Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying


June 30, 2015

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying till the end of time

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that anyone who slanders Najib Abdul Razak and the government over 1MDB would be punished. This demonstrates two things: that Umno Baru promotes ministers to their level of incompetence, and that spending taxpayers’ money is easy, because it does not appear to belong to anyone in particular.

The irony is that it took former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, with his severely blemished past, to show that the only way UMNO Baru politicians assuage temptation (spending public funds) is by yielding.

Ismail, who is UMNO Baru supreme council member, reminded the rakyat to be wary of unsubstantiated sources such as Sarawak Report and The Edge, with their evil agendas. He said that those who discussed Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal could be relying upon inaccurate information about the dealings between 1MDB and PetroSaudi.

Warning that stern action would be taken against Sarawak Report and The Edge for harming national interests, he said, “When the 1MDB issue erupted, many people believed in The Edge, which frequently reported biased news and was criticised for sabotaging the economy.”

Ismail, who is also the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, pleaded with Malaysians to have faith in the government, and said, “We should trust the government and the minister’s explanation…”. He urged the rakyat to ignore information garnered from social media or from bloggers and refer instead to the authorities for verification.

Asking the authorities to verify information is an impossibility and shows how naïve Ismail is to think he can fool the rakyat. Najib has dodged answering questions about 1MDB and helped extend the 1MDB scandal.

Integrity flies out the window, where party politics are concerned. Everyone has a price and Najib knows that UMNO Baru divisional heads are demanding, and expensive. Would Ismail like to verify the allegations about UMNO Baru heads receiving substantial contracts and fiscal rewards for showing their loyalty to Najib?

Veteran UMNO Baru politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said, “These days UMNO Baru divisional leaders as well as parliamentary members earn up to RM50,000 a month, some even earn hundreds of thousands”.

He said that on March 8, over 160 UMNO Baru divisional leaders, including those who support Mahathir, had attended a meeting with Najib to show their allegiance to him.

‘No lah. Everything is above board!’

The typical response from the authorities, on whether this meeting took place, or that loyalty is accompanied by a price tag is this; “No! UMNO Baru politicians are clean and law-abiding. No one is above the law. We love Najib.”

The opposition MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua, claimed that the purchase of property by Mara in Melbourne is a covert attempt to save 1MDB. Do similar property purchases, by government-linked companies (GLCs), both in Malaysia and abroad, constitute a form of illegal kickback for corrupt officials?

We can predict the response; “No lah. Everything is above board! Mara is not corrupt.” Ahmad Maslan, the UMNO Baru Information Chief, announced that his party’s elections would be postponed till after the 14th general election (GE14), to strengthen the party and focus on the needs of the people. UMNO Baru secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor admitted that the postponement was because of an internal political crisis.

Critics claim otherwise and say that the delay is due to Najib needing more time to resolve the 1MDB crisis. Additionally, UMNO Baru has to resolve its in-fighting, and more importantly, Dr Mahathir’s relentless attacks on Najib. The authorities’ verification? “No. The postponement has nothing to do with 1MDB or Mahathir’s criticisms.”

PAS’ Pokok Sena MP, Mahfuz Omar wants Muslims to reject Najib’s ploy, to use RM20 million from Yayasan 1MDB to pay for the redevelopment of a mosque in Kampung Baru and turn it into a “national landmark”. Mahfuz accused Najib of using Muslims to “forgive 1MDB”, and that Najib wanted to “sanitise” 1MDB’s controversies by giving money to build mosques and helping to fund the pilgrimages of religious scholars to Mecca.

We can predict the response of the authorities to Mahfuz’s assertions, “No. It is not true that 1MDB’s funding for mosques is used to appeal to the Muslims. UMNO Baru is merely helping to protect Islam and promote the Malays.”

Ismail knows, and his knowledge is confirmed by the preceding examples, that trying to verify any facts with the authorities is a pointless exercise.

He may be interested to know that the rakyat’s list of queries is much longer and includes questions on who killed Altantuya Shaariibuu, the purchase of the Scorpene submarines, the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), the cargo manifest of MH370, the RM24 million ring, the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges, human trafficking, Taib Mahmud, Batang Kali, Memali, Kampung Medan, Mahathir and May 13.

UMNO Baru treats information, in one of the following ways – denial, pay-out, violence, threats of jail, lawsuits and silence. UMNO Baru politicians have spun so many webs of deceit, that they now believe their own lies. Naturally, they think that Najib and UMNO Baru can do no wrong.

UMNO Uses Whistleblower’s Arrest to Defend 1MDB


June 28, 2015

UMNO Uses Whistleblower’s Arrest to Defend 1MDB

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/umno-use-whistleblower-arrest-defend-1mdb/

Xavier Justo

Malaysia’s political establishment is using the arrest of Xavier Justo in Thailand to try derail questions over the ill-starred 1Malaysia Development Bhd Fund that go far beyond whether the whistle-blowing Swiss national did or did not steal and doctor documents and pass them to Sarawak Report, a critical blog run by a British reporter.

The United Malays National Organization has mounted a full-court attack on Sarawak Report and the Malaysian financial publication The Edge, threatening to crack down on The Edge’s printing license and driving a campaign through allied bloggers, the UMNO-owned New Straits Times and other media.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak himself threatened action against Sarawak Report, which responded angrily that there was no wrongdoing. At the same time, there appears to be a move to tie Mahathir Mohamad, the nonagenarian former premier and 1MDB’s fiercest critic, to allegations that the case against 1MDB has been doctored. 

For months, 1MDB has been under significant pressure both from the political opposition and some members of Najib’s own UMNO to come up with answers over what has become of RMB42 billion [US$11.3 billion] in liabilities the state-funded investment company has accrued since it came into being six years ago. Some sources in Kuala Lumpur say as much as RMB25 billion may be unrecoverable. Najib and company officials have been scrambling to find funds to meet regular interest payments, some of which have been deferred, apparently for lack of funds to meet them.

Thais Nab Justo in Koh Samui

Justo was arrested by Thai police in the presence of reporters and photographers from the UMNO-owned New Straits Times to record the event and print a front-page story accusing the “heavily tattooed Justo” of a long series of sins including theft and attempting to blackmail officials of PetroSaudi International, a controversial oil exploration firm closely connected to 1Malaysia Development Bhd, whose problems are said to threaten Malaysia’s entire financial structure. 

“This shocking story had the country talking,” according to the New Straits Times. “Who is Xavier Andre Justo? How could such a sorry figure have ignited a major Malaysian political storm? What motivated this man, so disconnected from the nation of Malaysia, to launch such a callous attack on our people without a thought for the consequences? The answer appears to be cold, hard cash. Greed can be a route to riches, but it can also be a dangerous road to ruin, as Xavier Justo is learning the hard way. Now, he finds himself in a Thai jail awaiting prosecution on charges of attempting to blackmail and extort money from his former employers; with further charges to follow in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.”

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi threatened to take action against Sarawak Report and The Edge, a leading financial and investment news publication, both of which for months have been breaking embarrassing stories on the parlous state of 1MDB’s finances and on the connections between flamboyant young financier Low Taek Jho and Najib. Jho Low, as he is known, and Najib were instrumental in establishing 1MDB in 2009. Najib remains as the fund’s chief financial advisor.

 Home Minister’s Threat

Zahid charged that The Edge and Sarawak Report had been “spinning the facts” over the state of 1MDB’s finances. The government is armed with colonial-era legislation under the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act to attempt to deny licenses to what it deems to be offending publications.  With Sarawak Report headquartered in the UK, however, Zahid’s threat remains an empty one.

Justo, who left PetroSaudi several years ago, somehow got back into the company’s computers to download 3 million emails that allege damaging information on the transactions with 1MDB and a company closely connected to Jho Low, as he is known.

There have been attempts to tie Justo’s revelations to Mahathir.  In a report by Malaysia Today, a blog also operated from the UK, Raja Petra Kamarudin said he had been told Sufi Yusof, Mahathir’s secretary, had made “a number of trips to Thailand over the past year to meet [Justo] and the Thai authorities are trying to establish this through immigration records.”

If the Thai authorities manage to establish that some of the documents and e-mails were, in fact doctored, Raja Petra wrote, “and that Sufi did make a few trips to Thailand to meet [Justo] and was aware of, or was a party to, this fraud, it is not going to look good for Dr Mahathir.

A Furious Brown  Answers

Clare Rewcastle Brown, the UK-based blogger who publishes the Sarawak Report, fired back with a furious 1,600 word riposte in which she threatened to sue for libel and defended on a case by case basis the documents that PetroSaudi officials alleged were doctored.

“Sarawak Report will be demanding satisfaction over these false allegations of ‘tampering,’” she wrote. “We suggest these misrepresentations are added to the list of potentially criminal activities by PetroSaudi, whose false charges on this point currently number amongst the allegations that have landed [Justo] in a jail in Bangkok.”

The blog, Brown said, “has closely researched the extremely serious and libelous allegations, which claim documents relating to our coverage of the PetroSaudi 1MDB joint venture were ‘tampered’ and ‘distorted’ in order to ‘creatively alter’ the truth. We can now prove that these allegations are demonstrably untrue, by examining the evidence on which they were based.

So, she wrote, “our message to those who have accused us is check your facts before you sound off your accusations and start to worry about libel suits, if you have defamed us or an innocent man who is now in jail. We can confirm that there is zero evidence brought forward so far to substantiate the claims of ‘distortion’ made over the past 48 hours by the New Straits Times and taken up by certain media, bloggers and UMNO politicians.”

Indeed, she charged, “the little evidence that has been provided by these parties can be shown to confirm the exact opposite, which is that there has been no tampering of documents. Even so, people who could also have made the very same checks have falsely alleged that Sarawak Report and the Edge newspaper lied and deliberately misled readers with ‘distorted’ information about 1MDB’s missing billions.”

The New Straits Times, she said, never bothered to substantiate “grave and libelous charges” by showing their readers the actual evidence.

“As Sarawak Report pointed out yesterday, we corroborate our claims, so why can’t they? The reason turns out to be that it is startlingly easy to show that the claim is completely untrue.”

Your Weekend Entertainment: Jim Reeves by The Mekong


June 6, 2015

Your Weekend Entertainment: Jim Reeves by The Mekong

FCC_ruben_iFCC in Phnom Penh

We have enough of comedy and big blunders by Chicken Najib aka Na-Jinx (National Jinx) to last a lifetime. But  we know that his show will go on until UMNO and its membership body decide that he must hit the highway. For now, our country will be relieved of all the bad vibes he and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have gifted to us.  We should take it easy while the esteemed couple leave for Saudi Arabia at the invitation of  King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: سلمان بن عبد العزيز آل سعود‎, Salmān bin ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz Āl Saʻūd) for the customary pre-Ramadhan Umrah in Mecca.

Our First Couple left our country this evening. One can imagine the fun and merriment on board their newly fitted executive Airbus plane in the company of their hangers on.They are probably congratulating Najib  for “outfoxing” Tun Dr. Mahathir and the NGOs at Putra World Trade Centre.

For those who are grounded at home, Dr. Kamsiah and I bring on the soothing baritone voice of country and western balladeer, Jim Reeves for your listening pleasure . Najib’s departure to Mecca provides a relief or sorts. Please relax and enjoy yourselves.–Dr. Kamsiah (in Kuala Lumpur) and Din Merican (in Phnom Penh by the Mekong).

Inevitable end of 1MDB?


June 2, 2015

Inevitable end of 1MDB?

Crony capitalism is about a company which use coercive powers of government to gain money, market and resources that would not otherwise be achievable in a free market.

Arul, Lodin and NajibThe Prime Minister with IMDB Directors

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is the most troubled crony capitalist company by far. According to its website, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is the chairman of board of advisers who has been given enormous power but it is impossible for any one person, no matter how wise he is, to anticipate the consequences of 1MDB’s business policies.

Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek once said: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design”.

1MDB has been going on for several years and the consequences finally come as the total worth of so-called assets of RM51.4 billion crony capitalist will gradually come to an end, hopefully.

1MDB is now come under fire mainly because of its cashflow problems, accumulating mountain of debt, controversial business transactions which eventually will become a financial burden to us.

Last week, Moody’s Investors Service analyst Christian de Guzman said there was a worry that Malaysia’s fiscal consolidation may be derailed should the government be forced  to bail out 1MDB using state funds.

“We know that support is possibly forthcoming, in fact support has already come in the form of a line of credit to 1MDB earlier this year. The question we’re asking ourselves is if the magnitude of support will eventually derail the trend of fiscal consolidation and that may cause us to re-look outlook” he said.

I think it is fair to say that this is the price we must pay for making huge mistakes by letting our government grow without bounds, extending its tentacles into every aspect of our economy.

And we have allowed crony capitalism like 1MDB to grow along with it. Ironically, politicians and civil society groups, including the Prime Minister himself, suggest we need to increase government powers and oversight via Cabinet, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearings in Parliament, Auditor-General, Police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the scandal.

Why are we repeating the same mistake? Why did we not think that the government is the very thing causing the scandal? Too much technical details are being studied until we forget the most fundamental aspect that governments are inherently poor at running a business.

In my view, increasing government power will give us a stabilisation of the 1MDB scandal politically. Nothing more than a public relations exercise.  Nothing changes in principle.

For example, other GLCs under Khazanah Nasional are bound to offer no explanation to PAC on what is happening in their companies administratively, operationally or their investments despite making terrible losses e.g klia2, according to PAC.

Back to 1MDB, we should urge the board to answer proactively to their critics, stakeholders, rating agencies and investors. That is the moment needed because errors and mismanagement have been made and more importantly, how will the market respond.

We have seen a mere speculation of purchasing the power assets under 1MDB caused Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s shares to lose some RM6 billion in value over the last six trading days.

The nervousness surrounding 1MDB continues when a report by Singapore Business Times said a consortium of banks led by Deutsche Bank has asked for their US$975 million loan to be repaid four months ahead of its due date.

Even though the Finance Ministry believes it is possible to restructure 1MDB, the moment must eventually come when no further extension of government assistance is possible. Look at Malaysia Airline System Berhad, after so many denials, injection of funds and turnaround plans over the course of 22 years, finally the company will cease to exist.

Like it or not, we must let market corrections take place in 1MDB. The story of crony capitalist always ends with crash! It’s inevitable.

* Medecci Lineil is a member of Institute for Leadership and Development Studies (LEAD).

1MDB: Where is the RM42 billion?


June 1, 2015

1MDB: Where is the RM42 billion? Just give us an honest answer and stop the bull, Mr Prime Minister

by Scott Ng@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Confused NajibSome days, I really do wonder what happens up in Najib’s office at Putrajaya, where I imagine a veritable horde of PR consultants, headed by Lim Kok Wing, work tirelessly to try to salvage the much damaged reputation of the Prime Minister. Sweat on their brows, they toil into the late hours to find answers to the questions thrust at the Prime Minister day in and day out, hoping to find a way, any way, to counter the vicious onslaught of Mahathir Mohamad.

I do feel pity for the PR team. They have great odds stacked against them. But then another FAQ appears on Najib’s website that makes me slap my head in disbelief and I remind myself that they’re paid handsomely for their services and thus should be castigated in full measure for their failure to get the Prime Minister to make the right moves.

As blogger Jebat Must Die points out, the FAQ is misleading and, once again, fails to actually answer the questions it purports to answer. For one, it’s riddled with semantics instead of answers, like Najib’s “explanation” for the unaccounted billions that should be in 1MDB’s coffers.

Mr Prime Minister, no one said that the money was a “loss” as that would mean that there would be a paper trail to bad investments or sudden market fluctuations. What we’re asking is, where is the money?

It is quite weird that so much money could just vanish into thin air, and Jebat makes a good point in pointing out that 1MDB purchased RM15 billion worth of assets. If those billions came from the RM42 billion that 1MDB is in debt for, there should be RM27 billion left, aside from the company’s RM51 billion in assets.

For that matter, there is also the extremely valid question of why the 1MDB cannot seem to handle its own corporate crisis communication, leaving our beleaguered PM to answer all queries. You’d think that a company worth billions would invest in a crisis communication team since scandals and such are bound to come up every once in a while. One really has to wonder how much time Najib has for actual governance while he runs around putting out 1MDB’s fires.

The Prime Minister seems unable to get anything right, trying his hardest to pass the buck for the 1MDB to whomever he can shunt it to (most recently, the Auditor-General) only for it to blow up in his face. Jebat makes another great point in recalling that Najib truly is a career politician with no real-world experience, and as history has shown, pampered elites are quite usually disconnected from the rest of the world.

UMNO-TBH Goons

Attempting to attack Mahathir without answering his questions directly is not a viable method of discrediting the former Prime Minister, especially since those same questions are echoed by the general public, the opposition and civil society members. In releasing so-called answers that fail to address the questions, the Prime Minister seems to be taking us for fools yet again despite the public contempt for his previous FAQ, which suffered the same delusional disconnect from reality.

Now that documents have leaked that show Najib has to approve all major investments made by 1MDB, it seems like there truly is no road for his redemption. He is now personally answerable for all the bad investments, the vanished money, and all the baggage that comes with 1MDB, and no amount of out-of-touch FAQs can redeem a brand that damaged.

Fight on if you will, Prime Minister. Give us a good show, and keep us entertained. We’ve paid for it already, anyway. But when the inevitable happens, know that you were the architect of your own fall, not Mahathir, not the opposition, not the “liberals” your administration seems to sneer at, not civil society. You were your own worst enemy.

 

The George Washington University–We are making History


May 30, 2015

The George Washington University–We are making History

I was graduated from George Washington School of Business at The George Washington University, Washington DC more than four decades ago. I visited the campus again, this time with my wife Dr. Kamsiah in 2013. We were impressed with the development of the campus with its modern facilities and briefed on its progress in terms of academic excellence, and the size of its student population and alumni who are spread throughout the length and breadth of the world. We are all hard at work to make a difference to the people we teach, and interact and work with in our daily lives.

DM@TSS

I enjoyed my two years at graduate school (1968-1970). The education at The George Washington University transformed my life and enriched my world view. I was well taught and mentored and am eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to be part of the making of the George Washington University history. I am currently Associate Dean, Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations to share my experiences with young and dynamic students at the highly regarded University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. –Din Merican