Malaysia’s Travel Ban


May 27, 2016

Malaysia’s Travel Ban: Administrative Stupidity or Political Insecurity?

by Azmi Sharom

http://www.thestar.com.my

BOY, was I worried last week. This paper reported that the Immigration Department was going to bar those who disparaged or ridiculed the Government from traveling abroad.

And those who did so overseas would be barred from traveling upon their return home. For up to three years!

Crikey. This was most concerning. In my job I speak about laws and government policies all the time; at home and abroad.We, lecturers, go to seminars and conferences and we discuss ideas.

So, even if I take special care to say only the sweetest things about the Government, I could still be faced with questions like “Why is your government-owned strategic development company facing so much trouble?”.

What a conundrum. Do I spout some inanity (“err … that is a good question, Malaysia is truly Asia. Thank you.”) or give my opinion and risk being unable to eat authentic Nasi Gudeg for three years?

I suppose I could say something brilliant like “Look, is that an ostrich in the aisle?”, and then make my escape. And furthermore, The Star reported that these disparaging comments can be done in any manner. Good lord, does that include private conversations?

What if I am in a café in Madrid and my Spanish host asks me, “Señor Azmi, why does your Government prevent people from going overseas to get human rights awards?”

What do I say then? “Manuel, I am Malaysian, I cannot answer your question. Please pass the paella.”

Then fortunately, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs comes swooping in and says that there will be no ban on travelling for critics of the Government.

Phew, that’s a relief then. I guess those guys in the Immigration Department just got together and decided amongst themselves to make up this policy.

I did not realise that government agencies had so much autonomy that they could make far-reaching unconstitutional, anti-human rights-type decisions without the OK from the minister or his faithful deputy.

Just shows what I know.

But then the Deputy Minister goes on to say that the ban only applies to those who are a threat to national security and who have violated the Constitution.So I guess Maria Chin is a national security threat and habitual violator of the Constitution then.

It is as though the Constitution is a high-born Roman lady in danger of being attacked by a ravaging Visigoth.How can a private citizen violate the Constitution?

Hey, we are not the ones who make laws that blatantly go against the Fundamental Liberties listed in Part 2 of the Constitution. We are not the ones who say that this is an Islamic state when the Constitution says no such thing.

We are not the ones who obtusely say that there is no separation of powers because the Constitution does not use the term “separation of powers” (even though the executive, legislature and judiciary are each given separate chapters and have clearly defined powers).

It is virtually impossible for a private citizen to violate the Constitution.Short of perhaps companies that treat their workers like slaves or practise gender bias.

So the idea that citizens who violate the Constitution can have their passports taken away is laughable.It’s as though by throwing big words into the mix, this ludicrous and unlawful attack on our freedom of movement is all hunky dory.

Really, all this business about keeping us stuck at home is ridiculous.Do we need to go overseas to belittle the Government when their actions can be spread far and wide via existing technology? Why worry about citizens belittling or disparaging them abroad when they do it so well by themselves?

It takes a Najib Razak to sink a 143-year old Swiss Bank


May 26, 2016

Malaysia Boleh: It takes a Najib Razak to sink a 143-year old Swiss Bank

http://www.malaysiakini.com

KINIGUIDE: The 1MDB saga has left a trail destruction across three continents, with key corporate and banking figures having to resign, bankers charged and accounts frozen.

However, the biggest casualty to date is BSI Bank, which faces criminal proceedings for, among others, failing to adhere to anti-money-laundering regulations in handling transfers linked to 1MDB. An international investigation, primarily led by Swiss and Singaporean authorities, has unravelled the 143-year-old bank.

Malaysiakini looks at the significance of these developments and BSI’s role in the 1MDB saga.

About BSI

Banca della Swizzera Italiana, or BSI, was founded in 1873.It began an international expansion in 1969 and spread its wings to Hong Kong in 1981 and later Singapore in 2005.

According to BSI’s 2015 annual report, it had 1,256 employees in Switzerland and 656 employees outside the country, with 310 in Asia.

It is currently owned by Grupo BTG Pactual but is in the process of being acquired by EFG International for 1.33 billion Swiss franc. The amount is expected to be lesser following regulators’ action against BSI.

The unmaking of BSI

Even before Swiss and Singapore authorities hammered the nail into BSI’s coffin, the bank was already disintegrating as the 1MDB probe gained momentum.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that several senior employees had left BSI Singapore, including committee members who vetted major clients during 1MDB’s time as well as its head of compliance.

The chief operating officer for BSI’s Asia operations, Gary Tucker, had also left the bank, while BSI’s head of Asia operations, Hanspeter Brunner, announced his retirement. But the most devastating blow came when Singapore on Tuesday ordered BSI Bank in the city state to be shut down.

It was the first such action by Singapore authorities in 32 years.Switzerland’s financial regulator, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) also ordered similar action, approving EFG International’s complete takeover of BSI. This was on condition that BSI will be dissolved within 12 months through its integration into EFG International.

What did BSI do wrong?

Both Switzerland and Singapore authorities have released general statements on BSI’s offences, which have been short on specifics.In Switzerland, Finma concluded that BSI was in serious breach of the statutory due diligence requirements in relation to money laundering and serious violations of the principles of adequate risk management and appropriate organisation.

In Singapore, authorities found BSI to be in “serious breaches of anti-money-laundering requirements, poor management oversight of the bank’s operations and gross misconduct by some of the bank’s staff.” These were in context of investigations linked to 1MDB.

Connecting the dots

Prior to the investigations initiated by Swiss and Singapore authorities, whistleblower portal Sarawak Report had highlighted the role of BSI in the diversion of 1MDB’s funds.It started with the US$1.83 billion which 1MDB had channelled overseas for its joint-venture activities with PetroSaudi International between 2009 and 2011.

This is the same amount that Bank Negara later ordered 1MDB to repatriate, which the Malaysian fund had failed to do and for which it was fined. Of this sum, US$1.03 billion did not go to the joint-venture. It was instead diverted to Good Star Limited’s account at RBS Coutts in Zurich, whose beneficiary owner is Penang-born billionaire Jho Low.

Here is where BSI comes in.More than half of the diverted sum, or US$529 million, was transferred to Abu Dhabi Kuwait Malaysia Investment Corporation’s (BVI) account at BSI Singapore between June 28, 2011 and September 4, 2013. The beneficiary owner was also Jho Low.

Sarawak Report, based on leaked Singapore investigation papers, had as early as April last year reported that Jho Low controlled at least 45 bank accounts at BSI under various company names.

These revelations appeared consistent with the findings of Finma which noted: “In the context of the 1MDB case, the bank (BSI) failed to adequately monitor relationships with a client group with around 100 accounts at the bank.”

It said funds were moved within these accounts without proper justification. Coincidentally, 1MDB’s subsidiary Brazen Sky Limited also banked with BSI where its US$1.1 billion in ‘fund units’ was held.

Furthermore, Singapore court proceedings showed that SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB, also had its accounts at BSI. BSI banker Yeo Jiawei was charged for allegedly signing a fraudulent reference letter in the name of BSI to Citigroup Inc’s head of anti-money laundering to facilitate the transfer of US$11.95 million from SRC International to Equity International Partners Limited.

The beneficiary owner of Equity International Partners Limited was Tan Kim Loong, an associate of Jho Low and also the original beneficiary of Tanore Finance that funnelled US$681 million to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal bank accounts.

Singapore prosecutors described this component as a “new front” in its investigation but it is unclear how it is linked to Jho Low’s movement of US$529 million into, within and out of BSI.

Information disclosed to the public is likely just a small portion of the investigations but more details are expected as court proceedings in Switzerland and Singapore commence.

Is this the end of the 1MDB saga? On the contrary, it is just the beginning. Sarawak Report claimed that the US$529 million in Jho Low’s account in BSI was cleared out of BSI Singapore and was believed to have been moved to Hong Kong.

It is unclear which financial institution it went to. Hong Kong authorities have acknowledged an investigation but little information has been provided so far.Finma is also reportedly looking into RBS Coutts, from which the US$529 million came from before it entered BSI’s system.

Furthermore, other banking institutions are also expected to be in the line of fire.One key institution is Falcon Private Banking, which Tanore Finance used to transfer US$681 million (often referred to as RM2.6 billion) into Najib’s AmBank account.

Sarawak Report claimed that US$650 million of this money was transferred back to Tanore Finance’s account at Falcon Private Banking in Singapore on Aug 30, 2013.

Interestingly, EFG International, which is set to take over BSI, had also acquired Falcon Private Bank’s Hong Kong arm for 800 million Swiss francs from Aabar Investments PJS in 2014.

This KiniGuide was produced by Nigel Aw.

Philippines’ Man of the Moment: Rodrigo Duterte


May 26, 2016

Philippines’ Man of the Moment: President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte

by Mong Palatino

Mong Palatino explores the many sides to the Philippines’ new President, revealing there is far more that meets the eye than Trump comparisons alone can offer.

President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte–The Man from Mindanao

The landslide victory of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the recent Philippine presidential election has been reported already across the world. Perhaps many in Southeast Asia are asking: Who is Duterte?

The reaction is understandable. After all, it was only five months ago when Duterte announced his bid for the presidency.

Duterte’s electoral success is historic and politically significant for the Philippines. Not only did Duterte receive the most number of votes in the history of the Philippines, he is also set to become the first President from Mindanao.

Mindanao is the country’s second biggest island known for its rich natural resources but plagued by poverty and numerous local conflicts. When Mindanao people speak of historical injustice, they are referring to the state-sponsored displacement of Muslims from their homeland and the continuing plunder of the island’s wealth by corrupt politicians from ‘Imperial Manila.’

Duterte’s victory suddenly gave hope that the national government will start to prioritize the needs of Mindanao. Duterte, who claims to understand the history of the Muslim struggle for self-determination, also promises to pursue the peace process in Mindanao.

That a politician from Mindanao will assume the presidency on June 30 is unprecedented in Philippine politics. It’s like a Buddhist mayor sympathetic to the self-determination struggle of Thailand’s ‘Deep South’ becoming prime minister.

Unfortunately, Duterte’s anti-crime platform is given more attention by the mainstream global media. Because of his aggressive methods to rid Davao of crimes and his plan to kill all drug lords once he becomes President, he is called the ‘Punisher’ and Dirty Harry’. Perhaps he deserves the nicknames and he has no one to blame but himself if the world thinks his only crusade is to enforce discipline and order in society. He is like Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who believes that reforms can be achieved through extralegal and even authoritarian means.

Like Prayut, Duterte’s scandalous statements ridiculing women and the LGBT sector often attract wide condemnation. Both Prayut and Duterte think that crass talk can make them more popular among ordinary citizens. But when commentators condemn Duterte’s behaviour, most fail to mention his similarity with Prayut. Right or wrong, Duterte is often compared to American presidential candidate and business tycoon Donald Trump.

The comparison is inaccurate and unfair to Duterte. First, he is not a billionaire. Second, he does not mouth anti-Muslim statements. Third, he is proud of his so-called Leftist background. And fourth, he has been serving the country as an elected leader for three decades already.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen: Making a Difference

If making politically-incorrect pronouncements is the measure for comparison, Duterte’s image is closer to Prayut or Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The latter is like Duterte, a veteran politician who uses obscene language to ridicule his critics and political enemies.

But perhaps matching Duterte with Trump can also help to make the Filipino leader realize that his public antics are increasingly being viewed by many as offensive and divisive.

Persuading Duterte to abandon his ‘Trump’ reputation is easy.  He only needs to remember his record as a politician who has consistently worked well with progressive groups and NGOs in drafting social welfare programs for the poor. Unlike Trump who is part of America’s traditional elite, Duterte is seen as an ‘outsider’ who challenged the rule of oligarchs and big landlords in the Philippines.

In many ways, Duterte is like Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo. Both made a name by being effective city mayors before running for a national position. Both gained popular support among the poor and the youth. And both tapped into the widespread frustration of ordinary voters against the inefficiencies and inequities of the bureaucracy.

The Philippines today is like Indonesia in 2014 after the electoral victory of Jokowi. There’s high expectation that Duterte will deliver change and uplift the conditions of the poor and marginalized.

Duterte is no democracy icon like Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi but many Filipinos now see him as a leader who will lead the struggle against elite oppression, criminality, and corruption.

The defeat of the military-backed party in Myanmar remains the most meaningful political event in Southeast Asia in recent years but Duterte’s rise to power is a political phenomenon that deserves serious attention too. Indeed, Duterte has cultivated a strongman image like Hun Sen and Prayut; but unlike the two, he gained power in a more democratic way similar to how Jokowi and Suu Kyi’s party won a convincing mandate to lead in their countries.

There’s a persistent anti-communist bias in the Philippines, and in the whole Southeast Asian region as well, but here’s an incoming president who introduces himself as Leftist or socialist. If Duterte turns out to be a real socialist, will this start a trend in Southeast Asia?

Will he become a genuine reformer or will he degenerate into a conservative populist? He has six years to establish his true legacy but this early he is already facing corruption allegations. It’s noteworthy to mention that his rivals are suspicious about his bank transactions. The issue is quite similar to the ‘political donations’ received by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (pic above) in his dollar bank accounts. Although, to be fair to Duterte, Najib’s corruption scandal is definitely far worse.

Duterte’s detractors want to unseat him already even if he has not yet taken his oath as president. His supporters, however, expect him to bring change in three to six months which is part of his election campaign pledge. Of course substantial change is difficult to achieve in six months but he must try to show some concrete results during this period if he wants to retain the support of the majority who voted him to power.

Duterte is more than just the Trump of East Asia. To understand his politics, it’s useful to compare him to other leaders in the region. And once we see the many sides of Duterte, he appears less scary; although he remains an enigmatic political figure who can either strengthen or destroy democracy in the Philippines.

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the Southeast Asia editor of Global Voices, a social media platform.

How to introduce Duterte in Southeast Asia

Rudderless PKR : Courting PAS is a strategic error


May 25, 2016

 Rudderless PKR : Courting PAS is a strategic error

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

It appears that PKR leaders do not know what the electorate wants. The rakyat do not want wishy-washy politicians. We want firm leaders who have our interests at heart. We do not want race and religion to set us apart.

We know that we can move forward only when we have strong leaders who would not allow themselves to be stabbed in the back twice. We certainly won’t trust a political party that vacillates from one viewpoint to another or make an alliance with a known enemy.

Soon after the Sarawak state election, PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali horrified us when he expressed an intention to invite PAS back into the opposition coalition for GE14. This week, it was PKR President Wan Azizah Ismail’s turn to shock us. She suggested that PKR could talk with PAS about the upcoming by-elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar.

Why does PKR want to do business with PAS? Joining up with PAS and Hadi Awang is like taking a step into the unknown. Can Hadi be trusted after all his machinations against the opposition coalition and the deals he has made with UMNO-Baru?

Is Wan Azizah a stickler for punishment, or has Azmin Ali managed to convince her of PAS’ shining qualities? Is there a plot of some kind that we’re yet to uncover?

Does Wan Azizah remember how Hadi humiliated her when she was nominated for the post of Selangor MB? Hadi kept the nation waiting for one month, saying that he could not divulge the reasons for his opposition to Wan Azizah’s nomination. In the end, he said a woman could not serve as MB. He even hinted that he feared people would go to hell if they were ruled by a woman as MB or PM. Malaysia does not need politicians who are misogynists.

At the 2014 PAS muktamar in Johor, Hadi insulted two PAS assemblymen because they supported Wan Azizah’s nomination. He called them “baruah,” using a loaded Malay word for “lackey”. It’s original meaning is “pimp”.

For all we know, Hadi is still in discussion with UMNO-Baru for a unity government. Doesn’t Wan Azizah remember Hadi’s arrogance? He said he would attend Pakatan Rakyat meetings only when he felt like it.

PKR, which some people have always seen as a party of UMNO-Baru rejects, is now in danger of gaining a reputation as a party of indecision. Why is PKR afraid to take a firm stand? If it’s policies are good for the nation, it should forge ahead with them with confidence and thereby strengthen public trust in it. However, if it shows indecisiveness and teams up with PAS, whatever trust the public now has in it will be eroded.

The rakyat have waited 59 years for a leader they can trust. They will not mind waiting a few more years for the right party to present such a leader. PAS is not that party. Hadi is not that leader, and neither is anyone who plays footsie with him.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

 

Chris Hedges Again


May 25, 2016

Chris Hedges Again–Daring and Upfront as always

Mr Hedges  is a radical thinker, dissenter, and public intellectual of our time. I have always enjoyed his books, lectures, and ideas. Political correctness is not in his lexicon. Here are two interesting lectures on contemporary issues which are of concern to all of us, except to  those who are beneficiaries of the capitalist-corporatist  system and neo-liberalism.–Din Merican

Here  is another from Chris: