manner in which this crisis is dealt with will define ASEAN, and a failure to satisfactorily address the problem will jeopardise the very integrity of ASEAN.

Malaysians are, by nature, a generous people.  Blessed with relative peace and prosperity, we have reached out in the past and organised flotillas to assist the Palestinians, and have taken in Acehnese and Bosnian refugees fleeing persecution in their homeland. It is therefore somewhat perplexing that the same humanitarian spirit appears to be absent in the Malaysian Government’s response to the boatloads of Rohingyas coming to our shores.

The Malaysian Bar calls on the Malaysian Government to immediately engage with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees here in Kuala Lumpur to put into place a system of receiving and registering this latest wave of boat people, and to find a place of transition where they can land and their claims for refugee status documented and determined, followed by either repatriation or resettlement.

As Malaysia is a member of the UN Security Council, we also call upon the Malaysian Government to move a resolution for intervention in this crisis of alleged ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas from Myanmar.  In the past, the UN Security Council had passed specific resolutions for intervention regarding Mali, Sudan and South Sudan.  It is timely as well for the Malaysian Government to consider enacting legislation that will grant recognition for refugees in Malaysia and give them legally-mandated protection and provision in line with international standards.  Further, Malaysia should also accede to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

The Malaysian Bar calls on the Myanmar Government to put an end to the stigma of “statelessness” and recognise the Rohingyas’ long-overdue right to citizenship.  This lies at the core of this crisis and unless it is addressed by Myanmar, the exodus of the Rohingyas is likely to continue unabated.

Finally, it is time for ASEAN to do away with the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of an ASEAN member state.  What this crisis clearly shows is that what happens in a neighbouring country can, and often does, have cross-border implications.  Whether it is about the haze or human rights, it is plain for all to see that ASEAN’s aim to “prosper thy neighbour” must include intervening in situations in neighbouring countries that have the potential of affecting, even destabilising, the region as a whole.  It is myopic to pursue economic progress in ASEAN without seriously considering social and political reforms.

The Malaysian Bar recognises that this humanitarian crisis requires prompt and concrete legal solutions. The pain, suffering and loss of life off our shores must end.  It is time to stop the pretense and the piecemeal measures in this catastrophe, and to put in place a comprehensive and lasting solution. The Malaysian Bar stands ready to provide advice and assistance.

 Steven Thiru
President, Malaysian Bar
19 May 2015   

Obama’s Silence is Tacit Support for Najib, says UMNO Secretary-General


November 2, 2014

MY COMMENT: True, Malaysian voters will decide  via elections whether NajibNajib and Obama Tun Razak will remain the Prime Minister. Right now, the Prime Minister’s popularity is at a very low point, according to a recent Merdeka Center opinion poll. That is real and no amount of Goebbels-like spin will change our perception of Najib’s leadership.

Najib is a weak and incompetent leader who is treating our country like his fiefdom.  As Minister of Finance Minister, he has been raising money with accountability. The financing of 1MDB is a classic example.

Najib and AbbottPresident Barack is in office to serve the national interest of the United States. Tony Abbott of Australia too acts in Australia’s interest. Both Obama and Abbott are also big talkers. Fortunately, for Obama, he is into his second term and will not be able to contest in the 2016 Presidential Elections. Abbott, on the other hand, will face Australian voters in the next General Elections (that is, if he is not thrown out by his party before that) and if he pursues pro-US policies, and is seen as a poodle like Britain’s Tony Blair, he will be rejected by his voters.

Malaysia is probably an exception. Personal interest overrides other considerations. Najib is known to do things for himself, his family, his cronies in UMNO and Barisan Nasional in that order. He thinks he can buy all Malaysians with his money dishing schemes. He is wrong. We all know that our Sixth Prime Minister is on “short substance, and big on slogans and promises”. –Din Merican

Obama’s Silence is Tacit Support for Najib, says UMNO Secretary-General

Commentary by The Malaysian Insider

UMNO Secretary-General Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor hasTengku Adnan done a great job of deciphering US President Barack Obama’s silence over Putrajaya’s sedition blitz as tacit support for Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“Now we know the truth – that Obama supports whatever action Datuk Seri Najib Razak is taking. All these stories (on the sedition blitz) are the doing of the opposition. It is their aim to make our country look bad abroad,” the Cabinet Minister said today.

Of course, if Obama was to make some noise, Tengku Adnan and the 34 other ministers in the Najib administration would jostle to be the first to jump and ask him to mind his own business. Such is the vagaries of Malaysian politics that silence or rather ignorance, is proof of support. But Tengku Adnan should save his pomposity for another occasion.

The only thing that Obama shares with Najib now is a low approval rating among voters. Like the Malaysian PM, Obama’s critics argue that his time in office has been short on substance, and big on slogans and promises.

Like Najib, he gave a speech to the United Nations that sounded good. Sound familiar? So getting “endorsed” by a major disappointment in the White House is not something to crow about. Fact is that Tengku Adnan appears to be clutching for straws just to justify Putrajaya’s sedition blitz.

In the same way, Malaysians especially the Opposition, should end this infatuation with getting the support of the US, Australia or others for their cause. There is not much use in going around the world asking for support because it really won’t matter in Malaysia.

Abbott and ObamaIt also smacks of desperation by the Opposition. The world has always been about permanent interests, not permanent friends. No one is going to lift a finger to help as long as their ties with Malaysia remain prosperous and beneficial to him.

Only Malaysian voters matter. Obama, Abbott and the others will sell Malaysians down the creek when it suits the interests of their countries or their interests. It is time we grow up and take destiny in our own hands. Our future does not depend on any foreigner’s silence or supportive words. It depends on us doing the hard work for a better Malaysia

Japan is an unpredictable power


August 2, 2014

Japan is an unpredictable power

By BA HAMZAH

Japan is an unpredictable power. Sorrowful in defeat in WW 11, it promised never to bear arms againAbe-Najib. However, this is about to change if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has his way. Since becoming the PM for second time in 2012, Abe-san has reneged on the solemn promise Japan made after its surrender in 1945. Abe-san has become the most determined leader to tear the 1947 Peace Constitution and put Japan on a war footing again.

At US $49 billion, Japan’s defence expenditure for 2013 saw an increase of 3 per cent over 2012, the highest in 22 years. Using the same pretexts that the Japanese Imperial Army used to wage wars in late 1930s & 1940s, Abe -san may succeed with his military build-up plan. Japan has a well-equipped standing conventional military ( a.k.a Self Defense Forces) of 225,000 personnel.

A hostile security environment (read China), access to markets, freedom of navigation and national pride are often cited as justification for a stronger military power. Japan’s real motivation is to prepare for the day when the US could no longer provide the military umbrella. Japan became a much-respected nation long after it lost the war.

Japan was a feared nation during the war because it was brutal in victory; it was hated for its brutality and for refusing to formally apologise for its belligerent past. For example, it has refused to acknowledge the role of comfort women, angering the Koreans. The Chinese are upset because Japan continues to deny that the “Rape of Nanking” incident did take place in 1937 and the administration of the Diaoyu/ Senkakus islands, contrary to the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty.

As the third largest world economy, (some say still second), Japan has achieved what no other nation has, including the victors of WW 11, the UK or France. Japan was able to become a strong economic power, NOT because (as asserted by some) the US has undertaken to rewrite its defence expenditure; but, primarily because it has clever, hardworking and innovative people. In short, unlike the United States, Japan (also Germany) has become an influential global power without the normal power trappings associated with the military. A rare achievement in a capitalist system ! By renouncing this geo-business model to bear arms, Japan may gamble its political future.

The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu who wrote the treatise “The Art of War” who would have been proud of modern day Japanese leaders for embracing his strategic thoughts may now be troubled by Abe-san’s militarisation programme.

In fact, the geo-business model Japan adopted since 1947 has been the envy of many. By staying clear of political entanglements, Japan was able to focus on rebuilding its nation, rising from the ruins of war to what it is today. While Japan is free to be “a normal nation” again, by removing the constitutional constraint (Article 9), it faces an uncertain future as history may repeat itself. A re-armed Japan is set to become a new hegemon but a threat to the region and the world.

The world will be a much safer place without a hegemon with a shady past.Today, as businessmen, Japanese are welcome almost everywhere. Although they are tough trade negotiators (evident in the current Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations with the US), who rarely transfer freely their technology to host countries, they are perceived as friendly and courteous.

The nagging question is: why swap a proven geo-business model for M 16 and AK 47 that failed to sustain its Greater Asia co- Prosperity political dream in the 1940s. Why swap Honda, Toshiba, Hitachi, Suzuki, Nissan, for example, for the much-feared drones and missiles? Can the AK 47, drones, submarines and missiles give the Japanese people the same peace, prosperity and security they have enjoyed for almost seven decades, a quarter of a century from today?

Doubtful as it is, Japan seems to be reacting to some geo-political uncertainties in the region by reinventing itself in a traditional fashion, like a novice, when it should continue to rely on its proven geo-business model. With an eye for geography, the answer to a more assertive China is not to spend more on military hardware (Japan is currently world’s fifth largest defense spender) but to invest more on non- traditional ( i.e., diplomatic, cultural and economic) means by forging closer relationship with wary neighbours like China, Russia and South Korea.

Tokyo’s recent overtures towards the ASEAN countries and Australia, for example, will not bear fruits if Japan were to bear arms again and becomes a military threat to the region. As victims of its aggression in WW 11 their support cannot be presumed.

John KerrryBy selling or transferring used military assets, Japan may temporarily bolster the confidence of Vietnam and the Philippines currently at odds with China in the South China Sea. With the worsening of the US-Russia relations in Europe, following the crisis in the Crimea, for example, the strategic consequences of Japan’s subtle containment policy of the Middle Kingdom can be far reaching. When push comes to shove, in my view, the US may likely jettison its policy of “pivoting” to the Far East to focus on Europe. The Americans will not abandon Europe for Asia.

The geopolitics of MH370


May 12, 2014

Malaysia

The geopolitics of MH370

Having bashed Malaysia over the missing flight, China is now making up

May 10 2014 | KUALA LUMPUR, The Economist | From the print edition

THERE will be no let-up in the efforts to find the missing Malaysian Airlines jet Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, vowed on May 5. Despite his promise, however, there is growing acceptance that it will take months even years to find any trace of flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8. Hopes that any of its passengers might still be alive must also be cast aside. The new search area in the Indian Ocean will alone cover 60,000 square kilometres (23,000 square miles)—and that is on top of the 4,600,000 square kilometres already scoured.

Because the focus of the search-and-rescue mission has now moved to the west coast of Australia, Malaysians have some breathing space to reflect on a traumatic two months in the glare of the world’s attention. The country has taken a battering, but the longer-term damage is another matter. The saga has emphasised how much Malaysia matters in the geopolitics of the region: the two Pacific superpowers, America and China, have both come to play big roles in the search for the missing plane, if in very different ways.

Hisham, Najib, and MuhiyuddinIn any reckoning, Malaysia’s handling of the loss of MH370 has been a public-relations disaster. The tone was set during the first week by the authorities’ confusion, stonewalling and contradictory messages. One of the gravest flaws has been a deep reluctance to release information, however innocuous. This antagonised the victims’ families. And the problem persists.

On May 1 the Malaysian government published a much-heralded report on the disappearance of the plane. This turned out to consist of just five pages, containing little new information. But, as one government adviser admitted: “If we had got this out there in the first week, there wouldn’t have been a nine-week drumbeat of everyone calling us lying bastards.”

Opposition politicians and critics of the government say that the damage to Malaysia’s reputation is a result of the country’s poor governance. Malaysia, the argument goes, is more authoritarian than democratic, with little transparency or accountability in government. There is some truth to that. But government officials are justified in feeling frustrated that the failures of communication have overshadowed their success in efficiently putting together an extraordinary coalition of countries to look for the plane.

On the technical side, many acknowledge that Malaysia has done an adequate job with the relatively limited means at its disposal. It has also gone beyond the call of duty in opening up to its search partners, sharing sensitive details of its military radar system, for example, with the Chinese.

barack-obama-dan-khairy-jamaluddinOne person who has stood up for Malaysia over MH370 is Barack Obama. During a recent long-scheduled visit to Malaysia, the American President went out of his way to laud the country’s leadership of the search operation. America has contributed a vast amount of equipment, man-hours and money to the search for the missing plane, out of all proportion to the three Americans (out of 227 passengers) lost on the flight.

This has brought the two countries closer, at a time when America is searching for new and reinvigorated alliances in the region. Historically, there has been a good deal of anti-Americanism in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but for the time being that seems to have been stilled. Mr Obama got a hero’s welcome from everyone.

That in turn may help account for the zigzag course of China in the MH370 affair. The flight was en route to Beijing, and over half the passengers were Chinese. But rather than support the Malaysian government in the first month or so, China seemed to incite the distraught families into ever fiercer, often histrionic, criticism of Malaysian officialdom, perhaps to deflect attention from the possibility that the plane might have been downed by home-grown terrorists. The Chinese did nothing to dispel some of the alternative, wilder conspiracy theories circulating in Beijing.

In recent weeks, however, the tone has changed. The Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia has told the Chinese-language press in Kuala Lumpur that his country accepts that the disappearance of MH370 was not some dark conspiracy and that Chinese-Malaysian relations are unaffected.

The wave of criticism in the official Chinese press has largely abated. Perhaps China feels, in the regional battle of wills with America, that it needs good relations with Malaysia and that these were threatened by its attacks.

Malaysia is China’s largest trade partner in the Association of South-East AsianNajib-Xi-Jinping-Malaysia-China- Nations (ASEAN). It also has a large ethnic-Chinese population, and thus could be helpful in its disputes in the South China Sea with other ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, both firmly backed by America.

Mr Najib makes an official visit to China at the end of this month, marking the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, initiated by Malaysia’s then prime minister, Abdul Razak, Mr Najib’s late father. With power so finely balanced in the region, China will strive to make the visit go smoothly, including keeping angry families at a face-saving distance.

From the print edition: Asia

 

One missing jet, one sunken ferry, two responses


May 2-3, 2014

MY COMMENT: William Pesek is generous. I would give Malaysia  ‘F’ imagefor its handling of MH370 tragedy. Nothing illustrates this more than the release of the preliminary report which confirms what most of us in Malaysia knew about MH370 and that is our government has shown the world that it is incompetent, inept and poorly led. Our leaders lacked an appreciation of the severity of the tragedy in terms of national security. And that means we never learned the lessons of Lahad Datu. Arrogance will get us no where. Humility will since it is when the learning process begins. –Din Merican

Thanks, CLF…Be Yourself… this poem…it is still a beautiful world…we are children of the Universe–Din Merican

Crisis Management: Malaysia gets ‘D’ and South Korea earns ‘A-

Malaysia getsD ’, South Korea ‘A-’ in handling of tragedies, says Bloomberg columnist

www. themalaysianinsider.com

Putrajaya was once again slammed by a Bloomberg columnist who compared Malaysia’s handling of the MH370 saga with South Korea’s response to the recent Sewol ferry tragedy.

We accept God's will but at the same time, wants us human beings to be accountable for our actions, lest another tragedy such as this will strike again due to our ignorance.

We accept God’s will but at the same time,  we want as human beings to be accountable for our actions, lest another tragedy such as this will strike again due to our ignorance.

In a scathing attack, columnist William Pesek said he would give top marks to South Korea for their handling of the ferry tragedy but found Malaysia sorely lacking in handling the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

He said the incidents could be described as tests for the two governments, if not of Malaysian and South Korean societies. “The grades so far? I’d give Korea an A-, Malaysia a D,” he said in his Bloomberg column titled “One missing jet, one sunken ferry, two responses”.

Pesek said in the two weeks since the ferry sank, killing about 300 people on board, the South Korean government had reacted with self-questioning, shame and official penitence.

President Park Geun-hye issued a dramatic and heartfelt apology. Her No. 2, Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, resigned outright. Prosecutors hauled in the ship’s entire crew and raided the offices of its owners and shipping regulators. Citizens and the media are demanding speedy convictions and long-term reforms,” he said.

Najib must emulate SKorea's accountibility. It's President apologizes, it's PM resigns over the ferry tragedy.

Najib must emulate S Korea’s accountability. Its President apologizes, its PM resigns over the ferry tragedy.

On the flip side, there was no such reaction on the part of Malaysian authorities 56 days after MH370 vanished, said Pesek. “No officials have quit. Prime Minister (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak seems more defiant than contrite. The docile local news media has focused more on international criticism of Malaysia’s leaders rather than on any missteps by those leaders themselves,” he said.

Pesek said although both countries are democracies, the key difference is the relative openness of their political systems.

“One party has dominated Malaysia since independence, while Korea, for all itsgrowing pains and occasional tumultuousness, has seen several peaceful transfers of power over the past quarter-century. Unused to having to answer critics, Malaysia’s government has responded defensively.

“Korean officials, on the other hand, are reflecting, addressing the anger of citizens, and delving into what went wrong with the shipping industry’s regulatory checks and balances,” he pointed out.

Pesek said South Korea was most likely to emerge from the crisis stronger than ever, unlike Malaysia. He said this could be seen from the way both countries handled the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Pesek said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was the Prime Minister then, had blamed the ringgit’s plunge on some shadowy Jewish cabal headed by George Soros instead of internalising what had gone wrong.

“It didn’t admit it had been using capital inflows unproductively and that coddling state champions – including Malaysia Airlines – was killing competitiveness. Never did the ruling United Malays National Organisation consider it might be part of the problem.”

Pesek said South Korea, on the other hand, forced weak companies and banks to fail, accepting tens of thousands of job losses. South Korean authorities, he said, clamped down on reckless investing and lending and addressed moral hazards head-on.

“Koreans felt such shame that millions lined up to donate gold, jewellery, art and other heirlooms to the national treasury.” Pesek said while South Korea’s response wasn’t perfect, the country’s economic performance since then speaks for itself.

“Now as then, Korea’s open and accountable system is forcing its leaders to look beyond an immediate crisis. Ordinary Koreans are calling for a national catharsis that will reshape their society and its attitude toward safety. Park’s government has no choice but to respond.

“Malaysia’s government, on the other hand, appears to be lost in its own propaganda.

Hishamuddin HusseinTo the outside world, acting Transport Minister (Datuk Seri) Hishammuddin Hussein performed dismally as a government spokesman: He was combative, defensive and so opaque that even China complained.

“Yet Hishammuddin is now seen as Prime Minister material for standing up to pesky foreign journalists and their rude questions. The government seems intent on ensuring that nothing changes as a result of this tragedy. As hard as it seems now, South Korea will move past this tragedy, rejuvenated. Malaysia? I’m not so sure.” .

May 3, 2014

To those who must take responsibility for mishandling MH370: Just RESIGN

By Robert Chaen@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Hisham, Najib, and Muhiyuddin

Here are three good reasons why Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya or Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein –or, better still, both—must resign immediately: to save MAS, to save the tourism industry and, most importantly, to save the reputation of Malaysia and Malaysians.

Malaysians, Chinese and other nationals affected by the MH370 crisis want someone to be accountable—a real person.

They don’t want a thousand and one excuses or those public-relations statements coming from the Prime Minister, such as “this is an unprecedented disaster, 26 countries are involved in the search, we are doing our very best” and so on.

Malaysia Airlines is already losing badly. Bookings are significantly down, and it is likely that more celebrities, holiday makers and travel agents will boycott the airline. And there is now serious talk about the company being split up.

Malaysia’s tourism industry will lose billions of ringgit. Business will be down for hotels, taxis, shopping malls and even roadside stalls. Because neither Jauhari nor Hishammuddin is willing to resign, much less apologize, Malaysians everywhere—not just Malaysian singers in China—will lose respectability in the eyes of the world.

Selfish and arrogant

mh370-hishammuddinIt would seem that the only ones not losing are those clinging to their jobs and salaries despite their responsibility for Malaysia’s loss of face. How selfish and how arrogant of Jauhari and Hishammuddin?

Why can’t they follow the example of South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who resigned over the recent ferry disaster in order to calm down his countrymen and let them have closure and move on?

Even if just one person had taken responsibility over the MH370 debacle, the tide of resentment against Malaysia might have turned to sympathy.Because the Malaysian government does not have the courage to admit that its agencies and officials have bungled and that it has botched its public relations, the world’s media have rightly lost trust in it.

It is obvious that the government is hoping the public and the media will start to dim their focus on MH370 after nearly two months and move on to other events such as the football World Cup.But one can be sure that the affected relatives will not let it all go away until they find closure. They will continue to hound Putrajaya.

TDM LatestMalaysia’s mainstream media may well play their usual role of spin masters in an attempt to cover up what is rotten in the system, but it will not work this time around because the world media now have the country on their radar. Even Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attempt to shift the blame to Boeing will not work.

People are not stupid. And that’s the good news. Even readers of Malaysia’s mainstream newspapers are getting wiser and are no longer willing to swallow everything fed to them.

Jauhari or Hishammuddin—or both—please have the decency to resign before you plunge Malaysia into deeper loss. Don’t wait for us taxpayers to rise up and demand your unceremonious sacking. Do the right thing for once. It’s not too late.

Robert Chaen is an international change expert and online pollster.

Obama’s Cynical Malaysian Sojourn


April 29,2014

Obama’s Cynical Malaysian Sojourn

Obama ‘s State visit avoided hard issues and gave Najib a pass on human rights

Obama and NajibFor anyone in Southeast Asia with an interest in fair, honest and even-handed government, the disappointing visit of President Barack Obama to Malaysia is a victory for political expediency that largely glossed over growing discontent over racial tensions, corruption and abuses of judicial power by the ruling coalition.

Obama, according to most reports, walked a careful line on such issues, roaming the stage at a town meeting with students to tell them the country can’t succeed if minorities are suppressed.

But the President also continued to call the Prime Minister a friend and reformer. What kind of friend is this exactly?

The fact is that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was a willing perpetrator as Defense Minister in the looting of the public purse to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars – in bribery and kickbacks from the French munitions maker DCN over a US$1 billion submarine deal, as well as other deals involving patrol boats that were never delivered, Russian Sukhoi jets that cost vastly more than what other countries paid and other equally dubious transactions that have been repeatedly exposed by the opposition and printed on opposition websites, to no avail.

On top of that, Najib heads a country that is slipping backwards fast on human rights issues, with its most prominent opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, facing jail for the second time on what are clearly bogus charges of sexual deviance and another, Karpal Singh, who was about to be railroaded out of parliament on specious sedition charges when he was killed in a car accident. 

Other Opposition leaders also face sedition charges in what Ambiga Sreenevasan, the former head of the Malaysian Bar Council, recently called “Operation Lalang by the courts,” a reference to a 1987 crackdown on dissidents that sent more than 100 people, most of them opposition leaders, to jail without trial.

Obama’s decision not to meet with Anwar “in and of itself isn’t indicative of our lack of concern, given the fact that there are a lot of people I don’t meet with and opposition leaders that I don’t meet with,” he told reporters in response to a question by CNN.

Anwar does get an April 28 meeting with Susan Rice, the President’s National Security Advisor, but the message on human rights was clear – the issue takes a back seat to geopolitics in Kuala Lumpur and perhaps to a desire to prop up Najib for fear of empowering more conservative elements inside his long-ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) or to gain his support for the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Obama either appears to have been hoodwinked by Najib, or decided that diplomatic niceties demanded a waffle. In response to a question, the president said in a press conference that … “the prime minister is the first to acknowledge that Malaysia still has work to do,” that he “came in as a reformer and one who is committed to it, and I am going to continue to encourage him as a friend and a partner to making progress on that front.”

Najib’s lukewarm commitment to economic reform vanished in the wake of the May 2013 election, in which the opposition won a narrow popular-vote victory but lost parliament due to gerrymandering, and the subsequent ascendancy of the hardline UMNO wing led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his long-running ally Daim Zainuddin. The modest reforms Najib had put in place to reverse parts of the disastrous race-based New Economic Policy were washed away last September in an array of new economic benefits for ethnic Malays.

Najib, whatever his personal beliefs may be, is clearly in the thrall of such Malay chauvinist organizations as PERKASA, which preaches astonishing hatred towards Malaysia’s minority races. Nobody, including Najib, has ever spoken of reining in such groups. Minority and opposition politicians who raise an outcry over racial issues are often met with threats of sedition charges.

To anyone deeply familiar with Malaysia, the statement that Najib is committed to reform is laughable. None of Malaysia’s online news sites, which form the credible journalistic opposition, were invited to the Najib-Obama joint press conference. So while Obama was extolling Najib’s reformist credentials, Malaysia’s most trusted news organization Malaysiakini was shut out of the press conference.

UMNO is a kleptocracy that continues to loot the country’s assets with impunity. The latest, for example, was the award – without an open bid ‑ earlier this month of a RM1.6 billion contract for the building and maintenance of a hospital whose entire board of directors was drawn from the youth wing of UMNO, and whose managing director is a close friend of Khairy Jamaluddin, the head of UMNO youth. 

These contracts are signed on a regular basis. Any suggestion that Najib doesn’t know they benefit his own political party is silly. He has participated personally in this kind of theft, which has resulted in his ostentatiously wealthy wife flaunting her riches worldwide to the anger of many people back home.

The party’s continuing use of fundamentalist Islam has nothing to do with true religious fervor but rather a specious use of faith to shore up its rural base at election time.  The decision to ban the word “Allah” in Malay-language Christian Bibles is an example. The word was banned for Bibles in mainland Malaysia, where Malays outnumber other races, but allowed to stand in Bibles in East Malaysia, where indigenous tribes are mainly Christians who support the ruling national coalition at the polls.

According to the New York Times, Obama’s visit underscores a change in Malaysian attitudes toward the United States, “which has evolved from deep suspicion, verging on contempt, to a cautious desire for cooperation.” 

But the fact is, as the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur knows well and surely told the President, is that despite Mahathir’s heated rhetoric during his years on office, the country has remained firmly in the western camp. Indeed, as the late Barry Wain illustrated in his book, Malaysian Maverick, while Mahathir was delivering speeches about American imperialism, he was quietly allowing the US military to train in Malaysian jungles. He was also sending his own children to American universities for their education.

While Malaysia recognizes its future with China as its biggest trading partner, it is hardly the fulcrum of influence for or against the US in Asia.  It is nice for the US to have it as a strategic partner, as Obama stressed.  But it is one that should be kept at arms’ length.

http://www.asiasentinel.com/opinion/obamas-cynical-malaysian-sojourn/