FELDA–Tun Razak’s Legacy– is the Next 1MDB


July 9, 2018

FELDA–Tun Razak’s Legacy– is the Next 1MDB

by Dr. M Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California, USA

FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority), the massive plantation development scheme that was Tun Razak’s brainchild and crown jewel of his rural development program, threatens to rival the massive scandal of 1MDB in terms of corruption, grand larceny, and inept management.

Image result for Shahril Samad of Felda

IMD/IMEDE-Educated Laundromat Entrepreneur, Shahril Samad

Its new head (now former, with UMNO’s rout in the May 2018 elections), one Shahril Samad, admitted that title to the prime property on which its head office is sited was transferred to a developer without his or his agency’s knowledge! This character claims to have an MBA (from IMD/IMEDE–Switzerland) but his private venture up till then was to run a laundromat. He, in turn, had replaced the scandal-ridden Isa Samad (no relation) who earlier was found guilty by UMNO for “money politics.”

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FELDA Chairman, Isa Samad

FELDA is now a large, diversified agro-based GLC having morphed from its origin as a modest federal agency. It boasts revenues (2017 figures) in excess of RM17 billion. The profit picture, however, is another story and best reflected by its stock price which languishes at about a third of its initial offering price. When FELDA was listed in 2012 as FGV (FELDA Global Ventures), it was the largest in Asia and globally second only to Facebook.

Visit FELDA’s settlements today and compare them to the 1960s or 70s. Nothing much have changed. The settlers’ standard of living has not improved. If there is any economic enterprise on those settlements, they would be under the control of FGV. The social and economic dynamics of those settlements resemble the old company town, except that the company here, FGV, is not in the least benevolent.

There is one significant change which the settlers are not even aware of, or if they are, not appreciate the full financial and other ramifications. Whereas before they had title to their land (about 16 acres each), today that has been subordinated to FGV as part of the IPO. When FGV shares tumbled, those settlers’ assets went with it.

Those settlers as well as FELDA managers do not understand such sophisticated financial instruments as dividends, stock offerings, and capital gains. FGV should have emulated Nestlé and invested in its settlers and not be enthralled with pseudo high finance. FELDA is uniquely positioned to execute that as its leaders and managers are Malays, as are the settlers. As such there would be no cultural barriers in appreciating their problems, unlike Nestlé’s European managers had with their African growers.

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FELDA has done little to stimulate entrepreneurial activities among its settlers. It has not encouraged them through funding or training to be FELDA’s vendors, suppliers, or subcontractors, nothing beyond harvesting the palm nuts and tapping their rubber trees.

I would have expected that with the huge profits FELDA often brags about, the schools and clinics in its settlements would be among the best so as to give those settlers’ children a flying head start, as those of Nestle’s African cocoa growers. Instead FELDA schools perform below average. Regrettable considering that the mission of these GLCs is “national development foundation,” in particular that of Bumiputras.

FELDA has only recently set up a residential school exclusively for the children of its workers. Over half a century later, and only one school! FELDA brags ad nauseum about the few successful “AnakFELDA” (children of FELDA). They are outliers, not the consequence of enlightened policies.

As for the settlements, few have electricity or piped water, much less a clinic. Again, compare that to what Nestlé is doing to those African cocoa growers. Those Malay managers and executives at FELDA ought to be ashamed of themselves and their lousy performances!

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FELDA has introduced little innovation to make the settlers’ lives and work more bearable and less dangerous. Oil palm is harvested in the same old, crude, and dangerous manual ways as it was in the 1960s. FELDA have not introduced hydraulic lifts (like the ones telephone repairmen use to fix overhead lines) to make the harvesting of palm nuts more efficient. Those workers still use pitchforks and bare hands to collect those nuts. Not only do the pitchforks damage the nuts, their sharp shells often scrape the workers’ hands giving rise to painful tumor-like growths (granulomas). Those chores are archaic and literally backbreaking; they should have been mechanized.

Only through such innovations could you increase your workers’ productivity, not endlessly exhorting “work harder!” or “be more efficient!”

FGV is the largest employer of unskilled laborers, meaning, illegal immigrants. Instead of investing in the skills and productivity its workers, as well as modernizing its plantations to be less dependent on unskilled workers, FGV took the easy way out by importing them and with all the attendant social problems.

There is also little research done on maximizing the use of land, as with growing flowers and vegetables or raising livestock in between the trees to raise the settlers’ income.

FELDA has many subsidiaries. All look impressive until you examine their activities; few materially advance the settlers’ plight. Those subsidiaries are but crass opportunities for politicians and civil servants to earn extra-lucrative directorship fees by being appointed to their boards, all at the poor settlers’ expense.

With the resources it has and freed from the micromanagement of the the civil service, FGV could have superb build schools to benefit the settlers’ children.

These GLCs as exemplified by FGV have failed in their primary mission of developing Bumiputra human capital. They succeed only in duplicating existing governmental programs, and adding to the costs. They do not bring in added value despite the tremendous resources, financial and otherwise, expended on them. Good enough reason to get rid of them.

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau


May 6, 2018

GE-14: 72 hours to Polling Day, May 9, 2018. Voters who  have access to my blog in Malaysia should read this insightful analysis of Malaysian politics by Tun Daim Zainuddin, whose views I respect, before they go to the Polls. Rationally speaking, you will have no choice but to vote for Pakatan Harapan and make Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as our next Prime Minister. Like most of us including me deserve a second chance to correct our mistakes.

More importantly, we cannot allow a pathological liar and crook, Najib Razak and his band of UMNO and Barisan Nasional thieves to ruin our country, unless we are a nation of masochists.–Din Merican

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau

Image result for Tun Daim Zainuddin

Tun Daim Zainuddin with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahjm–Together Again for  Malaysia’s sake

TOPIC 1 : General Election

Q1 :      With the establishment of Pakatan Harapan lineup, many people believe this was the strongest and tougher opponent ever to BN, especially with Tun Dr Mahathir take the leading role, what is Tun comment?

Answer :

1.    Many believe so. This is the strongest and toughest opposition as now they have Tun Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu plus their lieutenants, supporters and volunteers. They also have YB Muhyiddin, YAB Lim Guan Eng, YAB Azmin Ali and YB Mukhriz. On paper, this is very formidable. I don’t think their supporters want them to be paper tigers.

2.    Previously voters had party loyalties but now, voters vote based on policies. Policies must be in line with what the voters think can be implemented; otherwise they are just empty promises. It has to be realistic and convincing.

3.    Tun Mahathir was an UMNO President and held office as the PM for 22 years. They have Deputy Prime Ministers, Menteri Besar and ministers in their parties. Lim Kit Siang was leader of the Opposition for a long time. Of course this is a big credit to the current Opposition.

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Based on the actions and statements from BN and UMNO leaders, it clearly shows that they are worried and very scared. I am not happy that some statements have been too personal. This goes against our culture and beyond politicking. This is not healthy. Leaders must always set a good example to the people.

Q2 :    Tun Dr Mahathir as an asset or liability to Pakatan Harapan? Did this latest opposition front lineup works?

Answer :

4.    Of course to PH, he is an asset but in the eyes of BN, they have to say he is a liability. A few members of the PH component parties initially protested. In politics, you can’t expect everyone to agree to everything. lf we believe in democracy, we must respect the decision of the majority. But those who disagree, they can object.

5.    From what l have read, these are equal partners. It means no party dominates. Before this, there were those who called Tun Mahathir a dictator and they said dictators don’t change. Dictators don’t listen to others. We have heard that Tun Mahathir said he does not agree that tolls should be abolished but he was overruled. Isn’t this a sign of change?

6.    Do dictators give up office voluntarily? Under Tun Mahathir, his old party was declared unlawful. It was de-registered. He didn’t interfere with the ROS(Registrar of Societies) or the Courts. He was called MahaFiraun but he allowed Semangat 46 and PKR to contest in the elections. Those who used to be under him are now saying he was a dictator. Why didn’t they resign like Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh? Is it because they prefer to retain their positions and have no principles?

7.    Clearly PH is not BN. lt is inconceivable that Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu, Anwar Ibrahim  and his family will allow Tun Mahathir to bulldoze everything. Tun Mahathir is a highly intelligent man and he knows that the present generation is very different from those of the 80s and 90s era.

8.    Tun is very pragmatic and reads the ground well. Although he is 93 years of age, he understands the needs, expectations and aspirations of the young.

9.    The reading is that UMNO and BN have not changed. Rakyat think PH and the component parties have read the situation correctly.

Q3 :        Is there really a “dream team” for Pakatan Harapan? Can Tun Dr Mahathir and Dato  Seri Anwar Ibrahim sincerely forgive each other for the sake of common political ground?

Answer :

10.    Dream team only exists in dreams. PH has many intelligent young leaders who subscribe to the ideals of democracy. The experienced leaders were idealistic and have made huge sacrifices to their freedom. Some were detained for their beliefs.  Now all of these leaders are together fighting against corruption, kleptocracy and wastage. They promise to respect and honour the supreme law of the country that is our constitution.

11.    lf we read and understand the constitution, we cannot ask for more. All of us must respect and follow the law. Nobody is above the constitution.

12.    The opposition pledge their promises in their recent manifesto. If they don’t keep their promises, voters will reject them in the next elections. Democracy gives voters the chance to choose the government.

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13.    I know both Tun Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim quite well. Since their reconciliation, l have spoken to both. Tun Mahathir and Anwar had worked together before, until they went their separate ways. We read their statements. YB Dr Wan Azizah and YB Nurul Izzah have accepted this reconciliation and if the family members accept, who are we to question? Yes, they have come together for a common cause that is to save this country. What bigger sacrifice do we want from these leaders?

Q4:    Did Tun believe that, the claim by DAP leader, they wish through Tun Dr Mahathir influence, will stir the necessary Malay Tsunami to make an inroad to Putrajaya?

Answer:

14.    Tun Mahathir still has influence among different age groups. He was PM for 22 years. He retired voluntarily. He developed this country and gave pride to Malaysia and Malaysians. In 22 years, you can’t expect perfection. Mistakes were made but overall, he did an excellent job. This was recognized by Time Magazine which described him as “The Master Planner”. He is the builder of modern Malaysia and nobody can deny this.

Image result for Tun Mahathir the Builder by TIME Magazine

Those who were part of the team should be proud of what was achieved. I am very proud. During his tenure, he overcame two recessions and the country did better after he introduced some new policies to take this country forward.

15.    During the two recessions that the country faced, he made sure the government took care of the rakyat. He had strong confidence in his policies and he was so brave to call for elections during these difficult and critical times. The rakyat rewarded him with a 2/3 majority in Parliament on both occasions.

16.    So those in their 50s and 60s know his services to Malaysia and his achievements. They believe in him and l think they will give their full support to him. The younger generations are exposed to the world and with the state of the art technology, they can get instant news. In the past, the young generation were normally anti-establishment and voted for the Opposition.

17.    PH does not really need a Malay tsunami to win the election. A swing of around 10% is sufficient. The urban areas traditionally vote for the Opposition. Now with smart phones and advance technology, even semi urban areas get instant news. This will become a danger to BN.

18.    What is left are rural areas. News about Felda, Tabung Haji and other agencies are widely spread. If the rural people who traditionally support UMNO receive these news, support for UMNO will be affected and eroded. l am told second generation settlers are very angry with the government. l remember l cautioned the government about the impact on the listing of Felda, but when you are no longer in government, who will listen to you? TH depositors are not happy too.

19.    I believe DAP is predicting a Malay Tsunami based on these factors, but do you need a Malay Tsunami to get to Putrajaya? l don’t think so.

Q5/6 & 7:    What are Tun prediction of the 14th GE possible outcome? Did BN will eventually fall finally? Or other way round, BN make a strong come back, even recapture the two third majority in parliament?  If yes, what are the major factor? If BN facing another major setback, what are the major reason?

Answer:

20.  Let me make it very clear l am not in the business of predicting election results. I have retired from business too. l don’t do any research. But l meet a lot of people. l read analysis from the think tanks, hear from politicians representing all the parties in Malaysia, from journalists, taxi drivers’ talks in coffee shops and suraus. I receive news from Whatsapp and I watch YouTube. I have old and new friends who give me feedback. Then l make my own conclusions.

21. The Opposition according to many is the strongest ever. They managed to put their differences aside and put up a united front which is very rare in Malaysian politics. Imagine a common logo and DAP sacrificing its rocket. This is the best evidence of sacrifice for common cause. This is the biggest news for the rakyat. They have one main agenda that is to topple BN hence attack is mainly concentrated on Najib given that he is seemingly their Achilles heel.

 

Image result for Najib Razak the crook
Malaysians reject UMNO-BN and Najib Razak’ s Toxic Leadership

22.    BN’s biggest problem is to explain 1MDB to urban voters. I think the government’s biggest blunder was not to address this scandal when it first surfaced. The government should have just admitted that 1MDB is a big mistake. Rakyat will eventually forgive but what they can’t forgive is when the government is abusing the law and hide their wrongdoings.

23.  Sacking the DPM and a senior minister did not solve the problem, rather it may have done the opposite. It is now an international scandal involving so many countries. We have no control over other countries nor their media. These days we get instant news. The government and ministers can deny but these denials make the educated and urbanites very angry and they distrust the government. Whatever good the government does is being negated by the 1MDB scandal. How can one deny DOJ’s report when there is mention of MO1.  And a minister in the PM’s department confirmed to BBC that only idiots do not know MO1 is Najib. This is major scandal which the Government needs to address in order to regain trust from the rakyat but yet, in parliament this subject cannot be raised.

24.    We have 3 former cabinet ministers made known their views on certain issues. Two were immediately condemned. Instead of replying point by point on matters raised, they were accused of having ulterior motives or revenge. People think this country has reached a stage that supporters of government have become irrational, intolerable and have no ability to rebut logically.

25.   In the rural areas they are blaming the government for high cost of living. The Opposition put the blame on GST and tell the people that the government is forced to introduce GST because they have to repay the loan from 1MDB. The government so far fails to explain why the cost of living has gone up. Mere denials by saying that things here are cheaper than in Singapore are just silly and lame. They are being ridiculed by the Opposition. The Opposition, on the other hand, has promised to abolish GST. 1MDB and GST are the two factors that are very difficult for the government to answer.

26.  Will BN win? BN and its predecessor, the Alliance Party has been running this country since independence. In any country, this is indeed too long.

27.  But BN is the incumbent and has many advantages. Recent delineation of constituencies and Anti-Fake laws are signs of fear but of great advantages to the incumbent. Rahman Dahlan is a big fan of the Anti-fake laws.

28.   BN is trying to take advantage of these two recent laws to win the elections. lf these work then together with the uncertainty of the postal votes by civil servants, BN will win and maybe win big. The foreign media have been highlighting this as stealing. lf voters are angry and believe the government is stealing the elections, they will vote against BN, and this will ultimately be their downfall. This will create history. For those who believe and support a genuine practice of democracy, this is cause for celebration.

29.  We can read the moods, the various actions, the talks in the coffee shops, the chatters among taxi drivers or Grab drivers. The anger over GST, the high cost of living in the country, IMDB, the scandals in MARA, FELDA, Tabung Haji and FGV, the depreciation of ringgit, and the issues on unemployment when graduates have to become Grab drivers and sell nasilemak. We are seeing more graduates are currently unemployed. The government is not creating skilled jobs as their focus is more on services sector. This is one of the main cause of the high unemployment rate especially for fresh graduates. These are of great concern to all.

30.   The Director General of Immigration has indicated that the country needs to give priority to local workers, and they are trying to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country. This issue has been long standing. People are asking where are the enforcement agencies? If this is not handled aggressively, the DG said that Malaysians might be “Kuli di negara sendiri”. [1] And according to one research group(Ipsos), unemployment is Malaysian’s biggest worry and this is partly related to foreign workers [taking up the jobs], as well as a concern that they are not getting the jobs that fit their aspirations, needs and lifestyle [2]. Their concerns are not unwarranted, last month BNM says that only 1 out of 5 jobs that were created last year was filled by locals, the rest were filled by the foreigners. This never happen before. No wonder the number of unemployed graduate continue to increase.

31.    In its manifesto, BN has promised to create 3 million new jobs. So if the ratio is 1:5, it means that locals will get 600,000 jobs and foreigners will get 2.4 million jobs.

32.    People talk of corruption, government’s spending wastages and huge national debt. These are legitimate issues. When even those employed can’t buy houses then the government faces real problems. In Klang Valley, apartments are unsold and there is a glut of office space, yet more buildings are under construction. [3][4][5]

33.    The government is not sitting still. ln response to high food prices, it offers BRIM. This helps the poor. BRIM was recommended by Bank Negara as a one-off help but it has now become a government policy. l personally think BRIM cannot go on forever. This is a temporary fix, not the permanent answer to help those who need help. In its Manifesto, BN promises to increase BRIM. I said BN can’t rely on BRIM forever in order to gain popularity. People need jobs so that they can get good income to sustain their lives.

34.    According to the government, for every US$1 (RM4.17) increase in crude oil price, the government’s revenue increases by RM300 million. And the government is projecting by end of 2018, the average price hits US$62, which is a total of US$10 increase, multiplied by RM300 million, it would equal to RM3 billion additional income.[6]  If l were in the government, instead of giving more BRIM, l would reduce the GST by 1% and this will significantly help to reduce the burden and sufferings by the rakyat.  [latest oil price according to Johari is USD70 per barrel]

35.    The government has announced an increase in amount for BRIM and will cost about RM4 to RM6 billion, plus another RM1.4 billion token for civil servants. Are these part of the budget? Where is the money coming from?[7]

36.    The 1Malaysia shop failed and Mydin explained the reasons very well in an interview he gave.

37.    Many are not happy with the government, and its actions also show it is scared. A government must always be confident. However, to introduce redelineation of constituencies without adding seats makes people accuse the government of wanting to steal the elections. So we have foreign media again, writing disparaging things about the government. Then comes in the Anti-Faked news’ law which can sentence a person to a six year imprisonment. There are already many laws to handle fake news like the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, the Evidence Act 1950 and the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984. [8]

38.    Many read this as the moves to scare and silence the Opposition. The foreign media think so. And both the US State Department and the UN have also expressed their concerns [9]. Many believe that the government is stopping the Opposition from talking about 1MDB during the election campaign. We can’t blame people if they think the government is scared to face the Opposition and this law is an attempt to curb freedom of speech and expression. The government does not realize that they can only alter the reality so much. The people will get their news somehow. [10]

39. As I mentioned earlier, the foreign media have said that the government plans to steal the election. The Indian government introduced something similar as Anti-Fake news but later withdrew this law as there were fierce objections and the government fear that it will lose the support of the people [11]. The Guardian has reported that “fake news” is indeed a powerful strategy to undermine trust in media and has quoted that Trump has been adept at saying all news against him as fake news and using “fake” to his advantage. [12]

40.    Rahman Dahlan said that the Opposition is investing in falsehood [13]. Zunar the cartoonist is very angry that BN has altered his cartoon to portray that he supports BN. He is facing so many charges in court [14]. The Economist wrote that the Malaysian government is guilty of falsehoods, and asked will the government prosecute itself [11].

41.  We take one an example on MRT. The government said they have completed the project ahead of time and below budget by RM2 billion. [15] Some people claimed that this is only half truth. According to Budget 2011, the overall cost of MRT is RM40 billion but the first phase of MRT, the government has spent more than RM32 billion. This is excluding Phase 2 and Phase 3. The Minister’s statement cannot be true.

42.   In recent BN’s Manifesto, Najib has announced on TN50 of which he pledged BN’s promises to the young. And one thing stood out from the rest. In the poster that was released, the iconic Petronas Twin Towers have disappeared [16]. People say this is very childish. Some are asking why BN is lying. I used to know that only David Copperfield, the magician can make buildings disappear. Some say that if BN can make the twin towers disappear, a manifesto can just be a blatant lie and your votes can go missing too.

43.    The joke going around KL; if you test positive first time then go for second test and if you are from Umno or BN, the result will surely be negative.

44.    The PM said DAP is the brains behind the opposition pact and is using Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to split the Malay votes. The Malays especially in PH feel insulted. PH’s reply is simple. If DAP is the brains, how come they could not defeat Tun Mahathir over 22 years? PH said Tun Mahathir is a strong leader, a man of sturdy conviction, remarkably intelligent and a true patriot. So maybe Najib dare not accept Lim Kit Siang’s many challenges as he believes Kit Siang is the “brains”and to Najib, Malays have no brains.

45.    This is the stage for the election. Some think and hope for a hung parliament. l don’t see that although PAS plans to be the king maker. My view is whoever wins more rural seats especially in Felda and gain supports from the youth will form the next government. You don’t need a tsunami for that.

46.    I don’t think anyone knows for sure the answer on who is going to win. I can only say this is the most important election since Independence. It is about the future direction of the country. One promotes familiarity and more of the same and the other champions change and reform. As a voter, which one is more attractive?

47.    PH says BN cannot change as they want status quo and almost all institutions are directly under the PM. The present government survives because of the present structure. PH offers change and reform and rule of law based on participating democracy. PH is giving options to the people to choose which system they prefer. Many said our institutions exist but they are hollow.

48.    I think the young should play their role. I quote Pope Francis calling the young to take action – “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out? Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out”. In United States, students demonstrated and one slogan was ‘opposite of progress is congress.’ In Malaysia we hear people say opposite of debate is parliament.

49.    The youth might not realize but the EC statistics show the 21 to 29 age bracket account for 17% of the electorate while those in the 30 to 39 age group comprise 23.9%. These two age groups encompass nearly 41% of eligible voters and seemingly tend to be anti-establishment [17][18]

50.    I believe that the youth has a major role to determine the outcome of this election. They can’t be fence sitters or observers. They must exercise their duty and responsibilities as concerned citizens. They are the ones who must decide the country’s future, their future and their children’s future. The youth must not abdicate their role to decide the future of our beloved Malaysia. I have faith and confidence in our youth. They are smart enough to make the right choice for the best of this country.

51.    Democracy will die if citizens and especially the youth think they are powerless. This thinking is wrong. Voters have the power. In fact, voters are the power. Exercise it. Real democracy gives voters the choice. Plato said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men” and he is right. We hear some believe that cash is king. Truth is; your vote is king.

52.    Those in power define democracy according to their fancy. Sukarno had guided democracy and he defined it. Today in Hungary the PM called it “illiberal democracy”. Portugal and Turkey too practice this system. lt is supposed to be for the 21st century. They oppress minorities or attack independent judges or journalists and according to them, to protect the people and the nation.

Image result for Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria commented on the difference between a liberal democracy and a mere democracy. The former practices rule of law and the latter is exclusively ruled by the majority. In the last elections, BN did not even get the majority of the votes.

Q8:  What are Tun prediction of BN component parties like MCA, GERAKAN and SUPP fate?

Answer:

53.    MCA and Gerakan have been losing support and as one minister said; DAP represents the Chinese (as shown in the last elections). MCA needs Malay votes to win elections. I think Umno thinks it does not need Chinese’ support anymore as shown by the recent redelineation exercise. Even the Chairman of EC confirmed that the delineation was to make constituencies race based. It is unbecoming for the EC Chairman to confirm this publicly. And UMNO seems to prefer PAS. At least we see their Presidents together and very cordial towards each other. The PM and Mustapha Mohammad were photographed together with PAS leaders.

54.    The second Finance Minister said he does not need Chinese and Indian votes to win his seat. Isn’t this clear UMNO does not need MCA, Gerakan, MIC, etc? Are the opposition and the rakyat wrong to believe that UMNO’s plan is just relying on Malay votes hence the redeleniation exercise and the close rapport with PAS.

55.    MCA and the rest of component parties have lost credibility with the voters because they were silent on 1MDB. Their silence on 1MDB reflects their subservient approach towards UMNO. Not a word about Jho Low and they never asked why is he hiding. Why hide unless he has committed some crime? Surely, they must have read all the foreign reports and watch TV news and videos. To non-Malays and urban people they can only come to one conclusion; these parties support corruption and kleptocracy. What kind of example are they giving to the young? Where is their principle in politics and life?

56.    By their silence, it seems that they endorse Kleptocracy which no one in his right mind can accept. The government admitted it adopted the wrong business model on 1MDB. You can’t succeed in a business with RM1 million paid up capital and borrowings of USD11 billion. Ask those in business whether this is what they call business. The PM himself said mistakes were made. But sadly, MCA, Gerakan and MIC have not uttered a word. I was asked on 1MDB years ago and my replies are on record. Why create 1MDB as a sovereign fund when we already have Khazanah?

57.    MCA in the last elections promised not to join the cabinet if Chinese voters rejected them.  They were rejected and later broke their pledge. How can the Chinese trust them? They have no credibility. UMNO seems to reject them as shown by the delineation exercise. And UMNO has also made a cruel attack on Malaysian’s most successful businessman : Robert Kuok. And don’t forget that Robert is from Johor and has helped the Johoreans and Malaysians. What has happened to government’s policy to produce “glocal” businessmen? What other conclusions can you come to when you study the delineation exercise? These parties committed suicide by voting in Parliament.

58.    MCA has insulted Tun Mahathir who was our PM for 22 years by calling him an “old horse”. People get very angry and replied it’s better to have an old horse with brain rather than the young horse with no principles. The latest slogan is “Undi Biru Tua jangan PM tua” but many said that they prefer an old man who fights for the people than a party who is silent on 1MDB and corruption.

59.    Tun Mahathir has proven to be agile and sharp. It is a sign of a nation’s progress that a 93-year-old person is able to sustain a punishing political campaign, offering quality arguments and content. He even challenged Najib to debate with him.

60.    MCA can continue to insult Tun Mahathir but in a recent study conducted by a UK research center, the finding was Tun Mahathir is the most admired man in Malaysia and Najib is no. 14.  [19][20]

Q9:    Is that possibility BN may lose more state? Selangor and Penang outcome?

Answer:

61.    The mood as of now is for change. But whether there will be change will depend on the voters. The conditions, according to many reports are ripe for change. Voters will study the manifestos and listen to speeches. But most importantly, for the parties to win, they have to put the right and clean candidates with integrity. The locals must like the candidates and trust them to be their future wakil rakyat.

62.    Before this, the Opposition used to say BN means “BarangNaik”. BarangNaik has become a reality. Now the Opposition says BN means “Bini Najib”. A vote for BN means a vote for “Bini Najib” as many believe that she is running the government. The opposition says that UMNO believes in RAHMAN (Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohammad, Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak, and noticed that Najib’s name is the last) and Najib has selected May 9 as polling day, which falls on Wednesday or “Rabu”. They are now saying “rakyat akan buang UMNO’ on this day. On the May 9, 2016, Philippines has elected new President. On  May 9, 2017, South Korea has elected new President and on 9th May 2018, God willing, Malaysia will elect a new Prime Minister. The rakyat are now giving the PM a big “thank you” for R.A.B.U.

63.    From many feedbacks received, if Mukhriz spends time in Kedah and with Tun Mahathir’s influence, BN will lose Kedah. For Penang and Selangor, PH will retain the states. Both states have sorted out their candidates.

64.    I think BN will retain Perlis. For Perak, if PH has a good candidate for Menteri Besar, they will take back the state. Voters are still very angry with the way BN has “stolen” the state.  YAB Zambry is a popular MB but is quite a loner.

65.    Negeri Sembilan has a long history of infighting. This time it will depend on how UMNO treats local leaders. If this is not handled well, and if PH has good candidate for Menteri Besar, then PH has a slim chance of winning. In Melaka, UMNO is not happy with the leadership but PH must get good candidates to mount a challenge. Did you notice the empty chairs at UMNO’s functions and the open protests in Perlis, Kuala Pilah, Melaka, Tanjong Malim, Batu and Gua Musang? Are these the signs that people are no longer scared?[21][videos]

66.    On Johor, it is a known fact that it is UMNO’s stronghold but PH has a chance if Muhyiddin spends more time there. Shortly after PH launched its logo in Pasir Gudang, TMJ(Tengku Mahkota Johor) has issued a statement but claimed that it is not a political statement.

Image result for Tengku Mahkota Johor

Many read this message as UMNO is losing ground and the Palace has read the situation well. People will make their own judgements. The State Government has commissioned a study on its support. People say that the MB may lose his seat but rakyat is very sympathetic of him. Those who used to work with the MB believe that BN will lose the state. But as I said earlier, the voters want candidates with integrity and with principles. They know what is good for them. Big crowds come out to listen to ceramah from PH but big crowds is meaningless unless they are translated into votes.

67.    The Palace of Selangor and Perlis have issued statements that they are above politics.

68.    It’s a 50/50 chance in Sabah. However, we know that Sabahans are fiercely independent and have changed state government many times. YB Shafie Afdal has spent a lot of time in order to win.

69.    For Sarawak, BN will win.

Q10:    Are Chinese Majority constituencies the hardest part for BN in the coming election?

Answer:

70.    l have answered earlier.

Q11:    What are Tun advice for BN to convince the Chinese support in the GE?

Answer:

71.    BN can’t convince them with the government’s latest delineation exercise as MCA, Gerakan and MIC did not object. You observe that PAS on the other hand objected. MCA, Gerakan and MIC show that they just follow UMNO blindly. At least in 1959, Tun Lim Chong EU was brave to challenge the UMNO leadership. He fought for MCA and did it for the interest of his party and his race. TS Tan Koon Swan too was brave and fought for his community.

72.    We forgot PPP. This party was not happy as the Cameron Highland’s seat was not given to the party. With Umno working with PAS, many guess PPP is no longer relevant and reports say PPP has sacked it’s own president.

Q12/13/14: Any possibility of fallen of additional BN state to opposition? The outcome of front runner state like Johor? Negeri Sembilan? Perak? Kedah?  Did BN have a chance in Selangor ?  Did the issue of 1MDB, RM2.6 billion donation, have any impact on the GE? Especially the rural area and Malay Kampong?

Answer :

73.   l have answered earlier. The donation of RM2.6 billion has not been convincingly rebutted and most of us have read the DOJ report.

74.    Some of the attacks have become counterproductive. Have you heard or come across any political party running down and condemning its own excellent record and then ask voters to vote for the same party? The official and main stream media praised Tun Mahathir on his 22 years premiership but only to condemn him now.

Image result for Rais Yatim and Rafidah Aziz

75.    Some attacks are very crude, un-Malay and un-Malaysian. The attacks confirmed these ex-leaders have a lot of influence. The attacks on Rafidah and Rais Yatim show desperation and these attacks are very personal. UMNO should answer them intelligently and with facts. Both Rafidah and Rais had been in politics for a long period of time. Both of them have served as ministers. They are very intelligent and talk facts. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to challenge them. The ground says that if you touch a hornet’s nest, you will get Rafidah.

76.   The rakyat find personal attacks distasteful. They believe we are very cultured and prepared to hear debates or listen to arguments on policies during both Tun’s time and Najib’s. For example, under Tun Mahathir, issues such as economic growth, FDIs, north/south highway, KLIA, Petronas twin towers, KL tower, Felda, Tabung Haji, Mara, EPF, international relations, operation lalang and sacking of CJ and Forex loss were all raised. Under Najib, economic growth, GST, depreciation of ringgit, high cost of living, BRIM, NFC, PFI, KWAP, GLCs, MRT, ECRL, abolishment of lSA, introduction of POTA, SOSMA, Anti-fake news, AG’s early retirement, 1MDB, judges appointed above the age of retirement, national debts, Parliament, MACC, police, Chinese investments and many more are topics for debate.

77.  Najib can debate with Tun Mahathir, but on economy and finance each side can nominate their representative to debate. These debates would educate voters and will be very informative. I think rakyat want to hear from both under one stage or platform.

TOPIC 2: UMNO

Question 1/2/3  :    How do you see those ex leaders’ effect on states like Kedah, Sabah and Johor?  Cooperation with PAS has always been an issue and it has pros and cons to BN itself, will there be any chance of cooperation between the two parties in certain issues in coming PRU?

Answer:

1. UMNO’s ex leaders still have great influence. Look at the time UMNO spends on attacking ex-leaders especially Tun Mahathir.

2 Both parties need to discuss the role of the caretaker government after parliament is dissolved.   Maybe Dr Rais Yatim can write an opinion so both parties can agree on the ground rules. Can caretaker government give financial help when Parliament is dissolve?

3.  Let’s educate the rakyat with facts and figures so they have the knowledge to make a valued judgment about their own future. This is far better than abusive and crude language and behavior. Politicians must show a good example. We adopt free market practices in economy to grow. Likewise, in politics we must welcome a market of free ideas and live in harmony. Victor Hugo said “markets open to trade and minds open to ideas, will become the sole battlefield”.

4.  On Cooperation with PAS, the leaderships are very close but this is not reflected at the grass roots level. They have been at each other all these years. PAS used to call UMNO members infidels. They prayed separately. In UMNO’s history, when it was weak it would court PAS and invariably PAS would throw its support for UMNO. Once UMNO regained its strength it will find excuses to kick PAS out.

5.  PAS is against GST but in the Parliament, they always supported the government on budgets. This is strange logic. Surely PAS is not confused. As I said, PAS wants to be a kingmaker but they have make it very clear that they will not work with DAP which is a component party under PH. The public conclude that PAS just wants to help BN and in particular UMNO. Yet BN has MCA, Gerakan, MIC and parties in Sarawak and Sabah that oppose the RUU355. BN and in particular UMNO, has delayed this bill for a long time, just to pretend that it supports the bill. UMNO knows that if this bill is allowed to be debated, the non-Muslims will not support and this may cause a split within BN. Sadly, PAS’ leadership keeps giving hope to its members. But most of them know that UMNO is just playing politics.

6.  I have been following speeches made by PAS’ leaders during this campaign. They are putting up 160 candidates which means a party with most candidates. Yet in most speeches they condemn Tun Mahathir and seems to praise Najib, l suppose this is what they mean by “kingmaker”. When they dropped an incumbent, they said “we are resting him, not dropping him”. PAS leaders confuse us with many contradicting statements. They say there is no need to get rid of a person like Najib but just advise him. They want to correct the system from within. If we follow their logic Mugabe should not be toppled. South Africa should have kept Zuma. Indonesia and Philippines made mistakes getting rid of Suharto and Marcos. Brazil and Peru should get advice from PAS. UMNO has made a mistake about Tunku Abdul Rahman and should not have forced him to retire.

7.  It seems like PAS does not understand UMNO’s culture. UMNO’s President always tells members to be loyal to him. Loyalty to the President is their culture, and even when the president makes big blunders everybody should remain loyal. How do you change from within? And who is PAS to advise and change UMNO from within? The rakyat is right to be very suspicious of PAS’ real intention in this election.

8.  The rakyat are not sure if PAS is truly an Islamic party as it seems unwilling to fight corruption. They use the same tone and language as UMNO’s. UMNO uses the word ‘derma’, now PAS also uses the word ‘derma’. When people hear the voice recording involving Nik Abduh, some conclude that PAS and UMNO are working together in this elections. From this picture, people are wondering what Najib is discussing with PAS leaders. Was it the economy or 1MDB? [picture] Some of PAS’ grassroot members are frustrated as they still hold onto the late mandate from Nik Aziz. Nik Aziz who said that “when one befriends UMNO, there will be no other who will befriend him as Allah will only help those who are honest to fight for Islam”

9.  You listen to Hadi and his speeches which, to an ordinary man sounds quiet strange where mostly in support the government.

10.  PAS wants to have Islamic tax on savings, maybe to replace the GST.  I hope PAS has the experts in taxation law so that they can advise how to implement this. lf the government tax the people on savings, it means that there will be double tax because only those who have money save. And these people has already been taxed. If this tax is implemented, will people save their money in our banks and financial institutions or keep it overseas?

11.  Hadi’s statements do not help PAS. Based on his statements, PAS may even lose Kelantan, and Tengku Razaleigh is determined to win Kelantan for BN. However, my journalist friends told me that PAS may retain Kelantan as the Kelantanese hate UMNO. But recently, Rafizi Ramli said that things have changed and PH is gaining ground. People from Kelantan came to see me and told me that PH may have a chance. We can see the split in PAS with Nik Omar joining PH.  In fact all three of their past presidents’ sons have left PAS to join PH.

12.  The close relationship between the two party leaders confuse members. Both agree DAP is a threat to the Malays. This stand is illogical. Agong is Malay, Rulers are Malays. The PM and Menteri Besar are Malays. Majority of rakyat are Malays. By 2030, the numbers of Malays and Bumiputera are expected to increase further but the non-Bumiputera will see reduction. We know that this is just to frighten the rural people and their statements don’t make any sense.

Image result for Forest City Johor

13.  There will only be changes in population if more developments such as Forest City in Johor are built. Forest City has garnered a lot of media attention and was heavily criticized by the Opposition due to its seemingly heavy reliance on mainland Chinese buyers to acquire its myriad apartments. [24] Forest City will only succeed if it brings value to the local population, or else it will quickly become a ghost city [25]. An assistant professor of geography at Montreal’s McGill University told The New York Times that where else in the world has a foreign company created new land in another country, populated it with people from its home country and asserted sovereignty over it? This is a brand-new level of colonial expansion. [26]

14.   Lim Kit Siang told the Malays not to be misled by Umno’s lies as majority of the voters are still Malays and the overwhelming majority of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies are Malay voter-majority constituencies [27]. Statistics show in 1957, the Malay population stood at 49.8 percent, with the Chinese population making up 37.2 percent, and that the numbers have shifted since.  In 2010, the percentage of Malays in the Malaysian population increased to 55.07 percent, Chinese reduced to 24.34 percent, Indians dropped to 7.35 percent, non-Malay bumiputera maintained at 11.94 percent and 1.3 percent others. He also highlighted the Statistics Department’s prediction that the Chinese population will continue to shrink to 19.6 percent in 2023, and 18.9 percent in 2035 and went on to say that Malays won’t lose power.

15.  When Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn opposed Tun Mahathir, he never attack them. He was very civil and he respected their freedom to attack him.  ln fact they supported DAP but Tun Mahathir never told the Malays if Semangat 46 were to win, DAP would run the country. Simply because Tun Mahathir knew that this is nonsense.

16.  Some has looked at the racial ratio of candidates that will compete in the upcoming election. Based on parliamentary seats’ distribution from PH, Malay Muslim candidates are 175, Chinese 37 and Indian 10 people. The propaganda by BN to scare the Malays that the PM will be a Chinese is just baseless and it’s nonsense. Some people from BN and PAS  seems to have these wild imaginations.

17.     Perak Gerakan adviser told the Chinese that they should vote for Umno and BN or else they will have to embrace PAS. Some laughed at this statement and some said that this is a threatening statement made by Gerakan. [28]

18.  Nazri Aziz is pleading with the Chinese voters not to vote DAP and PH. He told the Chinese that BN and the Chinese are together. The Chinese asked MCA and Gerakan is this the same Nazri Aziz who called Robert Kuok a “pondan” and insulted the Chinese? And his cabinet colleague proudly said he does not need Chinese or lndians’ votes to win his seat. They want MCA and Gerakan to explain to them why they must support those who have insulted them. [29]

19.  A former Menteri Besar said it is not impossible for BN to work together with PAS in this election. [30] And there were also claims that PAS is receiving money from UMNO and BN.[23] The rakyat said, no wonder UMNO and PAS is singing the same silly songs.

20.   PH is not BN. Malaysians believe in the leaders of PH; Anwar Ibrahim Mat Sabu and DAP and all have accepted Tun’s leadership. The people know that these leaders are fighting for a common cause; to save the country.

21.   We hope that this election will be the cleanest election possible. We have seen in 2013, laws were breached. Complaints were made but no action taken. An NGO did their own research and their findings were that the election commissions were not carrying out their duties as stipulated in the constitution. The judges were too lenient with the offenders. ln current elections, we read news that the caretaker government is disbursing money to various parties yet the election commissioner seems to be blind on these blatant breaches of election laws.

22.   It has been reported that the UK government has discussed the importance of free and fair elections in the country, according to a series of parliamentary replies given in the UK House of Commons. The UK seems to follow Malaysia’s political situation closely and also encouraged the government to invite external election observes in advance of the 9th May election. [31]

23.   In India, they are very strict and look at what happened to lndra Gandhi. Justice Sinha has convicted then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractices. This judgement was hailed all over the democratic world as a great triumph of an independent judiciary.

24.   The Election Commission of Malaysia has to be independent and must play their role well. I heard some people are calling the EC or SPR (in Malay) as Suruhanjaya Penipu  Rakyat. This is demeaning and tragically sad.

Topic 3: Economy

Questions 1/2/3/4/5      Latest government decision to frozen the luxury property development at the midst of tackle of oversupply of the luxury and commercial property, can Tun enlighten us on these matter. One of the most concern of Malaysia was the skyrocket price of housing, beyond majority Malaysian mean , worsen one, even the “affordable” home, also cannot afford, what’s is Tun comment? What’s are Tun suggestion to overcome these pressing problem?

From the majority benchmark and statistic, Malaysia are on the good position and well manage of country economy, the concern of the peoples, just not have these good feeling or doesn’t experience the positive one, Tun opinion?

The GST and the impacts, some even request restore the SST, what are Tun comment.

Answer:

Image result for Forest City Johor

25.   I am maybe better with property than other subjects. Those who have been watching and following this sector have been worried about the number of luxurious condos being constructed especially in Kuala Lumpur. The same applies to commercial buildings and shopping malls. The government gives the impression that it wants to have as many highrises to show that there is big surge in the growth of the construction sector to fuel the economy. But the reports are out there for people to read. There is a huge glut in both these markets.

26.   The value of the unsold homes – which do not include service apartments and SOHO (small office/home office) units – is 82.8% higher than a year ago, risking the sector to systematic impact in the event of financial shocks.

27.    We read reports about the huge overhang. We are told developers can now get high plot ratios and because of that, the price of land has also jumped. Delay in getting approvals has caused the increase in the holding costs. There is also talk of corruption. These factors have pushed up prices of the end product. Most cannot afford to buy. So, we have empty buildings. Developers even sell with zero down payment and speculators bought many apartments with a view to make a quick profit. Then the price of oil dropped. Most Oil and Gas companies had to cut costs. Petronas was reported to retrench 6000 employees. Major oil companies followed. Speculators decided to cut losses and developers have had to hold the properties.

28.     History tells us if the property sector faces problem, it drags the economy down with it. l don’t know if we have learnt our lesson. The Government recently bought 51% of a building from Mulia group and we are told that the project is good.  If so, why should Mulia sell? It is silly for developers to sell good project, and PNB is also building its new HQ.  Maybe it has a lot of money but that money belongs to the ASN and other unit trust holders.  Is this the right time to build?

29.   The Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) in its property market report 2017 said there is a rising concern on the overhang for residential units. Bank Negara has sounded its alarm bells over the property gluts. In its 2017 annual report, the central bank said there were 129,052 unsold housing units at the end of third quarter of 2017. More than 80% of the unsold units were priced at RM250,000 above.

30.   The alarm bells from Bank Negara came in a bit late. They should have advise the banks on the risks that they are taking sooner. How come the Treasury too ignores the obvious? They have the experience in monitoring all sectors so that no sector is overheated as this will cause a disruption to the economy and the banking sector.

31.    During my time, l called the stakeholders and got their views and advice and told them the government wanted them to correct the unhealthy situation immediately or I would be forced to take drastic actions to save the economy and the country. The government must not allow the free market to run wild.

32.    I think government has made right move even though l think should have been done much earlier. But what happened to KL city plan 2020? lt was unveiled in 2008 but until now, it has not been gazetted. Now “Selamatkan KL”, a collation of residents association have pressured DBKL to gazette it, but DBKL seems to be in no hurry. Now we understand why developments in KL is very messy. The opposition is saying that if BN can’t manage KL city, how is it going to manage the country?

33.   Malaysians cannot afford to buy houses because salaries are low and there is a mismatch between increase in salaries and expenditures. We are not creating high income jobs. Jobs created are for unskilled group and are taken up by foreigners.

34.     The government wants to help those without houses and have created many agencies but sometimes they overlap. State governments have SEDC which originally just focused on building houses. In the 60s Selangor was very successful. l don’t know what SEDCs do now. Then they also have MBI or Menteri Besar Incorporation. Competition is good provided all these are run professionally and there is no political interference. For example if we are serious we cannot have a politician as chairman. Get a successful developer for that position. We have Prima after Syarikat Perumahan Rakyat Malaysia and earlier Uda. With all these agencies, we still fail to produce houses that the rakyat needs. [32]

35.     The government has made announcements that banks will lend up to RM300,000 for buyers to buy Prima houses. But how many can afford to borrow as their salaries are too low and the cost of living is very high? We have also read reports that there are those who are not eligible getting Prima houses and they are renting them out. Rakyat ask what is new?The opposition makes fun of BN’s manifesto on urban development.

36.      In BN’s Manifesto, it has announced that they will help the people to secure the loans from the banks to purchase “affordable house”. Plainly BN has not learn any lesson and has no clue on how to address and solve the problem. Read what Bank Negara has reported. The income is low and prices are high. The rakyat are not prescribed with the right help. In 2013, the PM said that the government would build 1 million units of affordable houses, with PR1MA to build half of them, but until end of 2017, PR1MA have sold not more than 12,000 units.[30] It clearly shows that the rakyat do not have the purchasing power to buy even the house that is called “affordable” to them.

37.     If Singapore can succeed and we have many successful property companies, it is illogical to see our people cannot afford to own houses. We should ask ourselves what has gone wrong. Wrong policies or wrong people entrusted to deliver?

38.     In Treasury, they have the housing loan division to cater for civil servants. We have MBSB. Then banks have special unit dealing with housing loans and EPF allows some withdrawals for housing yet the rakyat complain they can’t afford to buy houses. l suggest whoever wins the upcoming election must seriously study this problem. They must get input from stakeholders and publish the proposal so the rakyat knows what the government intends to do. They can find out if they are able to afford the houses built for them.

39.      I’d like to give a simple example. My family foundation built 100 houses to be distributed to the poor. They will rent at a nominal rate, just suffice to keep the place clean and to pay for security. After 10 years, these people will get the houses for free. The houses were completed a long time ago. Liability period is over and but until now the state government cannot identify the poor in the district. To date, they managed only to approve 40 people. We asked the mosques to assist and names were given. But sadly until now, the houses are empty. This is my experience.

40.    The economy according to figures released is doing well with respectable growth. The inflation rate is expected to ease to 2.6% this year due to the soothing effect of fuel related items [30]. The PM in early April claimed that the country in 2017 has registered growth of 5.9%, which was among the top gainers in the world. But some economists argued that this growth was below than the average for the emerging and developing Asian countries, which was around 6.5%. In fact, we were behind Vietnam (6.8%) and Philippines (6.7%).

41.    The Government is happy but the rakyat is not happy. The Government says the Opposition is politicking when it tells the rakyat that the country is about to be bankrupt. As l said earlier, in order to settle this, we must hold a debate and let the rakyat listen and make their own conclusions. Rakyat is not happy about the high cost of living. Even if there is growth, they don’t feel it. Any policy must benefit the rakyat. Rakyat must feel they benefit from it.

42.        The government does not care about this. Instead, they claimed that they have successfully curb inflation below 3% for the last 8 years. The press should ask the housewives if they agree inflation is 3%. But in reality, the rakyat is suffering from the price increase of necessary items. As compared to 2010, data for 2018 has shown that the price of chicken has increase by 38.6%, meat by 80.9%, cooking oil by 61.2%, sugar by 78.8% and flour by 24.4%. The price of toll has increase by the range of 30 to 80% and fuel by 22%. [

43.        We can’t blame the rakyat for complaining. The statistic and the reality doesn’t match. Household income between year 2009 and 2016 has increased at a slower rate of 73% as compared to the household expenditure of about 84%. The salary of the middle income earner has only increased by only RM17 in 2016. More than half of working Malaysians earn less than RM1700 per month. This is national data and statistic. Clearly rakyat not feeling the benefit of the economic development. A Grab driver told me recently, if the economy is as good as proclaimed by the government, why now the rakyat has to work two jobs?

44.      Hadi said the problem with the economy today started in the 1980s. In other words, Hadi is now admitting that the economy is not doing well. I was the minister in the 2nd half of the 1980s. Hadi should give details to this claim and check the records before making any statements. Hadi continues to say that these problems started from those who are now leading PH. He must be referring to Tun Mahathir. But Tun Mahathir has retired in 2003. If Umno and BN cannot handle the economy for the past 15 years and still blaming Tun Mahathir for their inefficiency, then BN doesn’t deserve to continue running the country.

45.        Let the economists explain. lf growth is based on borrowing, it can never sustain. From the year 2009 to 2017, the national debt has increase to an average of 11% per year. That is almost double from the average rate of the country’s economic growth of 4.7%. This does not take into account the debts on MRT, ECRL and few others.

Image result for ECRLMalaysia

46.     On ECRL, the Kelantanese say that they have have never ask for ECRL and are very surprised that BN is so eager to have this project. They checked and found that cost to Chinese contractor was RM 55 billion and may increase. Some said that the local contractors can do around RM 32 billion and many wonder why BN is willing to pay more.

47.     The Treasury Secretary General said that the GST waiver would ensure that the cost would not go beyond RM55 billion. This explanation is not acceptable. The local contractors who build roads, hospitals and other infrastructure complains that they have to pay GST. Some said “kita belisimen, paku pun kena GST”.[36] Why is the double standard? So with GST the actual cost for ECRL is higher and that is the reason why the government is not imposing GST for this project? What is puzzling is why the civil servants are replying? How do I distort the facts as I am repeating them?

48.    Kelantanese are not happy with the cost of ECRL. They said the high cost will result in higher ticket price and its better to fly with Air Asia. Some argued that if BN is really sincere, why not use that RM55 billion to develop Kelantan. This is their line of campaign against the government.

49.       Lots of money is promised, a bit is now given, but the balance will be given only if BN gets supports and wins the election. Is this right? Where does the government gets the money? Is this part of the budget? As it stands, the additional increase in operational expenditures from the supplementary budget, higher BR1M payout and higher pay for the civil servants will be more than projected revenue. This is fiscally irresponsible. How are we going to pay? We can’t borrow for operational expenses, borrowing is only allowed for development purposes.

50.      YB Nurul Izzah has challenged the PM to reveal the details of all the country’s investments by China. The rakyat has the rights to know of such deals, because they are the “main stakeholder,” especially when it involves billions of ringgit worth of taxpayers’ money. The rakyat cannot understand why the government is reluctant to reveal these information.

51.      Najib says that the country would go bankrupt if the opposition wins, and the stock market or the currency will drop. He says removal of GST will cripple the country. Well, the stock market barely moved between 2013 and 2017, and the ringgit has lost almost one-third of its value in the last six years against the US Dollar. Our foreign reserves in USD is lower now than in 2008. This happens during BN administration, not PH. We continue to be in deficit. Even with GST, we are still in deficit. Debt continues to increase. Don’t forget that when the government borrows, the rakyat has to pay. BN’s mantra that ‘wang GST dikembalikankepada rakyat’ is foolish. Rakyat is asking, there was no GST before and yet we can build this country. GST was introduced 3 years ago and for the last 57 years, we were doing fine. Why now with GST our lives are getting harder? The government so far, is unable to provide convincing answers.

52.      BN asked, where would PH finds the money if we remove GST. But if we end corruption and cut wastages, it would be more than enough to cover the shortfall from the removal of GST. We must acknowledge that the problem is debt and spending, and yes it is a huge challenge. But the challenge can be overcome and these exercises requires a competent team at the ministry of finance, which in the opinion of most is currently not there. However, PH is confident that theywill put in their best people, all the experts and economic team with experience and expertise to help the Treasury. Tun Mahathir and Anwar were both the Ministers of Finance.

53.      The Mufti of Pahang said that PH specifically DAP has to apologize to the people for breaking their promises in the last election. The Mufti went on to say that it’s against Islamic teaching for one to break his promises but we wonder why this is applicable to PH only? BN has been breaking its promises since it won the election. Ahmad Maslan promised that with GST, the price will go down. This is not happening. Now we ask the Mufti, doesn’t BN too need to apologize to the people? [37]

54.      The Mufti of Negeri Sembilan said he is worried that Tun Mahathir will become a “munafik” or “hypocrite and he gave an example of Abdullah Ubay; who went against the instruction of Prophet Muhammed in one of Islamic wars. The opposition has replied to the Mufti and also asked why are the Muftis taking sides in politics?[38]

55.     The other day, I saw on Sinar TV a debate was held between BN’s rep and the rep from the opposition. To me, it was good. Let the leaders debate too. If the youth dare and are willing to debate live in media, why BN leaders refuse to accept the challenge?

56.     Both sides must not be overly confident. They must listen to the voices of the rakyat. In politics, there are full of dramas. But just remember the words of Plato where he said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”. So go out and vote.

 

 

 

Perpetual policy and its limited future as reforms stall


April 18, 2018

Perpetual policy and its limited future as reforms stall

Reforming Bumiputera policy is a colossal project both rival coalitions are reluctant to tackle. Yet the tentative consensus misconstrues an embedded but failing preferential regime.

Reforming Bumiputera policy is a colossal project both rival coalitions are reluctant to tackle. Yet the tentative consensus misconstrues an embedded but failing preferential regime.

Malaysia’s 14th general elections (GE14) will see an intense and dynamic battle for the Malay electorate, but also continuity of the extensive, embedded, and often misconstrued, pro-Malay ethnic preferential regime.

Tapping into widespread economic discontent and anxiety, particularly in the Malay population, incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalitions both offer populist-flavoured menus, with varying signature dishes. BN will try to differentiate itself by drawing attention and emotion to the pro-Malay, and more broadly pro-Bumiputera, policies that it founded and continually implements.

The political rhetoric around Bumiputera policies will escalate in the coming weeks – and recycle simplistic and convenient stances. With polling day set for 9 May, the BN under the hegemony of UMNO and dependent on Malay vote bases, increasingly kindles notions of Malay unity and Malay interests, and stokes anxieties of purported erosion of ethnic primacy and privilege. Expect caretaker prime minister Najib Razak to sell the Bumiputera Economic Transformation Programme (BETR) as a big deal, and seek a mandate to stay the course.

But the policy may not make that much of a difference; PH broadly agrees with keeping this ethnic preferential system. The newly reconstituted coalition, with a Malay-based party led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, decidedly affirms the goal of Bumiputera empowerment. It minimally specifies how its approach differs from BN’s. Assuredly, as happened prior to the 2013 elections, Pakatan will decry the patronage and cronyism recurrent in various Bumiputera-favouring programmes, while taking care to avoid alienating the multitudes that benefit from the policy, as we can discern from its alternative budget.

Thus, Malaysia’s Bumiputera preferential regime muddles along. Both coalitions have mellowed their stance compared to a few years ago, when there was more forthright talk of replacing Bumiputera preferential programmes, also termed race-based affirmative action, with “need-based” and “merit-based” affirmative action. Now the discourses imply all the above vaguely coexist, while occasionally accepting that perpetual ethnic preference is undesirable.

Clarity and precision are urgently needed, presenting coherent policy alternatives and workable solutions anchored to the objective of promoting Bumiputera participation in higher education, high-level occupations, enterprise and ownership. Policy objectives and instruments must be acknowledged, their breadth and depth grasped.

A systematic and viable roadmap for phasing out the existing Bumiputera preferential regime must lay the groundwork by broadly cultivating capability, competitiveness, and confidence. The different policy spheres also present different conditions. Higher education holds out a broad scope for “need-based” assistance for the poor and disadvantaged, through admissions policies, scholarships and financial assistance. For Bumiputera empowerment in employment and enterprise, “merit” considerations are paramount. The principal objective in these spheres is the cultivation of capable and competitive professionals, managers and enterprises – who are poised to graduate out of preferential assistance.

So-called needs-based and merit-based selections serve to complement and reinforce the Bumiputera preferential regime. Pronouncements to replace or systematically reform race-based affirmative action with such alternatives are premature and misplaced, lacking in systematic analysis. Emphatically, Bumiputera empowerment must be effective and broad-based before systemic reforms can take shape credibly and feasibly.

The regime has registered substantial achievements in promoting Bumiputera upward mobility, but shortcomings remain in terms of the ultimate goals of capability and competitiveness. By 2013, 28.4% of the Bumiputera labour force had acquired tertiary educational qualifications, compared to 26.6% of Chinese and 25.8% of Indians. However, graduate unemployment is a more acute problem among Bumiputeras.

The Bumiputera share of managers steadily rose to 45% in 2013, from 24% in 1970 to 35% in 1985. The public sector and government-linked companies considerably contribute to these figures, and among private enterprises, micro and small-scale establishments. In 2015, among Bumiputera SMEs, 88% were classified as micro, 11% small, and only 1% medium, while the corresponding figures in non-Bumiputera SMEs were 70%, 26%, and 4%. Bumiputera-controlled companies account for only 25% of the 800,000 registered companies in Malaysia.

The Bumiputera population at large must be adequately equipped before Malaysia can truly reform and roll back the system. As things stand, there is scant analysis of policy outcomes and mostly tacit acknowledgement of policy inefficacies, and no formulation of exit strategies for facilitating the graduation of Bumiputeras out of overt ethnic preferential treatment.

 

To be fair, the BETR, introduced in 2011, does modify policy objectives and methods. It is distinguishable from preceding policies, through the ways it reaches out to disadvantaged students and strives to cultivate capability and competitiveness in private enterprise. But these interventions are selective, not systemic. They leave swathes of the ethnic preferential regime untouched.

Indeed, the policy spheres with extensive outreach and potential to empower Bumiputeras – in pre-university programmes, university admissions, government contracting, microfinance and public sector employment – scarcely appear in long-term development plans. There is no commitment to apply lessons from the BETR’s focused interventions, let alone any intention to execute systemic reforms.

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And yet Malaysia arrives at an historical juncture, with GE14 determining who governs into 2020, the nation’s hallowed destination. Articulated by Dr Mahathir in 1991, Vision 2020 loftily aspired for Malaysia to be a “fully developed nation” economically, socially, politically, and culturally. More specific aims include the “creation of an economically resilient and fully competitive Bumiputera community so as to be on par with the non-Bumiputera community.”

Vision 2020, charismatic albeit flawed especially in neglecting education, enterprise development and democratisation, secured a place in the hearts and minds of Malaysians. So firm is the hold on the public imagination that even as the Vision’s progenitor Mahathir now assails Najib, the latter cannot forsake the brainchild of his new nemesis. Rather, Najib postures his administration as building on Vision 2020, merely implying there is some incompleteness in Mahathir’s treatise.

Beyond 2020, a new 30-year mission is being crafted under the TN50 (National Transformation) banner. This project adopts a more “bottom up” approach of compiling popular aspirations and engaging in public consultations. The templates and priorities already laid out are wide-ranging, sanguine and opportune – but conspicuously steer clear of the question of ethnic preferential policies.

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NEP (Tun Razak) –Wawasan 2020 (Tun Dr. Mahathir) and Transformasi Nasional 50 (Najib Razak)–where are we heading with billions misspent on Bumiputera Empowerment!–“Howk Aun-Lee

It has to be acknowledged that reforming Bumiputera policies is a colossal project, and the bi-partisan reluctance to deal with it partly stems from a desire to look beyond ethnic identity and to pursue non-ethnically delineated policies. But the political consensus, while striving to transcend ethnic policies in rhetoric, misconstrues and ignores the embedded ethnic preferential regime.

Resistance to change is often blamed on the political establishment, but this is too simplistic. On the ground, societal forces are also deeply apprehensive and resistant to change. Bumiputera households are not simply being played by politicians; they materially benefit from the policies. Why and how would any people rationally, willingly surrender privilege? There are no easy answers. But Malaysia’s political dispositions and policy discourses preclude candid, honest and rigorous engagement on these crucial issues.

Election campaigns will deservedly dwell on livelihood concerns such as cost of living, social assistance, housing and jobs, and developmental concerns like infrastructure, transportation, education and health provisions, and matters of governance and morality, including social justice, inequality and corruption.

Of course, politicians will stick to simple and straightforward promises, not complex and nuanced propositions. Consistently, candid and critical discourses appear neither during elections, when new visions and mandates might be projected, nor between elections, when necessary but inconvenient reforms might be pursued. For example, in making pre-university matriculation programmes more rigorous to better prepare university entrants, or in imposing greater demands and incentives for government contractors to raise work quality and scale up operations.

 

However, any grand quest to take Malaysia to the next stage must address the current state and future prospects of the Bumiputera preferential regime. Instead of suppressing such questions, or entertaining misguided notions that full-fledged transformation is already in progress, a true mark of Malaysia’s progress on this issue will be its capacity to appraise how effective it has been in promoting Bumiputera empowerment, while rekindling the intent – and audacity – expressed in the past for pursuing capability, competitiveness and self-reliance.

(published in collaboration with RISE: T.wai)

Politics and the Changing Face of Corporate Malaysia


January 3, 2018

Politics and the Changing Face of Corporate Malaysia

by Chua Su-Ann

 

http://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/state-nation-politics-and-changing-face-corporate-malaysia

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Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez and Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram

THE face of Corporate Malaysia has changed many times over the decades and it is not driven by pure market forces. Instead, it is inextricably linked to state intervention in the economy and politics, says Universiti Malaya’s Prof. Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez.

“The nature of state intervention in the economy is very much driven by the politics of the country,” Gomez says at a lecture at Monash University Malaysia in Bandar Sunway, Selangor.

His lecture illustrated the scale and implication of the nexus between politics and business. These are among the findings that will appear in his book Minister of Finance Inc: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia.

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From Gomez’s research, there are several defining moments that are inextricably linked to Malaysia’s politics and history.

“Many of the outcomes we see today have been shaped by who was the prime minister at particular moments in Malaysian history,” says Gomez.

The first defining moment, according to him, was in 1970 when the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced by then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (dec 1976) to fight poverty and redistribute wealth more equitably. It was then that the government decided to cast away its laissez-faire policy and actively intervene in the corporate sector.

“The NEP was a policy that the country needed. It involves state intervention to rectify the problems that had occurred under colonial rule where the bypassing of Malays in business was a key problem,” says Gomez.

According to his analysis of the most valuable companies in 1971, the key players in the economy were foreign-owned firms and family businesses — owned mostly by the Chinese — which controlled 61% and 23% of the economy respectively.

It was in the 1970s that the state intervened by creating well-funded public enterprises that went out and acquired the assets of foreign companies.

The next turning point came in 1981, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became Prime Minister.

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Malaysia’s Father of Crony Capitalism

“He decided that the purpose of the NEP was to create bumiputera capitalists or bumiputera businessmen, not GLCs (government-linked companies). The [NEP’s] emphasis on education diminished and its focus moved to business,” says Gomez.

This is notwithstanding the fact that the most valuable companies in 1997 were still government controlled, including Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd and Petronas Gas Bhd, all in the top four.

But it marked the start of an era where many public enterprises were privatised in order to help create a class of bumiputera capitalists.

Gomez’s analysis of the top 30 most valuable Malaysian companies in 1997 shows that prominent businessmen controlled 11 of the top 30 firms. They included Tan Sri Halim Saad (United Engineers Malaysia Bhd, Renong Bhd), Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli (TR Industries Bhd, Malaysian Airline System Bhd), Tan Sri Rashid Hussain (Development and Commercial Bank Bhd), Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad (Edaran Otomobil Nasional Bhd, Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd, Heavy Industries Corp of Malaysia Bhd) and Tan Sri Azman Hashim (AMMB Holdings Bhd).

Then came the 1997 Asian financial crisis, another turning point. “The financial crisis came and all this fell apart. We see the move from private businesses to GLCs coming to the fore and taking control,” says Gomez.

Analysis of the most valuable companies in 2001, after the financial crisis was over, shows the fall of the bumiputera capitalist class. Among the top 30 most valuable firms, Rashid’s RHB Capital comes in at No 14 and Azman’s AMMB Holdings clocked in at 23rd.

Similarly, in 2013, the year of the last general election, the only two bumiputera-controlled companies in the top 30 list were SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd (controlled by the Shamsudin family) and Azman’s AMMB Holdings at No 15 and 20 respectively.

“The key figures in 2001 were the GLCs, and 12 years later, in 2013, the key figures in the corporate sectors were still the GLCs. The GLCs have emerged as key players in the economy and have sustained themselves,” say Gomez.

What does this say about the GLCs? Gomez cautions against assuming that GLCs are underperformers or run-of-the-mill firms. “What we are seeing here are dynamic firms maintaining their performance as the top companies in the country.”

By 2013, seven of the top 10 companies were GLCs, which also made half of the top 30.

During Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time, he pushed for GLC transformation, which saw a new class of professional managers take the reins at important companies.

The other interesting development in 2013 is that foreign-controlled firms were re-emerging as important players in the economy. They included DiGi.Com Bhd, British American Tobacco (M) Bhd and Nestlé (M) Bhd, which are among the top 30 most valuable companies in Malaysia in 2013.

Gomez also points out another important finding — manufacturing firms are no longer a major force in the economy. “The industrial elite of old have fallen away. Industrial companies have not been investing in R&D. They have been fearful of the state,” says Gomez.

“Where are all the companies involved in the high-technology sector or highly innovative companies? If you look at this list, we are looking at companies involved in utilities, finance, construction and property development. It’s not going to take you anywhere in the long run.”

Where does it leave us today?

The first phase of Gomez’s research focuses on the government-linked investment companies (GLICs), which are major players in the economy by virtue of their web of ownership and control over a vast empire of companies.

The seven GLICs analysed by Gomez’s team are Minister of Finance Inc, Permodalan Nasional Bhd, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP), the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), Lembaga Tabung Haji and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera.

These GLICs control over 68,000 companies directly and indirectly with minority interest. “The seven GLICs control important companies in the economy. They have majority ownership of 35 public-listed companies and in terms of market capitalisation, they control about 42% of the entire Bursa Malaysia,” Gomez says.

He argues that this is of concern because this points to extreme concentration of power in Minister of Finance Inc.

The nature of corporate control was different under the different prime ministers. “The nexus between state and business is under constant transition. Under Razak, it was about public enterprises, Mahathir was about big business, Abdullah was focused on SMEs and [Datuk Seri] Najib [Razak] is back to the GLICs.”

As Gomez describes it, Dr Mahathir was “extremely involved” in the economy while Abdullah was not very involved. Najib, on the other hand, is selectively involved in the economy.

“There is an unprecedented concentration of power in the executive. The key company here is MoF Inc, the super entity … What does this control allow the executive to do?” he asks.

Gomez is proposing several reforms to reduce this concentration of power. He says that to ensure proper checks and balances, the prime minister cannot also maintain the finance portfolio.

Gomez is also calling for an operational oversight body for GLICs and GLCs, instead of concentrating it in the Ministry of Finance. This could provide policy coherence and coordinate GLIC and GLC activities to achieve specific social and economic objectives.

Gomez points out that the professional managers of the GLICs and GLCs should be given autonomy to run their respective companies. “Professional managers with autonomy but accountable to parliamentary select committees headed by opposition members. This can be done tomorrow.”

 

 

Malaysia’s national shipping line: The Robert Kuok Memoirs


November 27, 2017

How I launched Malaysia’s national shipping line (and what Genghis Khan had to do with it): the Robert Kuok memoirs

In the fifth extract from Robert Kuok’s memoir, the Malaysian-born tycoon reveals how patriotism drove him to launch the country’s national shipping line and how he drew inspiration from the Mongol warrior.

By Robert Kuok

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2121108/how-i-launched-malaysias-national-shipping-line-and-what-genghis

CUT THE APRON STRINGS AND CAST OFF

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Shipping Magnate Frank  WK Tsao

In 1967, word reached my ears that the Blue Funnel Group was coming to set up the national shipping line of Malaysia. Blue Funnel was probably the largest shipping conglomerate in Britain at that time. It owned Blue Funnel, Glen Line, Straits Steamship Co in Singapore, and many other lines. The Executive Chairman, a man whom I recall walked with a bad limp, was making frequent lobbying trips from London to Kuala Lumpur. I was interested in applying for the licence, so I chatted with a few of my Malay civil-servant friends. They agreed that I should put in a similar application to be considered for the right to establish the national shipping line.

My interest was partly patriotism … to help Malaysia not be tied to the apron string of the ex-colonial government

My interest was partly patriotism – a desire to help Malaysia to launch its own independent shipping line and not be tied to the apron strings of the ex-colonial government of Britain through Blue Funnel. I had become interested in shipping from about 1964, due to our large-scale buying of sugar for our refinery, wheat for our flourmill and our international commodities-trading activities. For example, we bought free-on-board sugar from India and delivered it to the Government of Indonesia on a cost-and-freight basis (sellers only wanted to sell on the basis of delivery at their own ports; buyers wanted the sugar delivered to their ports. Thus, covering the span of the ocean was my risk).

Robert Kuok

In those days, shipping was quite volatile and freight rates could sometimes shoot up 25-30 per cent. Since margins on sugar trading were small, you could easily make money on your trade, but lose on the freight. There was one problem: I knew nothing about shipping. I did know that in any business, unless you know the tricks of the trade, you can be badly burnt. I couldn’t even submit a decent memo for the application. So I looked for a partner.

A FRANK ADMISSION

On one trip to Hong Kong, I had been introduced by a Malay civil-servant friend to a man called Frank WK Tsao. I remembered that Tsao was a shipping man, Chairman of International Maritime Carriers, so I telephoned him. I said I would like to come and see him to discuss a business proposal. He gave me an appointment and I flew to Hong Kong. When I went to his office, Tsao was only mildly friendly. I was quite humble in my approach. I told him that we had met. He said, “Oh yes, we have met, we have met.” In business life, you learn early on that you must swallow your pride. I told him that some Malay civil servants, who wanted to stir up competition, were encouraging me to submit an application to set up a national shipping line.

There was one problem: I knew nothing about shipping. I did know that in any business, unless you know the tricks of the trade, you can be badly burnt.

I said, “I can’t differentiate between the front and rear ends of a ship,” which was a bit of an exaggeration, “so why don’t you come and help me to set up the Malaysian national shipping line? You’re well known in the shipping business. Are you willing to become my partner?” Without thinking for a second, he retorted, “Do you know, so and so and so and so have also approached me. They are Tan Sris, and I turned them all down.”

He was virtually saying “And who are you? I’ve turned down people way ahead of you in the pecking order in Malaysia.” When I heard these remarks and saw his body language, I said, “I’m sorry then. I thought I would give you first crack. I am going to go at it.” I didn’t tell him what a determined man I am in life.

I concluded, “Never mind, nothing has been lost by this little chat we’ve had. Thank you for receiving me.” I got up and was walking out when he shouted, “Oh, no, no. Please, Mr Kuok. Don’t go! Don’t go! Sit down, sit down.”

To this day I don’t know what made Frank change his mind. I had one shipping expert on staff, Tony Goh, a Singaporean- Chinese who was running my plywood factory. Tony had been a manager at Ben Line, a Scottish liner, before he joined me in 1964. So I sent Tony Goh to draft the memo with Frank Tsao.

I rewrote certain parts to suit the reading style of the Malaysian civil servants, and we submitted the memo in the joint names of Kuok Brothers and Frank’s International Maritime Carriers. A little later, I heard that we were one of the leading contenders. I asked Frank to meet me in Kuala Lumpur. I had made up my mind that we should pick one day to call on as many important ministers as possible. From eight in the morning we whipped around Kuala Lumpur at a furious pace, such as you can’t do today due to the traffic, and saw seven ministers by lunchtime. Some of them gave us good time and good hearings, and we told them the same story. In the afternoon, we visited one or two more.

I remember calling on the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister Tun Dr Ismail, Finance Minister Tan Siew Sin, Minister of Works Sambanthan and Minister of Transport Sardon Jubir.

Tun Dr Ismail, the former Malaysian interior minister.

OUR SHIP COMES IN

Within two or three weeks, we were picked at a cabinet meeting to start the national shipping line, Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC). We were like a dark horse coming from behind in the last furlong and pipping the favourite at the post!

I was Chairman of the Board and provided business management guidance. Frank Tsao’s side provided the shipping expertise. Just around the time of MISC’s formation in 1968, my dear friend Tun Dr Ismail resigned from government when he found that he had cancer. I immediately invited him to be the first Chairman of MISC.

I was inspired by the example of Genghis Khan, who, when he conquered cities, usually turned the spoils over to his generals and soldiers

Frank Tsao already knew Tun Dr Ismail through a textile-mill investment Frank had made in Johor (Dr Ismail resigned from MISC after the May 13, 1969, riots to return to the Cabinet. I then took over the chairmanship until the 1980s). Our first two ships came from the Japanese. Simultaneous with our moves to start the shipping line, there was an initiative by the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) to demand war reparations from Japan.

The Chinese community was angry about the Japanese massacre of innocent Chinese and was seeking compensation for this blood debt. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Malaysian Prime Minister, supported the demand and raised the issue during official trips to Japan. The Japanese finally agreed to give two blood-debt ships to Malaysia, which the Japanese called “goodwill ships”. MISC started with these two cargo ships and paid for them on a monthly bare-boat, hire-charter basis. Frank’s ship architects and engineers in Hong Kong supervised the design and construction in Japan. Tunku Abdul Rahman made some very cogent suggestions about the design of the flag for this new national flag carrier.

Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, left, and finance minister Tan Siew Sin in 1969.

MISC had an initial paid-up capital of 10 million ringgit. Since Kuok Brothers led the show, we took 20 per cent; Frank Tsao took 15 per cent. As the ships were reparation from the Japanese to the Malayan Chinese Association, not to the Malaysian nation, the vessels were assessed a reasonable value and the MCA was given MISC shares in lieu of payment.

MCA and other Chinese associations, combined, took 20-30 per cent, so in the beginning the holding of Kuok Brothers, Frank and the MCA group together was easily over 50 per cent. We had a fairly united board in the beginning. MISC started business in the second half of 1969 and quickly flourished. Much of the credit must go to Frank, the deputy chairman, who recommended capable managers such as Eddie Shih. Shih, another Shanghainese who had settled in Hong Kong, ran the show with Tony Goh. Very early on,

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MISC Managing Director Leslie Eu Peng Meng

Tony recommended his one-time colleague in Ben Line, Leslie Eu, who at the time was manager of Ben Line Bangkok. Leslie, the son of Burmese Chinese who had settled in Malaysia, quit Ben Line and came in as Managing Director of MISC.

YES, PRIME MINISTER

Within a year of our launching MISC, Tun Razak, who by then was prime minister, sent for me. Razak said, “I want you to make a fresh issue of 20 per cent of new shares. I’m under pressure because there is not a high enough Malay percentage of shareholding.” I said, “Tun, are you quite serious about this request?” He answered, “Yes, Robert.” So I replied that I would do it. I went back and, with a little bit of arm-twisting, persuaded the board to pass a resolution waiving the rights of existing shareholders to a rights issue (MISC was not yet a public company). Razak allocated all the new shares to government agencies. So, I was diluted to 20 upon 120 – the enlarged base – and Frank became 15 upon 120.

Tun Razak.

One or two years later, Razak again sent for me. He said, “I’m under a lot of pressure at Cabinet meetings. You know, Robert, it’s just the price of your success. MISC is doing well, people are getting envious. But now, instead of giving in to those factions, what I’ve decided is this: Issue another twenty per cent, five per cent to each of four port cities in Malaysia.”

I have always believed in some degree of socialism when you have made money

This entailed enlarging the capital base to 140 from the original 100, making the Malaysian Government the largest single shareholder and relegating Kuok Brothers to second position. And he again wanted the shares issued at par – the original issue price.

I said, “Tun, I have always cooperated with you, but it’s getting very difficult. Three, four years have elapsed from formation, but I would be loath to ask you for a premium since we are a growing company. So I will go back and ask the board again to issue shares at par to you. But Tun, can you please promise me that this is the last time?” He smiled and very gently signified his agreement, without saying the words.

GIVING LIKE GENGHIS

Then Frank and I decided that we should go public. Before we listed in 1987, I made quite a radical move, adopting a practice that I had used within Kuok Brothers. I explained to my Kuok Brothers senior directors that the MISC shares were now worth a lot of money, but only because of the great effort put in by other members of the board and many of the very deserving staff. I wanted to take about 15 per cent of our shareholding and sell the shares at par to deserving directors, staff and ship captains. Quite a number of people benefited from this move. I have always believed in some degree of socialism when you have made money. You know very well that you alone didn’t make it; it was a joint effort.

I was inspired by the example of Genghis Khan, who, when he conquered cities, usually turned the spoils over to his generals and soldiers. He was not selfish, and that is why he became the greatest general the world has ever seen.

Robert Kuok, A Memoir will be available in Hong Kong exclusively at Bookazine and in Singapore at all major bookshops from November 25. It will be released in Malaysia on Dec 1 and in Indonesia on Jan 1, 2018

The Robert Kuok Memiors: Devils’ to Friends


November 27, 2017

Devils’ to Friends – how China’s communists won over Malaysian PM Tunku; Hussein Onn clung to race-based politics

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2121058/devils-friends-how-chinas-communists-won-over-malaysian-pm-tunku

Former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. File photo

COMMUNIST DEVILS? PLEASE, PRIME MINISTER

Malaysia has had six Prime Ministers since independence. I have known all six. The first, Tunku Abdul Rahman, had tremendous rhythm. He was a well-educated man, having graduated with a law degree from Cambridge. If you talk of brains, Tunku was brilliant, and very shrewd. His mother was Thai, and he had that touch of Thai shrewdness, an ability to smell and spot whether a man was to be trusted or not. Tunku was less mindful about administrative affairs. But he had a good number two in Tun Razak, who was extremely industrious, and Tunku left most of the paperwork to Razak.

Tunku was like a strategist who saw the big picture. He knew where to move his troops, but actually going to battle and plotting the detailed campaign – that was not Tunku. He’d say, “Razak, you take over. You handle it now.” In that sense, they worked very well together. In my meetings with Tunku, he demonstrated some blind spots. He had a bee in his bonnet about communism. One day, when we had become quite close, he said to me, “Communists! In Islam, we regard them as devils! And Communist China, you cannot deal with them, otherwise you are dealing with the devil!” And he went on and on about communists, communism and Communist China. I responded, “Tunku, China only became communist because of the immense suffering of the people as a result of oppression and invasion. I think it’s a passing phase.” He interjected, “Oh, don’t you believe it! The Chinese are consorting with the devil. Their people are finished! You don’t know how lucky you Chinese are to be in Malaysia.” I replied softly, “Tunku, as Prime Minister of Malaysia, you should make friends with them.”

Tunku Abdul Rahman had a bee in his bonnet about communism.

 

Years later, when Tunku was out of office, he was invited to China. Zhao Ziyang, then Premier, entertained him in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Tunku travelled with a delegation of 15 Chinese businessmen who were good friends of his. On his way to China, Tunku stopped in Hong Kong and I gave them dinner. Then on his way out of China, he stopped in Hong Kong and we dined again. I asked him for his impressions. All of his old prejudices had vanished! He didn’t even want to refer to them. He just said the trip had been an eye-opener. “They are decent people, like you and me,” he said. “We could talk about anything.” From then onward, you never heard Tunku claim that the Chinese Communists were the devils incarnate.

Tun Razak. File photo

FRIENDS, NOT CRONIES

One thing I will say for Tunku: he had friends. His friends sometimes helped him, or they sent him a case of champagne or slabs of specially imported steak. He loved to grill steaks on his lawn and open champagne, wine or spirits. His favourite cognac was Hennessy VSOP. Tunku would also do favours for his friends, but he never adopted cronies.

When Tun Tan Siew Sin was Finance Minister, Tunku sent him a letter about a Penang businessman who was one of Tunku’s poker-playing buddies. It seems the man had run into tax trouble and was being investigated by the tax department, and he had turned to Tunku for help. In his letter, Tunku wrote, “You know so-and-so is my friend. I am not asking any favour of you, Siew Sin, but I am sure you can see your way to forgiving him,” or something to that effect.

Tunku would do favours for his friends, but he never adopted cronies

Siew Sin was apoplectic. He stalked into Tun Dr Ismail’s office upstairs and threw the letter down. “See what our Prime Minister is doing to me!” Tun Dr Ismail read the letter and laughed. “Siew Sin,” he said, “there is a comic side to life”. Ismail took the letter, crumpled it into a ball and threw it into the waste-paper basket. He then said, “Siew Sin, Tunku has done his duty by his friend. Now, by ignoring Tunku, you will continue to do your duty properly.” That was as far as Tunku would go to help a friend. Cronyism is different. Cronies are lapdogs who polish a leader’s ego. In return, the leader hands out national favours to them. A nation’s assets, projects and businesses should never be for anyone to hand out, neither for a king nor a prime minister. A true leader is the chief trustee of a nation. If there is a lack of an established system to guide him, his fiduciary sense should set him on the proper course.

A leader who practices cronyism justifies his actions by saying he wants to bring up the nation quickly in his lifetime, so the end justifies the means. He abandons all the General Orders – the civil-service work manual that lays down tendering rules for state projects. Instead, he simply hands the projects to a Chinese or to a Malay crony. The arms of government-owned banks are twisted until they lend to the projects. Some of these cronies may even be fronting for crooked officials.

Tunku was unnerved by the riots of May 13. After the riots he was a different man. Razak managed to convince him and the cabinet to form the National Operations Council, a dictatorial organ of government, and Razak was appointed its director. Parliament went into deep freeze. By the time the NOC was disbanded, Razak had been installed as Prime Minister. Tunku felt bewildered. He had helped the country gain independence and had ruled as wisely as he could, yet the Malays turned against him for selling out to the Chinese. In fairness to Tunku, he had done nothing of the sort. He was a very fair man who loved the nation and its people. But he knew that, if you favour one group, you only spoil them. When the British ruled Malaya, they extended certain advantages to the Malays.

Malay Sultans along with then Malayan High Commissioner Donald MacGillivray sign an agreement creating an independent Malaysia on August 5, 1957 in the official residence of the British high commissioner of Malaya. File photo

When the Malays took power following independence on 31 August 1957, more incentives were given to them. But there was certainly no showering of favours. All of that came later, after 1969. The riots of May 13, 1969, were a great shock to the system, but not a surprise. Extremist Malays attributed the poverty of many Malays to the plundering Chinese and Indians. Leaders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, who could see both sides, were no longer able to hold back the hotheads. The more thoughtful leaders were shunted aside and the extremists hijacked power. They chanted the same slogans as the hotheads – the Malays are underprivileged; the Malays are bullied – while themselves seeking to become super-rich. When these Malays became rich, not many of them did anything for the poor Malays; the Chinese and Indians who became rich created jobs, many of them filled by Malays.

ON PRO-MALAY POLITICS

I vividly recall an incident that occurred within a few months after the May 1969 riots. I was waiting to see Tun Razak when a senior Malay civil servant whom I knew very well came along the corridor of Parliament House and buttonholed me. He asked, “What are you doing here, Robert?” I replied, “Oh, I’m seeing Tun.” He snarled, “Don’t be greedy! Leave something for us poor Malays! Don’t hog it all!” I could see that, after May 1969, the business playing field was changing. Business was no longer clean and open. Previously, the government announced open tenders to the Malaysian public and to the world. If we qualified, we would submit a tender. If we won the contract, we would work hard at it, and either fail or succeed. I think eight or nine times out of ten we succeeded.

Don’t be greedy Robert. Leave something for us poor Malays! A senior civil servant friend

But things were changing, veering more and more towards cronyism and favouritism. Hints of change were there even before the riots. I was hell-bent on helping to develop the nation: that’s why I went into shipping, into steel – anything they asked of me. Even among the Malays there were those who admitted their weaknesses and argued for harnessing the strength of the Chinese. Mind you, that may have created more problems. If they had harnessed the strength of the Chinese, the Chinese would ultimately have owned 90 or 95 per cent of the nation’s wealth. This might have been good for the Malaysian economy, but bad for the nation.

Overall, the Malay leaders have behaved reasonably in running the country. At times, they gave the Malays an advantage. Then, when they see that they have overdone it, they try to redress the problem. Their hearts are in the right place, but they just cannot see their way out of their problems. Since May 13, 1969, the Malay leadership has had one simple philosophy: the Malays need handicapping. Now, what amount of handicapping?

The 1969 riots were a pivotal moment in Malaysian history. File photo

The Government laid down a simple structure, but the structure is full of loopholes. Imagine that a hard-working, non-Malay Malaysian establishes XYZ Corporation. The Ministry of Trade and Industry rules that 30 per cent of the company’s shares must be offered to Malays. The owner says, “Well, I have been operating for six years. My par value of 1 ringgit per share is today worth 8 ringgit.” Then the Ministry says, “Can you issue it at 2 ringgit or 2.50 ringgit to the Malays?” After a bit of haggling, the non-Malay gives way. So shares are issued to the Malays, who now own 30 per cent. But every day after that, the Malays sell off their shares for profit. A number of years pass and then one day the Malay community holds a Bumiputra Congress. They go and check on all the companies. Oh, this XYZ Corporation, the Malay shareholding ratio is now down to seven per cent. That won’t do. So the Malays argue that they’ve got to redo the shareholding again. Fortunately, the ministry usually acts as a fair umpire and throws out such unscrupulous claims.

The Malays’ zeal to bridge economic gap with the Chinese bred ugly racism

It’s one thing if you change the rules once to achieve an objective agreed to by all for the sake of peace and order in the nation. But if you do it a second time, it’s robbery. Why is it not robbery just because the government commits it? And when people raise objections, it is called fomenting racial strife, punishable by three years in jail. As a Chinese who was born and grew up in Malaysia and went to school with the Malays, I was saddened to see the Malays being misled in this way. I felt that, in their haste to bridge the economic gap between the Chinese and the Malays, harmful short cuts were being taken. One of the side effects of their zeal to bridge the economic gap was that racism became increasingly ugly. I saw very clearly that the path being pursued by the new leaders after 1969 was dangerous. But hardly anyone was willing to listen to me. In most of Asia, where the societies are still quite hierarchical, very few people like to gainsay the man in charge. As in The Emperor’s New Clothes, if a ruler says, “Look at my clothes; aren’t they beautiful?” when he is in fact naked, everybody will answer, “Yes, yes sir, you are wearing the most beautiful clothes.”

THE EAR OF THE PRIME MINISTER

I made one – and only one – strong attempt to influence the course of history of Malaysia. This took place in September 1975 during the Muslim fasting month. Tun Razak, the second Prime Minister of Malaysia, was gravely ill with terminal leukaemia, for which he was receiving treatment in a London hospital. My dear friend Hussein Onn, son of Dato Onn bin Jafar, was Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and acting Prime Minister in Tun Razak’s absence. He was soon to become Malaysia’s third Prime Minister. I went to Kuala Lumpur and sent word that I wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk. On the phone Hussein said, “Why don’t you come in during lunch time. It is the fasting month. Come to my office at about half past one. There will be no one around and we can chat to our heart’s content.”

Hussein and I go back to 1932 when we were in the same class in school in Johor Bahru. Shortly afterwards, his father fell out with the then-Sultan of Johor and the family moved to the Siglap area of Singapore.

 

Malaysia’s third Prime Minister Hussein Onn. File photo

My father would often spend weekends with Dato Onn. Two or three years later, Hussein returned to Johor Bahru and we were classmates again at English College from 1935 to 1939. Hussein’s father, Dato Onn, did not have a tertiary education. But he read widely and was very well informed. He was a natural born politician, a gifted orator in Malay and in English. He was a very shrewd man with a tremendous air of fine breeding even though he was not from Malaysian royalty. When you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of someone great. Dato Onn would go on to found UMNO, the ruling party of Malaysia, and become one of the founders of the independent nation of Malaysia. He set a tone of racial harmony for the nation – and he practised it. Our families were close.

So, I went to call on his son, my old friend Hussein Onn in 1975. His office was in a magnificent old colonial building, part of the Selangor Secretariat Building. In front of it was the Kuala Lumpur padang, where, in the colonial days, the British used to play the gentlemen’s games of cricket and rugby. I climbed up a winding staircase and his aide showed me straight to his room. There was hardly another soul in that huge office complex. After greeting one another, I warmed up to my subject with Hussein very quickly. I said, “Hussein, I have come to discuss two things with you. One is Tun Razak’s health. The other is the future of our nation.” I said, “You know, Razak has been looking very poorly lately. We all know he has gone to London for treatment.” Hussein interrupted: “Tun doesn’t like anybody discussing his health. Do you mind if we pass on to the next subject?” I said, “Of course not.” I continued, “I had to raise the first subject because that leads to the next subject. Assuming Razak doesn’t have long to live – please don’t mind, but I have to say that – you are clearly going to become the new Prime Minister in a matter of months or weeks.”

“I’m listening,” he said. “Hussein, we go back a long way. Our fathers were the best of friends; our families have been the best of friends. In our young days, you and I always felt a strong passion for our country, which we both still feel. Whatever has happened these past years, let’s not go backwards and ask what has gone wrong and what has not been done right. Let’s look at the future. If there was damage done, we can repair it.”

Hussein listened patiently. I pressed on, “First, let me ask you a few questions, Hussein. What, in your mind, is the number of people required to run a society, a community, a nation with the land mass of Malaysia?” This was 1975, when the population was about 12.5 million. He didn’t reply. For the sake of time, I answered my own question. “Hussein, if I say 3,000, if I say 6,000, if I say 10,000, 20,000, whatever the figure, I don’t think it really matters. We are not talking in terms of hundreds of thousands or millions. To run a society or a nation requires, relatively speaking, a handful of people. So let us say six or seven or eight thousand, Hussein. And of course this covers two sectors. The public sector: government, civil service, governmental organisations, quasi-governmental bodies, executive arms, police, customs and military. The private sector: the economic engines; the engines of development, plantations, mines, industry.

Robert Kuok. File photo

“The leaders of these two sectors are the people I am referring to, Hussein. If we are talking of a few thousand, does it matter to the masses whether it becomes a case of racially proportionate representation, where we must have for every ten such leaders five or six Malays, three Chinese, and one or two Indians?” I continued, “Must it be so? My reasoning mind tells me that it is not important. What is important is the objective of building up a very strong, very modern nation. And for that we need talented leaders, great leadership from these thousands of people. If you share my view that racial representation is unimportant and unnecessary to the nation, then let’s look at defining the qualifications for those leaders.

“Number one, for every man or woman, the first qualification is integrity. The person must be so clean, upright and honest that there must never be a whiff of corruption or scandal. People do stray, and, when that happens, they must be eliminated, but on the day of selection they must be people of the highest integrity. Second, there must be ability; and with it comes capability. He or she must be a very able and capable person. The third criterion is that they must be hard-working men or women, people who are willing to work long hours every day, week after week, month after month, year after year. That is the only way you can build up a nation.”

I went on, “I can’t think of any other important qualifications. So your job as prime minister, Hussein – I am now assuming you will become the Prime Minister – your job will then be from time to time to remove the square pegs from the round holes, and to look for square holes for square pegs and round holes for round pegs. Even candidates who fulfil those three qualifications can be slotted into the wrong jobs. So you’ve got to pull them out and re-slot them until the nation is humming beautifully.”

The best brains come in all shades and colours, all religions, all faiths. “We do not have all the expertise required to build up the nation,” I added. “But with hard work and a goal of developing the nation, we can afford to employ the best people in the world. The best brains will come, in all shades and colours, all religions, all faiths. They may be the whitest of the white, the brownest of the brown or the blackest of the black. I am sure it doesn’t matter. But Hussein, the foreigners must never settle in the driving seats. The days of colonialism are over. They were in the driving seats and they drove our country helter-skelter. We Malaysians must remain in the driving seats and the foreign experts will sit next to us. If they say, ‘Sir, Madame, I think we should turn right at the next turning,’ it’s up to us to heed their advice, or to do something else. We are running the show, but we need expertise.
You’re going to be the leader of a nation, and you have three sons, Hussein … your eldest son will grow up very spoiled

“You’re going to be the leader of a nation, and you have three sons, Hussein. The first-born is Malay, the second-born is Chinese, the third-born is Indian. What we have been witnessing is that the first-born is more favoured than the second or third. Hussein, if you do that in a family, your eldest son will grow up very spoiled. As soon as he attains manhood, he will be in the nightclubs every night because Papa is doting on him. The second and third sons, feeling the discrimination, will grow up hard as nails. Year by year, they will become harder and harder, like steel, so that in the end they are going to succeed even more and the eldest will fail even more.”

I implored him, “Please, Hussein, use the best brains, the people with their hearts in the right place, Malaysians of total integrity and strong ability, hard-working and persevering people. Use them regardless of race, colour or creed. The other way, Hussein, the way your people are going – excessive handicapping of bumiputras, showering love on your first son – your first born is going to grow up with an attitude of entitlement.” I concluded, “That is my simple formula for the future of our country. Hussein, can you please adopt it and try?” Hussein had listened very intently to me, hardly interrupting. He may have coughed once or twice. I remember we were seated deep in a quiet room, two metres apart, so my voice came across well. He heard every word, sound and nuance. He sat quietly for a few minutes. Then he spoke, “No, Robert. I cannot do it. The Malays are now in a state of mind such that they will not accept it.”

He clearly spelt out to me that, even with his very broad-minded views, it was going to be Malay rule. He was saying that he could not sell my formula to his people. The meeting ended on a very cordial note and I left him. I felt disappointed, but there was nothing more that I could do. Hussein was an honest man of very high integrity. Before going to see him, I had weighed his strength of character, his shrewdness and skill. We had been in the same class, sharing the same teachers. I knew Hussein was going to be the Malaysian Prime Minister whom I was closest to in my lifetime. I think Hussein understood my message, but he knew that the process had gone too far. I had seen a picture developing all along of a train moving in the wrong direction. During Hussein’s administration, he was only partially successful in stemming the tide. The train of the nation had been put on the wrong track. Hussein wasn’t strong enough to lift up the train and set it down on the right track.

The train of the nation had been put on the wrong track. The capitalist world is a very hostile world. When I was building up the Kuok Group, I felt as if I was almost growing scales, talons and sharp fangs. I felt I was capable of taking on any adversary. Capitalism is a ruthless animal. For every successful businessman, there are at least 10,000 bleached skeletons of those who have failed. It’s a very sad commentary on capitalism, but that is capitalism and real capitalism, not crony capitalism. Yet, I’ve always believed that the rules of capitalism, if properly observed, are the way forward in life. I know that, having been successful, I will be accused of having an ‘alright Jack’ mentality. But I am just stating facts: capitalism is a wonderful creature – just don’t abuse its principles and unwritten laws.

Robert Kuok, A Memoir will be available in Hong Kong exclusively at Bookazine and in Singapore at all major bookshops from November 25. It will be released in Malaysia on December 1 and in Indonesia on January 1, 2018