Can Japan learn from Malaysia too?


June 30, 2018

Can Japan learn from Malaysia too?

Yes, Kim Beng, what you say resonates with me. We can share our experiences and also learn from one another. What we need is  a clear heart, an open mind and lots of humility. It is not about America First or building Fortress America. It is about our capacity and willingness to learn from one another. We must first understand that we are not islands unto ourselves.  Why look EAST only? Look everywhere.  I welcome comments.–Din Merican

COMMENT | Japan, unknown to many, is a hybrid. It has an imperial system steeped in ancient Japanese culture and Shinto religion. But it also has a Whitehall parliamentary system, and a bureaucracy that recruits on the basis of what top universities like University of Tokyo, Waseda University and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies can produce. The latter is not unlike the practice of France that tends to pick its best elites from ENA (or Ecole Nationale Administration), indeed, also Sciences Po.

More importantly, Japan has a security alliance with the United States, that is predisposed to relying on the nuclear deterrent provided by Washington DC, even though Japan purportedly cannot house, base and allow any nuclear warships to traverse through its ports, according to the doctrine once laid down by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato.

Yale historian,Paul  Kennedy. who wrote the book ‘The Rise and Fall of Great Powers’ in 1988, referred to Japanese foreign policy as “omnidirectional.” Neither East nor West, Japan is the best – only that the so-called definition of the “best” in Japan involves a high degree of adaptation, adjustment and innovation to suit Japan.

By anecdotes, none of the anime characters, for example, are truly Western. Not even Eastern. But the end product is a Japanese anime that is imbued with huge eyes, sharp features, and accentuated shapes, all of which have been innovated to achieve that distinctive flavour that only anime fans can associate with.

But even as Malaysia Look East, what can Japan learn from Malaysia though? It is high time that Tokyo looks at Malaysia (anew) for three specific reasons.

First, at a fertility rate of 1.34 according to the UN Population research, as reported in NHK, Japan is greying and shrinking in future. Japan is growing older, and in human demography, smaller. Second, Japan has a serious security problem viz a viz North Korea and China. Both countries may want to trade with Japan, even ultimately gain from it, but they are not in a position to let Japan off lightly on historical issues, especially Japan’s previous colonisation of them.

Thirdly, the aging of Japanese society has repercussion in terms of its security outlook and posture too, even democracy. As the people become older, they demand Japan be a responsible power, too, one that can stand up on consistent Japanese principles of honour, dignity and values, all of which play into the hands of the right-wing political elements who may argue that ancient Japanese values are strongest in right-wing parties. If this is the trajectory, Japanese politics would turn right even before it can become centrist, let alone leftist in future.

But, regardless of the permutations above, Japan can learn from Malaysia in terms of our democratic experimentation and consolidation too. At the ripe old age of  93 in a couple of weeks – Dr Mahathir Mohamad has shown that “age is a number” – one can be a democrat if one is committed to it. Indeed, Prime-Minister-in-Waiting Anwar Ibrahim, too, is already 71.

In his speech in Istanbul on June 19, Anwar explains that he is not young too. But he is vested his life into promoting and protecting democracy by virtue of the political imprisonment that he had gone through, causing him to lose 10.5 years of his life in prison. In the outlook of Mahathir and Anwar, age is not a factor in reeling back from pursuing peace, freedom and democracy, which are lessons that the whole of Japan should be learning from Malaysia. Old is gold.

More importantly, while close to four million Malaysian youths did not register to vote in the 14th General Election, the total voter turnout was 82 percent, just four percent less than 2013. The ones who voted out the kleptocratic excesses of the government of Najib Razak were the youth too. In fact, 75 percent of the membership of Bersatu, a party led by Mahathir, is less than 35 years of age.

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, a top youth leader of Bersatu, even gave up his Oxford graduate scholarship twice to fight for a better Malaysia. One of Mahathir’s top strategists, Dr. Rais Hussin, is barely 50. But he fought against all odds to defend the Malaysian democracy, and recruited the likes of Dr. Maszlee Malik, his peer in International Islamic University, to be the education minister.

Women’s power

Japan can also learn from Malaysia in terms of the women participation. Prior to May 9, which was the day of the electoral upset, seven out of 10 female voters in Malaysia were usually pro-establishment.

But on the day of the election, the women refused to go with the systemic abuses and flagrant corruption of Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor). Many rooted for Mahathir and Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of Anwar Ibrahim. Wan Azizah, who is an eye specialist is now the deputy prime minister. Words have it that the speaker or the deputy speaker of the parliament could be Hannah Yeoh, again, another woman.

Fourthly, the Malaysian election is establishing the norm to help China understand that “lopsided agreements,” and “uneven contracts,” the likes of which have been seen not only in Malaysia, but throughout the international trading system spanning from Asia to Latin America.

These agreements have to be thoroughly reviewed. Malaysia does not want any bad relationship with the world’s largest market, as that as would be the equivalent of practising destructive trade practices. But Malaysia is an emerging trading nation that merely broke into the top 20 trading nations of the world only in the last 20 years.

Malaysia cannot squander away the hard work and labour of the previous generations while allowing another economic juggernaut to walk over us. This is how Malaysia has reacted to the United Kingdom in 1982 with the “Buy British Last” campaign. Back then, Malaysian government merely wanted the fees imposed on Malaysian students to be reduced so that more Malaysian students can benefit from the necessary academic training and skills transfer.

When then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, herself a tough negotiator, refused to relent, Malaysia had no choice but to diversify the number of locations the Malaysian government can send its students abroad. Malaysia is not about to impose any protectionist measure on China. But improper and suspicious trade agreements involving China and the previous regime have to be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb.

Indeed, there may not be a one-to-one analogy between Malaysia of the past and now, even though the administration is once again back in the hands of Mahathir. But there are many things that Japan can learn from Malaysia. Just because Japan is a member of the G7 while Malaysia is a member of Asean, the latter must learn from the former. As Malcolm Gladwell the author of ‘David vs Goliath’ made plain – small does not mean weak; silence too does not mean consent.

On May 9, Malaysians staged a strategic electoral upset quietly and deftly, precisely because Malaysians at large have given more than enough chances to Umno and BN to reform themselves. They didn’t. Hence, what happened on May 9 was a reformation pioneered by the likes of Anwar and subsequently led by Mahathir when the former was still under imprisonment. With good coordination and partnership, Pakatan Harapan achieved the impossible.

Japan, being a country based on creating new breakthroughs, should take Malaysia as a major democratic breakthrough, and a shiny example of what peaceful transition of power can achieve.


PHAR KIM BENG is a Harvard/Cambridge Commonwealth Fellow, a former Monbusho scholar at the University of Tokyo and Visiting Scholar at Waseda University.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Taming Malaysia’s GLC ‘monsters’


June 24, 2018

Image result for Malaysia's GLCs
1MDB Top Honcho–Arul Kanda Kandasamy

“…recent revelations show Malaysia’s debt position may be more precarious than first thought. The new government has correctly highlighted the need to include certain off-balance-sheet items and contingent liabilities such as government guarantees and public–private partnership lease payments in any complete assessment of debt outstanding, as the use of offshoot companies and special purpose vehicles in the deliberate reconfiguration of certain obligations mean that traditional debt calculations underestimate Malaysia’s actual debt.”–Jayant Menon

About a month before Malaysia’s parliamentary election in May, then-opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad raised concerns over the role that government-linked companies (GLCs) were playing in the economy, being ‘huge and rich’ enough to be considered ‘monsters’.Data support his description — GLCs account for about half of the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index, and they constitute seven out of the top-10 listed firms in 2018. They are present in almost every sector, sometimes in a towering way. Globally, Malaysia ranks fifth-highest in terms of GLC influence on the economy.

Calls to do something about GLCs have increased since the election following the release of more damning information, although most of it relates to the GLCs’ investment arm: government-linked investment companies (GLICs). Recent reports confirm that the former government had been using Malaysia’s central bank and Khazanah (a sovereign wealth fund) to service the debt obligations of the scandal-laden 1 Malaysia Development Berhad government fund. The central bank governor has since resigned.

Image result for bank negara malaysia's Governor resigns

The GLCs have not been immune from scandals either. The most recent relates to a massive land scandal involving Felda Global Ventures, which is the world’s largest plantation operator. There have also been a series of massive bailouts of GLCs over the years, the cumulative value of which is disputed but could be as high as RM85 billion (US$21 billion). All of this led one prominent critic to proclaim that ‘GLCs are a nest for plunderers’ and that the government should ‘sell them all’. Although this may be extreme, it does raise a critical question — what, if anything, should the government do?

Some experts have proposed the formation of an independent body with operational oversight for GLICs after institutional autonomy is established and internal managerial reforms are introduced. Unlike most GLCs, GLICs are not publicly listed and face little scrutiny. The same applies to the various funds at the constituent state level.

Image result for Terence Edmund Gomez on Malaysian GLCs

 

For GLCs, the answer is less straightforward. Mahathir claims that GLCs have lost track of their original function. Before the Malaysian government decides on what to do, it needs to examine the role GLCs should play — as opposed to the role they currently play — and to examine their impact on the economy.

In Malaysia, GLCs were uniquely tasked to assist in the government’s affirmative action program to improve the absolute and relative position of ethnic Malays and other indigenous people (Bumiputera). The intention was to help create a new class of Bumiputera entrepreneurs — first through the GLCs themselves and then through a process of divestment.

Given the amounts of money involved and the cost of the distortions introduced, the benefits to Bumiputera were unjustifiably small and unequally distributed. The approach of using GLCs as instruments of affirmative action failed because it led to a rise in crony capitalism, state dependence, regulatory capture and grand corruption. There is also empirical evidence that GLCs have been crowding out private investment, a concern raised in the New Economic Model as early as 2011.

Image result for Malaysia's GLCs

Malaysia’s National Debt is said to be around 65 percent of current GDP

Additionally, recent revelations show Malaysia’s debt position may be more precarious than first thought. The new government has correctly highlighted the need to include certain off-balance-sheet items and contingent liabilities such as government guarantees and public–private partnership lease payments in any complete assessment of debt outstanding, as the use of offshoot companies and special purpose vehicles in the deliberate reconfiguration of certain obligations mean that traditional debt calculations underestimate Malaysia’s actual debt.

All these factors combine to place new impetus on reconsidering the extent of government involvement in business. Divestment will not solve Malaysia’s debt problem, but it can help if there are good reasons to pursue it. So how should the government proceed?

It is important to recognise at the outset that there is a legitimate role for government in business — providing public goods, addressing market failures or promoting social advancement. And like in most other countries, there are good and bad GLCs in Malaysia. If a GLC is not crowding out private enterprise, operates efficiently and performs a social function effectively, then there is no reason to consider divestment. But a GLC that crowds out private enterprise in a sector with no public or social function or one that is inefficiently run should be a candidate for divestment.

In assessing performance, one needs to separate results that arise from true efficiency versus preferential treatment that generates artificial rents for the GLC. The latter is a drain on public resources and a tax on consumers. Divestment in this case will likely provide more than a one-off financial injection to government coffers — it will provide ongoing benefits through fiscal savings or better allocation of public resources.

The divestment process should be carefully managed to ensure that public assets are disposed at fair market value and that the divestment process does not concentrate market power or wealth in the hands of a few. This has apparently happened before.

The new government has committed itself to addressing corruption and improving the management of public resources. As part of this process, one must re-examine just how much government is involved in business. This is one of the many tasks that the Council of Eminent Persons is undertaking in the first 100 days of the new government. If done correctly, this should rejuvenate the private sector while enabling good GLCs to thrive, and it should fortify Malaysia’s fiscal position in the process. This is what Malaysians should expect — and indeed demand — of the ‘new Malaysia’.

Jayant Menon is Lead Economist in the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department at the Asian Development Bank and Adjunct Fellow of the Arndt–Corden Department of Economics, The Australian National University.

Stealing Money from the National Treasury is an Act of Treason


June 17, 2018

Stealing Money from the National Treasury is an Act of Treason–so, Najib Razak is a Traitor

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for Najib is a CrookIt takes time, but Justice will come eventually to Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

 

 

93-year-old Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who heads Malaysia’s reform coalition Pakatan Harapan, has lost no time in knuckling down to work. A week after he assumed office in the wake of the political earthquake of the country’s May 9 general election, he terminated the contracts of 17,000 political appointees as a drain on public expenditure.

The move was hailed by a public taken aback  by the numbers of people involved, although some are concerned that the shock and awe of Mahathir’s move would generate the same kind of guerilla underground that cropped up when Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Iraq, disbanded the army and civil service in 2003. That played a major role in the eventual creation of the Islamic State which has terrorized Syria and Iraq for the past several years.

Nonetheless, the sackings are looked upon by Malaysia’s 31 million people as just the start of the cleanup of decades of appalling corruption. Police seized 72 bags alone of loot from deposed Prime Minister Najib Razak’s residence in the days after the May 9 election, of which 35 contained RM114 million (US$28.6 million) in cash in 26 different currencies. Another 35 bags contained jewelry and watches, and 284 boxes were filled with designer handbags including Ellen Birkin bags by Hermes that can cost upwards of US$200,000. The former Premier is not likely to go hungry. He is believed to have hundreds of millions more stashed overseas. Famously, in 2013 US$681 million appeared in his personal account at Ambank in Kuala Lumpur and almost immediately was moved overseas.

The biggest mess, of course, is the state-backed development fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., from which US$4.5 billion is said by the US Justice Department to have disappeared in corruption and mismanagement. Mahathir has said the scale of corruption is even greater and has demanded a full explanation. The Finance Ministry, now under Lim Guan Eng of the Democratic Action Party, says Malaysia’s total government debt and liabilities exceed RM1 trillion (US$250.7 billion).

The number of no-bid contracts awarded to crony companies and government-linked companies – now termed by many to be government-linked crookedry – is overwhelming.

Mahathir for instance cancelled a high-speed rail contract from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore that cost RM70 billion which, with other government commitments including operating expenses over 20 years ran the total to RM110  billion. “Estimates are that in a proper open tender, the project could have been done for a maximum of RM25 billion,” said a well-placed business source in Kuala Lumpur.

Equally questionable is a contract for Malaysia’s Eastern Corridor Rail Line, awarded to a Chinese company at RM67 billion. The payment was time-based, not on a completion basis. As such, 40 percent of the total payment has been made while only 7 percent of the work has been completed. The project cost is widely believed to have been a subterfuge for Chinese help in paying off 1MDB’s massive debt.

Next is the Sarawak and Sabah gas pipeline, again awarded on time-based payments with 87 percent of RM9 billion paid and only 13 percent of the work completed.

Contracts such as these are aplenty. The gadfly website Sarawak Report reported on June 10 that a car rental company headed by an official with a Barisan-aligned party in Sarawak received a RM1.25 billion no-bid contract to install solar energy facilities for 369 Sarawak schools. The three-year contract, allegedly steered by Najib himself, has been underway for 18 months. Not a single solar power unit has ever been installed.

But beyond that, dozens of government-linked companies have been found to be paying exorbitant salaries to their executives. Malaysia has the fifth highest number of GLCs in the world, for which Mahathir himself must share the blame, since many came into existence during the 22 years he headed the government from 1981 to 2003.

Image result for Najib is a Crook

Many are household names – the national car project Proton, now peddled to China’s car company Geely; the national energy company Petronas, the electrical utility Tenaga Nasional, the electric utility Telekom Malaysia, the Tabung Haji Pilgrimage Fund, the Federal Land Development Authority, Malaysian Airlines, The Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Malay People’s Trust Council), the Sime Darby plantation and property conglomerate.

Publicly traded GLCs currently comprise 36 percent the market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia and 54 percent of the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index according to a study by the think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. They employ 5 percent of the national workforce.  According to the study, government bailouts of GLCs have “resulted in a huge drain on the public purse.” They include RM1.5 billion for Proton in 2016 and RM 6 billion for Malaysia Airlines in 2014.

”One estimate suggests that around RM85.51 billion has been used to bail out GLCs over the past 36 years,” according to the report putting pressure on commercial interest rates as a result of recurring budget deficits that “may have been a separate factor operating to crowd out private investment, at the margin.”

Image result for mavcom executive chairman

 

As an example of exorbitant salaries, the Transport Minister, Anthony Loke, told reporters that the executive chairman of the Aviation Commission (MAVCOM), retired Gen. Abdullah Ahmad, drew a monthly salary of RM85,000 (US$21,325). The figure is over four times the basic recorded salary of the Malaysian Prime Minister and is similar to the salary of millionaire CEOs of successful private enterprises.

Veteran journalist, R Nadeswaran, formerly of The Sun Daily, reported that his investigations into MAVCOM, an independent body established in 2015 to regulate economic and commercial matters relating to civil aviation, revealed that RM570,000 had been paid in directors’ fees, and a further RM770,000 on directors’ travel and accommodation.

More revelations have followed. One “former minister turned adviser” in Najib’s Prime Minister’s Office received a monthly wage of RM200,000 (US$50,177), which is about 10 times Najib’s official salary. Other “advisers” were paid from RM70,000 upwards per month in a country where per capita income on a PPP basis is RM26,900 annually.

Other ministries, together with the newly-revitalized Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), have been directed to investigate the various GLCs and political appointees  Apart from the allegations of huge bonuses and exorbitant salaries, it has also been alleged that officials of various GLCs collaborated with contractors to submit false claims for maintenance work. The MACC is investigating.

The almost daily revelations of cronyism and large-scale corruption have been described by one Malaysian as akin to “Chinese water torture,” when water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead and drives the restrained victim insane.

Loke’s disclosure also prompted the veteran MP, Lim Kit Siang, Mahathir’s onetime adversary turned ally, to demand transparency and public accountability in the wages of the heads of the GLCs. He proposed the implementation of a public website showing the perks, salaries and remuneration of all GLC heads and members.

Lim wanted to know how many of the heads of the GLCs are political appointees and how many of the UMNO/Barisan Nasional appointees have resigned since Najib lost power.

Malaysians responded swiftly to Loke’s report. One person multiplied Loke’s figure by the number of existing GLCs and was astounded by the money which taxpayers had to fork out for GLC directors’ fees. Who approved the salaries of the board members in this public regulatory body?

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim

 

A Foreign Friend In Cambodia asked me, “Din, is your recently pardoned felon running a parallel government?”  And I answered, “For Malaysia’s sake, I hope not.–Din Merican

Surprisingly, the revelations over the GLCs are in contrast to those by newly released and pardoned former Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, the PM-in-waiting, who told a crowd in Perak that chief ministers should not rush to take action against GLCs, and to refrain from being vengeful.

“I have no problem with GLCs, if their performance is good and the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) thinks it’s appropriate to continue, we accept (the continuance),” unless, he added, “that it was proven at the federal level,  there was wasteful overlapping and excessive payment of allowances to political figures.”

Malaysians demanding intense scrutiny of GLCs wonder what to make of the PM-designate’s remarks and actions.

Mariam Mokhtar is a Malaysia-based reporter and regular contributor to Asia Sentinel.

The Diplomatic Big Bang


June 16, 2018

The Diplomatic Big Bang

by Ahmed Charai

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12515/diplomatic-big-bang

Image result for Diplomacy

Clinton, Albright, Kissinger, Kerry, Baker and Powell–Past Secretaries of State

Diplomacy is changing before our eyes.

“The unspoken objective is to constrain the U.S., and to transfer authority from national governments to international bodies. The specifics of each case differ, but the common theme is diminished American sovereignty, submitting the United States to authorities that ignore, outvote or frustrate its priorities…. By reasserting their sovereignty, the British are in the process of escaping, among other things, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.” — Ambassador John R. Bolton, Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2017.

The Singapore summit is indeed historic. First, it is so because just a few weeks ago we were closer to a nuclear war than to even the semblance of a peace process. The way we got here is surprising, because it did not obey the usual rules.Image result for The Singapore Summit at Sentosa

A few days ago, during the G7 summit held in Canada, US President Donald Trump upheld his decisions on tariffs and his positions on the trade deficit. These stances followed his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement and the Iranian “nuclear deal”. It is clear that the new US administration challenged the alliances inherited from the Cold War. President Trump, a businessman, not a politician — one of the reasons he was elected — is asking America’s trading partners just to have “free, fair and reciprocal” agreements. It is probably not all that unusual to feel affronted when asked for money or to regard the person asking for it as mercenary or adversarial. It does not always mean that this feeling is justified.

Pictured: Donald Trump and other heads of state deliberate at the G7 summit on June 9, 2018 in Charlevoix, Canada. (Photo by Jesco Denzel /Bundesregierung via Getty Images)

In short, President Trump’s arguments, which sound like a leitmotif, go back to the economic aspect of things. NATO? Why should it be normal that, in order to defend Europe, the American taxpayer pays the heaviest part. Free trade? Why should America suffer a trade deficit with so many countries? Climate change? The results of the Paris Climate Change conference, COP 21, were apparently not only costly but questionable, and to critics, looked like a list of unenforceable promises that would not have come due until 2030 — if ever.

Image result for Diplomacy

A new paradigm is shaping up on the international scene: This is the first time that the US domestic policy is to prevail over its so-called “strategic” role — sometimes possibly to the detriment of allies.

Ambassador John R. Bolton, before he was appointed National Security Advisor, rejected any external constraints or supranational authority — starting with the WTO’s trade dispute body, the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU):

“The unspoken objective is to constrain the U.S., and to transfer authority from national governments to international bodies. The specifics of each case differ, but the common theme is diminished American sovereignty, submitting the United States to authorities that ignore, outvote or frustrate its priorities…. While many European Union governments seem predisposed to relinquish sovereignty, there is scant hint of similar enthusiasm in America…. By reasserting their sovereignty, the British are in the process of escaping, among other things, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.”

Image result for John Bolton at G-7 Summit In Canada

America’s Walras John Bolton–The Trade Wracking Ball

Unfortunately, Europe is the first to suffer from this new reality. But is the European Union able to stage a showdown? Probably not. The populist wave flooding the EU countries is primarily the result of the social impacts of the fiscal policy imposed by Germany. While the US has an unemployment rate effectively past full employment, the rather sluggish growth in Europe produces a near-zero effect on this indicator. With 27 members, and because of the rule of “one country one vote,” as well as a possibly outdated view of how to incentivize growth and finance pensions, Europe has been slowing down even the possibility any development on issues such as immigration or common defense. Europe is shattered, all the more that there does not seem to be any solution on the horizon.

The group called the European Union does not weigh much against the forced march of Donald Trump. The US President only believes in bilateral agreements when it comes to international relations. The use of the principle of ex-territoriality, or diplomatic immunity, has taken the agreement with Iran out of the equation. The big French and German companies have already withdrawn from it.

Diplomacy is changing before our eyes. “The Western camp,” it seems, is becoming nothing more than a specter that does not rest on any on-the-ground reality.

Inevitably, each power will have to adapt, according to its own interests. As Europeans continue to cast their votes, these adjustments may, in turn, feed current divisions even more.

Ahmed Charai is a Moroccan publisher. He is on the board of directors for the Atlantic Council, an international counselor of the Center for a Strategic and International Studies, and a member of the Advisory Board of The Center for the National Interest in Washington and Advisory Board of Gatestone Institute in New York.

© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

It is time we act as Malaysians


June 8, 2018

It is time we act as Malaysians

by Dharm Navaratnam

https://www.malaymail.com

Image result for the hibiscus revolution

Malaysia’s National Flower–Symbol of Unity and Racial and Religious Harmony

It has been almost a month since the new Government of Pakatan Harapan has been in power and what a month it has been.

Almost immediately we have seen sweeping changes. For a start, meritocracy seems to have made a startling comeback. The initial cabinet of 10 has seen a multiracial makeup, where even such important portfolios of Finance and Communication and Multimedia, have been given based on merit and not on racial or religious makeup.

Image result for Being Malaysian

We are Malaysians united for a better future

The position of Attorney General is also held by a non-Malay, the first time in more than 40 years. So while many have assumed that certain positions must be filled by a particular race, nothing in our Constitution alludes to that.

Corruption is being dealt with swiftly. Many prominent civil servants have been removed. The once toothless MACC seems to have found their teeth and are carrying out investigations on many prominent personalities including our former Prime Minister and his wife.

The level of  corruption is almost stupefying with new details of billions of ringgit squandered being announced with alarming frequency. It has been said before but bears repeating that what is indeed almost sickening is the fact that every hierarchy of the previous Barisan Nasional government did nothing to stop this corruption.

Were they all in cahoots or were they just too afraid of their own rice bowl? Was there really not even an iota of integrity in these politicians ?  How much money did members of our previous government siphon off?

There has been a massive shakeup in government institutions with the most recent being the resignation of the Governor of Bank Negara. Transfers or resignations include the Treasury Secretary General, the Chairman of Felda, the chairman of Tabung Haji, the Chief Commissioner of the MACC and the Chairman of the Higher Education fund. These resignations lend credence to the assumption that there was definitely corruption of some form or fashion.

Image result for Najib and 1mdb gang

We reject this corrupt couple–Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

The former Prime Minister is crying political revenge which is really ironic when you consider the sacking of the then DPM, four ministers and also A-G Gani Patail when questions were raised about 1MDB back in July 2015.

To compound this further, some previous ministers are still trying to defend the previous regime’s  corruption. The fact that there are people still trying to justify and defend it is even more scary as they must brazenly think that we, the rakyat, are stupid.

You even have previous ministers accusing the current government of politics of hate when they were the ones who used to brandish a ‘keris’ and never took action when threats of another May 13th were made by UMNO extremist party members.

Image result for Telekom CEO resigns

Telecom Malaysia CEO and Astro CEO quit

The dominoes have started to fall in the corporate world as well where the CEO of Telekom Malaysia has resigned.  You have to wonder what is going through the minds of all the other CEOs of GLCs who made a video where they were singing the BN election slogan.

Freedom of the media has suddenly taken centre stage and I believe many newspapers and alternative media are having trouble coping with the amount of information that our  new Ministers are giving out.

There seems to be openness, honesty, transparency and accountability.  There also seems to be a willingness to accept criticism.  Something that was sorely missing before. I am sure that many reporters are having trouble digesting and filing reports with sufficient detail.

Such has been the level of reporting over the years that has been so controlled and so biased that many editors must surely be scratching their heads wondering how to report on certain issues.  The Government controlled media of TV1, TV2 and TV3 must also be going through a culture shock as those that were previously maligned or ignored are now part of the ruling party.

And the news is really happening fast and furious.  It’s almost a full time job following the news these days.  This seems to show that the new powers that be are doing their job.  With the availability of a much more free media, the Rakyat is closely monitoring the government.

The downside, however, is that almost overnight, everyone, especially on social media, seems to have become a financial expert, political analyst,  Harapan Manifesto expert and a Constitutional expert, among others.

This is where the state of our disunity springs to fore.  While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, it has become a case where everyone believes that they are a subject matter expert when they are clearly not. Certain parties also seem to think that only their opinion is right.  When there is disagreement, caustic and vulgar language is used.

There has been the usual racial and religious outburst, except this time it is coming from members of the Rakyat and not the government. Why have a Chinese Minister of Finance? How can a supposed Islamist be the Education Minister?  How can the A-G be a non-Malay?

The Government has also stressed the importance of English. I wait for the outcry from detractors that Bahasa Malaysia should be the one and only language used.

To take it a step further, we have champions of race and religion calling for the defence of their rights. While these supposed champions are purportedly defending these rights, we have videos of some people calling for the death of members of their own religion just because they have a differing opinion. Death threats? Really? In the holy month of Ramadan?

Finally, there are police reports being made against every slight criticism or opinion that goes against the norm.  The police surely have more important things to do than investigate people for sedition. It is after all an archaic law that does nothing but stifle independent and free thought.

So while we have made great strides in changing our government through the ballot box, these are still early days.  The biggest problem is not with our government but with ourselves. We are to blame for the excesses and mismanagement that haves happened.

We have been so caught up with defending our own rights based on racial and religious lines. It is time for all of us to get rid of our disunity and to focus on what we really are. Malaysians. Until and unless we can do that, we will never get very far.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

Malaysia’s Mess is more than 1MDB: UMNO’s Misrule via GLCs


May 28, 2018

Malaysia’s Mess is more than 1MDB: UMNO’s Misrule via GLCs

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, Calforninia
My solution to the Malaysian GLC mess is as simple as it is inexpensive while being infinitely more productive and effective. It would also prevent future debacles like 1MDB or the many preceding ones like London Tin and Bank Bumiputra. Sell them all! Put the proceeds into a Trust Fund to benefit Bumiputras. Be a combination of the Norwegian and the Alberta variety.
Image result for arul kanda kandasamy
How convenient Mr. Arul Kandak Kandasamy–he is exposed for what he is, Najib’s campaign errand boy, an inept executive and a bumbling campaigner.
Only a few weeks ago that the CEO of 1MDB was telling everyone that the company’s assets far exceeded its liabilities and that it could service its humongous debts.
Today Arul Kandasamy is exposed for what he is, Najib’s campaign errand boy (or barua) tagged with an impressive title and powered by a massive dose of dedak. Arul is but an inept executive and a bumbling campaigner.
What can you say of a CEO who does not even know that his company is insolvent, and has been for months, or a campaigner who could not draw a crowd? As for the title “Chief” Executive, he is 1MDB’s only employee!
I could not care less about Arul or his erstwhile boss Najib Razak. Malaysians however are rightfully concerned with 1MDB as they would end up with the liabilities, now fast ballooning to be in multi-billions. What a sorry and very expensive end to what started out as the first state-level, government-sponsored development agency, Trengganu Investment Authority (TIA), to manage the state’s oil revenue. It was a combined Alberta Heritage Fund and Norwegian Sovereign Fund wannabe.
Image result for arul kanda kandasamy
Najib morphed TIA into 1MDB and borrowed heavily. It is now near bankcruptcy, needing frequent bailouts. Instead of the promised bounty, 1MDB burdens the rakyat and their descendants for generations to come.
Despite that, many still do not or refuse to see the connection between those boxes of cash hauled from Najib’s residence and 1MDB’s insolvency. That scene was more like a raid on a drug kingpin’s house.
This 1MDB scandal is a symptom of a much deeper problem. Time to rethink the whole GLC concept. GLCs and their antecedents, the crown corporations, have a long history. They are not unique to Malaysia. Both capitalistic America and Communist China have GLCs, serving very different needs and objectives.
Tun Razak, Malaysia’s Second Prime Minister and Najib’s father,gave Malaysian GLCs steroids to leverage and spearhead Malay participation in the corporate sector. Najib degenerated them into a not-so-sophisticated system for crooked politicians like himself to plunder the state. At least when the Sultan of Brunei wants some cash, all he has to do is raid the public treasury. As there is no differentiation between his and the state’s assets, raid is not quite the right term for that action.
In Malaysia, however, Najib, as Finance Minister, needed elaborate shell companies and trusts in such places as Panama and the Cayman Islands, as well as willing intermediaries like his stepson, that chubby moronic-looking fellow, and an Arab potentate among others for Najib to siphon off the state’s assets through a GLC. 1MDB is Exhibit A.
The frequent exercise of one GLC selling assets to another, each with an ever-escalating price, is reminiscent of the tricks used by Icelandic rogue bankers who led to that country’s economic meltdown in 2008. All those associated paper-shuffling maneuvers with their expensive commissions and professional fees are just schemes to plunder the assets of those GLCs.
Image result for Malaysia's GLCs

Politicians should not be appointed to run government-linked companies (GLCs) to keep graft in check, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Board Chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim.He said politicians holding GLC positions might face conflicts of interest, leading to abuse of power and responsibility.

Malaysian GLCs also have a negative influence on talented young Bumiputras, their idealism and brilliance squandered by the corrupt ways of these GLCs. Without those GLCs they could have probably started their own enterprises and be a local Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, or shine at the local branch of IBM and Morgan Stanley.
Yet another corrosive effect of GLCs is that they are a not-so-subtle but a very effective scheme to corrupt top civil servants. Be too critical of your political superior and you would jeopardize your chance of a lucrative post-retirement job as Chairman of Petronas. Note that of the four Tan Sri’s connected to the earlier investigation of 1MDB who ‘retired,’ only former IGP Khalid, the snitch cop, was given the chairmanship of a GLC. That is not lost on those bureaucrats.
The Sultans too. A few millions thrown their way and they would titah (command) what a wonderful Prime Minister Najib was.
As for the academics, a few thousand dollars for being on the National Professors Council would do it. Likewise the ulamas; throw some crumbs and they would quote ad nauseam hadith on the importance of obedience to leaders.
My solution to the Malaysian GLC mess is as simple as it is inexpensive while being infinitely more productive and effective. It would also prevent future debacles like 1MDB or the many preceding ones like London Tin and Bank Bumiputra.
Sell them all! Put the proceeds into a Trust Fund to benefit Bumiputras. Be a combination of the Norwegian and the Alberta variety. Like the Norwegian, be only a passive investor as an individual would with a mutual fund. Half of the income would be reinvested in the fund and the other half be spent as with the Alberta Heritage Fund to improve the quality of Bumiputras’ human capital. This would include supplementing the education of Bumiputras in STEM studies, acting as a source of venture capital for budding Bumiputra entrepreneurs, and providing business infrastructures as with building marketplaces and manufacturing food trucks, as well as modernizing the rural sector through mechanizing farms and rural areas.
I have earlier expanded on these ideas in my book Liberating The Malay Mind.