Najib Razak drags Singapore’s reputation as a Regional Centre into the Selut (MUD)

December 29, 2016

From the moment Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak took over 1Malaysia Development Bhd. in 2009 the fund has remained controversial. Plagued by heavy debt and questions about its management, 1MDB grew into a scandal that moved closer and closer to the heart of the Malaysian government and has resulted in numerous foreign probes.

Najib Razak drags Singapore’s reputation as a Regional Centre into the Selut (MUD)

From the 1Malaysia Development Bhd.-linked scandal to a 333-count front-running case and the largest market-manipulation prosecution in Singapore’s history, this year’s allegations of moneymen behaving badly have put the city-state’s image as a squeaky-clean financial hub to the test.

Image result for Najib Razak--Malaysia's No 1. Rogue

Regulators have responded with their busiest year of enforcement actions, shutting the local units of two Swiss banks, fining some of the world’s biggest lenders and seizing S$240 million ($166 million) of assets. Ravi Menon, the head of Singapore’s central bank, summed up the city’s mood as the 1MDB-related cases escalated in July: “We can do better.”

2016 was the year of significant crackdown in Singapore,” said Hamidul Haq, a lawyer at Rajah & Tann LLP and author of ‘Financial Crimes in Singapore.’ “Companies, financial traders and bankers are being kept on their toes.”

The stakes could hardly be higher for a city that relies on finance for 13 percent of its economy and has 200,000 jobs tied to the industry. With exports sliding and the local oil services industries in a slump, Singapore needs to protect the reputation of its financial sector as it grapples with the weakest economic growth since 2009.

 Ravi Menon

Strengthening enforcement functions under a new department is a strong signal of its commitment to uphold Singapore’s reputation, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in an e-mailed response to questions. The regulator said it will continue to boost its enforcement and surveillance capabilities to deter criminal behavior and poor controls.

“This will ensure that any wrongdoing is swiftly detected, thoroughly investigated and firmly dealt with,” the MAS said.

Least Corrupt

Singapore, which prides itself on having a clean and trusted system, is rated by Transparency International as the least corrupt nation in Asia and consistently ranksamong the top 10 globally. That reputation was forged 51 years ago when Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, and politicians from his People’s Action Party dressed in white to show they couldn’t be corrupted. That image helped to lure foreign investment to the city, where more than 200 banks have since set up shop.

The island  republic emerged unscathed from the Bank of Credit and Commerce International global money laundering scandal in 1991 after MAS refused to grant it a license, though it isn’t immune to financial wrongdoing. In 1995, Nick Leeson’s $1.5 billion loss from unauthorized trades brought down Barings Plc, the U.K.’s oldest merchant bank. In 2004, China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corp. revealed a $550 million derivatives fraud.

While Singapore has undergone significant change in tackling money laundering since 2008, “moderate gaps” remain in the city, Paris-based Financial Action Task Force said in September.

 MAS Chief Menon vowed to take stern action after the city’s reputation took a hit following revelations that money linked to 1MDB went through Singapore. The fund, at the center of global money-laundering and corruption probes, has consistently denied wrongdoing.

The city is the only jurisdiction to charge and convict bankers in connection with 1MDB. Yak Yew Chee, an ex-banker at Swiss firm BSI SA, pleaded guilty in November to charges including forging documents and failing to disclose suspicious transactions, while Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, who reported to Yak, was sentenced to two weeks in jail for aiding in forging documents. A former wealth planner at BSI, Yeo Jiawei, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice and faces further charges of money laundering and forgery, among others. Yak and Seah didn’t appeal their convictions and sentences. Yeo is considering an appeal, according to his lawyer.

 “There’s no doubt about the tone that we take,” Singapore Law Minister K Shanmugam said at a media lunch earlier this month, adding that the rule of law is the city’s life blood. “It’s got to be understood that the MAS will be very tough if you don’t follow the rules.”

Bigger Stick

The MAS was given a bigger stick to wield in 2015 after a penny-stock crash in 2013 mysteriously wiped out S$8 billion over three trading days, an event seen contributing to lower subsequent trading volumes. Lawmakers granted the regulator enhanced powers including being able to search premises, seize items and order financial firms to monitor customer accounts.

The alleged “masterminds” in the penny-stock case were charged in November after MAS investigators and white-collar crime police sifted through two million e-mails, thousands of phone records and financial statements and 180 trading accounts to solve the largest securities fraud in the city’s history. Previously, the regulator had to refer criminal probes to the Commercial Affairs Department and could only fine culprits.

“Hopefully, the MAS will continue to focus on catching the bigger fish like they have done in 2016,” said Lan Luh Luh, a professor at the National University of Singapore Business School. “It’s always a dilemma between tightening the reins too much, going after the very little guys and staying open for business.”

Crowdfunding and financial technology may come under scrutiny in 2017, according to Lan. The two areas aren’t heavily regulated and may be open to abuse, she said.

More Scrutiny

Singapore’s enforcement actions this year have made it one of the most active financial regulators in Asia. In rival Hong Kong, the Securities and Futures Commission has been settling probes and creating specialized teams under new enforcement chief Thomas Atkinson.

Other countries have also seen heightened supervisory focus. Indonesia started a tax amnesty plan aimed at repatriating cash stashed overseas while giving evaders a way to come clean. China has placed regulatory curbs to rein in shadow banking and contain debt risk.

“That’s the global trend — it’s going to become harder to hide illicit money,” said Andre Jumabhoy, a Singapore-based lawyer who advises on government enforcement at K&L Gates LLP. “There’s a real emphasis in making sure that if you want to be a serious global financial center like Singapore wants to be, you’ve got to abide by the rules.”

Here’s what the Monetary Authority of Singapore was busy with in 2016:

Banks and bankers

* Fined Standard Chartered Plc, Coutts & Co., UBS Group AG and DBS Group Holdings Ltd. over breaches related to 1MDB. The banks have said they cooperated with authorities.

* Said it plans to bar former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. star banker Tim Leissner from the securities industry for 10 years. Leissner’s lawyer had said he intends to respond to allegations raised by MAS.

Falcon Private Bank Ltd. was fined and ordered to shut over weak controls; local branch manager arrested by police. The bank had said it welcomed the completion of investigations.

BSI SA was fined and directed to close after “serious” money laundering breaches; six senior executives referred to prosecutors. BSI said it cooperated fully with investigations.

Alleged errant traders

* Three people were charged for orchestrating largest market manipulation case in Singapore’s history.

* Three former traders were charged with 333 counts in Singapore’s first front-running case.

* Man charged in the city’s first spoofing case, which was also the first case that the regulator and Commercial Affairs Department jointly brought to court.

Fined a former chief financial officer of Sinomem Technology Ltd. and asset manager Triumpus Assets Management Pte for insider trading. Both had admitted to the contravention.

Barred a former trader for two years and fined him S$110,000 for insider trading.

Other enforcement efforts

* Joint announcement with Attorney-General’s Chambers and police that S$240 million in assets have been seized, including from Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho. Two calls to Low’s Jynwel Capital Ltd. in Hong Kong weren’t answered

* Set up units to centralize and further boost enforcement as well as target money-laundering activities

The Pangs of an Itinerant Thinker– Of Ethics and Deathics

December 19, 2016

The Pangs of an Itinerant Thinker– Of Ethics and Deathics

by Dean

In the course of my long-running participation in the human race, and my increasingly urgent strivings to figure-out where I’m likely to be placed in this enthralling event when old age and death finally force me to drop out of it, I’ve become increasingly confused about its rules.

At the start it seemed to be childishly simple. Obey the so-called commandments of some alleged heavenly father and earthly representatives like priests, parents and teachers, and you’re a guaranteed winner in either this life or the next, if not both.

But then adolescence kicked-in, activating not just antagonism to the rules, but a growing awareness that adults seemed to be running the human race according to not just a single set of rules, but countlessly competing and conflicting ones.

Some clearly and sincerely intended to render the race as fair as humanly possible, and thus genuinely ethical; but others designed to rig the contest in favour of themselves and their running-mates, and thus downright unethical, or, if you like, deathical to the rest of us also-rans.

Image result for plato aristotle socrates

In other words, there is an ethical/deathical divide in the human race that explains but by no means excuses the dismal fact that, as Aristotle wrote 2,500 or so years ago in his ‘Politics’, “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.”

And, despite the system of ‘virtue’ ethics that Aristotle famously advocated as a solution to this infernal contest between good and evil in the human race, and all the myriad other ethical systems, both ‘sacred’ and secular that have been proposed before and since, the problem is seemingly eternal.

Possibly the oldest and most widely-known ethical principle, and certainly the first secular one I recall hearing about, is the so-called ‘Golden Rule’ to do unto others what we would wish others to do to us.

But, while at first sight this is a perfectly reasonable rule for the fair and successful running of the human race, on further examination it has a fatal flaw lurking in the apparently innocent word ‘others’.

Because as has been horribly evident throughout history, the word ‘others’ has been routinely (mis)interpreted as meaning and including ‘others just like ourselves’, and thus excluding all other others.

As including only other Aryans, to cite an especially evil perversion of the Golden Rule by the Nazis, but excluding non-Aryans and even allegedly non-humans like Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and other groups thus targeted for torture and killing.

And in a perennial virtually worldwide sense, including ‘others’ of our own race, skin-colour, creed, gender, nationality or some other equally spuriously significant common factor, and excluding other others accordingly.

‘He who makes the rules gets the gold’

A further problem with the Golden Rule as an ethic, of course, is that it is so easily subverted by such cynically self-serving deathics, as, for example, ‘he who has the gold makes the rules’, and the corollary intended to form greed into a vicious circle with power, ‘he who makes the rules gets the gold’.

Image result for Confucius and Friends

These Guys of the Eastern Philosophy School are beginning to make sense to us in the 21st century world–Holistic Thinking

Given all these difficulties with the Golden Rule, I personally, like Confucius (551-479BC), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and doubtless many other philosophers, vastly prefer the Silver Rule: do not unto others what you would not want them to do to you.

While superficially this seems just a negative version of the Golden Rule, the crucial difference that becomes clear on further examination is that, while what we want for ourselves and others tends to be impossibly vague and various, we’re far more sure what we definitely don’t want and thus should not inflict on others, or, for that matter, on other others.

In other words, the Silver Rule in both theory and practice sets us free to aspire and strive toward the most golden of our aspirations by equally denying us the right to kill, rob, abuse, persecute, impoverish or otherwise disadvantage each other in ways that anybody in his or her right mind would possibly want.

And, thank goodness it’s largely the Silver Rule that forms the basis for our systems of ‘religious’ and secular law.

Image result for Zahid Hamidi and Gang

UMNO’s Strategic Thinker

Unfortunately, however, laws and the systems of ethics underpinning them have always, as today by Islamic State, Boko Haram and similar rogue organisations, along with allegedly criminal ruling regimes in countless countries ranging from Russia and Syria to Zaire and Zimbabwe, not to mention Malaysia, been supplanted by the deathic variously known as the Law of the Jungle or the Iron Rule declaring that ‘might is right’.

And under this deadly deathic it is possible to discern a good many subsidiary ones that might be called, for example, the Steel Law that apparently grants the potentates, or in the case of Malaysia, the UMNOputras, the power to take what they want from the people; the Copper Law that decrees that the regime owns the police; and the Rubber Law designed to render the constitution and laws of the country sufficiently flexible as to always protect the regime and its cronies and to punish its critics and opponents.

But thankfully there are finally some signs that UMNO-BN’s Steel Law is getting rusty, its Copper Law terribly tarnished, and its Rubber Law perished beyond repair. And that there are so many good, honest, courageous and truly ethical Malaysians who are hell-bent on finally destroying this deathical regime that it’s finally and deservedly doomed.


1MDB Saga– US Department of Justice does Malaysia a great favour

July 23, 2016

The COMMENT from Ambassador John R. Mallot, former US Ambassador to Malaysia on the article by our mutual friend, John Berthelsen of merits top billing as he outlines in simple, readable English what can happen next.

Ambassador Malott also asks us Malaysians to think: What are we going to do next? Sit still, do nothing and suffer in silence. There is a limit to what countries like Switzerland, Singapore, the United Kingdom, United States and others can do for us. It is our collective responsibility to fight for good governance, democracy, freedom and justice. Otherwise, we deserve the status quo. The former US Ambassador is not optimistic that we will act.

No way, Mr. Ambassador. Maria Chin Abdullah is planning BERSIH 5.0. to show our government led by Prime Minister Najib Razak that enough is enough. We should also have a Royal Commission of Inquiry on 1MDB, as suggested by Lim Kit Siang.

Only UMNO Malays will glorify the Prime Minister. They will blame Israel, Zionists and the Jewish diaspora. As usual, our Ulamas ( I call them ularmak or mother of snakes) will say Islam is being attacked by the infidels and Najib is their Defender of the Faith.

What additional evidence do we need to show conclusively that our Prime Minister Najib and his cohorts in 1MDB are crooks of the worst kind. They have taken billion of ringgits from our Treasury and we are now expected to bear the burden of having to service and repay the loans. I expect all Malaysians to know that without income and profits from hardworking Malaysians and corporations, our government will not have the revenue to service the mounting national debt. Why are we trusting our foxes to guard the hen house? That beats me.–Din Merican

Here is Ambassador Mallot’s comment:

As always, John Bertelsen clarifies everything so well. Some thoughts about what happens next, on the US side:

The US Government already has seized all of this property. So now Aziz and Jho Low cannot sell anything and try to get their money out of the US.

The next step, as John Bethelsen points out, is for Aziz, Jho Low, and others to prove in a court of law that the property truly was purchased with their own money and was not the result of stealing money from 1MDB. Of course, they cannot prove that. The FBI and DOJ filing is thorough and professional. The proof is all there. It even includes the transcripts of wiretapped phone calls of Jho Low talking to his bankers.

The US Government will hold all of that property — the real estate, the paintings, the rights to “Wolf of Wall Street,” etc. IN CUSTODY (or trust) on behalf of the people of Malaysia, from whom the money was stolen. But — the assets will NOT belong to the US Government.

As the US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the others pointed out, the money was stolen from the people of Malaysia. The assets belong to them. (How ironic that the US Attorney General seems to care more about this thievery than the Malaysian Attorney General does…)

In the meantime the US Government will rent out Aziz’s condo in NYC and his Beverly Hills house. They will take over the management of the hotels in New York and Beverly Hills that were purchased with the stolen money. The US Government will collect the profits from all future sales of the DVDs and TV rights of “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The Monet and Van Gogh paintings will go on exhibition somewhere. And so on. And all of that profit will be held by the US Government for the Malaysian people.

Young Aziz will be homeless. In order to save itself and the films it has in production (including a new film about George Washington, starring Leonardo Dicaprio), Red Granite Pictures will get rid of him. So Aziz will be jobless, too.

When the US Government files criminal charges against Aziz (and I am sure they will), they will ask the court to seize his passport, so he cannot leave the US. The Malaysian Embassy in Washington will then try to defraud the US Government and issue a new passport to Aziz so that he can leave the country — and we will see how efficient the US Government is at catching this.

If the Malaysian Government asks for the property to be transferred back to them, the US Government will do so.But as Berthelsen points out, will Najib do that? No. If Najib asks for the money back, it means that he is admitting that the money was stolen from the development fund that he headed, that the stolen money went to his stepson and his “advisor” Jho Low, and that he has been lying about this to the Malaysian people for years.

Of course he will never do that. Asking for the money back will have to wait for a request from a future Prime Minister. And why would Najib want to ask “for the money back,” when he and his family and cronies already have it — or have spent it?

From an international viewpoint, this is the end of Najib. He is an international pariah. He is a crook. He is a fraud. The world will want nothing to do with him. He will not be welcome anywhere. People will be embarrassed to be seen with him, to shake his hand, to be photographed with him.

As for Rosmah, her credit at Hermes and Tiffany’s and elsewhere will be cut off. Now those luxury stores know that the money was not hers. It was stolen from the Malaysian people, and they do not want to be complicit. They have their own reputations to protect.

That is how the world will react. But how will the Malaysian people react? Will Najib get away with this, back in Malaysia? I fear that the answer is yes. If so, it means that Malaysia is now in Mugabe-Land.

The IGP says that the US Government never asked for cooperation from the Malaysian Government in their investigation. Yet both the MACC and the FBI have said that they cooperated with each other in the investigation. The IGP knows the truth, so why did he say otherwise?

The Attorney General says that this is all speculation and innuendo, and that there is no proof for the US Government’s charges. Yet the US Government issued a very thorough, professional, and detailed 136-page filing with the court. It is there for the AG to read, rather than insult the US Government.

As long as the IGP and Attorney General continue to deny the truth in the face of overwhelming evidence — we know where this is going. But now I have to ask my Malaysia friends — in Malaysia, where will this go? Is there no way to save Malaysia?–John R. Malott

1MDB Saga– US Department of Justice does Malaysia a great favour

by  John Berthelsen

… Najib has been able to shortstop more than a year and a half of allegations by both opposition figures and members of his own government, threatening accusers with sedition charges and firing or otherwise neutralizing government investigators as well. Kevin Morais, a lawyer working on charges against the Prime Minister for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, was kidnapped and murdered last September after it became apparent that he was feeding information to Clare Rewcastle Brown, the indefatigable editor of the Sarawak Report, who has done more than anyone else to delineate wrongdoing involving Najib, Rosmah and 1MDB.–John Berthelsen

Reports in American newspapers that the US government plans to seize more than US$1 billion in assets purchased by funds allegedly stolen from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. sovereign wealth fund brings a massive scandal one giant step closer to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

According to stories in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the properties, bought through Delaware shell companies, involve real estate in Los Angeles and New York, which according to other sources are believed to be closely tied to the Najib family, particularly Najib’s is Riza Aziz, Rosmah’s son by a previous marriage.

The other is Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low as he is known, who was the brains behind setting up 1MDB in the first place. Although Najib himself was the financial adviser to the fund until quite recently and according to statute was responsible for signing off on all of the 1MDB financial transactions, he is not expected to be named. After establishing a flamboyant presence in New York’s café scene, Jho Low has more recently made himself scarce in the US.

The Justice Department action, expected to take place on July 20 in the US, follows a May 24 move by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to force the closure of BSI Bank Ltd – the first merchant bank to be closed in Singapore in 32 years – for its role in what Singapore authorities charged were 41 cases of breaches of money laundering and other Singapore laws. MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon called BSI Bank “the worst case of control lapses and gross misconduct that we have seen in the Singapore financial sector.”

Investigations into 1MDB are said to be underway in seven countries, although the US one is believed to be the most advanced. Swiss authorities have charged that as much as US$4 billion may have been laundered out of the fund into Swiss banks. In all, according to Democratic Action Party spokesman Tony Pua, speaking to local media, the government may be forced to take over more than MYR27 billion (US$6.75 billion) in unfunded liabilities from 1MDB, which was ordered shut down in May with its assets and liabilities to be transferred to the Ministry of Finance.

So far, Najib has been able to shortstop more than a year and a half of allegations by both opposition figures and members of his own government, threatening accusers with sedition charges and firing or otherwise neutralizing government investigators as well. Kevin Morais, a lawyer working on charges against the Prime Minister for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, was kidnapped and murdered last September after it became apparent that he was feeding information to Clare Rewcastle Brown, the indefatigable editor of the Sarawak Report, who has done more than anyone else to delineate wrongdoing involving Najib, Rosmah and 1MDB.

Clare Rewcastle Brown, the indefatigable editor of the Sarawak Report

Through it all, relying on intimidation of accusers and by alleging to his ethnic constituency that the accusations were a Chinese plot to take power away from ethnic Malays, relying as well on stirring religious extremism, Najib has been able to ride out what is considered the biggest political and financial scandal in Malaysian history, possibly involving at least two murders ( that of Kevin Morais and Hussein Najadi).

A statewide election in Sarawak in May, plus two by-elections in June that were won by the United Malays National Organization and its Sarawak allies left Najib riding high politically and planning a possible national snap election that would cement his leadership for the next five years under Malaysia’s parliamentary system.

Now, however, given the US action against properties that are closely tied to his family, it is questionable whether he wants to dare such an election, even with a fragmented and ineffective opposition. Lim Guan Eng, the Secretary General of the Democratic Action Party, is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for purchasing a home from a friend well below the market price.

Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the three-party Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition, is in prison, serving five years on trumped-up charges of sexual perversion. The Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), the third leg of the coalition, has split into two factions over the issue of implementing Islamic law in the one state the party controls.

The government has also maintained ruthless control over the press, temporarily suspending The Edge financial newspaper group after it printed damning allegations against 1MDB and driving the Malaysian Insider, an influential online publication, out of business. The government has also blocked Sarawak Report and Asia Sentinel from online circulation in Malaysia.

Thus, it is almost certain that Najib can remain in power unless an indictment is brought against him or other members of his family. For instance, he has so far survived an announcement late last year by French authorities that two officials of the defense company Thales had been indicted specifically on charges of bribing Najib over the purchase of French submarines more than a decade ago.

In this case, it appears that the assets the US Justice Department is expected to confiscate are closely tied to the Najibs themselves. According to the New York Times, they include real estate which is believed to have been purchased for the Najib family by Jho Low through shell companies, as well as art and other luxury goods. The US, for instance, may be after assets connected to Red Granite Productions, partly owned by Rosmah’s son Reza Aziz, which produced the award-winning Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo de Caprio.

As the Times pointed out, the forfeiture process is lengthy, with a court required to ascertain that no other interested party has a valid claim to the properties. In turn, that raises the interesting question whether members of the Najib family might dare to step forward to claim them. Once true ownership is determined, the court must decide whether the money used to buy those assets was, in fact, earned illicitly. Only then can the government permanently seize the assets, the Times asserted.

Prime Minister Najib plays, Malaysia pays

June 17, 2016

Prime Minister Najib plays, Malaysia pays

by John Deans

Easily the high point of the past week for me was the revelation by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak during a question-and-answer session at the Wild Digital Conference in KL that when he gets bored in meetings he takes out his mobile phone and plays ‘hangman’.

For year I’ve been a huge fan of such Freudian glimpses into what goes on in Najib’s fraudulent mind, and this was an absolute classic, as it conveys so many messages.

The first and most obvious of these, of course, is that, just as the emperor Nero allegedly fiddled while Rome burned, Najib diddles while Malaysia goes backwards. But by far the most significant aspect of this self-revelation by Najib is that, of all the dumb games he could play with himself in the process of shirking his work, the one he chooses has the word ‘hang’ in its name.

Though psychoanalytically or even semantically speaking, the meaning of this is difficult to definitively discern.

On the one hand it could signify that, despite how cool and confident he pretends to appear in the face of allegations of involvement in a string of scandals ranging from the Scorpene submarines affair and the associated murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu to the 1MDB and RM2.6 billion ‘donation’ scams, he is terrified of someday being hung out to dry for some if not all of these outrages.

Another possibility is that, despite the evident fact that his political if not personal survival is hanging by a thread pending the completion of international investigations into 1MDB and the ‘donation’, he is heeding my plea in a column on December 12 last year to hang in there long enough for Malaysian voters to get rid of not just him, but the entire gang of his hangers-on in the UMNO-BN gang in the next general election.

The omens for this are certainly propitious. Firstly there is the RAHMAN prophecy predicting that the name of the last UMNO-BN Prime Minister will begin with the letter ‘N’ for Najib, and then there is the thought that this will be general election 14, a number that many people consider could mean that the UMNO-BN regime will ‘forever die.’

In any event, Najib is still not only hanging on for dear life, but also handing-out more and more rope to the countless millions of Malaysians and others who hanker for an end to half a century of UMNO-BN hanky-panky.

Being hung for a sheep as for a lamb

Presumably on the proverbial principle that one might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb, Najib has now announced his desire for an official vehicle like the one he took such a shine to when hanging-out with US President, Barack Obama.

He told attendees at the same Wild Digital Conference as the one where he revealed his enthusiasm for playing ‘hangman’ that he envied the US President the car nicknamed ‘The Beast’, because “it’s more comfortable than my Proton, and it feels safe because it is bulletproof”.

According to Malaysiakini, he also went on about the spaciousness of The Beast, enthusing that “you get two people sitting across (from) you, and you can have an active discussion,” before concluding that it is “a very lovely car. I wish I had one.”

If Najib’s previous history is any indication, if he wants his own version of The Beast he will get it. God knows he should be able to afford it with whatever change from the RM2.6 billion ‘donation’ happens to be still hanging around in one of his bank accounts.

Though on second thoughts, in light of the apparent fact that Najib and his accomplices allegedly clearly consider public money to be their own to spend on themselves as they choose, and hang the expense to the Malaysian people, he probably expects his version of The Beast to be a freebie.

Like the Airbus on which the beastly Najib jets himself and his Beauty, Rosmah Mansor, around the world on gazillion-dollar shopping sprees.

And like the replacement aircraft leased at an estimated cost of RM86.4 million for the two months that the usual one is undergoing maintenance, and on which Rosmah recently jetted-off to Istanbul to receive an award.

Typically, when PKR Secretary-General Rafizi Ramli criticised this jaunt as an extravagance, one of Rosmah’s aides ‘explained’ that the self-styled ‘First Lady’ was on a ‘tight schedule’ due to her need to get back to Malaysia for, of all things, a Girl Guides event.

And in addition the aide indignantly declared that, though the jet features a lounge area and 10 private suites with a 32” TV in each, any accusation that the trip was luxurious was a ‘slander.’

In other words, as ever, when it comes to everything from the nation’s cash to its constitution, Najib and his family, cronies and UMNO-BN accomplices are free to go on playing, the Malaysian people are condemned to continue paying, and whoever dares criticise this endless orgy of corruption and criminality can go hang.

Najib Razak, Transformation after you are gone

February 23, 2016

Najib Razak,  Transformation after you are gone

By  Dato’ Dennis Ignatius

Never has there been such a level of despair, anger and discontentment with the government. Malaysia’s long-suffering citizens might finally be coming to the end of their patience.What happens in the next few months will be critical.–Dato’ Dennis Ignatius


As the nation spirals out of control, the demand for change appears to be gathering momentum.

In recent weeks, there have been calls for a national unity government, an all-party summit, a “gathering” to call for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s resignation. Even the redoubtable Dr Mahathir Mohammad is now reportedly urging all political parties to set aside their differences and join hands to pressure Najib to step down.

Never has there been such a level of despair, anger and discontentment with the government. Malaysia’s long-suffering citizens might finally be coming to the end of their patience.What happens in the next few months will be critical.

National Transformation after Leadership Change

While Najib is quite rightly the immediate focus of attention, the roots of the present malaise go much deeper. “Putting aside our differences and joining hands” is, unfortunately, not going to be enough to get us out of the morass we are in.

A change of leadership without reforming the political system that contributed to the present crisis will solve nothing; it will merely substitute one undemocratic leader for another. Whatever change that ensues will be purely cosmetic, mere window dressing to hoodwink the people, a chimera that will allow the same corrupt political elite and their cronies to continue in power albeit with a different face.

If the move to oust Najib is nothing more than a feud between competing factions of a corrupt regime or is simply motivated by a desire to replace him with a more competent and subservient manager of what is clearly an immoral and unsustainable system of governance, we should have no part of it.

The Reason why we Malaysians have enough of You

Indeed, to join such a move will be to participate in our own torment, to perpetuate the very villainy that now oppresses us, to consign our nation to yet more long years of corrupt and repressive rule.

Uniting around a common core

We have messed up. We’ve lost our way. It’s time to press the reset button and go in search of the Merdeka vision that Tunku Abdul Rahman so eloquently outlined when he said that we “will be forever a sovereign democratic and independent state founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people….”

It is what brought us together in nationhood in the first place; it is what we committed ourselves to as one people before the vicissitudes of time and circumstance pulled us in a different direction.

The fact is we can no longer paper over the serious differences that are gnawing at the very soul of our nation – whether we are a secular constitutional democracy or an Islamic state; whether non-Malays are equal citizens with equal rights or merely “pendatangs”; whether the government exists to serve the people or a small group of cronies who enrich themselves at the expense of the people; whether our government will be accountable and transparent or secretive and evasive; whether the rights of every citizen will be fully respected or subject to the whims of the ruling clique; whether our justice system will be impartial and independent or merely an appendage of the ruling party; whether the will of the people as expressed through a free and fair electoral system will be respected or subverted.

It is axiomatic that we cannot unite around our differences; unity can only be forged around a common core of values and principles that all can subscribe to, support and defend.

Admittedly, this will not be an easy task especially given the urgency of the hour. Of course, there will be those who will argue that such issues will only distract from the immediate task or that they can be discussed later.

Let’s face it: we’ve avoided a serious discussion of these issues long enough in the vain hope that they would sort themselves out. It’s time to take the bull by the horns and let the chips fall where they may; at least it will end the uncertainty.

And besides, I confess to having absolutely no faith in any assurances that these issues can be taken up later when the situation improves. If they won’t discuss it now, they never will.

Accordingly, I suggest that Malaysians should insist on three things before giving their support to those calling for a change in leadership – a solemn and public commitment to the core principles enshrined in the Federal Constitution, a plan of action to effect real change and the participation of civil society to keep them honest.

Demi Rakyat

In July last year, a group of highly respected civil society leaders put forward a memorandum entitled “Demi Rakyat” (For the people) proposing that the nation converge around core principles and a common action plan to rescue us from the crisis we are now in.

Among the core principles they outlined were respect for the Federal Constitution and fundamental liberties, the rule of law, transparency, accountability and good governance. Surely, these are all principles that we can all agree upon rather quickly. Any politician who is hesitant to endorse these core principles should be viewed with suspicion.

The Demi Rakyat action plan called for the formation of an interim all-party unity government to stabilize the situation and restore public confidence in the administration of the country. This would be followed by free and fair elections, the restoration of fundamental liberties, the promotion of genuine national unity and the alleviation of the economic hardship faced by the people – all entirely in keeping with the Federal Constitution.

It may not be a perfect plan or even the only one out there but it does contain the key ingredients for meaningful change and can serve as a useful basis for negotiation.

If Dr Mahathir and other political leaders who are now demanding the ouster of Najib can agree on at least the broad outlines of such a plan to save the nation, without a doubt many will rise to support their call for change.

A Third Force–Civil Society

The role of civil society – the rising third force in our nation – will be crucial in the transition process. What is at stake is simply much too important to be left to the politicians, whatever their stripe. Many of our politicians have been nothing but a disappointment and can no longer be trusted to pursue meaningful change on their own or to act in the best interest of the nation.

To be sure, civil society is by no means monolithic but there is already a meeting of minds forged on the streets of our cities from BERSIH and other rallies, in the detention centres and law courts of the land as they battled spurious charges, and in numerous discussion groups, seminars and forums.

Outstanding leaders like Maria Chin Abdullah, Azmi Sharom, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Adam Adli, Fahmi Zainol, Cynthia Gabriel, Noor Farida Ariffin, KJ John, Zainah Anwar, Ahmad Farouk Musa, Jannie Lasimbang, Marina Mahathir, Honey Tan and many others have emerged with a great passion for freedom and democracy, for justice and good governance, for racial and religious tolerance.

They have demonstrated the courage of their convictions and can safely be entrusted to shepherd the process of transition and change forward, speak truth to the powers that be and hold them accountable.

What failure will mean

Whatever happens, there should be no illusions of what failure will mean.

If this yearning for change is squandered or cynically used by the few to further their own narrow agendas, the Malaysia we still dream of – a place where all can call home, where all are treated with fairness, respect and dignity, a nation where democracy and freedom thrives, a nation where tolerance and respect for diversity is proudly cherished – will be finished.

Resolve will dissipate. A great dream and a noble idea will fade. And it will be a very long time before we will dare to hope again.

Dennis Ignatius is a 36-year veteran of the Malaysian Foreign Service and has served in London, Beijing and Washington besides serving as High Commissioner for Malaysia to Canada from 2001 to June 2008.

The Politics of TPPA–Trade or Geo-Politics ?

January 15, 2016



Condolences to Indonesia–Stay Strong

The Politics of TPPA–Trade  or Geo-Politics ?

by Rama Ramanathan

Najib and Obama


Mr. Najib, what is the real deal?

In my last article, I said I oppose Malaysia signing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), principally because our government runs on cronyism, our Parliament is a rubber stamp for the regime’s wishes, and 11 nations are profiting by rubber-stamping an undemocratic regime in Malaysia.

I also said that despite their exaggerations, many who claim Malaysia will lose in several areas are not wrong. I said we must view TPPA as a trade: we must ask what we will gain, not just what we will lose.

NGOs and opposition parties have called attention to many losses. Despite their exaggerations and emotive language, there is truth in what they say.

The government and proponents of TPPA have been relatively silent about the gains. Malay rights groups wanted to be assured that the privileges accorded to them in government policies will be maintained.

The Prime Minister has convinced them that the 11 nations have agreed not to challenge race-based policies in Malaysia.

What does TPPA contain?Don’t believe those who say TPPA is a public document which anyone can read and assess.It’s true it’s public. It’s true that all of it is available. But, it’s also true that it’s only available in fragments – everything listed in the contents page is a separate document.

Not only is it fragmented, it is also subject matter-intensive. You need to have some understanding of economic and political models in order to read it with understanding.

You need to ask questions such as: How is this different from other trade agreements? Why would countries ranging from Peru to the US agree to this?

What existing mechanisms are being bypassed? What will be the impact on foreign and domestic investments? It is common knowledge that big nations are flexing their muscles. Russia has gone it alone with bombing raids in the Middle East. China has started building an airbase on a disputed island. The US is running military operations in the Middle East. Mostly, the US is worried about China becoming a hegemon in the Pacific.


Malaysia is sending confusing signals about its relations with the Chinese. On the one hand, UMNO leaders rail against the Chinese community in both Malaysia and Singapore; on the other hand, the UMNO-controlled government, through 1MDB, has sold power generation assets and land to companies incorporated in China.

Malaysia has often said that the US foreign policy is controlled by Jews – a religious-racial group which Malaysia’s official Islam loves to hate. Also, Isis/ISL, the self-styled Islamic State, considers all friends of the US enemies of Islam.

So why would Malaysia now want to openly ink a formal alliance with the US? Is TPPA an alliance with the US? Is the US the de facto head of TPPA? Do nations which sign the TPPA – such as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore – agree to recognise the US as hegemon?

By “hegemon”, I mean “the dominant partner”, the driving force for completion of the agreement and for enforcing it. Economists who subscribe to “hegemonic stability theory” say a massive military and economic power is needed in order to ensure free trade occurs routinely and peacefully.

The big idea is that the nationalistic ideas of small states – often expressed through protectionist tariffs – must be ended if free trade is to prevail.The big idea is also that only a big economy can afford the short-term costs of allowing smaller economies to “gain”, in order to ensure overall stability and protect the big economy in the long-term.

According to the theory, the hegemon must (1) have enough power to enforce the rules of the system; (2) have the will to exercise the power and (3) be committed to the betterment of all rather than a narrow nationalistic interest.Do you believe a hegemon is necessary? Do you believe the US meets all the criteria?

Since, in ASEAN, only Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam are TPPA signatories (to-be), does it even matter?

I don’t know if there is one correct answer. I just know that most whom I’ve heard discussing TPPA haven’t discussed this aspect of it.I’ve not come across any articles which validate the “US as hegemon” argument by citing passages or themes from TPPA.

For me, TPPA is yet another display of the ignorance of our Cabinet, the narrow-mindedness of the opposition and many NGOs, and the ignorance of the public including myself, about trade and governance.

Why is our government so ineffective in communicating the benefits of TPPA? Why are the opponents of TPPA so effective in sowing doubts? Who should we trust?