Malaysian Prime Minister consolidates power


Washington DC

July 2, 2016

Malaysian Prime Minister consolidates power with Cabinet reshuffle

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Najib is bullet-proof as Premier.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on June 27 reshuffled 10 portfolios in his cabinet, rewarding a handful of United Malays National Organization stalwarts including Noh Omar, the Selangor UMNO chief, as Urban Well Being, Housing and Local Government Minister. The only notable departure is Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, who resigned as Second Finance Minister.

Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah–The Next Malaysian Ambassador to the USA?

What didn’t happen is probably more important. Hishamuddin Hussein, 54, Najib’s cousin and the current defense minister, and Khairy Jamaluddin, 40, the federal Minister for Youth and Sports and the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose career seemed to be in eclipse when Badawi was driven from office in 2009, appear to be consolidating their own power under Najib despite not moving.

“At present Hisham and Khairy remain in their current positions but UMNO is theirs,” said a political observer. “They are the future of the party assuming UMNO wins the next election.”

Hisham has been regarded as a bit of a dim bulb. A wooden speaker, he was roundly criticized for bumbling over the investigation into the mysterious loss of MH370, the Boeing passenger jetliner that disappeared without a trace on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew. Although occasional fragments have been found that are believed to be part of the craft, the mystery of its disappearance has never been solved.

Khairy was considered a major reason for the fall of Badawi over allegations of undue influence over public service contracts.

What it all means for Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 63, the Deputy Prime Minister and Najib’s chief spear-carrier, is unclear. He retains his position but in the past he has been regarded with distrust by many. He was a one-time ally of the now-imprisoned opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim but returned to UMNO after Anwar, then Finance Minister, fell from power.  He is looked on as a loose cannon but he has risen rapidly in power.

It is the third reshuffle in the seven years, some of it stormy, since Najib took power in 2009. The other major development happened on June 24 when Najib engineered the sacking of former Deputy Prime Muhyiddin Yassin from his position as vice president of the United Malays National Organization, along with Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, on a unanimous vote.

The ousting of Muhyiddin, who was axed nearly a year ago as Najib’s Deputy Prime Minister, and Mukhriz, who had been removed as chief minister of the state of Kedah, had long been expected. UMNO’s rousing victory in two by-elections earlier this year and a convincing win in Sarawak state polls earlier are an indication that despite being enmeshed in a huge scandal that has drawn money-laundering investigations in seven other countries, Najib is bullet-proof as premier.

They are aligned with the 91-year-old Mahathir in his attempt to drive Najib from power. They have joined him in an opposition attempt to gather more than a million signatures asking Najib to leave. The attempt so far has been inconclusive. It appears that the prime minister feels secure enough to call a snap election, more than two years before the current five-year term expires in August of 2018, according to the drums in Kuala Lumpur.

Although the firing of Muhyiddin last year kicked off an uproar that rank and file UMNO members, with the help of the Mahathir wing of the party and particularly in Muhyiddin’s Johor base, would rebel and drive the Najib faction from power, it didn’t happen.  It seems quite likely that Najib has calculated correctly that there will be little today.

It is likely that the only shadow on Najib’s career today is the investigations going on in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong and other jurisdictions. Swiss authorities have charged that as much as US$4 billion has been laundered from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd., an investment vehicle set up in 2009 with Najib as its principal financial adviser. Literally dozens of news stories have traced the money out of 1MDB into a variety of accounts in the Cayman and British Virgin Islands, Switzerland and Singapore. Najib himself appears to have been the recipient of as much as US$681 million that was mysteriously deposited in his personal account in 2013 before the general election, and was equally mysteriously withdrawn and transmitted to another account in Singapore before it disappeared outright.

In May, the Monetary Authority of Singapore forced the closure of BSI Bank Ltd – the first merchant bank to be closed in Singapore in 32 years – for its role in moving money in and out of Singapore for individuals connected to 1MDB and fined the bank S$13.3 million for 41 cases of breaches of money laundering and other 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.”

The monetary authority also said at the time that it was investigating “several other financial institutions and bank accounts through which suspicious and unusual transactions have taken place.”

None of this has had any effect on Najib’s standing within his party and, if the three recent elections are any gauge, with the voters. By sacking government officials, neutralizing investigations, threatening critics with sedition charges, closing important press outlets and banning external news sources including Asia Sentinel and the influential Sarawak Report, he has managed to largely contain criticism.

He has also been helped by social attitudes among ethnic Malays that regard all attempts to expose what is manifestly widespread corruption, both on Najib’s part and within UMO itself as a plot on the part of the minority ethnic Chinese community to take political power away from them to match economic power, which has resided in the Chinese community for decades.

 

Malaysia’s First Lady in a Controversy Again


June 16, 2016

Malaysia’s First Lady in a Controversy Again

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Malaysia’s First Lady Rosmah Mansor

The furore over Rosmah Mansor’s use of a private jet to fly to Turkey last month has revived a question that was asked many times in the not-too-distant past: “Who is entitled to use a government jet or a private jet chartered by the government?”

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has a lot of learning to do. He has been strident in his defence of the Prime Minister’s wife, who went to Turkey in a luxury Airbus A-319 to pick up an award.

The cost of the lease – RM86.4 million – was paid by taxpayers. This is what Hishammuddin has pretended not to understand. It is the rakyat’s money, not UMNO-Baru’s.

If it had been Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s own money, or money donated by Hishammuddin, no one would care. Surely Hishammuddin knows that every sen of taxpayers’ money must be accounted for.

Apparently, this was not the first time, as a government jet was allegedly used in 2014 to pick up an award in Padang, Indonesia.

The authorities knew that this latest exposé was damaging. Rosmah’s aide, Rizal Mansor, claimed that she had a tight schedule. If time was short, why didn’t the Malaysian Ambassador to Turkey pick up the award on her behalf instead?

In any case, what is wrong with the newly revamped national carrier, Malaysia Airlines Berhad? Any Malaysian citizen would be proud to fly the flag for Malaysia.

Hishammuddin tried to deflect the public’s attention by criticising former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had flown to Ipoh in a private jet. Mahathir went there to take part in the Kuala Kangsar by-election campaign.

For a start, was Mahathir’s flight paid for by the taxpayer? If it wasn’t, Hishammuddin has really lost his sense of reason. If it was paid for by the rakyat, did it cost several million ringgit? If it was a government jet, why was Mahathir eligible to use it?

Government records are not transparent and the public outrage over the trip to Turkey is a direct result of that opaqueness.

So we come to the vital question: “Who is entitled to use a government jet?” For a start, how many government jets are there? How much is spent on them? Who has been using them and for what reason?

We are often told that government jets are for use by the ministers and the group of people known as VVIPs, meaning royal personages, like the Yang diPertuan Agong. Who else, apart from the King and his consort, are considered to be VVIPs entitled to fly on a government jet? Would the King’s niece or his aunt be eligible? Does the Lord Chamberlain get to use the jet?

Does the Malaysian government have a list of persons qualified to be called VVIPs? It is alleged that Najib’s daughter was also on the flight to Istanbul. Is her name in the entitlement list?

Rizal only made matters worse when he tried to justify the presence of the many suitcases in the luxury jet’s cabin. He said the fuel tanks had taken up too much space. So we’re asking, “What did those bags contain?”

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A case of Harapkan Pagar Pagar Makan Padi (Dr. Mahathir– Wawasan 2020 and Najib Razak–Sapu Malaysia)


May 4, 2016

A case of Harapkan Pagar Pagar Makan Padi (Dr. Mahathir– Wawasan 2020 and Najib Razak–Sapu Malaysia)

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

The epigram, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”) by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”) best describes what has been happening to this country in the realm of political economy.

Thus the pervasive pessimism and sense of inevitability as the unsavoury details of the donation uncovered in the Prime Minister’s personal account and 1MDB scandals have unfolded. What’s discernible is the same pattern of “pagar makan padi”, malfeasance, abdication of responsibility, incompetence, and attempts at cover up and whitewashing at the highest level. And predictably too, the chorus by Barisan’s cheerleaders and supporters, and exhortations by implicated leaders and the authorities urging the public and nation to “move on” from “self inflicted wounds”.

But what’s the cost of moving on from our alleged national masochism?This is not the first blow to our national treasury, leading to a hard hit at the wallet and well being of every Malaysian. The list of similar fiascos goes a long way back. More than 30 years, and even further back.

It includes the Bank Bumiputra bailout in the 80s, the Maminco debacle, Perwaja Steel wipeout, Bank Islam rescue, the Scorpene submarine scandal to name some of the spectacular cases in what is a massive and growing iceberg of fraud, embezzlement, cheating and chicanery orchestrated or sanctioned by those at the top with approval authority over the hundreds of thousands of government projects, big and small, carried out especially during the past three decades – and with just the tip of the iceberg uncovered and visible.

Various scholars have attempted to quantify the financial losses the country has squandered. During the 22 year+ rule of Dr Mahathir, Barry Wain, author of the book ‘Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times’ estimated that the direct financial losses amounted to about RM50 billion. This doubled if the invisible costs, such as unrecorded write-offs, were taken into account. The RM100 billion total loss was equivalent to US$40 billion at the then prevailing exchange rates.

No authoritative estimate has yet been made of losses on similar bloated, questionable or mismanaged projects undertaken after Dr. Mahathir left office. But the list of scandal-ridden mega projects and often related bailouts of government-linked companies since then has been equally, if not more, impressive; and depressing. They include the National Palace project, Port Klang Free Trade Zone project, and the smaller cost but oversized on infamy, ‘Cowgate’ project.

Between 2001 and 2015, Federal Government development expenditure totalled about RM 610 billion. If we assume that there is a hidden charge of 20% for commissions, kickbacks, overpayments and other forms of leakages and corrupt financial practices incurred in this category of expenditure alone, the country was poorer by RM120 billion.

Even a conservative estimate of 10 percent of the development budget lost to corruption, rent seeking and other forms of financial abuse means that the country has incurred a loss of RM 60 billion.

Should We Move On?

So what lessons can we take from this failure of our political leaders and authorities to curb the rot in the nation’s finances which is systemic and endemic.Apart from the huge financial losses, there are social costs that are non-quantifiable but more grievious in the impact on our national culture and consciousness.

One is that bad behavior is rewarded; and “clean, efficient and trustworthy” are simply empty slogans meant to distract and deceive.Two is that crime – especially white collar and also, the occasional murder – pays; and at the highest levels pays really well.

Three is that cash is especially king for those who, although they themselves may not be engaged in wrong doing, are perfectly happy with abetting or defending the wrong doers. American author Upton Sinclair wrote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

We see it all the time in Malaysia with money and positions being the key determinants of the cognitive ability of the battery of financial experts, lawyers, media propagandists and other support cast of Barisan misgovernance; which has led them to ignore facts and truths inconvenient to their cause, or their client’s cause.

Four is that our belief and trust in justice being done at the end of the day in relation to financial or political scandals may prove to be idealistic or wildly over-optimistic.

This is especially the case when vested political interests have undermined, if not destroyed, what should be an autonomous, influence-free and non-partisan judiciary as well as other key governance agencies, including enforcement ones.

As the culture of impunity takes deep roots among those who control the levers of power, we find that the rakyat‘s trust in their politicians and officials has been eroding at a rapid pace. This is confirmed by the finding of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2016 which found that trust in the government fell seven points to 39% among the general population and 11 points to 34% among the informed public, compared to last year.

There are some things that are right as well as done well in the country which give us confidence and pride that we are moving on.But we cannot and should not move on from the current wrongs and controversies until the root causes are identified and eliminated.

A Damning Report on Malaysia’s New Autocrat by The Washington Post


November 30, 2015

Obama shakes hands with Najib

The New Autocrat shakes hands with The Democrat

A Damning Report on Malaysia’s New Autocrat by The Washington Post

by Anna Fifield

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/malaysia-invokes-british-era-law-to-stifle-critics-voices/2015/11/25/c3c966c4-8ee0-11e5-934c-a369c80822c2_story.html

Online critics of the Malaysian government would be well advised not to spend too much money on cellphones. “Just lost number four,” Eric Paulsen, an outspoken civil liberties lawyer and compulsive tweeter, said Nov. 20 after nearly two hours of questioning at the main police station here over his latest sedition charge.

Paulsen went into the Police station with a shiny new Chinese handset, a Xiaomi, and came out without it. At least it was cheaper than the iPhone and two Samsung Galaxies that previously were confiscated from him this year, apparently because they are tools in his social-media activism.

tze-merah

MP Steven Sim Tze Tzin

His friend Steven Sim Tze Tzin, an opposition parliamentarian who also was questioned that day, still smarts over the iPhone 6 Plus that was taken from him this year. “Don’t they know how much that thing cost?” Sim said, laughing, after emerging from his own session with the Police.

Malaysia, ostensibly one of the United States’ democratic allies in Southeast Asia, is engaged in a broad crackdown on freedom of expression that detractors say is all about silencing critics of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal. And the crackdown is particularly focused on online commentary, which is proving much harder to control than traditional media.

“The government has at least two intentions,” said Yin Shao Loong, who is Executive Director of the Institut Rakyat, a think tank, and is aligned with the opposition. “One is to stifle freedom of expression. The other is to harass the opposition and sap their energy and tie them up in court cases that could take years.”

Najib’s government has been making heavy use of the 1948 Sedition Act, a remnant of the British colonial period, which makes it an offense to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government.”

Azmi Sharom 3

University of Malaya’s Dr. Azmi Sharom

Among the three dozen or so who have been targeted so far this year are  Dr.Azmi Sharom, a law professor at the University of Malaya who gave his legal opinion on a 2009 political crisis, and Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Bersih group, a civil-society organization that promotes electoral reform, who has been charged with illegal assembly and sedition for organizing huge anti-Najib rallies in August.

Numerous opposition parliamentarians also have been charged with sedition, most of them for criticizing a federal court’s decision in February upholding the conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomy. That case is widely viewed as political.

S. Arutchelvan, a socialist politician, was charged in the past week with sedition for comments he made in February. The well-known cartoonist Zunar, who in September won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, has been charged with nine counts of sedition for nine tweets criticizing the Anwar conviction.

Congrats Zunar

Award Winning Malaysian Cartoonist ZUNAR

And two newspapers deemed hostile to the government were suspended from publishing.“Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Malaysian government are making a mockery of their claim to be a rights-respecting democracy by prosecuting those who speak out on corruption or say anything even remotely critical of the government,” said Linda Lakhdhir of Human Rights Watch. The government, she added, should stop using “repressive laws to harass the media and intimidate its critics.”

The crackdown began after the ruling party fared poorly in 2013 elections, said Murray Hiebert, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, but the repression has accelerated amid a corruption scandal that threatens Najib’s hold on power.

Investigators looking into the heavily indebted sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, found that almost $700 million (Malaysian ringgit 2.6 billion) had been deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Najib, who founded 1MDB and heads its board of advisers, has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Arif Shah, a spokesman for 1MDB, said the allegations against Najib were “old” and had been “comprehensively addressed” by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which in August reported that no funds from 1MDB had been transferred to the Prime Minister’s personal bank accounts.

But amid investigations into the fund, Najib has replaced key officials with appointees deemed friendlier. The new Attorney-General, for example, has dismissed a recommendation from the central bank to begin criminal proceedings against 1MDB.

For Peace and Freedom

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond directly to questions about Najib’s links to the fund, saying the investigation continues, but a spokesman strongly denied suggestions that opponents of the government were being targeted with legal action.

“The Sedition Act does not impinge on free speech or democratic principles,” said Dato’ Tengku Sariffuddin, the ‘Prime Minister’s press secretary. “Most, if not all, countries have legal safeguards on the printed and spoken word in order to maintain public order. It is reasonable for Malaysia to safeguard itself in the same manner.”

Pending amendments to the Sedition Act, he said, would serve “to better protect all religions and to prevent the incitement of racial or inter-ethnic conflict.”

The changes would remove a clause outlawing criticism of the government and judiciary. A provision would be added to outlaw incitement to religious hatred in the country, which is 60 percent Muslim. The amendments, once ratified, also would increase the term of imprisonment for sedition from three years to seven years and add a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for seditious activities that result in physical harm or destruction of property.

The spokesman said that Malaysia has “a thriving online space in which opposition voices and publications are given free rein” and that government critics “are more outspoken than in almost any other country in the region.” But critics of Najib describe an elaborate effort to silence them. The Malaysian government has long controlled newspapers and TV stations. Although the rising use of cellphones and social media has loosened the state’s grip on information, especially in rural regions, the government is trying to get a handle on the new technologies.

“There are lots of cybertroopers monitoring posts by opposition [members of Parliament], taking screen shots of them and then circulating them and tagging the Police Chief,” said the opposition parliamentarian Steven Sim, who is being charged for a tweet in which he mistakenly suggested that the former attorney general was manhandled out of office. Sim deleted the tweet when he realized that the photo included was an old one and said it was a genuine mistake. Too late.

“The cybertroopers wrote, ‘Arrest Sim. He’s giving the government a bad name,’ ” the legislator said. It is not clear whether these online monitors are hired by the government or are zealous volunteers. But they have been effective at alerting the authorities to criticism.

For Paulsen, 42, an ethnic Chinese lawyer who leads a human rights advocacy group called Lawyers for Liberty, problems began after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January.

A government official said such an attack could happen here, prompting Paulsen to send out a tweet about the Department of Islamic Advancement Malaysia, or JAKIM, which prescribes the sermons delivered during politically slanted Friday prayers.

“JAKIM is promoting extremism every Friday. Goverment needs to address that if serious about extremism in Malaysia,” Paulsen tweeted. The cybertroopers seized on it. The next day, Khalid Abu Bakar, the fawning Inspector General of Police, who also is active on Twitter, posted a photo of Paulsen and his tweet overlaid with the word “rude.”

Then came Paulsen’s first sedition charge. The second was filed after he tweeted that the most extreme forms of Islamic punishment, such as cutting off hands and stonings, were inhumane. The third run-in with the law was a criminal defamation charge after two tweets suggesting that Najib was trying to avoid questioning over the 1MDB affair.

Paulsen does not deny writing any of the tweets, but he does assert his innocence on the fourth allegation against him, which concerns a Facebook post showing a banner in a march that had been doctored to read, “Chinese pigs go home.”

“It was clearly fabricated to make it look like I had posted this,” he said, adding that it seemed designed to provoke racial divisions.

Paulsen said he thinks the efforts against him are part of a broader attempt to silence criticism of the government on social media. “If you’re from the opposition, are a dissident or are active in civil society, they’re going to come after you.”

But Lakhdhir of Human Rights Watch finds some cause for optimism. “A bright light for Malaysia is the strength of its civil society,” she said, “with many who are willing to speak out despite the risks.”

Anna Fifield is The Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.

Slain Malaysian Prosecutor Tied to Najib Probe


November 27, 2015

Slain Malaysian Prosecutor Tied to Najib Probe

Brother of victim found in oil drum contradicts AG’s claim the dead man had nothing to do with case.

kevin
 Dato’Anthony Kevin Morais

Morais apparently had been strangled although that is uncertain since his body was cremated before his brother, Charles Suresh Morais, an Atlanta, Georgia businessman, could order a second autopsy. The story involves an astonishing series of twists and turns, including possible links to the 2013 murder of a prominent banker in a Kuala Lumpur temple parking lot.

Morais’s body disappeared from a Kuala Lumpur hospital mortuary despite pleas by the brother, Charles, for a second autopsy. The body was claimed and cremated over Charles’ objections by

another brother, Richard, who has been in constant trouble with the law and who figured in the 2013 murder of the late Arab Malaysian Bank founder Hussain Najadi.  The bank is now known as AmBank.

Car rammed, prosecutor abducted

Surveillance footage from a CCTV camera the day the 55-year-old Kevin Morais disappeared showed his car being followed and rammed by another. He was reportedly abducted after the collision and was never seen alive again. One of the seven suspects arrested after the footage identified the car in the collision led investigators to a suburb near Kuala Lumpur where Morais’s body, encased in the oil drum, had been rolled into a river. 

Morais had been seconded from the Attorney-General’s Chambers to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which was looking into financial irregularities involving the troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd. state-backed investment fund and other issues.

In July, Najib fired the Attorney-Ggeneral, Abdul Gani Patail, one of a dramatic series of events that included forcing out the Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, transferring the deputy head of the police special branch intelligence division, neutralizing a special parliamentary committee seeking answers over corruption, questioning seven members of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over leaks about the case, sending the head of the MACC “on vacation” and threatening any and all critics with sedition charges.   

Today, a source said, the commission investigators are terrified and believe they are in danger, followed by Special Branch police, over suspicions they had leaked details of the investigation to Clare Rewcastle Brown, the editor of the UK-based Sarawak Report, which has been deeply involved in investigating the 1MDB case and broken most of the important stories. The leaker, Charles Morais said, may have been his dead brother because anonymous emails to Rewcastle Brown were signed by “jibby@anonymousspeech.com.” “ Jibby,” Charles Morais said  was a nickname for a Morais family friend. However, it is also a derisory nickname used by many for Najib himself.

Najib crony Mohd Apandi Ali, the Attorney-General picked to replace Gani Patail – who is also a lawyer connected to the United Malays National Organization, which Najib heads,  had previously dismissed the alleged draft charge sheet as false. The office denied Kevin Morais was working on the Najib case, which appears to have disappeared.

berthelsen morais 112615-1

Although prosecutors said the mastermind was actually a military doctor who had been prosecuted by Morais recently in a graft case, Charles Morais called for the case to be revisited. 

A thumb drive of evidence

In a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on November 26, Charles Morais, who had flown back to Malaysia from the US, said he had received a mobile USB storage device from his brother shortly before his death, dealing with investigations he was looking into, as well as an alleged draft charge sheet against the prime minister which was released by Sarawak Report and carried the initials of his brother. Morais said that when he saw the alleged draft charge sheet, he recognized his brother’s initials. 

To a police demand that he turn over the USB device for investigation, Charles Morais said the device is in safekeeping in Atlanta, and that he didn’t trust the Police enough to give it to them.

berthelsen morais 112615-2

Charles Morais

“Two to three months before Kevin’s demise, he told me that he was working on a case involving the prime minister and his wife,” Charles Morais said in the sworn document. “He said the prime minister was a terrible guy but that his wife was worse. He actually used the words kolata ala. (Eds: These were Malayalam (a Dravidian dialect spoken in the Indian state of Kerala) and translated into English meaning ‘a person up to no good’. He told me his phone might be tapped and to be careful what I said. That is why half of our conversations were usually in Malayalam.”

Read the statutory declaration of Charles Morais here.

Dead man couriers possible evidence to brother

In mid-August, Morais said, his brother, who in frequent telephone calls said he was increasingly depressed and wanted to retire to London, emailed him telling him he would courier something to him and “to watch out for it as he wanted me to keep it in safe custody. This was the last call I received from Kevin and was about a week before he went missing.” 

Morais called Abdul Gani Patail, the cashiered Attorney-Ggeneral, twice in the attempt to find his brother.  On the second call, Gani Patail answered, saying: “Please remain calm, I am not working there any more. What I have been told is that the police are working relentlessly on the matter.”

Notified that his brother was dead, Charles Morais flew back to Malaysia and went to the mortuary to meet his two brothers, with Richard demanding to leave with Kevin’s body despite the fact that Kevin had broken with him 14 years before.

Connection to AmBank murder

Richard Morais has a checkered history. He has been in frequent trouble with the law in both Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Pascal Najadi, the son of the AmBank founder Hussain Najadi, who was assassinated in the car park of a Kuala Lumpur temple in 2013, has charged that no real investigation of the crime has taken place.  Najadi said Richard Morais had requested that his father go to the temple to attempt to settle business dispute that that the murderer was waiting for him.

Pascal Najadi, now a banking consultant in Moscow who says he fears for his own life and has employed bodyguards,  has raised questions over whether his father’s refusal to play along with UMNO financial irregularities led to his death.  On two occasions shortly before he was killed, Najadi said, his father complained about UMNO corruption.  Najadi has repeatedly called for the investigation of his father’s death to be reopened.

On the first occasion, during a lunch at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, he told his son he had been approached by unnamed high-ranking UMNO officials to orchestrate a multi-billion  ringgit property deal connected to the Kuala Lumpur City Center that Hussain characterized as clearly illegal and “told them to go fly a kite.” On the second occasion, he told his son that Najib was “lining his pockets with billions of ringgit with no consideration for the future of the country.”

The speculation is that the funds deposited with AmBank came from companies connected to the 1MDB, which has RM42 billion in liabilities, an unknown amount of that unfunded, and is struggling to meet its payments. 

Mastermind arrested, mysteriously freed

Police identified a Malacca nightclub owner, Lim Yuen Soo as the mastermind who paid to have Najadi shot. Lim disappeared for more than two years, with a red alert issued by Interpol at the behest of the Kuala Lumpur police although sources say he seemed to be in and out of Kuala Lumpur regularly. Police arrested him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in late October, but turned him loose eight days later for lack of evidence, raising a multitude of questions over how he could have been identified as the mastermind for two years only to be freed almost immediately when he was caught.  Since the murder case involving Hussain Najadi was closed,  there are questions why it hasn’t been reopened to find another mastermind behind the killing. 

That has raised additional questions whether Lim – and Richard Morais — have friends in Malaysia’s high political circles. Despite his status –until recently – as a fugitive, Lim is the registered part owner of the Active Force Security Services Sdn Bhd. with the former Malacca Police Chief Mohd Khasni Mohd Nor.

In Malaysia, Islam is big business


November 24, 2015

In Malaysia Islam is big business

by Azrul Mohd. Khalib

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

MOF Najib Razak

Cash is King PM and Finance Minister

There exists a reality which has been present ever since men discovered organised religion: organised religion as big bsiness.

There are countless examples from history. In ancient Egypt, people would voluntarily give offerings to the cult of Pharaoh in the belief that they were living gods or descended from divinity. Jesus flipped out when he saw the moneylenders at their tables in the temple with the sheep, oxen and pigeons on sale. Martin Luther was so upset about the selling of indulgences as a method of fundraising that he raised hell by nailing 95 objections to the door of a church.

Din's Montage

In more recent times and in our cozy corner of the world, we have seen examples of priests driving luxury cars, wearing expensive watches and living lifestyles more suited to the rich and famous. Just last month, the court decision of a corruption scandal convicting the leaders of a mega church and involving fraud of millions in funds rocked Singapore.

So, being part of organised religion especially in the leadership, can be a lucrative and profitable enterprise both personally and for the faith, of course. It should be no surprise to anyone that those involved would fight tooth and nail on any move which threatens the status quo.

Young Imams

The New Executives of Business Islam

Over the past few weeks, we have heard the bleating and baying of protests from officials, personalities and politicians in response to revelations and accusations alleging the misuse of funds earmarked and intended for religious and humanitarian purposes.

Make no mistake, the amount of money involved in the administration, development and enforcement of Islam in Malaysia is huge. And it involves the use of money from both Muslim and non-Muslim taxpayers. That must be made clear as there is often a mistaken belief, particularly among Muslims that everything dealing with Islamic religious expenditure comes solely from Muslims and that non-Muslims have no right to object or comment on how expenditure is done.

However, regardless of the source of the funds, these religious affiliated bodies must justify the major provisions made to them and also be held accountable, like all other government institutions.

The allocation (2015:RM783 million; 2014: RM 806 million) given to the Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) under the Prime Minister’s Department gets most of the attention and the fuss as it is visible under the federal budget. It is one of the largest allocations under the Prime Minister’s Department.

However, when the different allocations for the Jabatan Agama Islam Negeri under the individual state budgets including that of the Federal Territory are combined and counted in, the annual amount is closer to more than RM 1.2 billion.

Datuk-Jamil-Khir-Baharom

The Big Spending Guardian of  Business Islam

The figure increases further when the costs of running the offices of the state muftis, and bodies related to administration of Islamic justice such as the Shariah courts and judiciary, are taken into consideration.

Last year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom was happy to announce that the 2013 collection of zakat (tithes) from Muslims in Malaysia had exceeded RM2.2 billion. In fact, data from the Centre for Zakat Collection (Pusat Pungutan Zakat) also indicates that contributions appreciate on an average of around 20 per cent each year. That is a lot of money and it is good that there is such a large amount available for humanitarian and welfare purposes as the need these days is quite great.

Unfortunately, we seem to be good at collecting but less efficient or diligent in delivering much-needed assistance to the intended recipients and beneficiaries.

Malaysia 2050

The Business Outcome-Damaged Goods

Despite the fact that zakat can only be used to help those of the Islamic faith (as opposed to sedekah which is for anyone) and with such large amounts available annually, there are still too many who are being left out or denied help and assistance.

For reasons which range from the moral and undesirable (e.g. being transgender persons, sex workers, living with HIV and AIDS) to the bureaucratic (incomplete paperwork, no address of residence, non-Malaysian), many, especially the poor, homeless and destitute, are left with hands outstretched hoping to receive money and access to services which ironically were established to help and serve them but remain out of reach.

Knowing of this and seeing so many in need has led many Muslims in Malaysia to wonder where the zakat money has gone to despite the huge amounts collected each year. It is an increasing trend for those fulfilling their religious obligation to do so directly to the poor and needy. Simply put, most of those who do so no longer trust the authorities to distribute their zakat.

The recent arrogant and baseless statement by Dato’ Che Mat Che Ali, chair of the Federal Territory Zakat Centre (PPZ-MAIWP) that Malaysian Muslims are committing a sin when they do so lends strength to this distrust. His assertion that such donors were more likely to be generous to “cute widows” or “eloquent speakers”, rather than those truly in need, was really offensive and likely to result in a backlash with more people electing to bypass the PPZ.

Transparency and accountability of funds related to religious bodies is an issue which appears to not be taken seriously by those in authority. Senator Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki recently stated that the two overseas courses by the Yayasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Islam Malaysia (Yapeim) ― reportedly costing RM290,000 to organise ― were part of the government’s efforts to stop the spread of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) in Malaysia.

Maybe he thinks that we are all stupid or gullible but it is laying it quite thick to expect Malaysians to believe that you had to go all the way to Paris (the city of love!) to do that.

This is on top of the earlier allegations that Jamil Khir, his wife and their entourage had used over RM400,000 in Yapeim funds meant for orphans to pay for an eight-day trip to the US which included shopping sprees and games of golf.

Amidst the fallout came the revelations that this government-backed foundation made a combined annual revenue of RM1.034 billion from 16 profit-making subsidiaries. More than half a million people contribute monthly to Yapeim through a monthly salary deduction scheme which is expected to bring in RM65.73 million this year. A pawn broking business (Ar-Rahnu) is also expected to bring in RM83 million by the end of 2015. Sounds like a successful business.

Let’s not kid ourselves. When it comes to Islam in Malaysia, it is a business. And everyone wants to get a piece of the pie, enjoy the perks and benefits and make a bit of money on the side. All for the faith, of course.