Soothing East Asia’s Nerves–Mike Pence in Asia


April 21, 2017

Soothing East Asia’s Nerves

https://www.stratfor.com

Forecast

  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s 10-day tour of East Asia will focus primarily on easing uncertainty among U.S. allies about the administration’s policies in the region.
  • U.S. moves to contain North Korea and compel China toward cooperation will dominate discussions in Seoul and Tokyo, though tension over the Trump administration’s trade policies will loom large in both visits.
  • Indonesia and Australia will remain wary of joining U.S. initiatives that risk provoking China but also receptive to U.S. efforts to lay the groundwork for more robust defense cooperation.

Analysis

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Nearly 100 days into Donald Trump’s presidency, uncertainty over the direction of U.S. policy and its behavior in the Asia-Pacific continues to pervade the region, including among many of Washington’s most important allies. In particular, between Trump’s early calls for strategic partners such Japan and South Korea to cover more of the costs of supporting U.S. troops on their shores, his decision to withdraw the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his administration’s recent statements and actions in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Trump has helped put the typically slow-moving and carefully managed geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific in flux.

In doing so, his administration has arguably opened avenues for progress on issues of longstanding concern to Washington, especially U.S.-China trade relations and North Korean nuclearization. At the same time, the White House’s actions have left countries such as Japan, South Korea and Australia — traditional linchpins of U.S. strategy in the region — looking for greater stability and predictability from Washington.

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US Vice President Mike Pence at The DMZ , South Korea

During his ongoing tour of the region, which started April 15 and will end April 25, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is seeking to project precisely that: a more stable, predictable and reliable United States. In meetings with heads of state and key lawmakers in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia, the Vice President will reaffirm Washington’s commitment to stability in the region and the defense of allies and partners against a range of threats, including North Korea, Chinese maritime expansion and terrorism. Likewise, in scheduled “listening sessions” with business leaders from each country — and, in particular, by formally opening the U.S.-Japanese economic dialogue with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso — Pence will seek to address regional concerns over Washington’s trade, investment and currency policies and foreground its continued commitment to regional free trade, albeit through avenues other than multilateral pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Notably, on April 18, Pence announced that Washington plans to review and reform the 2007 U.S.-South Korean trade pact.)

To the extent that Pence’s visit is aimed at shoring up Washington’s regional alliances and partnerships, the four stops of his tour share at least one common theme: the goal of countering China’s expanding security footprint in the South and East China seas and, more broadly, to constrain Beijing’s long-term strategy of replacing the United States as the dominant power in East Asia. But each leg of his tour will address a different aspect of this underlying imperative. Like his visit to South Korea on April 16-17, Pence’s subsequent meetings in Tokyo likely will center on managing North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program and, in Japan’s case, checking Chinese maritime activities in the East China Sea. His meetings in Indonesia and Australia from April 20-23, by contrast, will focus on clarifying Washington’s positions on regional trade and South China Sea security, while smoothing over earlier bumps in relations (in Australia’s case) and offering increased defense support both for maritime and counter-terrorism activities (in Indonesia’s case).

Pence’s Seoul Visit and the North Korean Nuclear Quagmire

Given the visibility and significance of mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula, it is no surprise that South Korea was the first stop on Pence’s tour. His visit, which comes just ahead of the expected arrival in Northeast Asian waters of the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group and, more significantly, the North’s ballistic missile test on April 15 — the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung — sought to reaffirm U.S. defense support for South Korea and signal Washington’s willingness to take unilateral military action against the North if diplomacy fails. Such moves are aimed as much at compelling China to step up its own efforts to coerce North Korea as at deterring Pyongyang itself from conducting further nuclear or missile tests. Last week, the semiofficial Chinese news outlet Global Times said China would cut off oil supplies to the North (one of Beijing’s most effective tools of leverage over the Kim government) if Pyongyang conducted additional nuclear tests.

But while China’s tacit announcement, followed with a phone call between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, signal burgeoning cooperation, however limited, between Washington and Beijing on North Korea, the situation on the peninsula is highly fraught and fluid. In particular, it remains to be seen whether the United States can compel China to throw its full diplomatic weight behind the effort to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. It is also unclear whether China possesses sufficient leverage to compel the North to meaningfully change its behavior.

Washington’s ability to nudge Beijing toward action depends on a number of factors — in particular, what measures the White House has asked the Chinese to take toward Pyongyang and the extent to which Beijing, given its own geopolitical constraints and often countervailing interests, can or is willing to intervene. The Trump administration’s threats to use military force against Pyongyang and its expected positioning of the carrier strike group near the peninsula are likely intended to undercut China’s capacity to parlay its leverage on North Korea into concessions from Washington on other issues. The U.S. moves also raise the direct costs for China of continued intransigence on negotiations with Pyongyang. The prospect of an even greater U.S. defense footprint in South Korea and Japan is deeply worrisome for Beijing, independent of what happens to North Korea. China’s recent statements suggest that Washington’s actions have had some effect. Even so, it is questionable whether any action China takes against North Korea, short of completely cutting off the latter’s economic lifelines, will deter Pyongyang from pursuing a functional nuclear deterrent. In fact, punitive actions by Beijing and increased saber rattling by the United States may only accelerate the North’s nuclear weapons development efforts.

Against this backdrop, Pence’s visit to Seoul served primarily as an opportunity to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to the South’s security and, to that end, to shore up political support within South Korea for rapid deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in the face of Chinese economic retaliation. The emphasis on the reliability of U.S. support will carry over into Pence’s visit to Japan from April 18-21. But unlike in South Korea, where Washington must carefully weigh its options against the risks and costs of retaliation by China or further provocations by North Korea, the United States faces fewer such constraints in Japan.

Reflecting the approach of U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis during his February visit to Tokyo, Pence will use his time in Japan to emphasize the importance of the U.S.-Japanese alliance as foundational to regional stability. In addition, he may urge Tokyo to take on a more prominent and proactive role in maintaining security in the East and South China seas and discuss avenues for future U.S.-Japanese defense cooperation.

Looking South: Indonesia and Australia

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US Vice President Mike Pence and his family were taken on a tour of Istiqlal, Indonesia’s biggest mosque, in Jakarta © POOL/AFP / Adek BERRY–Indonesia is a truly moderate Islamic country.

Pence’s discussions on Japan’s expanding diplomatic and security roles in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea will pave the way for the second half of his trip.

Conspicuously, Pence is not visiting Thailand or the Philippines, the United States’ two treaty allies in Southeast Asia, but which have both been tilting slightly toward China. Nor is Pence visiting Vietnam or Malaysia, two parties to the dispute with China over the South China Sea with which the Barack Obama administration was keen to enhance defense ties. What the decision to steer clear of the front lines of the South China Sea dispute signals, if anything, is difficult to say, though the Trump administration appears to be relying increasingly on Japan’s growing influence in these countries to further U.S. regional goals.

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Vice President  Mike Pence seen with Indonesia’s President Jokowi Widodo gives Malaysia a pass?

But Indonesia and Australia are increasingly pivotal players in the Western Pacific in their own right. In Jakarta, Pence will urge an inward-focused government to embrace the country’s potential role as a regional counterweight to China, a unifying voice within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and a robust check on sources of maritime insecurity. And in Australia, a steadfast treaty ally of the United States, Pence will focus on smoothing over lingering uncertainties about the Trump administration’s commitment to maintaining the U.S.-led economic and security architecture in the Western Pacific — doubts magnified by the famously rocky start to Trump’s relationship with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In particular, Pence will seek to build on the momentum of his lengthy, reportedly fruitful talks with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during her trip to Washington in February.

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Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop meets with US Vice President Mike Pence at the White House in Washington. Picture: Yuri Gripas

One important difference between Japan on one hand, and Indonesia and Australia on the other, is that where Tokyo possesses the requisite economic, diplomatic and military power to chart a strategic course openly at odds with Chinese interests, Jakarta and Canberra depend heavily on China for investment and as a market for their raw materials and finished goods. Indonesia and Australia’s interests in maintaining stable, close ties with Beijing will limit their ability and desire to throw their full weight behind U.S.-led efforts to check Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

In fact, though the United States and Indonesia have ample room for cooperation on issues such as counterterrorism, Jakarta remains exceedingly reluctant to entangle itself in regional disputes, and bilateral defense ties are relatively underdeveloped because of past U.S. sanctions over the military’s human rights abuses. (Jakarta’s deep suspicions about Canberra’s strategic intentions have also hindered development of Australian-Indonesian defense cooperation, despite a recent warming of ties.) Meanwhile, entrenched protectionist forces at home limit Indonesia’s ability to diversify its trade relationships and expand its economic influence in Southeast Asia. Australia, for its part, has a geopolitical imperative to ally itself with the world’s foremost naval power, but it, too, remains wary of provoking China, for example by joining U.S. “freedom of navigation operations” aimed at discrediting Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Even so, both countries have powerful incentives to keep the United States close. Though not directly involved in maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Australia relies on global sea lines of communication — and the freedom of navigation through them afforded by U.S. protection — as the bedrock of its export-intensive economy. Indonesia, for its part, has stepped up efforts in recent years to defend its territorial claims in areas such as the Natuna Islands against China, as well as Malaysia and Vietnam. For Jakarta, substantially stronger defense ties with the one country capable of enforcing rules and checking Chinese expansionism in the region would be critical in a crisis.

Overall, Pence’s Asia tour is unlikely to bring major policy breakthroughs. Rather, the aim of his visits is to reaffirm the fundamental continuity of U.S. power in the Asia-Pacific and to communicate that while the ways in which Washington wields its power may be subject to modification under the Trump administration, that power and influence will not diminish.

Dean takes a dig at Trump and Putin and fires a cannon shot at Najib


February 12, 2017

Dean takes a dig at Trump and Putin and fires a cannon shot at Najib in an orgy of self adoration

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister will be trying to do a Obama con on Trump–Will he get a chance to play golf at Trump’s Resort, Mar-a-Lago?

With St Valentine’s day due next week, my thoughts naturally turn to love. And given that a column is no place for portraying or pursuing my personal amours, I’ve been getting lots of vicarious, indeed voyeuristic enjoyment from observing some of the most passionate love affairs currently being conducted publicly, if not pubicly, by various famous or notorious figures.

To me the most extreme of these, and by far the most excruciating because it’s impossible to avoid incessantly watching, reading and hearing about, is the absolute orgy of self-regard, adoration, infatuation, call it what you will, between new US President Donald Trump and himself.

The man personifies and projects narcissism to such a pathological extent that it’s almost beyond caricature. And in any event all the countless attempts to caricature him only seem to accentuate the crush he has on himself.

Just as those who swoon over him are genuine and only doing him justice, he seems to reason, those swine who refuse to swoon are just revealing how justifiably jealous they are of his supreme excellence.

And every time the media rebut one of his pathologically lying statements, he feels entitled to justify himself with the flagrant falsehood that he’s the innocent victim of ‘fake news’.

At this juncture I imagine some readers will be thinking I’m being a bit unfair to Trump, as on the face of it he does appear to have feelings for some others, like, for example, First Lady Melania and First Daughter Ivanka, even to the point of flagrantly un-presidentially promoting the latter’s fashion brand.

But I’m not prepared to believe that Trump sees these or any others who belong to him as people in their own right, but only as part of his desperate narcissistic need to feed his love of ‘me’ with as much as possible as he can get of ‘my’ and ‘mine’.

That being said, however, I can’t deny one glaring piece of evidence against my thesis that Donald loves only Trump and Trump loves only Donald. And that’s the curious fact that, while he hates just about everybody but himself, or possessions, extensions or supporters of himself, he has the total hots for the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin.

Given the plainly evident fact that Putin runs a kleptocracy as corrupt as inept as any on earth, including my perennial bugbear, UMNO-BN’s Malaysia, and is an ally of Bashar al-Assad in his all-out bloody war on the Syrian people, this is a very curious love-fest indeed.

So much so, that as I wrote on Trump’s inauguration, or, more accurately, Inughuration Day, I’m amazed that the penny or rather rouble hasn’t dropped with conspiracy theorists that he could well in real if not TV reality be a Russian security agency FSB operative named Trumpski, and thus the first Russian agent to not only successfully and safely breach US security, but to actually run for and seize the presidency into the bargain.

Bizarre blip

But whatever the rationale for the bizarre blip, flaw or anomaly in his constitutional narcissism that enables Trump to feel something that looks for all the world like romantic love for the highly undesirable Vladimir Putin, as far as I’m concerned I can’t help thinking of February 14, 2017 as international St Vladentine’s Day.

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Though of course members and supporters of Malaysia’s UMNO-BN regime won’t agree with me at all. Firstly because in their attempts to appear supportive of Islam, the religion they so disgrace, these crooks choose not to recognise St Valentine’s Day or any variant of it because it’s ‘Christian’.

And secondly they would surely claim that the love that dares not speak its name between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is far outshone by the relationship between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and any significant world leader who deigns to give him a game of golf.

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As he’s already boasted that Donald Trump did years before he even thought of running for President, although as far as I’m aware Trump himself has no recollection of this event.

In any case, as his supporters can persuasively argue, Najib is every bit as big-time as Trump is in the self-love stakes. It was Najib, after all, who, earlier in his premiership, lavished heaps of public money on signs proclaiming ‘I love PM’ and on paying crowds of people to carry and display them.

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And Najib, allegedly, at least, who even arguably trumped Trump in the self-love department by arranging to have RM2.6 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds into his own, personal bank account(s).

But then came Najib’s big mistake in my book. Any world-class narcissist worth his salt would have welcomed revelations of these payments with the comment that he was entitled to the cash and worth every cent of it, but Najib failed the test by claiming that it was a ‘donation’ from some anonymous ‘rich Saudi’ benefactor.

In other words, Najib’s pretence to pure, narcissistic Trump-style self-love is fatally marred not only by his lust for other people’s money, but also by his complete failure to take responsibility for, let alone to show pride in this self-indulgence.

So, even though as I recall giving him a dishonourable mention in ‘Be my Villaintine’ back at this time in 2014, and he’s clearly right up there with Trump and Putin when it comes to self-love, he’s clearly not a party to their special relationship, and thus, however hard he might be Valentryin’, he’ll never be a candidate for Vladentine.

 

DJ Trump in a Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua Dilemma


February 9, 2017

DJ Trump in a Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua Dilemma

Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” for Muslims: Najib Exempt?

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/malaysia-politics/trumps-extreme-vetting-for-muslims-najib-exempt/

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Tan Sri Syed Azman, Malaysia’s AP King

At 2:30 a.m. one day in mid-November, after the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States, the telephone rang in the official residence of Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia.

Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor answered the telephone. On the other end was businessman Syed Azman of Weststar Group, a sprawling Malaysia-based conglomerate with interests in cars, aviation, construction, defense and engineering. Azman’s 40 helicopters shuttle people and goods to offshore oil platforms.

Known as the “AP king” for his ability to acquire scarce government-issued Approved Permits to import luxury cars into Malaysia, Azman, a Tan Sri – one of the highest of Malaysia’s arcane honorifics – had good news. The President-elect wanted to talk to her husband and told him to call two hours later, at 4:30 a.m. Azman arranged the call between Najib and Trump.

Azman is not just a rich Malaysian businessman. He knows Donald Trump relatively well and, according to a public statement by Rosmah, plays golf with the President, a real estate tycoon before his election. Some years ago Azman bought two of Trump’s ornate branded jets for use by his own businesses. During the presidential campaign, he re-loaned one of the jets back for use by Trump’s aides. It was repainted in the Trump livery and used during the campaign, a source in Kuala Lumpur told Asia Sentinel.

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A Fleet of Helicopters owned by Weststar Group

An email to White House press representative Michael C. Short, asking for details of the conversation, went unanswered. But a thrilled Rosmah, in a video recording released on Nov. 28 from a public function she had attended, described the call, saying Najib called Trump at the fixed time, and Trump answered himself. Rosmah said Trump and her husband discussed various things, and that the US President-Elect commended Malaysia’s economic growth rate. Trump, she added, also asked Najib when the latter planned to visit the US, to which the prime minister replied, “Wait until you settle in and I will come. I would like to discuss a few things with you.”

Apparently Trump’s famed “extreme vetting” of Muslims didn’t extend to Najib. The Malaysian Premier is the subject of an investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit (part of its Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section) for the theft of up to US$1 billion from the Malaysian government-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd. investment fund.

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Barack Obama’s beleaguered Golf Buddy –Malaysia’s Najib Razak

Earlier, during the administration of Barack Obama, Najib was a presidential favorite under the perception that he was a moderate Muslim leader and a regional powerhouse. The Malaysian Prime Minister was invited to play golf in Hawaii with Obama before word filtered up about the fact that he was involved in what appears to be the biggest scandal in Malaysian history. That ended Najib’s cozy relationship with the then President.

Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” for Muslims: Najib Exempt?In addition to the theft, at least two people have died violently in acts tied to Najib’s administration.

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In October 2006, a Mongolian translator and international party girl, Altantuya Shaaribuu, was shot in the head twice and her body was blown up with military explosives in a patch of jungle outside of Kuala Lumpur by two of Najib’s bodyguards. She had played a minor role in the purchase of French submarines by the Malaysian government when Najib was defense minister. French officials have charged that €114 million (now US$123 million) in bribes was channeled through Najib to the United Malays National Organization and another €36 million went into a mysterious company in Hong Kong that was established by Najib’s best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, who was instrumental in the submarine transaction.

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 The Late Anthony K. Morais

In the other incident, Anthony Kevin Morais, a prosecutor for Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission who was investigating the 1MDB scandal disappeared in November of 2015. His body was later found encased in cement in an oil drum that had been rolled into a river outside Kuala Lumpur. His brother, Charles Morais, an Atlanta businessman, later charged that Kevin Morais had been investigating Najib and his wife when he disappeared. Kevin Morais was believed to be channeling vital information about the scandal to the Sarawak Report, which has been instrumental in uncovering the details.

A half-dozen global jurisdictions including Switzerland, Singapore, the United Kingdom and others are awaiting the continuing US investigation, which involves allegations of the theft of at least US$2.5 billion and perhaps as much as US$4 billion from 1MDB, which was so disastrously overseen that it is believed to have lost as much as US$11.3 billion through theft and mismanagement.

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Like President Trump, flamboyant Jho Taek Low was educated at The Wharton School of Finance, The University of Pennsylvania

Steered by a flamboyant young friend of the Najib family named Jho Taek Low, an unknown amount of that money allegedly went to finance Red Granite Pictures, the Hollywood entity that produced the blockbuster movie “Wolf of Wall Street.” Riza Aziz, Rosmah’s son by a previous marriage, was a co-producer of the picture. Considerably more has ended up in California and New York, in real estate owned by nominees, particularly Jho Low, as he is known, who are believed to represent the Najib family.

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Najib’s Next Golfing Buddy?–Trump, however, cannot intercede on his behalf on 1MDB

In July 2016 US Federal prosecutors issued a 136-page document alleging that “over the course of an approximately four year period, between approximately 2009 and at least 2013, multiple individuals, including public officials and their associates, conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB through various means, including by defrauding foreign banks and by sending foreign wire communications in furtherance of the scheme, and thereafter, to launder the proceeds of that criminal conduct, including and through US financial institutions.

“The funds diverted from 1MDB were used for the personal benefit of the co-conspirators and their relatives and associates, including to purchase luxury real estate in the United States, pay gambling expenses in Las Vegas casinos, acquire more than US$100 million in artwork, invest in a major New York development project, and fund the production of major Hollywood films. 1MDB maintained no interest in these assets and saw no returns on these investments.”

As is customary, the US Justice Department had no comment on the progress of its continuing investigation into assets believed to have been stolen by the family or their associates.

Despite that, Najib and his cronies in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO0, the country’s biggest political party, have insulated themselves from the loss of leadership of the country primarily by bribing the 190-odd cadres who determine the leadership of UMNO to keep him in power. UMNO leadership confers automatic status as Prime Minister.

The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Sarawak Report, Asia Sentinel and other publications have provided voluminous proof that Najib allegedly diverted at least US$681 million – he has acknowledged the deposit in his personal accounts in Kuala Lumpur but given no reason for the deposit. Other sources have put the amount as high as US$1 billion.

“Come over with your family, we can have lunch or dinner,” Trump told Najib in the phone call, according to Rosmah. It remains to be seen if the invitation will continue to be extended.

A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism


January 2, 2017

A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism

The Ringgit screwed by Fed’s Decision to raise interest rates


December 16, 2016

The Ringgit screwed by Fed’s Decision to raise interest rates–Wake Up Finance Minister Najib Razak

by Bernama

The ringgit opened lower for the last trading day of the week, dampened by external sentiment, a dealer said.

At 9am, the ringgit was traded at 4.4660/4690 versus the US dollar from 4.4440/4480 at yesterday’s closing.

The strengthening of the US dollar due to the recent announcement by the Federal Reserve on interest rates has affected Asian currencies as well as emerging market currencies, and Malaysia is not excluded.

FXTM Research Analyst Lukman Otunuga said from a technical standpoint, the dollar is heavily bullish on the daily timeframe with yesterday’s hawkish surprise sending the US Dollar Index to fresh 14-year highs above 102.50.

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“The dollar’s strength could become a key theme in 2017 as the improving sentiment towards the US entices bullish investors to propel the greenback higher,” he said in a statement.

Against a basket of major currencies, the ringgit traded higher. Vis-a-vis the Singapore dollar, the ringgit rose to 3.0945/0983 from 3.1049/1096 and versus the yen, it improved to 3.7758/7796 from 3.7846/7894 yesterday.

Against the British pound, the local currency appreciated to 5.5320/5380 from 5.5873/5949, while against the euro it rose to 4.6518/6563 from 4.6851/6921.

– Bernama

 

Najib Razak: Own Up to Reality and Resign


December 8, 2016

Najib Razak: Own Up to Reality and Resign

by Stephen Ng@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT Now that the cat is finally let out of the bag, what else does Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak have to say about China’s involvement in bailing out 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) from the US$6.5 billion sought for by the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC)?

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Most Malaysians were already half-expecting this piece of news to emerge, despite the assurances that the government would not bail out 1MDB.

One can only cross one’s fingers to hear what cabinet ministers would say in another alleged big cover-up the way we have seen with the 1MDB scam and the RM2.6 billion donation into Najib’s private accounts?

At least Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani has come forward to claim that he knew nothing about the arrangement with China, as alleged by the United Kingdom’s Financial Times (FT), but is he doing anything about it? Johari was the one who promised that 1MDB would not be bailed out by the government.

If Johari did not know, and 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is unable to articulate anything intelligent about the arrangement with China, who else would know about it? Arul was not with the contingent that visited China recently.

I also wonder if Paul Low would continue to blow the trumpet about integrity of the man himself, now that more truths have been told about the infamous Malaysian Official No 1 (MO1).

Malaysia’s international reserves are now at an eight-month low in November, and investors are fleeing the equity market.

If it is not a serious thing, why does Jho Low’s family now try to battle the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil suit in court? Why, instead of the family, doesn’t Low and Najib’s own stepson, Riza Aziz, pick up the case themselves to claim the money back?

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They should be bold enough to appear before the American court; after all, Najib is a golfing buddy of the president-elect, Donald Trump, and both Low and Riza should be safe.

I believe that even when Trump takes over, he will not interfere with the civil suit; and if he did, against the world’s expectations, he may face impeachment. The suit would have to proceed and the money recovered back on behalf of the Malaysian people. The DOJ can certainly not be wrong when it made a strong remark about the kleptocrats and within the context of the suit, pinpointed the role played by MO1.

Ask Rahman Dahlan who MO1 is.

Digging a bigger hole

Just like the loan from IPIC, which was used as a bailout deal, now the money from China is not going to come for free. In fact, it has already made Malaysia, and Najib for the matter, to become a beggar of sorts, going around looking for money to cover one loan after another.

This cannot keep going on the way it appears to be going without the greater consequences of Malaysia becoming another rogue nation.

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The Bank Negara Malaysia Governor and his Master

I want to know if Bank Negara, Finance Ministry or the cabinet are even aware of the arrangement that was made with China. More information has to be released to the public, since it will further impact the country’s economy and investors’ confidence.

The arrangement with China, which I believe to be yet another loan which has to be paid back, will surely attract a higher interest. If the allegations by FT are not true, Najib should take the news agency to task, but till today, Najib has shunned any idea of suing either Sarawak Report or the Wall Street Journal.

If we continue going on a merry-go-round to borrow money from one source to cover the loan from another, we will end up being an impoverished nation in no time. Eventually, we will have a much bigger hole to deal with.

By then, Najib may be gone, but the problem will continue to plague the nation. No amount of lies can cover up all the lies already told. Just look at the way how the lies have been concocted – and published in the Malaysian media, yet the truth eventually surfaces.

God is great! It is time for Najib to come forward to tell the whole story, now or never! Malaysians are not stupid people, although some of us may appear reticent or inhibited, but I think enough is enough. How long can Malaysians be lied to?

Straighten up

In Malaysia, we have the tendency to glorify illegal moneylenders and gangsters as ‘businessmen’, with some being given the Datukship or as Malaysiakini’s commentator, Mariam Mokhtar, put it, ‘Latukship’.

Although short of a Tan Sri title, Paul Phua may be an illegal gambling kingpin to the rest of the world, arrested and charged by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, but in Malaysia, he is being glorified by the Home Affairs Minister for his contribution towards national security which even the Police knew nothing about.

Recently, we saw how red-shirts leader and UMNO Sungai Besar division chief Jamal Md Yunos allegedly behaved like a gangster, yet he is allowed to go scot-free despite the numerous threats that he allegedly made against BERSIH chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.

Another man on the police’s wanted list for murder cases in the past, Ong Teik Kwong, was shot dead by his own bodyguard; he, too, was a celebrity when his funeral was held recently.

Both are said to have received datukships, although their behavour and allegedly dubious backgrounds may have been raised in the media.

Instead of arresting the people who created ruckus at Zunar’s exhibition, I wonder why the political cartoonist was being arrested, when the exhibition was a peaceful one and held within an enclosed premises for people who want to view his artwork.

And while the Police are now looking for BERSIH activists, I wonder if they are also looking for the people behind the controversial solidarity gathering with the Rohingyas, especially when the speech by Najib has not only soured the relationship between Myanmar and Malaysia, but the criticism of a Nobel peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi is anything but diplomatic.

And certainly not befitting the head of a government. If he cared enough for the Rohingyas, he should be brave enough to confront Au San Suu Kyi herself instead of sending the chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin. After all, Aung San Suu Kyi is only a woman, but a woman of substance.

If we do not straighten up, things can only get worse and everyone will suffer as a result. Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said this in an interview recently with the international media: “He (Najib) is destroying this country… he is bringing in racism… very, very serious crime has been committed.”

My humble plea to Najib at this stage is, for the sake of the nation, he should resign, and allow someone else to take over. If he cannot trust his current deputy, he can always lift up his own cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein, as the next deputy prime minister.

Whatever it is, Malaysians are saying, “Enough is enough!” We want punishment to be meted out against those who were responsible for the 1MDB scandal.Who knows, with Hishammuddin, the people may return to Barisan Nasional?


STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.