Malaysians lack confidence in Najib government


May 6, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Malaysians lack confidence in  Najib government

Malaysians are beginning to lose confidence and trust in the country’s administration as a recent series of interviews by Free Malaysia Today showed.

Much of the sentiments bandied about revolved around the apparent state of flux the government was currently in as well as the opposition to the Goods and Services Tax (GST). When asked what their general thoughts were on the current leadership of Malaysia, the one comment made most often was “Tak yakin (Not confident)”.

“Not confident. A lot of drastic changes are being made, especially with the GST,” said one woman.Another echoed her, saying, “I’m not very confident. The administration is very messy right now. There are a lot of questions (left unanswered).”

“50/50. Some (about the government) is good, some is bad. Some of Najib’s decisions such as the GST, are unacceptable,” said another woman. Yet another said, “Not confident,” explaining that there were too many things going on at the moment that made her lose confidence in Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mahathir-Vs-NajibMalaysians have the right to know the Facts

One man said, “Actually it’s not really working, you know? It’s burdening Malaysians and I consider it worse than before.” He named religion as being a main concern and said a lot of people didn’t understand what was going on.

Unsurprisingly, one of the comments made centred on the currently roiling 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy. “Too much uncertainty. If the 1MDB issue is going to be something like the Lehman Brothers, Satyam Group, then we have a big surprise coming,” said the man. Another pointed out, however, that the country’s political problems were, by and large, self-inflicted.

“Leadership-wise I cannot comment. Because we voted him as a PM to help people and serve the country. But it seems that lately we have so many problems, especially with the GST and 1MDB,” he said.

Mahathir vs Najib

Interviewees were also asked what they thought about former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s criticism of Najib Razak, with most saying they supported the former. “We’re not in their place, so we cannot say whether it’s right or wrong. But what I can say is that I like Mahathir more than I do Najib,” said one woman.

“There occasionally is truth in the way Mahathir criticises Najib, but certain parts we may not be able to accept. Sometimes it’s nonsense. People say that Najib’s era is different from Mahathir’s,” was the slightly more diplomatic answer of another. The prevailing attitude was that Mahathir’s questions were representative of public sentiment.

“Basically he’s just representing us. He’s asking what’s going on. He has all the right to. He’s was leading this country for 22 years. And he developed this country. So he’s the most senior person politically,” said one man.

Another said he preferred not to comment if what Mahathir was saying about the Prime Minister was right or wrong but that there were questions that needed to be answered. “Malaysians need to know what those answers are.”

Saying he felt that Mahathir was speaking for the people, he added, “We are the stakeholders. The government is the company ruling the people and we are the stakeholders. Our interests are now at stake.” The last interviewee summed up the situation succinctly, saying that Mahathir had gained much attention mostly because he was the former Prime Minister of the country.

“The matters brought up by Tun Dr Mahathir aren’t new matters but have been spoken about for a long time by the rakyat…whether individually or from the opposition.But it has been (until now) simply viewed as pointed criticism – it’s just that when Mahathir spoke up, everybody listened because of who he is…. an ex-PM.”

An iconoclast tacks in familiar style


May 5, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

An iconoclast tacks in familiar style

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT Dr Mahathir Mohamad began his road show in Penang last Thursday in a style that fused the roles he has played since the start of his political career in 1946 – as exponent of a worldview, catalyst of new ideas, and a subversive of the political status quo.

A full house of students, faculty and members of the public waited for him at Dewan Tuanku Syed Putra, the convocation hall of Universiti Sains Malaysia whose architectural design is a blend of modernist and Malay forms. The combination made it apposite for Mahathir’s opinions which were a mix of the modern and the homely.

But first, Mahathir (above) was running late. It was 40 minutes past the advertised start time of 9am and an expectant crowd knew only that the invited speaker’s arrival was certain though not imminent. The ‘Sesi Bual Bicara’ (talk-cum-discussion session) was titled ‘Cakna Ilmu’ (on this more later) and subtitled ‘Mendepani Pemikiran Tun Dr M’ (Contemplating Dr Mahathir, The Thinker).

It soon became clear that the expansive crowd owed its size to its anticipation of risqué opinion on current affairs; they had come to hear what he had to say about Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the target of sustained attacks from the former premier for weeks now.

The delayed start allowed space for discreet probing. Rosman, an amiable burly young man, waited in the ample foyer like others for Mahathir’s arrival. When asked if he knew the meaning of ‘Cakna Ilmu’, he said he did not.

“It’s a new word,” he parried, in a tone that suggested the word’s meaning did not matter as people were there not for the academic significance of the event so much as its anticipated political content. Rosman was joined by a friend, Alif, an eager-faced non-student. It was obvious he was there because of his admiration for Mahathir.

Asked the reason for the high regard, he simply said, “He has vision – he built the bridge,” a reference to the first Penang Bridge, built under the former PM in 1985. When it was pointed out that Mahathir had built the country up physically but had damaged it morally, Alif was unfazed, maintaining that while his Islamic faith would entail concern for morality, nevertheless he felt that Mahathir was admirable.

“He has charisma,” offered Alif. That charisma was evident as the cavalcade of cars bearing the former premier arrived at 10.15. Sections of the crowd that had gathered in the foyer now sought to line-up on either side of Mahathir’s pathway leading to the entrance to the Dewan, eager to shake hands.

The less ambitious were content to draw close to Mahathir’s path before raising their smartphones high to record his triumphal procession. Once the crowd was in the hall, either seated or standing, decompression from the high anticipation of the waiting was swift.

With the place jam-packed and people craning in the aisles and vestibules and what more with the delayed start, it was obvious that the best thing would be for the programme to get going quickly. Someone forgot to tell the academic who delivered the speech of welcome that the crowd was there to hear Mahathir, for he went on for a quite a bit, mostly in apple-polishing vein.

Between Expectations and Reality

By the time the student leader who had the role of framing the leading questions started, there was a premonitory twinge on the approaching disharmony between the crowd’s expectations and the reality of what Mahathir actually said.The very first question drew the mismatch into sharp relief: Mahathir was asked to comment on how his unique political career must have had an extraordinary start.

He demurred, saying those beginnings weren’t exceptional; it was prosaic rather, but before he said this, he allowed – to a titer of laughter from the crowd – that he did not know the meaning of the word ‘Cakna’. This was the key to the iconoclasm of the man; he would much rather retool old ways to be new than seek new ways to be so and wind up being gauche.

He did not say anything about Najib as the crowd had expected; he said he studied to become a doctor because he received a scholarship to do medicine; he would just as well have studied law if he had received a scholarship to read law, more so because he was keener on debate than on anything else; he wanted to be socially prominent because nobody was listening to his fulminations against the Malayan Union which was the big issue in 1946 when he set out to be politically active; through becoming a doctor he knew could be socially prominent and politically influential and that was his primary motivation.

He began to question the sociopolitical realities around him in Alor Star in 1946 because of the interface between what was in him and what his social environment was telling him. He found that his origins in the lower middle income group meant he had to cope with many deficiencies inherent to that category. He had to get out of it; the practice of medicine was the escape hatch.

He said mercantile life in the small town of 20,000 people that was Alor Star in the 1940 s was dominated by Chinese traders and a sprinkling of Indian Muslim ones. The Malays were all farmers, fishermen or government clerks and content with being that because they were not people who were mercantile.

Whenever Mahathir encountered anything that puzzled or challenged him, he would read the literature on it and then canvass opinion from advisers and consultants before arriving at what he felt was the core of the problem and devise a solution.

Barely halfway through this spiel, several attendees who were standing in the aisles began to file out of the Dewan; this was not what they had come to hear.One feels they would have done the same even if the ‘Cakna Ilmu’ title of the event had instead been ‘Menimba Ilmu’, which would have been the more appropriate title, given what was being propounded by the invited speaker.

Young and not-so-young Malaysians are more curious about the controversial, especially if it is spiked with scandal, than they are about the autobiographical, even when it is by someone whom they think worthy of admiration. Suffice it is to say, if the contest between Mahathir and Najib is at a stalemate, the man on the cusp of his tenth decade in life will devise new ways to challenge and provoke. Wolfgang Goethe was right: salvation is for those who never cease to strive.


TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others.

Dragon Tun Dr. Mahathir better than a Young Leader, says Azmin Ali


May 4, 2015

Dragon Tun Dr. Mahathir better than a Young  Leader, says Azmin Ali

PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali drew on the criticism by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as campaign material for the Permatang Pauh by-election, saying it was better to support a 90-year-old who fought corruption than a young candidate with no courage to speak up against wrongdoing by the government.

Azmin told voters at a ceramah last night that there was no use being young when one’s brain was 100 years old and lacked principles and idealism. “Better we support a 90-year-old. There is one who is making a lot of noise everywhere in the country. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is like a dragon. His type becomes stronger when he fights. He would fall ill if he doesn’t fight. I have known him for a long time. He can only survive through crisis. If there is a fight, he will be strong,” Azmin said at a ceramah on opposing the goods and services tax (GST) in Kubang Ulu last night.

Azmin was drawing a comparison between Barisan Nasional’s young candidate Suhaimi Sabudin, 44, and PKR’s more senior and seasoned candidate, its 62-year-old president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. He said Suhaimi would not have the courage to criticise Putrajaya on matters like the GST and corruption.

Najib as 1MDB advisor

Young But Weak and Unprincipled Leader

Dr Mahathir has become a vocal critic of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over various policy and governance issues, including 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) financial troubles. Azmin also touched on the lavish wedding of Najib’s daughter recently.

“All this is why Dr Mahathir is angry. Would Suhaimi have the courage to reprimand? So what is the use of being young but having no principles or idealism? What kind of leader do we want? Better a 90-year-old who has the guts to fight corruption. We will support all efforts to topple Umno and Barisan Nasional. People are going through difficult times, even reporters. We want to speak up for reporters who are having a hard time, too. Report the news properly.”

Azmin was on a roll yesterday, cracking jokes and poking fun at leaders from BN, such as Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan, who has been criticised over his effort to explain why the GST was a good tax. He made cheeky remarks about hair, lobsters which were not subject to the GST, and bashed Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar over the May Day anti-GST rally arrests, which saw several PKR leaders arrested.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/better-a-90-year-old-dragon-than-gutless-younger-leader-azmin-says-of-dr-m#sthash.nGgrWlBv.dpuf

1MDB–Questions that need ANSWERS


May 3, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

MY COMMENT: I do not know when our Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang is going to complete his report on Ambrin1MDB. It must be a difficult exercise since 1MDB is full of tricks because some pretty smart executives are managing it. Or. Is it? In my opinion is not a major task. Neither is it a complicated exercise.It is a question of professional will.

If the Tan Sri cannot do it, just adopt the approach taken by Tan Sri Gani Patail, our infamous Attorney-General. Remember, Gani Patail engaged Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah to act as DPP to deal with the Federal Court Sodomy 2 Anwar Ibrahim case, and appointed Tan Sri Cecil Abraham, the pro-Najib Lawyer to defend the MACC Chief Commissioner  and himself in the Rosli Dahlan Defamation case. Outsource the task after all he is not paying for it. Malaysian taxpayers will underwrite it.

The Sarawak Report, Guna’s article (below), and other sources on the Internet should provide enough information to guide Ambrin Buang in his work. Then why the silence from him. Are we as taxpayers not entitled to receive some form of progress report?

Din Merican NewIf the Auditor-General is serious about bringing closure to this case so that follow-up action can be initiated to bring those responsible for any wrongdoing to bear he full brunt of the law. He should also know that in the public interest he must give his audit of 1MDB top priority. I would like to believe that the Auditor-General’s report (at least in draft in form) is ready but it is being “vetted” by the Prime Minister’s Department and hence the silence and the delay.–Din Merican

1MDB–Questions that need ANSWERS

by P Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

If 1MDB can provide full and satisfactory explanations to all of these, then they should do so immediately to allay the sizeable public concern and speculation, which has affected the value of the ringgit and our sovereign rating. At the same time it will relieve the considerable pressure on the Prime Minister to step down.

1MDB-The ScandalQUESTION TIME Perhaps, just perhaps, 1Malaysia Development Bhd or 1MDB does not understand what it needs to do to convince the public all is well with it. To help it along, here are 10 things that we feel our national self-styled strategic development company can do to soothe frazzled nerves and convince us Malaysians our money is safe.

CIMB Group chairperson and the Prime Minister’s brother Nazir Razak is not the only one who has been urging 1MDB towards greater disclosure, but he does make some pertinent points.

“I have no solution to it (IMDB) but I think we probably should know – disclose what needs to be disclosed in order for people to have a full picture and allay their worst fears. I just said it’s something that’s there, everyone is concerned about it, so you need to allay concerns. Put concerns to rest, that is all,” he told a press conference recently.

Considering that 1MDB continues to assert that everything is okay it really should not take too much for it to allay public concerns over how it started, raised money, invested, its links to various businessmen, etc. But in case it is stuck for what to disclose, we give below a checklist of 10 things, which will be good place to start. And like Maria said in ‘The Sound of Music’, “Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

Some background first. Let’s extract 1MDB’s mission and vision statement from its website. Mission: A strategic enabler for new ideas and sources of growth. Vision: To drive sustainable economic growth by forging strategic global partnerships and promoting foreign direct investment. It’s a self-styled strategic development company, as described by its latest CEO, its third.

Now let’s look at its business. Property development at two prime sites acquired cheaply from the government – the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) and Bandar Malaysia. And Energy; buying over established Malaysian power companies, Tanjong Energy, Genting Sanyen and Jimah Energy. And, that’s it.

Next a quick look at its financials from its annual reports: assets of some RM51 billion, liabilities of RM48 billion, borrowings of RM42 billion (RM46 billion if we include some forms of payables which look like debt) as at March 31, 2014. If not for revaluation of properties – acquired cheaply from the government – by some RM4 billion over the years, it would not have made profits at all.

Onwards to Jho Low, the whiz-kid (who may no longer be much of a kid any more) billionaire who has so much influence over 1MDB decisions, according to e-mail revelations by Sarawak Report which have not been denied by 1MDB yet and whose companies reportedly received at least US$1 billion from 1MDB.

The other development from Sarawak Report is that some US$1.1 billion in 1MDB’s funds from Cayman Islands, said to be kept in Singapore, may not be there because the records for those are said to be falsified. That should be enough background. On to what 1MDB should be disclosing

Disclosures

  • Explain why there was a need to borrow RM42 billion at least when the energy assets only cost some RM13 billion and TRX and Bandar Malaysia are merely in the development stage
  • Reveal exactly where and at what rates of return are the rest of the money of RM29 billion at least being kept, including the Singapore/Cayman funds. Tell us what is the amount recoverable from this and how you propose to recover them. Also explain why 1MDB was scrambling for cash to repay a loan of RM2 billion recently to local banks. Tell us too what was tycoon T Ananda Krishnan’s role in all of these.
  • Explain why such high fees of several hundred million US dollars was paid to Goldman Sachs for bonds floated and what was the nature of their role in such deals. While normal rates for arranging such financing is closer to 1 percent, why the need to pay 10 percent for these?
  • Explain how keeping RM29 billion in deposits and for-sale assets overseas is strategic and helps in bringing foreign direct investments or FDI into Malaysia.
  • Was there hanky panky in the fundraising process whereby bonds were mispriced, allowing those who got the bonds to cash out in the secondary market to gain billions of ringgit? Was this the reason why the debts were ramped up repeatedly? If not explain why the bonds were mispriced and who were the beneficiaries, in other words who got first bite at the bonds.
  • With RM42 billion of borrowings and an average interest rate of 6 percent, annual interest payments before repayments amounts to over RM2.5 billion. Considering that 1MDB has been making cash losses since inception, explain how 1MDB proposes to obtain the interest payments and repayments in future especially since energy assets are now worth below cost.
  • Explain the business model for 1MDB. How does it propose to get decent returns when its cost of borrowing may be 6 percent or higher, especially for huge borrowings of at least RM42 billion and as high as RM46 billion.
  • Explain how the property developments are “strategic” and why we need foreign partners to develop these when Malaysia has considerable expertise in property development. What about causing a glut of office space in Kuala Lumpur and squeezing out private developers? Explain how that is strategic.

  • Explain to us what is the oversight of the board and senior management over all these issues, especially in the light of Sarawak Report disclosures – which have not been firmly denied – that outside parties played crucial roles in decision-making.
  • Tell what exactly was Jho Low’s role in 1MDB, when it started, how big was it and at whose behest did he have such a powerful pull over decisions made at 1MDB.

If 1MDB can provide full and satisfactory explanations to all of these, then they should do so immediately to allay the sizeable public concern and speculation, which has affected the value of the ringgit and our sovereign rating. At the same time it will relieve the considerable pressure on the Prime Minister to step down.

If 1MDB can’t answer satisfactorily even one aspect of these 10 disclosures, then it is incumbent upon the board of 1MDB and the government to immediately commission a forensic audit, put the organisation under a completely new caretaker management comprising people of impeccable character and get to the bottom of the entire issue.

The forensic audit will have a mandate to not only recover fully all assets but to hold to account all those responsible for wrong-doings inside and outside the company and bring them to book. It will also look into taking action against all financial advisers and claim damages from them for anything that they may have done to injure 1MDB.

P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of business news and views portal KiniBiz.

Malaysia: You are imploding


May 2, 2015

Malaysia: You are imploding

READ this : http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/297033

AND this:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/ambiga-three-others-walk-after-cops-fail-to-get-remand-orders

by Din Merican

Greetings from Phnom Penh by the Mekong. My blog is alive and kicking. I will keep blogging from here. I will remain critical and hope you will do the same. We cannot be bystanders and free riders. We must  use the power of the Internet to air our views.

Malaysia is imploding. Why? Because we have a minority government run by Malaysia’s notorious couple, Najib Razak and his greedy and corrupt wife, Rosmah Mansor. To boot, we have an incompetent and sycophantic Cabinet of  ministers who are unable to stand up for what is right. They all forgot that they were elected to serve the people and not serve themselves.

kam, ambiga and dinBefore I can lay my weary head in Phnom Penh to reflect on what had been happening in Kuala Lumpur in recent months, I read this malaysiakini report (read the link above) that Dato Ambiga with whom my wife, Dr. Kamsiah and I had lunch last Friday (pic above) was arrested for participating in the peaceful May 1 rally in our nation’s capital.

What the IGP Khalid Ashburn is flexing his muscles, I said. It is unbelievable that the IGP should react the way he did. Malaysia is stealing the headlines again, but for the wrong reasons for the umpteenth time . In stead of dealing with the underlying malaise, the Najib administration is using Police power to intimidate Malaysians. It just will not work, not any more. We have become a nation of politically aware people. Public disenchantment with the government of the day is growing  daily and with it, the movement led by Dr. Mahathir to remove Najib Razak will gather strength. A government that acts with impunity and is disconnected with reality and the concerns of Malaysians cannot survive much longer. Learn the lessons of history and ignore them at your own risk. Obviously you are not. recalcitrant Prime Minister. Wake up from your stupor and it will be good for us if you realise that you are a liability.

Today, I was in the company of some English speaking  young Cambodian students at lunch. They asked me what is happening in Malaysia. Wow, I was impressed that they knew what was happening at home. Here is to the power. of the Internet. I said that Malaysia is imploding because we have an insecure and weak Prime Minister, an aristocrat by birth, who is disconnected with the problems of his own people. I reminded them that  rampant corruption, if left unchecked as in Malaysia, can lead to the downfall of any government. We have examples of the collapse of regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. I added that Malaysia is heading in that direction.

Rosmah withdrawI said what we need in Malaysia is a strong constitution with a system of checks and balances  to prevent abuses of power and bad governance and a people-centered Prime Minister like their  Prime Minister Hun Sen. I added that Cambodia can learn from Malaysia  about bad governance, and they can make Cambodia a wonderful place to live and do business. I ended my conversation by saying that Malaysians know what their problems are. We will fix them soon by asking our Prime Minister step down from his office so that we implement serious democratic reforms.

Kleptocratic Governance: The Case of 1MDB


April 30, 2015

Kleptocratic Governance: The Case of 1MDB

Investigators into the Malaysian development fund 1MDB’s 2009 joint venture with the company PetroSaudi International have concluded that the partnership lied to its banks and Bank Negara Malaysia by confirming that the company Good Star Limited was a 100% subsidiary.

In fact Good Star Limited is a third-party concern, controlled by the businessman friend of the Prime Minister, Jho Low, whom we have shown was secretly directing the fund’s investment decisions.It leads to possible charges of “cheating”, write the investigators in a document in our possession.

READ ON:

http://www.sarawakreport.org/2015/04/investigators-conclude-1mdb-cheated-and-made-false-document-to-bank-negara-deutsche-bank-and-others-exclusive/

COMMENT:

Yes indeed. we are governed by a bunch of kleptocrats led by none other idris guitarthan Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Of course, he disagrees by claiming that his administration is transparent. He thinks he is a paragon of good governance with very qualified professionals like Idris Jala and Paul Low guiding him. If so why this mess! RM42 billion is not peanuts.  Mr Arul, the 1MBD CEO has a lot to answer for this latest development.

What is the Auditor-General doing? Wasn’t he supposed to be looking into the matter as a matter of top priority.  Mr. Transformation Blues from Sarawak, why have you been silent on this issue? It is time  also to remind our Cabinet ministers that they are equally accountable for the 1MDB scandal. It is Governance 101 and they should know that they have a joint responsibility for any wrongdoing made by the Najib administration.–Din Merican