CIMB Group Nazir Razak’s Departure sends the wrong message: Competent Professionals are not wanted, only politics matter


September 25, 2018

CIMB Group Nazir Razak’s Departure sends the wrong message: Competent Professionals are not wanted, only politics matter

by Ho Kay Tat@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for CIMB's Nazir Razak

 

“Don’t be afraid to speak up – express your opinions with honesty.”–Nazir Razak. He has integrity. I admire him for this rare attribute. It is the reason why Nazir is respected and highly regarded in Cambodia. He will be missed by his staff as a role model of professionalism.–Din Merican

COMMENT | CIMB Group Holdings Bhd chairperson Nazir Razak was an early and vocal critic of 1MDB and the opaque manner it was managed.

It is, therefore, sad that he is now a casualty of the 1MDB fallout, as the new government which came to power on the back of public anger over the financial scandal makes further leadership changes at government-linked companies (GLCs).

Most people will point out that Nazir had received money (now discovered to have originated from 1MDB) from his brother Najib as contribution to be passed to others for the 2013 general elections. Like many, he would not have imagined back then that the money came from 1MDB and he has since expressed regret about what he did. It was a mistake.

When 1MDB was set up in September 2009, Nazir had questioned the need for another sovereign wealth fund and the fact that 1MDB was not governed under the GLC framework of governance. After 1MDB issued its first bond – the RM5 billion 30-year sukuk arranged by AmBank Bhd – he criticised the mispricing of the bond, which was issued at a steep discount and carried a high coupon rate of 5.75% despite being guaranteed by the government.

Suspicious about where 1MDB was heading, Nazir issued a directive that CIMB does not do any business with it. It was a decision which upset some of his staff because of the loss in potential revenue from corporate lending and investment banking transactions, and there were billions worth of deals between 2010 to 2013.

When the troubles at 1MDB began to surface with the delay in the release of its audited accounts sometime in late 2013, Nazir worked hard behind the scenes to engage his brother and other senior government officials to address the problems. He warned them of the threat an implosion of 1MDB would pose to the country’s financial well-being – which is what has happened now.

After it became clear to him that no action will be taken, Nazir began to make his views public especially via his Instagram postings.

In January 2014 he penned an article ‘Remembering My Father, Tun Razak’ as an oblique reminder to his brother not to taint the reputation of their father.

Nazir wrote that one minister who served under his father told him: “As the custodian of the nation’s coffers, his frugality was legendary. You had to account for every cent, or he would be on your back.”

In February 2015, responding to a New York Times article which quoted a Najib’s spokesperson as saying that the prime minister was wealthy because he had inheritance money, Nazir and his three other brothers issued a statement to dispute what was said.

“We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well-known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be totally false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation.

“We take issue with anyone who taints his memory, whatever the motive. We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue,” said the statement which was signed by Nazir, Johari, Nizam and Nazim.

Attacked by pro-UMNO bloggers

Nazir was among those who pressed for Parliament to investigate and he criticised 1MDB’s first CEO Shahrol Halmi and Arul Kanda Kandasamy when they refused to attend the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Because of his criticisms of 1MDB, Nazir was attacked by the mainstream media controlled by UMNO as well as by UMNO-sponsored bloggers. He and his family were also victims of a blogger – Ahrily90 – who posted vicious attacks on them.

The Edge on Feb 4, 2015 exposed that this blogger was the same person who attacked our chairperson Tong Kooi Ong and Dr Mahathir Mohamad who, like Nazir, had been asking questions about 1MDB.

Ahrily90 was also behind two websites (since taken down) that promoted Jho Low as a smart financier and generous donors to various charities. This confirmed to us that our criticisms of 1MDB were correct and that Jho Low and his cohorts were getting uncomfortable with all the questions we were asking.

It was a frustrating time for us as our efforts were going nowhere. 1MDB, by then led by Arul Kanda, kept refuting our reports and denied that anything was wrong.

Image result for nazir razak and Tun Razak

 

I can reveal that The Edge and Nazir worked together, in our respective ways, to expose the wrongdoings at 1MDB to get the government to act against those responsible.

Work was done behind the scenes for a solution. But none could be found.

Instead, in July 2015, Najib sacked his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and removed investigators. And The Edge and The Edge Financial Daily were suspended as part of the crackdown.By then, there was nothing more Nazir could do.

He was misled by his own brother. Nazir was also personally conflicted – his brother was the creator of the monster that he had warned against. Despite that, Nazir was probably the only corporate leader who had publicly voiced out concerns about 1MDB. He could have chosen to keep quiet.


HO KAY TAT is publisher of The Edge.

The above commentary was originally published here. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

A Plague on both your houses, ex-UMNO man tells Dr M and Anwar


September 22, 2018

A Plague on both your houses, ex-UMNO man tells Dr M and Anwar

A former UMNO MP has urged moderate parliamentarians from the party not to take sides between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, but to remain as an independent and progressive bloc.

Image result for malay students in madrasa

“Penerapan nilai-nilai Islam” or Malay Decadence?

Speaking to FMT, Tawfik Ismail said Mahathir and Anwar started Malaysia on the path to ultra-conservative Islamisation in the 1980s, with the then-Prime Minister establishing the powerful JAKIM and Anwar pushing his idea of “Penerapan nilai-nilai Islam” in the government.

Given the seemingly directionless and weakened state of their former party UMNO after the May 9 polls, he added, both Mahathir’s PPBM and Anwar’s PKR were now waiting with bated breath.

Image result for tawfik ismail

“A plague on both your houses I say,” said the former Sungai Benut MP, taking a line from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.

“I’m cynical of UMNO, PPBM and PKR because they’re all fragments of UMNO Baru, which was unrecognisable from the original UMNO.

“People say UMNO is dying, (but) that’s not accurate because UMNO already died in 1987 when it was declared illegal along with its noble ideals.”

Image result for anwar and mahathir

They forgot that they started the rot but I  don’t–Din Merican

Tawfik said because UMNO Baru was now “dead”, he believed many of its leaders wouldn’t hesitate to ditch the party and join either PPBM or PKR to secure their personal interests.

“At the end of the day, if this happens, will we really see a different Malaysia?At least where ultraconservative Islamisation is concerned, I have to say no because neither PPBM nor PKR seems to really want to kill what Mahathir and Anwar created.”

He said the “ex-UMNO Baru” bunch in PKR and PPBM seemed reluctant to appear “unIslamic”, whether in addressing the issue of child marriages, deinstitutionalising religion or pushing for change where religious matters were concerned.

“The religious agenda continues to be driven by the very same people who made it more important than it should have been. It’s both lawmakers and civil servants.”

He said moderates like Mustapa Mohamed and Anifah Aman, who left UMNO earlier this week, would find real change impossible if they had to join either Mahathir or Anwar.

“There’s going to be a lot of uncertainty in Malay politics at this rate but rather than take sides, like warring camps in UMNO did in 1987, why don’t the moderates in Umno form a non-aligned, progressive and moderate bloc on their own?

“If you take sides, it will just be a return to the ways of UMNO Baru. The likes of Mustapa, Anifah and Khairy Jamaluddin don’t have to side with others. If they remain moderate, they can draw moderates not just from UMNO Baru, but from those outside of UMNO Baru, including non-Malays.”

He said there were bound to be moderates in PKR and PPBM, just as there were radicals in the two Pakatan Harapan parties and UMNO Baru.

He added that forming a moderate bloc, aligned to neither PPBM nor PKR, would keep the two parties from going down the path of race and religion while helping them stay true to the spirit and ideology of the original UMNO.

Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power


September 21, 2018

Opinion

Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power

 

The Pathetic Inheritors of the Corrupt UMNO Najib Legacy

COMMENT | Former minister Nazri Abdul Aziz is now brazenly saying out in the open that UMNO’s best-case scenario for future prospects is to support and team up with Anwar Ibrahim.

More than any party here by far, UMNO is a collection of fat cats.They reached their heights of obesity and opulence by sitting in the free-ride comforts of a government they never imagined losing control of.

Quite simply, almost all UMNO leaders have absolutely none of the integrity, experience, gumption, skill, drive, motivation, diligence, intelligence, passion, know-how, fibre, endurance (you get the idea) or interest really, required for being an effective or successful politician outside of the federal government.

All the UMNO fat cats really want is a shortcut that will take them from the cold rain, in which they now shiver and starve, back into the warm government mansion they grew up in, to purr and preen in comfort amidst their never-ending gravy train.

The path Nazri seems to be advocating offers exactly that, and all they apparently have to do is to create enough friction between Bersatu and PKR, and make sure that Anwar becomes the prime minister.

As detailed in Part 1 of this article, Anwar could conceivably then dump Bersatu in favour of UMNO – especially if he starts to feel that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed may renege on his promise to hand over power.

Mahathir could of course react by calling for early elections. Perhaps it was in anticipation of such a scenario that Anwar started courting good relationships with the Malay rulers very early on, as a refusal by the palace to dissolve Parliament could complicate matters.

Mahathir taking pre-emptive measures?

Image result for master yoda mahathir mohamad

Needless to say, Mahathir is far too intelligent to let such an outflanking manoeuvre happen without a response, and calling for early elections is likely a last resort rather than the first line of defence.

I think this is the context of UMNO’s recent resignations – the post-Port Dickson timing of which could be no coincidence at all.

Not every UMNO person buys Nazri’s plan. Indeed, while most of the party members do favour the fat-cat shortcut back to power, there appears to be considerable differences of opinion as to which shortcut in particular is best.

The three main schools of thought seem to be: through PKR, through PAS, or through Bersatu.

Nazri is probably correct in pointing out that going through PAS makes pretty much no numerical or ideological sense whatsoever.

Image result for Musthapha Mohamad and Anifah Aman

Perhaps the likes of Mustapa Mohamed and Anifah Aman(pic, above) are leaning towards the Bersatu route.

This is an interesting response. If there is a sufficiently large migration from UMNO to Bersatu, this could basically make Bersatu the new UMNO in terms of their position in the coalition – a big, Malay party that everyone agrees will nominate the PM.

Splitting UMNO could also neutralise any effort by Anwar to use UMNO as a threat against Bersatu.

If large numbers of UMNO MPs join Bersatu, then the UMNO support may no longer be the same bargaining chip it currently is.

Then again, for all an outsider like me knows, Mustapa and Anifah could be the ones looking to join PKR.

Either way, those who have left clearly do not have faith in UMNO as a bloc, and appear to be seeking their futures elsewhere.

Two out of three

In summary, in this bizarre love triangle between Bersatu, PKR, and UMNO, almost any two-out-of-three combination essentially produces a workable win.

There are a number of other factors, and/or radical possibilities.

DAP will obviously play a big role, while PAS, PBB, Amanah, and Warisan will play slightly smaller ones. Then there is the Azmin Ali factor.

Only while writing this article did the scenario occur to me: Especially if Azmin loses the PKR Deputy President’s race, what’s to stop him from defecting over to Bersatu?

This solves a number of different problems for both Bersatu and Azmin.

If the PKR elections go on in its current trajectory, the bad blood between team Azmin and team Anwar may be irreconcilable, and Azmin’s position within PKR may no longer be tenable.

Azmin moving to Bersatu would give the party a more viable succession plan with regards to subsequent PMs (a Goh Chok Tong to Mukhriz Mahathir’s Lee Hsien Loong perhaps?), and the numbers that could follow Azmin would also, again, help with Bersatu’s low-in-parliamentary-seats problem.

An exodus from PKR to Bersatu would be even bigger if Bersatu goes multiracial – further reducing the role or need for a party like PKR.

These battle lines are perhaps already visible in the copious amount of columns, blog posts, and viral Whatsapp messages that are either very strongly pro- or anti-Anwar, suggesting a consolidated and coordinated effort.

The race factor

Needless to say, all of this is speculation – and a somewhat sensationalist one at that.

For all I know, we could see a smooth transition to Anwar becoming the next PM, a stable rota system put in place to determine future prime ministers, and Harapan continuing just the way it is, happy as a clam.

Or, it could all be unrecognisable inside a year. It’s hard to say.

All these seismic shifts are potentially possible in large part because ideology has almost never played a big role in modern Malaysian politics.

The only vital and somewhat ideological question is how much of a factor race should be in Malaysian politics. This may come into play, say if Umno MPs need to decide which new party they want to support.

Perhaps some see maintaining Malay supremacy as the priority, a goal which can only be achieved by supporting Bersatu or PAS, while others may prefer the PKR route.

Other than that, Malaysian politics can likely be said to be dominated more by personality politics than anything else. It often comes down to which feudal lord one likes better.

Transforming incentive structures

Of course, just because this is the way it is, doesn’t mean that this is the way it always needs to be. Changing the incentive structures and the architecture of our political system could largely eliminate the need for many of the conflicts above.

One radical way to drastically cut back on inter-party conflict (such as Bersatu and PKR fighting over long-term stewardship of the PM’s post), is simply for all Harapan parties to merge.

Many would cite mind-boggling logistical difficulties (true, no doubt), and extreme resistance to the idea by conservatives.

If we think about it though, what function does having multiple parties in the coalition actually serve?

The old BN model was simple, for the peninsular at least. We have one party for one race. If you are Malay and have a problem, go see UMNO; Chinese, look for MCA; Indian, MIC.

It was devilishly simple in its concept, but simply devilish in the divided Malaysia it eventually created.

What about the realities of today? Do we want to follow the old formula? Malays see Bersatu, Chinese see DAP, and Indians can see the new Malaysia Advancement Party?

A merged party will still have leaders and elected representatives from every community that voters will likely find approachable.

True, little Napoleons will perhaps find themselves with less power, but wouldn’t that be a good thing?

It’s a bold idea that is unlikely to see the light of day, but regardless, I do hope we keep looking to radical solutions to blaze paths forward and leave behind the endless internal politicking that takes up far too much time and energy of Malaysian politicians.

After all, all the intrigue and speculation is somewhat entertaining, but don’t we have a new Malaysia to govern?

YESTERDAY: Future PMs: Many possibilities within Bersatu, PKR and Umno triangle


NATHANIEL TAN is eager to serve.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity


September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

Image result for Rais Yatim

 

Sabah and Sarawak: Give Us Our Freedom and our Rights Back


September 2018

Sabah and Sarawak: Give Our Freedom and our Rights Back

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Image result for sabah and sarawak

Be Forewarned–Cry Freedom

The recent announcement by Tun Dr. Mahathir that the Pakatan Government is committed to returning Sabah and Sarawak their rightful status as equal partners in the federation can be seen in two ways.

If this announcement made in the Prime Minister’s first address to Sabahans since the new government came to power is a sincere commitment and quickly implemented in the key areas of concern in which the two East Malaysian states have had their status and rights undermined and their legitimate needs neglected, then it can help open a more amicable, less contentious and more stable chapter in the nation’s history and development.

However, if it is another political wayang speech aimed at generating a feel good response in the local population, it will reinforce the skepticism and cynicism that the Bornean states will still be treated as “stepchildren” by the new Pakatan government and that nothing will come out from Pakatan’s election manifesto promise of returning the status of the two states according to the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 even after many more than 100 days of the new government has elapsed. Don’t open the flood gates of discontent and nationalism.

Image result for Pandang Ke Sabah

If the latter is the case and/or if the process of the return of local rights and autonomy is delayed by foot dragging or deflected by the politics of disruption and divide and rule as practised by the Barisan Nasional government since the establishment of Malaysia  in 1963, we should not expect a meek or restrained response from an awakened and politicized younger generation of East Malaysians.

Rather, watch out for heightened political resistance from the East Malaysian states which may put the entire Malaysia enterprise in jeopardy.

What is Equal Partnership?

The call for an equal partnership of the three component parts of Malaysia is not simply about a greater share of cabinet minister-ships for the politicians of Sabah or Sarawak or a greater share of oil royalties or better roads. It is also not about just mobilizing a two thirds majority in Parliament to support amendments in the Federal constitution for Sabah and Sarawak to be equal partners in the Federation with the process ending there. Or providing East Malaysians the solitary carrot of a Deputy Prime Minister.

It covers a much larger and complex spectrum of perceived injustices, discriminatory treatment and broken promises endured by the two states especially during the past 30 years.

According to pro-equal status activists, key grouses include the following:

  • disproportionally meager returns from the two states’ oil and gas resources

  • de-secularisation and creeping Islamisation

  • internal colonization by the federal civil service establishment which has marginalized local Sarawakians and Sabahans in the running of their own states

  • Putrajaya’s collaboration with corrupt state leaders which has enriched a small minority and despoiled the environment at the expense of the native communities

  • Dr. Mahathir’s infamous “project IC” which resulted in a massive influx of illegal immigrants, their registration as voters in Sabah, and the consequential adverse repercussions on the local citizenry.

  • Politically parties from West Malaysia should not allowed to establish branches in Sabah and Sarawak.

It is noteworthy that when the Cobbold Commission set up in 1962  to determine whether the people of North Borneo supported the formation of Malaysia submitted its report, it had deemed necessary to emphasise the following:

“It is a necessary condition that from the outset Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned as an association of partners, combining in the common interests to create a new nation but retaining their own individualities. If any idea were to take root that Malaysia would involve a ‘take-over’ of the Borneo territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not be generally acceptable and successful.”

This concern has now come home to roost. Today we are seeing more than resistance to the loss of local autonomy promised in the initial Malaysia agreement. New local parties that are emerging are not simply seeking the rescinding of the constitutional amendment of 1983 which downgraded both the states from equal status to one of the 13 states of the Federation. They are also pushing for a larger agenda of socio-economic and political change through return of the rights and interests of the states as enshrined in the 20/18-point Agreements, the London Agreements and the Inter-Governmental Reports.

At the same time, less restrained individual and unorganized groups (through the social media) are also now in larger numbers posing the unthinkable and potentially seditious question as to whether the two states are better off independent than to remain in Malaysia.

What will happen next is in Putrajaya’s ball court.We can expect constitutional change to be a slow and protracted process and to possibly take more than a few years to be successful.

Meanwhile issues of local autonomy especially in economy, education and religion resonate strongly among all communities, especially with the more urbanized and highly educated. The sentiment that the two states has been badly treated by Putrajaya is a widely shared one especially among the young who resent what they perceive as the re-colonization of their state by federal officials pushing the Putrajaya line. These issues can and should be corrected immediately.

However, whilst Putrajaya continues with soothing words about the rebalancing of state and federal rights and powers, the actions of various agencies of government indicate that the old regime’s mindset on race and religion as operationalized by key civil service agencies still remains; and the opposition and intolerance to democratic aspiration for equal status and rights has not changed.

The case of the recent arrests and alleged manhandling of young protesters calling for stronger state rights and demanding equal education opportunities, better public transport and job opportunities among 10 demands is a salutary example.

As one of the leaders of the youthful assembly calling itself Pandang Ke Sabah (Look Towards Sabah) rally noted after the police crackdown on the group of protestors:

“It’s the morning of Malaysia Day, for God’s sake and it was really peaceful. We thought now that we are living in the era of Malaysia Baru, we are free to speak our minds.”

More disappointing and shocking was the recent written reply by the Education Ministry in Parliament that the use of English as a medium of instruction in schools in the two states would violate the Federal Constitution, National Language and Education Act. The new Minister of Education must have approved of this contentious and highly questionable ruling.

In response, Sabah’s  deputy chief minister, Datuk Seri Madius Tangau pointed out that the right to use English as a medium of instruction in national schools was in accordance with the Malay­sia Agreement 1963 and was in no way illegal nor an attempt to challenge Bahasa Malaysia,the national language. He also noted that It was not only not unconstitutional, but a right and the way forward.

Sarawakians and Sabahans can expect many similar instances of Putrajaya’s intransigence and inflexibility before they can win back their equal status and rights.

Anwar as Port Dickson MP


September 20, 2018

 Anwar  as Port Dickson MP

Opinion  |

COMMENT | If Anwar Ibrahim does make the cut, invariably, as the Member of Parliament of Port Dickson, perhaps something akin to a healthy rivalry with Langkawi island MP Dr Mahathir Mohammad will be immediately triggered.

Key government events should be held in Langkawi, either to brainstorm on the revival of Malaysia, or, the various ministries. Such events are bound to catch on in Port Dickson, too, which is just a short distance away from Putrajaya.

Image result for Langkawi

Indeed, high-end hotels, over the last 15 years, have also sprung up on Langkawi island (pic above), including the globally renowned Four Seasons. From time to time, it is not rare to see Indian families touring in huge numbers in Langkawi, too, often booking all their suites and rooms at one go.

Although Langkawi has also catered to the tourists of Scandinavia and Germany, who can often be seen basking in the sun, no discernible (foreign) presence has been seen at Port Dickson’s beaches as yet.

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Port Dickson Chalets

This is where Port Dickson has to stand out. Making its seas and shorelines pristine would make Port Dickson an ideal destination for families and international group tours beyond what has generally been provided to Malaysians.

If Anwar Ibrahim does somehow attract more Chinese to the beach town, the facilities in Port Dickson would have to be significantly scaled up – without which, the residents of Port Dickson would be looking at immense traffic bottlenecks and congestion.

Such negative externalities of tourism cannot be ruled completely. Polluted air, crowded bazaars, shortage of proper food and medical facilities, too, can all be a turn off to well-heeled Malaysian tourists.

In fact, without an iconic landmark, Port Dickson would be at a disadvantage, compared to Langkawi island. Langkawi, for example, hosts one of the longest cable cars in Southeast Asia that allows thousands of tourists to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the whole island.

Port Dickson, being flatter, is only known for its small-town feel and delicious local food. Perhaps a high tower should be built that would permit Port Dickson visitors to peer into the Straits of Malacca, and the thousands of ships that pass through it. It would seem that such a service should be introduced, in order to allow Malaysians to take a peek into what goes on in one of the busiest straits in the world.

The depths of the quays in Port Dickson should be constantly dredged and deepened, to allow bigger ships and vessels to berth, ideally ships that can ferry passengers across to Sumatera, Indonesia, which is just across the shores of Malaysia.

Image result for mahathir vs anwar ibrahim

To be sure, friendly ecological themes have to be worked into the grand schemes for all arrangements. Otherwise, a tourism scheme that is merely heavy on sheer human traffic alone is bound to create many side effects, beyond overcrowding, noise pollution, and inadequate waste disposal.

Either way, it is first time in the history of Malaysia that a reigning Prime Minister is an MP of a touristy constituency, indeed a tax-free zone to boot, which is Langkawi island. Should Anwar win the Port Dickson seat, the eighth prime minister of Malaysia would have to transform Port Dickson into a major township.

Port Klang was previously known as Port Swettenham, in recognition of the tenure of Resident Frank Swettenham in the 19th century. Over the years, Port Klang has morphed into a seafood attraction and high-density port.

No one knows if Port Dickson can become the hub of “bunkering,” a business that caters to refueling the ships and vessels that traverse through the Straits of Malacca.

If it does, this is an economic sector that is worth no less than US$1 billion a year. At least that is the current size of the bunkering business in Singapore, an idea that was ironically coined by Dr Mahathir previously.

It would help if Anwar Ibrahim could come up with such an industry-relevant solution, beyond merely looking to boost tourist numbers in Port Dickson.


PHAR KIM BENG was a multiple award-winning Head Teaching Fellow on China and Cultural Revolution in Harvard University.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.