“Inspiration lurks around every corner”

November 17, 2016

“Inspiration lurks around every corner”

By Ooi Kee Beng

Image result for michelangelo paintings--inspiration

One of the first things that any undergraduate learns is that when writing a scientific text, he or she must provide references. In fact, without such references, a text is not considered scientific.

This referencing behaviour is meant to show that the student has been reading the correct material; and that he has been digesting the words so thoroughly that he can now include the thoughts in his own writing. Now, what a Malaysian student will end up doing is provide references to books and articles written by professors based in faraway universities and colleges.

Image result for Dr Ooi Kee Beng

Dr. Ooi Kee Beng, ISEAS (Yusuf Ishak Institute, Singapore

My argument is not with this jarring asymmetry in global knowledge. It has always been the case in human history that in every period of time, knowledge is concentrated and generated at certain centres much more than at others. At the moment, much first appears in the English language and in countries using that language. What’s more, the spread of new knowledge is also strongly overseen by a global network based on that language.

Sanskrit, Latin and Chinese, among others, have played that role before. But none has the global reach and the amazing speed and width of dissemination that English today commands. The soft power that America enjoys today – and no other culture comes close to the reach of its soft power – is not merely of its own doing; it rides on the back of hundreds of years of English imperial strength and colonial mastery, during which the English language and its cultural preconditions penetrated the farthest reaches of the world.

My concern is with a serious side effect of the sharp imbalance in knowledge generation in our times. What happens is that people outside the English-speaking world are left nursing a lack of confidence, not only in themselves but also in those in close proximity to them. Their behaviour where the transfer and generation of knowledge are concerned becomes rather warped.

In writing a scientific text, for example, it is much more probable than not that a Third World person will refer an idea or train of thought to a known person from a distant land even when that idea may have come to him through some other more immediate and personal channel. This is because he had learned to assume that he gains more points among his peers by referring to the politically and academically correct person; and that his own ideas are merely approximations of that bigger idea expressed better by others.

But if we contemplate the matter and observe what actually happens in our daily life, we should realise that inspiration comes most of the time from proximate impulses and from individuals in our surrounding.

Given the habit of referring distantly, the chances of us giving credit to those around us are also diminished, and complimenting things and people in our immediate surrounding – for referencing someone is indeed a high form of compliment – is rendered suspect.

The competition among students and scholars of showing that they know something that their peers have as yet not gotten around to knowing cultivates in them the tendency to be stingy with praise and to be secretive about their immediate sources of inspiration.

This is an impoverishment of the soul and of our culture; where we withhold praise and admiration from those close to us and give generously of the same to distant and often dead persons.

Note that I am merely using academic referencing to initiate a debate on a more general matter. In my experience, inspiration can come from anywhere at any time, but if I were to inform people around me of personal epiphanies, I would not get as good a hearing as I would if I referred whatever idea I just had to some distant knowledge authority.

Perhaps this explains why prophets always come from distant lands speaking exotic languages; and sometimes bearing superior arms. Those who dare to be prophets in their homeland are forced to flee into exile or are crucified in one way or another.

Catholic hymns are sung in Latin, Japanese Buddhists chant in Chinese, and Muslim thoughts are preferred in Arabic. In the secular sphere, Coolness wears an American accent. Indeed, we seem tobe talking here about something generically human.

We tend not to join clubs that will accept us as members. Since you know me, you cannot possibly be a significant person. But I am being far too categorical here; I am not being generous. Come to think of it, there are two ideal types of people. There are those who cannot imagine that people they come into contact with can be important; and then there are those who treat all coming into their orbit as meaningful and significant. Most of us are sometimes the one, and sometimes the other.

My basic point is that, epiphanies are always waiting to happen and inspiration can come to us at any time and place. We just have to let this take place by not imagining that profundity dwells far away, and are foreign to us.

We just have to realise instead that inspiration lurks around every corner, and is present at every meeting.

This article is republished in Merdeka for the Mind: Essays  on Malaysian Struggles in the 21st Century by Dr Ooi Kee Beng (Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Centre, 2015). pp 9-11.



Can there ever be Justice without Ethics and Conscience?

December 10, 2015

Can there ever be Justice without Ethics and Conscience

by Syed Ahmad Idid

(edited for the purpose of the blog)

MAC Foundation

syed ahmad idid

Former Judge of the Malaysian High Court, Dato’ Syed Ahmad  Idid delivered this speech at the International Conference on “Putting Ethics to Work in Business and Government” at the Pullman Hotel,  Kuala Lumpur organised by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Foundation on December  1o, 2015.

I want to take this opportunity to bring back the good old corruption-free days and when crimes were few. During those times greed and riches played small parts in the lives of society. Ethics ruled human relationships. Families were concerned with their reputation (“mereka berasa malu nak buat salah”) and so took care to avoid committing crimes.

Today the very rich hold power and power seems to save them from criminal prosecutions. They have security guards to protect them and their chosen ones. It does not matter how their wealth was accumulated.

Those without much (and these comprise about 95% of the population) pay respect or “kow-tow” to them (“the filthy rich”) anyway.

Derrick A Bell : “We live in a system that espouses merit, equality and a level playing field but exalts those with wealth, power and celebrity, however gained”.

I am mindful of the theme of this conference: “To put Ethics to work in Business and Government”. The bigger picture is to support our nation by nurturing our young into becoming decent human beings and steadfast crime-fighters.

Against that background I hope to illustrate some colourful truths which should answer the question: Can there be justice without ethics and conscience?

I shall offer statements. I shall leave the discussion of their impact and worth to each of you. I am given to understand that you are well versed in Anti-Corruption, its implications and importance. Furthermore you are here to yet again make a resolution to get rid of corruption, bring in people of integrity and try to integrate justice in the administration by way of infusing ethics and conscience.


Malaysian Anti-Corruption Foundation

Since I confine my presentation to Ethics and Conscience, I like what Aristotle said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. You will also accept that “education is not only what the teachers teach you but what you learn”. (from my old Ibrahim School Sg. Petani.)

I realise that I need about four to five hours to put across to you the substance of our topic. But in view of the shortage of time, there being several other foreign guest speakers, I shall touch principally on the salient points. I have a paper (for distribution) which provides the authority for my statements, guidance to the articles and books and contact details. There are references in support of our discussion. I hope there will be sufficient copies for most of you.

Let us start with:


Everyone here understands what ethics mean. That is a reasonable assumption.

You may have read JM Pollock’s “Ethical Dilemmas And Decisions in Criminal Justice”. Ethics can change colours from time to time. In the old days, the hosts would receive guests at the entrance. Today guests attend dinners or other functions but are then told to stand up when the hosts arrive.

Was it not Larry Niven who said: “Ethics change with technology”? Can this be true?

I merely mention here the two main theories of ethics: the Utilitarianism or teleological vs the Rules and Duty or Deontology. “Ethical Challenges within Westminster Parliamentary Systems – including focus on Funding of Political Parties” was discussed this morning.

I am pleased to receive four copies of the booklet “Reforms for transparent and accountable political funding in Malaysia” from Datin Azimah Rahim (Chairman of PAGE). I shall pass these to the MACF Organisers for MACC and the library. We, in G25, had prepared it for general release.

“Ethical Challenges within Westminster Parliamentary Systems – including focus on Funding of Political Parties” was discussed this morning. I am pleased to receive four copies of the booklet “Reforms for transparent and accountable political funding in Malaysia” from Datin Azimah Rahim (Chairman of PAGE). I shall pass these to the MACF Organisers for MACC and the library. We, in G25, had prepared it for general release.

There will be “food for thought Dinner” address on “Ethical Corrosion: Our Collective Culpability” . All of us will have to accept our punishment!

Then the conference has two sessions on Integrity (Party Political Reform: Strengthening Integrity Systems and Pinstripe Mafia ). I mention this because integrity, encompassing moral uprightness, is the other dress for ethical people.

Did Warren Buffet say, when choosing persons to work under him, “Look for three things in a person: intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two”. For the Banking/Finance sector, we must have people who are educated, industrious and of probity. It goes without saying that in both sets of qualities, ethics are present and none of these people commit crimes.

Jeffrey M Shaman, Director of the Centre for Judicial Conduct, wrote “Judicial Ethics” to publicise the powers of judges in society. You have attended “The Role of the Judiciary in a Democracy” this morning.

Josephson’s Institute of Ethics describe six distinct Core Values as forming Ethics. I believe you know each of those values. That is why you are here today. I do not need to remind you of the absence or lack of ethics on the part of such companies as Shell, Nike, British American Tobacco and other big corporations. In the case of the HSBC, Stuart Gulliver revealed that “several senior people had been removed for “values breaches”. Here, once more, you see Ethics coming in to aid the nurturing of justice for the customers and share-holders.

HSBC’s cases concerning (a) an ex-staff Faciani who revealed tax evading account holders including those thousands in India, and (b) Everett Stern who revealed about Middle Eastern account holders appear to go awry. In (a) Faciani was sentenced to five years while in (b) HSBC had to pay a fine of US$1.92 billion. In both cases the business appeared to have disregarded ethics or some form of remorse.

Another glaring case would be the deadly ignition switch defect in GM. The National Legal and Policy Centre asked: “Will criminal charges bring Justice for GM Victims?” The Centre promotes Ethics in Public Life. It helps us to answer the question “Can there ever be justice without ethics?”


Merriam Webster: “Conscience – that part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong” or “a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong”. Henry Fielding: “Conscience is the only incorruptible thing about us”.

Mahatma Gandhi: “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the Court of Conscience. It supersedes all other courts.” Stokely Carmichael: “There is a higher law than the law of Government. This is the law of conscience”.

“As sober as a judge”.. Justice Howard T Markey said:” Whether pre-schooling in judicial ethics is instituted or some other means is adopted to facilitate the efforts of judges to earn respect, I look forward to the day when the popular expression will be a new and widely recognized truism “As ethical as a Judge”.

Is conscience innate? Or genetically determined or something parents instil in us? The American Philosophical Quarterly decided conscience assists in distinguishing right from wrong.

Muhammad ibn Zakariya Al-Razi argued that there is close relationship between conscience and spiritual integrity.

You will agree that nowadays only very few people have “clear conscience”. You wonder: how can groups of ordinary mortals, say in the Armed Forces or Security, kill innocent people? Where is their conscience? My Lai in Vietnam (March 16, 1968 whole village gunned down), Srebrenica in Kosovo: the Mostly Orthodox Serbs killed more than 7000 unarmed Muslims? The Nazis: Hitler’s activities in 2nd WW. The Communists in China (1949-1987 – 40 million killed); 1975-1999 the Khmer Rouge killed two million in Cambodia. The Tamil Tigers/LTTE evicted and killed Muslims and Christians in the Sri Lanka’s Northern Province in 1990. There was Rwanda 1994 (Hutus killed Tutsis) and DR (Democratic Republic of) Congo where Government and their agencies eliminated those who opposed them.

The only reason I have included this is that conscience and ethics are not confined to the businesses and within money circles. We must extend our “corruption” (this, I am informed, is the main push of our discussions) to include corruption of the spirit, the souls and the minds.

And to end this quickly, you will want to visit the Santa Clara University at their Markula Center for Applied Ethics where they published an article discussing the Milgram Experiment. This experiment found that:” most people will obey external authority over the dictates of conscience”.

I like to think that more people should be taught morality, Godliness and the Life hereafter. They ought to be exposed to discussions that uprightness and ethics are more important than obeying bad orders. Such classes will prick their conscience and will buttress them against the evil intentions that create injustice.

Justice: ( cf: Maqasid Al Shariah)

Many here also understand what justice is and more of you expect what justice should be. Walt Whitman observed that “Great is justice. Justice is not settled by legislation and laws; it is in the soul.”

“For me, justice is the first condition of humanity” so stated Wole Siyingka in his Book “The Man died – Prison Notes (1972)”.

Taking from what Lord Hewart had said, I am inviting you to open your minds far beyond criminal justice. While “justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” is acceptable, I urge all – both custodians of the holy courts and officials administering justice and others including the ordinary folks – to ensure every criminal is appropriately dealt with.

Those who have not committed any offence and suspects against whom the investigators cannot get sufficient evidence should never be charged in the courts . They will ultimately go free, thanks to brave, impartial and independent judges. But that is not the justice our religion and nation want. These innocent souls suffer. In the meantime they have to spend money which they can ill afford on legal defence, their families placed under stress. They are ostracised by people whom they thought were friends and neighbours. Their reputation is sullied and they can never recover. We must never reduce the dignity of any human being.

Why do I add this? Simply because I need you to re-think on the dangers that persons with no conscience and are unethical can suppress justice. They misuse their powers for self or politics. They have no compassion for people: foreigners and citizens. They do not do justice for the country. They bring disgrace to the country.

And there you are … you have answered one part of the question!

Criminal Systems:

I think the topic was meant to be on “Criminal Justice Systems ”. But I like to go on a bit with criminal systems as this gives us an overview of both sides of the divide : the criminals vs the G -men.

We are in this international conference and so we can go back briefly to the bad days when criminals ruled several countries. Let your minds wander to the actions of the Mafia (who controlled everything from street corner drug trade to the highest levels of Government.), the Tongs (principally in North Americas, but not so organised as the Hong Kong triads or the Yakuza in Japan), the Triad Societies . All were into illicit activities for monetary gain. Those carrying on such crimes are also for the cash. To them violence and killings were collateral.

Those keen to do research on the Triad societies (Kongsi Gelap or Dark Partnerships) in Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak can get police papers on these. Most of the gangs have numbers like 04, 08, double 7, 18, 21, 24, 30, 36 and 38 plus Gee Ah Eng, Loh Kuan, Wah Kee, Sio Sam Ong. Sabah has ATAP, Otai and Borneo Red EMP while Sarawak has Ah Ngau, Batu 10, Sibu T, Pintu Merah and Krokop. There are a dozen others.

Among the audience must be Astro viewers who keep track of the activities of “kongsi gelap” (gangsters) whose leaders were invited to work as police inspectors. I refer to the On-Demand movie: Lord of Shanghai.

Secret societies too have a system quite akin to Government bureaucracy and hierarchy. They have their Commanders or Chiefs, their lieutenants, their running-dogs, macai and “Special Branch” to snoop out those who may try to cause trouble to them.

On this scale, it is quite apparent that such a system cannot produce ethical members or anyone with a conscience. With a stroke of the pen, we can assert that their activities cannot deserve mercy. But even here we must maintain our integrity and do what God decrees in our conscience. When these bad hats are produced in courts, we must still ensure they get the justice they deserve.

Why? Simply because we are people who treasure ethics and we have conscience. So we must not go low to their level to strike at them as if we are no longer humans.

I was glad to meet Dr Anis Yusal Yusoff (President & Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity) at the G25-IDEAS Lecture by Dr Razeen Sally and Tan Sri Rebecca Sta Maria (Secretary- General of MITI) on December 3. Dr Anis is knowledgeable on the threat against good governance and injustices.

Detection and Enforcement are essential.

In every criminal justice system, detection of the criminals is first priority. This can come via information or monitoring/enforcement. Criminals kill those who inform on them. Numerous large crimes have been uncovered and the criminals brought to justice. Here we can safely say that the criminals are not ethical and they have no conscience. How could they cheat the people or organisations they were salaried to protect?

But when they are charged, our community or country metes out justice by way of their convictions and punishments. This must be according to the law. Hence enforcement is key to the justice system.

Whistle-blowing is the latest trend in cleaning up corporate crimes and corruption in Government. We can call it “the flavour of the century”. In late 2014, the US Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it paid out an award of between US$30 million and $35 million dollars to an ex-whistle-blower residing overseas. In October 2013 the SEC paid US$14.7 million to one whistle-blower and paid others in millions too.

On  November 4, this year (a month ago!) the SEC reduced the amount of whistle-blower award to US$354,000. The policy to pay high awards has not changed. The reduction was due to the whistle-blower’s delay in providing the information. He supplied the information after he had left the firm.

From these instances, we can understand and accept that information against crimes/criminals is top priority and crucial to bring justice in our nation. There must be true political will. The leaders must be ethical, have conscience and believe in Allah(God). We therefore cannot publicise, as occurred in a country of the Evil , where their Police “cracks down on whistle-blowers”. If that occurs, then that country is going down the drain. The True Ulama (Religious) Leaders can add that “the ways to hell include injuring both justice and those who are ethical. Others who are involved in corruption and judges who fail to give sound judgments will go down too”.

Those in positions of power actually hold heavy responsibilities. They are expected to perform their duties in the best traditions of (Integrity) Ethics and in accordance with the urgings of their true conscience.

A thought or view. (Using the mind or the eyes?)

We are filled with “anti-this” and “anti-that”. You know of anti-body and anti-pods or something that is exact opposite. We hear of anti-War and yet war rages on. We now have anti-terrorism. Terrorism continues. We have anti-piracy and piracy (at sea and on land) go on almost daily. So I think we should institute a body which can be effective .The body must be told what exactly we want it to achieve . We can call it the National Commission (to) Eradicate /Eliminate Corruption (in short: NCEC or MCEC if you insist on Malaysia!).

What is the loud and true answer?

There can be justice for victims of fraud and those who suffer by the hands of criminals if those who enforce the law and are entrusted to keep the citizens safe and secure are genuinely persons of integrity, are clearly ethical and possess conscience beyond doubts. They bring the criminals and the corrupt to justice.

Management gurus teach us Vision, Mission and (my own addition) Incision . And our Mission must not just be “anti-“. We must achieve something concrete and discernible to the public – not just “neutralise” but must eliminate or eradicate corruption. That, I put it to you, will surely place our nation on a higher moral or ethical plane.


Can there ever be justice without ethics and conscience? Many will say “No.” A few , meekly, will say “yes, maybe.” Can you live in a country devoid of ethics and conscience?

Special Event at University of Cambodia

October 13, 2015

Special Event at University of Cambodia–Honouring Dr. Philipp Rosler, Managing Director, World Economic Forum

UC Philipp RoslerThe University of Cambodia is pleased to announce that we are holding a Special Honorary Doctorate Conferment Ceremony on October 19, 2015 at 6pm at SEATV Studio. We will honor Dr. Philipp Rosler, Managing Director, World Economic Forum with an Honorary Doctorate Degree in International Relations. Dr. Rosler will deliver a keynote address.

Benefactors, Alumni, Friends and Associates of the University of Cambodia are welcome. In order to assist us in our planning for the event, please contact us to register at:

The University of Cambodia

Northbridge Road 
P.O. Box 917 
Sangkat Toek Thla, Khan Sen Sok
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia 12000
Telephone: (855-23) 993-274; 993-275; 993-276
Fax: (855-23) 993-284
E-mails: info@uc.edu.kh; admissions@uc.edu.kh

On Dr. Philipp Rosler


Philipp Rosler

Dr. Philipp Rosler was born in Khang Hung, Soc Trang Province, Vietnam on February 24, 1973. He was adopted by a German couple and brought to Germany at the age of 9 months and was raised by his adoptive father, a career military officer. He lived in Hamburg, Buckeburg and Hanover where he graduated from High School. After training to become a combat medic in the German Defence Force (Bundeswehr), he was accepted to study medicine at Hanover Medical School.

Upon completion of his studies, he continued his education at an Army Hospital in Hamburg. In 2002 he earned his Doctorate in Cardio-Thoracic-Vascular Surgery and left the Army with the rank of Captain (Stabsarzt) in 2003.

Dr Rosler joined the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and its political youth organization, The Young Liberals. He was secretary of the FDP in Lower Saxony from 2000 to 2004 and served as Chairman of the FDP parliamentary group in the Lower Saxon state assembly from 2003.

From 2001-2006, Dr. Rosler was a member in the regional assembly of Hanover, where he was also Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary group. In 2006, at the state party conference in March, he was elected Chairman of the Lower Saxon FDP . Two years later, Dr. Rosler was confirmed as the Lower Saxon Party Chairman. In 2007, he was re-elected at federal FDP conference, he elected as a member of the party’s executive committee, and in 2008 , Dr. Rosler was made Minister for Economy, Labour and Transport and Deputy Prime Minister of the State of Lower Saxony.

After 2009 German Elections, Dr. Rosler joined Chancellor Angela Merkal’s second cabinet, succeeding Ulla Schmidt as Federal Minister of Health. In this capacity, he proved his mettle by engaging in important issues in the German Healthcare system.

Dr. Rosler continued his meteoric rise in politics. In 2011 he succeeded Rainer Bruderle as Federal Minister of Economics and Technology (May 12) and took over the Chairmanship of his party, Free Democratic Party from Guido Westerwelle (May 13) and became Vice-Chancellor of Germany on May 16, 2011. In his capacity as Minister of Economy and Technology, he played a key strategic role in Angela Merkel’s cabinet, driving forward Germany’s economic agenda.

In 2013, Dr Rosler joined the World Economic Forum (WEF) as Managing Director and Member of its Managing Board, bringing his strong experience in politics, economics and health care to this Davos-based organization.He was Chairman, Board of Trustees, Robert Enke Foundation (2010-2014), Board Member of ZDF Television Board (2012-2013) and a Member of the General Conference of the Central Committee of German Catholics. He is married to a physician Dr. Wiebke Kosler since 2003 and they have twin girls. Grietje and Gesche, born in 2008.

Obama’s Heavy Bet turns sour–Najib Razak is a Racist

September 20, 2015

Obama’s Heavy Bet turns sour–Najib Razak is a Racist

Najib and Obama

THE OBAMA administration has made a heavy bet on the Malaysian government of Najib Razak, whose majority Muslim nation collaborates on several key U.S. national security initiatives: counterterrorism, counterproliferation and balancing against China’s regional ambitions. In December, President Obama invited Mr. Najib to a round of golf during his Hawaiian vacation, a rare show of friendship for a foreign leader.

Since then, however, Mr. Najib has been evolving into an increasingly unseemly pal. In February, the country’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was imprisoned on blatantly trumped-up charges, just under a year after the coalition Mr. Anwar led won the popular vote in national elections. That was the tip of a broader campaign to suppress the opposition; key leaders were indicted under a sedition law that Mr. Najib once promised to repeal, and a leading cartoonist was prosecuted for tweets. Mr. Anwar’s daughter, parliament member Nurul Izzah Anwar, was recently told she was being investigated under an anti-terrorism law.

Nurul Izzah Anwar MPNurul Izzah, MP

Then came the news that close to $700 million had been transferred to personal bank accounts of Mr. Najib before the 2013 election. The Wall Street Journal reported in July that Malaysian investigators believed the money came from companies linked to a troubled state investment fund headed by the prime minister. Mr. Najib responded with a brazen crackdown on those investigating the fund, firing a deputy prime minister and the attorney general and gutting a parliamentary investigative committee. Two newspapers that had been pursuing the scandal were shut down. When the opposition organized a massive protest demonstration last month, authorities banned the movement’s signature yellow color.

Mr. Najib once positioned himself as a reformer who would lead a quasi-authoritarian state to genuine democracy. Now he is trying to consolidate his position by appealing to the worst currents in Malaysian politics: ethnic chauvinism and Islamic fundamentalism. In answer to the opposition, the ruling party, which relies on support from the majority Malay population, staged its own rally in which senior officials crudely attacked the Chinese and Indian minorities. Mr. Najib is meanwhile toying with the idea of allowing Islamic sharia law to be imposed in one province, a key goal of Malaysia’s fundamentalists.

In a visit to Kuala Lumpur last month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said he had “raised concerns” with Mr. Najib about freedom of expression and Mr. Anwar’s imprisonment. But mostly the Obama administration is sticking with the sullied prime minister. In July, the State Department delivered a questionable promotion to Malaysia in its human trafficking ratings; Mr. Obama is still scheduled to visit Malaysia for an Asian summit in November. The administration appears to be counting on Mr. Najib to deliver Malaysia’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Asian free trade deal that Mr. Obama hopes to make part of his legacy.

Nevertheless Ms. Nurul, who visited Washington this week, had a good question for the administration officials she met: “For all that you are investing in Malaysia, are you getting your money’s worth?” Mr. Najib may cooperate with U.S. intelligence agencies and the trade representative, but his repression and pandering to racists and Muslim extremists risks destroying the foundations of the alliance. The next time Mr. Obama meets his golfing buddy, he ought to make that clear.–The Washington Post Editorial

The Racist NaibReformer or Racist?

Jebatmustdie–Najib can kiss Goodbye to Global Movement of Moderates


After the Prime Minister ditched moderation in his leadership by supporting the racially charged ‘Malay Red Rally’ last Wednesday, he can kiss goodbye to his Global Movement of Moderates. No wonder an MP has called the Prime Minister a hypocrite and a phony.

Dato Jamal Md Yunos,Racist Ikan Bakar Million Ringgit Man

His own division leader, that uninspiring Jamal Yunos of Sungai Besar sees nothing wrong with UMNO members hurling insults such as ‘cina babi’ towards members of the press.

With this kind of loyal yet stupid sycophants propping up Najib Razak’s image, it is no longer a surprise that his leadership is getting rather strenuous and desperate. Not to mention having zero credibility in the eyes of both domestic and international masses.

This kind of unethical leadership, bordering on the belligerent, has rubbed of 1MDB in their business dealings. For the past week, the Wall Street Journal has written two serious exposés on missing billions. The first is a missing USD1.4 billion which was supposedly remitted by 1MDB to IPIC for collateral over the now abandoned power plant partnership between them.

The second was today when it is revealed that another USD993 million was not received by IPIC when 1MDB presumably had paid them in November 2014.

1MDB’s immediate reaction is to criticise WSJ for using confidential information, and for using unidentified sources as informants and also to stand by its audited accounts.

To attack WSJ for using confidential is rather stupid since this strengthen their story that all the information received were indeed credible.To use WSJ’s unidentified sources against them is unwise too since some ministers who had attacked WSJ using the same argument when news of billions went into the Prime Minister’s accounts were proven true. WSJ had provided verified documents as evidence and this had left those sycophantic ministers humiliated and exposed them as nothing more than a mindless stooge of the Prime Minister.

And to say that 1MDB stood by Deloitte’s audit report can be pointless against the allegations since Deloitte could not confirm whether IPIC did receive the amount. Deloitte indeed did not audit IPIC financial accounts.

What they could only do is to send an intercompany confirmation of balances (in the case of debtors or creditors). If the third party company did not return the confirmation form to Deloitte, there is nothing they can do to confirm if the amount tallies or existed.

If the confirmation is pending or left unanswered right before the auditor signed off the accounts, they will only insert this as a note in the audit findings report. Audit findings report is a list of accounting violations or failure in internal controls which are submitted to management of a company. It is not a publicly available report such as the final audit report meant for shareholders and public.

To digress, usually the auditor handling all these inter company confirmations is a junior auditor. At most a senior audit executive. He then will report to the audit field supervisor or a senior in charge, who in turn, reports to an audit manager. An audit manager, will have to sweat through the ordeal of submitting his team audit to the audit partner – the one ultimately signing off the audit report.

Therefore, to say that Deloitte’s audit report is 100% following audit methodology and should be 100% free of fraud is a misdirection altogether.

What 1MDB should have done is to get their former business partner to issue a statement of denial. Is it so difficult for IPIC to issue such statement? To deny altogether what WSJ had published. To clearly show that indeed they have received a total of USD2.4 billions (USD1.4B + USD1B) and it is all recorded in their financial statements.

But IPIC itself under internal investigation of their own. The bosses highly associated with 1MDB, Khadem al Qubassi and Mohamed al Husseiny were removed in April and August respectively.

To cap off this debacle, WSJ had also revealed that Deloitte will not sign 1MDB audit report unless someone would have guaranteed the USD2.32 billion worth of ‘investment’ in the Cayman Islands. These investments were indeed worthless which in they end, on top of needed to be guaranteed, they were also classified as third tier assets in 1MDB’s 2014 accounts.

Enter IPIC, the ever willing partner to the rescue. Otherwise there will be a huge hole in the 1MDB accounts. We wonder what is the price for getting IPIC to guarantee such amount.

That USD2.32 billion could not stand on their own as Deloitte had some problem ascertaining their real value. Furthermore, it is not in the form of cash. The previous auditor, KPMG was sacked precisely because they refuse to sign the accounts over this matter.

The initial amount of money had disappeared during the PetroSaudi – 1MDB joint venture which was terminated in 2010. It was initially a USD1.83 billion of cash which was pumped into PetroSaudi for a period of two years since 2009 under the pretext of loans to PetroSaudi.

This money changed in nature many times and revalued upwards between themselves to the final amount of USD2.32 billion. Ultimately, even the Finance Minister 2 could not answer properly what is the nature of this investment.

In total, there are USD4.23 billion (USD1.83B + USD1.4B + USD1B) suspiciously missing at the moment, amounting to approximately RM16 billion of Malaysian money.

Arul, Lodin and NajibLodin: Where Are You and Your Directors?

We are now getting bits and pieces of information regarding the RM42 billion of loans unaccounted for. And it is sad that the truth came about from third-party and documents from suppressed investigations. We wonder what information the public could have gotten if the investigation teams were not dismantled.Will somebody stand up and be responsible for this financial fiasco?

Human Rights for Foxes and Hedgehogs

June 25, 2015

Human Rights for Foxes and Hedgehogs

by Professor Dr.Antoine Buyse


AntoineBuyseOratie150There are two kinds of thinkers, according to the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin: hedgehogs and foxes.

2. Hedgehogs are those people who try to incorporate everything in the world into one single vision or over-arching truth. By contrast, foxes are people who draw on a wide range of observations, ideas and perspectives. Their thoughts are manifold and they do not try and squeeze reality into one straightjacket. Put in scientific terms: foxes easily jump from one paradigm to another without asserting that any of them represents the final truth. Berlin developed this metaphor by building on a line from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus which runs as follows: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

3. Dante Alighieri, Plato, and Proust are, in Berlin’s view hedgehogs. Aristotle, Montaigne and James Joyce are foxes. Berlin, in his essay The Hedgehog and the Fox, specifically applied the metaphor to the famous Russian novelist Lev Tolstoy, author of the great 19th century novel War and Peace. Tolstoy was, to Berlin, the prime example of a fox who desperately tried to be a hedgehog.

So, you may wonder by now, what does this have to do with human rights? Let me assure you that you have not stepped into a lecture on Greek or Russian literature. Neither will this be a talk about animal rights. Rather, what I propose to do today is to use this metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog to look at the current state of human rights in the world and more specifically, to look at those who study human rights: that strange little tribe called academics.

I will do so by addressing how a number of academic fields have engaged with human rights and their biggest academic support group: the human rights lawyers. I will argue that studying human rights from non-legal perspectives, from different disciplines, is key to acquiring new insights in the legal academic study of human rights. Secondly, but no less importantly, this may lead to progress in the implementation of human rights on the ground, by a better understanding of factors that contribute to or, by contrast, hinder the ways in which people can use their rights to improve their lives.

It is easy to be pessimistic about the state of human rights in the world today. Close to home in the Netherlands, cities are struggling with the legal and practical issues of giving shelter and care to irregular migrants and the decentralization of social services. Discrimination in the police forces, lack of interest for the right to a safe living environment in the earthquake prone North of the country, and an absence of basic human rights knowledge among youngsters are all challenges we face. In Europe, the coming together of the human rights systems of the European Union and the Council of Europe has endured a setback veiled in the shape of an Advisory Opinion.

4. And on a much more worrying global scale, the conflicts that rage across Syria, Iraq and Yemen have caused thousands of deaths. In 2014 war crimes were committed in at least 18 countries. The Mediterranean is turning into a blue graveyard. Freedom of expression and of the press are under pressure in Hungary, Eritrea, Venezuela, Russia and many other places. It is estimated that arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression occurred in over 75% of the world’s states last year. It led Amnesty International to conclude that 2014 was a “devastating year” and an “ultimate low point”.

5 Should we then abandon all hope, as if entering Dante’s Inferno? Well, arguably, in the longer run, the picture does not seem that bleak. The various forms of extreme violence that catch our attention in today’s news reports are not entirely representative. The psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature has argued that history shows a somewhat irregular, yet overall steady decline of violence between human beings.

6 He ascribes this decline to various civilizing and pacification processes of which one is of particular interest for us today. These are the so-called rights revolutions, as Pinker dubs them. Movements for citizens’ rights started in the eighteenth century and gained particular momentum in the second half of the twentieth century. They expanded to rights movements for women, racial and ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, disabled people, and children, and yes, even to animals. One of the key factors enabling this development is a leap of imagination and empathy: the fact that we can imagine how other humans suffer from injustice and that they are in many ways similar to ourselves. This empathy for the other, stretching far beyond people’s own circle of family and friends was nurtured, according to historian Lynn Hunt, by the novel.

7 The eighteenth century saw this new literary genre rise and spread. Novels like Pamela by Richardson and Julie by Rousseau enabled readers on a much wider scale than ever before to empathize with people who were oppressed. It is no coincidence in Hunt’s view that the first declarations of human rights, with the American and French ones as the most famous examples, were created in those very same decades that these novels were read. Although human rights were not, as the title of her book claims, invented in the eighteenth century – the idea is of course much older and the relevance in national and international politics much more recent – Hunt does bring home an important point about human rights. They are imagined. Indeed, just like the country of the Netherlands (which was imagined in this very grand hall a few centuries ago in the Union of Utrecht), but also money, or Mickey Mouse, human rights are figments of our very fertile imaginations, as another historian, Yuval Harari, has put it.

8 This very capacity to imagine things is in his view what distinguishes humans from other animals. Like humans, animals may laugh or even fool each other, but imagining non-existent things is not something a single fox or hedgehog is capable of (at least as far as we humans are aware). This skill of imagination enables us to cooperate, for good or bad, in larger groups. And these products of our imagination have very real consequences in reality – people may kill in the name of their country, buy goods across the globe with their money or build entire theme parks for their favourite cartoon character.

The leap of imagination towards human rights did not happen in one go, however, and faced several setbacks after it flourished in the Enlightenment. The nineteenth century saw a turn towards nationalism which, far into the twentieth century, remained stronger in the West than universalist ideologies, whether they were about civil and political rights or the rights of workers. No wonder then that the first large-scale international rights agreements, in the period between the two World Wars, concerned the protection of national minorities: in many ways these minorities were perceived as a country’s own nationals who had ended up in the wrong state. It was only after the Second World War that the universalist movement came back in full force, even if only for a short time, in the years of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And even then, nationalist prejudice still lingered. The most conspicuous example is that one of the people considered to become a member of the Human Rights Commission, Hersch Lauterpacht, was rejected as an option by the legal advisor of the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom. He stated, and I quote:

“Professor Lauterpacht, although a distinguished and industrious international lawyer, is, when all is said and done, a Jew fairly recently come from Vienna. Emphatically, I think that the representative of His Majesty’s Government on human rights must be a very English Englishman imbued throughout his life and hereditary to the real meaning of human rights as we understand them in this country.” End of quote

9.The drafting of the Universal Declaration itself is a telling example of both cooperation and differences of views between different disciplines. For not only politicians and lawyers were involved, as one may expect. Both philosophers and anthropologists took an interest in the genesis of this key human rights document. This involvement was closely connected with one key question: how to produce a document that truly reflected global values, that could truly be called universal? As the drafters struggled with what to put in the text and what not, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO came to the rescue. It established a Committee on the Theoretical Bases of Human Rights, consisting of mostly philosophers. This group sent out questionnaires across the globe and across cultures asking whether the norms present in human rights could also be found in their own traditions. People ranging from Mohandas Gandhi to Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, responded. To the philosophers’ delight they were able to find a range of common principles across cultures similar to many of the rights the drafters of the Universal Declaration were construing, sufficient at least to justify that a global document could be called universal. Of course, this agreement was only a common denominator and it was agreement mainly on what the norms were, not on their justification. As one philosopher on the UNESCO Committee liked to say: “Yes, we agree about the rights but on condition no one asks us why.”

10 This justification problem, although it did not prevent the creation of the Universal Declaration, has continued to haunt the international human rights movement ever since. The interest of philosophers in human rights has continued to this day, amongst others here in Utrecht by the vibrant research group of our dear colleagues of the Ethics Institute.

Another discipline also took an interest in the Universal Declaration: anthropology. In a statement sent to the Human Rights Commission in 1947, the American Anthropological Association warned that the Declaration should not become a mere reflection of the values of Western Europe and America. Since each human being was not only an island in itself, but a social being functioning in a group and in her or his own culture, a truly universal document should reflect the common elements among these cultures and not, implicitly or explicitly postulate the supremacy of one culture over another. One should, the anthropologists argued, avoid to make human rights part of “the white man’s burden” and thereby blemish it with all the problems of colonialism and imperialism. The anthropologists’ statement has later often been misread as cultural relativism, as opposed to the universality of human rights. But the anthropologists were not claiming that creating a universally valid text was impossible. Rather, they added to the concerns of the philosophers about the ‘why’ of human rights, concerns of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Not all of the norms and values about right and wrong that one may identify are shared across the globe. As the anthropologists put it, “The saint of one epoch would at a later time be confined as a man not fitted to cope with reality.”

11. And the practice or expression of common ideas widely differs across cultures. The anthropological interest in human rights did not limit itself to its cradle, the Universal Declaration. Indeed, in the past decades a large amount of research has been done into how human rights are perceived, talked about, practised and yes, even imagined.

12 Where a stubborn universalist might be a hedgehog trying to fit it all into one system, many anthropologists better resemble the foxes, being very aware of the enormous variety in human rights practice. Thus even an experience I once had in the train is an example of that practice and imagination of human rights: the old couple sitting next to me complained that they were forced to take public transport as their human right to park their car in their city of destination was not guaranteed. In more academic terms, as the anthropologist Mark Goodale put it a few years ago, the meanings of human rights “are constituted most importantly by a range of social actors (…) within the disarticulated practices of everyday life.”

13 And, one may add, anthropologists have also found their way to courtrooms of human rights litigation, and not as suspects or prosecutors, but to study the proceedings and their interaction with the social context in which these cases occur.

The rise of human rights later also spawned interest in other fields of research, from international relations to political science. The work of Risse and Sikkink on norms cascades and of Beth Simmons on how human rights are mobilized are just two of the many examples of theorizing on how both international and national rights can become a force to be reckoned with inside states.

14. As this practice grew in both democracies and countries in transition, research on human rights also increased. A search in Google Scholar shows that in 2014 alone over 45,000 books and articles mentioning the words “human rights” were uploaded.

These are staggering amounts, even for the most optimistic and voracious reader trying to stay up-to-date with the state-of-the-art on the topic.

The developments in different disciplines briefly mentioned here show that many researchers from other fields than law have shown interest in human rights. So, what about the lawyers? The rise of international human rights after World War II meant that apart from constitutional lawyers, legal researchers in the fields of international and European law started to study the issue. Later on, researchers in criminal law and private law joined them. Critical legal studies, feminist, utilitarian, marxist, and other critiques on human rights have all helped to point out and gradually decrease the blind spots of Lady Justice. These critiques have shown, for example, that the initial human rights treaties were too focused on the public rather than the private, and on, for example, torture rather than domestic violence.

Thus, human rights have increased in numbers, pervaded more fields of law, and gained traction in a large number of countries. Their understanding has increased from a negative approach to one in which positive obligations for states are prominently represented, ranging from protection against threats to life to fostering equality, as legal scholar Sandra Fredman has convincingly shown in her work.

15. This broadening of human rights has come at a price, however. The very extension of the number of rights, which we can call human rights proliferation, may have extended protection or at least attention to new groups, but it has also led to criticism that the wide scope of rights is rather a sign of inflation, detracting from a supposed traditional core group of rights which would be more important. Eric Posner, for example, in his recent book with the ominous title The Twilight of Human Rights, argues that the very multiplication of rights will lead to their demise. He contends that attaching a rights label to an increasing number of societal claims is counterproductive. According to Posner, [and I quote]

“the idea of a rigid legal framework will gradually dissolve into a soup of competing and unresolvable claims about which interests deserve human rights protection, which interests do not and how much weight should be placed on each of them.” [end of quote]

16. He contends, moreover, that many of the international human rights protection systems have remained ineffective. Along similar lines, Stephen Hopgood traces the, in his view, fatal problems facing human rights, in his The End times of Human Rights.

17. Human rights are part of the Western liberal tradition and power. The demise of that power, especially of the United States, weakens human rights. Nationalism and religion reflect a resurgence of different values and it is not just rogue states like Syria or North Korea who challenge the human rights system, but also large, emerging powers. If one would follow Posner or Hopgood, one would not even need to consult Nostradamus to believe the end is near.

Indeed power balances in the world are shifting. Indeed the United Nations human rights system is not the most effective legal system the world has ever seen. And indeed the proliferation of rights causes new dilemmas of dealing with competing claims taking the shape of human rights. International human rights are not an iron shield but rather a frail safety net that can break if stretched too far by those trying to attack it. But Posner and Hopgood miss out on a number of crucial points.

18. Even if in international relations the balance of power changes, human rights continue to make inroads in many countries, also less-liberal ones, by way of active courts and justifiability of rights, and human rights education. Even if the global human rights system is not the strongest, several regional ones are relatively effective, including the Strasbourg-Luxembourg twins here in Europe – even if they do not always acknowledge they are close family. As for the increasing number of competing claims, lawyers have long devised and are still devising new and practical ways of dealing with them. And even on those points where these critical authors are partly right about the weaknesses of human rights practice – Posner mentions the lack of empirically-informed approaches – matters should be improved not left to fade into a twilight zone. Put differently, if human rights protection systems are like an ambulance stuck on the road, we should repair the engine, not discard it. Fighting illegal and arbitrary action by states and non-state actors alike is simply too important.

19. What can academic researchers do to engage in these issues and to help and improve matters on the ground without turning into activists themselves? Mixing activism and research where one weakens the other, is indeed a perennial risk for human rights researchers. You may not be surprised that legal research infused by insights from other disciplines is what in my view is necessary. Lawyer-hedgehogs need hedgehogs from other disciplines, and a few foxes amongst themselves, to connect the lot of them. For indeed, the metaphor of the foxes and the hedgehogs of Isaiah Berlin, with which I started this lecture, cannot just be applied to literature and writers, but also to academia.

20. There are researchers who try to incorporate everything they find into one all-encompassing system. And others who apply a variety of methods to critique various models and systems, not particularly bothered by a striving for unity or coherence. This is not simply a contrast between deductive science and inductive, empirical research. Nor is fox science automatically better than hedgehog research or the other way around. Great thinkers can be found among both groups of academic animals. Rather, it has a lot to do with each researcher’s personal preferences.

The metaphor can be applied to legal thinkers too. The famous book A Theory of Justice of John Rawls is an attempt at a coherent whole and could be compared to the work of a hedgehog.

21 Michael Walzer’s Spheres of Justice was partly a reaction to the ideas of Rawls.  Walzer constantly engaged with and criticized the catch-all theories of others and argued that there are no ready-made solutions for just societies. This makes his work more that of a fox. His thinking can be read as a plea for a more complex and layered egalitarianism. Finally, Ronald Dworkin explicitly identified with one animal in his book, Justice for Hedgehogs.

22.In his work, he tried, not always successfully, to argue for a coherent notion of what human dignity would entail. What is important for law, in my view, is to supplement the almost inherent quest for coherence and system-building that lawyers display – a hedgehog endeavor – by an openness to other perspectives, insights and disciplines – to become a bit like foxes when necessary.

23.So what should happen in academia, in research? I am not arguing that other disciplines should start to show some interest for human rights. They have. Nor am I saying that lawyers should finally start going beyond black letter law. Many do, including a great number of colleagues present here today. We need both those who deepen the knowledge deep in the trenches of their specialization and those who build bridges across those very trenches. What I would say, rather, is that we should all become a bit more aware of each other’s work, the lawyers and the non-lawyers. To connect the legal study of human rights more firmly with insights and research on those same rights by other disciplines. By establishing a chair on human rights in a multidisciplinary perspective, Utrecht University shows commitment to this aim of connecting the dots. None of us should lock ourselves up in our own field like pedantic, know-it-all hedgehogs. But most of us researchers also do not have the time and means to become foxes who can easily jump from one disciplinary perspective to another – few are, in other words, like Roald Dahl’s fantastic Mr Fox. Even combining just two disciplines takes years of study. That is why we have to join forces to solve problems that cannot be tackled by one discipline alone. And we can do so through cooperation.

24. Let me give you one example from my own research on how to bring insights from other disciplines to bear on law. This concerns the issue of freedom of expression in relation to violent conflict escalation. Put differently, the question of when do words kill? Freedom of expression is, like most human rights norms, an open norm. But some norms are more open than others. What is seen as acceptable speech widely differs from one society to another and what shocks, offends, or disturbs is different for each individual. Explicit commercials, the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo, or the comments of politicians may all stay within, or cross, the limits of freedom of expression, depending on whom one asks. However, there is one almost universally accepted limitation to free speech and that is speech that incites to or otherwise causes violence. This rarely concerns instances in which someone literally gives orders to shoot, as a commanding officer would shout to a soldier. Most situations do not lead to an easy ‘I know it when I see it’. After all, the links between a specific speech on television, a cartoon in a newspaper, or a radio broadcast on the one hand and the escalation of violence between groups on the other are not always as self-evident as during the Rwandan genocide.

25. Yet, freedom of expression cases in relation to violence do reach courts and are subject to legislation and policy-making. Moreover, most judges may believe that they need to call in an expert when they are dealing with a medical case, but they often see freedom of expression cases as falling within their own area of expertise. A consequence of this has been a somewhat misguided emphasis on utterances of hatred as somehow leading up to violence. It is no coincidence that the legal notion of hate speech has become used so much in the past decades. But is that truly the key to correctly assessing such matters? And if we accept that context somehow matters, which context should judges and policymakers consider?

26. It is here that the open norm of freedom of expression needs some fleshing out, aided by insights from a field in which the escalation of violence has been a core theme of research: conflict studies. As I have argued in my research over the last few years, these insights may contribute to better legal and political decision-making in three different ways.

27. First, conflict researchers have shown that in many violent conflicts between groups, instilling fear, especially a fear of being lethally attacked, has been found to be an important factor in the process leading to violence. Such fear may lead to the acceptance of the use of violence as a legitimate means to solve a perceived inter-group problem.

28. Thus what I have dubbed “fear speech,” expressions aimed at instilling (existential) fear of another group, rather than “hate speech” may be more relevant when assessing violent conflict escalation. Hatred is not irrelevant, but it is not as such the triggering factor. The emphasis of lawyers, including human rights lawyers, on hate speech may thus be an example of looking for a solution to a legal problem in the wrong direction. Secondly, context matters. This is not something lawyers would deny, but they would have to concede that it is not always easy to identify which factors are relevant. In a human rights test of free expression, contextual factors mostly appear in the third leg of the three-pronged test of limitations, as for example in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the test of necessity in a democratic society. It may be clear to anyone that if someone outside on the Dom Square calls for the extinction of all blue-eyed people in Utrecht, it may have little effect. A similar call to violence against religious minorities may, by contrast, be very effective in the midst of a town square in Syria or Iraq today. Again, insights from conflict studies may help to see which factors – the position of the speaker, the medium used, or the exact wording chosen – are truly relevant. Again, a judge may or may not look at the relevant factors. Thirdly, we know that a very good indication for the outbreak of violence is recent earlier violence. While this fact in itself is not very helpful, it does become a tool for analysis if we use framing theory to look at this earlier violence.

29. For indeed, the way in which an earlier incident of violence is framed in the media or through gossip – as an instance of thug violence or as an attack of one ethnic group on another – may pave the way respectively for law enforcement or violent conflict. The chosen wording or imagery in an expression is thus important, as it may explain, justify or motivate violence. Framing theory insights provide useful tools of analysis here.

What this single example of freedom of expression and violence shows is that legal scholarship and practice may be usefully assisted by insights from other bodies of knowledge, if translated and handled with care.

In conclusion, what I propose to do in my own research in the coming years is to try and build and extend the bridges to other disciplines. The example of fear speech is an illustration of this. In this way, I will try to be a fox, bringing in different perspectives whenever that can enrich and further our legal understanding of human rights. On the other hand, part of my work will also remain very much that of the hedgehog looking for consistency of the system, in the more positivist, legal study of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights treaties. Never the twain shall meet? Well, maybe hedgehogs and foxes at times can. Just like Tolstoy was a fox desperately trying to be a hedgehog.

And finally, each of you may now start to wonder whether you are yourself more of a fox or a hedgehog.