Kassim Ahmad: Stay Granted vs JAWI!

January 14, 2015

Newsflash: Breaking News

Kassim Ahmad: Stay Granted vs JAWI!

by Din Merican

Last week January 6, 2015, Public Intellectual Kassim Ahmad was devastated that Judge Asmabi dismissed his Judicial Review application despite seeing all the illegalities committed by JAWI in breaching their own laws, the laws of other states and the Federal Constitution just to arrest Kassim Ahmad and abduct him to Kuala Lumpur.

On January 8, 2015, Kassim’s lawyer Rosli Dahlan filed his appeal to the Court of Appeal. On January 9 the lawyer filed a Stay Application to hold back the syariah prosecution from proceeding. On January 10, Judge Asmabi Mohamed heard arguments from Rosli Dahlan and Senior Federal Counsel Shamsol Bolhassan. Judge Asmabi orderd the court’s doors to be locked and declared the open court as her chambers. Reporters were barred from coming in.

Rosli further argued that the warrant of arrest issued by the Putrajaya Syariah subordinate court was in breach of the Federal Territory Syariah Criminal Procedure Code (FT Syariah CPC) and Kedah Syariah Enactments. Kassim, argued Rosli, was wrongfully charged before the Syariah subordinate court and hence the charges were also illegal.

Rosli  argued that the warrant of arrest issued by the Putrajaya Syariah subordinate court was in breach of the Federal Territory Syariah Criminal Procedure Code (FT Syariah CPC) and Kedah Syariah Enactments.Kassim was wrongfully charged before the Syariah subordinate court and hence the charges were also illegal.

Judge Asmabi also fixed clarification and decision to this morning January 14. However, this morning was also fixed for the Syariah Trial. The Syariah prosecutors refused to back down. They disregarded Rosli’s request for postponement. They insisted that he must come. But Rosli can’t be in two courts at the same‎ time, one in Jalan Duta and the other in Putrajaya.

Rosli laid down these facts to Judge Asmabi including the fact that JAWI instituted disciplinary action against Rosli for acting for Kassim in filing the Judicial Review. They wanted to disqualify him from ever appearing in the Syariah Court. They wanted to make sure that they do not have an opponent like him ever again.

Finally the Judge saw how oppressive JAWI can be.‎ Finally something pricked the Judge’s conscience after Rosli showed all the facts and the law that are all in Kassim’s favor and there was just no reason for the Judge to still rule against Kassim. Finally, Rosli’s perseverance paid off. And it helped that this morning reporters were in court to hear further arguments from Rosli and SFC Maisarah which clearly showed that the facts and the law were all in Kassim’s favor. Rosli was unmincing in his words in pointing out that the Federal Counsel had misled the court in the cases cited.

Just now at 12.30, Judge As‎mabi relented. She held that the civil High Court can stay JAWI and the Ketua Pendakwa Syarie from proceeding with the Syariah Prosecution in the Syariah Court. ‎Rosli thanked the Judge profusely and then ran off to go to the Syariah Court in Putrajaya. What drama!

Congrats to Kassim Ahmad. Congrats to Rosli Dahlan. And shame on you JAWI and the Ketua Pendakwa Syarie for acting in such oppressive way. In the end, that became JAWI’s undoing. In the end, the Judge had to look into her conscience and decided enough is enough. Kudos to Judge ‎Asmabi.

Much as the Judge did wrong in not granting the Judicial Review, she still had judicial wisdom and conscience not to perpetrate an injustice. Kassim Ahmad is 82 yrs old, frail and sickly. What good does JAWI achieve in doing all these? In the end, JAWI will only earn public displeasure and disapproval.

To Kassim and his lawyer, I say well done. I say your fighting spirit will help develop a more robust law. Your fighting spirit will inspire younger people that the history of Man has shown that you cannot imprison the mind.

That is what democracy is about. That is what the Rukun Negara states that Malaysia shall be a democratic society where pluralism of cultures and beliefs are embraced and liberal ideas shall flourish. Judges must therefore uphold the philosophy of the country and the Federal Constitution!. Hidup Malaysia!

READ: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/jawi-barred-from-acting-against-kassim-ahmad-rules-court-bernama

Moderate Malay Voices drown Ibrahim Ali’s racist rhetoric

December 25, 2014

Moderate Malay Voices drown Ibrahim Ali’s racist rhetoric

by Jocelyn Tan@www.thestar.com.my

PERKASA President Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s voice has been so dominant that many think his views reflect that of all Malays. But are things about to shift now with more moderate Malays speaking out?

DATUK Ibrahim Ali knows that size matters in politics. Hence, he made sure that the annual assembly of his PERKASA group last week was packed to the rafters. But the reality is that the numbers did not really matter because Ibrahim’s larger-than-life personality has completely overshadowed PERKASA.

Moreover, controversy has sort of become the second name of the PERKASA President and media people covering the gathering were looking out for, well, more controversy.

He did not disappoint. His “bangsat” (scum) roll-call of several UMNO leaders earned him a spot on what was trending in social media. It was not the first time he was trending and, as in previous occasions, it was not for the best of reasons.

There is no denying Ibrahim has a following among the Malays. The fact that so few in UMNO have dared to criticise him says a lot about his Malay agenda clout.

PERKASA has also managed to attract some pretty big names into its rank and file such as former Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Aziz and former IGP Tan Sri Rahim Mohd Noor.

Ibrahim-ali and MahathirIbrahim Ali and Patron

The biggest fish to date is former Chief Judge Tun Hamid Mohamad who has been quite vocal. Leading statesman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is also a key supporter who attends PERKASA events.

In short, Ibrahim had been riding high. He is arguably Malaysia’s most controversial politician and his ultra right-wing views have dominated the Malay political landscape so much so that many non-Malays had imagined that all Malays were like Ibrahim – that is, until recently.

The emergence of a group of 25 prominent Malays, since dubbed G25, has created a stir among the intelligentsia following their open letter which appeared in The Star on Dec 8. The letter stood out for what the group had to say as well as for its eloquent and well-argued points.

Group of 25Group of 25

The group was concerned about the country’s future and how Islam had been politicised. They called for a review of Syariah and civil law so that it would be consistent with the Federal Constitution.

Blogger Ahiruddin Attan, better known as Rocky, was impressed enough to write in his blog: “Some of them are genuinely eminent. Their arrival will provide another great avenue for the silent majority to channel their views and feelings and be heard.”

A week later, another group of 32 distinguished Malay individuals that included two serving muftis, lawyers and academics, penned their own open letter that was also published by The Star.

Their views, especially on Islamic laws and its administration, differed markedly from that of the G25. But, again, what struck many readers was the reasoned and civil manner by which they put across their arguments.

The G32, for want of a better name, advocate a central role for Syariah law. They cited a 2013 global survey that showed that 86% of Muslims in Malaysia favoured making Syariah the official law.

“They are a very credible group of eminent Muslims. You have the muftis for Perak and Penang. For people like them to come out, it shows they are concerned about the discussion going on about Islam and the Syariah system,” said Dr Yusri Mohamad, Deputy Chairman of the Islamic Dakwah Foundation.

One might say, two open letters, so what?But it is more than that. It shows that there are credible Malays who are concerned enough to want to take a stand and make a difference.

They are part of the thinking Malays out there who can differ and disagree without being confrontational or resorting to insults and name-calling.

They are also proof of the diverse Malay intellectual landscape out there. So long as individuals like them remain silent, they are allowing those like Ibrahim to own the Malay intellectual space.

Ahmad Kamil JaafarMembers of the G25 were part of the early Malay elite who ended their careers as top government officials. For instance, one of them, Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar, had a glittering career as a diplomat before becoming secretary-general of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. His memoirs Growing Up With The Nation came out a few years ago and it is said that even Dr Mahathir deferred to him on foreign affairs in their heyday.

“Why is it so hard to find the middle ground to move forward? You are expected to fit into a certain pigeonhole but life is not that simple,” said lawyer Khairuddin Mohd Zain.

It is also apparent that not all Malays are thrilled with what theG25 has to say, especially their stand on transgender rights and their defence of Sisters in Islam. The Islamists are concerned that theG25 will go down the same path as Sisters in Islam whose liberal interpretation of religion appeal largely to non-Muslims.

Any debate about the Malays, said Dr Yusri, is very much centred around the question of Islam.“We cannot run away from that,” he said.

The Malays are bound together by a great religion but as a race they are far from being the homogeneous entity that they have been made out to be.

Balanced view

“It’s mind-boggling that we have come to this juncture. To me, alternative voices must be allowed to be heard, let’s hear from both sides,” said Khairuddin, who is an occasional columnist in Utusan Malaysia.

But even contemporary-minded Malays like Rocky Bru and Khairuddin are not against PERKASA per se. They identify with the Malay agenda that PERKASA stands for but are uncomfortable with Ibrahim’s personality and tactics.

Rocky had actually signed up to be a member of PERKASA in its birthing years. But the application got lost along the way, which was just as well because he feels that the organisation has lost its compass.

“It’s fine if Malays like Ibrahim want to speak on behalf of those who think like him. The G25 are people who feel that PERKASA is not representative of who they are. Of course, they are not representative of all Malays but neither is PERKASA or ISMA or, for that matter, UMNO.

“Call them names if you have to, but once you’re done, let’s hear the 25 out. They are Malays too, you know, and right now, what we need is for all Malays to stand up and speak up,” said Rocky who is also an advisor to an English publication.

Ibrahim is not going away anytime soon. He will continue to be a force mainly because he has support. But what has changed is that people now know that Ibrahim’s audience is not as all-encompassing as it was made out to be. They know now that his voice does not represent all Malays.

Sarawak, for one, has shut its doors to PERKASA. The group has been told that it is not welcome in the state. Recently, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri, who is Nancy Shukrifrom Sarawak, faced a firestorm back home after telling Parliament that no action would be taken against Ibrahim over his alleged statement about burning the Malay language Bibles. He was supposed to have said that after the father of a Malay student lodged a police report of Bibles being distributed at his son’s school in Penang.

Nancy was so badly bashed on the Internet that she said she was at the “lowest ebb of my life”. “I never dreamt that one day I would be branded as someone who is anti-Christian or a supporter of those calling for Bible burning,” she said. What she went through was an indication thatPERKASA has become the bogeyman in Sarawak politics.Ibrahim has always been this way – loud, confrontational and a street fighter. Those who love him see him as a hero who is doing what UMNO has failed to do. Those who dislike him see him as a bully, an extremist and even a racist. They make jokes about him and they run him down.

His reputation is such that when he opens his mouth, people no longer look at the message, they only see the messenger and that is not good. He has become his own worst enemy. For instance, the media was so fixated on him that they ignored the keynote address of the ex-Chief Judge who had some hard truths for PERKASA.

Hamid, now a target of the opposition parties, told PERKASA members that nothing is free in life and that the way to success is hard work rather than a “buat kenduri” or happy-go-lucky attitude. He said PERKASA wants to put UMNO back on the right path but it should not be at the expense of a split among the Malays.

He has probably heard of how certain PERKASA people have been lobbying the government for projects because he urged them to be clean and uphold integrity.”I wouldn’t want to be part of a group with worms,” he said.

Will the more diverse Malay debate lead to greater understanding or more conflict?

Puzzled NajibA Confused Leader

“Not conflict, but it will cause more confusion before there is greater understanding,” said Dr Marzuki Mohamad, the Political Secretary to the Education Minister.

The Malay debate is not new. At the same time, it is very much a work in progress. Marzuki has the best suggestion for the road ahead: “It will be fine if everyone keeps to the ethics of disagreement. That means giving room for each other to speak, respecting each others’ views and abiding by the law.”

1MDB Chairman Lok Wok Kamaruddin Explains

December 22, 2014

1MDB Chairman Lok Wok Kamaruddin Explains

lodin-wok-kamaruddinAs the Chairman of the Board of Directors of 1MDB, I have viewed with surprise recent statements, both in the media and by certain individuals, suggesting that the company has failed to respond to various questions that have been directed at it over the past months.

As the Board of Directors, we welcome debate, and as a company that is wholly-owned by the Ministry of Finance – and by extension, the people – we believe that public scrutiny of 1MDB is a good thing, and will only serve to strengthen the company and its governance.

In the interests of increasing the company’s transparency, I have held meetings with members of the media where I listened to and responded to their concerns.

Furthermore, the company has taken various other measures such as issuing multiple statements responding to allegations directed at the company, publishing a detailed document answering frequently asked questions, and releasing a public statement outlining key highlights from 1MDB’s last financial results – the first time 1MDB has done so since the company’s inception in 2009.

All of this information is freely available on 1MDB’s website, and we believe that these actions reflect our efforts to engage in a more open and constructive dialogue than has perhaps been the case in the past.

Despite this, issues that have previously been raised and, subsequently, addressed by the company continues to be regurgitated by certain individuals. In the interests of providing clarity, we would once again like to respond to the various concerns.

1MDB’s funding and debt levels

Contrary to claims, 1MDB is not a sovereign wealth fund but rather a strategic development company. In practice, this translates into a company that is independently run and funded, but one whose investment decisions are driven by the interests of the national economy.

Whilst a sovereign wealth fund and a strategic development company may not sound very different, there is an important distinction between the two: whereas a sovereign wealth fund is directly funded by the government and invests on its behalf, 1MDB raises and invest its own capital.

In fact, in terms of actual funding, the company has only ever received RM1 million in equity, which was provided by the Ministry of Finance at the time of its inception.

Given that 1MDB does not receiving any funding from the government, it is therefore simply not true to claim that the company is investing or worse, wasting, the state’s – or the people’s – money.

As 1MDB funds its own operations, it should not be surprising that, from time to time, the company raises capital on the international debt markets in order to finance some of its projects. However, all of this debt is backed by solid assets.

trx 2

At present, this includes the 15 power and desalination plants in five countries that comprise our energy business, as well as our extensive property portfolio which includes 70 acres of prime real estate currently being developed as TRX – Kuala Lumpur’s first dedicated financial district, 495 acres of land on the site of the old airport in Sultan Besi earmarked for Bandar Malaysia – a mixed-use urban development, and 234 acres of land in the centre of Air Itam, Penang.

The total value of the company’s assets (RM51.4 billion as at the financial year end of March 2014) comfortably exceeds the value of its total debts (RM41.9 billion for the same period). This means that the company has net assets of close to RM10 billion, representing the value it has created since its inception five years ago.

Furthermore, this does not take into account the expected benefit to be realised from the initial public offering of the group’s energy portfolio, which will help de-leverage the group and contribute towards reducing its debt profile.

Finance costs and interest rates paid by 1MDB

Like any business, 1MDB attempts to secure the lowest rate of interest and finance costs when taking out a loan or conducting a bond issue. However, in certain instances, these interest rates and finance costs have been towards the higher end of the market rate.

It has to be understood that, when it comes to raising debt on the financial markets, there is no one size fits all solution.A number of factors determine the finance costs and the interest rate applied to a loan or bond issuance. These include the length of maturity, whether the loans are underwritten or guaranteed, macro-economic factors, and many more.

To take one example, we are aware that concerns have been raised about the 5.75% interest rate assigned to a RM5.0 billion Islamic bond that was issued by 1MDB in 2009. As a comparison, it has been noted that another government-linked company PETRONAS paid an interest rate of 3.60% on a bond at the same time.

This is an unfair comparison that does not take into account a number of important factors. To highlight just one: when subscribing to a bond, lenders take on a certain degree of risk and the longer the tenure, the higher the risk for the bondholder. Therefore, bonds that have a longer maturity period typically have a higher interest rate.

To the best of our knowledge, the only PETRONAS-related bond issued in 2009 that carried a coupon rate of 3.6% was for a RM100 million bond with the tenure of only three years, whereas the 1MDB bond had a tenure of 30 years. As such, given the significant difference between the maturity periods, it should not be surprising that the bond issued by 1MDB had a higher interest rate.

More broadly, it is important to note that the bond issued by 1MDB in 2009 was the first Malaysian bond with a 30-year tenure, and the first Islamic bond to be issued with a maturity period of that length. Given the economic climate at the time, the fact that 1MDB successfully managed to raise this amount of capital reflects the support, goodwill and confidence placed in the company.

Funds regulated by the Cayman Monetary Authority

There has also been substantial debate about funds invested by the company regulated by the Cayman Monetary Authority. However, anyone familiar with the financial world should be able to confirm that there is nothing unusual about companies of this size investing their funds in the Cayman Islands, which is one of the largest registered fund jurisdictions internationally, with the Cayman Monetary Authority recognised as one of the leading fund regulators in the world.

Thousands of international blue-chip companies have funds regulated by the Cayman Monetary Authority, including over 200 Malaysian companies, many of which are household names.

To provide some background with respect to 1MDB’s investment: in 2009, 1MDB and a Saudi Arabian company entered into a joint venture to facilitate long-term economic cooperation between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. As part of this, a joint-venture fund was set up to undertake investments on projects which would generate financial and strategic benefits to both countries.

However, due to various factors, both parties eventually decided not to proceed with these plans. As a consequence, 1MDB’s investment in the company was converted into a fixed income instrument in the form of Murahaba notes, essentially a loan, with an annual interest rate of 8.75%. This loan was paid back in full, for US$2.318 billion with a profit of US$488 million, in 2013.

Repatriating these funds to Malaysia would have exposed them to fluctuations on the foreign exchange market, as being witnessed at the moment. In order to ensure that 1MDB maintained a strong liquidity position with a truly diversified global portfolio, these funds were invested in a 1MDB subsidiary that was registered in the Cayman Islands. However, the company has already redeemed a significant portion, US$1.4 billion, of the fund and expects to redeem the remaining amount in the coming months.

Overpaying for power assets

In line with the government’s strategic aim of ensuring Malaysia’s energy security, 1MDB has acquired a number of energy assets since 2012. These acquisitions have allowed the company to diversify its fuel mix and country risks, as well as benefit from healthy cash flows and the expertise of their excellent management teams.

The claims relating to the amounts 1MDB paid for its energy assets revolve around values that were attributed to the assets at the time they were acquired and on the basis of certain assumptions made by external parties.

However, the company takes a long term view and consider broader synergies for the group, as well as the social and economic impact on the country, when we evaluate assets and forecast economic returns.

As such, it is the management team’s strong belief that the value paid for these assets, which may have involved a premium in certain instances – as is common when acquiring another business, is commensurate with their existing and future potential.

It is also important to note that since acquiring its first energy assets in 2012, 1MDB has built this into the second largest independent power producer in Malaysia, with a strong presence in international markets within three years.

In total, 1MDB’s energy business has consolidated 5594MW of net capacity, comprising both gas and coal fired plants. This portfolio provides the business with healthy cash flows and enables 1MDB to participate in bids for coal and gas fired plants, the two primary fuel source for power generation assets in the markets that the company operates in, allowing it to create further value and drive future growth.

As such, the economic benefit gained from these assets means that the company has recuperated any excess value it may have paid at the time of the acquisitions.

Overpaying for land

Any decision the company makes to invest in real estate is reached following an extensive period of due diligence, which includes the appointment of independent appraisers to determine the value of the land at the time of the acquisition, whilst also taking into account the value the company can add to it.

All of 1MDB’s investments are undertaken in line with the best interests of the business, and with a view to stimulating economic growth and prosperity in Malaysia.

We understand that there has been some speculation about the value paid by 1MDB for a land parcel in Penang. This land is located in the centre of the town of Air Itam, a much sought after area where property prices have seen a substantial increase in recent years.

This is reflected in the prices that other developers have paid to acquire land in neighbouring areas which, at over RM200 per sq ft, is substantially higher than what 1MDB paid.

In fact, in one instance dating back to 2013, approximately 9.8 hectares in Air Itam were purchased for RM267.4 million, about RM251 per sq ft, for a mixed-use development. In another, approximately RM251 per sq ft was paid for a mixed development project near the Kek Lok Si Temple.

Given the general difficulty companies face in finding sizeable plots of land in prime areas of Penang, that are suitable for carrying out large-tier development projects, the amount paid by 1MDB for this land was not only commensurate with its value but highly attractive.

Preferential treatment on power contracts

Any award takes a number of factors into consideration: the technical standards of the bid, the track record of the company, the bidding price, the urgency of the project and the whole systems cost of the bid to name a few. The projects that 1MDB have been awarded, in Malaysia and abroad, have been on this basis.

Earlier this year, a joint consortium consisting of 1MDB and Mitsui & Co, Japan’s second-largest general trading company, participated in an open and competitive tender exercise for a 2,000MW coal-fired power plant known as Project 3B. Following due consideration of the various bids, the Energy Commission announced that the joint 1MDB-Mitsui consortium had been chosen as the preferred bidder.

Subsequently, there have been suggestions that 1MDB received preferential treatment, and the basis of these claims is that the company’s bid was not the lowest offered. This rationale is flawed as it fails to take into account the fact that any award is based on a number of considerations, not just the tariff.

Whilst there was a bid that was slightly lower than the one presented by 1MDB, the fact is that 1MDB’s was the lowest compliant bid, with a proposed levelised tariff of 25.33 sen/kWh. There was a bid that was fractionally lower, of 25.12 sen/kWh, but this proposal did not comply with a number of requirements set out by the Energy Commission, key amongst which was their lack of experience operating a coal plant.

As the Energy Commission announced in a public statement, the 1MDB-Mitsui Consortium won the bidding exercise “in a fair and square manner with a well-proven technology that would enhance security of supply expected of a 2000MW coal-fired power plant operating in a grid system of our size”.

It is also important to note that there are other tenders that 1MDB has participated in where the contract has been awarded to other parties.

For example, despite 1MDB offering the lowest bid for a gas-fired plant in Prai, another company was deemed as offering a better overall package and awarded the contract on that basis. – December 22, 2014.

*Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin is Chairman of the Board of Directors, 1MDB.


Anwar Ibrahim’s D.S.S.A. Award revoked by HRH Sultan of Selangor

December 4, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim’s D.S.S.A. Award revoked by HRH Sultan of Selangor

Commentary by The Malaysian Insider


It must take a lot for any Malay Ruler to strip someone of a royal award.

sultan-selangorToday, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim learnt that the Seri Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (S.S.S.A.) award given by the Selangor palace in 1992 has been revoked. The royal award bestows the title “Datuk Seri” but of course, Anwar possesses similar awards from other royal households.

These royal awards mean a lot to any politician or businessman, and for civil servants who have served the country. Especially if it comes from one’s own home state.

But the simple fact is we come into the world without titles – just plain old Encik, Cik, Mr. and Miss – and when we finally leave the world, all this worldly baggage has to be left behind – titles, wealth, wives, houses and mansions, super yachts and the latest sports car.

In the past, others have also been stripped off their awards, including the former MCA Deputy President Tan Sri Lee Kim Sai, who lost his Selangor award in 1987. And probably in the future, some others might also lose such awards.

People are still people without titles, and it goes the same for politicians or any leader for that matter. A royal award is meant as a rare recognition and being revoked of one is a royal rebuke.

So, it is within the prerogative of the Selangor Sultan to revoke the royal award which his father had issued but also within the prerogative of Malaysians to have opinions and views about him and other rulers, however pungent they may be.

Anwar Ibrahim Ops LeaderAfter all, what does any man or woman leave behind as their name or legacy once they are dead and gone? Their deeds and misdemeanours, if any.

In Anwar’s case, as is for any other Malaysian politician, their life and legacy is from what they do to serve and lead Malaysia, a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Their ultimate recognition will be from all Malaysians, not the few.

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

July 14, 2014

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

by Josh Hong@www.malaysiakini.com

Germany's players lifts the World Cup trophyI once saw a picture at the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany. Dated July 4, 1954, it depicted a group of men with broken teeth, crutches and in worn-out clothes shouting for joy over West Germany’s victory at the FIFA World Cup Final.

The West Germans had just barely recovered from the horrific World War II, and Hungary had been widely tipped to win the title. Still, West Germany went on to claim the crown as a dark horse, and the game is known historically as ‘Das Wunder von Bern’ (‘the Miracle of Bern’; Bern is the Swiss capital where the final was held).

The 1954 World Cup was particularly meaningful to West Germany for several reasons: it was the first time that Das Lied Der Deutschen (the Song of the Germans) was played at an international sporting event since the end of WWII, signifying the return of the country into the world community, while defeating the then communist-ruled Hungary was hailed as an ideological triumph.

Two decades later, West Germany was showered with greater global recognition when it hosted the 1974 World Cup and was crowned champion. If 1954 symbolised West Germany’s international acceptance, 1974 probably took on a greater significance in that the country demonstrated proudly to the world its reemergence as an economic power, rising from the ashes of the catastrophic Nazi regime (which hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin), preceded also by the 1972 Olympics.

It was most ironic that, while Britain and France, the two WWII victors, were mired in incessant labour strikes as industrial production came to a virtual halt, West Germany’s economic development and standard of living continued to improve by leaps and bounds.

Then came the eventful autumn of 1989, when the Eastern Blocs were on the verge of drastic revolution. Berlin Wall, 1989Many East Germans drove their Trabants right up to the Berlin Wall and demanded that the gates be opened.

When their calls went unanswered, they took out sledgehammers and chisels and started dismantling the wall themselves, and the (in)famous wall did come tumbling down within weeks. Welcoming the Ossis was not only the far advanced Volkswagen produced by the Wessis, but also the abundantly available commodities in the shops in West Berlin.

When West Germany beat Argentina to claim the World Cup title on  July 8, 1990, East German fans erupted in euphoria publicly for the first time. Three months later, East and West Germany became history.

Rebranding the country

When the reunified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup, the German government at the time made use of the opportunity to rebrand the country as a Land of Ideas (Land der Ideen), seeking to promote to the world Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Beethoven, philosopher Jürgen Habermas and many other modern achievements alongside football.

It represented a conscious effort on the part of the Germans to remind the international community that, having faced up to historical issues squarely, it was time that Germany should be free to celebrate its achievements for and contributions to the world.

The reunified Germany failed to win the World Cup in 2006, but many a European country was impressed with a new Germany that was not only confident and forward-looking, but also warm and hospitable, so much so that the British tabloids, usually relishing in insulting Germany with WWII references, toned down their wording and English fans could be seen waving the German flag during the semi-final between Germany and Argentina.

Now that Germany has once again made it to the final, the question whether the reunified country will win a historic World Cup is again in the mind of many, for a win on this coming Sunday (Brazilian time) would go a long way in affirming Germany’s coming of age, and I wish them all the best.

After all, no other competition arouses one’s nationalistic sentiment and sharpens political differences more than football – with the exception of an actual war. Seen in this light, what Germany destroyed last Tuesday was not just Brazil’s world status as a land of football, but it’s very national identity as well.

For historical reasons, the Germans are not used to overt symbols of nationalism, but it does not mean they should tolerate idiotic insults such as Bung Mokhtar’s ‘Hitler tweet’ in the wake of Germany’s thumping victory over Brazil. It is outrageous because no other countries have demonstrated so much goodwill and sincerity in dealing with historical baggage as Germany, especially when the country has shown no signs of relenting in pursuing justice for the victims.

Bung Mokhtar’s brainless tweet is more than a personal gaffe because it exposes the quality (or the lack thereof) of UMNO politicians. The fact that he continues to be a wakil rakyat is an utter shame to Malaysia.

NOTE: Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time on Sunday July 13, 2014 in Rio . It was thriller. witnessed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and a strong contingent of German fans while the rest of the world witnessed a spectacle of great sportsmanship and fine football. –Din Merican
JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

The controversial Johor Housing and Property Enactment 2014 (with amendments) passed by the State Assembly

June 9, 2014


The controversial Johor Housing and Property Enactment 2014 (with amendments) has been passed by the state assembly at 5.20pm. http://www.nst.com.my

June 9, 2014


Sultan listens to MB? Dream on, says Zaid

Today, if any Menteri Besar or Exco member claims that the Malay ruler acts on his or her advice, “you can tell them to dream on”, said former minister Zaid Ibrahim.

Although the words “acting on advice of the Menteri Besar (or Prime Minister)” are  used in the state and federal constitutions, he added the practice is actually the other way around.

“The Ruler now decides things and it is wishful thinking for any Menteri besar to believe otherwise. Just look at what has happened in Terengganu, Perak, Perlis, and Kelantan.After the Perak case, it is also clear that the position of Menteri Besar is very much dependent on the pleasure of his Highness both in terms of appointment and removal,” he said.

In the early days of Independence, Zaid said it was more straightforward as Malaysia adopted and observed the Westminster model in totality.

For example, he added, any appointment of a Menteri Besar or state Exco Member was always dependent on the decision of the party leader whose party won the most seats in the assembly.

“The Menteri Besar and Chief Minister had real power and it was unheard of that any Malay Ruler could exercise direct influence on public policy of any kind,” he noted in his blog.

Zaid was referring to the opposition coming from UMNO with regard to the Housing and Real Property Bill, passed by the Johor state assembly yesterday, with amendments to limit the Sultan’s role. The Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Noordin also explained that the Sultan would act on the Menteri Besar’s advice.

The ‘funny Malays’

Meanwhile, Zaid also claimed that UMNO consisted of a band of rib ticklers, who switched agendas when it suited them. Commenting on the New Sunday Times headline on the Johor bill issue, which read “Follow the Constitution”, the ex-Minister said it sounded desperate and hollow.

“This is because those making the plea were the ones responsible for giving special meaning to the provisions of the constitution whenever it suited them. Now they reap what they have sown.

“You see, UMNO Malays are funny people: when it suits them or their political agenda, they will declare support for the overriding power of the Malay rulers. They will say that our constitution is ‘unique’.

“They will say that the Malay rulers have special powers to protect the Malays and Islam. They do not want us lawyers to interpret the constitution in the same way as is done in modern constitutional democracies,” he added. But when the rulers start exercising these real powers, which can deprive them of their businesses, Zaid remarked that the UMNO Malays would cry foul.

Lumping PERKASA and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) into the same category as UMNO, he said these “funny Malays” are willing to sacrifice the institutions of real democracy, such as the Westminster model of constitutional monarchy, for short-term political gains.

Zaid also recalled Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as saying that the golden years of the Malay empire and Malay intellectualism began way back in the 13th century.

“That being the case, the Malay sultanates have done more for the Malays over the past 700 years than UMNO, which was born in 1946. This is why PERKASA and UMNO leaders in Johor are hopping mad and are calling for the bill to be removed or postponed,” he added.

Zaid is also certain that other Malay rulers would follow Johor’s example and respond accordingly to assert their power. “They are already quietly involved in large businesses and are entrenched in sports such as football.I suggest that they widen their areas of interest to match UMNO’s – after all, they can easily match UMNO’s business skills. Indeed, the Malays must not be too concerned about trusting the Malay rulers more than UMNO,” he said.