Malaysia’s Political Gridlock and Why Najib is not going to Jail


January 12, 2017

Malaysia’s Political Gridlock and Why Najib is not going to Jail

by Ooi Kok Hin

Despite protests, political realities will keep the prime minister’s coalition in power through 2017 – and beyond.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/why-malaysias-najib-razak-isnt-going-anywhere/

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

On November 19, tens of thousands of Malaysians assembled in the capital to demand for a free and fair election and the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is implicated in a massive financial scandal. Yet, Najib’s ruling coalition looks set to prevail in the next general election, rumored to be held this year.

Why is this so? I argue Malaysia’s political gridlock is prolonged largely by four factors: electoral malpractices, institutional failures, political fragmentation, and societal fault lines. Until and unless these are changed, reforms will be flimsy at best, and cosmetic at worst.

Electoral Malpractices: Keeping the Incumbent in Their Seats

In the previous general election, the ruling coalition won 47 percent of the popular vote but nearly 60 percent of the parliamentary seats. The opposition coalition won 51 percent of the votes but only 40 percent of the seats (the remaining 2 percent of the vote was split among marginal parties). The discrepancy is caused by the uneven weighting of popular representation. A constitutional clause grants over-representation for rural voters either spanning a large landmass or difficult to reach areas. However, even after taking this clause into account, electoral malpractices are severe.

In a study I co-wrote with fellow analysts from the Penang Institute, we found that at least 68 parliamentary seats and 162 state seats are either excessively under-represented or excessively over-represented under the latest redelineation proposed by the Election Commission. If the proposal comes into effect during the next general election, the outcome is effectively a forgone conclusion because of severe malapportionment and gerrymandering.

Malapportionment isthe disparity of constituency size caused by redelineation. It results in inequitable representation because it provides unequal vote value. For example, one voter in Putrajaya has a value equivalent to one voters in Kapar, as both constituencies have one seat each — even though Putrajaya has roughly 15,991 voters and Kapar has 144,159.

Even within the same state, the disparity of constituency size is striking. In the state of Selangor, Damansara is four times the size of Sabak Bernam. Any of the three excessively under-represented parliamentary constituencies in Selangor are bigger than the three small constituencies combined.

This is not a purely mathematical disparity of constituency size. It is a deliberate packing of opposition supporters into a mega-size constituency, diluting their ability to win other seats and making the neighboring marginal seats more winnable for the ruling coalition. Not surprisingly, Damansara is held by the opposition and Sabak Bernam is held by the ruling party.

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

Gerrymandering, meanwhile, is the practice of deliberately drawing constituency boundaries based on the voting pattern of constituents so that a party may benefit. Malaysia’s redelineation does this in three ways: the creation of constituencies spanning multiple local authorities, the arbitrary combination of communities without common interests, and the partition of local communities and neighborhoods. Voters living on the same street find themselves in different electoral constituencies. The confusion is compounded by the lack of information and publicity about the changes made to constituency boundaries and, crucially, voting districts.

Political Fragmentation: Weaker and Disunited Opposition

Given the steep electoral obstacles which the opposition has to overcome, it is no surprise that the National Front (Barisan Nasional, BN) is one of the longest ruling coalitions in the world. The then fully united opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, failed to unseat BN in the 2013 general election. The erstwhile alliance brought together three major opposition parties: the People’s Justice Party (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Any hope of taking advantage of Najib’s crisis has been dampened by the collapse of Pakatan Rakyat due to a quarrel over a chief minister’s position and the Islamist party’s insistence on the implementation of Sharia laws.

Amidst the open animosity between the opposition parties, pragmatist PKR is negotiating a miracle. They are appealing for a one-on-one fight; a scenario which even the most hardcore opposition supporter would find unlikely.

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

The Fractured Opposition

Hostility is mutual between PAS and DAP/Amanah. Bersatu, the new party setup by ousted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyddin Yassin and former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, is beset with internal issues and looks the least of a threat to Najib’s UMNO. A united opposition is anywhere but visible in Sabah and Sarawak, the two states which won the election for Najib, whose coalition took 47 out of 56 seats.

If PAS explicitly teamed up with UMNO, there is some hope that their grassroots and longtime supporters (who view UMNO as a nemesis) may vote for the opposition coalition as a protest against their leadership. Tacit cooperation is more likely, however, and in three-cornered fights, the ruling party will sweep all the marginal seats.

Institutional Failures: Culture of Unaccountability, Graft, and State Repression

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Institutional failures have doomed any formal case again Najib for the financial scandal centered on 1MDB. Former Attorney General Gani Patail was terminated just as he was allegedly drafting a charge sheet against Najib. The chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was replaced, its senior officers transferred out, and one investigating officer’s home was raided by the police. Three out of four figureheads of the special taskforce setup to investigate 1MDB were replaced within months.

The various institutions that were supposed to hold the government accountable have all faltered in one way or another. A concentration of power has enable the state leviathan to dismiss any institution that could actually hold it accountable.

Ideally, legislative institutions should uphold the principles of democracy and justice enshrined in the Constitution. But under the forceful thumb of the executive, they continue to either pass or fail to repeal draconian laws stretching from the colonial era. The Sedition Act, which criminalizes any speech deemed hateful or contemptuous towards the ruler or government, is routinely abused due to its vague clauses. The notorious detention without trial, another colonial legacy, gave powers to the executive to imprison political opponents for lengthy periods without a day in the courtroom. Most recently, the leader of a civil rights movement calling for free and fair elections, Maria Chin Abdullah, was detained under one such law.

The list of institutional failures includes that of the media. Some outlets fought and went down, like The Malaysian Insider. The mainstream press is owned directly by political parties or businessmen friendly to the establishment. Periodic license renewals keep them on their toes. Newspapers editors who did report on 1MDB were called in for police investigation.

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Malaysia’s Infamous Auditor-General

Institutional failure and lack of accountability are not limited to 1MDB. Year after year, the Auditor General has revealed staggering cases of mismanaged public funds. Government bodies bought wall clocks at RM 3,810 a piece (the market price is easily below RM 100) and scanners for RM 14,670 (market price: RM 200). The “normalization of corruption” is deeply embedded in the existing hierarchy, from the top to the bottom. In the newly released report, the auditors found that the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) lost hundreds of millions due to multiple transactions without proper authorization, dubious planning and execution, and complete mismanagement. It made news for two to three days before disappearing, like pretty much every other scandal. Corrupt acts are committed and revealed, followed by public outrage. But with no institution to exercise accountability, the news eventually disappears. It has become a normal cycle.

Late last year, the National Security Council Act was passed to enable the prime minister to declare an area of emergency as he deems necessary, without the approval of any other institution. Which raises the question: Are there any institutional safeguards to guarantee a peaceful transition of power even if the government fails to recapture popular support in the election?

Societal Fault Lines: One Cleavage Too Many

The fault lines of Malaysian society are too many and too deep, with groups frequently divided along ethnic and religious lines. Due to this, Najib can easily turn a once-unified opposition against one another.

Dr Jamil Khir Baharom, a minister in charge of religious affairs under Najib’s cabinet, paraded a bill amendment to increase the power of the Shariah court. PAS’s dream is to establish an Islamic state by implementing Islamic law, which cannot be fully enforced given the current restrictions on the maximum punishments the Shariah court can spell out. Under the revised version of the proposed amendment, the Shariah court will be strengthened by raising the punishment ceiling to 30 years in prison, a RM 100,000 fine, and 100 strokes of caning.

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Playing with the Islamic Fire

Najib’s olive branch to PAS is working, enticing the party away from cooperation with the opposition and thus sapping the opposition’s strength among the all-important Malay and rural areas.

In Malaysia ,where nearly everything is seen through the lens of race and religion, the push for Islamic law will effectively split society. Since all Malays are Muslims in this country (one’s professed religion is one of the constitutional definitions of being an ethnic Malay), debates on the bill can dangerously be turned into a sectarian conflict.

In the run-up to the November 19 rally, thugs dressed in red threatened the Bersih convoy. The Red Shirts, as they came to be known, are all ethnic Malays led by an UMNO division chief. Threats of violence aside, the racial rhetoric has become too discomforting. Last year, what was a typical robber and shopkeeper brawl turned into dangerous racial gatherings as the two groups called their friends, resulting in a mini-riot that night. In the aftermath of the previous election, the prime minister and the party’s de facto mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, denounced the Chinese as a scapegoat of opposition agents. All these societal fault lines testify to the enormity of the task to to unseat Najib.

The by-elections last year might provide some hint as to how the general elections will turn out. Najib’s coalition won both of them. I was in the suburban areas when opposition parties held a town hall panel session, inevitably speaking in English, touching on issues such as the removal of the Attorney-General. While these are big, national issues, it felt out of place. There is a visible gap between the politicians, the city folks, the demonstrators who so urgently and desperately want reforms, and the voters outside the cities, who voted for candidates affiliated to Najib’s party.

To speak plainly, people don’t mind the status quo as long as they are not affected at the most immediate and personal level. The whole 1MDB scandal has been too complicated to be explained to non-English literate voters with no understanding of the complex technical terms, in a five-minute rally. Financial scandals grow more complicated and people just lose interest. Maybe they underestimate the cost of it all, maybe they don’t care enough or just don’t lose enough; either way they are not angry enough to want to change the status quo.

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The partnership that can rattle the beleaguered Al-Kebas aka Malaysian Official 1–Najib Razak

What’s next? Even the unholy alliance between Anwar and Mahathir won’t be able to fight off the structural inequality of power and institutional failures. If political change is not sufficient, will it take an economic downturn to bring change in Malaysia, like Indonesia? In 1998, a combined factor of internal dissidents and economic instability brought the dictatorial Suharto era to an end and ushered in the Reformasi period. If neighboring Indonesia can live embedded in a dictatorship for 40 years and then undergo rapid democratization in so short a time, we can’t and shouldn’t rule anything out yet in Malaysia. But it will take a miracle.

Ooi Kok Hin is an analyst with the Penang Institute. He writes on political and social developments and Southeast Asian affairs.

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Malaysians–You have the right to know the truth


January 11. 2017

Malaysians–You have the right to know the truth

Are you willing to fight for it? Nothing is for free.

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Malaysia's Corrupt Prime MinisterThis Man was tutored by Dr. Mahathir to mess up Malaysia

You claim that you are desperate for change in Malaysia, but how hard are you prepared to work for it? You know that there can be no true democracy without a free press, but how have you contributed to the struggle for media freedom?

Leaders who are insecure or who grow crazy with power will seize control of the media to make it toe the government line. You know this already because most of what you read in the conventional media are glowing articles about the state of the nation despite the price hikes and the rise in crime rates that worry you.

Most law-abiding citizens fear those who threaten the peace. You feel helpless because you are prosecuted for “threatening the peace” with the innocuous remarks you make on Facebook while others who threaten to bathe the streets in blood get a light rap on the knuckles.

So you withdraw further into your shell. The quest for change becomes somebody else’s problem, not yours anymore.

Image result for Irwan Siregar

No wonder our national finances are in one big mess. We have this Siregar fella in charge of our Treasury while another mamak called Hamsa as head of our Blue Ocean civil service.

Meanwhile, you privately complain about the corruption scandals, the abuse of power, the waste of government resources, the tedious bureaucracy, the arrogant civil servants and the lack of accountability of MPs and senior civil servants.

You feel that it is the job of the opposition to effect change and unfairly call them weak when, in truth, they are severely handicapped by a lack of resources.

You compare Malaysian journalists with their foreign counterparts and complain that ours are meek because they refrain from asking tough questions, but when whistleblowers were hauled to court, journalists were harassed and jailed, editors threatened with sedition and publications blocked and threatened with closure, what did you do to help protect your right to know the truth?

Did you look the other way or did you harass your MP, write to the press, start an online petition or protest against the lack of press freedom? Or did you excuse yourself because you have a job to protect and many mouths to feed? Did you tell yourself, “After all, I’m not a journalist”?

You were probably saddened when publications were forced to shut down because companies feared to place advertisements with them and they were thereby deprived of revenue. It did not move you to donate money to keep them open. You somehow convinced yourself that it was not your job to fund others. You failed to see that if every one of several hundred thousand people like you were to donate a few ringgit, it would add up to a large amount of money.

Of course, you are desperate for change. Sadly, it is your inaction that fuels interference in your media.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir.


January 10, 2017

The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir. That’s rather bizarre logic

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini

“I’m a realist, I do what I can do, if I can’t do, I don’t.”

De facto Opposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Image result for Quotes from Mahathir

What if I said that Malays have a lazy, rent-seeking culture, relying on political and social influence to gain wealth and unable to retain power despite all their special privileges? Would this be wrong? Would this be racist? Would this be seditious?

How about if former Prime Minister and now de facto Oopposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this? Would it still be “racist”? Would this be considered some sort of truth telling? Would it make a difference when he said this last week or when he was Prime Mminister of this country?

More than a decade ago, in an UMNO General Assembly speech (which also coincided with a celebration of sorts – 21 years in office), Dr.Mahathir as UMNO President engaged in some “realist” assessment of the Malay community he had led for over two decades.

As reported by Malaysiakini, he claimed – “If today they (Malays) are colonised, there is no guarantee they will have the capacity to oppose the colonialists.” The former Premier said Malays had failed because they were lazy and sought the easy way out by reselling their shares, licences and contracts to non-Malays.

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“They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little, they want to be rich this very moment… no work is done other than to be close to people with influence and authority in order to get something. After selling and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more”,he said.

Therefore, there is a rather bizarre logic in his thinking when he said that he had no regrets about stifling dissent in young Malay people during his tenure. Bizarre because the former Prime Minister has never been afraid of using the stereotype of the Malay community as a means of galvanising support.

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And this extends to the other communities as well. Well by “others”, I really mean the Chinese community because as we all know the Indian community is absent from the discourse. In the same speech at the 2002 UMNO General Assembly, he also referenced the Chinese community – the very community that UMNO has always demonised as a threat to Malay hegemony but in reality, meant they were perceived as a threat against UMNO hegemony.

He said, “If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays. Learn from the Chinese.”

Only Mahathir could balance such contradictions, playing the racial card against communities, including the one UMNO claims to represent. Which is why in Mahathir’s thinking there is really no reason why he should not be standing shoulder to shoulder with his former opponents in an attempt to bring down the Najib Abdul Razak regime.

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This is  truly bizzare

He really does not care what political pundits, who seek to remind people of what he did during his tenure, say because he knows that he then enjoyed the support of the majority of Malaysians and he did this using the kind of realpolitik that oppositional parties during his regime did not grasp or were uninterested in learning.

While some opposition supporters blather on about “truth and conscience” but offer no real evidence that these form the desideratum for oppositional forces in this country, the former prime minister has no problem twisting the facts on the ground or contorting social and economic realities to fit his narratives.

A clear example of this would be when in an interview, he acknowledged that discrimination was part of the system but that there were communities who thrived in spite of it – “The Chinese in Malaysia have no special rights, they experience discrimination. But they are more successful than us.”

This is exactly the system a Gerakan political operative was talking about when he mocked the opposition for subscribing to the same system as BN. And the same kind of thinking that for years sustained BN which led to the creation of the leviathan which in the Najib regime. We get the world we deserve.

Slaying sacred cows

And keep in mind that during Mahathir’s tenure, UMNO defined oppositional racial preoccupations because the slaying of UMNO sacred cows were the very definition (and still is) of any kind of egalitarian agenda that would truly “save Malaysia”. All those other so-called racial preoccupations, religious, social and economic are a direct result of the UMNO agenda and the mendacious ‘social contract’.

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Not True, Mahathir forgets easily

However, since the short-term goal of saving Malaysia means removing Najib, the real power brokers, those invested in the system – and they are not only Malays – would like to keep the gravy train moving, only with a different railroad engineer.

Unlike some oppositional voices who pontificate about “principles” or at least attempt to control the discourse, demonising those who dredge up so-called ancient history and engaging in victimhood to facilitate political expediency, the former prime minister is clear about the purpose of his alliance with the oppositional forces in this country.

As he told me when I brought up the trust deficit when it comes to opposition supporters and his new role as oppositional leader – “If Najib is there, the opposition will suffer. If Najib is there, even UMNO will suffer, the whole country will suffer. I think the opposition is not supporting me, they are interested in removing Najib. I have the same interest. It is okay to work together – only on that issue, not on other issues.”

Furthermore, he has had no problems claiming that he would slay Malay sacred cows for the benefit of the community – “I cannot predict how much longer this (affirmative action) will go on but at the moment, we are trying out… some kind of experiment… by withdrawing some of the protection in education,” he said. “We want to see whether they will be able to withstand the competition or not. Obviously if they prove themselves able to, we can think of reducing further some of the protection.”

This was always the stick component of the carrot-and-stick approach, and the former Prime Minster knew very well that affirmative action programmes had a deleterious effect on the Malay community.

Moreover, when he hinted that he would slay sacred cows, he was greeted with rapturous applause as some sort of truth sayer by the very same Umno who now endorse the Najib regime’s attempt to further consolidate power and engage with Mahathir’s sworn enemy, PAS.

But of course, now that the Malay community is fractured and the Malay opposition needs to reassure the Malay community, all those special privileges, all those affirmative action programmes, everything that the former prime minister said was holding back the Malay community, are off the table.

The only thing that discerning Malaysians have to take away from any of this is that Mahathir acknowledges that he failed to change the Malay community – “What else (can I do) … I have tried to be an example, tried to teach, scolded, cried and even prayed. (But) I have failed. I have failed to achieve the most important thing – how to change the Malays.”

When asked if there was anything he would do differently, he claimed that he wanted to be a “normal” UMNO member because he could not do anything for the Malays. Well, he is not even a member now and he is the power behind a nascent Malay power structure.

The big question is, will he fail again. More importantly, is changing the Malays really the agenda of the game for him or anyone else.

On Daim Zainuddin–The Silent One


January 5, 2017

Malaysia’s Daim Zainuddin–Controversial but Competent and Effective Finance Minister and Political Operative Par Excellence

by Professor Mohamed Zain

Image result for Daim Zainuddin and Mahathir

Books have been written about Tun Daim Zainuddin, but not many people know who the real Daim is. He is famous for being taciturn. Everyone knows that Daim is the silent type; so silent, in fact, that the victims of his scheming and conniving have fallen like ten pins without ever knowing what hit them.

He has, on the quiet, made a career of shooting poison darts, laying booby traps. and knifing friend or foe in the back. His hand is never seen, but his mark is everywhere. Truth to tell, he has been at the root of many national crises, but his name has never been smudged, thanks to the wealth he wields and his bond of friendship with Dr. Mahathir.

Silent cancer

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Most members of UMNO’s new generation are aware that Daim is an acquisitive millionaire and a macho man with a taste of young women, but they concede him these weaknesses because they see in him a clean and competent Economic Adviser to the Government. But the generation of Harun Idris, Musa Hitam and Manan Othman to name just a few of the old hands – they are the ones to ask in order to discover who the real Daim is.

It was Dato’ Harun who plucked Daim up from the depths of failure in the salt business. Daim’s wife, Mahani and Harun’s wife, Salmah were good friends and an influential pair in the early 1970s. It was wife power that moved Harun to give Daim 160 acres of prime Kampung Pandan land. And thus Syarikat Maluri was born.

There is no use speculating over how much Daim paid Harun. After all, the two were fast friends. For the gory details, just ask Low Kiok Bow or Thamby Chik. They can relate how Daim cheated a land broker and greased Selangor state executive councillor and Mahathir’s brother-in-law, Ahmad Razali for that piece of land.

 Of course, Daim still had to pay for the land. In those days, it was not easy to borrow from a bank. Hence, he was forced to corrupt Bank Bumiputra. Lorraine Osman and Rais Saniman know how much he spent. Manan Othman can no doubt confirm the figure, he was so close to Daim that they tried to share a girl friend, with Manan often borrowing the bedroom at Daim’s office in Taman Maluri.

Mahathir’s choice

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Daim’s elevation as Senator and, subsequently, Minister of Finance, was part of Mahathir’s strategic plan. Mahathir’s choice should surprise no one, after all the two were intimate friends from the same kampung in Seberang Perak, Alor Setar. Upon becoming Prime Minister on 16 July, 1981, the first thing on Mahathir’s mind was how to sideline his archenemy, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Musa squeezed out

Musa Hitam, the Deputy Prime Minister, was at first oblivious of the closet ties between Mahathir and Daim. Innocently, he expressed to Mahathir his disquiet over Daim’s wheeling and dealing, particularly his award of projects and contracts to his own associates and cronies. It must have baffled him when his complaints fell on deaf ears although he was Deputy Prime Minister, he has no say when it came to economic matters, particularly privatisation and the assignment (to supporters) of economic projects.

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Daim told everyone he had no interest in politics, but all the while he was confident of getting the Finance Minister’s job after a stint with the Senate. A few months after joining the Senate, Daim became Chairman of Fleet, which owned the New Straits Times. In 1984, he finally got his dream job and became the third most important man in the Federal Cabinet, after the Prime Minister and his deputy.

How disappointed Musa must have been to find that Daim could not care less about his effort to help his supporters secure some projects or contracts. Daim succeeded in making millionaires of such cronies of Wan Azmi, Halim Saad, Tajuddin Ramli, Samsuddin Hassan, Razali Rahman and Tan Sri Basir, but Musa in the end was cast off as a poor ex-DPM.

Musa once complained to Mahathir that Daim had stolen a number of supporters’ project proposals, but again Mahathir ignored him. These were the first acts in the eventual breakup of the Mahathir-Musa partnership. As the interests of Mahathir and Daim bloated, Musa got squeezed out.

Many UMNO members assume that Razaleigh is Musa’s number one enemy. In fact, the reason for the 1986 split in UMNO must fall on Daim. It was he who drove Musa to the edge until he had no choice but to resign. Again, Daim’s man of few words demeanour to his advantage. Few knew of his behind-the-scenes role in that UMNO rupture not many more know it today.

One really should not wonder why Musa called a truce Razaleigh and the two decided to collaborate in the 1987 fight, the one that eventually caused UMNO to be outlawed. At that time, Daim was almost invincible, what support coming from such strongmen as Sanusi Junid and Anwar Ibrahim. The comradeship of the three was rock solid, and the Musa-Razaleigh camp could do nothing except to make a joke of it by giving them the nicknames AIDS.

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The United Engineers Company, bought for RM2, changed into a multi-million- ringgit corporation. As Finance Minister, Daim practically ordered banks to lend to companies that he himself owned. And no Daim crony every complained of difficulty in securing bank credit. Indeed, bankers lived in fear of Daim. Having appointed Wan Azmi and Basir to head Malayan Banking and Bank Bumiputra, he would give any project to any of his cronies because funding was not an issue.

If those physical projects were not enough, Daim also took every opportunity to take wealth from the share market as well. Every time the Treasury approved a company for listing on the stock exchange, Daim cronies received their lion’s shares. That was how Southern Bank, Resort World, Sports Toto, Berjaya, Tanjong and scores of other blue chip firms landed with Daim and Company.

Once, when share values were high, Daim boasted among friends that his visible wealth alone totalled RM65 billion. To shut the mouth of Barisan Nasional leaders, Daim gave lucrative projects (CRUMBS) to Samy Vellu and Ling Liong Sik so that their children could be big-shots in batches.

Daim managed to persuade UMNO members into believing that Mahathir would not let him go although he had asked to be relieved of his Cabinet post on a number of occasions.

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With Musa and Razaleigh out of the picture, Daim could grab as much wealth as he wanted without even Mahathir stopping him. Besides, he was UMNO’s treasurer and he could make it look as if the companies he controlled were those in which the party had a stake.

Daim’s avarice damaged not only his own image as finance minister, but also Mahathir’s and Malaysia ‘s reputation with the international community. It is said that he used to demand exorbitant fees for himself in negotiating contracts involving foreign suppliers. The chairmen of Japan ‘s two biggest banks – the Bank of Tokyo and Sanwa Bank – once complained to Mahathir that his Finance Minister demanded commissions that were too high when negotiating yen loans.

Margaret Thatcher, too, has complained about Daim’s role as a commissioned agent. He had – or still has – accounts in Zurich , London , Hong Kong, Tokyo , Singapore , Caymen Island , Channel Island and Virgin Island. Indeed, instead of keeping his billions in Malaysia , he has stashed them overseas.

KTM land in S’pore

Image result for Daim Zainuddin and Mahathir

With his immense wealth and far-reaching influence, Daim eventually became a burden that Mahathir could no longer bear. In every deal he made, there was something in it for himself. It was not beneath him even to cooperate with Lee Kuan Yew to snatch KTM land in Singapore . The Malaysian Cabinet had no knowledge of this. But this issue of Malaysia being outwitted by Lee Kuan Yew and Daim is far from over.

Mahathir eventually realised that he had to end Daim’s lordship over the Finance Ministry. And so he told him to quit. He  worried that if Daim continued as Finance Minister, complaints would come not only from Vincent Tan, Ananda Krishnan, Arumugam (M’s DIRECT CRONIES) and other members of the Malaysian business elite, but also from foreign leaders.

Signs of a Daim-related scandal were ominous and it could break any time in Japan or Britain, therefore, Daim had to go.

 Daim’s resignation

Daim’s resignation was planned such that it would not appear as if he had been sacked. Indeed, it does not make sense why a powerful Finance Minister, rich and in control of so many public companies, would suddenly quit simply because he had lost interest in the job.

Observers will recall that Mahathir’s first comment on the so-called reaction was, ‘He has asked several times for permission to resign, and I have finally allowed it. I hope Daim would not leave the country after resigning’. That statement was pregnant with meaning. Mahathir knew Daim was sulking. So did Anwar and Sanusi. Mahathir retained Daim as UMNO Treasurer for a good reason, he wanted to ensure the safety of UMNO money, a lot of which was under Daim’s control.

But Daim who holds so many of Mahathir’s secrets, is only a sly one. After resigning, he went to live in his San Francisco residence. He told the Malaysian public he wanted to study at Harvard, but in fact he wanted to leave Malaysia. Mahathir, who was familiar with Daim’s antics, pleaded with him to come back, saying he needed him to advise on economic matters.

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Daim returned and announced that Mahathir had named him Economic Adviser to the Government. Rafidah asked Mahathir to confirm this, but all she got was silence. Daim was never formally appointed as Economic Adviser, a post which Tun Raja Mohar once held. The appointment is the prerogative of the Public Services Department. Daim gave himself the job. To keep Daim happy, Mahathir allowed him to open an office at the Economic Planning Unit, and this strengthened the public perception that he was still in control as far as economic affairs were concerned.

Rafidah more honest than Anwar?

When he was to told to resign as Finance Minister, Daim asked Mahathir to appoint Anwar Ibrahim to the job. Obviously, he thought this would help to ensure that his skeletons would remain closeted. He warned Mahathir of the peril that Rafidah would be to both of them: the secrets they shared would be uncovered.

As far as we know, no Finance Minster in this world has retired a billionaire, except Daim. In the book Daim yang Diam: Sebuah Biographi (Daim the Silent: A Biography), Daim explains his retirement: ‘I am happy in retirement. It was too heavy a responsibility. In truth, I love the business world. Business is in my blood. I love to make money. I know how to do it. I can do it just by sitting in this chair. On a lucky day, I can make millions.’

 Friend of Soros

According to an internal bank analysis, collaborated by the corporate community, and from Daim crony Amin Shah, Daim’s wealth, in ringgit and foreign currencies kept overseas currently amounts to RM20 billion.

With so much money at his disposal, Daim can manipulate the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. He showed his hand in 1991, just to prove how much influence he wielded. After selling off his stocks, he made a statement to the effect that the market would crash. And crash it did.

 As we can all recall, even Mahathir could not help but make a wry remark when Daim boasted that he invested in KLSE only for pocket money. But to his good friend, Daim said he could turn in profit on RM90 million a day when the market was up. When the market plummeted in October 1991 Daim bought back his share on the cheap. When the market turned bullish again 1995 and 1996, Daim made billions of ringgit from it.

So it turns out that Soros is not the only big time market manipulator and currency dealer. Daim met Soros twice in London when the ringgit was being hotly traded. Anyway, when the ringgit fell below RM4 to the US dollar, Mahathir asked Daim for help and, according to a source in Singapore, he lost RM1 billion trying to prop up the Malaysian currency. To lose that much in currency trading, imagine how much money he had at his disposal.

Mahathir panicked

The falls in currency and share values put Mahathir in a feverish panic. He knew his policies and his own belligerent attitude were partly to blame. Seeing Mahathir in such a frenzied state, Daim recommended that he declare a state of emergency to enable him to restore the economy and at the same time, bury the corpses that were beginning to stink.

We hail the Chief Secretary to the Government and the Solicitor-General for opposing the move. If Daim’s plan had been followed, Mahathir would turn dictator and the Malaysian economy would be utterly ruined. Having failed to declare an emergency, Mahathir set up the National Economic Action Council, headed by Daim, with the Economic Planning Unit as its Secretariat. Daim also persuaded Mahathir to appoint Mustapha Mohammad as Anwar’s deputy because these two could be depended on to fill up the holes he had left gaping. Anwar is nobody’s fool, but he sacrificed his idealism to protect his towkay.

Eventually, the council became merely an advisory body, with the Cabinet having final say on its recommendations.

 Daim finally found a road-block in Anwar

The establishment of the council was a wedge between Anwar and Daim. Thus, two old friends who had together stood behind Mahathir against Musa were now turned against each other.

 The original plan was to give the NEAC complete autonomy, but the Cabinet ministers opposed this for fear that they would lose any vestige of power they had left.

All of the council’s recommendations were rejected by the Cabinet and Bank Negara. Daim openly assailed Bank Negara for dismissing his proposals, such as those relating to interest rates and credit control.

We salute the Bank Negara Governor (Tan Sri Aziz Taha) for maintaining a prudent monetary policy in the face of Daim’s bullying and insults. Unlike Daim and his cohorts, Bank Negara’s officials are not self-serving.

Daim’s appointment to the NEAC was a major national mistake. Going by press reports of its deliberations so far, the NEAC’s sole preoccupation is with saving mega corporations from bankruptcy. No doubt, these are Daim-related companies.

Daim has yet to show any concern over the rise in the price of chillies, or the leaps in fish prices or how the price of rice has boiled over. Neither has he talked about small businesses in their death throes. Class F contractors going bankrupt or kampung road projects being abandoned. In his dictionary, there are no entries for the small man’s worries, nothing about low-cost houses, water cuts or study funds for the children of poor Malays. In fact, it contains only billion size fi

While the Malaysian economy is close to ruin, Daim remains a billionaire, living a life of glamour, jet setting with his new wife Naimah and the attractive Josephine, an Indian lass who helps him run one of his firms, the International Malaysian Bank.

We have merely given a sketch of who the real Daim is. A thorough account will soon be available in book form. We recommend the book to UMNO members, especially those with big ambitions, because they will learn much from its fantastic but true tales of economic and political intrigues.

We denounce the likes of Vincent Tan and Ting Phek Khiing for land-grabbing, but perhaps we should ask the Menteri Besar of Johor and the Menteri Besar of Kedah how much land Daim has taken.

Ask Sanusi how much Daim paid to the Kedah government for 12,000 acres in Sungai Petani and how much profit he made from them. For 12,000 acres, Osman Arof had to be sacrificed. The true story of the Daim-Sanusi conspiracy in Kedah will be exposed in the book.

UMNO at Crossroads

UMNO is at a crossroads and has to decide wisely where it is going. One road heads to glory, where stability and democratic practice will abide. The other leads to division, autocracy and ultimately, utter destruction.

The call for reform, which used to be made only in whispers at small, secretive gatherings, is becoming louder. UMNO members, showing that they can no longer contain their restiveness and frustration, have begun to openly debate the need for change, even at party conventions.

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The Kaki Ampus (Sycophants) in UMNO with their Provider, Najib Razak

Can there be a clearer indication that they have reached their tether’s end, that they can no longer stomach the leadership’s undemocratic attitude and the prevalence – whether in the party or the government – of favouritism, cronyism, nepotism, graft and other misdeeds? Malay nationalism is dead and materialism and egoism are running amok.

We cannot depend on the UMNO Supreme Council to initiate reform because few of the members have the guts to speak up. In fact, the council has lately been transformed into a monologue theatre. But of course even a monologue can flop without good supporting players – fools, clowns, jesters, attendants and the oh-so- important flatterers.

Can there be a clearer indication that they have reached their tether’s end, that they can no longer stomach the leadership’s undemocratic attitude and the prevalence – whether in the party or the government – of favouritism, cronyism, nepotism, graft and other misdeeds? Malay nationalism is dead and materialism and egoism are running amok.

 We cannot depend on the UMNO Supreme Council to initiate reform because few of the members have the guts to speak up. In fact, the council has lately been transformed into a monologue theatre. But of course even a monologue can flop without good supporting players – fools, clowns, jesters, attendants and the oh-so- important flatterers.

As far as these bit players are concerned, UMNO’s ideals and principles are not as important as their jobs. This keep-your-mouth- shut syndrome serves only to embolden the party leadership in its conceit, arrogance and h au ghtiness. A president has become a dictator. Woe are the Malays and Umno. What is to become of them? That is a question only Umno members can answer.

– Professor Mohamed Zain – Professor of Technology & Strategic Management -College of Business & Economics -University of Qatar

-hornbillunleashed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politics in Malaysia–Old Timers make a comeback


Politics in Malaysia–Old Timers make a comeback

by Sebastian Dettman, Cornell University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for Mahathir on a Political Comeback

The most surprising twist of Malaysian politics in 2016 has been the rapid evolution of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad from ultimate regime insider to opposition leader. Mahathir now frequently shares the stage with the regime opponents he jailed during his 22 years in power. He made appearances at the rally of the pro-democracy group Bersih and even showed up at the opposition Democratic Action Party’s congress, saying his previous views on the party were wrong.

 

Yet Mahathir is not the only unlikely new opposition. Former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin and Mahathir’s son Mukhriz have joined up with Mahathir after both were fired from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party. These ‘three Ms’ now head a new political party — the United Indigenous Party of Malaysia (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia). A number of prominent UMNO leaders at the state level, including UMNO Sabah’s Shafie Apdal, have left the party, signalling simmering internal discontent.

All of this is evidence of how the enormous 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal continues to reshape Malaysian politics. Prime Minister Najib Razak has squashed domestic investigations that might definitively link him to the billions of dollars missing from the state investment fund 1MDB. But international investigations in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and elsewhere will likely result in more damaging and difficult-to-deny revelations.

These defections should be a major source of worry for Najib’s government. Scholars of competitive authoritarian regimes like Malaysia have long noted the key role of regime defectors in encouraging regime collapse.

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Yet there are a few reasons why Najib’s position seems temporarily secure — not least because of the powerful authoritarian tools he inherited from Mahathir. Perceived regime opponents have been sued, attacked and detained. The Red Shirt Group — led by UMNO division leader Jamal Yunos — have repeatedly threatened and attacked organisers of the Bersih protests. After their November rally in Kuala Lumpur, Bersih organiser Maria Chin Abdullah was detained for 11 days in solitary confinement. Independent media has suffered from website blocks, raids and criminal charges.

In another major realignment, Najib has slowly drawn in the Islamic opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). He pledged support for the controversial bill championed by PAS President Hadi Awang, which is widely seen as laying the groundwork for hudud (Islamic criminal law) implementation in Malaysia. In early December, Najib and Hadi shared the stage at a rally to highlight the plight of the Muslim Rohingnya community of Myanmar.

At the international level, Najib has found a welcome new partner in China. China has snapped up 1MDB’s assets at rock-bottom prices, and may help the company pay for its legal disputes in exchange for government land. There has been a series of high-profile Chinese investments in the East Coast Rail, real estate development in Malacca and Johor Bahru, and around the high-speed rail line between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Najib enthusiastically greeted Trump’s election in the United States, but it is unclear whether the change in government will affect the Department of Justice’s investigation into 1MDB.

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The next general elections are likely to take place in 2017, which places electoral manoeuvring at the top of all parties’ agendas. Opposition leaders hope high-profile defectors like Mahathir and his new party can help make unprecedented inroads into government territory. But the warming ties between PAS and UMNO will significantly complicate the opposition’s problems of divvying up seats and presenting a united image to voters. Najib — and UMNO — still have access to enormous state resources, control over the elections process and an array of authoritarian tools that will greatly aid them in retaining power.

Yet as elections loom, the more fundamental issues around Malaysia’s politics are being sidelined. Who or what comes after Najib? There is little sign that Najib’s ouster will trigger the protracted institutional reform needed to prevent future abuses of power. The party he leads has shown little evidence of soul-searching over the scandal.

It is also unclear how willing the new opposition leaders are to stay outside the ruling government if and when Najib leaves power. At the least their style of politics seems an uneasy match with the multiracial and progressive image cultivated by the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition. Mahathir’s race-based Malaysian United Indigenous Party, or PPBM, unapologetically harkens back to a racial paradigm of politics, seeking to sweep up discontented UMNO leaders and supporters. As a result, the newly expanded opposition is left with antipathy to Najib as their major unifying issue.

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Malaysia has entered a new and potentially dangerous chapter in its political history. At this point, it seems the opposition can only raise the stakes for Najib to further erode democratic institutions in a bid to keep his party — and himself — in power.

Sebastian Dettman is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government, Cornell University.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2016 in review and the year ahead.

PKR show some Respect –Women can be Leaders not Seat Warmers


December 29, 2016

PKR show some Respect –Women can be Leaders not Seat Warmers

by Dr Kua Kia Soong@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is a living example of a Woman in Power

From the first time that she entered the political arena as the candidate for the Parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh after her husband’s incarceration, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Kak Wan) has been treated as the seat warmer for Anwar Ibrahim until whenever he is released and available to contest in the election. The latest such gambit is the suggestion by Lim Kit Siang that she should be made interim prime minister if the opposition wins the next general election.

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Yes, Maggie, but you were never an Interim Prime Minister of Great Britain

Is that paying equal respect to women as candidates in the political process? Is that paying equal respect to Kak Wan? Does that suggestion accurately reflect the position that the opposition coalition has on women as political candidates? And overall, what are opposition supporters to conclude about the standing of women within the opposition?

These are not of course not the only times that Kak Wan has been suggested to be the seat warmer for Anwar. During the hare-brained “Kajang Move” in 2014, Kak Wan was supposed to have been the “interim menteri besar” for Selangor except that the plans went awry and Azmin Ali ended up as the MB instead. The consequences of this ill-thought-out political scheme had even more serious consequences for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition when PAS was ejected from the coalition.

Women are NOT seat warmers for their husbands

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In 2008, Kak Wan had to resign her seat to make way for her husband to retake the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat in a by-election even though either the Chief Minister of Penang or the MB of Selangor could have relinquished their seats for Anwar since they already had enough on their plates in looking after their own respective states. Nonetheless, as far as I know, no feminist at that time raised any objections even though Kak Wan was already an elected Member of Parliament in her own right.

Considering that she is now being considered to be the candidate for “interim prime minister”, isn’t it strange that in 2008, none of the men in Pakatan Rakyat thought that Kak Wan deserved to keep her parliamentary seat while alternative arrangements could have been made to accommodate Anwar such as I have suggested above? This is a basic feminist demand.

However, during the so-called Kajang Move, “feminist” arguments were suddenly proffered to justify Kak Wan being the “interim menteri besar of Selangor” when it was evident that the choice of Kak Wan or Azmin Ali was the bone of contention between DAP, PKR and PAS. Concerned Malaysians should note that this was the real cause of the ejection of PAS from the opposition coalition and not the hudud issue as it is often made out to be. After all, hudud has been part and parcel of PAS ideology since the Islamic party started decades ago.

Should the MB for Selangor be decided on merit or can feminist arguments be used to justify Kak Wan as the “interim” MB? Note that it is not clear if the argument is for Kak Wan to be MB in her own right, on her own strengths, or whether this is an argument for why she cannot be the “interim” MB.

Is there hope for an eternal “interim” coalition?

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Interim Opposition Coalition Prime Minister–Dr. Mahathir Mohamad?

So long as the opposition coalition cannot envision a leadership without Anwar, it will be continually thinking in “interim” circles while excuses will continue to be shovelled out for why there cannot be a shadow cabinet at this stage. As for policies, their differentia specifica visavis Barisan Nasional is not clear. This is the core weakness of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, not anything else. Real feminist issues like that of ensuring a greater representation of women will be relegated to such tokenistic concessions as being the “interim prime minister” or whatever.

Is the lady for turning?

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This is my New Year’s Message to the Young Women and Men in my country, Malaysia. Never allow our corrupt and incompetent leaders to lead you by your noses like Kerbaus (Buffaloes) and Lembus ( Cows). Stand Up and Be Counted because we can individually and collectively make a difference. If we cannot do that after 60 years of Independence, something is seriously wrong with all of us as a people. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.–Din Merican

“The lady’s not for turning” was the statement made famous by Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister in 1980 when she stood her ground against the men in her party. Although we do not agree with her policies, this turn of phrase shows that she was a woman with a mind of her own… and she was not about to be any man’s “interim whatever”!

It is this principle that needs to be seen to be rigorously upheld if women’s political participation is to be taken seriously and given the equal respect it deserves, by both the opposition party leaders and their supporters.

Kua Kia Soong is adviser to Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).