Kleptocracy, Corruption and Media Control

July 30, 2015

Malaysia: Kleptocracy, Corruption and Media Control

by Dr Syed Farid Alatas


Syed FaridThe recent reports in the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report alleging massive corruption involving the upper echelons of the political and corporate elite of Malaysia have once again raised the question of whether or not Malaysia is a kleptocracy. The term is derived from the words ‘klepto’ — (thief) and — cracy’ (rule) and refers to a government dominated by those who use their office to seek personal financial gain, power and status at the expense of the governed. The impact of kleptocratic rulers and officials on a country is devastating. They rule with unscrupulousness and hypocrisy, and distort development planning and policy. Such rulers do not seem to have any interest in the rights, opinions or sentiments of the people they govern. Under their watch a country would undergo large-scale resource depletion and experience a loss of talented human resources. Kleptocratic rule also has dire consequences for the freedom of expression in a country.

A vital means of combating corruption and preventing the emergence of a kleptocratic state is the maintenance of a free press. Although it is true that the irresponsible exercise of the freedom of the press and freedom of expression in general can be harmful to the stability and security of a country, the muzzling of voices of conscience pose a greater danger. Excessive media control is a symptom of authoritarianism. The gradual imposition of high-handed governmental controls over the media takes place as rulers feel more and more insecure and vulnerable as a result of their misdeeds being publicised and debated by academics, activists and the population in general.

The kleptocrats impose restrictions and controls over the media in order to shield themselves from criticism, minimise public information and debate about their misadventures, and eventually prevent voters from acting against them at the polls. It is obvious that the freer people are to obtain information, analyse government decisions and actions, and criticise the perpetrators of illegal and despicable acts, the stronger those people become vis à vis their government. Is that not how things should be? After all, elected polit In fact, there is evidence from cross-country research to show that “a free press is bad news for corruption”.

In a study published in 2003, Aymo Brunetti and Beatrice Weber showed that having free media was positively correlated with better governance (A Free Press is Bad News for Corruption, Journal of Public Economics, 87). This is because press freedom allows for more information to be available to people which in turn enables citizens to exert more pressure on their governments.

Some days ago, the Malaysian Home Ministry suspended the publishing permit of The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months starting from July 27, 2015. The reason given by the Home Ministry is that the reports of the two publications on 1MDB were “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.

This is a claim that few thinking Malaysians would accept. Most Malaysians would also agree that the real danger to the nation is corruption. Furthermore, most people in Malaysia who support free reporting and public discourse on corruption would not condone the spread of rumours to destabilise our country. Those who do act in this irresponsible manner should be dealt with by the law. But, the media should not be gagged. This is because the media have a vital role to play in preventing instability.

Research has shown that it is corruption that results in instability. Sarah Chayes, in her book entitled Thieves of State: Why Corruption threatens global security (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015), investigates how kleptocratic governance results in civil unrest and even provokes violent extremism. To the extent that a free media results in pressures on the government to clean up or at least minimise the incidence of corruption, it can be said that freedom of the press, far from being prejudicial to public interest, is necessary for the stability of the nation.  The probability that kleptocracy would be publicly debated and kleptocrats investigated, exposed and prosecuted, is higher in a country with a free press than in one with a controlled and irresponsible press.

In Islam, as in all the great religious traditions that make up Malaysia, there is the universal value of attachment to the truth. It is regarded as sinful to provide false information, particularly about events that one has personally witnessed. Equally sinful is the withholding of the truth. The Qur’an frequently exhorts humans to avoid concealing testimony and refrain from confounding the truth by lacing it with falsehood.

If it cannot be proven that The Edge reported falsehoods and violated journalistic norms or broke the law, the suspension is against both the standards of universal values as well as Islamic tradition. Islam is the religion of state in Malaysia. Therefore, Malaysians expect the politicians and civil servants to rule with justice and integrity.

The Qur’an commands those entrusted with public and professional duties to carry out their rule with justice and fairness (4:58-59). The vizier and scholar of the eleventh century Seljuq Empire, Nizam al-Mulk, in his famous treatise, the Siyasatnameh or Book of Government, advised his sultan that he should listen to the grievances of his subjects directly, without intermediaries.  A thousand years later, this is still what we want from our leaders.

The fourteenth century Muslim social theorist, Abdul Rahman Ibn Khaldun, believed that government decisions were as a rule unjust. This was based on his study of West Asian and North African polities as well as his experience with the vicissitudes of political life. More than five hundred years later, the Spanish philosopher and intellectual leader of the Spanish Republican government, José Ortega y Gasset, referred to the state as the greatest danger. He believed that state intervention was the greatest danger that threatened civilisation. Malaysians want a strong state that can establish and maintain public order and run an efficient administration. But we do not want a dangerous state, one with disproportionate power such that its intervention results in rule by thieves.

* Dr. Syed Farid Alatas is the Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, in the National University of Singapore.

Remembering Zainon Ahmad

July 23, 2015

Note: I was reading Balan Moses on Facebook early this morning and decided that I should post his moving tribute to our departed friend, Pak Non, who was an exemplary journalist of my generation. I interacted with Pak Non as I used to frequent Parliament House when it was in session. He was always gave me interesting insights into Malaysian politics and our politicians at work.

He saw politics a kind of sandiwara by our parliamentarians whenever they appeared before the camera. Pak Non was particularly fond of the theatrics of Bung Mokhtar Radin, the fiery UMNO Member of Parliamentarian for Kinabatangan constituency in Sabah.  At that time, Pak Non was the Chief Editor of the Sun Daily  and media consultant with a column of his own.

I liked his style of writing. He sought the truth, as Balan says, but he was balanced and fair. Although he is no longer with us, I will remember Pak Non as a Malaysian journalist in a class of his own. As a friend and fellow Kedahan, he was indeed kind, sincere and considerate. It was my privilege to know him.

To those who do not know, let me give you his background. Pak Non won the Media Personality Award in 2010. Zainon earned a degree in History and a Masters in International Relations from University of Malaya. He had also studied newspaper management at the Thomson Foundation, London and was a fellow of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tuft University, Boston in the US –Din Merican

True Malaysian Journalist: Zainon Ahmad, affectionately known as Pak Non, was always preoccupied with the truth

by Balan Moses

March 29, 2013–www.nst.com.my

ZAINON Ahmad, who left us on Wednesday (March 27, 2013), had a lifelong affair with truth, his fascination with getting past the red herrings always at the fore of his private and professional life.

In the later part of his career with the New Straits Times, the teacher-turned-scribe pasted a telling note about himself to the pillar where the office printer was located. It went something like this: “I tell the truth as much as I can and the older I get, the more I am able to tell the truth”.

This was Pak Non at his best, a journalist who said it as it was, albeit with a levity reflected in azainonahmad_6 full-faced smile that took the sting out of his comments, leaving one with only the feeling that a lesson in life had just been learnt.

There was never an ounce of malice in the avuncular figure, who roamed the news floor to exchange colourful repartees with colleagues, many of whom knew the soft inner core of the man who always meant well despite his rare but seemingly cutting remarks.

Despite his years of experience, he invariably wrote with the verve, vivacity and wonder of a novice reporter handling his first big story.Pak Non, a name we always teased him about, given the many times that people telephoned the office to ask for “Cik Zainon”, dared to walk the proverbial (journalistic) ground where angels feared to tread.

It did not help in terms of upwards professional mobility or enhancing his circle of acquaintances (he had no lack of friends), but these things never really mattered to him.

P.C. Shivadas says Zainon’s love for the difficult story (his series on the Mindanao conflict was of epic proportions) was legendary as was his ability to outperform those younger than him in a hostile foreign environment. “He put himself in harm’s way to get the story. He was a part of that small and elite group of journalists who would go anywhere, anytime to get the story,” says the former NST group editor.

Pak Non waltzed through journalistic life with an ease inherent in those with nothing to fear but God in whom he placed his utmost trust. I, like many others, like to remember Pak Non as the man with short curly hair with a zany sartorial touch (he came to love batik shirts later in life) and a toothy grin, who often greeted close friends with a Tamil movie tune of the 1950s.

Philip Matthews, a former NST editor, saying that Zainon was the same “on camera or off camera”, remembers his failed attempt at becoming an RTM Tamil news reader. Rose Ismail, former NST deputy group editor, and Fatimah Abu Bakar, former NST entertainment editor, fondly remember Zainon singing the nursery rhyme, Baa Baa Black Sheep, to a Tamil tune complete with shaking of head.

Former NST associate editor Tony Francis says Zainon, who eschewed titles or awards, “was (if there ever was one) a journalist who deserved a datukship”.”He was content to do what he loved without expecting any rewards or honours,” he says.

Zainon and I hit it off from the start with our love for Tamil movies and songs.”I remember watching Nadodi Mannan (a Tamil movie from 1958 based on The Prisoner of Zenda). What acting by MGR,” Pak Non used to tell me with awe.

One of his favourite numbers, Pambera Kannaley (eyes like spinning tops), by late Tamil comedian J. P. Chandrababu, was a song he could sing at the drop of a hat.

One of his favourite pastimes at the NST was going for a banana leaf lunch with, among others, Lim Thow Boon (his partner in crime generally), the late John Pillai, the late Shaik Osman Majid, Rudy Beltran, Unny Krishnan, K.P. Waran and I.

The estate boy who grew up as Jeganathan, the name that childhood friends gave him at the Patani Para Estate in Kedah, had a degree in history and master’s in international relations from University of Malaya.

The Journalist of the Year in 1986 and Media Personality of the Year in 2010 went on from the NST to become the first editor-in-chief of theSun, later assuming the post of consultant and political editor there with a popular column, What They Say. He was a journalist’s journalist, a man after our own collective heart.

To his wife, Hasnah Abdullah, children and grandchildren, his former colleagues at the NST wish to say that it was a singular pleasure working with a man who did not mind wearing his heart on his sleeves. He lived an exemplary life as a journalist with a heart and died as he lived — with honour.

We will sue you, Sarawak Report tells Minister Rahman Dahlan

July 22, 2015

We will sue you, Sarawak Report tells Minister Rahman Dahlan

by FMT Reporters

Editor takes particular offence to Abdul Rahman Dahlan labelling her “scum”.

Dr Mahathir and C BrownSarawak Report yesterday vowed legal action against Barisan Nasional’s strategic Communications Director Abdul Rahman Dahlan, New Straits Times and other publications which have deliberately promoted falsehoods designed to damage its credibility.

It also promised to invoke the criminal process against Lester Melanyi for what it claims was a “vicious criminal libel”. “Usually, we rely on the facts to make our case against detractors and allow readers to decide by comparing those facts with the criticisms against us,” it said in a statement posted on its website which is now hosted on a different URL.

“However, over the past days, certain characters who claim to represent the government and their friendly media outlets have gone too far. They have paraded a sick and discredited individual, who has poured out strings of lies, which none of them have sought to check out, in order to claim this as ‘proof’ that our research was all ‘forged’.”

The whistleblower website claimed that it would normally consider Lester’s concocted story to be “entertaining for being so ridiculous” given the mass of evidence which it says supports all that it has written.

Rahman-Dahlan-Clare-Rewcastle-Brown“But ministers have now used this character and these ludicrous libels as an excuse to order an internet ban on Sarawak Report,” it lamented.

Editor Clare Rewcastle Brown took particular offence with Abdul Rahman for “outrageously” libeling her, in particular by calling her “scum” and labeling the portal’s research as “blatant lies”.

“(Abdul Rahman) has not produced a single shred of evidence that would lead anyone to believe the ravings of the mentally unbalanced bankrupt, Lester Melanyi,” she claimed.

“We therefore accuse (him) of criminal libel, motivated by malicious intent. Despite deciding not to sue Lester, Brown warned “him and anyone who continues to promote his present and future made up stories” of future legal action if they persist.

Why is Najib’s Cabinet scared of Racists and Bigots?

January 4, 2015

Why is Najib’s Cabinet scared of Racists and Bigots?

Raja_Nazrin_Shah“National leaders must show their statesmanship and sense of responsibility. They have to show exemplary conduct and leadership qualities by refraining from sensationalising religious matters.”–HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah of Perak

by Ravinder Singh@www.malaysiakini.com

The Cabinet’s abdication of its duty to stem the rising tide of racism that could, if not checked, lead to the Talibanisation of this county, galvanised some very concerned, very senior and enlightened Muslims to come together to make an open stand on this subject.Ahmad Kamil Jaafar

The original group of 25 has increased, and has a lot of support from moderate Malaysians, including HRH  Sultan of Perak who stated in his Maulidur Rasul address that in 627AD Prophet Muhammad had signed an agreement with monks at the St Catherine monastery, providing a guarantee to protect Christians, their homes and their place of worship.

Why did the Cabinet neglect its duty to stop the racist bigots from spewing vitriol and driving wedges between the harmonious multi-racial, multi-religious relations that have been the pride of Malaysia as a melting pot of racial and religious harmony in diversity? Did the cabinet feel that it is pantang (taboo) or haram (unlawful) for it to take cognisance of the activities of the racists and bigots, and stop them creating racial discord because they claim to be operating under God’s law over which the cabinet has no jurisdiction?

Was the Cabinet afraid of a backlash from the racists who are quick to condemn anyone who dares to say that what they are doing and preaching is un-Islamic? So the Cabinet felt that the words and actions of these bigots had to be allowed in the name of “freedom of speech” although they clearly run afoul of provisions in the Penal Code?

The immediate concern of the G25 is no doubt to put a stop to the activities of the racists in operation at the moment. But these racists are just the tip of the iceberg.

Rising racism in schools a greater worry

Mahathir-Vs-NajibTwo of a Kind on Race Relations and Extremism

An even greater worry than the small band of the noisy, aggressive bigots operating today is the racial indoctrination of children that is talking place. Since the 80s, parents have been complaining of rising racism in schools, and the “Islamisation” of national schools. This is one reason why many non-Malay parents have taken their children out of these schools.

This has become so bad, as demonstrated by some incidents in the recent past – e.g. head teachers telling children during a school assembly to “balik China/India”; non-Malay children being put out of sight of the fasting Muslim children during school breaks so the latter would not be tempted to eat; cattle being slaughtered in school compounds; a literature book introduced to the school curriculum with a derogatory reference to Indians.

There is a very challenging task ahead for G25 to take race relations back to the era of the 50s and 60s. Stopping the present-day bigots, be they professors or self-acclaimed religious authorities, is an immediate need before more damage is done to racial harmony.

However, for the long-term, it is the racial indoctrination of children and young persons that has to be stopped. If this is not done, the next generation would see droves of racists and bigots who would be too many for anyone to stop. Talibanisation of Malaysia would then become a fait accompli. What is the number of today’s adults who have already gone through racial indoctrination in some way or other, subtly or directly?

Dato Noor FaridaI hope that the G25 will be taking note on the greater importance of stopping the racial indoctrination of children and young persons in all institutions of learning, including outfits such as (BTN) Biro Tatanegara. The real evil is in the indoctrination of tender and young minds who are innocent, and know not the treachery behind such teachings of racism.

Something has definitely gone seriously wrong in the teaching of religion, for people to become racists when religion does not teach enmity and hatred of people from other beliefs and cultures. In fact, religions teach people to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” and “love thy neighbour as thyself”.

Justice is seen to be done : The case of Rosli Dahlan

November 24, 2014

Justice is seen to be done: The Case of Rosli Dahlan

by Din  Merican

‎My young friend Rosli Dahlan has been in the news a lot lately. He defends cases which most Muslim lawyers won’t want to even touch with a 10 foot pole. He was the Borders lawyer who successfully declared that s.13 of the FT Syariah Criminal Offences Act was ultra vires the Federal Constitution.

Then Rosli got embroiled in the Kassim Ahmad case and made a forceful argument exposing that JAWI acted illegally in arresting Kassim in Kedah and abducting him to KL.‎

What was more alarming to most Muslims was that he exposed that the Syariah Court is just an inferior court and even inferior to the magistrates court! But unknown to many, Rosli faces his personal tribulations alone.

Today, his own case came before the Court of Appeal. Some of you may recall that Rosli had sued the AG‎ Tan Sri Gani Patail, MACC Chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim, former IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan and various officers of the MACC and AG Chambers including Dato Nordin Hassan and Dato Razak Musa (of Teoh Beng Hock fame). Rosli had faced many obstacles when the AG filed all kinds of application to prevent the case from coming to trial.

Readers will remember that A-G Gani Patail claimed that he had absolute immunity to do what he wants including fixing innocent citizens like Rosli. In that case, the High Court Judge Wazeer Alam Mydin Meera ruled that ” the claim of absolute immunity is anathema to modern notions of accountability”. A-G Gani was not happy and appealed to the Court of‎ Appeal. So, today was the A-G’s appeal.

before being made a judge, said he agreed that deliberate abuse of power by those holding a public office was misfeasance in public office.

As if it was not enough that Rosli had to face 3 Tan Sris, ‎A-G Gani Patail then engaged senior counsel Tan Sri Cecil Abraham to act for him. Many will recall that Tan Sri Cecil Abraham is implicated in the PI Bala case. That makes 4 Tan Sris against Rosli.

RD vs 4 Tan Sris

RD vs 4 Tan Sris

It seems that Tan Sri Cecil Abraham filed a last minute Written Submissions only yesterday at 3.45pm to throw Rosli’s counsel off guard. The appeal came on this morning.

‎In an apparent show of impartiality, Judges Dato Alizatul and Dato Nalini recused themselves when it was pointed out that Justice Alizatul had dismissed Rosli’s Judicial Review Leave application which challenged the very MACC notice for which he was charged and which the Trial Judge later held to be void notices.

At the same time, Judge Nalini recused herself after saying this is a high profile case involving A-G Gani Patail and she had sat in the panel that dismissed NST’s appeal when the High Court Judge Siti Khadijah Badjenid found NST and MACC liable for defamation and for breaching s.21(4) MACCA and ordered damages of RM300k to be paid by NST and MACC to Rosli.

I feel sorry for Rosli that he had to go through all these obstacles just to see his day in court to redeem himself. The incident happened in 2007. Today is 2014. It’s been 7 years and yet the case is not even anywhere near a trial date because A-G Gani Patail just does not want to face Rosli in court. That is what guilty people do, they do not want to face their Day of Judgement.

I also feel sorry for Rosli because his case is being treated like a joke when the Court of Appeal has now fixed the next hearing date on 1st April 2015 which is April Fool’s Day.

I say to Rosli- don’t be daunted.‎ God will protect you and will give you the last laugh. That’s how it has been for the last few cases where Rosli has won all the cases and the AG has been soundly beaten like in the Judgement by Judge Wazeer Alam. To the Justices‎ in our courts, I say to you – give the man the justice he deserves and don’t throw technical obstacles to protect these rogues in government. The higher titled they are, the harder you must come down on them. Let Justice be seen to be done!

Read this and don’t forget to help defend freedom:


Malaysia’s Bernama in Apparent Plagiarism of JG Election Stories

July 7, 2014

Malaysia’s Bernama in Apparent Plagiarism of JG Election Stories

By Jakarta Globe on 11:15 pm Jul 06, 2014



Jakarta. Malaysia’s national news agency, Bernama, was found to have plagiarized, word for word, two articles that were published by the Jakarta Globe.

On Saturday, July 5, as part of its live coverage of the fifth and final presidential debate, the Globe published an article on its website titled “In Closing Debate, Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”

The following day, it was discovered that Bernama had published a similar article titled, “Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”

The Malaysian news agency had copied the Globe’s piece verbatim, attributing one of the many quotes in the article to this newspaper.Bernama also removed the names of Globe reporters Josua Gantan and Andrea Wijaya, the original authors of the story, replacing the byline with what is assumed to be the name of a Bernama journalist, Elmi Rizal Alias.

On the same day, Singapore-based Channel News Asia republished the plagiarized article on its website. The piece, however, had been renamed, “Indonesia Election: Jokowi, Prabowo Face Off in Final TV Debate.”

Not the first time

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Monday’s discovery was not the first time Bernama drew “inspiration” from the Globe.On July 1, following the fourth debate, the Globe uploaded an article on its website titled “Hatta Says Indonesia Should Take Advantage of Its ‘Demographic Bonus.’”The same story was found on Bernama’s website with the slightly altered title “Indonesia Should Take Advantage  of Its ‘Demographic Bonus’ — Hatta.”

Similarly, the Malaysian news agency  only attributed one of the article’s many quotes to the Globe, and replaced the original reporter’s name — Basten Gokkon — with that of the elusive Elmi Rizal Alias.

The Globe made  numerous attempts to contact and seek clarification from Bernama on Sunday. However, the news agency was not immediately available to give comment on the matter.


Serious violation

Wina Armada, a member of the Indonesian Press Council and an expert in press law from the University of Indonesia, told the Globe that the incident amounted to “a serious violation of [Indonesia’s] copyright laws.”

“For a case like this, the law is such that even if the disadvantaged party does not file a police report about the incident, the police can still take action against the perpetrator,” Wina said.

“If it is true that [the Bernama reporter] has plagiarized [the Globe’s articles], according to Indonesian laws, the Malaysian journalist can be [charged and] imprisoned,” he said.Wina added that the incident was particularly regrettable as Bernama was the official news agency for the Malaysian government, under its Ministry of Communication and Multimedia.

“From a journalistic point of view, this is a serious violation of the journalistic code of ethics. This is not professional journalism,” he said. “Moreover, this is not only partial [plagiarism] — the whole [article] has been plagiarized. Plagiarism is a very basic error in journalism. If this is true, the perpetrator should not be allowed to continue his profession as a journalist.

“This should not be condoned. In journalism, upholding credibility and honesty should be number one,” Wina added.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law expert from the University of Indonesia, similarly told the Globe that the incident was regrettable.“They even changed the [Globe] reporters’ names,” Hikmahanto said. “Perhaps [Bernama’s] reporter ran out of news, that’s why he took news [from the Globe].”

In response to the incident, Ruhut Sitompul, a legislator and a member of the legal affairs commission at the Indonesian House of Representatives, said Bernama ought to be “sued for the matter.”“Legal action should be taken against its representative in Indonesia,” Ruhut told the Globe.

Read THIS:  http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2014/04/indonesia-rock-governor-2014428755300344.html