IACC : Global Shame for Malaysia–Corruption

September 5, 2015

 IACC : Global Shame for Malaysia–Corruption

by Lim Kit Siang, MP for Gelang Patah


LKSThe three-day 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya were three days of global public relations (PR) disaster for Malaysia, a shameful 72-hour torment on the pride, honour and dignity of Malaysia never experienced by Malaysians in nearly six decades of nationhood.

It started with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s last-minute, panicky and ill-advised pull-out from the opening ceremony of the IACC (in fear of hard questions, “personal issues” and “a possible hostile reception”), replaced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low, who started his speech with the cryptic remark: “I am not here to defend the Prime Minister. I am here fighting for my job.”

Right from the very beginning of the opening ceremony, Malaysia’s corruption crisis, in particular the “two elephants in the room”, the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” financial scandals, took centre-stage and remained the most obsessive issue throughout the three-day conference, up to the closing ceremony.

Right from the beginning of the IACC, Transparency International president Jose Ugaz opened up with a powerful plea for “honesty and integrity” from the Najib administration, asking Najib pointedly to restore confidence and trust by answering questions about the US$700 million in his personal bank accounts – (1) who paid the money and why; and (2) Where did it go.

This was followed up on the second day by the TI co-founder and erstwhile adviser to Najib on anti-corruption matters, Michael J Hershman, telling Najib to come clean on the RM2.6 billion donation that he received.

Hershman (photo) advised Najib: “Tell the truth about where did the money come from and address the accusation. And if he did something wrong, then asked for forgiveness and face the consequences.”

Hershman said the explanations given so far were not good enough. He said; “If it came from the Middle East, who did it come from? When did it come and for what purpose? These are very simple questions.” He added that since Najib had control of the account, he must know where it came from.

“There is no reason for a panel for investigations. Just tell the truth. Get it out in the public,” he added.

On the third and last day yesterday, the criticisms became an avalanche. Global Investigative Journalism Network Executive Director David Kaplan said those attempting to cover up the matter are out of touch with the times and that the government cannot conceal information on the RM2.6 billion deposited into PM Najib’s personal bank accounts in the digital age.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty (photo) asked if the RM2.6 billion in Najib’s personal bank accounts was “grand corruption”.

Transparency International Managing Director Cobus De Swardt warned that in the absence of answers and an independent investigation, “suspicion of corruption, mistrust and appearance of being above the law will prevail”.

The Chairman of UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) coalition, Manzoor Hasan, wants Najib to step down as Prime Minister to allow the investigation into the RM2.6 billion donation he received to proceed without interference.

Malaysia’s travails went on till the very close of IACC with the Transparency International Vice-President Elena Panfilova reiterating that Najib has to come clean on the RM2.6 billion in his personal bank accounts.

Malaysia was literally hauled over the coals at the IACC for the corruption crisis in the country as no one in Government could give any satisfactory or acceptable answer – which is understandable when even the Prime Minister had turned tail from the IACC – although Najib’s Ministers could have done a better job.

[One time Maybank President, Wahid Omar, is now one of the Jokers in the PM’s Department. The other is Paul Low, former Transparency International Malaysia Chapter President who was handpicked to spearhead Malaysia’s anti-corruption crusade. One more Joker, Idris Jala, former Chief honcho of Permandu, has returned to the Long House in Sarawak still in transformation blues mode. As for MACC’s Abu Kassim, he is confined to a wheel chair after the rm2.6 billion shock. May he recover soon as there is still unfinished business.–Din Merican]

When the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Wahid Omar (photo above) in the closing address, had to invoke God, saying that those who had committed any crime would ultimately be punished though not immediately, pronouncing “If not today, tomorrow, next month, or five years down the road or 10 years down the road. Rest assured, there is God in this world and the truth will prevail”, it was tantamount to Q.E.D about the corruption crisis in Malaysia.

Malu Malu UMNOShame, Shame, Shame on Malaysia

The last three days had been Malaysia’s most shameful and embarrassing experience – we providing an international platform to be lectured by a Peruvian, Cameroonian, Russian, Australian and American among others as if Malaysia is a rogue student caught red-handed in gross misconduct.

However mortifying the 16th IACC had been for Malaysians for the last three days, it is not the end but the beginning of Malaysia’s humiliation on the international stage unless we are capable of change and reform.

In the digital age, where information travels at the speed of light, the world through the 1,000 IACC delegates from 130 countries, will follow with sharp and keen interest and concern whether Malaysia sinks into the bottomless pit or is capable to get back our bearings in our quest for a society with zero tolerance for corruption.

Malaysia’s corruption crisis, and the failure of the Prime Minister to open the conference and to come clean, has rendered the 16th IACC theme, “Ending Impunity: People. Integrity. Action” a failure, as good as excising the word “Ending” of the 16th IACC theme to reduce it to: “Impunity: People. Integrity. Action”.

Malaysians cannot be bystanders to address and resolve Malaysia’s corruption crisis which has been internationalized by the 16th IACC into a global corruption scandal.

Although the Parliament secretary has sent out notice for the Parliamentary budget meeting beginning on October 19, Malaysians and the world cannot wait for six weeks for parliamentary action to be taken to address the corruption crisis in Malaysia.

For this reason, I call on Najib to convene an Emergency Parliament within the next fortnight, which should meet for at least two days, to continue from where the 16th IACC left off to find answers to the corruption crisis in Malaysia – and which can, among other things, end the sabotage of parliamentary investigations on 1MDB by filling the vacancy of Public Accounts Committee chairperson and three other PAC members as well as to resolve on the immediate public release of the Auditor-General’s interim report on 1MDB.

Watch out: Malaysian Big Brother is snooping on Us

July 13, 2015

Watch out: Malaysian Big Brother is snooping on Us

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com


john-berthelsenIf you live in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam and you are an activist, the government probably knows a lot more about the inside of your computer than you think, and more than you want it to.

On July 5, unknown hackers broke into the computers a shadowy company based in Italy that has become notorious across the world. With offices in Milan, Washington, DC and Singapore, its name is The Hacking Team, and it is one of a half-dozen such firms identified as “digital era mercenaries” because they sell products to governments to spy surreptitiously on their own citizens.

Najib in anxietyHe can go to sleep because he is using technology to snoop  and spinners to dupe Us

Top Asian clients among the countries using The Hacking Team’s services are Malaysia, the seventh-biggest spender, paying The Hacking Team US$1,861,131 for its assistance in spying on its citizens. Singapore is 10th, just behind the US, which is 9th. Singapore paid The Hacking Team US$1,209,963. Vietnam is 21st, at US$560,735, followed by Thailand at US$466,482.

According to the Massachusetts-based CSO cyber-security firm, the US Department of Defense apparently had a contract with The Hacking Team but no longer does. The FBI had an active maintenance contract until June 30 and the Drug Enforcement Agency has a renewal in progress.

The hackers, whoever they were, downloaded 400 gigabytes of internal documents, source codes and email communications with governments and dumped the haul onto the Internet. The documents tell a chilling story of helping some of the world’s most repressive countries including Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Azerbijan and Kazakhstan. In all, 38 countries are on the list of clients. According to other sources,  The Hacking Team also expressed the intention to go after Human Rights Watch and other such activist organizations. 


And what do they get for their money? Here is a presentation on the company’s website to entice governments to spy. It is well worth listening to:

“You have new challenges today. Sensitive data is transmitted over encrypted channels. Often the info you want is not transmitted at all. Your target may be outside your monitoring domain. Is passive monitoring enough?  You want more. You want to look through your target’s eyes. You have to hack your target.  You have to hit many different platforms. You have to overcome encryption and capture relevant data. Being stealthy and untraceable. Deployed all over your country. That is exactly what we do. Remote Control System Galileo. The hacking suite for governmental interception. Rely on us.”

Big Bro1

“Without advanced technology, authoritarian regimes would not be able to spy on their citizens,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They sell products that are used by authoritarian governments to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. They are Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat.”

Bahrain’s royal family has used Trovicor’s surveillance and interception products to spy on news providers and arrest them, according to Reporters Without Borders. Blue Coat’s deep packet inspection products have made it possible for Syria to spy on dissidents and netizens throughout the country, and to arrest and torture them. Amesys provided products to the Libyan secret police during the late Muammar Gaddafi’s reign. The Hacking Team and Gamma have provided malware to capture the passwords of journalists and bloggers.

“Online surveillance is a growing danger for journalists, citizen-journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Regimes seeking to control news and information increasingly prefer to act discreetly. Rather than resort to content blocking that generates bad publicity and is early circumvented, they prefer subtle forms of censorship and surveillance that their targets are often unaware of.”

The contract with the Malaysian government apparently was routed through the Prime Minister’s Office, “Malaysian Intelligence,” both listed as “active,” and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, now listed as “expired” according to documents made public by CSO.  Thailand’s contract, with the country’s department of corrections, was listed as expired. A full list of curated documents made available by CSO can be found here.

The Singapore government’s Infocom Development Agency is the unit that apparently purchased the Galileo software. That agency, according to its website, “formulates and develops short- and medium-term infocomm-related policies, as well as standards, codes of practices and advisory guidelines – all of which are enforceable by IDA – pertaining to issues such as licensing, interconnection, resource and competition management, to name a few. IDA also monitors local and global infocomm market trends, developments and regulatory measures, while remaining technology-neutral, to ensure that the current infocomm policies and regulatory frameworks are effective and relevant.”

According to The Hacking Company’s website, “In today’s connected world, data is moving from private devices to the social cloud. Encryption is everywhere to protect the users’ privacy from prying eyes. In the same way, encryption is hiding criminal intents from you. Don’t you feel you are going blind? Sometimes relevant data are bound inside the device, never transmitted and kept well protected … unless you are right on that device.”

The government’s target, according to the website, “can be anywhere today, while your hands are tied as soon as he moves outside the country. You cannot stop your targets from moving. How can you keep chasing them? What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain. Remote Control System does exactly that.”

The system allows governments to take control of target computers and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility. “It doesn’t matter if you are after an Android phone or a Windows computer: you can monitor all the devices. Remote Control System is invisible to the user, evades antivirus and firewalls, and doesn’t affect the devices’ performance or battery life. Hack into your targets with the most advanced infection vectors available. Enter his wireless network and tackle tactical operations with ad-hoc equipment designed to operate while on the move.

“Keep an eye on all your targets and manage them remotely, all from a single screen. Be alerted on incoming relevant data and have meaningful events automatically highlighted. Remote Control System: the hacking suite for governmental interception. Right at your fingertips.”

Paul Stadlen: Good Things must end

July 12, 2015

Paul Stadlen: Good Things must end

by The Sarawak Report

Paul's Fun

The fun-loving communications chief in the Prime Minister’s Department, UK national Paul Stadlen, has been spending the past fortnight shredding documents at his offices at the Bangsar Menara building, say insiders.The job was all done and his 8th floor office neatly shut and closed just days before the raid was carried out down the corridor on the SRC International office, which is run by Jho Low’s close contact Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, last Friday.

Others on the corridor suspect that Stadlen received a tip off on the raid – one that he did not share with others:

“…man with shredder seen coming in and out in days before raid. Stadlen office shut up just before raid…. am thinking Stadlen getting tip off before SRC / NCT office raids. His office not getting raided that day because nobody there. So Stadlen saves his own skin and doesn’t share his tip off with others”, one said bitterly to Sarawak Report.

The information is useful, because it indicates that not only was SRC raided, but that the National Communications Team, which also forms part of the Prime Minister’s Office, were also subjected to the scrutiny of law enforcers on that day.

SRC and the PMO’s Parallel Communications Team

Indeed, the 8th Floor of the Menara Building appears to have become something of a parallel outfit, operating off site and outside of the Prime Minister’s official bureaucracy. This has amongst other things enabled the former APCO chief, Stadlen, to disguise his role as the man in actual charge of communications.

The money taken by SRC back in 2011 has never been properly accounted for and the company was brought directly under the Ministry of Finance (also controlled by Najib) as demands for transparency grew at 1MDB.

Now that it has been ascertained that millions of ringgit were recently transferred from SRC by Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil into the Prime Minister’s own personal accounts (the background to last week’s raid) there is inevitable speculation that this company could have been used to fund the PM’s ‘special ops’ and communications teams based on 8th floor of the Menara building – including the ludicrously well paid Stadlen himself, whose salary was moved off the official books following criticism some years back.

Stadlen’s disgruntled colleagues are now wondering if he is planning to jump ship completely, since he is no longer operating out of his Menara office.

“He is still in KL for now but gone dark. Not working from Bangsar office, but spotted in PMO and PM’s KL residence”, confirmed one.

Indeed, Stadlen, who currently sports a brand new Audi A7, is still confirmed as working for the Prime Minister and has been seen in his offices and residence over the current crisis. However, he is attempting to lower his profile.  He has changed his business card from the old one, which confirmed his role, to a lower key number:

Paul's Old CardPaul's New CardStadlen, whom ministers have denied is being funded by the government to master-mind its PR, is therefore working harder on covering his role, but clearly still keen to hang on if he can.

Sarawak Report is reliably informed, for example, that it was Stadlen who penned the Foreign Minister, Anifah Aman’s recent “open letter” to the New York Times, which lashed out at the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir for criticising 1MDB and corruption issues associated with the present regime.

“Tun Dr Mahathir told the New York Times that UMNO “lacks vision and talented people”, that it “has become a repository of patronage-seeking politicians”, and that members “try to keep out people who are more intelligent than themselves”. But it is Tun Dr Mahathir himself, having led the party for 22 years, had during his time, worked to cultivate “yes men” and entrench his position – even introducing a quota system in the nomination for the UMNO presidency in order to prevent challengers – rather than bringing in talent and strengthening the party. On the other hand, it is Prime Minister Najib who democratised the party constitution to make it far easier to challenge him for his job” thundered Stadlen, pretending to be Anifah Aman.

You can see why the Prime Minister is keen to keep him in post.However, there is a dictum, which is that when the PR man becomes the story…. well then it is time for him to go.

Paul and FriendsStadlen has enjoyed a pay packet to die for, thanks to his services on behalf of the present Prime Minister – acting as a willing attack dog against those seen as his political enemies. He has also plainly enjoyed all the pleasures that Kuala Lumpur has to offer. However, now the investigation has clearly begun into the financing of the more shadowy aspects of the Prime Minister’s operations, bets are on over how long it will be before Paul Stadlen steps onto a flight back to London.

The Eminent Task Force on WSJ Allegations Froze a different set of bank accounts

July 8, 2015

COMMENT: Are you surprised? I am not. As I said in an earlier posting, these publicDin MericanX servants are Najib’s Men and Woman.  They are partisan and cannot be independent. If they are, they will not be chosen. They cannot be stupid. How can a group of professionals make a mistake like this one. Obviously, they are trying to protect their boss and give him to time to do some cover-up.

Soon we will learn that the documents as released by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) do not exist or have gone missing. Well, if Altantuya’s immigration records can disappear, what else Najib’s men cannot think of next.

It would appear that this investigation has started on a wrong footing and it is likely in my opinion going to be another sham. Our public officials cannot be relied upon to do the right thing. If you cannot trust our government and the people in power and officials who work for them, Malaysia is a disgrace in the eyes of the world. Our system of governance is kaput.–Din Merican 

The Eminent Task Force on WSJ Allegations Froze  a different set of bank accounts


WSJ Task ForceThe Eminent Task Force: A-G Gani Patail,  BNM GovernorZeti, IGP Khalid Abu Bakar, and MACC Abu Kassim

The accounts frozen by the special task force investigating the alleged US$700 million (RM2.67 billion) money trail from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) into Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal accounts are not the same accounts that the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had reported on in its exclusive report.

The WSJ in reporting on the freeze of six accounts today, cited a source close to the investigations that the accounts affected “were different from those described in the Journal report last week”.

In addition to the six accounts frozen, documents linked to 17 bank accounts in two banks were also seized by the task force, which comprises the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Bank Negara, police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The task force’s statement today, however, did not name the banks where the frozen accounts were, nor did it say whether any of them belonged to Najib.

However, sources later today confirmed with The Malaysian Insider that three of the frozen accounts were Najib’s, and were with AmBank and Affin Bank.

The move by the investigating task force follows WSJ’s report last Friday that US$700 million had moved through different companies linked to 1MDB before they money was deposited in two accounts belonging to Najib at AmPrivate Bank in Kuala Lumpur.

The largest sum of US$681 million had allegedly been transferred to Najib’s accounts in March 2013, two months before the general election was held.

The WSJ today also released redacted documents that showed the purported transfer of funds to Najib’s accounts to support its report.

These documents included instructions for telegraphic transfers, charts that showed the alleged flow of money, remittance form and cash deposit authorisation letter by Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, Director of Finance Ministry-owned company SRC International Sdn Bhd, to the branch manager of AmIslamic Bank Bhd.

SRC was also one of the companies involved in the flow of money outlined by the WSJ, which had reported based on documents obtained from the Malaysian government’s investigation.

Najib is also finance minister and chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, and is now facing his toughest challenge as prime minister over 1MDB which has been criticised for its opaque dealings and massive RM42 billion debt incurred in just six years of operations.

He has denied taking any funds for personal gain but has otherwise not shed any light on the alleged transfers.

Whitewashing Najib’s image won’t do

July 2, 2015

Whitewashing Najib’s image won’t do

by Stephen Ng@www.malaysiakini.com


COMMENT: I scoured through the media to see how a public relations mogul has been able to salvage Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s reputation.

First, allow me to qualify myself. I am from a public relations (PR) background and has also been a writer all my life; hence, it naturally interests me when there is something I can learn from a PR practitioner although in my opinion, there are many more qualified PR practitioners in the country than Lim Kok Wing himself.

Lim is more of an advertising man than a PR practitioner; therefore, it is not surprising to see the quality of work produced is below par excellence. This is my personal opinion and I will explain why I am saying this.

In the last one month or so, there has been no significant change in the people’s perception of Najib. If anything, it has only gone from bad to worse. People are in fact gravitating towards former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Crown Prince of Johor (TMJ) Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim for what they have to say. Najib might as well review his contract with Lim, to see if he is getting his money’s worth.

Little done so far

Let me elaborate. Lim said that he was not involved with the Nothing2Hide seminar. However, after the incident, little damage control was done to salvage Najib’s reputation. The fact that Najib did not turn up for the event was already seen as ‘chickening’ out, especially when he  learned that his ally-turned-nemesis Dr Mahathir was there at the event.

To make matters worse, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar took it upon himself to advise Najib not to attend the meeting. Using the safety of the Prime Minister is not an excuse, especially in a country which is supposed to enjoy peace and harmony. On record, no one has threatened Najib’s life and certainly not the people who attended the meeting.

Questions have been raised why Najib did not take the bold step like Julius Caesar and attend the meeting, despite the IGP’s advice? He could have at least worn a bulletproof vest to protect himself, and all exits into the hall cordoned off by the police the moment Najib went into the meeting.

I am a little surprised that Lim, in his capacity as Najib’s PR consultant, has done nothing to advise his client on how to salvage his reputation; instead, Lim merely came forward to say that he was not involved in the Nothing2Hide event.

TM Tunku Ismail of JohorEven the TMJ saw it fit to hit out at Najib for his lack of courage to face the nonagenarian. If that’s the case, what has Lim done so far to advise Najib? At the very least, Najib should come out in an open debate with Dr Mahathir, because this is what the people are waiting to see.

A debate is not going to tear the country apart, but it will bring out the best of arguments from both sides so that the people can decide whether to believe Najib’s story or continue to give further credence to Dr Mahathir.

Fast forward, in the last few days, there were articles quoting 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Najib that appear to be written by a different group of people. 1MDB said its RM20 million given as corporate social responsibility to a mosque in Kampung Baru is acceptable. We are not interested in how much 1MDB can give to even a church or a temple, but why was the donation announced by Najib if he is merely an adviser to the board?

At the time of writing, Malaysiakini highlighted that Malaysia’s outlook revision by Fitch from negative to stable “is a reflection of the government’s financial management capabilities”. Will anyone believe Najib, especially when the rating agency said that Malaysia’s fiscal position is still weak and the ringgit has taken a beating against the greenback?

Please step down

Quit Najib2
So far, Najib is the only one who say that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and fuel subsidy cuts are supportive of the fiscal finances. On the ground, the people are whining and groaning, while the market is slowing down, and everyone is talking about removing Najib as Prime Minister.

One contractor I spoke to yesterday fact said that he wants to see Najib stepping down soon, as he sees the country going to the dogs. An economics professor that I spoke to feel that the country is losing its sense of direction and he calls Dr Mahathir the “official Mr Opposition.”

Walking past two gentlemen having breakfast, the conversation is also focused on businesses now investing overseas instead. The outward bound foreign direct investment has in fact risen over the years. Businessmen will put their money where there are better returns for their investments.

In fact, I was told that since 1994, the country’s purchasing power parity (PPP) has only improved by several percent compared to the PPP in the US within the past two decades. The same is happening in Thailand. We are caught in a middle-income trap and appear to be going nowhere.

While foreign investors are moving to countries with low wages, and domestic investors are also looking for greener pastures abroad, there is not enough effort made to stimulate the country’s economic growth.

Next, we look at the Malaysian side of the story about the arrest of Xavier Justo. According to the Thai authorities, he was arrested because he had allegedly blackmailed PetroSaudi Investment (PSI). However, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi and others have been singing a different tune, saying that Justo had tampered the emails provided to the Sarawak Report.

Is this again the advice from a PR consultant? Or perhaps, it is because Lim’s influence does  not cover the extent in which other cabinet ministers act? I am wondering!

My question is simple: Even if Justo had tampered the emails, how does it affect the questions people are still asking: Where is the RM42 billion? Most people agree with Dr Mahathir that unless 1MDB can show us the money NOW (not six months later), there is a credibility issue with all the parties involved in the entire fiasco.

Another piece of work which appears to come from the PR consultants is Najib’s soft side, wanting to make sure that former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s health condition be given top priority.

In the first place, who was the one who pushed the Sodomy II case all the way to the Federal Court after the Kuala Lumpur High Court had acquitted Anwar of any wrongdoing? If Najib cares to look back, his own popularity took a dip after Anwar was thrown into prison.

My constructive criticism to Najib is that he should at least step down. There is more harm being done to the fragility of our current economic condition than good by him trying to cling on to power for the next 18 months.

Cue already given

Even US President Barack Obama hinted this in a recent response to Malaysian elected representative Yeo Bee Yin who raised the question. The cue has been given, but neither Najib nor his PR consultant have  picked this up.

I wish to sound out what the TMJ had said, because in principle, his observation applies universally: “A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men and that one of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

TMJ went on to hint that “inventories can be managed, but the people must be led by example and with integrity. Remember that the key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”

Using the long arm of the law to clamp down on the opposition would only make the survival of Barisan Nasional and UMNO even tougher. As it is, people view Najib’s administration as flexing too much power against the voices of dissent, while not dealing with the core issues such as corruption.

Paul LowPaul Low–A Failed Minister

If anything, the PR mogul should deal with this major ‘gangrene’ first, and make the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) go after the big fish. Sadly, this is also where former Transparency International Malaysia president, Paul Low has failed miserably since joining Najib’s cabinet as Minister in charge of governance and integrity. Unless Najib steps up his ante against corruption, Low’s efforts will only be seen as apple polishing the people in the corridors of power.

No amount of force would change people’s perception at this juncture in Malaysian history. Najib has to just look at the arrogance of PAS President Hadi Awang and what this has done to the Islamist party! Overnight, PAS can be dumped by the people who support Pakatan Rakyat.

There are enough lessons to be learned, but has Najib even bothered to listen to the whispers of the wind? Or, does Najib have to hire more PR moguls to join his war room?

The only sensible thing for Najib to do is to step down at a time when the people have lost confidence in him, except a minority of UMNO warlords who are benefiting from the gravy train. This would give BN a better chances of survival in the future ahead, as the rakyat would not like to see a weak opposition, once the new coalition takes over Putrajaya.

Sixty years in power is long enough for BN. When it is time to go, be gracious and give way to the younger generation of leaders such as Rafizi Ramli and Tony Pua  to spearhead Malaysia’s economic growth.

Train up the younger leaders who are clean to take over the helm of BN, to serve the people instead of being involved in dirty politics. Perhaps, the people will someday give BN a new mandate but for now, the sinking ship has to go before a new ship can be commissioned.

We are a nation in birth pangs. Malaysia, like Indonesia, is longing to see a Jokowi type of leader, no longer the Suharto type. And sultans in the likes of TMJ! I am sure if the TMJ is criticised by even this humble servant, the TMJ would not be using force, but his brainpower to win the respect of the people and show why what he does is indeed good for the people.

Getting our Politics Right Again with Leadership Change

June 19, 2015

Getting our Politics Right Again with Leadership Change

by *P. Gunasegaram

*P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of KINIBIZ which produces an online business news portal and a fortnightly print magazine.

QUESTION TIME: 1MDB’s impact on the financial markets is more than just worry about whether potential defaults will impact the banking system and whether the government’s finances will be adversely affected when it stands by to honour 1MDB’s many obligations.

These questions have been largely answered – the central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia, has already said that 1MDB does not pose a systemic risk to the domestic banking sector, although it may depress the profits of some banks.

Various analysts believe that the federal government, which owns all of 1MDB through Minister of Finance Inc, has the capacity to take care of 1MDB’s obligations, which amount to RM42 billion.

So why is the ringgit more depressed than it should be and what is really the concern about the situation in the country? The problem is not directly related to the economy but politics. An increasing number of people are considering how the overall political situation in the country will change if Najib Abdul Razak, for whatever reason, decides to step down.

It is more than likely that it is the political situation which is causing the ringgit to be even more volatile than the currencies of other countries that have yo-yoed against the US dollar, but generally trended downwards against the greenback. That the US dollar is strengthening is indisputable, the roots being the strong possibility of upward increases in US interest rates some time later this year.

The pressure on Najib increased when former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad stepped into the fray over the 1MDB issue, accusing the self-styled strategic development company of not being able to account properly for its debts of RM42 billion. Now, that’s something that lots of others agree with.

However, Mahathir’s premise for his interference has not always been from the perspective of high moral values – he often repeats that the reason why Najib has to go is that if he stays on he may well lead UMNO and Barisan Nasional into defeat in the next general elections. The elections have to be held on or before 2018, still some three years away.

Najib has maintained, without offering much by way of evidence, that 1MDB is in good shape and that all monies are intact and can be accounted for. This runs counter to the many reports written on 1MDB and its various shenanigans, which includes pieces written by both KINIBIZ online and KINIBIZ magazine.

In fact KINIBIZ online was the first anywhere to write an extensive series of reports on 1MDB outlining its various mistakes, including underpricing bonds, overpaying for assets, paying too much to Goldman Sachs, dubious investments, suspicious money trails, influence from outside parties and so on.

Position full of holes

All analyses indicate that Najib’s position with respect to 1MDB – that basically the company is okay and only needs time to put its affairs in order – is full of holes and does not hold water. There is much that 1MDB has not given satisfactory answers to and it looks like for many questions, there will be no good replies.

The billion ringgit questions then are, will Najib step down? And if he does, who will take over from him?

Najib will not take on Mahathir directly – he pointedly avoided one confrontation at the so-called ‘Nothing2Hide’ forum. But behind the scenes he would be quietly accumulating support from his loyalists.

His Deputy and UMNO Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin is already testing the waters. In a leaked video of a meeting, he made some strong remarks against 1MDB, which some take to mean that he is ready to step into Najib’s shoes.

Meantime, rumours of a cabinet reshuffle swirl and there is speculation that Najib’s alternative choice, if he should decide to leave, might be Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, with Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as Deputy.

If that is being passed around by Najib’s camp it may be a signal to Muhyiddin to watch his step, for the power of incumbency in UMNO cannot be denied. Jumping ship too early might result in a step into the  deep ocean.

It is very difficult to mount a challenge against an incumbent president who holds wide powers. Just to contest, a challenger has to get nominations from 30 percent of the branches. Considering that the President will have considerable influence over branch officials, that is very unlikely to happen in the current scenario.

Many like to say that former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was forced out from his position, mainly by Mahathir. That’s probably not true. Abdullah made no attempt to cling to power but was likely ready to step down from the rigours of political office of his own free will.

Najib will not leave so easily. If he is going to leave, then a deal has to be struck – that’s always been the UMNO way. There will be some face-saving, and there will be assurances that he himself will be immune from any kind of prosecution over 1MDB or any other matters.

One possible deal could be that he stays but when the next elections are within sight he will make way for the next person to take over the mantle. Whether that will be Muhyiddin or someone else is not clear at this point of time. But any UMNO politician who makes too quick a move against Najib is likely to pay for his recklessness.

If Najib gets no such assurance, then he has no choice but to fight tooth and nail to keep his position, for to give it up may well mean opening himself up to further action against him in future.

Nearly impossible to mount a challenge

Najib is not likely to be removed against his will. Ironically this is because of all the measures that Mahathir put in place to make it nearly impossible to mount a challenge against the incumbent President in the wake of the bruising challenge against him in 1987 by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and  Tun Musa Hitam.

It’s an irony, too, that the votes of Najib’s supporters, who firmly swung to Mahathir in the last leg of the Razaleigh/Musa campaign against Mahathir, probably contributed to Mahathir’s narrow win in 1987 and that they now stand on opposite sides of the divide.

But despite all of Mahathir’s fighting qualities, it looks like the only way Najib will leave is if a deal is made. Mahathir himself has ensured that by the changes to UMNO’s voting rules.

Meantime, the political uncertainty will add to the woes of the country, contributing to currency volatility and confidence erosion.–http://www.malaysiakini.com