Guna’s Take on Fake News


November 8, 2017

Guna’s Take on Fake News

One would think that fake news happens only in cyberspace and that mainstream/traditional news organisations are somehow not subject to reporting fake news. But that’s not necessarily true because when the media space is controlled like it is here, it produces an atmosphere which spews out fake news in billows.–P. Gunasegaram

by P. Gunaegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | One would think that fake news happens only in cyberspace and that mainstream/traditional news organisations are somehow not subject to reporting fake news. But that’s not necessarily true because when the media space is controlled like it is here, it produces an atmosphere which spews out fake news in billows.

In its simplest form, fake news is just manufactured news but there are degrees. Some are outright lies while others combine untruths with elements of true news to project an image which is not wholly correct while appearing to give the impression that it comes from accurate news sources.

It is most easy to do this online by setting up websites and/or blogs to propagate the news and manufacture news to the benefit of the sponsoring authority. Thus, political parties and candidates up for election pay so-called cyber troopers large amounts of money to boost their image in the eyes of the public.

Simultaneously they engage in activities to drag down the image of the opponents through smear campaigns, sometimes unearthing true stories and twisting the context and at other times broadcasting outright lies.

In Malaysia, as elections loom large and have to be held by August next year, this whole idea of fake news, especially on social media, has grabbed the attention of politician and layman alike, especially when US President Donald Trump, who has propagated fake news against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, accuses US mainstream media of fake news in repeated tweets.

 

But in Malaysia, the situation is very different. We have had fake news with us for decades now, especially during general elections, when more or less the entire regulated media industry gets commandeered by the ruling government – BN and its predecessors.

Look at for instance, how newspapers either directly owned by political parties or those close to them behave at election time – UMNO’s Utusan group, MCA’s The Star, as well as New Straits Times, RTM1, RTM2, TV3, and even ntv7, the other broadcast media.

It is as if the government can do no wrong, it is as if the opposition is a major threat to the unity of the country. The only viable party that can rule the country is, of course, the BN, everyone else will take the country to ruin.

So the heavily-controlled mainstream newspapers, magazines and broadcast organisations not just spewed fake news but engaged in regular propaganda blasts about how the government was so great, with documentaries about what it did, and through advertisements. The poor opposition is denied any airtime or space in the newspapers while the ruling party of the day runs riot over the opposition in all the various broadcast and print media.

Is it any surprise that the ruling party thrashed the opposition soundly in almost all the elections since 1969 (until the tide turned in 2008) when the opposition denied the ruling party two-thirds majority for a while? BN regained it following the collapse of many opposition parties into BN in the aftermath of oppressive measures following the May 13 riots shortly after the elections, riots which many consider to have been manufactured.

 

And then came 2008 – BN did not lose but soundly lost its two-thirds majority and five states in the general elections, its biggest setback yet. And the opposition finally began to think about riding into Putrajaya in triumph. In 2013, despite all of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s efforts, BN did not regain the two-thirds majority although UMNO did better.

So what made the change in 2008 and 2013? In two words, social media, which remained largely uncensored and unregulated and which gave the opposition a lot more space than it ever did before – there was a new medium to send news out instead of just print and broadcast and it was accessible to all.

A game changer

The control of the print and broadcast media no longer ensured that only some news of the favourable kind reached the general public. In Malaysia’s case, social media stopped the avalanche of fake news spewing out of the mainstream manufactured news factories.

But unfortunately, with fake news making such an impact on social media in the US for instance, with Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the polls significantly attributed to it, the importance of social media is being increasingly recognised as a game changer for elections in Malaysia.

Thus, both Najib and his deputy have been increasingly talking about fake news on social media and the need to counter it effectively. But in all probability what they mean is that the true news is coming out from many sections of the social media, so we have to do something about it.

 

Their thinking goes something like this: We have to counter all these things which are true which are coming out from social media – we can blank it out from the print and broadcast media but we need a social media attack to counter these truths with lies.

Thus, we see Najib claiming in his blog rather preposterously that 1MDB will save RM200 billion in 20 years for Malaysia when the truth is that it has in all probability it has already lost as much as RM40 billion.

Expect this broadside by the BN on social media in Malaysia to increase – in the US, fake news may have reached epidemic proportions already, but in Malaysia, the process is just beginning but will increase very rapidly.

It is not going to be easy to differentiate the truth from the fake news but if you stick to respected and established online new organisations such as … – you know who they are, I don’t have to tell you – you will be safe.

Stick to independent news organisations who have a strong tradition of respect for truth, accuracy and balance and who cover both what the government as well as what the opposition has to say. Look at who are behind news portals – if they are not specific enough about ownership and editorial team, be suspicious.

Verify and crosscheck sources of information. Much is passed on over social media websites such as Facebook and WhatsApp with not even a mention of the source. If you want to check the source, type a key extract into a search engine and look at the results.

Please remember, especially at election time – you are more likely to get fake news and inadequate news of the right kind from mainstream media who have had a long track record compared to some of the online news portals who may not have as long a record.

And finally, please support those who supply good, fair information at reasonable prices (less than 60 sen a day) by subscribing to them (instead of sharing passwords indiscriminately), and take out advertisements with them and donating to them. It’s a small price to pay.

The sad truth is that information that is free is more likely to be tainted. Now, who was it who said that there is no such thing as a free lunch?


P GUNASEGARAM says truth often lies hidden under a pile of lies. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

Najib Camp’s Clarion Call: Be ready for another OPS LALANG


November 5, 2017

Najib Camp’s Clarion Call:  Be ready for another OPS LALANG, says Raja Petra

by Raja Petra Kamaruddin

Image result for raja petra kamarudin

 

The problem is people. If they want to believe RM42 billion of 1MDB’s money has disappeared into thin air they will believe it. And they will believe it because it is fun believing it or they are comfortable believing it — just like suicide bombers believe if they blow up a busload of schoolchildren they will be rewarded with more virgins than they can handle and if they take one virgin a night to bed it will be more than two months before they can come back to the first one.

Google has just announced that something needs to be done about Fake News. UMNO Youth Leader Khairy Jamaluddin is upset that Pakatan Harapan people are spreading Fake News. Cabinet Minister Salleh Said Keruak is equally unhappy that the Internet is being used as the primary source of Fake News.

Twenty years ago it had been forecasted that the opposition will gain a lot of ground if it takes to the Internet and ‘controls’ the news on the Internet. At that time there were only 280,000 Internet subscribers but one day there will be more than 20 million Internet subscribers so the opposition needs to monopolise the Internet and beat the government in the game of news dissemination. I was one of those who started my own anti-government website in 1997 called ‘Raja Petra’s Homepage’. Today there are more than 21 million Internet subscribers.

A knife is a useful tool in the kitchen. But a knife can also be a weapon that kills. So it all depends on what you want to use that knife for. And that includes how you use the Internet as well.

How do you stop Fake News on the Internet? You cannot. The problem is not the Internet. The problem is people — just like the problem is not guns but people who kill.

If people want to believe Fake News they will believe Fake News. And even if you ban or close down the Internet people will still listen to Fake News and will believe it.

Raja Petra claims  that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is a Victim of Fake News

Thousands of years ago people already believed in God, religion, and so on. Why did they believe in God? Had they ever met God? Did God come down to earth and make his existence known? Had people died and met God and came back to earth to tell the people that they met God so God does exist?

Nothing of that sort. People just believe in God because they want to believe in God. They feel ‘comfortable’ believing in God. They are not comfortable feeling that they are going to die and when they die that is the end of everything, nothing more is going to happen. People need to believe that death is not final or the end but just the beginning. They might live for a few years on earth but after they die they will live on forever in a special place which is far better than this miserable place called earth (or get reincarnated as something or someone better).

So, since birth, people have been indoctrinated into believing something that cannot be proven. And you believe what is comfortable to you, whether it is true or false. There are so many religions and if only one is the true religion that would mean all other religions are Fake News. Muslims insist that Muhammad is the last Prophet of God and that Islam is the true religion. That would mean all the other religions are the result of Fake News.

Image result for Isa Samad

Isa Samad, Chairman, Felda Global Ventures who was arrested by Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Agency is another victim of Fake News by the Malaysian Opposition

If what Muslims believe is true, and they insist it is, then Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and many more are all Fake News. Christians, however, will insist their religion is true while all others, Islam included, are Fake News. And Atheists will say all religions, without exception, are Fake News and that God is as real as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

 

So, Fake News has created many fake religions but those who believe will insist their religion is not fake. In fact, they will insist their religion is true while all the others are Fake News.

So you see, you do not need the Internet to disseminate Fake News. Of course, the Internet is faster so it helps in the dissemination of Fake News. But people have been believing Fake News long before the Internet was invented. And that is why today we have so many different beliefs and religions. It is all because of Fake News.

The problem is people. If they want to believe RM42 billion of 1MDB’s money has disappeared into thin air they will believe it. And they will believe it because it is fun believing it or they are comfortable believing it — just like suicide bombers believe if they blow up a busload of schoolchildren they will be rewarded with more virgins than they can handle and if they take one virgin a night to bed it will be more than two months before they can come back to the first one.

Image result for Malaysiakini Staff

The Journalists of Malaysiakini led by Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan at their Headquarters Building, Jalan Tandang , Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Pakatan Harapan people love Fake News. Their religion is founded on Fake News. They get an erection or orgasm when they read Fake News. Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insight, Malaysia Chronicle, Sarawak Report and the many other opposition sites can say anything, and as long as it is anti-government it will be treated like Moses preaching in the Sermon on the Mount. If people verify what they are told before believing it no one would believe in God and no religion would exist. So the truth is not important, mere belief is. And that is why Pakatan people believe in Fake News.

Raja Petra Kamarudin

– http://www.malaysia-today.net/

Raja Petra’s Short Story–Indian and White Women


Raja Petra’s Short Story–Indian and White Women

My friend, now on the other side of the political divide and an apologist for Prime Minister Najib Razak, is a fiction writer. Raja Petra is fun to read if you wish to wish to find comic relief and cope with the political nonsense that has transformed Malaysia into Malusia.

That Prime Minister Najib Razak is the most corrupt leader in our country’ s history is fact, not fiction. He is also a liar.  Raja  Petra disagrees with the majority of us.

Image result for Din Merican and Raja PetraPete as I know him

That Raja Petra, Pete as I know him, has abandoned his cherished civil society causes– for which he was charged under ISA, sent to jail and later released– is a fact. It is  also a fact that he has let his friends like the late Bernard Zorro Khoo, Magick River’s Antares (pic below), Haris Ibrahim, Art Harun, Lim Teck Ghee, and yours truly down et.al down.

Image result for Bernard Zorro Khoo

The Late Bernard Zorro Khoo and Magick River’s Antares

Pete  has changed his mind.  He seems to have adopted John Maynard Keynes’ dictum,  “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” But have facts changed? –Din Merican

This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance or similarity to people already dead, still alive, or about to die, is purely coincidental and we would like to apologise in advance if anyone makan cili rasa pedas

NO HOLDS BARRED

by Raja Petra Kamarudin

This is a tale of an Indian woman and a White woman colluding to oust the Prime Minister of a country that they say is going bankrupt. Hence the country needs to be saved, the Indian woman and the White woman say. To save the country they will oust the Prime Minister and replace him with an Indian Prime Minister who used to be the Prime Minister for 22 years and who was the reason the country is going bankrupt in the first place.

Image result for Ambiga and Clare

The fictional Indian woman and the fictional White woman

The Indian woman and the White woman then came out with a plan. They will accuse the Prime Minister of stealing RM42 billion of the country’s money and will spread this story far and wide. The Indian woman and the White woman were brought up to believe if you keep repeating the same lie over and over again and if you can get many other people to repeat it as well, especially other White people from White countries such as the United States, then even black can become white and white can become black.

Image result for Najib and Hadi

The problem, though, while it may have been a good plan, this Indian woman and White woman got distracted. Before the Prime Minister can be ousted, and before the old Indian Prime Minister who ran the country for 22 years and practically bankrupted the country can take over, the Indian woman and the White woman allowed their anti-Islam prejudices to get the better of them. They also tried to oust the President of the Islamic Party.

So they plotted to plant a story that the Prime Minister has bought off the President of the Islamic Party for RM90 million. Then they said another Islamic Party leader was bought off for RM200 million. And that was why, the Indian woman and the White woman said, these people decided to bring the Islamic Party out of the opposition coalition.

The fact that they did not bring the Islamic Party out of the coalition and instead the coalition was closed down is a small detail. The fact that the State Assemblymen in the opposition-run state refuse to resign even when told to do so because they still want to be part of the state government is another small detail. They say the Islamic Party left the coalition because of the bribe, which they said is RM90 million and now say is RM200 million.

The White woman then mocked the President of the Islamic Party and dared him to sue her. If her allegations are false then the President of the Islamic Party should sue her. So he did and now the White woman is upset and says that the President of the Islamic Party and the Prime Minister are colluding to smear her good name and destroy her sterling reputation. She is also counterclaiming for damages because, according to her, she is suffering from severe stress, anxiety and distress.

Why this White woman is so kaypoh about another country that has nothing to do with her is a mystery yet to be solved. Her own country is so kecoh and yet she does not talk one word about her own country and talks non-stop about another country that has nothing to do with her. Racism is so high in her own country and Muslims are being attacked but the newspapers do not talk about it. Even the capital city of her country is regarded as the most dangerous city in Europe, especially if you are Muslim.

Some say she is being paid a large sum of money to attack the Prime Minister and help the old Indian Prime Minister who bankrupted the country to take back power. I doubt it, though, because White people are noble and honest and surely they cannot be bribed. We seldom hear about White people doing bad things like non-White people. The fact that Hitler was White is coincidental and cannot be used as the measurement for all White people.

It is equally puzzling as to why the Indian woman talks so bad about her adopted country when she became very rich because of her adopted country. In her own country about 100 million Indians are involved in the prostitution industry. That is more than three times the population of her adopted country. Children are kidnapped from villages and teenage boys and girls are sold into prostitution. If they try to escape they are murdered and one person admitted on TV that he has personally murdered 500 people who tried to escape.

If this Indian woman were back in India she would probably be working in a brothel pimping children for a living. Yet she condemns her adopted country and does not say a word about the appalling conditions in her own mother country. The English call this looking a gift horse in the mouth. Muslims call it kufur nikmat — kufur coming from the word kafir.

Anyway, the White woman was told to show proof to support her allegation that the Prime Minister bribed the President of the Islamic Party for RM90 million. But she could not. Instead she told the court the Indian woman was the one who told her the story. When the media asked the Indian woman she replied ‘no comment’.

So it looks like either the White woman got the Indian woman into deep shit or the Indian woman got the White woman into deep shit. Anyway, whatever it may be both are now in deep shit. Nevertheless, the White woman has fingered the Indian woman as the person who started the story.

And this is not the first bribery story the Indian woman started, mind you. In an earlier incident this same Indian woman started the story about the Chief Minister of an opposition state being bought off by the Prime Minister regarding his Islamic Bank case. The poor Chief Minister was forced to resign because of that story and the person who went all over the country carrying this story was sued in court and eventually had to apologise to settle the case out of court.

So this Indian woman has been traced to more than just one bribery story. She somehow gets an orgasm when she tells stories about people receiving bribes. Considering some people get an orgasm when they have sex with corpses in a mortuary it makes sense that the Indian woman gets aroused when she spreads false stories about people receiving bribes.

Anyway, that is the tale of the Indian woman and the White woman who spread false stories in the hope of bringing down the Prime Minister and replace him with an Indian Prime Minister who ran the country for 22 years and practically bankrupted the country. Whether they are prostituting themselves for a lot of money or whether they get sexually aroused by doing this is not known at this stage. What is known, however, is that the White woman has shifted the blame to the Indian woman while the Indian woman refuses to say anything.

But then this is what the Indian woman is so fond of doing. She throws stones while hiding her black hands and lets others take the fall for it. And then she tells the Prime Minister that whoever wants to form the government will need the Indian votes or else, without the Indian votes, they cannot win the elections. And then they talk to both sides and offer their votes to the highest bidder like in an auction.

http://www.malaysia-today.net/the-tale-of-indian-and-white-women/

Opinion: Malaysia’s Broken System


November 4, 2017

Opinion: Malaysia’s Broken System

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for john berthelsen
Journalist John Berthelsen

 

It is ironic that a chorus of leaders from the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have accused critics of scandal-scarred Prime Minister Najib Razak of “seeking to destroy parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.”

There is no parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.  Malaysia’s government is broken. Every institution that exists in a normal democracy to protect the people does not work. That includes the parliament, the courts, the police, the mainstream press and the religious establishment, which all act to perpetuate the ruling coalition – primarily UMNO – in power.

Image result for Najib the Bullshitter

“Constitutional democracy has taken a new meaning in Malaysia and that is the status quo of the incumbent power,” one of the country’s most prominent constitutional lawyers said privately. “There are threats even against me for having acted in my professional capacity as a constitutional lawyer for those who desire to seek change.”


‘Our parliament is a rubber stamp; our judiciary is compromised; our civil service is mediocre and incompetent’


The situation is not new. Najib, who is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money by critics – but not by law enforcement agencies – is not the cause of the breakdown. He is only a symptom of it. While UMNO has dominated politics since independence in 1957 under the Barisan Nasional, the current system was largely built by Mahathir Mohamad during the 23 years he was in power.

It’s been a long time coming

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad

The breakdown began decades ago, even before the subversion of the courts by Mahathir in the 1980s, although that was a major contributing factor. The Barisan Nasional inherited a series of repressive laws from the colonial British, including the Internal Security Act, which allows for indeterminate detention without trial. Although the ISA was supposedly suspended as a reform by Najib in 2012, it was replaced by an almost equally pernicious statute, Section 124 of the Penal Code, which allows for the arrest of individuals “for activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.”

Another is the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, which replaced similar colonial laws and requires all printing presses to secure an annual license from the Home Affairs Ministry.

The British also bequeathed the Sedition Act of 1948, which banned speech that would “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against” the government or engender “feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races.”

The sedition act has been used repeatedly as the current scandal has grown in proportion, with its most notable potential victim Clare Rewcastle Brown, the UK-based journalist and blogger whose Sarawak Report has played an instrumental role in exposing corruption connected to 1Malaysia Development Bhd, the state-backed investment fund that has amassed RM42 billion in debt. Scores of others including opposition politicians, activists, academics, journalists and cartoonists are being investigated or have been charged.

Image result for I am loyal to Najib says Zahid Hamidi

Good Luck, Malaysia with these UMNO 3 Stooges in Command

“Our parliament is a rubber stamp; our judiciary is compromised; our civil service is mediocre and incompetent led, by a bunch of apple polishers; our police force, which is headed by an Inspector General of Police, treats us like enemies of the state, not as taxpayers and citizens who should be protected from criminals,” said Din Merican, a Malaysian Malay university professor now teaching Political Science and International Relations at the University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. “Our fiscal management is in a total mess because we have a Finance Minister who regards our national coffers as if they were his own and mismanages our economy. We have rampant corruption and abuses of power.”

Rigging the game

Things really began to go downhill in 1986 when the country’s highest court ruled that the government’s cancellation of the work permits of two Asian Wall Street Journal correspondents was unlawful. That was followed by the High Court’s decision to issue a habeas corpus writ for the release of opposition leader Karpal Singh from detention.

Then Justice Harun Hashim declared UMNO illegal and dissolved the party. An outraged Prime Minister Mahathir fired the chief justice and subsequently moved parliament to amend the constitution to say that the courts would only have judicial powers “as may be conferred by or under Federal law,” making Malaysia the only Commonwealth country whose courts do not have judicial powers unless the legislative branch says so.

As a result, the courts are clearly in thrall to the governing party, as witnessed by the two farcical trials that put opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in prison against all evidence, and a long string of decisions that have cleared government leaders despite strong evidence of their guilt.

Democracy itself is broken, with gerrymandering keeping the opposition in its place. Witness the 2013 parliamentary election, which the Barisan actually lost, 51.39 percent to 47.79 percent, although it retained 133 seats to the opposition’s 89. It was an election won on vast infusions of apparently illegal money, if the latest revelations are true that Najib’s US$681 million “donation” diverted into his account was to help him fight the election. Top leaders of the ruling party are ignoring the deepening scandal because the prime minister has paid them continuing rounds of ill-disguised bribes to keep their loyalty. In addition, the election commission comes under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office, rendering it toothless.

Broken presses

In addition to being muzzled by the printing act, the idea of a free press, which would keep a watchdog eye on the government, has been subverted by the fact that virtually all of the major media, both in English and Malay and including newspapers, television and radio, are owned by constituent parties of the Barisan. Najib used his powers recently to shut down the two most critical newspapers, both owned by The Edge Group, for three months after they reported on the 1MDB mess. Neutral or hostile online media, which is freer but subject to partisan pressure, are constantly threatened with lawsuits that can’t be won in the kept courts, or by sedition or other charges.

Bad religion

The ruling party also has become adept at using Islam as a cudgel to beat other races, particularly the Chinese, and to scare the kampungs, or rural villages, back in line while splintering the opposition.

Image result for Din Merican at University of Cambodia______________________________________________________

 

“We have become a racist and theocratic state led by men and women who no longer uphold the traditions of public duty,” said Din Merican. It is hard not to agree.–John Berthelsen

________________________________________________________

Opposition leaders and others have accused Najib, with some justification, of being behind a “unity government” strategy to support the fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia in its effort to implement hudud, or harsh Islamic law, in the state of Kelantan, which it controls. The idea is to destroy a shaky opposition coalition cobbled together seven years ago out of disparate elements. That effort appears to have succeeded, with PAS splitting the opposition coalition earlier this year.

It is the use of religion for cynical political ends that may be the most dangerous part of the UMNO strategy. The so-called Group of 25, comprised of senior civil servants, former diplomats and others, issued an open letter in December calling for moderation; they have renewed their call, saying the imposition of hudud would tell the world that the country has abandoned its once-moderate path.

“We have become a racist and theocratic state led by men and women who no longer uphold the traditions of public duty,” said Din Merican. It is hard not to agree.

Lim Kit Siang’s Take on Najib Razak’s So-Called Mother of All Budgets 2018


November 2, 2017

Lim Kit Siang’s Take on Najib Razak’s 2018 BudgetThe So-Called Mother of All Budgets

The Budget is a tool or instrument for presenting a statement about the state of the economy, its prospects, and policy announcements for improving governance. A well-crafted budget statement should be an objective and honest presentation meeting the goal of accountability.

Sadly, the budget he (Najib Razak) presented fails these basic tests. His speech of almost 12,000 words was more akin to a laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements about the economic consequences that would result.–Lim Kit Siang

http://www.malaysiakini.com

MP SPEAKS | Prime Minister Najib Razak described Budget 2018 being about “gifts, rewards and incentives.” It is a most mistaken view.

The Budget is a tool or instrument for presenting a statement about the state of the economy, its prospects, and policy announcements for improving governance. A well-crafted budget statement should be an objective and honest presentation meeting the goal of accountability.

Sadly, the budget he presented fails these basic tests. His speech of almost 12,000 words was more akin to a laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements about the economic consequences that would result.

The speech omitted any reference to urgently needed policy changes to restore the competitiveness of the economy that would enable the nation to escape the middle-income trap it finds itself in. The speech was silent about measures to correct the stagnation in real income, and address the looming danger associated with the mountain of debt – public, corporate and household.

The budget has been turned into an unabashed and irresponsible first salvo in the campaign for the 14th General Election. Page after page of the speech detailed expenditures and proposed allocations; no group was ignored in the largesse being extended.

Najib’s laundry list of giveaways, expenditure allocations both real and imagined, and vague statements.-2018 BUDGET

Little was said about how the proposed expenditures were designed to advance the overarching economic goals; no reference was made to how the addiction to deficit spending was to be overcome.

The projected deficit was itself a meaningless figure as the profligate spending in some measure would be financed outside of the budget, and nor did the PM in his speech or in the economic report provide details about the level of contingent liabilities or the new liabilities being assumed.

Electioneering

The PM chose to describe the budget as the “mother of all budgets”. Ironically, he was on target as this budget was an exercise in deception and was an unvarnished sales pitch seeking votes in the upcoming election.

Najib’s claim about “good news” needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt. The reality is that the news as reported in the budget statement is more in the nature of “fake news”. The budget framework is built upon dubious interpretation of statistical data in a highly selective manner.

The PM gloated over the growth numbers but was being selective. He failed to make any reference to issues of a structural nature raised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in particular in the latter’s Annual Article IV Consultations and reported on its website.

Economic growth rates

Najib also made much about the revised growth rates issued by the International Financial Institutions and attempted to claim credit. He omitted to indicate that the revisions pertained to almost all countries – Malaysia being one in the group.

The revised growth rates should not therefore be interpreted as an approval of the competence of the government in managing the economy. Growth rates are revised to be higher because of global economic developments, primarily resulting from changes in monetary policies by the US Federal Reserve Bank and its counterpart the European Central Bank, and the partial recovery in prices for oil and gas.

The PM has been selective in the use of data. This is best illustrated by his use of the year 2009 as the base for measuring change. There is no rational reason for this choice other than an attempt to glorify his own tenure of office. It is also pertinent to note that 2009 marked a global recession. The choice of this low base amplifies the recovery in the years since.

Najib, however, chooses to remain silent about the negative developments, for instance, in the losses in the country’s external reserves (from a peak of US$ 140.0 billion in 2012 to US$101.2 billion in Sept 2017; total reserves as a percentage of external debt fell from a high of 121.1 percent in 2007 to 47.2 percent in 2016 or the decline in the value of the ringgit from US$1 = RM 3.34 in 2007 to US$1= RM4.20 in September 2017. These are not indicative of “efficient governance and prudent discipline” as he claimed.

Putrajaya’s fiscal situation

For two decades the government has operated with a deficit; the reported federal government debt now approximates 55 percent. Additionally, the Putrajaya has concealed its borrowings and the true size of its debt by making government-linked companies and other quasi-government entities undertake borrowings to finance public sector projects under the guise of so-called public-private projects.

The government has, at the same time, accumulated large hidden contingent liabilities by extending guarantees for borrowings by GLCs and other entities.

The fiscal situation has been worsened by corruption, mismanagement and other abuses including non-competitive acquisition of goods and services. The absence of competitive bidding results in price distorted costs. Tax revenues have been eroded by way of so-called “incentives” extended to government cronies without resulting in any discernable rise in private investment.

NEM goals

The reference in the speech to the New Economic Model (NEM) is more in the nature of a throwaway remark.

Certain clear-cut goals and policies adopted at the launch of the NEM have fallen by the way side. It should be recalled that there was a commitment to pursue further privatisation of the government’s non-financial public enterprises and reduce the government’s holdings in the GLCs which in reality function as state-owned enterprises.

It is significant that the speech contained no reference to the pursuit of these stated goals.

The findings from a recent highly professional study led by Terence Gomez has highlighted the dominant role played by GLCs in almost all sectors of the Malaysian economy, from aviation, banking, manufacturing, plantations to various modes of transportation.

In 2013, a total of 455 companies (including subsidiaries) were classified as government-linked investment companies (GLICs). There were 35 publicly listed companies which were among the top 100 companies listed on the Bursa Malaysia. The latter account for an overwhelming percentage of the capitalisation of the exchange.

Without a doubt, the government’s footprint is large in the business and commercial sectors. The entities in question act as monopolies or privileged entities, thus stifling private enterprise. This has led to flagging private investment despite tax and other incentives.

Of late several entities (e.g., Mara, Felda, Tabung Haji) have become mired in financial scandals. There is little or no accountability by such entities.

Furthermore, it is strange indeed that while Malaysia as a upper middle income country seeks to attract FDI flows, yet government linked agencies are currently exporting capital. These endeavors taken represent contradictions. But, more troubling is the fact that they give rise to abuses and corrupt practices.

The claims of successes in employment creation merit comment. While indeed some 2.3 million jobs have been created in the past eight years, most of these have been low paying jobs with many filled by migrant workers.

Serious shortages of skilled workers exist; paradoxically the brain drain continues unabated. These labor market developments along with the stagnation in wages are indicative of a failed set of policies that are contributing to the loss of competitiveness and entrapment as a middle-income country.

The self-congratulatory remarks about export growth are yet another example of delusion. While the current level of exports are expressed in ringgit terms, the PM has chosen to ignore the fact that he is comparing values based on different exchange rates.

The comparison of international reserve levels is rather devious – this is the only comparison linked to 1997!

The reporting of an increase in income per capita from RM27,819 in 2010 to RM49,713 in 2017. This trend is contradicted by the World Bank as the following numbers show:

The significance of these numbers points the extent to which Malaysia is lagging in terms of achieving “high income” status which in 2016 was set as income levels in excess of US$12,235.

Indeed, taking account of the current level of GNI per capita, projected exchange and growth rates, it is patently clear that the much-touted goal of achieving “high income” status by 2020 is a fading dream.

Budget allocations

The budget allocations for 2018 are projected at RM280.25 billion, an increase of RM20 billion, with RM234.25 billion for operating expenditure and some RM46 billion for development.

While further details are highlighted, Najib chose to be silent about a large item, namely debt service which amounts to 11 percent of the operating expenditure. The increased allocations are largely to restore cuts that were imposed earlier in the year.

Revenue collection in 2018 is projected at RM240 billion, an increase of approximately nine percent from RM220 billion in 2017.

No details are given either about the sources of revenue, or the amounts reduced by way of tax cuts and exemptions. The projected growth lacks credibility given GDP growth rate, reductions in revenue attributable to the exemptions from GST granted for big ticket items alongside the reductions in income tax rates.

In brief, the rosy estimates of modest growth in expenditure coupled with unrealistic levels of revenue receipts follow a pattern. Revenue projections are pitched high whilst expenditures are restrained in the budget.

Thus, there are inevitable supplementary expenditure requests later in the year. These approaches in budgeting enable the government to put out massaged numbers for the deficit. These practices appear to be sharpened in the preparation of the 2018 Budget.

Lip service was paid about fiscal consolidation without mention of how the PM proposes to reduce debt levels. While he was upbeat about all manner of “progress”, no mention was made about the record concerning deficits. It is noteworthy that it is now more than 20 years since Malaysia enjoyed a budget in surplus.

Once again total debt along with contingent liabilities will rise in the year ahead. These will represent burdens passed on to future generations. With an ageing population, the burden will be all the greater. The nation’s long-term interests are being sacrificed for short term political gains.

The claim that this budget will chart the course for building the nation for the next 30 years is a farfetched assertion. This is all the more questionable considering the fact that the Budget hardly lays out any long- term policies and goals but is only concerned with the “here and now” issues assumed to be of interest to a highly jaded electorate.

Rewriting history

Most remarkable, however, is the PM’s assertion: “Since we declared Independence, we have been fortunate as our forefathers have governed and administered this country embedded with shariah requirements”. Najib appears to be rewriting history by ignoring the fact that the country adopted a secular constitution and up until recently shariah played no major role in administration.

To claim that for six decades a shariah framework has operated with the federal constitution playing a secondary role is an outright distortion of the facts. The formulation used by the PM ought to raise a red flag about his coalition’s intentions regarding the status of the Constitution.

While acknowledging that “the framework has not been written in any government documents, but its practices are reflected in all inter-related national philosophies and policies” Najib appears to be outlining a position that the government will adopt in the event it is returned to power. It is thus a signal of how the secular federal constitution will be further sidelined.

Trends in investment

The PM set out several targets dealing with investment and trade. The statistics about trends in investment were selective.

Once again by choosing a low bench mark year (2009), a year that recorded a global recession, and inflated targets for 2018, he attempted to project progress.

These statistics appear impressive in attributing performance of private investment. A closer review, however, paints a different picture.

Given that the GLCs dominate the private sector, and that they largely operate as SOEs, much of the “improvement” can be attributed to government initiatives handled by these entities.

The process permits the government to by-pass concerns about the debt ceiling and at the same time permit nefarious projects as evidenced by the 1MDB saga.

The trends in private investment are erratic as inappropriate policies and political uncertainties have impacted on private investment, both domestic and foreign. The failure to announce corrective policy measures will result in sluggish investment patterns along with continuing outward capital flows

Passing reference is made in the 2018 Budget to accelerating exports. However, no indication is given as to what policies will be introduced to develop capacities in new products and promoting industries involving new technologies for instance the use of artificial intelligence.

No mention is made about how the government proposes to deal with the withdrawal of the US government from the TPPA; the PM was silent about what posture it intends to take viz. other trading arrangements within ASEAN or with the EU and the China-led proposals for a regional trade arrangement.

The claim that “…for the first time in the history of the nation’s budget…” a large allocation “is provided to assist farmers, fishermen smallholders and rubber tappers” appears to be a most strange claim. Every Five-Year Plan, every budget over the past six decades has contained allocations for these groups; it is disingenuous indeed to make claims that are short on a factual base.

 

The mega rail transportation projects that have been announced raise multiple concerns. For a start, cost benefit and feasibility studies have not been disclosed, assuming these have been done.

It is worthy of note that the projects will be financed by loans from China; the terms of these loans have yet to be announced. Reports in the media appear to suggest that major parts of these projects will be assigned to China’s enterprises who will invite some Malaysian entities to collaborate.

Najib evaded the entire issue of port expansion using loan funds in the face of overcapacity in the nation’s major port, Port Klang, following the departure of a major user. Many of the other transportation projects highlighted in the speech will not be financed from the Federal budget.

The following quote from his speech is most remarkable – it projects self-glorification and is somewhat insulting of past holders of the office of Finance Minister:

“This Budget that has never been crafted so well, even during the last 22 years or the past 60 years of our own nation, and marked in history, making this Budget the Mother of All Budgets.”

Ironically, this Budget may indeed qualify as the “mother of all budgets” for reasons other than those offered by the PM. The speech represents an open attempt to create fake news in pursuit of gaining credibility with an electorate that is largely disenchanted by the workings of a government tarred by endless scandals, led by someone viewed as a kleptomaniac.

The current budget also qualifies as such for its extensive giveaways, without a realistic vision or any demand for sacrifices. It provides no coherent strategies to permit the nation to escape the middle-income trap.

Malaysia urgently needs a course correction if it is to regain dynamism to enable it to move forward on the road to greater prosperity.


LIM KIT SIANG is DAP Parliamentary Leader and MP for Gelang Patah.

 

Ops Lalang: Time to set things right


November 1, 2017

Ops Lalang: Time to set things right

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad must assume ultimate responsibility for Ops Lalang

by Dato’  Dennis Ignatius

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Ops Lalang

The 30th anniversary of Ops Lalang has rightly generated much discussion about a dark chapter in our history when 106 of our fellow citizens were unjustly arrested and detained under the ISA. As a nation, we need to hear again the personal accounts of the detainees and their families, we need to confront the injustices of the past, if only to remind ourselves of the unfinished task of building a more just and democratic nation.

Taking responsibility

At the time, the government offered various reasons for the arrests including the need to forestall imminent racial riots. We know now that it was nothing but a sideshow to forestall a challenge to Dr. Mahathir’s rule from within his own party and to subdue opposition from without. And if racial tension had reached alarming levels, it was because the government then, as it still does today, sought to manipulate racial and religious issues to serve its own ends.

As Prime Minister and Home Minister at the time, Dr. Mahathir must assume ultimate responsibility for Ops Lalang. The then IGP was simply a willing accomplice, nothing more. To argue otherwise is both dishonest and disingenuous.

Dr. Mahathir may now concede that many of those who were detained were good people that he had simply demonised for political purposes but it is not enough. He should take personal responsibility and apologise to each and every detainee for the injustice he visited upon them.

Dr. Mahathir today is, of course, not the same man he was thirty years ago. He is now part of the political struggle for change and, though he is loathe to admit it, he is working to undo much of the damage that he himself inflicted upon our nation. I hope he will rise to the occasion by doing what is right.

Some have argued that insisting on an apology from Dr Mahathir would simply detract from the on-going efforts against UMNO-BN. On the contrary, an apology would immensely strengthen those efforts. It would also reaffirm that the struggle we are embarked upon is not simply about ousting an unpopular government at the next elections but about building a more just and democratic nation.

A national apology

UMNO-BN’s current leaders are no doubt relishing the fact that Dr. Mahathir is being taken to task over Ops Lalang but they should not be too smug. Some of those presently in government collaborated, acquiesced or defended Dr. Mahathir’s actions 30 years ago.

Image result for Najib Razak and Ops Lalang 1987The then IGP, (Tun) Hanif Omar was simply a willing accomplice, nothing more.

 

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, for example, was UMNO Youth Chief at the time and did his share of sabre-rattling in support of Dr. Mahathir. Other BN parties, for their part, never challenged Dr. Mahathir’s narrative or protested the mass arrests.

Image result for Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

And besides, if those in authority today disagree with Dr. Mahathir’s action, they have it in their power to set things right by issuing, on behalf of the government, a public apology to all those who were detained during Ops Lalang and awarding them appropriate compensation for the wrong that was done them.

After all, it was done for the judges whose removal from office Dr. Mahathir contemptuously engineered during the 1988 judicial crisis; there’s no reason why it cannot be done for the victims of Ops Lalang as well. It’s the honourable thing to do if there is still any honour left to be found in this government.

Other countries – South Africa, Chile, Argentina, to name a few – have taken courageous steps to confront their dark past through an open accounting of the wrongs that were done. It’s time for us to do the same with Ops Lalang. It is the only way to bring closure to this dark episode in our history and a measure of comfort to those who were so badly wronged in 1987.

Tyranny triumphs when people do nothing

The other point that is worth remembering, as we mark the 30th anniversary of Ops Lalang, is that undemocratic rulers only succeed when there are people who go along with what’s morally wrong in order to get along, who bend their knees to what their heart denies, who turn away from the truth because it is inconvenient or who simply “menurut perintah” regardless of conscience or consequence.

I was Political Counsellor at the Malaysian Embassy in Washington DC when Ops Lalang took place. We were deluged by protests from concerned US politicians and civil society groups and it fell to me and my colleagues to defend the government’s actions, unwittingly repeating the falsehoods about racial tension, Marxist agitators and threats to our democracy and stability.

Now, whenever I hear the stories about how even women were tortured and mentally abused while in detention, how those in power manipulated events and people for political expediency, I am filled with dismay and remorse that I was part of the machinery that caused the detainees and their families so much anguish.

The truth is its not just Dr. Mahathir who is culpable but the entire machinery of government, the judiciary, the police, and the politicians; they may not have given the orders but they stood by and watched it happen, or worse still, allowed themselves to be used in one way or another.

To paraphrase a well-worn quote, evil triumphs when ordinary people do nothing in the face of injustice.

The unfinished struggle

The Ops Lalang detainees have modelled for us courage and determination in the face of injustice and tyranny. Years later, many remain committed and active, undeterred by their ordeal. It is now up to us to be inspired by their example and continue the unfinished struggle for justice and democracy in Malaysia.

Dato’ Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.