Malaysia-China relations–Leveraging the Business Connection

October 29, 2015

Malaysia-China relations–Leveraging the Business Connection

By Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Although the solutions to our economic malaise have to be rooted in our own structural reforms – political and socio-economic – there is no doubt that the China connection can make a difference – a big difference!

The British-China relations–Triumph of Business Sense over Political Ideology

Malaysia does not need protection by or from any sheriff – old and new. But we badly need Chinese trade and investment if we want to grow our jobs and sustain our current consumption and lifestyle.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

The extraordinary British press coverage of Chinese President President Xi Jinping’s current visit to Britain is worth reading as to what the British are saying about themselves and the state of the world.It prompts us to take a serious look at ourselves today. It is about time we review our commercial relations with the rest of the world.

Many local media columnists in Britain were outraged that  David Cameron’s government was making such a big deal of the visit. As a Fortune magazine article succinctly put it:

Britain is sucking it up big time this week, having finally learned to kowtow after a 218-year trade relationship in which it has tended to be the one handing out the humiliations. ((Geoffrey Smith, A weakened Britain finally learns how to kowtow to Beijing)

Why did the British Prime Minister David Cameron, Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn, Her Majesty The Queen and others – roll out the red carpet for the Chinese leader? Why did Her Royal Highness Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, wear a symbolic red gown in a banquet dinner in Buckingham Palace where Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of Cambridge were said to have “showered Xi and his wife with the fairy dust of royalty ancient and modern”?

The Queen  Honoring XiKate and XiObviously, it is not because of any newfound love of the Chinese. Put it down to the realities of the global economy and Britain’s declining competitiveness.

Why the Need to suck up to China?

Veteran Labour MP Paul Lynn remarked in Parliament that Britain was behaving like a supplicant fawning spaniel that licks the hand that beats it. But the fact is that the British taxpayer has to pay for his salary and allowances; and the country’s treasury badly needs an injection from the world’s largest economy if the ordinary British citizen is to not bear the burden of higher taxes and continued loss of jobs.

The Chinese economy is now worth $17.6tn, marginally higher than the $17.4tn the International Monetary Fund estimates for the US. For the first time since 1872, when it overtook the UK, the US has been knocked off the top spot by China. The IMF calculated these figures by using purchasing power parity (PPP) which compares how much you can buy for your money in different countries.

And this is among the bag of goodies that Xi is bringing to Britain on this current state visit:

• £30 billion of business agreements, including a one third stake in the UK’s first nuclear plan for a generation.
• an expected big jump in Chinese tourists to Britain with easier visas. Each Chinese tourist typically spends £2,688 on an average visit, totaling about £500 million a year.
•further increases in Chinese student enrolment in Britain. Presently accounting for nearly 90,000 of the 310,000 higher education non-EU students, the fortune and health of many British higher education institutions, and their student-related housing and service industries, depends on the expansion in Chinese student numbers.

The Lesson for Malaysia—Not TPPA

U.S. President Barack REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

Secret Deals at Malaysia’s Expense–TPPA?

Here lies the lesson for us too in Malaysia as we face an increasingly bleak economic future with many analysts noting that the amber lights have been flashing for some time with the sharply devalued ringgit, decline in foreign investment, high levels of individual and household debt, rising cost of living, and falling business confidence.

Capitalizing on our China Connection

Although the solutions to our economic malaise have to be rooted in our own structural reforms – political and socio-economic – there is no doubt that the China connection can make a difference – a big difference!

Just as the British, and other nations, are attempting to strengthen relations with the largest market in the world, Malaysia can do much more to take advantage of China’s progress. And our policy makers do not need to reinvent the wheel or borrow from the British in establishing a higher level of Malaysia-China partnership and cooperation.

The following proposals on Malaysia-China relations, for example, are from the “Transforming the Nation: A 20 Year Plan of Action” report prepared by the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong) in July 2012. They appear to have been largely ignored

• A comprehensive review of existing policy towards China in all sectors – economic and non-economic – with a view to broadening linkages and cooperation for the mutual benefit of both countries. This review should incorporate inputs from the private sector, civil society and other key stakeholders.
• Inter-university exchange programmes to increase students’ knowledge and experience of the two countries. Scholarships and other forms of assistance should be granted by local foundations to sponsor students.
• Expansion of cultural tourism. Government’s role in the development of Malaysia as a halal hub aimed at attracting Muslim tourists from China should be expanded

It has been rumoured that some time later this year will see a visit from a high ranking Chinese leader to Malaysia – perhaps Xi himself. Will we see a round of mainly indifference or even China and Chinese bashing? Or will we capitalize on the rise of China to salvage our sinking economy the way the British are doing?

Fortunately our relationship with China – for a start – is not on the same level as the one which Britain has had. Our relations with China begun with the Second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak’s visit to China and we have yet to fully capitalize on this ground breaking relationship.

Hopefully this observation from a British commentator on the Guardian website will give pause to our local hotheads blowing hot air on anyone or anything associated with their definition of pendatang:

He doesn’t need lil’ ole us to make him feel important. He’s president of the world’s biggest superpower. I hope he’s gone away feeling we did make an effort and the UK is a country worth bothering with. However much it seems to irk some people, there’s a new sheriff in town and I hope they’re nicer to us than we were to them when our star was in the ascendancy and we owned half the world (and went to war with them when they tried to stop buying the opium we liked flogging them.)

Malaysia does not need protection by or from any sheriff – old and new (and the TPPA). But we badly need Chinese trade and investment if we want to grow our jobs and sustain our current consumption and lifestyle.

Malaysia’s Politics of Survival by Elimination

October 23, 2015

Malaysia’s Politics of Survival  by Elimination

by stratfor


  • In the near term, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will survive efforts to oust him over mounting corruption allegations.
  • Whether or not Najib holds onto power longer, the years leading up to the next general elections will be turbulent ones.
  • Political stability, crucial to Malaysia’s economic rise, will be challenged by demographic changes that stress the country’s delicate ethnic balance. 



A deepening political crisis in Malaysia is highlighting the country’s longstanding ethnic divides and its uncertain road ahead. Since early this year, Prime Minister Najib Razak has been caught in a scandal surrounding the heavily indebted 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund. Among other points of controversy, Najib is struggling to explain the source of nearly $700 million deposited in his personal account.

This week, with Malaysia’s Parliament back in session, the opposition is renewing its efforts to oust the Prime Minister through a no-confidence vote — a measure that will succeed only in the unlikely event that Najib’s tightly consolidated party apparatus comes apart. Indeed, Najib is likely to remain entrenched in power for the foreseeable future. In the process, however, the political crisis in Kuala Lumpur will both expose and exacerbate broader challenges confronting Malaysia, particularly regarding divisions between the politically influential “Bumiputera” (the umbrella term for ethnic Malays and indigenous groups) and the economically powerful ethnic Chinese and Indian populations. At risk is the carefully balanced status quo that has enabled the Malaysian economy to flourish without communal disruptions.

A Well-Entrenched Man

On the surface, at least, the hits keep piling up for Najib: A steady drip of leaked documents has magnified scrutiny on the Prime Minister and spawned official investigations both in Malaysia and in countries where 1MDB has been active, including Switzerland and the United States. Najib, who also serves as Finance Minister, has come under fire from the country’s central bank chief, powerful figures from within his own ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and Malaysia’s nine state sultans — whose power is largely ceremonial but who are perceived as guardians of Malay heritage and religion. Most notably, longtime Prime Minister and UMNO boss Mahathir Mohammad, Najib’s former mentor, has gone on the warpath. Since publicly withdrawing support for Najib in mid-2014, Mahathir, who governed for 22 years, has called for more intensive probes, joined a major opposition rally in August, and urged his former adversaries in Malaysia’s long-beleaguered opposition to table a no-confidence vote. (Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Badawi, resigned in 2009 at Mahathir’s behest.)

But the Opposition, with just 87 of the Parliament’s 221 seats, does not have the numbers to muster the two-thirds majority needed to remove Najib, even if it peels off disaffected lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition’s ethnic Chinese and Indian parties. Moreover, the opposition alliance collapsed this summer, and certain factions are noncommittal at most about ousting Najib — particularly the conservative, Malay Muslim-dominated Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which sat out the anti-Najib rally in August.

UMNO is similarly divided. Several powerful party leaders who have publicly criticized Najib’s role in the 1MDB scandal and expressed concern about damage to the party’s credibility still oppose the no-confidence vote. Even with the opposition at odds with itself and its charismatic leader, Anwar Ibrahim, behind bars, UMNO does not want to chance a snap election with the 1MDB affair still unresolved. It narrowly held onto power after losing the popular vote in 2013, after all. Whatever the Prime Minister’s sins, UMNO lawmakers naturally do not want to see the party fall as a result. The leaked documents have implicated essentially Najib and his wife alone, largely sparing other major UMNO figures. This suggests an orchestrated effort designed to oust the Prime Minister without sinking the entire party.

An internal putsch against Najib is more likely sometime after the parliamentary session ends. But even this is unlikely. Earlier this year, Najib postponed the next party elections to 2018 and purged some of his most powerful detractors. An emergency vote would take two-thirds of UMNO’s Supreme Council or a majority of the party’s 191 divisional chiefs, and Najib reportedly maintains strong support in both of these blocs. Nearly all UMNO lawmakers and leaders have benefitted from his largesse, and the fact that Najib’s political machine has proved resilient testifies to the power of his patronage network. Party dissent will need to reach a much higher pitch to oust him. Despite Mahathir’s best efforts, this has not happened — yet.

Economic Complications

The crisis in the capital comes at a particularly bad time for Malaysia. With or without Najib at the helm (but particularly if he holds on), the years leading up to next elections, currently expected to take place in 2018, will be turbulent. In particular, an array of challenges is threatening Malaysia’s economic dynamism and the delicate ethnic balance that has undergirded the country’s remarkable rise. The political uncertainty is likely to exacerbate both issues, and vice versa.

A leading concern is that the scandal is diminishing Malaysia’s credibility with investors and driving down the value of its currency, the ringgit, which hit a 17-year low this month. Investors reportedly pulled around more than $4.5 billion from Malaysian stocks and bonds in the third quarter of 2015, while approved foreign direct investment declined by more than 40 percent through the first half of the year. Currencies have been racing downward across Southeast Asia, but the ringgit has performed worse than its regional counterparts — despite Malaysia having generally more favorable economic fundamentals and substantial foreign exchange reserves available to buoy it.

The country’s economic woes cannot be blamed solely on the political uncertainty. Even without the political crisis, Malaysia is facing economic headwinds because of low commodity prices and a looming interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve. But the scandal is certainly playing a role. Malaysia’s once globally esteemed financial institutions are now in question, and 1MDB is involved in nearly every key sector of the Malaysian economy, including energy, agriculture, tourism and real estate. Meanwhile, Najib’s influence over those purportedly investigating the sovereign wealth fund (in July, for example, he fired the Attorney-General) has raised questions about regulatory transparency and rule of law in the country.

UMNO in Power

Moreover, Malaysia’s reliance on semi-conductors and commodities such as oil, natural gas and palm oil leave it fairly vulnerable to global shifts. State investment funds like 1MDB and Khazanah Nasional Berhad (which Najib also chairs) were designed, in part, to give Malaysia additional economic buffer and allow it to use capital in a manner similar to neighboring Singapore. The success of such investment vehicles will become particularly important as China begins to focus on higher-value exports such as semi-conductors. Inversely, the economic woes have magnified the scandal. The commodities collapse, for example, has inflated 1MDB’s debts and shrunk the revenues available for UMNO to dole out to keep the coalition more firmly intact.

There is reason for optimism. Malaysia has relatively low debt and inflation, as well as a healthy resource base on which it can continue to build. Its membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership would, at minimum, help the country diversify, gain an edge over rising regional competition, and position it at the center of global trade flows. So Malaysia’s economic slump alone may not be prolonged enough to sink the ruling party — UMNO survived even the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Nonetheless, Malaysia’s underlying strengths have given traction to the opposition’s assertion that graft and mismanagement must then be playing a singular role in dragging down the economy. This argument will gain strength if the slide continues.

UMNO’s Ethnic Gamble

More problematic over the long-term is the ongoing shift in Malaysia’s ethnic demographics. As in Singapore, Malaysia’s favorable investment climate has long relied on the country maintaining at least superficial political harmony. This is an innate challenge for a geographically fragmented country where the Bumiputera, or “Sons of the Soil,” have stood in contrast to the ethnic Chinese and South Asians, who wield economic influence disproportionate to their numbers.

Malaysia’s political stability has revolved largely around the dominance of the UMNO-led coalitions that have ruled every year since independence in 1957. These coalitions have ensured high-level representation from all major ethnic groups and the farther-flung regions of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo, facilitating flows of patronage to all corners of society and preventing a repeat of the 1969 communal riots or revival of pre-independence racial strife. The effective one-party rule has generally enabled policy continuity and targeted infrastructure and industrial development, minimizing uncertainty for investors and giving Malaysia a leg up over regional rivals. This environment, combined with Malaysia’s resource abundance and fortuitous position as a trade hub in a high-growth region, fueled a steady economic rise and the growth of a robust middle class.

Petaling Street 2

Tan-Sri-Mohd Ali Rastam

But the prospect of ethnic strife and resentment fueled by Malaysia’s affirmative action policies has continued to pose a risk to the country’s economic success. Mahathir, when still in power, tried unsuccessfully to peel back these policies, and it is unlikely that others will be able to do so. And throughout Southeast Asia, economic turmoil tends to lead to a push back against the ethnic Chinese populations. In Indonesia, for example, this has often led to violence. This issue is part of why Singapore is not still a part of the Malay Federation.

The ethnic balance underpinning Malaysia’s stability began to noticeably unravel in the 2008 general elections. Ethnic Chinese and Indian voters began to defect from the ruling coalition, upset with ossifying policies meant to cement the pre-eminence of Malays in political and economic life, as well as anti-minority rhetoric and occasional violence. Barisan Nasional lost 58 seats and its seemingly perpetual two-thirds majority. The shift became more pronounced in 2013, when a multi-ethnic opposition coalition won the popular vote. Today, the main Chinese party in the ruling coalition, the Malaysian Chinese Association, holds just seven seats (down from 31 in 2008) and no Cabinet posts. The main Indian party holds four.

Najib has increasingly sought to frame the 1MDB affair in ethnic terms. In this he has taken a cue from Mahathir, whose own rise was fueled by exploiting Malay and indigenous fears of, for example, “the Chinese tsunami.” UMNO has funded and helped organize the Malay nationalist “Red Shirt” movement, whose mass rally in September was narrowly prevented by police from storming a prominent ethnic Chinese business district in Kuala Lumpur. As political strategies go, this may appear exceedingly base, but it also reflects a recognition that Malaysia’s fundamental demographic makeup is changing, most notably among the Chinese. Since 1983, their share of Malaysia’s total population has dropped more than 8 percent, and birthrates among ethnic Chinese are by far the lowest of Malaysia’s main ethnic groups. For political purposes then, rather than wooing back minority voters, UMNO will increasingly work to secure its base and keep the opposition divided along ethnic lines.

This heralds a widening of ethnic divisions — punctuated by growing public unrest more common to Malaysia’s northern neighbors Myanmar and Thailand — that will challenge the core integrity of what is a particularly manufactured form of the modern nation-state. Lacking geographical or ethnic coherence, Malaysia’s solidarity has long stemmed from shrewd, inclusive policy making, with plentiful resource wealth available to grease away any frictions. A broad remaking of this political system — if it fails to preserve the ties binding Malaysia’s far-flung and disparate parts to the state — would thus prove unsustainable. To a degree, this risk will limit how far Najib and UMNO will be willing to push their ethnic advantage. But with the 1MDB scandal and the economic stresses drawing the ruling party into a protracted fight for survival, Malaysia is likely to slip further into an environment of new uncertainties.

ASEAN: Embrace Civil Society and Connect with its Peoples

October 19, 2015

ASEAN: Embrace Civil Society and Connect with its Peoples

by Khoo Ying Hooi

ASEANIn the past, I have written numerous times about the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). ASEAN is a regional organization that is supposed to be close to our hearts, as we are all ASEAN citizens. But most of the time, many are sceptical of its potential.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present a paper on ASEAN and civil society in a forum on “Promoting and Strengthening ASEAN Regional Integration and ASEAN Community 2015 and Beyond through Multi-Channel Dialogue” at the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR).

The Forum was led by the IDFR’s Foreign Policy Study Group (FPSG), with ASEAN Foundation as joint organizer.

Just last week, it was reported that Laos refuses to host  meeting of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Southeast Asia on the sideline of the ASEAN Summit next year. How can we talk about ASEAN Community when the next ASEAN Summit is not prepared to engage civil society.

That is precisely the key challenge that ASEAnBN faces. Regionalism in Southeast Asia has been traditionally state-centric and leader-driven . It is a general view that ASEAN was born and in many ways remains a club of elites with a top-down approach.

Its origins was mainly due to a shared concern for regime survival among a group of Southeast Asian leaders facing internal challenges to their authority and demands for political openness. That means regional integration takes time and little space is given to civil society actors.

ASEAN celebrated its 48th anniversary this year, but its cooperation founded on the principles such as non-interference and sovereignty stay.. The non-interference principle is being increasingly questioned through its expanded influence, as new challenges arising from globalization processes.

I shared similar sentiment with some scholars who view civil society as “our last best hope.” The CSO has a unique role of expanding and promoting civic space by bringing us, the citizens, into the political sphere and mobilizing a range of popular voices to address the government on issues of interest. This is essential especially it it is in line with the main theme of ASEAN, that is a people-oriented or centered community.

Many might wonder, what can ASEAN do for them, or how could ASEAN be relevant to them, especially in their daily lives.

Hence, the question remains: has regionalism in Southeast Asia made sufficient transition from being a “club of elites” to a “people’s ASEAN”? “Regionalism from below” and participatory regionalism are just the beginning in Southeast Asia.

Yes, we have limited access to key policy-makers of ASEAN. But that does not mean there is nothing that we can do. Let us not forget our role, which is to disseminate information on the ASEAN community to others.

The Dutch Report on MH17–Uncovering the Truth

October 14, 2015

The Dutch Report on MH17–Uncovering the Truth

by at Gilze-Rijen airbase, in Moscow and in London

Dutch experts found captain’s body had ‘undergone an external and internal examination to remove foreign objects’

MH17-reportMr. Tjibbe Joustra and his Team did an excellent Job

The long-awaited Dutch report into the shooting down of flight MH17 suggests attempts were made to cover up the causes of the disaster, including a bungled autopsy on the body of the captain in which metal fragments from a Buk missile were deliberately removed.

Dutch investigators said on Tuesday that the three pilots were killed instantly, after a Russian-built Buk missile exploded within a metre of their cockpit. The blast ejected hundreds of pieces of shrapnel into the plane with “tremendous force”, said the Dutch safety board report. But investigators declined to apportion blame for who had downed the plane, merely saying the rocket was fired from a 320 sq km area of eastern Ukraine. Further “forensic investigation” was needed to determine the precise launch site. But speaking to Dutch journalists in The Hague, in the corridor of Parliament, the chairman of the safety board, Tjibbe Joustra, later admitted that the Buk missile was fired from a rebel-controlled area.

He told the Volkskrant newspaper: “The boundaries fluctuated a bit, but it is an area where pro-Russia rebels wrested control.”

He added: “If you really want to determine the location, you should take soil samples and examine witnesses. This is not our competence.”

The report by the Dutch safety board said that more than 120 objects, “mostly metal fragments”, were found in the body of the first officer, who had sustained “multiple fractures”. When Dutch experts identified the captain’s body they found it had already “undergone an external and internal examination to remove foreign objects”.

Despite apparent attempts to remove shrapnel, “hundreds of metal objects were found”, the report said, as well as bone fractures and other injuries.

Among the fragments of missile shrapnel examined, two were in the shape of a bow tie, which the Dutch board found to be characteristic of a particular type of Buk missile warhead. However, the Russian manufacturer had earlier denied that any such fragments were found, and insisted an older Buk model was used, one that was no longer in service in the Russian armed forces.

The Boeing 777 was shot down on 17 July 2014 over an area of Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed rebels, who for several days refused to allow access to the sprawling crash site. All 298 people on board died.

The report noted that some “aeroplane parts and cargo” photographed immediately after the crash vanished. “Avionics units” from the cockpit disappeared too. Other pieces of wreckage, filmed by investigators and showing perforation and soot, had gone by the time they came to take them away.

The Dutch safety board has led a 15-month multinational investigation into the causes of the crash. On Tuesday it revealed the reconstructed front section of the plane at a hangar in the Gilze-Rijen airbase in southern Netherlands. It was a ghostly sight. Inside were the mangled seats where two of the pilots had sat.

The plane’s left glass windscreen was perforated with holes. The crumpled metal cockpit floor featured large gouges. From outside, the devastating impact of the Buk missile was visible: a scattering of gashes, immediately below the port side of the cockpit. The metal had sliced diagonally though the plane, exiting from the lower right-side.

The right side of the plane was largely unscathed. Five windows from business class could be seen above the red and blue stripe of Malaysia Airlines livery. The door where the passengers entered had survived. Poignantly, its emergency opening instructions were intact.

Speaking in front of the rebuilt plane ,Joustra said MH17 was cruising at 33,000ft on a routine flight path to Asia when a 9N314M warhead hit it. The warhead was fitted to a 9M28 missile. It had been fired from a Russian-built Buk surface-to-air missile system. Joustra ruled out other scenarios that might explain the disaster.

An animated video showed the moment the Buk struck the left-hand side of the cockpit. On-board microphones recorded the moment of impact. This allowed investigators to determine the devastating blast occurred on the upper-left hand side of the cockpit.

According to Joustra, the passenger plane broke up midair. The cockpit and the floor of the business class cabin tore away almost instantly from the main body and crashed. The rest of the plane continued flying for about five miles in an easterly direction, hitting the ground about a minute to a minute-and-a-half later. Debris was scattered over about 50 sq km (19 sq mile).

The report said that some passengers “suffered serious injuries that probably resulted in their deaths”. Others became unconsciousness “in a very short space of time”. It said: “It cannot be ruled out that some occupants remained conscious for some time during the one to one-and-a-half minutes for which the crash lasted.” No photos or text messages were found on phones recovered from the scene.

Earlier on Tuesday Joustra delivered his report to relatives of the victims in The Hague. The report conceded that family members had to wait “an unnecessarily long period of time” for formal confirmation that their loved ones were dead. The Dutch authorities “lacked management and coordination”, it added.

Two-thirds of the victims were Dutch nationals, with others from nine other countries including Malaysia and Australia. Ten British nationals were killed. Claudio Villaca-Vanetta, whose husband Glenn Thomas, from Blackpool, died on board MH17, said: “We had some of the answers we were looking for today, but by far not all of them.

“We now know for sure that Malaysia Airlines was allowed to fly there, and we know now that it was a bad decision by Ukraine to leave the airspace open and that by just raising the cruise height it was safe for commercial airliners. We know there was a missile which is manufactured in Russia only. “Of course, this doesn’t tell us who did it, who is accountable for it. That is where we want to get now.”

David Cameron welcomed the report, adding that “those responsible for downing this plane will be held to account”. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, urged Russia to cooperate in the investigation. “The priority now is to find and pursue those who are responsible.” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, however, called the report “biased in nature”.

The board had previously made clear its findings would not deal with blame and liability. A criminal investigation by the Dutch prosecutor’s office is scheduled to conclude in 2016.

On Tuesday Joustra said the Buk missile had been fired from area of eastern Ukraine which since April 2014 had been the scene of fighting between pro-Russia separatists backed by Moscow and Ukrainian government forces.

The Netherlands, Ukraine and Russia had all carried out their own simulations into the missile’s probable trajectory. Russia was the only one of the seven countries involved in the report’s preparation that dissented from its central conclusions, Joustra said, adding that Moscow believed “it was impossible to determine the type of missile or warhead with any certainty”.

It is widely assumed that Russia-backed separatists were responsible for bringing down flight MH17, but the US has stopped short of blaming Moscow directly. The Kremlin has blamed Kiev – variously suggesting that a Ukrainian military jet shot down the Boeing 777 – a theory the report dismisses – or that a missile was launched from a government-held area.

The Russian simulation includes areas under Ukrainian government control. The other simulations suggest the Buk was fired from separatist territory. An open-source investigation by the website Bellingcat, published last week, tracks the Buk missile launcher from a Russian military base in Kursk. It was then smuggled across the Ukrainian border, and taken back to Russia after the Buk rocket was fired.

In Moscow, the makers of Buk missile systems, Almaz-Antey, held a press conference on Tuesday morning apparently aimed at distracting attention from the Dutch report. The manufacturer said it had performed two experiments it says proved one of its missiles could not have been launched from areas under pro-Russia separatist control.

Meanwhile, Joustra said there was a simple, “dispiriting” answer to the question: why was MH17 allowed to fly above eastern Ukraine? It had not occurred to anybody that the airspace was unsafe for civilian jets at cruising altitude, he said. This was despite the fact that 16 Ukrainian aircraft and helicopters had been downed since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

About 160 civilian planes flew over the area on the day of the disaster. Three were in “close proximity” when the Buk was fired, Joustra said. Ukraine should have closed its airspace to civilian traffic, he added.

On the ground the crash sites were left unguarded in the days after the disaster, with journalists and rebel fighters able to wander freely in the fields. There were numerous reports of looting and tampering with evidence, although rebel authorities angrily denied them.

The clear up mission was complicated by the proximity to the front lines of the crash site and what sometimes appeared to be deliberate obstruction from the rebels.

While local emergency services performed gruesome cleanup feats in difficult conditions, there was little coordination or oversight of the work and on occasions bodies and possessions were seen being thrown into unmarked vehicles. In the days after the crash, Australia’s then Prime minister, Tony Abbott, said there had been “evidence of tampering on an industrial scale”.

The plane’s black boxes were also subject to intrigue, with Ukrainian security services releasing audio recordings it alleged showed rebel leaders coordinating a ground search for the boxes and demanding that when found they were kept secret, as Moscow wanted to examine them first.

The Donetsk authorities denied the recordings were authentic. The boxes were handed over to a Malaysian delegation by rebel leaders in Donetsk four days after the crash.

To Prime Minister Najib: Stop lecturing the World

October 2, 2015

Najib at Unga 2015

Five years ago I stood before this assembly and called for a Global Movement – of Moderates of all religions, of all countries – to marginalise extremists, reclaim the centre, and shape the agenda towards peace and pragmatism. We in Malaysia have followed up, both with practical action and by building intellectual capacity.

…We believe that moderation is key. Moderation is not about being weak. On the contrary, it is courageous and shows strength. The strength to push for peace and put the people first.It is a principle that runs through all civilisations and faiths. Islam embodies it in the concept of “wasatiyyah”, Confucianism as “chung yung” – both of which mean “middle path” or “the Golden Mean.” But this is a principle we must rediscover, and at the 26th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia this April, we reaffirmed our commitment to this approach when we adopted the Langkawi Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates.

Malaysia stands ready to share its experience; of upholding Islam and marginalising extremism; of implementing the objectives of Shariah while practicing democracy; of maintaining a multi-ethnic society where different faiths coexist and prosper; and showing that Islam can not only succeed, but drive progress and successful economic development.–Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak

Nice words, indeed, but they lack credibility. Suddenly, we have become a model Islamic state. He should deal with problems at home and stop playing the politics of race and religion before lecturing to the rest of the world.

Our economy is a total mess. Our bonds have become junk bonds; our stock market is a non-performer; Din Merican at his UC Officethe ringgit, now at rm4.50 to the US dollar, is drifting south towards rm5.0; our foreign exchange reserves are below USD100 billion; corruption is rampant and public and investor confidence in Najib as Prime Minister cum Finance Minister is at an all time low.

Come home and fix our problems and lead. Show us that you have the conviction and courage to do what is right. Take the heat or, if not, get of the kitchen.–Din Merican

Prime Minister Najib Razak@ the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly New York, 1 October 2015

Congratulations on your appointment as President of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Your experience and wisdom will be invaluable in guiding us.

This session’s theme – ‘The United Nations at 70: the Road Ahead for Peace, Security and Human Rights’ – is timely. For we urgently need to find new approaches, to rise above the political divide and put people first, in an age when the old ways are proving inadequate to the challenges we face today.

We are a world of nation states. But new conflicts and threats imperiling our peace and security do not recognise borders. Non-state actors, such as the so-called Islamic State, threaten to destroy sovereign states.

They don’t confine their horrific acts of cruelty within official boundaries. Expert at using social media to recruit followers in faraway countries, they lure them with false promises, persuading many young people that their barbaric actions will bring them closer to God.

It is sickening, and there could be no greater a slur on Islam – a religion of peace, moderation and justice. But these extremists cannot be defeated by traditional military means alone.

Five years ago I stood before this assembly and called for a Global Movement – of Moderates of all religions, of all countries – to marginalise extremists, reclaim the centre, and shape the agenda towards peace and pragmatism. We in Malaysia have followed up, both with practical action and by building intellectual capacity.

Central to this effort is reaffirming Islam’s true nature, as we must acknowledge that we are not winning the propaganda war against the so-called Islamic State. Their twisted narrative is not being adequately countered to prevent many misguided people from joining or supporting from afar.

So it is more important than ever that we spread awareness of authentic Islam. Most especially when conflicts persist and people lose hope. For it is there that extremism finds fertile soil. And those who fight for extremism – for a perversion of true Islam – are one of the main drivers of the current migration crisis from the Middle East.

Islam unequivocally prohibits killing civilians during war. It explicitly protects minorities and respects those of other faiths. It urges the pursuit of knowledge, and stresses both justice and compassion. As the Prophet Muhammad said: “You will not enter Paradise until you have faith; and you will not complete your faith, till you love for one another what you love for yourselves.”

This means there should be no strife among Muslims. Not between Shia and Sunni, who may take different paths, but seek the same destination.

Islam condemns the destruction of historical sites that are part of the world’s cultural heritage. The lies of IS include the claim that it is their duty to destroy historical sites, because the Prophet Muhammad destroyed the idols that had been introduced into the Ka`ba in Mecca.

This is based on a false analogy. The Ka`ba was built by the Prophet Abraham for the worship of the One True God, and later generations added the idols. The Prophet Muhammad was commanded to purify the Ka`ba of these idols for its use by his followers, to bring it back to its original form.

The historical sites being destroyed by IS were never used for the worship of the One God and then later desecrated; so the argument for destroying them does not and cannot apply. Moreover, God informs us that these sites we travel by, and which denote past civilizations — some of which were global superpowers of their time, but are now no more — are signs to remind us not to be arrogant, but to walk the earth humbly.

We must combat IS’ warped ideology in this way: explaining why their path is un-Islamic; why their actions are evil, theologically incoherent and a travesty of Islam – which commands us to be knowledgeable, compassionate and humble.

The Malaysian Government has helped develop an important body of scholarship that does just that. An international group of Sunni and Shia scholars representing a cross-section of the global Muslim community was convened in Kuala Lumpur. Its mission was to define an Islamic State, based on the continuity of Islamic religious thought through the past 14 centuries.

It is nothing like the entity in Syria and Iraq that usurps that name. The scholars unanimously emphasized that an Islamic State must deliver justice in all its forms – political, economic and in the courts – to its citizens. It must be based on the objectives of Shariah, or Maqasid Shariah, which is to protect and enhance life, religion, intellect, property, family and dignity.

An Islamic State must defend the different peoples under its rule, and preserve their religions, languages and historic sites – because God commands us: “Indeed, we have made you nations and tribes, that ye may know one another.”

He could have created us as one religious community, but He did not do so – in order to test us – and orders us to compete with each other in being virtuous. A true Islamic State therefore aids God’s Divine Intent in testing humanity, and urges us to compete in virtue, in knowledge, kindness, compassion and humility – but, crucially, not coerce us in this.

These are Islam’s true principles. The so-called Islamic State knows nothing of Islam’s noble ideals, of its compassion, or of the solemn duty to care for and learn about our fellow man. They are violating the Divine will. They are desecrating the name of our religion through their self-proclaimed caliphate – to which no true Muslim will pledge allegiance.

This is the message we must spread, to Muslims and non-Muslims. And I call on the Ummah to rise with one voice, and let the world ring when we say to IS: You do not represent us.

Let no one doubt how seriously Malaysia regards the problem of militants: both those who wish to use Kuala Lumpur as a transit point, and those who wish to sow violence and destruction at home.

Much of this work cannot be revealed for security reasons. This may lead some to think that because Malaysia has not suffered from a successful terrorist attack, we do not have national security challenges. That is not the case.

Our tireless, ever-vigilant security forces have intercepted many would-be IS recruits transiting through Kuala Lumpur. It is because of our efforts that they have not fallen into the darkness that blights Syria and Iraq.

But some have. We have identified 39 Malaysians who have travelled to join IS. And we have arrested over 100 of our citizens suspected of links to IS. These threats are real.

There are people who want to bring terror to our streets.We will not stand for it, neither will they succeed. For Malaysia has been, and will always be, a land where many faiths and ethnicities freely prosper and thrive.

But we must strive harder to combat this threat together. Militaries and intelligence services need to share information, and countries need to collaborate more, daring to pre-emptively arrest as necessary.

We have instituted legislation to allow this. When evidence is irrefutable, we will unhesitatingly take action. If our citizens’ lives are threatened by bombing a mall or a station, we would be negligent of their trust not to intervene before it is too late.

2015 gave us examples of inspiring new approaches. For example, the United States restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. This was a historic achievement, an exemplary display of moderation in action. It took courage. It would not have happened had those wishing to cling to old political divisions held sway.

Forward-thinking leaders put their people’s interests first. Similar courage, Mr President, is needed to permanently address the injustice suffered by the Palestinians since 1948.

Decades of impunity and the systematic dehumanisation of Palestinians has culminated in increasing violence, increasing illegal settlements, and increasing violations of rights. The frustration and anger felt by Palestinians resonates with Muslims worldwide.

If the world continues to turn a blind eye to their sufferings, we risk another catastrophe in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We will also fail to uphold the right to self-determination, which was at the very basis of the United Nations when it was created 70 years ago.

On that note, given the Rosh Hashanah violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and aggression against its worshippers three weeks ago, I call on the Israeli government to live up to Judaism’s highest ethical principles, and the essential message of the Torah as succinctly expressed by the first century BC sage Hillel. When asked to describe the Torah in a soundbite, he said, “That which is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellow human being.”

This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.

Currently Israel has forced its authority over Islam’s Third Holiest Site – in defiance of the jurisdiction of King Abdullah of Jordan, the lawful Custodian. It is therefore Israel’s duty to facilitate Muslims from around the world to visit. For this is an aspiration that all devout Muslims harbour and pray to be able to realise in their lifetime.

Putting people first will not always be easy. But the problems of today require new and global solutions.

Malaysia will raise these issues as a member of the UN Security Council – and reforming the Security Council to better reflect 2015’s realities, not 1945’s, represents a good start towards building a new, adequately responsive global architecture.

We in Malaysia know how much that is needed. We were extremely disappointed that the proposed resolution to set up an international tribunal into the shooting down of flight MH17 did not go through because a veto was imposed. We will continue to seek justice through other legal options, because we owe it to the families of those who perished in this outrageous crime.

But whether it be reform of the UN, tackling extremism or dealing with migration, greater mutual effort is necessary. We must look into ourselves and our own traditions to create new mechanisms. We believe that moderation is key.

Moderation is not about being weak. On the contrary, it is courageous and shows strength. The strength to push for peace and put the people first.

It is a principle that runs through all civilisations and faiths. Islam embodies it in the concept of “wasatiyyah”, Confucianism as “chung yung” – both of which mean “middle path” or “the Golden Mean.” But this is a principle we must rediscover, and at the 26th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia this April, we reaffirmed our commitment to this approach when we adopted the Langkawi Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates.

Malaysia stands ready to share its experience; of upholding Islam and marginalising extremism; of implementing the objectives of Shariah while practicing democracy; of maintaining a multi-ethnic society where different faiths coexist and prosper; and showing that Islam can not only succeed, but drive progress and successful economic development.

As we cooperate to solve the scourges of poverty, hatred, war and man-made and natural disasters that have given us the refugee crises we see today, we must draw from our spiritual traditions – and that generosity of spirit which goes beyond legal requirements.Surah `Abasa, the 80th chapter of the Quran, opens with God criticizing the Prophet Muhammad – whom we Muslims regard as God’s Beloved – because he frowned and turned his face away when one of his followers, a poor blind man, interrupted to ask him a question while he was occupied preaching to a rich and powerful unbeliever.

If God promptly rebuked the Prophet Muhammad, how much more will we, the community of Muslim world leaders especially, stand to be rebuked by our Creator if we “frown and turn our faces away” from our fellow-Muslim poor and marginalized, now fleeing Syria in massive numbers – causing social and economic stresses in Europe? Don’t we stand partly responsible for any ensuing European hostility towards Islam, the faith we love, and towards our fellow Muslims?

This is why Malaysia has taken, over the years, many people fleeing war, starvation and persecution. We currently have hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, and we took in more earlier this year when there was a dire humanitarian situation in the Andaman Sea.

I am pleased to announce today that, to help alleviate the current refugee crisis, Malaysia will do its share, and open our doors to a further 3,000 Syrian migrants over the next three years.

49. New international solutions are needed to deal with the migration crises. The millions fleeing are people – like us. They should concern us all. We must respect our common humanity.

For it is only when we transcend the silos of race and faith; only when we look at images of desperate migrants, the victims of extremists, and those whose lives are degraded by hunger and poverty – and see not strangers, but our brothers and sisters; and it is only when we see that dreadful picture of three year old Alan Kurdi washed ashore – and recognise our own children in that tragic boy’s innocent face – that we will act as our better selves. People around the world cry out for our help. We cannot – we must not – pass on by.