1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir


June 21, 2018

1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir 

 

As prime suspect – and defeated Prime Minister – Najib Razak holidays in Langkawi, Malaysia’s new leader says it is better to build an indisputable case than be swayed by populist sentiment into hasty action.

By Zuraidah Ibrahim/ Bhavan Jaipragas

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2151474/1mdb-probe-needs-time-be-watertight-malaysias-mahathir-calls-cool

The Malaysian government is taking time to build a watertight case in the 1MDB financial scandal and not be swayed by populist sentiment, according to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib Razak: prime suspect in the 1MDB financial scandal. Photo: Xinhua

His predecessor Najib Razak is the prime suspect under investigation and has been banned from leaving the country. This week, Najib’s decision to go on holiday to the resort island of Langkawi – which coincidentally is the parliamentary seat of Mahathir – sparked fears he was trying to slip out of Malaysia.

Malaysia’s billion-dollar question: where did 1MDB money go?

The government and the people know that billions have been stolen, Mahathir said. But, calling for cool heads, Mahathir said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the government wanted indisputable evidence. “So the prosecutors now are gathering that evidence so that when they go to the court of law, the judges don’t base their judgment on sentiment, but … on facts and evidence shown in the court of law. So that is why we are taking a little bit more time than we expected.”

 

He declined to give a timeline on the next stage of the investigations, even as speculation swirled in Malaysia that the charges could be filed against Najib as soon as the next two weeks.

But on Tuesday afternoon, he was quoted as saying that charges would be filed on key suspects – Najib, businessman Jho Low and “a few others” – within months, while a trial would begin later this year.

Charges against Najib would include “embezzlement, stealing government money, and a number of other charges,” he said in the interview with Reuters.

The 1MDB probe extends across six jurisdictions, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore. It has also targeted Najib’s wife, Rosmah, known for her flagrantly ostentatious taste in luxury goods. Set up in 2009 as an infrastructure fund drawn from oil revenues, it has lost US$4.5 billion and is now insolvent. Around US$731 million allegedly ended up in Najib’s personal account. The beleaguered former premier has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the money was a donation from an Arab benefactor.

 

Rosmah Mansor, wife of Najib Razak, arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Photo: EPA

Pakatan Harapan: Vulnerable?

In the interview with the Post, Mahathir, who won a stunning election on May 9, was asked about his views of a rising China and the region. In addition to taking questions about the 1MDB scandal, he was also asked to comment on the possible vulnerabilities of his Pakatan Harapan coalition.

While Pakatan now claims 125 seats in the 222-seat Parliament, a recent survey by the reputable think-tank Merdeka Centre has found that the coalition did not win over the majority of Malays, who make up 65 per cent of the population.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is interviewed by the South China Morning Post in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: SCMP Pictures

According to the Merdeka Centre survey, UMNO retained 35-40 per cent of the Malay vote, while the rest was almost evenly split between Pakatan and the Islamic-based party, PAS. In comparison, 95 per cent of Chinese voters chose Pakatan.

Malays have special rights granted by Malaysia’s Constitution. Almost all Malays follow Islam, the official religion of the country. Under the previous Barisan Nasional coalition, the Malay-based United Malays National Organisation was the dominant component party led by Najib. Umno had increasingly played the ethnic and religious cards in elections over the decades.

Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad celebrate his victory in the May 9 election. Photo: Reuters

Commentators credited Mahathir for attracting enough Malays into the Pakatan camp to tilt the balance decisively in its favour. Mahathir has immense stature among Malays as a respected former Prime Minister who held office from 1981 to 2003. The argument, if correct, begs the question of whether Pakatan will be able to retain Malay support after Mahathir steps down, which he has promised to do after two years.

In the interview, Mahathir said there was a clear swing of Malay votes from the Barisan coalition to the opposition in the recent election compared with the previous one in 2015 that contributed to their victory.

Ignoring 1MDB scandal caused Umno’s downfall in Malaysia: Najib

But the Malay vote itself was split between the rural, suburban and urban areas. It was in the latter two areas that Malays had turned against the previous government because they were disenchanted with the “bad things” happening within Umno, especially the corruption scandal.

For rural voters, he said, such issues were harder to grasp but they could understand cost of living woes.

He shrugged off his own personal appeal in winning the Malay vote for the future, saying: “Well, I can’t always be popular, one day I will become unpopular because when you are in the government, you have to do unpopular things. That is not something permanent.” But for now, people were upbeat and they felt that life during his first tenure as Prime Minister was better than during Najib’s time, he said.

Let’s Get Physical

Mahathir, who turns 93 on July 10, was also asked about his physical energy. He laughed, saying it was the number one question he was asked. Although Mahathir, a trained medical doctor, has had two heart bypass operations, he feels fortunate not to have suffered debilitating diseases such as cancer.

His secret to good health? “I think simple things like not putting on weight, not eating too much, proper sleep, a little bit of exercise,” he said, adding that he gets “enough” sleep – about six hours. When he is not able to do that, he has short power naps.

In May, a picture of him at the dining table with just a few spoonfuls of rice on his plate caught the attention of internet users. But then a close-up showed that next to his plate was a small green canister of multivitamin supplements, Berocca. Sales of the supplement received a sudden boost.

Anwar Ibrahim with Mahathir Mohamad in 1997, during the latter’s first stint as prime minister. File photo

Moving On

Under a pact made with his former nemesis turned coalition partner, former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, he is supposed to hand over the prime minister’s position after two years. However, there have been hints recently that Mahathir intends to stay beyond two years.

Asked about this, he admitted there was a lot to be done. Would he stay beyond two years? “Well, I don’t know whether people will permit me to stay longer. If there is some work I can still do, if I am still healthy, I can think and talk.”

But would he do so as Prime Minister? He demurred smilingly and said softly: “Ya”.

Throughout the interview, he answered questions evenly in his trademark unflappable tone, as an aide kept a strict watch on his time. Asked by a photographer for an autograph, he obliged willingly, noting aloud the date to write to accompany his signature. When the Post invited him to visit Hong Kong, the headquarters of the publication, Mahathir politely remarked about the times he spent there.

“My first ever visit to Hong Kong was in 1960. Where were you?” he quipped to his much younger interviewers.

Stealing Money from the National Treasury is an Act of Treason


June 17, 2018

Stealing Money from the National Treasury is an Act of Treason–so, Najib Razak is a Traitor

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for Najib is a CrookIt takes time, but Justice will come eventually to Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

 

 

93-year-old Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who heads Malaysia’s reform coalition Pakatan Harapan, has lost no time in knuckling down to work. A week after he assumed office in the wake of the political earthquake of the country’s May 9 general election, he terminated the contracts of 17,000 political appointees as a drain on public expenditure.

The move was hailed by a public taken aback  by the numbers of people involved, although some are concerned that the shock and awe of Mahathir’s move would generate the same kind of guerilla underground that cropped up when Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Iraq, disbanded the army and civil service in 2003. That played a major role in the eventual creation of the Islamic State which has terrorized Syria and Iraq for the past several years.

Nonetheless, the sackings are looked upon by Malaysia’s 31 million people as just the start of the cleanup of decades of appalling corruption. Police seized 72 bags alone of loot from deposed Prime Minister Najib Razak’s residence in the days after the May 9 election, of which 35 contained RM114 million (US$28.6 million) in cash in 26 different currencies. Another 35 bags contained jewelry and watches, and 284 boxes were filled with designer handbags including Ellen Birkin bags by Hermes that can cost upwards of US$200,000. The former Premier is not likely to go hungry. He is believed to have hundreds of millions more stashed overseas. Famously, in 2013 US$681 million appeared in his personal account at Ambank in Kuala Lumpur and almost immediately was moved overseas.

The biggest mess, of course, is the state-backed development fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., from which US$4.5 billion is said by the US Justice Department to have disappeared in corruption and mismanagement. Mahathir has said the scale of corruption is even greater and has demanded a full explanation. The Finance Ministry, now under Lim Guan Eng of the Democratic Action Party, says Malaysia’s total government debt and liabilities exceed RM1 trillion (US$250.7 billion).

The number of no-bid contracts awarded to crony companies and government-linked companies – now termed by many to be government-linked crookedry – is overwhelming.

Mahathir for instance cancelled a high-speed rail contract from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore that cost RM70 billion which, with other government commitments including operating expenses over 20 years ran the total to RM110  billion. “Estimates are that in a proper open tender, the project could have been done for a maximum of RM25 billion,” said a well-placed business source in Kuala Lumpur.

Equally questionable is a contract for Malaysia’s Eastern Corridor Rail Line, awarded to a Chinese company at RM67 billion. The payment was time-based, not on a completion basis. As such, 40 percent of the total payment has been made while only 7 percent of the work has been completed. The project cost is widely believed to have been a subterfuge for Chinese help in paying off 1MDB’s massive debt.

Next is the Sarawak and Sabah gas pipeline, again awarded on time-based payments with 87 percent of RM9 billion paid and only 13 percent of the work completed.

Contracts such as these are aplenty. The gadfly website Sarawak Report reported on June 10 that a car rental company headed by an official with a Barisan-aligned party in Sarawak received a RM1.25 billion no-bid contract to install solar energy facilities for 369 Sarawak schools. The three-year contract, allegedly steered by Najib himself, has been underway for 18 months. Not a single solar power unit has ever been installed.

But beyond that, dozens of government-linked companies have been found to be paying exorbitant salaries to their executives. Malaysia has the fifth highest number of GLCs in the world, for which Mahathir himself must share the blame, since many came into existence during the 22 years he headed the government from 1981 to 2003.

Image result for Najib is a Crook

Many are household names – the national car project Proton, now peddled to China’s car company Geely; the national energy company Petronas, the electrical utility Tenaga Nasional, the electric utility Telekom Malaysia, the Tabung Haji Pilgrimage Fund, the Federal Land Development Authority, Malaysian Airlines, The Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Malay People’s Trust Council), the Sime Darby plantation and property conglomerate.

Publicly traded GLCs currently comprise 36 percent the market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia and 54 percent of the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index according to a study by the think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. They employ 5 percent of the national workforce.  According to the study, government bailouts of GLCs have “resulted in a huge drain on the public purse.” They include RM1.5 billion for Proton in 2016 and RM 6 billion for Malaysia Airlines in 2014.

”One estimate suggests that around RM85.51 billion has been used to bail out GLCs over the past 36 years,” according to the report putting pressure on commercial interest rates as a result of recurring budget deficits that “may have been a separate factor operating to crowd out private investment, at the margin.”

Image result for mavcom executive chairman

 

As an example of exorbitant salaries, the Transport Minister, Anthony Loke, told reporters that the executive chairman of the Aviation Commission (MAVCOM), retired Gen. Abdullah Ahmad, drew a monthly salary of RM85,000 (US$21,325). The figure is over four times the basic recorded salary of the Malaysian Prime Minister and is similar to the salary of millionaire CEOs of successful private enterprises.

Veteran journalist, R Nadeswaran, formerly of The Sun Daily, reported that his investigations into MAVCOM, an independent body established in 2015 to regulate economic and commercial matters relating to civil aviation, revealed that RM570,000 had been paid in directors’ fees, and a further RM770,000 on directors’ travel and accommodation.

More revelations have followed. One “former minister turned adviser” in Najib’s Prime Minister’s Office received a monthly wage of RM200,000 (US$50,177), which is about 10 times Najib’s official salary. Other “advisers” were paid from RM70,000 upwards per month in a country where per capita income on a PPP basis is RM26,900 annually.

Other ministries, together with the newly-revitalized Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), have been directed to investigate the various GLCs and political appointees  Apart from the allegations of huge bonuses and exorbitant salaries, it has also been alleged that officials of various GLCs collaborated with contractors to submit false claims for maintenance work. The MACC is investigating.

The almost daily revelations of cronyism and large-scale corruption have been described by one Malaysian as akin to “Chinese water torture,” when water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead and drives the restrained victim insane.

Loke’s disclosure also prompted the veteran MP, Lim Kit Siang, Mahathir’s onetime adversary turned ally, to demand transparency and public accountability in the wages of the heads of the GLCs. He proposed the implementation of a public website showing the perks, salaries and remuneration of all GLC heads and members.

Lim wanted to know how many of the heads of the GLCs are political appointees and how many of the UMNO/Barisan Nasional appointees have resigned since Najib lost power.

Malaysians responded swiftly to Loke’s report. One person multiplied Loke’s figure by the number of existing GLCs and was astounded by the money which taxpayers had to fork out for GLC directors’ fees. Who approved the salaries of the board members in this public regulatory body?

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim

 

A Foreign Friend In Cambodia asked me, “Din, is your recently pardoned felon running a parallel government?”  And I answered, “For Malaysia’s sake, I hope not.–Din Merican

Surprisingly, the revelations over the GLCs are in contrast to those by newly released and pardoned former Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, the PM-in-waiting, who told a crowd in Perak that chief ministers should not rush to take action against GLCs, and to refrain from being vengeful.

“I have no problem with GLCs, if their performance is good and the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) thinks it’s appropriate to continue, we accept (the continuance),” unless, he added, “that it was proven at the federal level,  there was wasteful overlapping and excessive payment of allowances to political figures.”

Malaysians demanding intense scrutiny of GLCs wonder what to make of the PM-designate’s remarks and actions.

Mariam Mokhtar is a Malaysia-based reporter and regular contributor to Asia Sentinel.

My Face to Face Interview a Decade ago on RPK’s Malaysia-Today


June 14, 2018

My Face to Face Interview a Decade ago on RPK’s  Malaysia-Today

http://www.malaysia-today.net/2008/05/14/face-to-face-din-merican/

I would like to see us adopt the debating style of the British  Parliament where MPs do not shout at each other as if they are in a fish market and the level of discourse reflects their knowledge of the issues before them and their preparedness. In my view, British MPs know how to disagree on substantive issues agreeably. They do it in style and it is such a delight to watch their deliberations on television.

Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob is a trained lawyer and Malaysian political commentator. He writes for numerous international newspapers and online journals as well as hosts Face to Face, an interview segment of Malaysian/regional issues and personalities hosted on Malaysia Today. He also serves as Foreign Correspondent for foreign news organisations.

Din Merican, the Reluctant Blogger, a former civil service officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a central banker at Bank Negara, he was also with the private sector (Sime Darby). He is currently Program Director for Parti Keadilan Rakyat in the office of Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim. He gives us a straight-from-the-shoulder response in another hard-hitting Face to Face interview.

Image result for Din MericanDin Merican, the Reluctant Blogger a Decade Ago (2008)
 

1. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: What’s your foremost specific concern with regard to Malaysian politics at present?

Din Merican: That it has fallen into a racial, nepotistic and plutocratic mould. The entire body politic cries out for liberation from this self-made dungeon. The results of the 12th General Election have cracked the mould. The course being steered by Pakatan Rakyat (Parti KeADILan Rakyat, Democratic Action Party and Parti Islam Sa.Malaysia[PAS]) points the way towards the country’s liberation from this stultifying cage. Malaysian voters have become increasingly sophisticated and discriminating in the way they exercise their democratic rights.  That is our ray of hope for a more democratic and open society. So the recent winds of change, and some people would call it “political tsunami”, give me room for cautious optimism.

2. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: What’s your observation of the ongoing Parliamentary sessions? Has it met with your expectations?

Din Merican: It is an improvement over the previous era when the opposition was minuscule and the government was untrammelled in getting its way. That was a negation of democracy. The current session, with a one-third plus opposition presence, resuscitates the drooping flower of democracy. But to say that the level of debate, discourse and decorum is of the standard that projects Malaysia as a healthy polity is to overstate the reality. We are some way off that standard but we can get there if current trends are sustained.

I would like to see us adopt the debating style of the British  Parliament where MPs do not shout at each other as if they are in a fish market and the level of discourse reflects their knowledge of the issues before them and their preparedness. In my view, British MPs know how to disagree on substantive issues agreeably. They do it in style and it is such a delight to watch their deliberations on television.

3. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: What three issues would you like to see debated? Why?

Din Merican: I would say that there are four issues that are in dire need of debate and resolution, These are the restoration of the judiciary to its pre-1988 standard, the combating of corruption with the creation of a truly independent and professional Anti-Corruption Agency, the inauguration of a programme to tackle poverty on the basis of need rather than race, and the unshackling of the media. The panoply of measures required on all four fronts would check the country’s irreversible slide into a mediocrity that is an affront to the talent and potential of the Malaysian people.

4. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: I believe it’s fair to say that you do speak for Anwar Ibrahim on a number of issues. Are we really to expect a change of government by way of duly elected Member of Parliaments changing shirts? Even Pakatan Rakyat leaders have stated the ethical dilemma of such a move. Please clarify.

Din Merican: It’s not right to say that I speak for Anwar Ibrahim. He has a mind of his own and firm convictions I find admirable. Anwar wants a more egalitarian, inclusive and meritocratic Malaysia. I share his agenda for change. I’m elated to be part of the effort to bring about that change.  I feel that though the UMNO-led and controlled Barisan Nasional won the 12th General election, it has lost the moral and intellectual legitimacy to govern. Why do I say that?

Look at the evidence. Every fortnight or so, the media, both mainstream and alternative, unearths a new scandal. The cumulative effect of these disclosures will erode Barisan Nasional’s moral legitimacy to govern.

How long before the people who voted for them begin to realise that their compatriots who voted Pakatan Rakyat were on to something they were not?

In politics, the rhythms of this consciousness do not obey formal categories of time, convention and place. They are by their nature disorderly. But wise are the politicians who are to the fore of these rhythms than in its rear.

Anwar and his colleagues in Pakatan Rakyat are  contrarians. They saw the emergence of a “Black Swan”—a rare event of momentous change.

Image result for Nassim Nicholas Taleb's “The Black Swan

Pardon me, but I have just completed reading philosopher and stockbroker Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable”. It’s a riveting read. I recommend it wholeheartedly to you, Imran, as I have reason to believe you are a curious and discerning reader of books.

Taleb says, “I do not particularly care about the usual…Indeed, the normal is often irrelevant.” He adds that we should be wary of “platonicity” (named after Greek philosopher Plato), that is “our tendency to mistake the map for the territory, to focus on pure and well defined forms…Platonicity is what makes us think that we understand more than we actually do.”

Taleb tells us of the existence of platonic fold, which is “the explosive boundary where the platonic mindset enters in contact with messy reality, where the gap between what you know and what you think you know becomes dangerously wide. It is here that the Black Swan is produced.”

UMNO, the dominant party in the ruling coalition, is caught in a warp of its own making. It is unable to free itself from its conventional wisdom. That is because it never had an ideology. It was set up on a sentiment which was the defence of the Malay race—and, in truth, they rarely if ever defended the Malays; only an elite’s vested interests, their families, cronies and proxies — and now that sentiment has run its course and the party is out of gas. So, at the risk of repetition, UMNO lacks the intellectual legitimacy to govern.

Absent moral and intellectual legitimacy, the Barisan Nasional government is on its last legs. In that situation, members of some substance and fellow travellers would want to defect. Debating the morality of defections in that kind of situation is like questioning the jauntiness of the orchestra on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg!

5.Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Assuming that Pakatan Rakyat does form the next government as mentioned above, can it really hold up? The alliance between PAS and DAP, for example, seems an untenable position. Comment?

Din Merican: You have heard that politics is the art of the possible. And finality is not its language. When Pakatan Rakyat was formed, PKR, DAP and PAS all agreed to abide by the Merdeka Constitution of 1957 whose essential thrust has been maimed by the authoritarian drift of the Barisan Nasional over the half century of its hold on power.

Now, in each of its three components, Pakatan Rakyat may  encounter elements resisting or deviating from its promise to deliver to the Malaysian polity the dispensation vouchsafed it by the Merdeka Proclamation of 1957 and the Merdeka Constitution. These elements will find that they are in a minority and that the majority want adherence to this agenda rather than digression from it. As in any healthy democracy, the majority will win and the minority will either modulate its positions to fit or seek another platform to espouse their cause.

There will be squalls and ruptures arising from this struggle, but it will not fracture the movement because, unlike UMNO and the Barisan Nasional, Pakatan has an ideology, embedded in and reflected by the ideals of the Merdeka Proclamation and Constitution, to which Umno and BN pay mere lip service while deforming its essence. Pakatan will resurrect these ideals and in doing so unite the Malaysian people and nation.

In a democracy you govern by consent of the governed, not by  imposition by the few. I assure you that in Pakatan Rakyat, the threats of ethnocentrism and theocracy would not menace the  broad and sustainable impetus towards democracy,  transparency and good governance based on the principles  envisaged by the Merdeka Proclamation and Constitution.

6. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Let’s talk about the NEP. Could you please clarify whether this controversial affirmative action policy will be made absolutely redundant in whole? Critics think that an alternative but similar policy to the NEP will instead be implemented by Pakatan Rakyat to appease the Muslim-Malay majority. Care to elaborate?

Din Merican: The NEP (National Economic Policy), better known emotively by DEB (Dasar Ekonomi Baru), will be replaced with the Malaysian Economic Agenda (MEA). Whereas the DEB was implemented on the basis of race, the MEA will be implemented on the basis of need.

The Malays and the bumiputras of Sabah and Sarawak constitute the poorest people in the country. The MEA will address their needs. This is not to say the poor among the Chinese and Indians will not be similarly assisted. The Malays and all who are indeed poor will receive government help to escape the trap of poverty.

Image result for umno defeated

The DEB has become an instrument of exploitation to enrich the few at the expense of the many. It was intended as an aid to empower the poor, and not as a crutch. It was never intended to build a class of appropriators of great wealth who use power to amass fortunes. The time has come to jettison a discredited policy and substitute it with a new one that will deal aggressively with poverty and not supplant it with dependency; and that will unify our country and not divide it into separate cantonments of privilege and wealth while breeding ghettoes of misery and ignorance in its backwash.

7. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: The country seems to be at an even standstill. Opposition MPs are almost that of the BN MPs. UMNO seems split on its choice of leadership whereas MCA/MIC is apparently lashing out at UMNO. There appears to be deep divisions across the Malaysian socio-political strata. In what manner could Pakatan Rakyat unify these factions of competing interests to restore stability?

Din Merican: By addressing problems from a unified Malaysian perspective, by attempting to solve problems from the angle of building a united nation, Pakatan Rakyat would go a long way to demonstrate that that which unites us as Malaysians is greater than that which divides us into separate ethnic and divisible entities. There is a Malaysian identity out there whose dynamics are subtle and creative enough to subsume the cultural variety of its population.

The Indonesians have “Bhinekka Tunggal Ika”, which is Javanese for Unity in Diversity. We too will evolve a similar paradigm. In a new era of good governance by Pakatan Rakyat, the creative flows of the polity will engender this Malaysian identity. When people accept that justice is the common coin of the realm, they know that everyone with talent and capacity for diligent work can flourish.

8. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: A substantial segment of the Muslim-Malay community in particular UMNO brand Anwar Ibrahim as a traitor. What are your views on this?

Din Merican: We are in Samuel Johnson’s debt for reminding us that “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” People who are void of ideas and principles will resort to branding others who are not similarly bereft, as traitors to this and that.

Anwar Ibrahim stood up to authoritarianism and injustice in this country. He, like several others espousing different platforms at different times in Malaysian history, bore the brunt of the backlash. The tree of liberty is watered from time to time by the suffering and blood of patriots. Fortunately, Anwar possessed the resilience and the indomitable spirit to come back fighting and now the electorate is harkening to his message of change. Anwar is no traitor; he is a fighter in the best humanistic traditions.

I believe that all good leaders must possess an alchemy of great vision. To me, Anwar is the foretaste of a statesmanship South East Asia has yet to see since the great Filipino nationalist Jose Rizal. As a Malay Muslim leader, he has to transmute the dreams of his people for economic uplift and political transformation into the reality of a progressive united Malaysian nation that includes the yearnings of its minorities for justice and self-fulfilment.

Anwar’s is an inclusive vision that will project Islam’s Universalist ideals of justice, compassion, and the pursuit of knowledge to grand effect. He will tie the rich tapestry of our diverse nation into a single garment of noble destiny.

9. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Would you like to share with our readers some of the interesting programs that you are working on?

Din Merican: I am doing what needs to be done for my country, Parti KeADILan and my leader. For me, this time has more than arrived to give back to the society that nurtured me what I owe it. I have to go at this opportunity full tilt. To whom much is given much is required.

I am now working on corporate and international relationships. I want corporates and leaders around the world to know who we are and what we want for Malaysia. I’m also glad that with the Internet, I can keep in touch with Malaysians and friends around the world via my blog http://www.dinmerican.wordpress.com.

10. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Should Abdullah Badawi resign as PM? Do you think he will be able to cling on to power much longer?

Din Merican:  Abdullah Badawi is a symptom of a deeper malaise in UMNO and the Barisan Nasional. People are wondering how a leader who started with such promise could come so quickly a cropper. The reason is now self-evident. He was actually a bland and inane figure who under a gentlemanly veneer hid his lack of substance. Now UMNO’s lack of ideology is reflected in its leader’s void of substance. Ditto Barisan Nasional. Both UMNO and BN cannot reform, cannot change. They are stuck in a deep rut. Every step they take forward is rescinded by two they inevitably take backward. Retrogression is built into their marrow.

Thus questions of how long Abdullah will last or whether he will  cling on to power are notable for their irrelevance. When you have lost the moral and intellectual legitimacy to govern and if it seems that you can still go on, then it must be that the momentum of the preceding 50 years gives you the ballast to float. But for how long!

 A more relevant question is whether anyone in UMNO and Barisan can fill the void of its moral and intellectual bankruptcy. I’m afraid I see nobody who can do that. It’s a decline that’s terminal. It only awaits the day of its eventual internment.

11. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Published reports point to the fact that business confidence and the investment climate is lusterless due to the external sluggish global economy and uncertainty in Malaysian politics. Consumer confidence is also expected to slowdown. What’s your assessment for the Rakyat in terms of the cost of living and purchasing power spilling into 2009? What’s Pakatan Rakyat’s solution in general to deal with the economic lag?

Din Merican: The facts are staring in our face, but we seem to lack the political will to deal with the effects of economic, social and political pathology. Please read our Malaysian Economic Agenda. Some of our ideas have been hijacked by the Barisan Nasional. Well, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

12. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob : If you met Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak, what would you say to them.

Din Merican: A spell in the opposition would be good for you. Try it. It may engender the realism from whose flight the present paralysis in UMNO and the country was spawned.

13.Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: What’s your estimation on the big events at the forthcoming UMNO elections? Of white knights and dark horses.

Din Merican: I doubt that half of the UMNO divisions will meet to demand that an EGM be held to amend the party constitution to abolish the quota system governing contests for top party  posts. This will mean that Badawi, a captive of indecision, will  wind up unchallenged as UMNO President in December, 2008.  It would be a travesty if that happens. But UMNO is not only in need of a change in leadership, it is also in dire need of  ideological rudder to steer the party out of the rut it has fallen into. They have nobody who can supply that. The party, like the coalition it leads, has to expire before it can regenerate.

May 13, 2008

Face to Face interviews are conducted by way of e-mail unless otherwise stated.

It is time we act as Malaysians


June 8, 2018

It is time we act as Malaysians

by Dharm Navaratnam

https://www.malaymail.com

Image result for the hibiscus revolution

Malaysia’s National Flower–Symbol of Unity and Racial and Religious Harmony

It has been almost a month since the new Government of Pakatan Harapan has been in power and what a month it has been.

Almost immediately we have seen sweeping changes. For a start, meritocracy seems to have made a startling comeback. The initial cabinet of 10 has seen a multiracial makeup, where even such important portfolios of Finance and Communication and Multimedia, have been given based on merit and not on racial or religious makeup.

Image result for Being Malaysian

We are Malaysians united for a better future

The position of Attorney General is also held by a non-Malay, the first time in more than 40 years. So while many have assumed that certain positions must be filled by a particular race, nothing in our Constitution alludes to that.

Corruption is being dealt with swiftly. Many prominent civil servants have been removed. The once toothless MACC seems to have found their teeth and are carrying out investigations on many prominent personalities including our former Prime Minister and his wife.

The level of  corruption is almost stupefying with new details of billions of ringgit squandered being announced with alarming frequency. It has been said before but bears repeating that what is indeed almost sickening is the fact that every hierarchy of the previous Barisan Nasional government did nothing to stop this corruption.

Were they all in cahoots or were they just too afraid of their own rice bowl? Was there really not even an iota of integrity in these politicians ?  How much money did members of our previous government siphon off?

There has been a massive shakeup in government institutions with the most recent being the resignation of the Governor of Bank Negara. Transfers or resignations include the Treasury Secretary General, the Chairman of Felda, the chairman of Tabung Haji, the Chief Commissioner of the MACC and the Chairman of the Higher Education fund. These resignations lend credence to the assumption that there was definitely corruption of some form or fashion.

Image result for Najib and 1mdb gang

We reject this corrupt couple–Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

The former Prime Minister is crying political revenge which is really ironic when you consider the sacking of the then DPM, four ministers and also A-G Gani Patail when questions were raised about 1MDB back in July 2015.

To compound this further, some previous ministers are still trying to defend the previous regime’s  corruption. The fact that there are people still trying to justify and defend it is even more scary as they must brazenly think that we, the rakyat, are stupid.

You even have previous ministers accusing the current government of politics of hate when they were the ones who used to brandish a ‘keris’ and never took action when threats of another May 13th were made by UMNO extremist party members.

Image result for Telekom CEO resigns

Telecom Malaysia CEO and Astro CEO quit

The dominoes have started to fall in the corporate world as well where the CEO of Telekom Malaysia has resigned.  You have to wonder what is going through the minds of all the other CEOs of GLCs who made a video where they were singing the BN election slogan.

Freedom of the media has suddenly taken centre stage and I believe many newspapers and alternative media are having trouble coping with the amount of information that our  new Ministers are giving out.

There seems to be openness, honesty, transparency and accountability.  There also seems to be a willingness to accept criticism.  Something that was sorely missing before. I am sure that many reporters are having trouble digesting and filing reports with sufficient detail.

Such has been the level of reporting over the years that has been so controlled and so biased that many editors must surely be scratching their heads wondering how to report on certain issues.  The Government controlled media of TV1, TV2 and TV3 must also be going through a culture shock as those that were previously maligned or ignored are now part of the ruling party.

And the news is really happening fast and furious.  It’s almost a full time job following the news these days.  This seems to show that the new powers that be are doing their job.  With the availability of a much more free media, the Rakyat is closely monitoring the government.

The downside, however, is that almost overnight, everyone, especially on social media, seems to have become a financial expert, political analyst,  Harapan Manifesto expert and a Constitutional expert, among others.

This is where the state of our disunity springs to fore.  While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, it has become a case where everyone believes that they are a subject matter expert when they are clearly not. Certain parties also seem to think that only their opinion is right.  When there is disagreement, caustic and vulgar language is used.

There has been the usual racial and religious outburst, except this time it is coming from members of the Rakyat and not the government. Why have a Chinese Minister of Finance? How can a supposed Islamist be the Education Minister?  How can the A-G be a non-Malay?

The Government has also stressed the importance of English. I wait for the outcry from detractors that Bahasa Malaysia should be the one and only language used.

To take it a step further, we have champions of race and religion calling for the defence of their rights. While these supposed champions are purportedly defending these rights, we have videos of some people calling for the death of members of their own religion just because they have a differing opinion. Death threats? Really? In the holy month of Ramadan?

Finally, there are police reports being made against every slight criticism or opinion that goes against the norm.  The police surely have more important things to do than investigate people for sedition. It is after all an archaic law that does nothing but stifle independent and free thought.

So while we have made great strides in changing our government through the ballot box, these are still early days.  The biggest problem is not with our government but with ourselves. We are to blame for the excesses and mismanagement that haves happened.

We have been so caught up with defending our own rights based on racial and religious lines. It is time for all of us to get rid of our disunity and to focus on what we really are. Malaysians. Until and unless we can do that, we will never get very far.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

Shake Off Feudalism: This is 21st Century Malaysia


June 7, 2018

Shake Off Feudalism: This is 21st Century Malaysia

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | “The people expect them to be the embodiment of all things good and holy. But the question is: Are they?”

– A Kadir Jasin, “Constitution: The King and the Pauper

I never thought I would say this, but former Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin questioning UMNO information chief Annuar Musa if the latter was still living in the Hang Tuah era, was pretty interesting blowback for Annuar’s urging of the state security apparatus to investigate Bersatu Supreme Council member A Kadir Jasin for his article allegedly “questioning” the royal institution.

Furthermore Maidin’s caution of not threatening the rakyat with “reckless feudalism” is also a reminder that perhaps, we are living in a new dawn of Malaysians politics, something which I am skeptical of. This idea that political hegemons “threaten” the rakyat with “feudalism”, reckless or otherwise, has always been the preferred weapon of the “bangsa and agama” (race and religion) crowd.

Here is an example of this narrative whereby the rakyat have been threatened with “feudalism”.

When Anwar Ibrahim goes on his royal tour, apparently to convince the royalty that all is kosher with “Malay rights” and “Islam”, this is part of the narrative that Malay rights and Islam are under attack.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim a Royalist

Anwar Ibrahim–  A Reformist or a Fawning Royalist? Maybe a Political Chameleon. He should be grateful to Malaysians for his Pardon.

When Anwar Ibrahim and any Malay politician for that matter have to reassure the Malay community that for hithe appointment of Tommy Thomas will not adversely affect Malay rights and Islam, this feeds into the narrative that those ideas/institutions are under attack. The counter-narrative is, have they ever been under attack?

What did Kadir actually say in his pieces about the royalty? In his blog post, “Constitution: The King and the Pauper”, he:

  1. Questioned the journalistic integrity of the New Straits Times;
  2. Questioned if the Royalty was really insecure as some have claimed;
  3. Wondered why Anwar Ibrahim had to go on his royal tour; and
  4. Reminded the ordinary rakyat of how much is allegedly spent on the Agong and the difference of expectation between a pauper and a king.

To wit – “But unlike the pauper who evokes God’s name to earn sympathy of the passers-by, the Agong evokes God’s name in his oath of office.”

That’s powerful stuff coming from Kadir, and the reality is that this is what the average rakyat is wondering.

When kids carry out a car wash to contribute to the Hope Fund or whatever it’s called, people think it demonstrates how Malaysian we are.

Image result for mahathir bin mohamad

When the salaries of politicians are cut and the trimmings used to contribute to the Hope Fund, people think it demonstrates how politicians are playing their part in saving this country.

However, when the expenses of the royalty are brought into question, people wonder, why is it so much when we are told that we are on an austerity drive.

We have a Finance Minister who apparently has sleepless nights because of his fear of the financial time bombs that he would discover in the red files.

The rakyat also notices how the royalty, during the lead-up to the elections and post-elections, by word or deed have made extremely political overtures.

Of course, when you bring up the expenses of the royalty, you better cite sources which are credible, which is where Kadir’s piece suffers.

However, what should be done is that the Finance Ministry should immediately issue a response and tell the rakyat exactly how much is spent on the royal institutions.

After all, this is supposed to be a ministry which values truth above all else. Truth, we are told, is needed for this country to move forward.

So when Kadir makes a statement about royal expenses, his claim does not have to be challenged by the royalty but should either be verified and challenged by the Finance Ministry. End of controversy. However, Kadir’s piece is more than just about royal expenses.

Kadir’s conclusion is this – “In conclusion, our CONSTITUTIONAL monarch (emphasis in original) has nothing to fear if they understand their special position and stick to their duties as spelt out by the constitution – and the rakyat wonder, does the royal institution understand their special position and stick to their duties as spelt out in the constitution?”

When UMNO was in charge, there was never an issue when UMNO set policy. Even when former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak introduced the National Security Council Act – by the way Harapan folks, is this act going to be ditched? – the “issues” with the objections of the royalty were simply brushed aside.

Nobody in UMNO seemed to care that the royal institutions were sidelined because the sitting UMNO Prime Minister wanted more power than the Agong. Even Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said as much on the campaign trail.

Did anyone from UMNO or PAS object when the constitutional provisions that guaranteed certain rights to the royalty were supplanted by this most odious of “acts” from UMNO? Were the rakyat threatened by reckless feudalism from the UMNO state?

Did the royalty make noise that the powers they were guaranteed under the constitution – the very same powers, that Kadir argues, makes them immune from insecurity – were under attack from the Najib regime?

Did the Malays need to be reassured that the Malay institution was not under attack?

This idea that the royal institution has not changed through constitutional means is a myth, much like the mythical/mystical era – depending on the source – of the Hang Tuah era.

The current Harapan grand poohbah in his time went against the “reckless feudalism” and instituted changes that were embraced by some of the very same UMNO potentates who are now scrambling for power in the political party – UMNO – which has staked the “bangsa and agama” ground as its sole province.

Look even in the Sinar Metro article, all Kadir did was raise three points – in my opinion – which are vital to the economic and social stability of this country. Reproduced here in the original Malay:

  1. “Mereka dibayar gaji oleh rakyat jelata dan segala keperluan rasmi mereka ditanggung oleh kerajaan. Dalam keadaan di mana hidup rakyat susah dan kewangan negara sempit, kerajaan tidak boleh sekali-kali membazirkan wang untuk sesiapa pun. Biarlah saya kata macam ini: Istana-istana yang ada itu sudah mewah.
  2. Dalam usaha kerajaan baharu mempertahankan hak rakyat jelata dan melindungi institusi negara daripada sebarang bentuk pencabulan maka adalah penting diambil tahu pembabitan raja atau istana dalam kegiatan-kegiatan tidak rasmi seperti perniagaan dan social.
  3. Kalau perlu kita kaji semula perlembagaan dan kontrak sosial bagi mengambil kira suasana dan realiti yang ada pada hari ini bagi mengharmonikan perjanjian antara raja dan rakyat jelata.”

My interpretation of Kadir’s words is as follows (you may of course disagree): In times of austerity, because the rakyat are in a crunch, the government of the day should scrutinise its expenses and the royal institutions should also play their part. That the royal institutions should not be involved in unofficial business and social enterprises, because it weakens the integrity of these institutions and encourages practices which are detrimental to a functional state. And as Malaysians we should understand that reforms of institutions – all institutions – are needed to save this country.

If anything, what Kadir is advocating is “responsible feudalism”, which I suppose is what a constitutional monarchy is all about.of


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

 

The Lavish MAVCOM –A Common GLC Problem


June 2, 2018

The Lavish MAVCOM –A Common GLC Problem

by R. Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

Taxpayers expect at least a semblance of practicality, pragmatism and realism when their hard-earned money is expended. People are willing to pay RM1 for peace of mind when they travel, but certainly not for fat cats to pay themselves high salaries. –R. Nadeswaran aka Citizen Nades

COMMENT | The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Just after the elections, AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes made a serious charge against the commission, questioning its integrity.

Fernandes claimed that the airline was pressured to cancel an additional 120 flights during the 14th General Election period. Mavcom said it viewed the claim seriously and lodged a police report against Fernandes over the allegation.

“The Commission has never issued such a directive to any airline, including AirAsia, to reduce or cancel any flight where regulatory requirements have been met,” it said.

Mavcom also said that it had commenced an investigation into the claim. “We will keep members of the public informed,” said a spokesman in a statement on May 14. A police report was also lodged.

Image result for General (Rtd) Abdullah Ahmad

How does Mavcom justify paying this retired General RM85,000 per month? He must be a management genius. The Directors must be held accountable for this irresponsible decision. Unconscionable .–Din Merican

Today, more than two weeks later, we have not been informed of the outcome of the investigation. Instead, we are told that the salary of Mavcom’s Executive Chairperson General (Rtd) Abdullah Ahmad is a whopping RM85,000 – more than four times the salary of the Prime Minister.

Image result for board of directors of malaysian aviation commission

Entrepreneur Tan Sri Tony Fernandes–A Victim of Politics. It is time we recognise his contributions to the Malaysian Economy and for building AirAsia into an award winning global brand, in stead of demonizing him. I am glad that Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and former MITI Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz have come to his defense.–Din Merican

It is also pertinent to ask when the results of the probe will be made public. It is not rocket science. Fernandes says he has the evidence to prove it. Has Mavcom requested for it – or is it too embarrassed that the cat will now be let out of the bag?

More importantly, is this kind of salary for the Mavcom executive chairperson justified? Who approved the salary? How did the board, in this instance the other commissioners, approve this? How did they conclude on the salary scale?

What is the basis for such a humongous salary? Other commissioners have to answer to the taxpayers on how they arrived at their executive chairperson’s salary. Do they actually need an executive chairperson? Why not ask the CEO to report to the board?

The Board Members are:

  • Secretary-General of the Transport Ministry Saripuddin Hj Kasim;
  • former Director-General of the Economic Planning Unit, Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid;
  • Lawyer and Suhakam Commissioner Mah Weng Kwai;
  • former Housing and Local Government Minister Chor Chee Heung,
  • former Transport Ministry Secretary-General Long See Wool,
  • retired civil servant Fauziah binti Yaacob,
  • Deputy Chairperson of the Penang Regional Development Authority (Perda) Shaik Hussein Mydin, and
  • Nungsari Ahmad Radhi, Managing Director of Prokhas Sdn Bhd, a Ministry of Finance Inc. company.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to explain how a traveler’s RM1 is spent. According to its latest available Annual Report on its website, from March 1 to Dec 31, 2016, Mavcom incurred staff costs of RM8.7 million.

Big task ahead

It further paid RM570,000 in Directors’ Fees. Mavcom had 11 board meetings during a 10-month period. Calculated loosely, each of the eight directors earned RM5,100 for attending each of the 11 meetings. The accounts also show that RM770,000 was spent on travel and accommodation.

Image result for Anthony Loke, minister of transport

Minister of Transport Anthony Loke–Fix the MAVCOM nonsense

Mavcom is not the only one that pays its directors lavishly. The Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF) pays each of its 18 directors RM2,000 per month and a one-off tuxedo allowance of RM3,000. (The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission pays members of it advisory panel RM300 each for attending monthly meetings.)

HRDF’s funds come from employers who have to contribute one percent of their monthly payroll. The money is supposed to be used for the training of their respective staff but in the past, HRDF was involved in dubious diploma courses from the UK.

It also spent RM25,000 on an advertisement congratulating its then Minister Richard Riot on being conferred a ‘Datuk’ title!

Taxpayers expect at least a semblance of practicality, pragmatism and realism when their hard-earned money is expended. People are willing to pay RM1 for peace of mind when they travel, but certainly not for fat cats to pay themselves high salaries.

Similarly, employers expect their one percent levy to be used for training their own staff and not for directors to benefit at their expense.

There’s a big task ahead for the new ministers to the review unrealistic salaries, allowances and perks to organisations under their purview. Mavcom and HRDF are just two examples.

There are scores of other agencies and a review will help save the government millions of dollars. Let not history repeat itself. It was the negligence of the board that led to colossal losses in the Port Klang Authority and the Port Klang Free Zone scandals.

Also, the government-appointed directors of the National Feedlot Corporation board were oblivious to the fact that monies meant for cattle farming were used to buy luxury condos.

R NADESWARAN has been campaigning for good governance for oer 30 years and expects the new government to emphasise on its cornerstones – transparency and accountability. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com