Malaysia’s Economic Report Card: Positive


July 26, 2017

Malaysia’s Economic Report Card:  “Malaysia is on the right course”, says Prime Minister Najib Razak

In delivering his keynote address at InvestMalaysia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur today (July 25), Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak highlighted the economic transformation under his leadership.

He also launched a scathing broadside at the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, whose chairperson is his former mentor turned nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Among others, Najib claimed that there has been a concerted campaign to send misinformation overseas to damage Malaysia’s economy for selfish political objectives.

“So if you receive these smears, or you read it in publications that do not check the facts properly, please beware,” he told his audience, comprising local and foreign investors.–www.malaysiakini.com

Full Text of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Keynote Address (Salutations Removed)

Image result for Najib Razak at InvestMalaysia Forum 2017

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, addressing some 2,000 local and international investors attending the Invest Malaysia 2017 Forum–July 25, 2017

As the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I want to lay out the foundations needed for our nation to be counted among the very top countries in the world. We want that competitive edge, and to be a knowledge-based society – but we must always work towards those goals in ways that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable. No Malaysian must ever be left behind. All must participate and benefit from this amazing journey that we are on.–Prime Minister Najib Razak

Seven years ago, in 2010, I introduced our New Economic Model – right here, at Invest Malaysia. This model was designed to transform Malaysia into a high- income nation, and our country into a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable society, with no one left behind, opportunity made available for all, and the right fundamentals put in place to secure a stable and successful future.

We had a plan of reform – economic transformation and taking the tough but responsible choices. And it is clear today, that, aided by the hard work of millions of Malaysians, the plan has worked and is continuing to work.

Let the facts speak for themselves:

Between 2009 and 2016, Gross National Income has increased by nearly 50 percent, and GNI per capita using the Atlas method increased to US$9,850. Based on the World Bank’s latest high-income threshold of US$12,235, we have narrowed the gap towards the high-income target from 33 percent to 19 percent.

2.26 million jobs have been created, which represents 69 percent of the 3.3 million target we want to reach by 2020. Clearly, we are making the right progress towards those goals.

Inflation and unemployment have been kept low. We have attracted unprecedented levels of Foreign Direct Investment, which shows the confidence the world has in Malaysia.

But no wonder. For our growth has been the envy of the advanced economies, even during years of turmoil in the global economy. This year, the World Bank has upped their estimate. We are expected to record a rise in GDP of 4.9 percent, considerably higher than their earlier prediction of 4.3 percent.

Others have also increased their predictions – Morgan Stanley now says 5 percent, while Nomura’s forecast is for the Malaysian economy to grow by 5.3 percent this year. Only yesterday, the IMF has reviewed their forecast from 4.5 percent to 4.8 percent. And growth is expected to be higher next year. So we are on the right trajectory.

Other sets of figures support confidence in Malaysia. In the first quarter of 2017 our trade, for instance, recorded an increase of 24.3 percent – up to RM430.5 billion – compared with the same period last year.

In March, exports breached the RM80 billion mark for the first time. At RM82.63 billion, it was the highest monthly figure for Malaysian exports ever recorded.

The capital market increased by nine percent to a level of RM3.1 trillion in the first six months of this year, and now ranks fifth in Asia relative to GDP. It continues to attract wide interest from both domestic and foreign investors. In fact, in the equity market, there were net inflows of RM11 billion in the first half of 2017, compared with RM3 billion of net outflows during the whole of 2016.

The Malaysian bond market grew to RM1.2 trillion in 2016, while our Islamic capital market has recorded a hugely impressive average annual growth of 10 percent over the last six years, reaching RM1.8 trillion in June 2017.

Malaysia is also home to the largest number of listed companies in ASEAN. At US$29 billion, Bursa Malaysia also recorded the highest amount of funds raised in the last five years in any country in our 10-nation association.

And our currency, the ringgit, has been described by Bloomberg recently as, and I quote, “easily the strongest major Asian currency this quarter, climbing twice as much as the next best, the Chinese yuan”.

All of this can point to only one conclusion – our economy continues to prosper, and we are stronger than ever as a result of the reforms and the programmes the government has put in place.

The markets, the business community and companies like strength and stability. They want the certainty provided by a government that understands that the prosperity of its people is best served by being business-friendly, and that sovereignty is not compromised one inch by the record Foreign Direct Investment this government has secured.

No. It will help build the new Malaysia of the 21st century, and bring many benefits, from knowledge and skills transfers to a rise in the standard of living for the people.

The business community wants the certainty of knowing that the government is committed to the necessary reforms, and is committed to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and to transparency, accountability, and good regulation.

On that note, I can announce that the government has, in principle, agreed to the establishment of an Integrity and Governance Unit at all GLCs, and state and ministry-owned business entities, under the supervision of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, precisely to strengthen the confidence all can, should, and do have in Malaysia.

The international business community knows that it has that certainty – with this government. Indeed, they are voting with their feet. HSBC is investing over RM1 billion to build its future regional headquarters in the Tun Razak Exchange, recognising Malaysia’s increasing status as an international financial and business centre.

Broadcom Limited, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies with a market capitalisation of nearly half-a-trillion dollars, is going to transfer its Global Distribution Hub from Singapore to Malaysia in 2017, from where it will manage the group’s global inventory of RM64 billion a year.

Huawei, a leading global ICT solutions provider which serves more than one- third of the world’s population, has made Malaysia its global operation headquarters, data hosting centre and global training centre, with a total project cost of RM2.2 billion and employing more than 2,370 people.

Saudi Aramco is investing US$7 billion – that’s its biggest downstream investment outside the kingdom – for a 50 percent stake in Petronas’ Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development in Johor. That is the single largest investment in Malaysia, and shows the confidence Saudi Arabia has in our people, our technology, and our ability to be a strong partner with their most important business.

Others who are already here are expanding their operations. Finisar Corporation, a global technology leader in optical communications, will invest a further RM610 million in its operation in Perak – bringing its total investment in Malaysia to RM1 billion.

Coca-Cola has already invested RM1 billion in Malaysia since 2010. It announced in March an additional RM500 million investment to expand the size and production capacity of its plant at Bandar Enstek.

I could go on and on. The point is that the confidence and certainty global businesses have in Malaysia brings jobs, lifts wages and helps our workforce upskill.

It is this government that offers that certainty to businesses both in Malaysia and overseas. The opposition offers none at all. They are in chaos. Two leading members of one party can’t agree if the old opposition alliance still exists in the state of Selangor. “Yes, it does”, says one. “Oh no it doesn’t!” says the other. It’s like a Punch and Judy show!

And the latest leadership structure the opposition announced is farcical, sounding a bit like a return-to-work programme for old-age political pensioners!

It is also cynical and deceptive, with three leaders but no clarity on who has executive power among them, and DAP kept deliberately invisible despite controlling the opposition behind the scenes with the vast majority of their parliamentary seats.

As for their Prime Minister candidate, the opposition is so desperate that they are now trying to make the people believe it will be a nonagenarian – who isn’t even a member of parliament, and whose party has just one seat!

But the truth is that in a democracy numbers don’t lie, and DAP remains by far the most dominant party in the opposition. The DAP leader of the last half century is now hiding behind the man who jailed him, trying to deceive Malays into thinking that former leader is their interim candidate for Prime Minister.

Neither can the word of the opposition be relied on. Just recently, a leading member in one party said that, if Malaysia had such good relations with Saudi Arabia, why had the hajj quota not been increased? But it has! Twice this year, from 22,230 to 27,900 and then up to 30,200.

That’s another example of the benefits this government’s policies bring to the people of Malaysia – in this case, our foreign policy of forging friendship abroad, rather than holding grudges for decades, as that certain former leader still does.

But you won’t hear about the very real benefits from our engagement with Saudi Arabia, China, India or anywhere else from the opposition. In fact, they’ll tell barefaced lies about it, just as they have been feeding lies about the economy and stoking fears of economic disaster in Malaysia.

There has in fact been a concerted campaign to send such misinformation overseas to damage Malaysia’s economy for their own selfish political objectives. So if you receive these smears, or you read it in publications that do not check the facts properly, please beware.

It is not fair to the Malaysian people, and it’s not fair to the business community, both at home and abroad.

They, and you, deserve the truth. So let me tell you what a cross-section of respected international bodies has to say about this government’s record.

The OECD’s most recent economic assessment of Malaysia stated, and I quote: “Malaysia is one of the most successful Southeast Asian economies… thanks to sound macroeconomic fundamentals and its success in transforming its economy into a well-diversified and inclusive one.”

We are ranked second in ASEAN in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2017 – and 23rd overall, among 190 economies globally.

We were ranked second among the Southeast Asian nations in the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index 2016, up one place from last year’s third spot.

We are ranked third among 190 economies, worldwide, for Protecting Minority Investors, by the World Bank Doing Business Report 2017.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 ranks Malaysia fourth among 138 economies for Strength of Investor Protection.

We rank eleventh out of 125 countries in the Venture Capital and Private Equity Attractiveness Index, by the IESE Business School in Spain.

The ratings agency Fitch recently reaffirmed our A- rating and stable outlook.

And a recent survey by BAV Consulting and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania declared Malaysia to be the “best country to invest In”. It said, and I quote, “Malaysia is the clear frontrunner in this ranking, scoring at least 30 points more than any other country on a 100 point scale.”

There is clear international unanimity that Malaysia is on the right course, and the figures and accolades I have reported to you today are the direct results of this government’s steering of the economy through uncertain and choppy global waters.

IMF reported that the resilience of our economy was due, and I quote, to “sound macroeconomic policy responses in the face of significant headwinds and risks”. And these sound policies are the reason why they said that: “Malaysia is among the fastest growing economies among peers.”

And lastly, the World Bank has shown that it agrees as well. In its latest report, issued just last month, it said that the government’s “macroeconomic management has been constantly proactive and effective in navigating near-term challenges in the economic environment”.

It concluded, and I quote: “The Malaysian economy is progressing from a position of strength.”

Does that really sound like the Malaysian economy is failing, and that we are in danger of going bankrupt, as the opposition would have you believe?

I think the World Bank, the OECD and the IMF know what they are talking about – and I’m sure, ladies and gentlemen, that you do too.

We have only arrived at that position of strength because we put in place a far-reaching economic plan; and because we have been unafraid to take the tough decisions to build up the resilience of the Malaysian economy.

We have diversified government sources of income, including reducing reliance on oil and gas revenues from 41 percent in 2009 to 14 percent today. Given the huge drop in the price of oil, just imagine how we would be suffering if we had not done that.

We also needed to widen the tax base, and so, in common with around 160 other countries, we introduced a goods and services tax, or GST. It was not popular, but it was the right thing to do – as every reputable economist has confirmed.

GST has helped us in our determination to steadily reduce the deficit – we are on course to reduce it to three percent this year, from 6.7 percent in 2009 – and GST has been crucial to retaining our good assessments by the international ratings agencies.

Yet the opposition says they would abolish it. Tell me, from where exactly would they produce the RM41 billion collected in GST revenue last year? Out of a hat?

If GST was abolished, it would not just be a matter of a revenue shortfall. The deficit would rise from 3.1 percent to 5 percent. Our ability to fund the construction of schools, hospitals and other essentials would be affected.

Government debt would rise above our self-imposed level of 55 percent of GDP. Our sovereign credit ratings would then be downgraded. Lending costs for all, such as loans for personal use, for business and for housing, would increase. The people would suffer, and they would suffer directly.

One of Malaysia’s prominent independent analysts, the Director of Economics at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, had it right when he said the idea of getting rid of GST was, and I quote, “preposterous” and “economically nonsensical”. “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to do that,” he said.

It is another example of what the opposition do when faced with tough decisions: they seek the easy or the populist way out, regardless of whether it makes sense or is even possible. They are not being straight with the Malaysian people.

This government, however, will always be straight with the people and we will always do right by the people. We will always put their interests first, from economic welfare to security. Even if it is not the most popular thing to do, we will not hesitate – because it is the responsible thing to do for the country.

This is also one of the reasons I am not very popular with that certain nonagenarian. Under his leadership many corners were cut, and the Malaysian people had to pay a very high price so that a few of his friends benefited, even when symbols of national pride had horrendous and catastrophic decisions inflicted on them.

But I say to you now that under this government, we are cracking down on crony capitalism. No more sweetheart deals. No more national follies kept going to stroke the ego of one man. No more treating national companies as though they were personal property.

Because it is the people who suffer, and we will not tolerate a few succeeding – and not on their own merits – while the many are denied opportunities, all for the interests of a selfish few.

Now some of you may be thinking that I have not mentioned national companies where there have been issues. At 1MDB it is now clear that there were lapses in governance.

However, rather than bury our heads in the sand, we ordered investigations into the company at a scale unprecedented in our nation’s history. Rather than funnel good money after bad to cover up any issues 1MDB may have faced – the model embraced by a former leader – I instructed the rationalisation of the company.

And it is progressing well. Indeed, many of the assets formerly owned by 1MDB are thriving. One only needs to drive past Tun Razak Exchange to see the new construction for confirmation.

But let’s not forget that while there were issues at 1MDB, certain politicians blew them out of proportion, and tried to sabotage the company, in an attempt to topple the government in-between election cycles.

At the time we knew the real issue was not 1MDB, and that if 1MDB hadn’t been around they would have chosen another line of attack to try to illegitimately change the government. So we stood steadfast, and resolute, in the face of this orchestrated campaign. Because we will not be deterred from our duty, as the democratically elected government, to serve the nation.

Our priorities were made crystal clear when we introduced the concepts of the “capital economy” – which refers to the macro perspective – and the “people economy”, which is focused entirely on the people, the most precious asset of our great country.

We face challenges ahead, of course. We need to improve productivity. We need to raise the levels of education and skills. We need to put innovation and creativity at the heart of the economy of the future.

This why we have partnered with the Chinese technology leader Alibaba to create the Digital Free Trade Zone, the world’s first special trade zone that will promote the growth of e-commerce, and provide a state-of-the-art platform for both SMEs and larger enterprises to conduct their digital businesses and services.

This initiative is part of the digital roadmap which aims to double e-commerce growth from 10.8 per cent to 20.8 per cent by 2020.

But we can only achieve such targets with the people, and by empowering the people. To ensure the dignity of all, we have virtually eliminated poverty, to less than one percent. We are delighted that the income of the bottom 40 percent households has been increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent since 2009, when I took office.

But we know that cost of living issues hit those with low incomes the hardest; which is why we distributed RM5.36 billion in 1Malaysia People’s Aid, or BR1M, to 7.28 million households in 2016. This is why we ensured that essential foods and necessities are zero-rated for GST.

At the same time, we have many agencies promoting affordable housing programmes, and why we built and restored nearly 95,000 houses for the rural poor last year. Other affordable housing projects include PPA1M, for civil servants; PR1MA, for the urban middle income group; and the People’s Housing Programme for the lower income group, or Bottom 40, with monthly rents as low as RM124.

Infrastructure, too, is absolutely vital. It is crucial for our cities, and life-changing for rural communities. From 2010 to 2016 we delivered 6,042 kilometres of new rural roads, provided 350,000 houses with access to clean water, and connected 154,000 houses to electrical services.

At the end of last year, the first phase of the Mass Rapid Transit project was completed, and recently, the second phase of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line has been launched. We now have 51 kilometres of operational line with 31 stations.

This will take 160,000 cars off road, making Kuala Lumpur more liveable. It created 130,000 new jobs, of which 70,000 are direct employment. And best of all, it was completed ahead of schedule and RM2 billion below budget. We are now planning for MRT 2 and 3.

The Pan Borneo Highway in Sarawak and Sabah will be a game changer for our people there, encouraging greater mobility, boosting industry and tourism and creating thousands of new jobs.

In a few years time, we will have the first high-speed rail link connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, which will cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes, as compared to more than four hours by car.

And the East Coast Rail Link will bring huge benefits, jobs and a new connectedness to the people of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan in particular.

In other areas, we are seeing the benefits of our programmes for all the people. The national pre-school enrolment rate rose to 85.6 percent in 2016, for instance, as opposed to 67 percent in 2009; and we have achieved almost universal enrollment for the five years and upwards age group.

Women have seen great strides as well. The female labour force participation rate has increased from 46 percent in 2009 to 54.3 percent last year. That’s over 700,000 more women in the workforce.

And I am delighted to be able to announce that Malaysia has reached its target of women making up 30 percent of top management – that’s 1,446 women, out of a total of 4,960 in top management excluding CEOs, as of December 2016.

We want to go further, though, and have set 2020 as the date by which we want all public listed companies (PLCs) to have at least 30 percent women at board level. Because we know that when women succeed, we all succeed.

Unfortunately, we still have 17 “top 100” PLCs that have no women at all on their board. This just is not good enough, and I call on these companies to immediately address this lack of diversity. I would like to announce that, from 2018, the Government will name and shame PLCs with no women on their boards.

As many of you will know, SMEs make up 97 percent of businesses in Malaysia, and one of the hallmarks of my administration has been its support and encouragement for this backbone of our economy.

So I am pleased to be able to officially launch today the Leading Entrepreneur Accelerator Platform Market, or LEAP Market, by Bursa Malaysia. This is a new qualified market which will offer an alternative way for small and medium companies to raise funds and grow their business to the next level.

It is in line with our SME Masterplan which aims to raise the share of GDP contributed by SMEs, their numbers of employees, and their volume of exports.

And it is another of the many initiatives that my government has put in place in pursuit of our transformation, and that prove our trustworthiness as a business-friendly government of a vibrant economy.

We want you to see Malaysia as a gateway to ASEAN and the region, and with the eventual conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, we want you to see Malaysia as a base from which to access almost 50 percent of the world’s population, and over 30 percent of global GDP.

This year, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of independence. From relatively humble beginnings, we have grown and evolved into a modern economy and society with a record to be proud of. But we are looking to the future as well – which is why we have produced the 2050 National Transformation, or TN50, initiative.

Through TN50, we want to listen to our rakyat. We want them to be heard. And through our dialogue sessions, we are listening to the aspirations of our youth for what they want the Malaysia of 2050 to be.

As the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I want to lay out the foundations needed for our nation to be counted among the very top countries in the world. We want that competitive edge, and to be a knowledge-based society – but we must always work towards those goals in ways that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable. No Malaysian must ever be left behind. All must participate and benefit from this amazing journey that we are on.

We invite you be to part of that journey, and I hope today we are able to shed light on the tremendous opportunities that Malaysia has to offer. We urge to you to look at our potential; to look at the great achievements the government’s transformation programme has delivered, and continues to deliver; and invest in Malaysia.

 

The Power of Writing Regained


June 11, 2017

The Power of Writing Regained

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

After confessing in my column last week that depression was threatening to rob me of what I’ve long relied on as my last-ditch defence against the total disempowerment of despair – the power of writing – this week I have to admit that it didn’t help very much.

Image result for rene descartes quotes on math

It certainly didn’t do anything to dispel my lack of faith in the biblical alleged wisdom that “confession is good for the soul”, if only for the sole reason that I’m incurably skeptical about the existence of any such metaphysical entity.

But my confession was apparently cathartic or otherwise psychologically beneficial enough to my spirits as to restore my powers of written speech.

And kind comments on the ensuing column from two perennially-supportive pseudonymous Malaysiakini readers, JesuisAnwar and HaveAGreatDay, whoever they actually are, have greatly sustained my spirits since. So much so as to inspire me to the thought that it may not be depression per se that has been threatening to leave me lost for words all this while, but disappointment.

Disappointment at how little I feel I’ve achieved, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in my by now quite lengthy lifetime, and also at my apparent inability to redress these deficiencies, or at least make the most of the rapidly-dwindling time I have left to do so before death.

Or, to put this another way, I’m both metaphorically and literally dying to write as many and as meaningful words as possible before I reach my final full stop.

Unhappily, however, to return to the subject of disappointment for a moment, I’ve left so many of life’s fundamental questions so unnoticed, unexamined and unwritten-about, that I’m virtually dumbstruck with confusion as to which of them is most worth spending, my or indeed anybody’s last words on.

So rather than striving to have my final say on them all at once, as I’ve been so unproductively doing in my panic to meet my final, indeed terminal deadline, I’d better get myself focused, and fast.

By being smart enough, for a start, to think of my remaining writing time not simply in terms of how to best to “spend” it, as I see I thoughtlessly did two paragraphs ago, but how to invest it most intelligently on worthwhile topics or at least avoid squandering much if any more of it on trivia and trash.

Like, to cite the most vivid example of the latter types of topic than I can think of, in light of the almost 500,000 words I’ve wasted on them in this Malaysiakini column over the past 11 years, the corrupt, incompetent and ruthlessly truthless members and countless crimes and other misdeeds of Malaysia’s miserable, ever-misruling UMNO-BN regime.

Not that I’m promising to never mention them again, you understand, as long as Malaysiakini keeps generously granting me space on its site. But in future, I intend to mention this gruesome gang and all the world’s many other similarly blundering, plundering and people-repressing regimes only, if possible, in the context of or in relation to issues that are far more fundamentally interesting and important.

Like power, for instance, whose multitudinous and endlessly paradoxical manifestations are as all-pervasive in human lives and affairs as they are everywhere else in what we call the universe, and yet seems to me generally poorly comprehended or even perceived.

And like truth, which mankind seems to have spent its long history striving on the one hand to define, seek and discover, and on the other hand, and often simultaneously, seeking with equal if not greater determination, to ignore, avoid, contradict or deny.

In the process so apparently totally losing sight of the many and various meanings, purposes and perversions of truth as to seriously entertain the ludicrously ahistorical proposition that, because we can all post opinions on the net and the US has elected a lying pest like Donald Trump, we’ve reached the age of “post-truth”.

Another perennially pressing topic for as many last words as possible, of course, is the one that had inspired the ancient ethical philosophers, Western and Eastern alike, to ask “how should life be lived?”

But here the kind of confusion that’s been leaving me lost for last words starts to kick back in again. Because it’s impossible to consider and discuss ethics without consideration of truth and power, as well as what it means to be successfully and fully ‘human’.

A thought that brings me to what seems to me to be the ultimate topic for my or any other human who’s on a mission to make the most of his or her wits and words, last or otherwise: the exhortation carved in stone outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi to “know thyself”.

This, of course, in light of the unfathomable complexities of and confusions and conflicts between our animal instincts and human intellects and conscious and unconscious minds, is paradoxically impossible.

In fact, as Socrates, my favourite philosopher, demonstrated to his own satisfaction and the outrage of his fellow Athenians, who for his pains condemned him to death for blasphemy and misleading the youth of the city, that nobody really knows anything.

And over a thousand years later, Frenchman René Descartes similarly set out to challenge every belief he had for which he could find insufficient support, and found that the only one he was left with was, as he famously expressed it in Latin, Cogito, Ergo Sum, or “I think, therefore I am”.

However skeptical about my own and others’ beliefs that I am, I certainly don’t kid myself that I’m in Socrates’ or Descartes’ class. But I’d most certainly consider my life far from wasted if I could come up with enough sensible and sincere last words to finally feel satisfied at the end with an epitaph along the lines of “I wrote, therefore I was”.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini


May 26, 2017

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

The Malaysian government, having gone after social media platforms and a long list of other social critics, is now turning its attention to Malaysiakini, the most influential of the country’s independent news portals, and increasing its detention of social activists.

Amnesty International and Article 19, two international rights organizations, have condemned the government’s decision to press charges against Premesh Chandran, the Chief Executive Officer, and Steven Gan, the Editor of Malaysiakini. The charge relates to a press conference in July of 2016 in which a critic was filmed taking on Attorney- General Mohamad Apandi Ali for clearing Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption charges.

The detentions and charges take place in a darkening political mood in the country among the political opposition, journalists and others critical of the regime headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has managed to continue his rule for months despite deep concerns over his integrity.

Image result for Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan

As “Public Official 1” Najib faces investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit for having purchased, through surrogates, hundreds of millions of dollars of US property with money stolen from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd investment fund. The fund is believed to have lost as much as US$11 billion through theft and mismanagement. At least US$1 billion and as much as US$2 billion appears to have ended up in the Prime Minister’s bank accounts.

The gloom has been added to by the fact that shortly after the US election President Donald Trump called Najib in the middle of the night to wish him well and to invite him to Washington.  Since that time, Trump has abruptly fired Preet Bharara, the crusading United States Attorney in New York and dismissed all of the other regional US attorneys appointed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. While the US attorney position is a political one and the real investigations are carried out by Justice Department professionals, Washington is in such disarray because of missteps by the Trump administration that many have concerns that probes such as that being carried out against Najib and his associates and relatives will be lost in the woodwork.

Image result for Confident Najib RazakDespite scandals and corruption in his administration, Najib Razak will be difficult to dislodge because strong support from UMNO, Sabah and Sarawak
 

Domestically, Najib appears impossible to dislodge. He continues to have the full backing of the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest ethnic political party, and is expected to call an early election later this year to solidify his position for another five years. The opposition remains fragmented and squabbling, with its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in jail on what are considered to be trumped-up charges of sexual perversion.

Against that backdrop, Amnesty international charged that, starting May 15,  authorities notified activists from the Bersih campaign reform organization that they were being investigated for failure to provide Police with a 10-day notice to hold a candlelight vigil for human rights defender Maria Chin Abdullah. Three more activists were summoned by police for making statements “conducive to public mischief” on May 24 and continue to be held.

“Amnesty International is alarmed that the authorities are increasingly responding to activities that aim to express dissent and protest against injustice with baseless police investigations,” the rights organization said in a prepared statement. “These recent actions by the police highlight an escalating pattern of misusing the criminal justice system to target and harass political activists and human rights defenders that Amnesty International has documented over the last few years. These actions have further restricted public debate in Malaysia and reduced the space in which civil society operates.”

Malaysiakini remains the biggest and most credible opposition voice, with 5 million unique visitors per month in a political milieu in which the next election campaign is likely to be fought out to a large extent in social media.  The 18-year-old news portal has been repeatedly raided and harassed by authorities.

The current charges against Gan and Chandran stem from a July 26, 2016 press conference in which a former UMNO official, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, called for Apandi Ali’s resignation for clearing Najib of corruption allegations linked to 1MDB after Najib had suddenly fired Apandi Ali’s predecessor, Abdul Ghani Patel, who was rumored about to charge the premier with corruption.

Malaysiakini carried film of Khairuddin’s charges on its streaming video unit KiniTV Sdn Bhd. Gan was charged under  the Communications and Multimedia Act last Novemer. Chandran was charged on May 15 of this year.

Authorities asked Malaysiakini to remove the footage last year but the news portal refused to do so.

“The Attorney General is just kind of like wanting to take up action against us,” Chandran said in a telephone conversation from London, where he is on sabbatical. “But it gives us a good opportunity to fight the charges on constitutional grounds.”

The charges follow recent claims by Najib ”that freedom of expression and press freedom are ‘thriving’ in Malaysia,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programs at ARTICLE 19, a London-based human rights organization with a chapter in Malaysia. “These charges underscore why the vague and sweeping Communications and Multimedia Act needs urgent reform. The increasing use of this law to target independent media and any online criticism of the government is seriously concerning, and also a clear violation of international human rights law on freedom of expression.”

Since 2015, the Malaysian government “has arrested, investigated and charged media personnel, whistleblowers, opposition politicians, artists, students, civil society and social media users for voicing their concerns over the 1MDB scandal,” Article 19 said in a prepared statement, pointing out that the government has also made wide use of the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Penal Code and the Security Offenses and Special Measures Act in the attempt to suppress dissent.

It called on the government to immediately drop the charges against Chandran, Gan and KiniTV and to enact comprehensive reforms to the communications act and other laws used to restrict criticism of the government.

That is highly unlikely. With elections looming sometime over the next year, most observers in Malaysia expect the government to crack down harder as the polls approach.

Malaysiakini: The Last Independent Media left standing in Malaysia


Malaysiakini: The Last Independent Media left standing in Malaysia

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed and Malaysiakini

The Brave Men and Women of Malaysiakini

It was amusing in an agonising kind of way to read recently that the UMNO-BN regime’s Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed chose to celebrate World Press Freedom Day by claiming in a radio interview that Malaysiakini is a “very biased” media outlet.

Because, though of course he allegedly had no intention of telling the truth, in fact quite the opposite, his assertion was perfectly accurate in one unintended sense.

Which is that, as far as I’ve been able to discern during the 18 years of existence, Malaysiakini is totally biased towards doing its duty as a disseminator of accurate information to its audience by reporting the news faithfully, or, as famously stated by the great Adolph Ochs when he took charge of The New York Times in 1896, without fear or favour.

And thus by implication Malaysiakini is also, as any legitimate news organisation must be, similarly biased against the systematic censorship, skewing and indeed outright screwing of the truth by such fake ‘news’ organisations as Umno/BN’s so-called ‘mainstream’ media.

A system of organised deception so deplorable that it has resulted in Malaysia’s being ranked a decidedly rank 144th place in the latest world press-freedom report released by the widely-trusted news-media watchdog Reporteurs Sans Frontières (RFS).

But Nur Jazlan, having branded Malaysiakini as “biased” against the ruthlessly truthless regime he represents, had the effrontery to go on to accuse RFS of being “unfair” in giving Malaysia such a lamentably low ranking.

Claiming in support of this allegation that RFS focused on print rather than online media in its assessments of relative press freedom, and citing the fact that Malaysia rates a mere five places above “totalitarian” China as evidence for his contention that “the index is fraudulent in many ways”.

While for my part I would argue, entirely to the contrary, that Malaysia’s depressing press-freedom ranking is not only a richly-deserved disgrace in and of itself, but also by extension an index of the utter fraudulence of every facet of the nation’s ever-ruling UMNO-BN regime.

But of course it’s entirely predictable that I’d use this column to thus calumniate UMNO-BN’s corruptions and countless other ‘criminalities’.

Indeed, by the very act of publishing my opinions, albeit with the customary legal disclaimer that it doesn’t necessarily share or endorse them, Malaysiakini demonstrates that its bias is not only towards the impartial reporting of true news, but also by extension in favour of the healthy airing and exchanging of views.

Views that, to speak entirely of my own, are as biased as they can possibly be. But genuinely, legitimately, justly and truly biased, I hope, on the basis of compelling evidence or careful consideration or both.

‘Divorced from law and justice’

Truly biased, if you like, either in favour of or against people, organisations and ideas according to which side I perceive that they represent of the duality that Aristotle expressed in advancing the opinion that “as man is the best of all animals when he has reached his full development, so he is the worst of all when divorced from law and justice”.

As phrases go, it seems to me that “divorced from law and justice” is as apt as any to describe the condition of the countless ruling regimes around the world that, like Malaysia’s UMNO-BN and the Chinese Communist Party, deprive their citizens of true information and freedom of both thought and expression for the purpose of furthering their members’ and supporters’ power and profit.

Image result for Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran

The Woodward and Bernstein of Malaysian Journalism–Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan of Malaysiakini:They are biased towards facts and the truth, not fake news. I admire and respect them for their courage under fire and their integrity and professionalism. As Malaysiakini’s SEACEM Fellow, I had the opportunity to interact with them.–Din Merican

Image result for bernstein and woodward

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post who exposed The Watergate Scandal that eventually brought down President Richard M. Nixon

In other words, to prevent any possibility of their people’s becoming legitimately biased against them and their misrule, they do everything possible to keep as many of them as possible as ignorantly and even idiotically donkey-like, or, if you prefer, biased.

Biased primarily, as in the case of the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic’ but actually supposedly criminal UMNO-BN regime, against non-Malays and non-Muslims, but also against such other alleged boogeymen and bugbears as Jews, Western liberals and even foreigners in general.

And to ensure that they remain as dumb and docile as possible in their blissfully biassed state of mind, UMNO-BN squanders some of the fortunes in public funds it allegedly routinely steals from the rakyat by means of scams ranging in size from everyday kickbacks and ‘commissions’ on up to such alleged massive swindles as the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) and 1MDB scams on bribing the biassed to keep quiet and above all keep voting for them, with cash handouts that many Malaysians cynically and highly appropriately call ‘dedak’ or animal feed.

Image result for Nur Jazlan

Nur Jazlan– the Ampu man for Najib Razak

And of course heaps of cash also goes to buy the services of masses of asses, like the aforementioned Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan, countless other UMNO-BN ministers and members, and the managements and ‘journalists’ of the ‘mainstream media’.

Or, in other words, buy-asses charged with and generously paid for keeping the biassed fed with a constant diet of alleged lies.

Like what Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak recently spouted in the latest of his regular attempts to keep the masses as biassed or in other words as unthinking and dumb as the ‘domesticated animals’ that Kant appropriately called those lacking in the will to use their human intelligence.

Najib proposed that Malaysians espouse three ‘principles’, identified as Wala’ (Loyalty), Wassatiyyah (Moderation) and Tabayyun (Understanding), that he claimed will ensure Malaysia’s success.

But his explanation of Wala’ as embodying the values of “love, obedience and allegiance to a legitimate leadership and the institutions which they represent” sounded to me suspiciously like just another exercise in Najib-style pleadership for people to keep blindly following his bleedership.

So all I can hope is that the biassed and even the buy-assed will finally someday come to see Najib and his accomplices in UMNO-BN for the curse they are on Malaysia, and thus become as terminally biased against them as I, Malaysiakini, or indeed anybody in his or her right mind couldn’t possibly help being.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practices as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

Stop the Spin: 1MDB actually capitulated to Abu Dhabi


May 4, 2017

Stop the Spin: 1MDB actually capitulated to all IPIC (Abu Dhabi) demands

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for 1MDB and Abu Dhabi

A Replay of Ali Baba al Najib and his 1MDB forty thieves–Malaysia Boleh

Desperation causes stupidity to rise to the fore.Take 1MDB and the way it spins its so-called settlement with Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), the parent company of Aabar Investments PJS. There was a dispute and it was settled, but there was no renegotiation. 1MDB capitulated to all IPIC demands.

But this has been spun to give the false impression that all matters have been settled between the two. Ministers rushed to make statements about how the eventual settlement will be in favour of 1MDB and how it indicates that no money went into Najib Abdul Razak’s accounts.

Singapore’s The Straits Times, which broke the news on the settlement, even preposterously reported that the settlement will make it more difficult for the US Department of Justice or DOJ to continue with its actions relating to 1MDB. It is difficult to see how because it caused no change in money flows.

The Straits Times reported that the “successful implementation of the proposed settlement could impact legal action being considered against 1MDB by foreign governments, including the DOJ.

“Bankers and legal executives (unnamed) familiar with the situation believe the deal could significantly dilute the international legal challenges confronting Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s administration over the fallout from the 1MDB saga.”

The report continues: “…Here is why. The disputed monies in the Malaysia-Abu Dhabi row are central to legal suits brought by the US Department of Justice over the alleged misappropriation of funds from 1MDB. The Department of Justice claims that the funds siphoned from 1MDB went to fund purchases of real estate and other assets by associates of PM Najib.

Image result for 1MDB and Goldman Sachs

“The settlement agreement between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi would achieve what is known in legal parlance as ‘no predicate offence’, the financial executives said.

“A predicate offence is a crime that is a component of a more serious crime and it is frequently applied in the US to actions involving the provision of funds for money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

“Proponents of the settlement between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi argue that a successful completion of the deal would weaken the impact of any legal action taken by foreign governments over alleged money-laundering at 1MDB because of the lack of evidence,” The Straits Times said.

However, as it stands, US$3.5 billion is still missing and in dispute and IPIC says it never received the money. In this case, clearly the main offence is allegedly stealing money from 1MDB and the predicate offence is the laundering of part of this money in the US.

Everything that the DOJ has reported remains unaltered despite the settlement. Its case remains as strong as ever. The DOJ report says that US$3.657 billion was stolen from 1MDB (the main offence) and part of it was laundered in the US (the predicate offence).

Paying twice for same bonds

Under the settlement, despite outstanding issues, 1MDB agreed to pay RM1.2 billion to IPIC and the US$3.5 billion in two bonds are now guaranteed by 1MDB and Malaysia’s Minister of Finance Inc, instead of jointly with IPIC/Aabar before.

That’s a cost of at least US$1.75 billion (half of the value of the bonds) to 1MDB and leaves 1MDB with no more bargaining power at all. And the US$3.5 billion that 1MDB paid to the wrong Aabar – the one suspiciously incorporated in the British Virgin Islands – is still a matter of dispute.

This will be part of ongoing negotiations. “The parties have also agreed to enter into good faith discussions in relation to payments made by 1MDB Group to certain entities,” IPIC’s filing to the London Stock Exchange states.

Clearly this has not been settled, and as MP Tony Pua, one of the most knowledgeable people about 1MDB, had correctly pointed out, by taking over the guarantee that was previously jointly provided with IPIC, 1MDB is effectively paying twice for the same bonds – some US$7 billion in all! That US$3.5 billion, or over RM15 billion, at current exchange rates still remain missing.

Image result for Malaysia's Second Finance Minister JohariNajib got this former Second Minister by the Bees–Gone Missing

This is where Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani comes in to disclose the existence of a letter confirming that Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (BVI) – the one incorporated in British Virgin Islands, is a subsidiary of IPIC even though the Abu Dhabi firm denies this.

“As far as I am concerned, based on records provided by 1MDB to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) prior to the settlement agreement, Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (BVI) is a subsidiary of IPIC. A fact which was confirmed by the Registrar of Corporate Affairs of the British Virgin Islands by its letter dated Aug 11, 2016,” Johari told Malaysiakini.

But as far as IPIC is concerned, it’s not and that’s what matters. If 1MDB and Malaysia thought otherwise, why would they let IPIC off the hook by assuming the guarantee in full? And there’s no chance IPIC is going to say different in future. The question to ask is, why did 1MDB make a payment to a so-called subsidiary instead of directly to Aabar or IPIC? Was it to deliberately siphon funds out of 1MDB?

And then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said that the settlement shows no money went into the Prime Minister’s account. He is saying that the money is in the form of unit trusts, presumably because 1MDB, in its own scant statement, said that the US$1.2 billion will be monetised from the unit trusts.

But really, that’s not true at all. The DOJ report clearly shows that during different phases of money moving out of 1MDB and into various accounts, a total of US$731 million came into Najib’s accounts between 2009 and 2013. Subsequently, US$620 million moved back into accounts controlled by Jho Low, leaving a net of US$111 million in Najib’s accounts still (see chart).

In the face of desperation, reason has been flung out the window and the increasing ridiculousness of 1MDB’s assertions, those of some ministers and even foreign news reports which appear to have been taken up by 1MDB’s propaganda machine, is a sign – if that was needed – that 1MDB is still very much in dire straits. And that much is being done deliberately to hide the extent of the problems. Still, it will continue to haunt Najib and his administration for a long time more.


P GUNASEGARAM says that truth eventually resurfaces despite all attempts to hold it underwater. Email: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

 

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low


December 27, 2016

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low

COMMENT by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

‘Using religion as a political weapon always results in self-inflicted wounds.’

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

– Seneca

Really dumb ideas have no problem escaping from the Prime Minister’s Department but Paul Low’s suggestion that the Christian community must be politically relevant and “be able to influence policy in a way that reflects the righteousness of God almighty”, is probably the dumbest idea I have ever heard. It is right up there with how Hindraf used religion – Hinduism – as a means to highlight the disenfranchisement of the Indian community and of course, how Islam has been weaponised in Malaysia.

What exactly does “righteousness of the almighty” mean? Furthermore, how do religious groups influence policy if not by getting into bed with craven politicians by means of campaign donations and the rest of the sordid transaction between church and state? You want to know why Hinduism is regressive in this country. The answer is simple, because the MIC got into the business of religion.

So let me get this right. Paul Low – who works for a Muslim regime – thinks that the Christian community should not engage in politics but still find a way of influencing policy. This is probably the most disingenuous double speak emanating from a Putrajaya minion I have ever heard.

Image result for Archbishop Julian Leow

Add to this Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow’s disingenuous contention that “politics and political parties must be distinguished”. Really? In one of my numerous pieces about the so-called ‘Allah’ controversy, I referred to the reality that oppositional politics and religion were intimately entwined. I wrote:

“Meanwhile the DAP who has more or less locked down the Chinese vote, continues to coddle the Christian evangelical movement within its rank, which finds expression in the putrid sloganeering of youth movements like ‘Rise up it’s time to take Subang for Jesus’ endorsed by certain religiously-inclined DAP leaders.”

What this does is give pro-UMNO propagandist the opportunity to further the narratives that Islam is under threat and that opposition parties are attempting to destabilise the country by religious means. Using religion as a political power tool always results in self-inflicted wounds.

Nowhere is this more evident in the unholy alliance between the supposedly secular DAP and vehemently religious PAS. Meanwhile, PKR was standing in the sidelines waiting for the whole thing to blow up so they could reconcile with PAS.

This is not to say that I think religious people should not make their voices heard in a milieu where there is no separation between mosque and state. When writing about the reality of religion in politics, I made two points:

1) “When the political, social and economic reality is predicated on religious superiority and oppression, religious people need to find ways to express themselves in democratic spaces and at the same time realise that the only security they have against further aggression is by supporting secular values.

2) “What I have been contemptuous of is the agenda of Christian politicians using religion as political capital and claiming to be secular while funding Islamic organisations to pander to the Malay/Muslim vote.”

Moreover, point two, the intersection between Christians and Muslims in the opposition have done the most harm because the discourse was framed by craven politicians who were not interested in promoting secular values in both religions, but with creating and maintaining political power.

It is all about credibility. “Credibility is achieved by politicians who leave their religious affiliations at the door and this is especially important for non-Muslim politicians when it comes to dealing with the UMNO state.”

I have made this argument before: “I have argued that the non-Malay power structures are contributing to the indoctrination process by supporting UMNO-enabled institutions thereby setting back any kind of progressive movement in the Malay community. Furthermore, I have been critical of opposition parties that have been reluctant to redefine and propagate ideas that are the exact opposite of the UMNO narrative of what it means to be Malay and Muslim.”

In addition, let me be very clear. I think there should be an exchange of ideas between religious groups but this should not be at the expanse of secular ideas. The problem with the DAP/PAS dalliance is that it was not based on the idea of promoting a progressive secular agenda but attempting to subvert the Malay/Muslim vote which ultimately destabilised the Muslim party, worsening the religious discourse in this country.

Neat little boxes

If Paul Low was really interested in religious freedom, he would be advocating secular values that inhibit religious interference of any kind from political parties and the UMNO state. Those secular values would include limiting the state or any governmental organisation from funding, assisting or favouring any one religion. Of course, Paul Low will not advocate any of this.

A while back I took exception to this whole idea of categorising Muslim and Christians into neat little boxes and argued that secular values are not anathema to any religious community or at least those in the community who could go beyond their religious indoctrination:

“What exactly is a ‘true’ Muslim or ‘true’ Christian for that matter? Someone who believes that religion should not be politicised? Someone who believes that you should not mock another’s religion? Someone who believes that religion should not intrude in the private lives of members in any given society? Someone who believes that there should be a separation of church/mosque and state? These are not ‘true’ religious values but rather true secular values or secular humanist values, if you like.”

Instead, Paul Low prefers to throw fuel on the religious fire by encouraging Christians to be more vocal, using the kind of religious polemics – “almighty” and “religious conviction” – that is mana to pro-UMNO propagandists but yet covering his behind by telling them not to engage with politics.

When the Sabah Council of Churches “pray for divine intervention in the challenging state of affairs of our nation for our sake and the sake of our next generation” you know the plot has truly been lost.  Really, divine intervention?

Moreover, that is really the problem with religion and politics in a Muslim-dominated country.  Unlike Western secular democracies where Muslims have a right to voice their dissent, non-Muslims only have the option of praying for divine intervention.

It is extremely frustrating because all these issues of corruption, incompetent governance, racism and the host of other calamities facing this country are not religious issues. Ultimately anyone who uses religion as a means of political expression loses in a country where the religious game is fixed.