The Role of the Malaysian A-G in Political Scandals


June 20, 2017

 

Image result for Apandi AliThe Malaysian Attorney-General is the Public Prosecutor. He must uphold the Rule of Law. (The Malaysian Constitution–Article 145). His job is to protect the public interest, act with objectivity, take proper account of the position of the suspect and the victim, and pay attention to all relevant circumstances, irrespective of whether they are to the advantage or disadvantage of the suspect.
The Malaysian Constitution–Article 145

 

The Attorney General is the principal legal adviser to the Government. His role and responsibilities are provided for in Article 145 of the Federal Constitution. Article 145 of the Federal Constitution provides:

(1) The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a person who is qualified to be a judge of the Federal Court to be the Attorney General for the Federation.

(2) It shall be the duty of the Attorney General to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Cabinet or any Minister upon such legal matters, and to perform such other duties of a legal character, as may from time to time be referred or assigned to him by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Cabinet, and to discharge the functions conferred on him by or under this Constitution or any other written law.

(3) The Attorney General shall have power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence, other than proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court or a court-martial.

(3A) Federal law may confer on the Attorney General power to determine the courts in which or the venue at which any proceedings which he has power under Clause (3) to institute shall be instituted or to which such proceedings shall be transferred.

(4) In the performance of his duties the Attorney General shall have the right of audience in , and shall take precedence over any other person appearing before, any court or tribunal in the Federation.

(5) Subject to Clause (6), the Attorney General shall hold office during the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and may at any time resign his office and, unless he is a member of the Cabinet, shall receive such remuneration as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may determine.

(6) The person holding the office of Attorney General immediately prior to the coming into operation of this Article shall continue to hold the office on terms and conditions not less favourable than those applicable to him immediately before such coming into operation and shall not be removed from office except on the like grounds and in the like manner as a judge of the Federal Court.

The Role of the Malaysian A-G in Political Scandals

The A-G’s quick dismissal of the DoJ’s second suit and his vigorous defence of the Prime Minister against any criminal wrongdoing has raised eyebrows.

by  Lim Wei Jiet

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for malaysian official 1

 

A little over 24 hours ago, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a second suit to recover more assets allegedly acquired using 1MDB funds. The 251-page complaint sheds more light on the scandal and seeks to seize assets such as yachts, diamonds, rights to Red Granite Pictures films and paintings by notable artists.

In a matter of hours, the Malaysian Attorney-General (A-G) saw fit to release a press statement. Two observations were made from this press statement:

Number One – the A-G was unmistakably dismissive of the DoJ’s second suit: “This second action comes on the anniversary of the first, and appears to be a repeat of it”.

Number Two – the A-G mounted a vigorous defence of the prime minister: “The attorney-general expressed his strong concerns at the insinuations and allegations that have been made against the Prime Minister of alleged criminal wrongdoing in relation to the civil action”.

With respect, these postures adopted by the A-G are both misconceived and not in line with the role of an attorney-general in law. Make no mistake – this second civil suit is not a repeat of the first filed on July 20, 2016.

First, the DoJ has now quantified the alleged misappropriated funds at US$4.5 billion from the initial US$3 billion. Second, it reveals several new “phases” in which funds were allegedly siphoned from 1MDB. Third and most obvious, it has identified more assets in which these misappropriated funds were spent on.

It is therefore unfathomable how the A-G can reach a conclusion that the second civil suit is a repeat of the first, what more in a matter of hours after its release.

Eyebrows were also raised as to how quickly the AG sought to shield the Prime Minister from allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

These statements appear to be incongruent with established international conventions on the role of prosecutors.

Article 13(b) of the UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors 1990 states that prosecutors shall “(b) protect the public interest, act with objectivity, take proper account of the position of the suspect and the victim, and pay attention to all relevant circumstances, irrespective of whether they are to the advantage or disadvantage of the suspect”.

Meanwhile, Article 3 of the International Association of Prosecutor’s Standards of Professional Responsibility 1999 states that “Prosecutors shall perform their duties without fear, favour or prejudice. In particular they shall…act with objectivity; have regard to all relevant circumstances, irrespective of whether they are to the advantage or disadvantage of the suspect…always search for the truth and assist the court to arrive at the truth and to do justice between the community, the victim and the accused according to law and the dictates of fairness.”

Moving forward, it is humbly recommended that these guidelines be followed by the A-G:

• To appoint a special prosecutor of unimpeachable integrity to investigate and take appropriate action in relation to the 1MDB matter, as the attorney-generals in the US have done in Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal and Robert Mueller towards Russian interference in the US elections.

• Whenever a foreign jurisdiction takes action on matters relating to the 1MDB matter, take appropriate time to read and liaise with the authorities to comprehensively assess all relevant angles before dismissing the same.

• Whenever any party alleges or accuses a person investigated in the 1MDB matter, take appropriate time to reach out to such parties for more information before dismissing the same.

• Never attack or defend any person currently being investigated in the 1MDB matter to prevent an impression of bias.

If one needs a role model, one can look no further than our US brethren in Sally Yates, the acting US attorney-general who defied US President Donald Trump in defence of the Rule of Law and the dignity of the DoJ.

I end by quoting a paragraph of her poignant speech to the Harvard Law School’s graduating class of 2017:

“There is plenty worth fighting for. For me, it’s criminal justice reform — so that we can have a fair and proportional criminal justice system that applies equally to all regardless of race, wealth or status. It’s also respect for the brave men and women of law enforcement who put their lives on the line to protect us. It’s holding corporate executives who break the law accountable so that cheating and stealing doesn’t become just a way of doing business…It’s the rule of law, and the principle that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies must be free to do their work without political interference or intimidation.”

Lim Wei Jiet is an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya. He is also the deputy co-chairperson of the Malaysian Bar Constitutional Law Committee.

Malaysia’s Man of Honour and Integrity: The Forgotten 3rd Premier Tun Hussein Onn


June 18, 2017

Malaysia’s Man of Honour and Integrity: The Forgotten 3rd Premier Tun Hussein Onn

by FMT Reporters

Image result for Tun Hussein Onn

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang wants the federal cabinet to make the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) latest court filings related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) a priority agenda in its next meeting.

The Gelang Patah MP said the 36 ministers need to live up to the integrity of the late former Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn who led the country from 1976 to 1981 and whose son Hishammuddin Hussein is today a part of the cabinet lineup.

Calling the 251-page document in the legal suit “a shocker of shockers”, he said the ministers need to decide how to cleanse and purge Malaysia in light of the allegations made.

He claimed that it revealed not only a “complex web of deceit and treachery in stealing billions of ringgit of 1MDB funds for personal and private use and aggrandisement, but (also) the depths of depravity some Malaysians had been prepared to descend to steal and lavish on themselves billions of ringgit of public funds from the 1MDB scam.”

“I call for a nation-wide people’s campaign for the collective resignation of the cabinet if the 36 ministers cannot do anything at its meeting,” he said, adding that Malaysia needed to be cleared of the “ignominy and infamy” of being regarded as a global kleptocracy.

“Ministers who have not read the updated DoJ’s 251-page kleptocratic action against 1MDB by Wednesday’s cabinet meeting should identify themselves, for clearly they are not fit to be in the cabinet,” he said in a statement today.

The DAP parliamentary leader also asked if there are any “modern-day Hussein Onns” in the current cabinet, referring to the third prime minister who he said had an impeccable personal integrity and abhorrence of corruption.

He added that Hishammuddin, who is the defence minister, was wrong in asserting on Friday that the DoJ filing would divert attention from the government’s larger agenda.

Image result for HishamuddinTun Hussein

Integrity is Greek to these UMNO Leaders–PM Najib Razak, Minister of Defence Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn and Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Zahid Hamidi

“Hishammuddin could not be more wrong, for there can be no bigger agenda in Malaysia than to ensure that democracy in Malaysia does not mutate into a kleptocracy, and the national imperative to uphold integrity in public life,” he said.

Lim claimed that Hussein would have agreed with him.“I have no doubt that if Malaysia had been accused of being a ‘global kleptocracy’ when Hussein was Prime Minister, he would have made it his top agenda to resolve the matter,” he said.

Hussein would also have had no hesitation in tendering his resignation as Prime Minister if he was unable to clear the nation of such “infamy and ignominy”, Lim added.

“Does Hishammuddin agree with me, or am I wrong in attributing such qualities of uncompromising commitment to public integrity to his father, the third Prime Minister of Malaysia?”

He said Malaysians will know soon whether there are any patriotic ministers who are prepared to make a principled stand to quit if the cabinet is unable or unprepared to respond honourably in the matter.

He said no loyal and patriotic Malaysian can read the legal document without “intense shame, consternation and horror.” He claimed that it represented the nation’s greatest shame in its 60-year history since independence.

In its court filing in California on June 5, the DoJ is seeking to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets, including art works, jewellery, a luxury yacht and film rights purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.

The assets named in the applications included the film rights to the two comedies “Dumb and Dumber To” starring Jim Carrey and “Daddy’s Home” featuring Will Ferrell.

The action follows last July’s civil forfeiture suit by the DoJ which sought to recover all the assets including but not limited to the Park Lane Hotel in New York, a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, condominiums in New York, a private jet and expensive works of art, as well as finances related to Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

 

Coping with one’s fears and concerns


June 18, 2017

Coping with one’s fears and concerns

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for dealing with fear and anxiety

Having tried in recent columns to comprehend why I’ve had so much trouble keeping on writing in my increasingly old age, and thus far postulated that my problem might be either depression or else pressure amounting to panic at approaching my ultimate and literally last deadline, death, I feel a bit dumb to have missed an even more dire and pressing possibility, fear, or even first signs of, dementia.

As I was sadly reminded the other night at dinner with a friend and her beloved 85-year-old husband whose dementia has now progressed so far as to regress him into what’s commonly and all-too-accurately called “second childhood”, this is a terrible situation for families and friends as well as for sufferers.

But thankfully, despite the fact that every memory lapse, “senior moment” or an episode of writer’s block I experience makes me momentarily fear the worst, I’m still capable of convincing myself that I don’t yet have any of the senile varieties of dreaded dementia.

And also still capable of reminding myself of how fortunate I am – and as you apparently are too, considering that you’re sufficiently compus mentis as to subscribe to and read Malaysiakini – to have survived or avoided a good many of the countless juvenile and other dementias that threaten to render every one of us metaphorically if not literally brain-dead at every age and stage of our lives.

Starting from infancy for myself and fellow males with he-mentia, the clearly man-made and culturally if not sexually transmitted delusion that “nature” and even an allegedly omnipotent and of course male “divinity” have privileged our portion of what we presumptuously call “mankind” with some kind superiority over the rest of personkind, especially womankind.

Image result for Be Positive
Stay Positive always

 

The root-cause of he-mentia, of course, is the fact that, as a fridge magnet that’s popular in Australia proclaims, “every male is born with both a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to operate one of these organs at a time.”

In other words, as smart as at least some of us hetero male members of the species we flatter with the name “Homo sapiens” can be, we’re equally capable of acting like total dickheads.

In fact, far too many of us males are total dickheads all the way through and all of the time, seeing he-mentia not as a pathological condition to be suffered or better still, for the benefit of all concerned, overcome, but as a competitive edge to be celebrated.

Thus the poisonous pre-eminence, at least so far in human history, of the patriarchies, phallocracies or whatever else you choose to call dick-headed dictatorships founded on the he-mented fallacy (phallusy?) that male might is right.

Big dick-headed dictatorships today ranging from ruling regimes in countries like the Communist Party’s China and Putin’s Russia, to their countless small dick-headed counterparts all the way from al-Assad’s Syria through UMNO-BN’s Malaysia to the Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe.

Then, of course, there are the dick-headed ‘religious’ dictatorships running so-called “theocracies like Iran” as well as most of the world’s so-called “faiths”. And, perhaps most pernicious of all, dick-headed domestic or family dictatorships sustained by verbal, psychological, economic and sundry other forms of abuse or outright violence against women and children.

Thank goodness that in my own case, the state of he-mentia into which I was born was curbed if not cured, first by the example of my father, who was far from he-mented in the way he treats my mother and other females, and later in my teens and twenties by the advent of militant feminism.

Traces of he-mentia remained, however, until I finally received a massive dose of the kind of kill-or-cure shock-treatment meted out by the Gender Studies department at Sydney University, an institution that now, thanks to its growing majority of female students and staff, is gradually turning from patriarchal to matriarchal.

Or, as I might have put it before I got my he-mentia under control or at least learned to politically-correctly keep such sexist and/or genderist remarks to myself, is morphing from an ivory to an ovary tower.

Which to my mind is a significant improvement, because while females are undeniably prone to prementia and other symptoms of what can justly be termed shementia, this syndrome, as evidenced by spectacular lower rates among its sufferers of everything from crimes of all kinds to suicide, is far less destructive than he-mentia.Not that I’m denying that there are serious mentias that seem to afflict people of both or rather all sexes and genders equally.

As appears to be the case with cementia, for example, a condition in which the contents, attitudes, and aptitudes of sufferers’ minds set like concrete, never, ever to be changed; and the closely-related sedimentia in which “beliefs”, opinions and prejudices all settle to the bottom of minds like so much sludge until something occurs to stir them back up.

Certainly I can feel myself sliding dangerously close to cementia, sedimentia or both from time to time, but fortunately know I can almost always achieve relief, or, if you like, rementia, by resorting to a regimen of such tried-and-true remedies as reading, writing and stimulating conversation.

But when even these fail to cure what’s ailing my mind, as they sometimes have recently, I know I can always resume the university course from which I suspended myself two semesters ago when I overdosed on it to the point of what felt like a case of acute if not terminal academentia, and restore my flagging faculties with some shock treatment in the form of lectures, tutorials, and assignments.

Speaking of “terminal” as I did a couple of lines ago, I see that I’m dangerously close to my word limit. So in closing, I’ll confine myself to discussing just one final example of the many dementias and d’ohmentias with which life confronts every one of us sooner or later if not constantly: doughmentia.

Image result for Najib Razak the crook

He needs to be treated for doughmentia

Love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, and I can’t tell either way from personal experience because most of the money I’ve had and loved I’ve more or less carelessly lost.

Image result for Najib Razak the crook

Malaysia’s First Lady Rosmah Mansor with the concurrence of Prime Minister Najib Razak wants to silence her civil society critics instead of dealing with her narcissism and character flaws

But to judge from my long observations of Malaysia’s UMNO–BN regime and the antics of its money-mad members, supporters and alleged misleader, Najib Abdul Razak, in attempted denial that they’ve sold themselves, the reputations of the race, religion and royalty they so fraudulently claim to support, and the good name and self-respect of the nation at large in return for greater or lesser shares of the countless billions allegedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) so-called “wealth fund”, doughmentia seems about as dire as evil gets.

And I heartily hope it will prove as politically, financially and personally deadly to them all as dementia that I and far too many of my fast-ageing fellows around the world fear might be our fate.

 

When will The White House stop pandering to Trump’s Egotism?


June 17, 2017

Image result for Mike Pence the Trump Flatterer

There is still time to learn to read, to write and to adopt a temperament befitting a Prince, who must speak well and appear honest, even if it is sometimes necessary to bear falsehoods. But you have so far failed to even appear virtuous, choosing instead to placate some and alarm others with exaggeration.

You arrived in your position by the favor of the people; you ought then to be indomitable, yet that favor arose out of a minority, many of which are still wary of your virtue. Your first concern ought then to be placating the discontented, yet you act cruelly, punishing and abusing those who oppose you, at a moment when you can least afford even the image of cruelty. Like Manlius Capitolinus, who extolled falsehoods to the plebs to bring tumult to the city and the Fathers, you extoll such calumnies, many of greater magnitude than Manlius, and you can only expect the same fate should you continue. You sow falsehoods, of fraud and health and all between, in defiance of reality, only to alienate plebeian and patrician alike, losing any popular favor that remains. Without it, your worst fears will be realized and you will fear not only the noble conspiracies of a modern Cassius, but also the common conspiracies of a modern Antony. Read this : http://www.salon.com/2017/02/18/sincerely-niccolo-machiavelli-an-open-letter-to-donald-trump-from-the-guy-who-wrote-the-book-on-power-moves/

When will The White House stop pandering to Trump’s Egotism?

by David Remnick

http://www.newyorker.com

“Trump’s egotism, his demand for one-way loyalty, and his incapacity to assume responsibility for his own untruths and mistakes were, his biographers make plain, his pattern in business and have proved to be his pattern as President.”–David Remnick

The yearning in the character of Donald Trump for dominance and praise is bottomless, a hunger that is never satisfied. Last week, the President gathered his Cabinet for a meeting with no other purpose than to praise him, to note the great “honor” and “blessing” of serving such a man as he. Trump nodded with grave self-satisfaction, accepting the serial hosannas as his daily due. But even as the members declared, Pyongyang-style, their everlasting gratitude and fealty to the Great Leader, this concocted dumb show of loyalty only served to suggest how unsustainable it all is.

The reason that this White House staff is so leaky, so prepared to express private anxiety and contempt, even while parading obeisance for the cameras, is that the President himself has so far been incapable of garnering its discretion or respect. Trump has made it plain that he is capable of turning his confused fury against anyone in his circle at any time. In a tweet on Friday morning, Trump confirmed that he is under investigation for firing the F.B.I. director James Comey, but blamed the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, for the legal imbroglio that Trump himself has created. The President has fired a few aides, he has made known his disdain and disappointment at many others, and he will, undoubtedly, turn against more. Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Sean Spicer­—who has not yet felt the lash?

Image result for Mike Pence the Trump FlattererVice President Mike Pence: Show the American People that you have character–Be a Trump Poodle no more

Trump’s egotism, his demand for one-way loyalty, and his incapacity to assume responsibility for his own untruths and mistakes were, his biographers make plain, his pattern in business and have proved to be his pattern as President.

Veteran Washington reporters tell me that they have never observed this kind of anxiety, regret, and sense of imminent personal doom among White House staffers—not to this degree, anyway. These troubled aides seem to think that they can help their own standing by turning on those around them—and that by retailing information anonymously they will be able to live with themselves after serving a President who has proved so disconnected from the truth and reality.

I thought about Trump and his aides and councillors while reading “The Last of the President’s Men,” Bob Woodward’s 2015 book about Alexander Butterfield, a career Air Force officer who took a job as an assistant to Richard Nixon. He made the move less for ideological reasons than to indulge a yearning ambition to be “in the smoke”—to be at the locus of power, where decisions are made.

As an undergraduate, at U.C.L.A., Butterfield knew H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and, after serving in Vietnam and being stationed in Australia, he called on Haldeman, who was Nixon’s most important assistant. Haldeman made Butterfield his deputy. Butterfield got what every D.C. bureaucrat craves most—access. He worked on Nixon’s schedule, his paper flow, his travel; he offered advice, took orders, no matter how bizarre or transitory. Butterfield could not have been more “in the smoke” than he was then. He quickly discovered that Nixon was a fantastically weird and solitary man—rude, unthoughtful, broiling with resentment against the Eastern élites who had somehow wounded him, be it in his imagination or in fact. Butterfield had to manage Nixon’s relations with everyone from his Cabinet members to his wife, Pat, who on vacations resided separately from the President. Butterfield carried out Nixon’s most peculiar orders, whether they involved barring a senior economic adviser from a White House faith service or making sure that Henry Kissinger was no longer seated at state dinners next to the most attractive woman at the occasion. (Nixon, who barely acknowledged, much less touched, his own wife in public, resented Kissinger’s public, and well-cultivated, image as a Washington sex symbol.)

A Nixon-Hater Reconsiders Tricky Dick in the Age of Trump at the Rebooted Nixon Library

Butterfield experienced what all aides do, eventually, if they have the constant access; he was witness to the unguarded and, in Nixon’s case, the most unattractive behavior of a powerful man. Incident after incident revealed Nixon’s distaste for his fellow human beings, his racism and anti-Semitism, his overpowering personal suspicions, and his sad longings. Nixon, the most anti-social of men, needed a briefing memo just to make it through the pleasantries of a staff birthday party. One evening, Butterfield recounts to Woodward, he sat across from Nixon on a night trip back to the White House from Camp David on Marine One, and watched as Nixon, in one of the more discomfiting passages in the literature of sexual misbehavior, kept patting the bare legs of one of his secretaries, Beverly Kaye:

And he’s carrying on this small talk, but still patting her. Because I can see now, Nixon being Nixon, he doesn’t quite know how to stop. You know, to stop is an action in itself. So he’s pat, pat, patting her. And looking at her. And feeling—I can see he’s feeling more distressed all the time now about the situation he’s got himself into. So he keeps trying to make this small talk, and I can see him saying [to himself], you know, when the small talk is over, what the hell am I going to do? . . . She’s petrified. She’s never had this happen before. The president of the United States is patting her bare legs.

For how long? Woodward asks. “It seems like half the way to Washington but I’d say a long time, minutes.”

When it appeared, “The Last of the President’s Men” did not receive the attention that was paid to some of Woodward’s early investigative books, but its intimacy and strangeness are very much worth returning to in the Trumpian moment—especially so if you are “blessed” with serving the current President. It is instructive.

Butterfield, who is ninety-one and spent dozens of hours with Woodward recounting his experiences in proximity to a President who ran what was essentially a criminal operation from the White House, emerges from the telling as a man of complex motivations. He hardly charged forward in the early days of the scandal to tell what he knew. After Nixon’s reëlection, Butterfield left the White House to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. But no matter how hard Butterfield worked to swallow his hurt feelings or to submerge his knowledge of the various “enemies lists” and the criminal cover-up that took shape all around him during Watergate, no matter how hard he tried to rationalize Nixon’s venality with his achievements, particularly the diplomatic opening to China, he came to an almost inevitable moment of reckoning.

In February, 1971, Nixon came up with the idea of putting a voice-activated taping system in his offices. Butterfield was charged with the installation. Haldeman told Butterfield that Nixon wanted the system installed on his telephones and in the Oval Office, his office in the Executive Office Building, the Cabinet Room, and the Lincoln Sitting Room. Kissinger was not to know; neither was his senior-most secretary, Rose Mary Woods. Only a few aides and the President were aware that no conversation was now truly confidential. Tiny holes were drilled into the President’s desktop to make way for the microphones. A set of Sony 800B tape recorders was set up in the White House basement.

It was all for the sake of “history,” Nixon said. Kennedy and Johnson had taped selectively, but Nixon wanted it all for the record—his own records—but no one was to know. “Goddamn it, this cannot get out,” Nixon told Butterfield. “Mum’s the word.”

In the end, of course, the tapes were Nixon’s undoing. In July, 1973, when Senate Watergate investigators asked Butterfield point-blank whether the White House taped conversations, Butterfield decided that his loyalty was not to the “cesspool” of Nixon’s White House but to the truth. And by confirming what so few knew—that there were tapes of Nixon and his cronies discussing Watergate and its cover-up—Butterfield helped end a Presidency.

Donald Trump now faces an investigation led by Robert Mueller, late of the F.B.I., and it could last many months. There is hardly any guarantee that the Administration will be found guilty of collusion with Russia, or with Russians, on any score; to predict that is to leap ahead of any publicly available evidence. Nor is there any guarantee, despite the testimony of Comey, and the testimony coming from other top national-security figures, that there will be a charge of obstruction of justice. This is bound to take some time.

But, while Trump’s personality is different from Nixon’s, there is little evidence that the show of bogus loyalty performed last week has any basis in real life. Will Bannon, Spicer, Conway, Sessions, Kushner, and many others who have been battered in one way or another by Trump keep their counsel? Will all of them risk their futures to protect someone whose focus is on himself alone, the rest be damned? Will none of them conclude that they are working for a President whose honesty is on a par with his loyalty to others? The government is already filled with public servants and bureaucrats who have found ways to protest this President’s actions and describe them to investigators and reporters. Will the inner circle follow? Have they already?

Alexander Butterfield, day after day, would hear Nixon say, “We’re going to nail those sons of bitches.” He heard the lies; he watched the President try to crush his opponents with surveillance and dirty tricks. It disgusted him, but, for a good while, he assumed that the Presidency would endure; it was too powerful an institution to fall. But then momentum toward the truth began to build “a wave,” as Butterfield called it. He was, all along, ambivalent, torn between loyalty to the President—or, at least, to the idea of the Presidency—and a desire to do the right thing. When his time came, though, Butterfield testified.

FGV Falls from Grace but Isa Samad Stays: Governance Malaysian Style


June 16, 2017

FGV Falls from Grace but Isa Samad Stays: Governance Malaysian Style

by P.Gunasegarm@www.malaysiakini.com

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | The latest fallout at Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) controlled Felda Global Ventures Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV), is just a continuation of the wrong and highly questionable actions of the company since listing in 2012.

Image result for FGV Chairman Isa Abdul Samad

The solution is to simply go back to basics which means that FGV should stick to the business it knows well – oil palm plantations and related processing. It should pay fair prices for related acquisitions, not astronomical sums. And be run by competent professional managers who understand the business and are straight.

But too much damage has already been done by these actions and it will be some time before it recovers completely.

In the latest controversy, FGV board chairperson Isa Abdul Samad announced on June 6 that FGV CEO Zakaria Arshad was to take an immediate leave of absence. He added that it was a board decision.

Apart from Zakaria, FGV chief finance officer Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha, FGV Trading chief executive officer Ahmad Salman Omar and Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd senior general manager Kamarzaman Abd Karim were also suspended.

Zakaria hit back saying he had tried to stop hundreds of millions in investments by the company’s board which he described as “ridiculous”.

Amongst the investments, he said, were plans for a 100 million pound sterling (approximately RM551 million) expansion of Felda Cambridge Nanosystems Ltd, a nanocarbon company, which had already lost RM117 million in the last three to four years.

“Now they (the FGV board) want to expand, they need another 100 million pounds. To me this is ridiculous, we’re a plantation company,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.

To understand what is going on, it is necessary to go back into FGV’s short history. While it was listed in mid-2012 with high hopes that it will provide great returns for Felda settlers who hold a direct stake, Felda which holds about a 34% stake and various government institutions including the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), the share performance has been atrocious.

When it was first listed on June 28, 2012 confidence was so high that it opened higher than expected over its initial public offer (IPO) price of RM4.55. Reuters reported: “Malaysian palm oil firm Felda Global surged 20 percent in its trading debut on Thursday (June 28, 2012) as investors cheered on the world’s second largest IPO after Facebook’s botched float and the company pledged stronger profits in the coming months.

“The firm raised US$3.1 billion (about RM10 billion then) in Asia’s biggest initial public offering of this year, running against the global gloom in IPO markets and giving the government a political dividend ahead of what is likely to be a closely fought election (the 2013 general election).”

FGV closed that day at RM5.30, some 16% higher than its IPO price but it has been downhill all the way after that, reflecting poor results and an extreme lack of market confidence in the share following a string of poor purchases over the years, squandering some RM4.46 billion net that came directly to FGV from the issue of new shares from the IPO.

Between June 28, 2012 and its last trading day on Friday, FGV’s share price went from RM5.30 to RM1.66, wiping out nearly seven-tenths of its market value. Even comparing with the IPO price of RM4.55, the drop was over 63% – more than six-tenths of value was lost. The EPF itself lost RM203 million when it sold off some of its investments in FGV.

If one thought that this decline in value is because of a general decline in plantation stocks generally, they are wrong. Bursa Malaysia’s plantation index, which aggregates the performance of major plantation companies, declined just 6% over the same period, or about a twentieth of its value against FGV’s seven-tenths, a rate of decline which was 20 times higher.

Acquisition spree

FGV’s acquisition spree under previous CEO Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah included the takeover of Pontian United Plantations Bhd for RM1.2 billion, Asia Plantation Ltd for RM628 million and RM2.2 billion for Felda Holdings Bhd, and 836 ha of oil palm land from Golden Land Bhd for RM655 million cash.

It culminated in a deal with the Rajawali Group announced in June 2015 for FGV to acquire a 37% stake in PT Eagle High Plantations (EHP) and 93% to 95% stakes in Rajawali Group’s sugar project, in all worth about US$680 million (about RM2.9 billion) in cash and FGV stock.

Emir was strangely involved in a corruption case earlier this month when an employee of The Star newspaper was charged in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court with receiving RM20,000 in bribes. M Youganesparan was accused of receiving the money from Emir at The Intermark Hotel, Jalan Tun Razak about 9.15pm on May 30 this year.

By the time the Eagle High acquisition was announced, FGV needed to borrow money to do the deal as it had exhausted the RM4.46 billion from IPO proceeds. The deal was heavily criticised as being way too expensive, even by the EPF, at an estimated 70% premium to market. Also Peter Sondakh, the founder and owner of the Rajawali group was said to be part of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s inner circle and served as his adviser on Indonesian affairs.

Fortunately CEO Zakaria Arshad, appointed on April 1, 2016 and the same one who is now on a leave of absence, nixed the deal, which was officially aborted in July 2016 after FGV started negotiations to restructure the deal in December 2015. Eventually in December 2016, the Eagle High deal was done with Felda which paid US$505 million (about RM2.2 billion) a quarter less, for the same deal.

Zakaria also cut other merger and acquisition deals saying that FGV should concentrate on the plantation business instead, in all saving FGV at least RM4 billion in spending.

Isa was chairman of both FGV and Felda at this time but was replaced as Felda chairman in January this year by another politician Shahrir Samad, although it was not clear why he was replaced. Isa, during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time as Umno president, was found guilty of money politics in 2005 and suspended from the party for six years. He had to give up his post as UMNO Vice-President and Federal Territories Minister.

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Idris Jala–The Financial Whiz appointed to fix GFV

Now former cabinet minister Idris Jala is supposed to look into this whole mess and make his recommendations. But at the end of the day, the solution is very straight forward. First, appoint people with impeccable credentials to the board and ensure that there is board diversity, independence and honesty.

Don’t just cram them chock full with politicians, often of dubious quality even then, and civil servants who know little or nothing about the corporate world and how it operates. Directors collectively should have expertise which covers all aspects of running a business.

Then pick a CEO with proven credentials and give him a free hand to run the company within the broad guidelines and mandate set out by the shareholders and the board. Make him accountable for set targets.

The needless failure of FGV is that of basic corporate governance. At the heart of this is the hijacking of what could have been a good, solid plantation company by the politicians for their own purpose, in the process screwing Felda settlers, investors and other stakeholders.


P GUNASEGARAM says too much is discussed but too little is done about corporate governance in Malaysia, even for listed companies. What happens with unlisted government companies, he wonders. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

 

Remembering India’s Diplomat and Historian. K.M. Panikkar


June 16, 2017

Remembering India’s Diplomat and Historian. K.M. Panikkar

By Sam Bateman

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Sardar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar (or K. M. Panikkar) (June 3, 1895[1] – December 10, 1963) was an Indian scholar, journalist, historian, administrator and diplomat.

Over 20 years ago, at a conference in Sydney hosted by the Australian Navy, then-Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Sabam Siagian referred to the ‘Vasco Da Gama Epoch’. That was a reference to an expression originally coined by the noted Indian historian and diplomat, K.M Panikkar, in his book Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco da Gama Epoch of Asian History. It described the period between the arrival of Vasco da Gama in Calicut in Southern India in 1498 and the post-World War II period. This was the period when Indonesia and most of Asia fell under European economic and political domination until the Japanese ended the aura of European colonial invincibility in World War II. The post-war period saw former British, Dutch, French and American colonies and territories in Asia gain their independence.

Sabam Siagian, who died last year, was Indonesia’s Ambassador in Canberra from 1991 until 1995. However, he’s mainly remembered as the first Editor-in-Chief of The Jakarta Post, the English-language paper he helped to set up in Indonesia. He was a good communicator in English and, possessing an affable personality, was popular in Australia. Being forthright and outspoken, he wasn’t afraid of ‘rocking the boat’ of conventional wisdom. That was evident in his reference to the Vasco da Gama Epoch. Well ahead of his time, he wanted his Australian naval audience to contemplate a world in which Western powers, particularly the United States, didn’t enjoy the same power and influence in Asia as they had previously. Panikkar and his Vasco da Gama Epoch continues to have implications for Australia and our relations with Asia, particularly Southeast Asia.

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K.M. Panikkar is highly revered by Indian strategic thinkers, but others also subscribe to his view of Asian history. Kishore Mahbubani, currently Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, echoes similar ideas in his book The New Asian Hemisphere: The irresistible shift of global power to the East, in which he argues that many Western strategic thinkers remain trapped in the past, with an inability to understand the new world, and that Western power and influence isn’t the same as it was before. Pankaj Mishra is another eminent Asian writer who has picked up on insidious aspects of the Western presence in Asia, primarily in his book From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia.

Resentment of centuries of Western dominance is a major part of the strategic psyche of both India and China. Strategic thinking in India remains influenced by Panikkar’s writings. India is intent on becoming a pre-eminent power across the wider Indo-Pacific region. However, memories of the deployment  of an American task force led by the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal at the height of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War still linger in India’s strategic consciousness. That deployment was viewed by India as an act of American ‘gunboat diplomacy’ that India couldn’t deter at the time. That experience became part of India’s strategic justification for acquiring nuclear attack submarines and bolstering its aircraft carrier capability. In that context, the current détente between India and the United States could be short-term opportunism for India. Its vision of the regional future might well follow Panikkar by seeing no significant long-term role for the United States in Asia.

Similarly, repeated incursions by Western imperialist powers in Chinese history have left an indelible mark on Chinese strategic thinking, leading to an emphasis on national sovereignty and fears of encirclement. It’s unfortunate that many American strategic thinkers continue to show a lack of appreciation of China’s history, especially Western imperialism, and the wide extent of anti-Western sentiment in China.

The Trump presidency in the United States, and uncertainty about its future policies in East Asia, is now serving to strengthen regional views that the Vasco da Gama Epoch is near an end—more quickly perhaps than had previously been anticipated. President Trump’s recent visit to Europe has led to views that he’s ‘weakening the West’ . Those views can only support regional perceptions of declining Western influence.

Those perceptions may be under-appreciated in terms of their impact on regional strategic thinking and assessments of the future of the region. Philippine President Duterte’s stepping back from his country’s links with the United States and moving closer to China add further to the notion of the impending end of the Vasco da Gama Epoch. Similarly, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and even ASEAN itself as Southeast Asia’s principal regional institution, are all showing that they’re adjusting their strategic thinking to recognise the rise of China and the decline of American power and influence.

What does that mean for Australia? The late Coral Bell, one of Australia’s most eminent international relations scholars, addressed the implications for Australia of the end of the Vasco da Gama Epoch in a 2007 paper, concluding optimistically that ‘The United States will remain the paramount power of the society of states, only in a multipolar world instead of a unipolar or bipolar one’. Unfortunately events of the past decade, including the Global Financial Crisis and the faster than anticipated rise of China, mean some re-assessment of that conclusion is required.

The time will come when the Vasco da Gama Epoch does end and the West enjoys little power and influence in the region. When that happens, Australia won’t be able to lift up our anchor and sail across the Pacific to anchor off the coast of California. Malcolm Turnbull also acknowledged that Australia was locked into the region when, in his address to the recent Shangri-la Dialogue, quoted one time Australian Foreign Minister Paul Hasluck as saying that ‘Others can go…But we can’t go home because this is our home’. In the short-term, it might suit us to maintain support for the United States in the region, but we must also be realistic about the future when the United Sates is much less paramount in the region.