On Daim Zainuddin–The Silent One


January 5, 2017

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

by Professor Mohamed Zain

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

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

Silent cancer

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

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

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

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

Mahathir’s choice

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

Musa squeezed out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KTM land in S’pore

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

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

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

 Daim’s resignation

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

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

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

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

Rafidah more honest than Anwar?

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

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

 Friend of Soros

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

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

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

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

Mahathir panicked

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

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

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

 Daim finally found a road-block in Anwar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UMNO at Crossroads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-hornbillunleashed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice to DPM Zahid Hamidi –Be UMNO’s Hang Jebat


January 3, 2017

Advice to DPM Zahid Hamidi –Be UMNO’s Hang Jebat

by Stephen Ng@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Zahid HamidiBe UMNO’s Hang Jebat

COMMENT: Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) imbroglio has dragged on for far too long, making people becoming more impatient with the ruling party.

If I may use the word, it is ‘restless’. Yes, the people are getting very restless over the way that the economy is taking a beating as a result of the 1MDB scandal. 1MDB has been headlined in nearly every newspaper and magazine overseas, whereas in Malaysia, people are allegedly still being told one lie after another.

Everywhere I go, whenever I speak to people, whether old friends or new people I meet, everyone is fully aware of the scandal that has plagued the nation for far too long.

If UMNO’s own warlords do not unseat him as Party President before the next general election, it would do a great injustice to the entire coalition that has ruled the country for the past 60 years.

In fact, by August 31 this year, it would be exactly 60 years since Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra as the country’s first Prime Minister, declared Independence from the British colonialists.

Since his time, UMNO has morphed into something totally different from the times and era of the Father of Independence. Its alleged involvement in one scandal after another (since the days of Mahahir–read Barry Wain’s The Malaysian Maverick)has shocked the nation, yet Malaysians at large are to be blamed for being laid back and good at criticising others whom they expect to change the world for them.

It takes people like Anwar Ibrahim, Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Teresa Kok, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Lim Guan Eng, Lim Kit Siang and Tony Pua to expose the scandals.

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The latest scandal exposed by PKR Vice-President Rafizi (pic above) allegedly involves Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) where US$505million (RM2.26 billion) was spent on purchasing a 37 percent stake in Indonesia’s PT Eagle High Plantations.

The price Felda was going to pay for a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation, according to PAS Deputy President Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, raises an alarm, as Indonesian billionaire Peter Sondakh, who owns Rajawali Group, had taken up a 68.6 percent stake in EHP at only US$570 million.

Rafizi claimed he has “given information to assist authorities so that they can commence investigation into whether or not there was interference or instructions from superiors, whether at the board level or from politicians or government to Felda to proceed with the acquisition of Eagle High.”

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Felda Chairman–Le Crook Isa Samad–should be sacked and then investigated

Felda, on the other hand, plans to purchase a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation for US$505.4 million (RM2.26 billion), for 582 rupiah per share.

He also brought up another major issue regarding the highest spending of RM25 billion last year on Felda’s replanting scheme, citing that this exposed the scheme to various risks of abuse and corruption.

Najib’s personal accounts

Recently, Singaporean former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, who was linked to the 1MDB scandal, was found guilty and sentenced to a 30-month jail term. Yeo, who is also linked to Najib’s close associate, Jho Low, will be facing other charges soon.

All that the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) could say was that Yeo’s jail sentence had nothing to do with either 1MDB President Arul Kanda Kandasamy or Najib himself.

In two other recent cases down south, both Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah are now serving jail terms because of their links to 1MDB. Yak is now serving an 18-week jail term on forgery charges and failure to disclose suspicious transactions, while Yak’s assistant, Yvonne Seah, is in prison for two weeks after she pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Two former executives of Abu Dhabi-based lnternational Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and its investment arm, Aabar Investments PJS, Khadem Al-Qubaishi and Mohamed Badawy al-Huseiny were also arrested for their links to “fraud and money-laundering on 1MDB”.

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Najib Razak and his Financial Advisor– Together, they are running Malaysia into the ground

How then can Najib, through Jasa’s recent statement, deny that he had any link to the scandal, especially since he is all three – the chairperson of the 1MDB advisory board, the finance minister who came up with the brainchild, as well as the prime minister of Malaysia?

If Low was not involved, why did he not personally appear before the judiciary in the United States to claim the assets confiscated by the US Department of Justice? Why did his family members claim the assets on his behalf? I dare both the flamboyant Low and Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, to step foot on the US grounds at this juncture of their lives.

As for Najib, who claimed that RM2.6 billion that went into his personal accounts was donated by an unnamed generous Arab prince, why did he apply to intervene in the ex-parte lawsuit filed by Zaid Ibrahim to compel AmBank Islamic Berhad to disclose the details of how RM2.6 billion had been deposited into five accounts which are allegedly his?

Zaid did the right thing to pursue this matter, but hopefully, the court will uphold justice and rule in public interest. Like Zaid, we, too, want to know where the money came from and how it ended up in one man’s personal accounts, especially since the US Department of Justice had alleged that the money came from 1MDB.

It is not only RM2.6 billion, but another RM41 million which had allegedly originated from SRC International.

After all, the whole nation and the world is being told that the money was a donation from a generous Arab prince. Is there anything for Najib to hide now?

A question of our future

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Letting this Fox into the Hen House–Are we Malaysians stupid or what?

This year, 2017, Malaysians have yet again to make a decision of whom they would vote for. Would they continue to vote for Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan, which is now flanked by former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia?

Currently, Bersatu only has a small group of supporters, but it is well-received by most Malaysians especially people who are unhappy with Umno. Its Facebook page, which only has 3,215 likes at this juncture, needs to receive a boost from its supporters.

On the question of whether Dr Mahathir or Muhyiddin Yassin would eventually betray Pakatan Harapan, I think they better not betray the people’s trust, especially after the people have given them another chance.

It is better for them to work within the framework of the alternative front, so that the people now have a choice between Barisan Nasional and a stronger competitor than to be cursed for the rest of their lives.

As for Najib, a piece of sound advice to him for 2017 would be to think twice before acting further. To call a general election would be a disaster for both UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

When I read about MCA President Liow Tiong Lai going to speak to Najib about allocations for the Chinese school, my only response was, who, in the first place, failed to provide the allocation to the schools when they deserved it? Therefore, Liow should just stop pretending to be a saviour for the Chinese schools.

Even Najib’s harping around the Rohingya issue has become a bane to both international relations and dwindling support within UMNO. I asked a Malay gentleman about it, and his response was: “Najib cannot even care for the Temiang Orang Asli in Kelantan, does he even want to interfere into another country’s affairs?”

2017: Due Year for Najib, Rosmah and Gang


December 31, 2016

2017: Due Year for Najib, Rosmah and Gang

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

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Look at those high heel shoes of Malaysia’s Beauty Queen!

Best wishes to all those who’ve done something – anything – in 2016 to deserve a happy New Year of 2017. And worst possible wishes to all the others for the decidedly unhappy New Year that they’re due for having deliberately done wrong or else failed in their duty to do right by their fellows over the past 12 months, or in many cases far longer, and have no intention of changing their ways.

Of course in the former category I include a whole spectrum of people ranging from those who’ve strenuously striven to be outstanding human beings in their ordinary, everyday lives on the one hand, to heroic humanitarians and ferocious fighters for justice and human rights on the other.

I’m conscious that I should be careful in naming any of the people or organisations I have in mind here, lest I cause offence to some by forgetting or not having sufficient space to include them, or else embarrass or endanger them through public exposure.

Suffice to mention, then, by way of example, such friends and former colleagues as ‘Chemical’ Ali, Alice and her husband Stephen; fellow-travellers in the quest for truth, integrity and transparency in government, like the management, staff and most of the readers of Malaysiakini; literally countless fellow pro-democracy writers and bloggers like Azly (Rahman), Din (Merican), Mariam (Mokhtar), KJ (John), S Thayaparan and Zan (Azlee); and, last but as far as possible from least, the inimitable and unquenchable anti-regime cartoonist and lampoonist, Zunar.

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Some of the similarly countless organisations I can’t help thinking of as well-and-truly due the happiest-possible wishes for this and every other New Year include Malaysia’s Sisters in Islam, Sarawak Report and now sadly inactive Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM), France’s Médicins Sans Frontières, Reporteurs Sans Frontières, Syria’s non-government civilian volunteer rescue workers, the White Helmets, and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

As for all those who are not due a New Year at all, let alone wishes for a happy one, the first lot I can think of, as long as I’m concentrating on Malaysia for this column, are the members, cronies and supporters of the ever-ruling UMNO-BN regime.

As of 2017, this cartel of ‘criminals’ posing as a coalition government has enjoyed an unbroken run of 60 years of allegedly happily robbing Malaysians of their rights, freedoms and protections and their nation of its natural resources. Thus these political ‘predators’ deserve to rot for years in prison, not to be wished, let alone allowed another happy year in power at the public’s expense.

All the signs are there, however, that they have every intention of celebrating in 2017 as happily for themselves and as unhappily for the people as they did in 2016 and for decades before.

Continuing to avoid and evade the fact

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Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak continues to avoid and evade the fact of, let alone his responsibility for, the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) brouhaha. And his cabinet ministers and other sycophants, supporters and apologists are still solidly behind him in his campaign of denial and deception.

Meanwhile the regime has even more daylight robberies in train. Literally, as in the case of the allegedly monstrously over-priced MRT rail system currently under construction.

So rather than yet another happy year, I, along with the majority of Malaysian citizens, I suspect, hereby wish UMNO-BN a decidedly crappy or even accursed year.

In the fond if admittedly faint hope that the US Department of Justice will finally bring criminal charges against Najib and his accomplices in the 1MDB imbroglio; or that Najib will call the 14th general election (GE14) and that Chinese numerology will come to the party and make sure that for UMNO it turns out to be truly ‘forever die’.

Image result for the 1mdb scandal

And then there’s always the chance that the RAHMAN prophecy will come true, and Najib’s fall will finish off BN forever.

But of course it’s not only Najib and UMNO-N who are well and truly due, in fact way overdue, for a deservedly unhappy New Year.

There are also Bashar al-Assad, his murderous regime and its brutal Russian allies, for example, who are due endless retribution for five years of slaughter of the Syrian people and destruction of their homeland.

Then there are the likes of Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and all the other similar death-squads, many of which have been happily getting away with their crimes against humanity for far too many years.

And finally, who knows whether to wish the US and its citizens a Happy New Year? With president-elect Donald Trump just weeks away from being sworn-in to office, it’s anybody’s guess how 2017 will turn out for ‘God’s Own Country’ and the rest of the world.

Given Trump’s stated intention of greatly beefing-up the US’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, chances are that rather than a Happy New Year we could well find ourselves facing the unthinkable horrors of a Happy Nuke Year.

In which case the displays of fireworks on which Sydney and so many other cities squander such a fortune for the sake of celebrating the New Year could this time around portend the possibility that far more serious and deadly global or regional fireworks, or at least a decidedly dangerous arms-race, may be due in the very near future.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

 

Malaysians no longer trust Najib Razak


December 29, 2016

S.E.A. View

Malaysians  no longer trust  Najib Razak

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/what-price-malaysias-trust-deficit

The lack of excitement over massive infrastructure projects and ringgit’s plunge are signs of market and ground sentiments

Image result for najib razak and rosmah mansor

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and Big Momma Rosmah Mansor

The last weeks of December have been busy ones for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. On December 13, Datuk Seri Najib signed the much awaited High Speed Rail (HSR) agreement with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that will link Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

That same week, he officiated at the opening of Malaysia’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), a project that started in 2011. Days later, on December 18, Mr Najib launched the 1.4km-long Batang Sadong Bridge in Sarawak, a huge connectivity leap for Sarawakians, who previously had to rely on ferry crossings. The bridge is one of several projects the government has in store for Sarawak, the others being the massive 2,000km-long Pan Borneo Highway that will link Sarawak and Sabah and a coastal highway that will connect towns in Sarawak.

Soon after the Sarawak trip, Mr Najib was in Sabah to launch eight projects linked to the Pan-Borneo Highway. The recent launches came weeks after Mr Najib’s trip to China, one that saw the Malaysian economy potentially receiving a thumping US$33 billion (S$48 billion) of Chinese investment. A major part of the investment deal was Malaysia agreeing to build a 640km-long East Coast Rail Line(ECRL) with Chinese financing. Once completed, the ECRL will link the northernmost town in the east coast state of Kelantan to Port Klang, which fronts the busy Straits of Malacca on the west coast. Needless to say, these infrastructural investments are major game changers that are set to alter Malaysia’s landscape in a fundamental way, unleashing the country’s huge economic potential.

Such long-term growth commitment should excite the public, but not so in Malaysia. As for China’s massive investment, Mr Najib’s critics see it as a sell-out to China’s interest. They were also quick to contest that the US$13 billion ECRL project was overpriced – never mind that the proposed line needs to negotiate the Titiwangsa ridge, difficult geographical terrain that has for a long time kept the east coast of the peninsular relatively underdeveloped compared with the west coast.

What is apparent is that Mr Najib’s policies attract sceptics. Malaysians, it seems, are less willing to go along with government policies no matter how attractive the long-term benefits are. An obvious reason is that nagging political issues continue to cloud the many positives of Mr Najib’s policy initiatives. People in Malaysia are not quite done with the 1MDB issue. The international media has also kept turning the spotlight on 1MDB and Mr Najib, reinforcing public scepticism. What is obvious is that Malaysians are stuck in second gear, unwilling to move beyond the 1MDB issue.

Is Malaysia paying a heavy price for its ongoing political crisis? It seems so. The state is suffering from a trust deficit. Trust, between the governed and the government, seems to be in short supply. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only 39 per cent of Malaysia’s general population trusts the government

Is Malaysia paying a heavy price for its ongoing political crisis? It seems so. The state is suffering from a trust deficit. Trust, between the governed and the government, seems to be in short supply. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only 39 per cent of Malaysia’s general population trusts the government. That needs addressing because a trust deficit prevents the state from garnering policy collaborators. Policy “buy-in” becomes difficult as stakeholders are unwilling to be part of the policy process. Worse, a trust deficit could also see stakeholders subverting what otherwise could be effective policies. Mr Najib’s market-friendly policies, which would have been gladly accepted in the past, are now looked upon with intense scepticism. His decision to lift fuel subsidies, allow 70 per cent foreign ownership in the services sector, sell all the government’s Proton shares and introduce the goods and services tax (GST) to prevent leakage and broaden the tax base are but a few market-friendly policies that, thus far, have not warmed citizens’ hearts. Malaysians are still unwilling to accept the GST even when GST receipts have clearly buffered Malaysia’s huge losses in petroleum revenue in the past year.

Mr Najib launching Malaysia’s MRT on Dec 15. The lack of public trust stands in the way of Malaysia’s long-term goals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A trust deficit could potentially lead to more damaging systemic risk. Thinning public trust and greater tendency to talk down the economy could amplify Malaysia’s political, social and economic risks. A self-fulfilling prophecy may set in, creating a case where the public runs down the economy more than it should and triggering a crisis of confidence. An obvious benchmark of confidence is the Malaysian ringgit, Asia’s worst-performing currency. Though there are external factors that have contributed to the weakening of the ringgit – Trumponomics, the attractiveness of US bond yields and weak commodity prices – analysts are also quick to add that the ringgit suffers from domestic risks, the premium of which is anybody’s guess. Some see domestic risk as one contributing factor to the ringgit weakening to a rate of RM4.70 to US$1.

Image result for the malaysian ringgit the disappearing currency

There are those who think that the ringgit slide is overdone as it does not reflect Malaysia’s fundamentals. But under conditions of low public trust, good economic figures are quickly neutralised by bad economic ones. Going by fundamentals alone, there are reasons not to short the ringgit. The Malaysian economy has shown plenty of resilience despite chaotic domestic politics and severe economic headwinds. Its GDP has averaged 5.3 per cent growth since 2011. This year, the economy is expected to grow at 4.2 per cent. For next year, the IMF predicts the economy to grow at 4.5 per cent on the back of strong domestic consumption. The country is also in better fiscal shape, with Mr Najib keeping to his promise to trim spending. The Budget deficit now stands at 3 per cent of GDP, down from a high of 6 per cent in 2009. Its current account remains positive. In fact the current account saw a sharp increase in the third quarter, the highest since December last year. More importantly, the economy has broken away from its heavy reliance on the oil and gas sector. Petroleum now counts for just 15 per cent of total revenue, a sharp drop from about 30 per cent two years ago. The economic figures, however, do not seem to count when it comes to the sliding ringgit.

Finally, broken trust between the state and the governed is affecting Malaysia’s long-term effort at institutional change. Change is difficult when stakeholders are unwilling to ride on the change agenda. In a low-trust environment, stakeholders are persuaded by partisan concerns, depriving the change agenda of a diversity of views. The Najib administration, for instance, has introduced the “blue ocean” strategy as part of its strategic blueprint. Developed by two INSEAD professors, the strategy rethinks the idea of competition and collaboration and has been behind many of Malaysia’s government and economic transformation programmes. Policy emphasis on the bottom 40 per cent of income- earners, retargeting state subsidies, providing direct transfers to low income earners, collaboration and sharing of resources between government agencies and building a one-stop centre for public services are among the few policy initiatives that seemed to enjoy little public buy-ins.

An exploratory study I carried out between September and October to gauge public receptiveness to the government’s national blue ocean strategy, part of wider research on networked government, found that the public know little or nothing at all of such blueprint. Trust, or the lack of it, has blurred the public’s identification with policies, making them unwilling partners of institutional change.

With a general election expected next year, Mr Najib has his work cut out for him. Restoring public trust is proving to be difficult but the need for it is urgent. Systematic public disengagement from political leadership could well be the most important factor that stands in the way of Malaysia’s long-term goals. In the short-term though, Malaysians should be careful that their attempts at political change do not cripple an otherwise functioning economy.


  • The writer is a visiting research fellow at the Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy, Murdoch University and Assistant Professor at the Tun Abdul Razak School of Government, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak. 

Malaysia’s Megaphone Diplomacy


December 28, 2016

ASEAN has to deal a Jonah Najib Razak in its midst–Malaysia’s Megaphone  Diplomacy

Image result for Najib Razak

ASEAN’s Jonah–Najib Razak

Image result for beano characters

Earlier this month, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak made what many saw as a serious breach of diplomatic protocol when he spoke out against Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya — treatment that, in his view, amounted to “genocide”.

Such an act of megaphone diplomacy is almost unheard of among the ASEAN member states, especially coming from an ASEAN leader, and poses serious ramifications for the ASEAN region.

READ: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/367351

Speaking at a mass rally that was organized to show solidarity with the Rohingya, Najib directly questioned the inaction of Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, pointedly asking, “What’s the point of a Nobel Peace Prize?” and telling her, “Enough is enough!”

Najib raised more eyebrows when he called on Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to join him, even making reference to recent Muslim protests in the Indonesian capital against the incumbent Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. “Do not just protest against Ahok. The Rohingya should be defended in Indonesia,” he told Indonesian Muslims.

(Read also: Good reason to tread carefully on Rohingya crisis)

Jakarta has yet to respond to Najib’s move, but Naypyidaw has predictably condemned Malaysia’s interference in its domestic affairs. A day before the rally, an official in Myanmar’s President’s Office warned, “A member country [of ASEAN] does not interfere in other member countries’ internal affairs”, while a commentary by The Irrawaddy’s editor-in-chief was headlined, “Malaysia, Don’t Use Burma to Distract from Disquiet at Home”. The Myanmar government has since announced it was stopping its migrant workers from going to Malaysia and Suu Kyi has refused to meet Malaysia’s foreign minister.

Image result for Najib leading Rohingya Protest

How, then, do we explain Najib’s move? What are the ramifications for the ASEAN region? What steps should Indonesia — as the region’s primus inter pares — take to not only restore ASEAN unity but also to help resolve the Rohingya issue?

Many have attributed Najib’s strong stance as a political move aimed at distracting the domestic public from the 1MDB scandal, as well as an attempt to burnish his credentials among the Malay Muslim voters ahead of upcoming general elections in 2018. Certainly, the recent Bersih 5 rally indicates that the 1MDB scandal continues to haunt Najib, who is also facing a sustained challenge by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to force him out of office. Indeed, the latter has formed his own political party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which will compete for the same Malay Muslim voters who have traditionally supported Najib’s UMNO (United Malays National Organization) Party.

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No Credibility for Malaysia’s Racist Prime Minister

Yet, it is important to consider the following facts. First, the rally attended by Najib also saw political leaders from the opposition PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) take part, meaning it had some degree of cross-party support. Second, the Rohingya issue was also previously discussed by the Malaysian cabinet. On November 25, the cabinet met to consider a proposal for its national soccer team to withdraw from a regional competition co-hosted by Myanmar.

While the Cabinet decided against the proposal — fearing FIFA sanctions — Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin explained, “We will pursue other avenues in raising our concerns […] We will use diplomatic (means) that will be announced by the Foreign Ministry.” Here it should be noted that while the UMNO party dominates the cabinet, a number of positions are held by non-Muslim parties that would have no need to attract the Malay Muslim votes.

Third, on the day prior to the rally, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry issued its own strong statement saying, “The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out is by definition ethnic cleansing.” Interestingly, when the statement was shared on the ministry’s official Twitter page, the hashtag #R2P (responsibility to protect) was also used.

While the interests of politicians and bureaucrats are often blurred in a country where UMNO has held power since 1957, one would imagine that foreign ministry officials would not so easily allow political considerations to harm the country’s foreign policy.

As such, it is clear that there is some sense of consensus among Malaysia’s political leaders and bureaucrats on the Rohingya issue that goes beyond an attempt to distract from a particular scandal and/or vote-winning ahead of upcoming elections.

Given the above, it is possible that more consideration has gone into Najib’s megaphone diplomacy than was initially thought.

While that may be the case, it is also clear that Malaysia’s stance has serious ramifications for ASEAN. For one thing, Najib’s appeal to Indonesian Muslims threatens to export his brand of religious politics to the ASEAN level and divide the region along Muslim versus Buddhist lines. This is not only foolish but dangerous in such a diverse part of the world.

His stance also represents a major departure from the ASEAN norm of not openly speaking about each other’s domestic affairs. By doing so, Malaysia threatens to open a Pandora’s Box, which may lead to Myanmar responding with its own difficult questions about Malaysia’s domestic problems. Such a situation, whereby member states start criticizing each other’s domestic problems out in the open, will do no good for ASEAN unity.

As mentioned before, we have already seen one ASEAN minister refusing to meet another and an ASEAN member state imposing a ban on its citizens from working in another member state. This is far from what should be happening during the first year of the ASEAN Community’s regional integration and requires urgent regional leadership to not only restore ASEAN unity but also to help resolve the Rohingya issue.

In this sense, Indonesia’s more nuanced approach should be welcome. While Indonesia has gone for more quiet methods, that does not necessarily mean it is brushing the Rohingya issue under the carpet. Jakarta recognizes that the focus should be on taking steps that will actually help the Rohingya. This can be achieved neither via megaphone diplomacy nor by offending Naypyidaw.

Indeed, there are deep-rooted, complex and multiple underlying factors that have led to the situation in Rakhine state. Only with the cooperation of the Myanmar government will an effective, long-lasting and comprehensive solution be found that appeases all stakeholders, including the Rakhine Buddhists, the Rohingya Muslims and the mostly Burman military.

Indonesia should thus continue to position itself as an honest broker that understands the complexity of the situation and that realizes this is more than just a religious issue. Its offer to dispatch humanitarian aid is a good first step.

The offer builds on Indonesia’s previous efforts that have led to the building of schools and a hospital in Rakhine state and demonstrates two points: on the one hand that Jakarta is rightly focusing on the practical needs of food, blankets, education, health care, etc., and on the other hand that Jakarta has earned the trust of Naypyidaw to even conduct such activities inside the volatile Rakhine state. In this sense, President Jokowi would do well to politely ignore Najib’s call to join him. There are better ways to address the situation in Myanmar.

 The writer heads the ASEAN Studies Program at the Habibie Center in Jakarta. The views expressed are his own.

 

 

 

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low


December 27, 2016

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low

COMMENT by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

‘Using religion as a political weapon always results in self-inflicted wounds.’

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

– Seneca

Really dumb ideas have no problem escaping from the Prime Minister’s Department but Paul Low’s suggestion that the Christian community must be politically relevant and “be able to influence policy in a way that reflects the righteousness of God almighty”, is probably the dumbest idea I have ever heard. It is right up there with how Hindraf used religion – Hinduism – as a means to highlight the disenfranchisement of the Indian community and of course, how Islam has been weaponised in Malaysia.

What exactly does “righteousness of the almighty” mean? Furthermore, how do religious groups influence policy if not by getting into bed with craven politicians by means of campaign donations and the rest of the sordid transaction between church and state? You want to know why Hinduism is regressive in this country. The answer is simple, because the MIC got into the business of religion.

So let me get this right. Paul Low – who works for a Muslim regime – thinks that the Christian community should not engage in politics but still find a way of influencing policy. This is probably the most disingenuous double speak emanating from a Putrajaya minion I have ever heard.

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Add to this Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow’s disingenuous contention that “politics and political parties must be distinguished”. Really? In one of my numerous pieces about the so-called ‘Allah’ controversy, I referred to the reality that oppositional politics and religion were intimately entwined. I wrote:

“Meanwhile the DAP who has more or less locked down the Chinese vote, continues to coddle the Christian evangelical movement within its rank, which finds expression in the putrid sloganeering of youth movements like ‘Rise up it’s time to take Subang for Jesus’ endorsed by certain religiously-inclined DAP leaders.”

What this does is give pro-UMNO propagandist the opportunity to further the narratives that Islam is under threat and that opposition parties are attempting to destabilise the country by religious means. Using religion as a political power tool always results in self-inflicted wounds.

Nowhere is this more evident in the unholy alliance between the supposedly secular DAP and vehemently religious PAS. Meanwhile, PKR was standing in the sidelines waiting for the whole thing to blow up so they could reconcile with PAS.

This is not to say that I think religious people should not make their voices heard in a milieu where there is no separation between mosque and state. When writing about the reality of religion in politics, I made two points:

1) “When the political, social and economic reality is predicated on religious superiority and oppression, religious people need to find ways to express themselves in democratic spaces and at the same time realise that the only security they have against further aggression is by supporting secular values.

2) “What I have been contemptuous of is the agenda of Christian politicians using religion as political capital and claiming to be secular while funding Islamic organisations to pander to the Malay/Muslim vote.”

Moreover, point two, the intersection between Christians and Muslims in the opposition have done the most harm because the discourse was framed by craven politicians who were not interested in promoting secular values in both religions, but with creating and maintaining political power.

It is all about credibility. “Credibility is achieved by politicians who leave their religious affiliations at the door and this is especially important for non-Muslim politicians when it comes to dealing with the UMNO state.”

I have made this argument before: “I have argued that the non-Malay power structures are contributing to the indoctrination process by supporting UMNO-enabled institutions thereby setting back any kind of progressive movement in the Malay community. Furthermore, I have been critical of opposition parties that have been reluctant to redefine and propagate ideas that are the exact opposite of the UMNO narrative of what it means to be Malay and Muslim.”

In addition, let me be very clear. I think there should be an exchange of ideas between religious groups but this should not be at the expanse of secular ideas. The problem with the DAP/PAS dalliance is that it was not based on the idea of promoting a progressive secular agenda but attempting to subvert the Malay/Muslim vote which ultimately destabilised the Muslim party, worsening the religious discourse in this country.

Neat little boxes

If Paul Low was really interested in religious freedom, he would be advocating secular values that inhibit religious interference of any kind from political parties and the UMNO state. Those secular values would include limiting the state or any governmental organisation from funding, assisting or favouring any one religion. Of course, Paul Low will not advocate any of this.

A while back I took exception to this whole idea of categorising Muslim and Christians into neat little boxes and argued that secular values are not anathema to any religious community or at least those in the community who could go beyond their religious indoctrination:

“What exactly is a ‘true’ Muslim or ‘true’ Christian for that matter? Someone who believes that religion should not be politicised? Someone who believes that you should not mock another’s religion? Someone who believes that religion should not intrude in the private lives of members in any given society? Someone who believes that there should be a separation of church/mosque and state? These are not ‘true’ religious values but rather true secular values or secular humanist values, if you like.”

Instead, Paul Low prefers to throw fuel on the religious fire by encouraging Christians to be more vocal, using the kind of religious polemics – “almighty” and “religious conviction” – that is mana to pro-UMNO propagandists but yet covering his behind by telling them not to engage with politics.

When the Sabah Council of Churches “pray for divine intervention in the challenging state of affairs of our nation for our sake and the sake of our next generation” you know the plot has truly been lost.  Really, divine intervention?

Moreover, that is really the problem with religion and politics in a Muslim-dominated country.  Unlike Western secular democracies where Muslims have a right to voice their dissent, non-Muslims only have the option of praying for divine intervention.

It is extremely frustrating because all these issues of corruption, incompetent governance, racism and the host of other calamities facing this country are not religious issues. Ultimately anyone who uses religion as a means of political expression loses in a country where the religious game is fixed.