How not to be poor, Irwan Serigar-style


October 3, 2017

COMMENT: This is going to be a rather brief reaction to my friend Nadeswaran’s article. It is easy  for Mr. Siregar to comment about foreigners like Indonesians, Bangladeshis and Filipinos making a living. He forgot that the Malays are making big bucks by being UMNO cronies and parasites sucking blood out of the economy.

Nades has not mentioned one thing about the Irwan Serigar-style and that is, one has to convert to Islam, use Muslim name, be more Malay than a Malay, and finally become Najib’s cheerleader. Both Serigar and Ali Hamsa  got it right and both are prosperous with directorships and status for a long long time to come (beyond the age of 70).–Din Merican

How not to be poor, Irwan Serigar-style

By R. Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | As one steps off the escalator at a supermarket in Petaling Jaya, there are makeshift stalls in the walkway leading to the shopping trolley rack. The mobile phone repair and accessory stall cannot be missed. Manning it are two Bangladeshi and business is booming.

Down the aisle, there’s a Pakistani in salwar-kameez pushing his ware – carpets. Further down, is an Indonesian woman selling telukung (head scarves). The murukku stall opposite the money changer is staffed by a Sri Lankan.

In the neighbourhood kopi tiam, two Filipinas are busy on the grill dishing out chicken chops and steaks. Elsewhere, the Burmese cook is frying Hokkien mee.

Yes, Treasury Secretary-General Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah is right. Foreigners are surviving and thriving in Malaysia. He argued that if Indonesians can make a living here, Malaysians should be more prosperous.

Well said, Sir. But has it ever occurred to you that in each of the instances cited above – and in the case of Indonesian traders in Chow Kit – they are all operating illegally, if not through dubious means.

Foreign workers are allowed into the country through work permits – applied by and issued to employers. Conditions in such permits stipulate their scope of employment. More importantly, nothing in these documents state that they can engage in business or be self-employed.

Are authorities closing one eye?

So, how do they end up behind the wok or engaged in selling shirts and jeans, or for that matter, pisang goreng? Aren’t these activities prohibited? If so, are we to assume that these are illegal immigrants?

 

Therefore, how come they can apply and get licences? Are the local authorities ‘tutup satu mata’ (closing one eye) and approving such applications? One may argue that they have valid work permits but the caveat and government’s ethos include: No hawker or petty trading licences for foreigners. If they don’t have licences, why aren’t they being shut down?

So, are some local authorities defying government policies and using their powers as little Napoleons to milk the system for their own benefits? Or is the Ali-Baba system flourishing in a different way? Previously, if it was the Malays who were selling or leasing their licences to the Chinese, now the trend is for Malay traders to ‘pajak’ (lease) their licences to their Indonesian brethren.

So if the licence was an issue, it has been ‘kau tim’ (settled) and rules and regulations have been compromised. But how do foreigners occupy and operate in hawker centres that are actually owned by local authorities?

Parasitic rent-seekers

A similar arrangement comes into play. The local (usually a political party minnow with connections) is allocated the stall and pays a rental of RM60 monthly to the council. He then ‘pajak’ (leases) the stall for RM1,000 to the foreigner. For doing nothing, he gets RM940. Why should he work when he is making money by sitting at home and shaking legs? He is part of the rent-seeking crowd, perhaps on a smaller scale.

Aren’t these the same traits we see before each festive season when “special” trading licences are issued? Even the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) probed claims that licences change hands for a few thousand ringgit. Why work when you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your connections?

The Immigration Department does not approve work permits for “salesmen” – but a walk along Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur will reveal that Bangladeshis are now running the operations for the ‘towkay’ (boss). Even if they have permits as general workers, engaging in a different trade certainly breaks the law.

“If they have hands and legs and can walk, they can make a living in Malaysia,” says Irwan Serigar. But these are not enough. Are locals accorded the same opportunities to use their talents and skills and become entrepreneurs?

Irwan Serigar proudly pronounces that “if we go to Chow Kit, half of them are Indonesians”. Yes, Sir, but how and why have they been allowed to operate there? Isn’t the policy of the government to promote local petty traders?

Local authorities are quick to “raid” local traders for the slightest breach of licencing laws but yet, these foreign traders have been allowed to operate and thrive. The Immigration Department’s crackdown, for some unknown reasons, has never covered hotspots like Chow Kit.

Being able-bodied does not take the ordinary local man anywhere. Let us not forget the politics of patronage, where even the guy who puts up the posters or arranges the chairs at the ceramah expects to be rewarded in one way or another. A hawker’s stall guarantees him life-long pension!

With the election around the corner, don’t expect a clean-up of the rent-seeking culture that has entrenched itself in the system. While the small man gets three figures from his small operation, in existence are vultures who earn millions through similar arrangements.

Unless the government has the will and determination to put an end to such a system, local traders will continue to be sidelined and be subservient to foreigners who have learnt the workings of the system.

 

Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within


June 14, 2017

Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong.”

– Abraham Lincoln

COMMENT | The Prime Minister has again made this extraordinary claim – “In the end, 10 people died because we had no loyalty. All there was is a readiness to betray who? Our rakyat” – with regards to the “Sulu incursion” while reminding uniformed personnel to be loyal in preserving the country’s security.

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Keep Praying, Prime Minister, your lucky streak is running out unless you treat Malaysians Fairly

I will repeat the same questions I had in an article I wrote when the Prime Minister first made this claim of betrayal – “This, of course, brings us to the next set of questions. Who were those covert agents? What sort of investigations and which agencies were involved in routing out these ‘covert enemies’? Why weren’t the press and the people of Malaysia notified that our soldiers were killed because of leaked information? Were the families of the soldiers who were ‘sacrificed’ notified that their deaths were the result of an ambush because of leaked intelligence?”

I expect no answer, of course. A few friends have written to me “explaining” that “civilians” may have compromised troop movements and that is what our prime minister meant by “betrayal”. If you believe that civilians had compromised troop movement, I suggest we have a far greater problem than most people believe.

Of course, in this particular rejoinder the Prime Minister claims – “When our own people betrayed their comrades, when they fed information to our enemies, our enemies surrounded and ambushed…” – which implies that our men were betrayed by their “comrades”, in other words, by security personnel, which is worse but yet again no explanation will be forthcoming.

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Perkida–The Militant Arm of Najib’s UMNO

What if the liberalisation of the public sphere since the Mahathir era paved the way for the emergence of civil surrogates of political parties? What if the so-called “civil society” was used as a veil to hide and promote the rise of militants who are in fact sub-contractors of political parties discourse and actions?

Were those families of the 10 people who died told that their loved ones perished because they were betrayed by their “comrades”? Was there an investigation into these treasonous acts? Was there accountability? It does not matter, does it?

And are the Malaysian uniformed services “Muslim” uniformed services? I get that the majority who serve are Muslims but why does the Prime Minister feel the need to draw on Islam to remind the uniformed services to be loyal for the security of the country? The answer to this, of course, is obvious. Non-Muslims are constantly told that we are not patriotic enough, that we shelter under the security provided by brave Muslims and most importantly, there have been far too many Umno politicians and “activists” who remind us that government institutions are in reality “Malay/Muslim” institutions.

So yes, the Arabisation process being what it is, the professional standards of our uniformed services at the level it is, and this constant need to remind Muslims that loyalty to country means loyalty to the political establishment, it is no surprise that religion would be used to bolster support. Of course, if you are a non-Muslim in the uniformed services, you could either learn from this Islamic analogy thrust upon you or tune out.

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BTN (Biro Tata Negara) cannot be allowed to poison the minds of new generations of Malaysians. It must be disbanded. We can no longer accept UMNO hegemony. Its divide and rule politics of race and religion, and rent seeking economics are leading us along the path of economic decline and moral decay. –Din Merican

I have said it before and I will say it again. I despise the propagandising of the state security apparatus. This happens all over the world. The Prime Minister’s rejoinder was delivered at a function organised by Wanita UMNO – a wing of a political party – so this was a political event and not a government event.

Of course, in this country, the lines are willfully blurred so I wonder what would happen if Pakatan Harapan, or God Forbid the DAP, organised a Ramadan event to honour the sacrifices of our uniformed services. Would these service people who embraced the “gifts” doled out at this Umno event be accepting to gifts offered by the opposition? Or would they be told by a government flunky not to intrude where they are not wanted?

I will just regurgitate what I wrote when another organisation was advocating loyalty to the establishment –

“Ultimately when we pledged to serve the king and country, our oath goes far beyond loyalty to the government. We are really serving the people of this country and our loyalty is with them. It does not matter if you support the establishment or the opposition, your loyalty should be with the people and not with political elites, especially when they dishonour the institutions you pledged to serve and protect.”

‘We have been lucky’

The Prime Minister is right when he claims that peace does not happen by accident, but because of the work done by the security services of the state. However, he should be aware that peace happens because of luck, too. We have been lucky. While pre-emptive action is a necessary component of national security, the element of luck also plays an important part.

With all the propaganda spewed against non-Muslims, we have been lucky that external forces have far more insidious designs that merely slaughtering non-Muslims in this region. These designs target Muslims and is about a specific Islamic ideology and a war against Islamic plurality.

I have talked about this briefly in my piece cautioning against snuggling up to the House of Saud but as far as domestic policy is concerned, I wrote about the corrosive effects of Islam as propagated by the state on the security of the nation.

If even Najib is not safe from Islamic enemies, two points need to be considered when it comes to our “luck” in avoiding the kind of carnage that other countries have faced from their home-grown Islamic extremists.

When it comes to propaganda against the non-Muslims –

1) “Just recently, instead of sanctioning the genocidal rhetoric of the Pahang Mufti, Najib, who portrays himself as a PM for the people, said, ‘we cannot compromise on the Islamic struggle in this blessed land. We reject those who dislike Islam and know who they are and their collaborators.’”

And when it comes to the enemies within, who would destabilise the security of the state and the state security apparatus.

2) “The UMNO state security apparatuses have acknowledged that IS (Islamic State) sympathisers could emerge from anywhere, even from UMNO’s bureaucracy, which has for years sustained an anti-non-Muslim sentiment for political reasons.”

Islamic extremism and terrorism do not happen in a vacuum. It happens in environments which are conducive to the kind of extremism that groups like IS propagate.

You can have all the pre-emptive action that you want but as long as there are citizens willingly to carry out terrorist acts, work with foreign agents to destabilise the government and have cover to spout their nonsense because it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between state-sanctioned propaganda and that which is advocated by foreign Islamic extremists, this is the environment that will eventually lead us to be another statistic in mass Islamic violence.

Now as far as foreign Islamic extremists are concerned, I doubt they would collaborate with non-Muslims, simply because they consider non-Muslims as filthy infidels – although the narrative has always been that non-Muslims corrupt Muslims, so perhaps there may be some non-Muslims who are susceptible to the money that these Islamic extremists get from the most mainstream of sources – so the obvious potential collaborators are those who are disenfranchised and been fed on a diet that Islam is under siege in this country.

Think about it this way. If there are people who are willing to betray their comrades in an incursion by foreign participants, how long do you think our luck will hold against the dark foreign Islamic cults aligned against us and their local proxies who are willing to betray the rakyat of Malaysia?


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

Putting Malaysia’s Future in the hands of Mahathir Mohamad


April 28, 2017

Putting Malaysia’s Future in the hands of Mahathir Mohamad

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

If only the Opposition thought like Mahathir and stayed focused on their goal – which is not to just remove Najib but to change the government for the better – they will stay well away from a man like Mahathir – his record is there for all to see. Instead they have been seduced by the mantra, let’s get rid of Najib first.

If Opposition, in its strange state of amnesia, continues to forget to remember, they are going to lose their chance to heal this nation, their agenda hijacked by the one who was ultimately responsible for all this.–P. Gunasegaram

Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the one who tore UMNO apart, six years after he became Prime minister in July, 1981 when a bruising battle saw him win the UMNO presidential elections against challenger Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah by the narrowest margin ever. But he did much worse than that.

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The Opposition trusts Mahathir, do we Malaysians? Hopefully we are not a bunch of suckers–Din Merican

When Razaleigh challenged the election results and the courts declared it illegal, he did not respect the law and hold a new election. Instead, he set up a new UMNO, UMNO Baru, using the power of incumbency to force officialdom to facilitate the transfer of assets to UMNO Baru from the old, original UMNO.

He excluded from UMNO Baru those who considered his opponents compelling Razaleigh to form the alternative Semangat 46. He went about solidifying his position in UMNO Baru by altering the party constitution making it well nigh impossible for anyone to challenge the party president again, removing a check-and-balance so vital for democracy.

In 1987, via Operasi Lalang, he imprisoned over 100 people under the Internal Security Act or ISA and shut down several newspapers ostensibly to defuse interracial tension and bring back order, sending waves of shock and fear throughout the country and consolidating his then tenuous hold on power.

He is the man who is a master at exploiting racial divisions for his own gain, using it pre and post the May 13, 1969 riots – riots whom by some accounts he “predicted” will happen – to gain rapid ascension after Malaysia’s First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was effectively deposed by his deputy, Abdul Razak Hussein, current Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s father. Razak worked closely with young Turks within UMNO who included Mahathir and Musa Hitam among them.

Mahathir took revenge on the Judiciary in 1988, emasculating them by suspending Tun Salleh Abas,the Lord President and several Supreme Court judges and putting puppets in their place, a body blow from which the judiciary is yet to recover. Then on, Mahathir played enforcer, prosecutor, and judge. He could pretty much do what he wanted without controls, setting the stage for Malaysia’s descend into an abyss from which it is struggling to crawl out of now

There’s a fuller list of questionable things he did in an article I wrote for The Edge in June 2006 which was used in The Sun, three years after he stepped down, which posed a series of 22 groups of questions on his leadership, one for each of the 22 years he held the reins of power in the country.

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Then and Now (below)

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During the Asian financial crisis in 1998, he again resorted to strong-arm tactics to stay in power when his deputy then Anwar Ibrahim, now jailed opposition leader, mounted a thinly-disguised challenge to his leadership as the ringgit declined precipitously and the region was in turmoil following sharp falls in regional currencies.

Mahathir reacted swiftly and sharply, expelling him from all government and party posts and then sending in an elite squad to capture him at machinegun-point and detain him under the infamous ISA. He simultaneously imposed capital controls to stem the damage on the currency. And then came the sodomy charges against Anwar.

Paradoxically, it was Anwar who ensured Mahathir’s narrow victory in the 1987 party election when he prevailed upon Najib to cast the votes controlled by his block to Mahathir. If Najib had not and favoured Razaleigh instead, Razaleigh would most likely have won.

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Mahathir Mohamad with Singapore’s Philosopher-King Lee Kuan Yew

Mahathir did not even use the benefit of his dictatorial powers for the sake of the nation the way Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore as I pointed in an article comparing the two. Lee used his immense powers to cut corruption, improve the quality of education and evolve a strong, competent and incorruptible civil service amongst others. Mahathir effectively promoted corruption and patronage, oversaw a decline in educational standards and undermined one of the finest civil services in Asia with his arbitrary decision-making.

What is it about Mahathir that makes the Opposition so enamoured of him? People like Anwar and Lim Kit Siang who directly suffered so much from his blatant misuse of authority to perpetuate his own power and continuance?

Forget to remember

Perhaps the Opposition feels, like a lot of people, that Mahathir has some power of invincibility and that he can influence the people. But an examination of history does not show this as I explained in an article in 2006.

Mahathir was elected MP for the Kota Setar Selatan seat in Kedah in 1964. It was established early on that he was not invincible when he lost the seat to PAS’ Yusof Rawa in 1969. According to some accounts, he had said in 1969 that he did not need Chinese votes to win.

Following the May 13, 1969 riots, Mahathir wrote a widely-circulated letter criticising then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. He was dismissed from his UMNO supreme council position and expelled from the party. The following year, he wrote the controversial book ‘The Malay Dilemma’ which was promptly banned, the ban being lifted in 1981 when Mahathir became Prime Minister.

Mahathir was readmitted into UMNO 1972 after Razak assumed the mantle. The Tunku had stepped down in 1970 after the 1969 riots. Mahathir stood for the Kubang Pasu parliamentary seat in 1974 and won unopposed, retaining the seat until 2004 when he did not contest after his retirement. He was appointed education minister in 1975. The vital turning point for Mahathir came the following year when Hussein Onn became Prime Minister following Razak’s untimely death. Hussein picked Mahathir as his deputy.

And this was not because Mahathir enjoyed overwhelming support in UMNO. Mahathir was picked over two UMNO Vice-Presidents who had higher votes than him, Ghafar Baba and Razaleigh. An accident of fate put Mahathir in line for the top position. When Hussein retired due to failing health, Mahathir became Prime Minister in 1981.

And in 2006 when he attempted to get elected as a delegate to UMNO, after stepping down as Prime Minister, so as to voice his opinions at the UMNO General Assembly, he got a thumping defeat, meriting an article in The New York Times. He was placed ninth in a field of 15 for delegates from Kubang Pasu, his former seat! Mahathir pleaded money politics – something he never bothered to check during his time.

Despite his intense, tireless campaigning at the age of over 90 in both Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar in June last year, BN won handsomely in both seats, indicating that Mahathir has insignificant sway with the Malay voters anyway.

The Opposition is not likely to benefit much from Mahathir and his party Bersatu, especially with PAS now seeming to align itself with the government. It seems unlikely that the disunited Opposition will win.

But what if the Opposition won? What if Bersatu held the balance of power? Would it stick with Pakatan Harapan or would it go over to UMNO and make a deal by telling to get rid of Najib and bring back Muhyiddin Yassin to take over as Prime Minister?

Surely Anwar as PM would be unthinkable for Mahathir even if a process of pardon could be initiated. Mahathir can tell Harapan, no deal unless Muhyiddin becomes PM. And so we go from Najib to Muhyiddin – is that a big improvement in the overall scheme of things.

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Mahathir Mohamad and his Accomplices in the Political Destruction of Malaysia

That’s what Mahathir wants to be – a power broker, the king-maker. That way no matter who is in power, he is not going to be brought into account for his past misdeeds. That way he has a pretty good chance of putting his son, Mukhriz, in a strong position to assume future leadership. That way he is assured that history – written by the victors as the wise tell us – will be far more kindly to him.

If any one takes the trouble to remember what this man did and stood for, he would be mad to think that Mahathir is the solution – he was, and is, the problem. Without him and his 22 years of misrule, Malaysia would not have descended to what it is today.

Mahathir was accountable to no one. Not the people, not the party, not the judges. He could do almost anything he pleased and get away with it using the apparatus and machinery of control he had put in place.

He made opaque many decisions of government, putting anything marked secret by the government as secret under the law by removing the power of judges to judge even if the secret posed no danger to the country but only embarrassed the government and exposed its corrupt ways

That was the legacy he left behind – and a leader who followed him used it to do nasty things, some worse than that by Mahathir. Now we expect Mahathir – the source of all this – to save us Malaysians from Najib!

Is that why Mahathir is sticking his neck out? For the good of the country? But remember he had his chance – 22 years of it. He bungled – all he did was to stay in power and do the greatest damage to the country ever by any one, Prime Minister or not

His goal now is not to get into power but to ensure that whoever comes into power does not destroy him. As far as Mahathir is concerned, it is always about him – not Malaysia, not Malaysians, not even the Malays.

If only the Opposition thought like Mahathir and stayed focused on their goal – which is not to just remove Najib but to change the government for the better – they will stay well away from a man like Mahathir – his record is there for all to see. Instead they have been seduced by the mantra, let’s get rid of Najib first.

If Opposition, in its strange state of amnesia, continues to forget to remember, they are going to lose their chance to heal this nation, their agenda hijacked by the one who was ultimately responsible for all this.

 

United Airlines Saga is a Lesson for Corporates and Politicians–No Bull, Please


April 16, 2017

United Airlines Saga is a Lesson for Corporates and Politicians–No Bull, Please

by Azly Rahman@www.malaysiakini.com

You can’t take your customers and voters for granted

Karma for United Airlines – share prices down and down and down, from US$700 million loss in a day to US$1.4 billion the next. This will continue. But there is a lesson here. Capitalism and its arrogance. Corporate capitalism and its treatment towards customers, in a cut-throat airline competition.

And the good Vietnamese-born doctor dragged away bloodied will sue big-time. Bravo. The world is cheering. The Internet has won again. A General Lafayette aiding George Washington in that Revolutionary War.

Lesson for Najib and UMNO in Malaysia

In the United Airlines Corporate Bulls**t and Karma story, there is a lesson for Malaysia as well. This country is known for its politeness but of late corporate and political culture is evolving towards bulls**t.

Malaysian customers too can do it, too. Whether you’re an airline or a cable TV company or a cellular communications company, you do the dance of your corporate bulls**t, public anger, with the help of social media can bring you down.

Whether you are giants like Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, or any new airlines with strange and humiliating interview techniques(Malindo), or whether you’re Astro or Celcom or Maxis or any company that takes people’s money and do not deliver quality, public anger can imitate the global reaction we are seeing with United Airlines. I hope these Malaysian companies are doing the right thing in keeping their customers happy.

So, companies must behave and refrain from exercising policies amounting to corporate bulls**t. I hope Malaysian companies such as those continue to behave well while laughing their way daily to the bank.

Even companies allying themselves with allegedly lousy and money-laundering politicians ought to be shamed and exposed of their unholy alliances, so that it is easy for the public, local and global, to also punish them for their corporate bulls**it. Let the public decide the nature of karma. Corporate karma.

Lessons for politicians as well

Though BS is your ammo, the public must be appeased, especially in the age of trolls and anyone with a cellphone is a citizen journalist. It’s the age of boycotts going viral and corporations that BS should be careful with their ethics of enterprise-sustainability.

Politicians are always a target of citizen anger, because they had promised to deliver when they were begging for votes. Yet when they have won and have held power for endless number of years, they become arrogant and thieves, suing race and religion to rationalise their moves and motives.

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And herein lie the power of the Internet trollers. The storm-bringers of the political world. The case of the leader of a major Islamic party getting trolled, and cartoonised, and humiliated in cyberspace is an example of public anger over a religious issue that is plagued with arrogance. The case of the tabling of the amendments to Act 355.

The case of unholy alliances that is framed in the language of religion and the need to have an Islamic state even though Islam does not require nations to have such a state. Islam is a personal religion that help develop the self into a kingdom of peace – not a cultural-religious ideology used by a party to insist on a system of demagoguery that belittles other religious beliefs. That is not Islam. That is a grand slam of a medieval ideology.

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Seeking solace

In the end, what Malaysia is seeing is a state of chaos and of double-dealings and triple lyings of Malay-Muslim political parties playing up each other. In the end the game is all the same – political bulls**t to the max.

The Internet as monster

The cybernetic world is precarious and brutal when it comes to addressing public anger. And no one controls the Internet. Technology will always be the winner. We have been seeing numerous cases in Malaysia wherein companies are brought down, politicians shredded to pieces, and issues of human right violations exposed for the world to see – all these by the power of the Internet and the ease of employment and deployment of social media.

Karl Marx, the social historian, said whoever owns the means of production, owns the means of changing social relations of production and consciousness as well. Today we are all owners of the means of production called free speech enabled by our personalising and ‘personacratic technology’ called the cellphone.

We are all part of the whole. In the case of fighting against corporate bulls**t and politicians with BS attitude, we are all members of the new resistance movement – the army of that is also raging. Rage against the machine, A new Luddite. A new force. To bring down capitalism’s glorified bullsh**ters.

And the biggest winner, still is the Internet. That Frankenstein of a monster roaming in cyberspace.

I hope the good doctor David Dao is feeling better. I hope it is not a case of racial profiling at the height of Trumpism. But fly not United Airlines until its corporate bullshit is grounded and buried.

Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


April 12, 2017

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Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore:

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Easy to catch the Corrupt,says Citizen Nades


December 3, 2016

Easy to catch the Corrupt,says Citizen Nades

http://www.thesundaily.my/node/409549

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Citizen Nades

UNTIL October 2006, few people outside political circles knew him. He rose from an obscure railway gatekeeper staying in a one-room quarters at the railway crossing where he was required to raise the barriers to allow vehicular traffic to flow after the trains had passed by.

By the time theSun front-paged the story on his “meteoric rise” and his “palace” which he had built on land meant for low-cost housing, his positions in the party and as a state assemblyman were hanging by a thread.

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The dearly departed UMNO crony of the convicted former Selangor Menteri  Besar Mohamed Khir Toyo

The late Zakaria Mat Deros (pic) (God bless his soul) gained notoriety for building his 16-bedroom house without even submitting building plans. He had not paid the assessment for 12 years on two low-cost units previously occupied by his large family.

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Jamal Yunos is arguably the richest Ikan Bakar man in the world with close connections to Najib Razak  who is the most corrupt Malaysian Prime Minister and UMNO el Presidente.

So, last week nostalgia came back when the Ikan Bakar man took journalists on a helicopter ride to show the “palace” of a politician – a divisional youth leader in the opposition.

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He is not Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police, but UMNO’s Policeman and Prime Minister Najib’s Poodle

Preceding this, Crime Watch supremo alleged that the Inspector-General of Police had himself built yet another “palace” in Mantin (pic above).

The accusers in both instances asked the relevant authorities to investigate them alleging that they must explain how they got the money to acquire such property.

This prompted a Facebook user to suggest in jest that he wants partners to start a helicopter service for aerial tours to pick out mansions of politicians. In banter, I offered my services and reasoned that I had a good track record.

Over the years, I have come across several ordinary cikgu who became millionaires after their foray into politics. There are scores of “politically connected people” (to borrow a term that has now become the new mantra for banks and bankers) living in similar luxury.

There are also good people who stepped into the dark side unable to resist their own temptation or that of their wives to lead different lifestyles and keep up with the Joneses. There are some female golfers who even have golf bags to match the colour of their attire.

Then there’s the average man who is turned over because he can’t make ends meet on his meagre salary and many dependants. But the law does not differentiate between the poor, the middle class and the rich. Perhaps, such a factor could be pleaded in mitigation for a lighter sentence.

I have been repeatedly told that being rich or wealthy does not constitute an offence. An offence only takes place if the money is obtained illegally – corruption, money laundering, criminal breach of trust, cheating and the like.

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Asking the authorities to investigate the source of the money is dangerous territory full of mine fields and cluster bombs.

First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are declared, there is no offence.

Second, if he or she is caught with the cash or money in the bank, a non-acceptable explanation would lead to charges of money-laundering – NOT corruption; not getting assets through corruption; not getting money from illegal activities.

We had the perfect opportunity to put it right when former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi promulgated the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act to replace the outdated Anti-Corruption Act towards the end of his tenure.

In the proposals was a clause which stated: “It shall be an offence of any person to lead a lifestyle or possess assets which are disproportionate to his or her declared income.”

By the time this legislation was presented as a bill in Parliament, this clause had been removed from the original draft. We were then told that several “warlords” within the system opposed the clause because they themselves would have to account for their wealth!

So, instead of putting the onus on the official suspected of corruption to prove he earned the money legitimately, the prosecution has to prove that he had received a gratification. That is difficult because corruption is a victimless crime. Both giver and taker benefit and one usually will not squeal on the other.

In the absence of such legislation, the prosecution usually files money laundering charges. But the core issue of proving that he or she was a corrupt person through the legal process becomes almost impossible. In such circumstances, it leaves Joe Public’s imagination to run wild as to the source of the wealth.

Under these circumstances, shouldn’t that catch-all clause be re-visited with a view to tightening our anti-corruption laws? Hong Kong has been successful in its fight because such a clause in its legislation empowers officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption to serve notice demanding explanations from suspected corrupt officials.

If they fail to provide a plausible or satisfactory account of their wealth, they are prosecuted. A few like-minded lawyer-friends had a discussion on this and came to the conclusion that if this clause is incorporated, our prisons would be overcrowded.

R. Nadeswaran had the benefit of seeing the “new” legislation before and after it was presented and passed in Parliament. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com