GE14: Last chance for change

March 22, 2018

GE14: Last chance for change

by Dennis Ignatius

GE14: Last chance for change

We are now at the cusp of GE14, one of the most momentous political events that any of us will quite possibly experience in our lifetime. Rarely in the history of a nation has so much depended upon a single decision: who we vote for will quite literally decide the destiny of our nation.

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

To be sure, many are piqued and frustrated that it has come down to a choice between Najib and Mahathir. But this election is much more than a choice between personalities; it is a choice between two very different futures for our nation.

Politically moribund

UMNO-BN has now been in power for some 60 years. Like all political parties that have overstayed their welcome, they have become politically moribund. They have lost their way, their integrity, their credibility. They have neither the vision to inspire nor the moral authority to lead.

In almost every area of governance and leadership they have failed our nation.They have been extraordinarily incompetent and reckless fiscally, forcing our nation into levels of debt that were unheard of before. Billions of ringgit in public funds have also been looted with utter impunity or squandered through mismanagement and waste. GST is the price we are paying for their profligacy.

The 1MDB scandal, in particular, has been especially damaging to our nation’s international credibility, not to mention the loss to the nation’s coffers. More than 50 years of diplomacy promoting and positioning our nation has gone down the drain as a result.

It should be clear by now that they do not have the political will to eradicate corruption. When the system jails those who expose corruption and protects the scoundrels who rob us, you know the battle against corruption is over, and we’ve lost.

Under their watch, many of our once proud national institutions have been compromised or reduced to mere appendages of the ruling party.

Despite having amassed more power than any other administration since independence, they still feel vulnerable, still feel the need for yet more power, yet more limits on our freedom. Executive power is now so pervasive that we teeter on the edge of autocracy.

Can we trust a political party that has consistently abused their power with yet more power? Under their watch, our democracy has been hollowed out; gerrymandering and malapportionment have made voting itself increasingly meaningless. In fact, this might well be the last meaningful elections to be held in Malaysia if UMNO-BN is returned to power.

In the meantime, life continues to be a struggle for many. Twelve percent of our young people below 24 are unemployed; thousands of graduates cannot find jobs; the majority of young workers cannot earn enough to live decently. And while Kuala Lumpur has more millionaires than Abu Dhabi, 90% of rural, mostly Malay households, have zero savings.

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

And this after 60 years of development, after decades of the NEP and other programmes.

Charting a different course

We must now ask ourselves whether or not we can afford another five years of UMNO-BN rule, another five years of the same failed policies that have impoverished our nation, undermined our unity and weakened our democracy. Can we afford another five years of corruption, scandal and international shame?

If we are willing to look beyond the personalities, if we are willing to overcome our fears and UMNO-BN’s scaremongering, if we are willing to settle for the pragmatic over the ideal, we might just discover that we actually have a unique opportunity to break with the past.

For the very first time, we have a multiracial coalition [Pakatan Harapan] led by experienced political leaders who are genuinely able to unite our nation behind a vision for reform and renewal. They may not be on the same page on all issues but they are united on the things that matter most – respect for the constitution, rule of law, national unity and good governance.

As for Mahathir, there is every indication that he will honour his commitment to ‘reformasi;’ it is his last hurrah and he wants to get it right. In any case, Anwar, Mat Sabu and Lim Kit Siang will be there to ensure that no one hijacks the reform agenda.

It won’t be the end of the struggle to reform our nation but it could well be the beginning that we have long dreamed of.

A second chance

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

It is going to be an uphill battle to unseat UMNO-BN but we are now closer than ever before. The future of our nation is in our hands. We must seize the moment and do everything in our power – campaign, donate, support and vote – to ensure victory.

Few nations get a second chance; this is our tryst with destiny and we must not squander it.

The Downfall of Crown Prince Kushner

March 7, 2018


The Downfall of Crown Prince Kushner

by Daniel B. Shapiro

It was always folly that Jared Kushner, a key example of Trump’s terrible, nepotistic distortion of American government, monopolized the U.S.-Israel relationship. Now he’s going down, how much further will critical decision-making deteriorate?

Image result for Crown Prince Jared Kushner

The Downfall of President-in-Law Jared Kushner seen with his wife, First Daughter Ivanka Trump

Not since the November 1, 1973 meeting between Prime Minister Golda Meir, under fire for the failures that led to the Yom Kippur War, and President Richard Nixon, already deep into the Watergate scandal, have American and Israeli leaders met at a time of such internal political turmoil in both countries.

As thousands of advocates for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship gather in Washington for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference this week, the fraught situation in both governments raises the question of how to manage the U.S.-Israel relationship through choppy waters and bumpy roads.

There is no denying that President Trump is very friendly toward Israel. But more than good feelings are necessary to make the relationship as productive as it can be. Serious, professional work by well-organized governments makes a difference, too.

Already I can hear readers spitting out their coffee. What??! A representative of the Obama Administration will give lectures on how to manage the U.S.-Israel relationship? Wasn’t that a period of major bilateral tensions? Give me break!

The criticism is fair, up to a point, considering the far-too-frequent public disputes, which both sides contributed to, during those years. But it is also not the whole picture

During the same period that we had serious policy disagreements, most prominently over the Iran nuclear deal and the issue of West Bank settlements, the bilateral relationship grew significantly stronger in numerous ways.

It grew stronger in the area of security cooperation, which resulted in more frequent and more sophisticated joint military exercises, and culminated in the $38 billion military assistance Memorandum of Understanding, which will enable Israel to purchase at least 50 F-35 aircraft and maintain its qualitative military edge for decades.

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in this Israeli Defence Force (IDF) handout image received on November 28, 2017
An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in this Israeli Defence Force (IDF) handout image received on November 28, 2017 IDF Spokesperson Unit/Handout via REUTERS


It grew stronger in intelligence cooperation, upgrading the partnership to a level of intimacy the United States enjoys with few other countries, and enabling more real-time sharing of information and strategic deployment of our assets against common threats.

It grew stronger in the area of technology development, especially in missile defense, leading to the full deployment of Iron Dome and breakthroughs in the development of David’s Sling and Arrow 3. Israel’s recent successes in detecting and destroying Hamas’s terrorist tunnels have also been enabled by a joint U.S.-Israeli research and development program launched in 2015.

It grew stronger in diplomatic coordination, as the two countries worked together week in and week out for eight years to snuff out or counter attempts to delegitimize Israel in international organizations, notwithstanding our disagreement on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 in December 2016.

It grew stronger in responding to disasters, such as when the entire U.S. interagency mobilized to help provide assistance to Israel during the 2010 Carmel fires.

And it grew stronger in the economic and commercial sphere, where the two governments advanced efforts to support the vibrant private sector partnership, by lowering barriers and increasing opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs in both countries to meet and work together.

What all these advances had in common was that they resulted from an effort, at least on the U.S. side, to ensure that the bilateral relationship, and the policy that guided it, were spread across all parts of our government.

The National Security Council at the White House provided the connective tissue between disparate initiatives, but there was a broad understanding across the government of what we were trying to achieve – a stronger, deeper partnership in all realms, and how each department could contribute.

U.S. United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt wait for a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York on February 20, 2018.
U.S. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt wait for a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York\ LUCAS JACKSON/ REUTERS




There will always be a few key, high-level individuals managing the relationship and making decisions on the most sensitive matters, but others in the government need to be involved, informed, and coordinated.

Lately, one has the impression that the relationship has been shrunk down to three or four people on each side. Trump White House paranoia about the loyalty of career officials, whom they deride as the “deep state”, surely contributes. So does the failure to fill many senior State Department posts. Israeli coalition politics, with cabinet portfolios spread across multiple parties and no foreign minister, are a factor as well.

A structure like this one creates problems that benefit neither country. First, it makes it difficult for officials below the top level of government to follow-up on decisions made by their seniors. If a decision is made by the inner circle, but is not communicated to the working level, it may never be implemented. A poorly staffed government, as exists on the U.S. side, compounds the problem.

Israeli officials these days often have no counterpart to call, or only much more junior officials, clearly cut off from the decision-making level, which has clearly contributed to misunderstandings on sensitive issues, like the arrangements in southern Syria intended to keep Iranian forces and proxies away from the Israeli border.

Second, this structure weakens the United States in other ways, harming our ability to effectively support Israel in various arenas.

King Abdullah of Jordan, left, looks on as Jared Kushner talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his wife during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. Feb. 2, 2017
King Abdullah of Jordan, left, looks on as Jared Kushner talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his wife during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. Feb. 2, 2017Evan Vucci / AP



There has never been a Secretary of State as excluded from the U.S.-Israel relationship as Rex Tillerson. He has never made his own visit to Israel, and his regional tour, with no stop in Jerusalem, following the Iranian drone incursion on February 10, made him look irrelevant. Why would other governments take him seriously when he raises Israel’s concerns?

The absence of confirmed U.S. Aambassadors in Cairo, Amman, Riyadh, Doha, and Ankara underscores the department’s weakness and inhibits U.S. assistance to Israel in regional coordination against common threats, like Iran’s growing military entrenchment in Syria.

Finally, this structure injects chaos when someone leaves or gets in trouble. If all the eggs of the U.S.-Israel relationship are in Jared Kushner’s basket, what happens when that basket self-immolates, as is going on now? Over-investment in one or two individuals, no matter how supportive, actually weakens the structures that the bilateral relationship needs.

Other governments, particularly in the Gulf, have made a similar mistake, leaning far too heavily on Jared Kushner as the be-all and end-all of their relationships with the United States.

Ivanka Trump participates in a presentation ceremony of The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal to President Donald Trump at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh.
Ivanka Trump participates in a presentation ceremony of The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal to President Donald Trump at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. Evan Vucci/AP


That’s because of the terrible distortion of the U.S. government under the Trump Administration – from a collection of professional departments to a family-run business, complete with a crown prince and blatant misuse of government positions to advance private commercial interests.

As Kushner goes down, those governments must ask themselves, now what?

During the Obama Administration, I sometimes heard it said that we were relentlessly on-message, that Israeli officials would hear the same thing from whoever they talked to on the U.S. side. I considered that to be a major compliment in the management of the administration.

That kind of coordination, which integrates all departments of government, actually gets more done. It enables serious follow-up and implementation of decisions. It avoids creating confusion and illusions about U.S. policy, by hearing different things from different people, both on issues where we agree and those where we differ. It ultimately makes for a healthier and stronger relationship, one that can weather even serious policy disagreements.

President Obama used to say that government officials are like runners in a relay race, carrying the baton for a while and then handing it off to the next runner. That is true across administrations, but it is also true during a single administration, when most people only serve in their posts for about two years.

When Jared Kushner has the baton pulled from his hand, who is going to carry it for the U.S.-Israel relationship in the coming years?

Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro


UMNO Warlords take on Robert Kuok, China’s Most Trust Malaysian Adviser

February 28, 2018

UMNO Warlords take on Robert Kuok, China’s Most Trust Malaysian Adviser

Image result for Robert Kuok

Billionaire Robert Kuok and CIMB Group  Chairman Dato Seri Nazir Razak

Malaysia’s richest man Robert Kuok, who lives in Hong Kong, is currently under attack by not only half-past-six UMNO-Malay warlords but also from Prime Minister Najib Razak personally. The latest attack against the 94-year-old billionaire Kuok came from Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz, arguably Mr. Najib’s top mad dog.

It’s no coincidence that the notorious Mr. Nazri was unleashed just a day after his boss – PM Najib – raised eyebrows when he specifically targeted Robert Kuok in a speech, claiming that the government had provided him with the key to become the “Sugar King”. Prior to that, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, another UMNO-Malay racist, had warned Kuok not to forget his roots.

Image result for Nazri Aziz showing his fingerThe Uncouth and Crude Malaysian Minister of Tourism–Nazri Aziz


People familiar with the government SOP (standard operating system) knew instantly this is nothing but a political drama to divert attention. The only change to the script was replacing the victim with Robert Kuok. Of course, Kuok, the man worth a staggering US$15.4 billion, didn’t become rich because of Malaysian government’s handout, but through his own effort.

Image result for Double Faced Najib

Being Double-Faced won’t work with both China and Malaysian Chinese for Najib Razak. It is a question of trust, which is the foundation of guangxi for them

Najib talked as if Kuok became super-rich overnight because the government gave the Chinaman a winning lottery ticket. The Prime Minister argued that because the government gave Kuok the concession to trade sugar in the country, Kuok must forever become a slave and pro-UMNO. Of course Kuok needed a license to operate his business otherwise it would be illegal, would it not?

And from where do you think Kuok needed to apply his concession license if not from the government? Had Kuok failed in his sugar and rice trading business, would Najib proudly take the blame as well? Going by Najib’s idiotic logic, people who make money in stock market should be thankful and grateful to the government for setting up stock exchange and allowing stock trading.

On the contrary, it was Malaysian government which should be grateful to Robert Kuok because without him, the government’s coffer would not be flushed with more than 50% in taxes. In the same breath, it was because of excessive taxes that the billionaire finally decided to move to Hong Kong in 1974, forming Kerry Holdings Ltd with a capital of HK$10 million.


In case Najib and his band of mad dogs have forgotten, Kuok was also the man instrumental in setting up of MISC (Malaysian International Shipping Corporation), Bank Bumiputera and even PERNAS (National Corporation). Of course, when MISC and Bank Bumiputera fell into the hands of parasites like UMNO-Malays, they either went bust or needed massive bailout.

Image result for Robert Kuok with Deng Xiaoping

Kuok had begun his trading business years before the dawn of the NEP (New Economic Policy) era. He made his fortune by creating a niche in sugar and flour refinery, trading and hotels. The government did nothing but watch and collect taxes. And Najib’s shameless father had the cheek to demand free shares – first 20%, follows by another 20% – from Kuok’s MISC.

It’s pathetic that Najib’s henchman, Nazri has challenged the 94-year-old billionaire Kuok to contest in the coming general election. Mr. Nazri, known for this thuggish and poor upbringing, also called the Hong Kong-based tycoon a “coward with no testicles.” He also demanded Kuok to surrender his Malaysian citizenship.


Actually, Nazri should instead ask his boss Najib to strip Robert Kuok of his citizenship – if indeed the prime minister has balls at all. Then, the UMNO parasites could seize all of Kuok’s assets in Malaysia – easily worth tens of billions of US dollars – and then divide the wealth among those thieves of UMNO, as they would normally do with their ill-gotten money.


The question is – do Najib, Nazri, Tajuddin and other UMNO scumbags dare to rob Kuok of his citizenship and wealth? Why don’t Najib arrest Robert Kuok and use the Kangaroo Court to charge him for trying to overthrow the government? Heck, they can even throw in accusations of insulting the Malays, Islam and Agong (King) too. Clearly, they don’t have the balls to do so.

The simple fact that Nazri told Kuok to “surrender” instead of commanding the government to “strip” the billionaire’s citizenship, the same way they would normally do to ordinary people, speaks volumes about Nazri’s cowardice. Like it or not, they knew Robert Kuok is untouchable. That’s because Kuok has a very close relationship with Beijing.

A Distinguished Mandarin admired by Malaysians for his business acumen and integrity

In fact, stellar tycoon Robert Kuok is President Xi Jinping’s most trusted man in the country – although braggart Najib son of Razak would like to think the Chinese president likes him more. Kuok was such a respectable man in China that his meeting with paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was the last official meeting granted by Beijing before the Chinese leader stopped accepting visitors.

The respect for Kuok continues even after Xi Jinping took over. When China setup its first university abroad, the Xiamen University Malaysia Campus, at Salak Tinggi near Sepang, Robert Kuok donated RM100 million for its construction. And when Xi Jinping attended the China-Malaysia Economic Summit in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, who do you think accompanied the Chinese leader?

Well, it was Robert Kuok, of course. And if you think President Xi is another pariah Chinaman, think again. China’s governing Communist Party has just proposed removing a clause in the constitution which limits presidencies to two five-year terms. Essentially, President Xi Jinping is on the path to become more powerful than Donald Trump, or even Vladimir Putin.

Image result for Emperor  Xi Jinping

  The Globalist  President Xi Jinping of China

Xi can now extend his presidency beyond 2023 and he can actually rule for as long as he wishes to. When a delegation of 70 of the richest and most influential figures in Hong Kong flew to Beijing for a visit with Xi Jinping in 2014, the first of its kind since 2003, Robert Kuok was invited too where he brought along his son Kuok Khoon-chen.

Obviously, Kuok’s influence with the Chinese leaders in mainland China cannot and should not be underestimated. Unlike ungrateful UMNO-Malays such as Najib Razak, Beijing is still grateful to the renowned Sugar King, who secretly helped China overcome a severe sugar shortage in the early 1970s. The Chinese government’s trust and affection for Kuok didn’t stop there.

Image result for Robert Kuok with Deng Xiaoping

Whenever Chinese leaders visit Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, they deliberately choose to stay at Mr. Kuok’s Shangri-La hotel and that includes former president Hu Jintao and subsequently his successor, Xi Jinping. Even Najib’s former Special Envoy to China, ex-MCA President Ong Ka Ting, had to seek blessing from Kuok on certain crucial matters.

That’s why Ong Ka Chuan, the elder brother of Ong Ka Ting, panicked and came out of hiding to defend Robert Kuok. Mr. Ong knew the allegations over Kuok’s funding for opposition parties were baseless and dangerous, even though playing the racial cards could rally the Malay votes for his boss Najib Razak. He also knew it could jeopardise Kuok’s funding for MCA.

Go ahead, attack Robert Kuok like a mad dog. The stunt may backfire and instead rally the Chinese voters (who have otherwise decided to abstain from voting) to come out and vote in droves again for the opposition parties. Najib and his boys should be careful what they wish for. The personal attack on Kuok could be seen as an attack on Beijing, which may lead to retaliation.

With European Union boycotting and banning the use of palm oil in biofuels, producers such as Malaysia should not think with their toes about declaring a war with China’s most trusted man. An offended Beijing could simply send hints of stopping the import of palm oil from Malaysia. That would have marvellous effect on Felda settlers and stock prices.


When Najib unleashed his Red Shirt thugs with an intention to terrorize the Chinatown at Petaling Street in 2015, China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang deliberately paid a short visit to the Chinatown, sending a message to Najib regime that China would not tolerate violence, let alone bloody racial riots targeting the Chinese community.

And now, the son of Razak foolishly tries to insult and threaten Robert Kuok, the single most trusted adviser of President Xi Jinping on Malaysian matters? If a state leader like Najib dares to intimidate an influential figure like Robert Kuok, imagine what the bully has been doing all these years to the ordinary Malaysian Chinese folks, who pay 90% of the country’s taxes.


But wait, what about the photo of Robert Kuok’s nephew, James Kuok, having group photo with opposition party DAP as published by Najib’s top-paid fake news blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin? Simple – James could be there just to assess, on behalf of China, the types of foreign policies that the opposition would adopt should Pakatan Harapan (Hope’s Alliance) win the election.


Get real, do you think James would be so stupid that he took photos after handover bags of cash to the opposition party? But even if Beijing wanted Kuok to fund the opposition for the sake of hedging and protecting its interests, what’s wrong with that? After all, Najib himself told Vincent Tan to pay former opposition Hee Yit Fong RM25 million to defect, causing the collapse of Perak state government.

Malaysia: Is Emergency Rule Possible in 2018 in lieu of Elections?

February 5, 2018

Malaysia: Is Emergency Rule Possible in 2018 ?

by S

Image result for Tun Razak and National Operations Council

The NOC Post May 13, 1969

There comes an hour when protest no longer suffices; after philosophy there must be action; the strong hand finishes what the idea has sketched.”
― Victor Hugo, ‘Les Misérables’

COMMENT | You have to give credit to the old maverick, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Pakatan Harapan designate for the top job if the coalition comes into power. Not only is he comfortable slaying sacred Malay cows, he has no problems baiting the Najib regime as he does when he extols the virtues of street protest if the Prime Minister dares to declare an emergency in lieu of elections.

Would Najib declare an emergency? This is doubtful. The regime may be in a precarious position, but the UMNO regime still has the tools to successfully ensure electoral success and with the opposition in disarray, the longer it takes to hold an election, the better the chances for the Umno establishment to narcotise a weary electorate.

If the opposition was a cohesive force, then time would not be on Najib’s side but as it is, the longer he holds off, the more the opposition embroils itself in stupid “friendly fire” fiascos that only serves the Umno hegemon and makes the fence-sitting voters more convinced that they should vote for stability.

“The National Security Council Act also allows security forces to use lethal force without internationally recognised safeguards, and grants them broad powers to carry out warrantless arrests.”

But let us say for whatever reason, Najib does decide to use the emergency option. He really does not need the consent of the Agong to play that card. The National Security Council (NSC) law gives him the power to declare certain areas as security risk (and people should understand that “security” in this instance is widely defined) and he could stall an election for years, if need be.

Image result for quote about compassion dalai lama


If memory serves, the Inspector-General of Police and the Chief of Defence Forces have a seat at the council. This way, in theory at least, he could bypass the consent of the Agong is within the confines of the law, and he has the heads of the various security apparatus at his side. Scary stuff.

I have written about this law numerous times and people should really familiarise themselves with what it could have in store for Malaysians.

Or you could read the Cliffs Notes version with the scary highlights, courtesy of Amnesty International – “One provision, Section 18, allows the Prime Minister to arbitrarily designate any area in the country a ‘security area’, if he deems it a potential source of ‘harm’. ‘There is good reason to fear that the Act will be yet another tool in the hands of the government to crack down on peaceful protests under the guise of national security,’ said Josef Benedict.

“The special status given to ‘security areas’ could worsen Malaysia’s track record of custodial deaths and police brutality. Under Section 35, magistrates and coroners will no longer have to carry out inquests into deaths resulting from operations mounted by security forces within these areas.

“The National Security Council Act also allows security forces to use lethal force without internationally recognised safeguards, and grants them broad powers to carry out warrantless arrests.”

Image result for Rosmah Mansor

Rosmah Mansor–Chief of Najib’s Defence Forces–Greed and Worship of Power will destroy her in the end.

Of course, there are claims made that the Harapan leadership has plans if the Najib regime uses racial-religious tensions to suspend elections, and it is the duty of Malaysians to support (Harapan) politicians. And by support, I guess it means that normally timid Malaysians will have to go on the streets. Well, let us see how this plays out.

Breeding apathy

The DAP is demonised as anti-Malay and anti-Islam, so by encouraging its supporters to go on the streets, the leadership, not to mention the entire Chinese community, would be labelled by the government as subversive and part of the reason for the security crackdown. This, of course, would necessitate the entire (probably) DAP leadership being carted away in Black Marias.

PAS, if it is not firmly in bed with UMNO, will probably say that street protest is not the “proper” way to engage with UMNO and probably make some sort of deal with the Umno hegemon in the name of Malay/Muslim solidarity.

Amanah, of course, will attempt to make a stand. But since clearly it is the weakest of the opposition coalition in terms of influence and voter base, it will have to rely on the other component parties to make a stand. Who knows if Bersatu, which is in reality a cutout of some kind, can stir up support from an oppositional voting base which has within it a deep distrust of the old maverick. And not forgetting PKR, which of late has demonstrated it could not organise so much as an orgy in a brothel.

And let us not forget Sabah and Sarawak. Who knows how things will play out there since the populations of both states have a deep mistrust of peninsular politics and would probably sit this one out.

Image result for The Red Shirts
Image result for Pekida

So, this leaves a spontaneous outpouring of support fueled by social media against the ruling UMNO hegemon mainly in the urban areas. Urban areas are in many ways easier to control, and it does contribute to the narrative that people in these areas are purposely stirring up trouble for the country, and want to usurp the position of a particular race and religion.

Young people could possibly go out into the streets and wage a protest against the UMNO establishment, but does anyone really see this happening in Malaysia? If young people were truly engaged with the system and let’s face facts, if young people were brought up in a culture where protest and political involvement were encouraged, then maybe this could happen.

However, for the moment the hegemon provides a comfortable environment for the breeding of apathy. And let us not forget that many young people are not voting, and if they are not voting, which is the easiest thing in the world to do, what makes anyone think that they would brave the state security apparatus and demand that the Najib regime hold elections just so they could exercise their right not to vote?

Besides, nobody wants another May 13, certainly not the non-Malays. This would be the narrative of course. No matter what the hegemon engineers, it will be about race and religion.

Then, of course, there is the other side of the coin. Calling for an emergency or engineering a situation in which areas are declared security risks, is a move that demands cojones. It is a move in which the state security apparatus has to essentially wage a war against their own. Tyranny is a bloody business. Can the regime expect that the state security apparatus, and by this, I mean the foot soldiers, would actually turn their guns against their own?

During my military career and after, I have had the unfortunate life experience of meeting those men who do the bloody work for tyrants. Men and women who have been in deaths squad and other paramilitary outfits used to suppress dissent. Men who have turned on their own for the benefice provided by tyrants.

I do not see this in Malaysia. Not the banal evil of other kleptocratic countries. Let us not go there. If the Najib regime does call some kind of emergency using the tools available to him, I wonder if Malaysians – and by this I mean everyone from protesters, the security apparatus and politicians – would be able to turn on each other.

As someone who has been to nearly every one of these protests of diminishing returns, I know a few old timers – patriots even – who would have no problem being cannon fodder for the “cause.” After all, we started this problem, so we may as well contribute in finishing it or it finishes us.

But large-scale protests as we have seen in other countries, I am sceptical, not when the opposition is in disarray and young people are marginalised from the mainstream oppositional process. I am more inclined to find it useful to look at other Muslim-majority countries rather than countries closer to home.

Because of our political system, Malaysia is due a reckoning. I do not think that the opposition at this time would be the harbinger of the shape of things to come, but I do know that when it does come, everyone will be touched.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.


BOOK REVIEW: The Messy Ganga and India’s Future

January 24, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Messy Ganga and India’s Future

by John Elliott

Image result for victor mallet ganges

India’s River Ganges is a mess. The great and awe-inspiring sacred Ganga, as it is generally known, is revered by hundreds of millions of Hindus who foul its waters and assume that all will be well, however awful and health-endangering it becomes.

That in many ways is the story of modern India, a country that manages to be awe-inspiring and brilliant, but also frequently dysfunctional, defying most efforts to make it work better.

The challenge for an author is how to combine a study of all the enormous potential and the failings of this magical and frustrating country, and to explain how people tolerate the faults but do little to improve them, while making the most of what is available.

Successive foreign correspondents based in India have tackled this in different ways, mostly with broadly based surveys of political economic and social life, but with an increasing awareness in recent years of the negatives.

Image result for victor mallet ganges

Victor Mallet (pic above) a widely experienced Financial Times journalist who is now the paper’s Hong Kong-based Asia news editor, has chosen a neat solution by writing about the Ganges after spending four years in Delhi as his newspaper’s South Asia correspondent.

He has explored the 2,525 km river’s history, religion, economics, industry, environmental and health issues, and the people, while using it as a metaphor to explain how India functions, or doesn’t. Politics comes in too because Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister, has failed so far to fulfil his 2014 promise to clean the river that Hindus both revere and pollute.

A keen yachtsman, Mallet first developed an interest in the river when he spotted an image on a Delhi map of a sailing boat in a red circle – the universal sign for a yacht marina. It is in an industrial zone called Okhla on the banks of Delhi’s (filthy) Yamuna River, a tributary of the Ganges.

There he found “an immaculately kept building and garden called the Defence Services Sailing Club” with sailing dinghies nearly stacked on racks. “It was obvious that the boats were rarely used. The caretaker confirmed it. The reason was there in front of the club: the stinking, foamy black filth that was once a river.”

Image result for victor mallet ganges

Keeping Ganga clean? Fanatics don’t bother, feel the river is self-purifying, will take care of itself – COUNTERVIEW.ORG

After explaining how the Ganges was portrayed in India’s legends and paintings “as a natural paradise of lilies, turtles and fish” where “the cheerful god Krishna would play his flute amid a troupe of adoring female cow herds,” Mallet reports that “the water at Okhla is so polluted by human waste that it contains nearly half a million times the maximum level of faecal coliform bacteria established as the Indian standard for bathing water.”

That is a good introduction to modern India, enabling the author to show in the first two pages of his preface why the Ganga is such a great vehicle for exploring all the contradictions of a country that could be a world leader but somehow is not (yet?) getting there. As he travels, he meets a contrasting series of people from Saffron-clad Hindu priests to engineers and well-meaning environmental activists, and from tannery businessmen and bureaucrats to ashram devotees.

Image result for victor mallet ganges

The most horrifying part of the book is a chapter headed “Superbug River.” Many of us living in Delhi (and elsewhere in India) tolerate air pollution many times above safe limits, as well as undrinkable tap water, because we are protected by purifying filters in our homes and offices.

Mallet however uncovers much worse health hazards in the Ganges, saying that people are liable to pick up a recently discovered bacterial gene that can make various diseases highly resistant to antibiotics.

He stumbled on the gene, known to scientists as NDM-1, while researching “normal” pollutants such as sewage and industrial waste. “It only takes a short visit and exposure to acquire such genes in your gut,” he was told in Britain by an environmental engineering professor. As Mallet notes, this is a politically sensitive matter – Indian officials and doctors “were furious” when The Lancet medical journal in 2010 named the new gene NDM after New Delhi.

Devout Hindus, says Mallet, are unwittingly spreading diseases, and antibiotic resistance to diseases, in the very river to which they have come to pay homage. Water samples have demonstrated that even what are usually regarded as the relatively pristine reaches of the upper Ganges near Haridwar suffer surges of bacterial pollution during visits by thousands of urban Indians during the May-June pilgrimage season.

Throughout the book, the Ganges is the main focus but, along the way, there are many other subjects and issues ranging from the poisoning of vultures and a state government suggesting the use of cow urine as a hospital disinfectant, to corruption among water tanker drivers (and others), and India’s desperate need for jobs that Modi’s Make in India campaign cannot begin to solve.

Modi was elected in 2014 both to change the way that India is run by making the machinery of government cleaner, more effective, and less bureaucratic, and to create jobs and opportunities for the aspirational young. Make in India is one of a myriad of high profile schemes that he has launched to try to inject focus and drive into a somnolent government, but it is difficult as yet to assess how much has actually been achieved as a result of all the razzmatazz.

Modi’s pledge to clean the Ganges and reverse the failure of many earlier attempts can however be assessed, especially at the holy city of Varanasi which he chose as his parliamentary constituency. Little seems to have been achieved in the city apart from some beautification of the ghats, or flights of stairs, on the Ganges banks.

Varanasi’s disillusioned residents reminded Mallet about Modi’s televised launch of a plan to clean tonnes of mud off the city’s famous Assi Ghat, and criticised the lack of progress on the more important problem of sewage. Such cosmetic projects were like “putting lipstick on a woman with a dirty sari”.

Curiously, Modi made Uma Bharti, a religious activist and politician the minister in charge of water, and thus the Ganges. Mallet says “she appeared more interested in proving the existence 5,000 to 6,000 years ago of the extinct Saraswati River… than in solving the very real crisis facing the contemporary Ganges.”  That demonstrates one of the Modi government’s limitations – that several ministers and leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party are more interested in Hindu religion and mythology (and nationalism) than they are in building a strong nation that works.

Image result for varanasi ganges river and Taj Mahal

Mallet is however too optimistic about the prospect of the Ganges being cleaned. He cites great and well-organised religious festivals like the Kumbh Melas, which bring millions of worshippers to the Ganges, as examples of even the most corrupt state governments being able to perform. “Good organization and efficient infrastructure, in short, are no more impossible in India than anywhere else,” he declares.

This misses the point that the Kumbh Melas are one-off events where a single official is given overall charge without political interference (though politicians are quick to claim credit when all goes well). There are other similar examples, such as the building of the Golden Quadrilateral highways around India 15 years ago and the construction of the Delhi Metro railway. In each case, politicians stood aside and left officials to get on with the job – and there was overwhelming support for what was being done.

Sadly, that is unlikely to work with cleaning the Ganges because there are too many interests and the project is neither time-bound like a Kumbh Mela nor of clear immediate benefit like a metro or highway.

Cleaning the Ganges is therefore a perfect metaphor for modernizing India. The task is just too huge and too complex for quick solutions – as Modi is discovering with a general election just over a year away.

A former “Financial Times” South Asia correspondent, John Elliott now writes for Asia Sentinel from New Delhi. He is the author of “Implosion: India’s Tryst With Reality”   (HarperCollins)



Malaysia’s Leading News Portal, Malaysiakini, lives on

January 23, 2018

Malaysia’s Leading News Portal, Malaysiakini, lives on

by Mariam Mokhtar

Image result for Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan

Thanks to the overwhelming support of generous Malaysians and others, the famous Malaysiakini duo, Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan , survive to fight again for freedom and justice.

On January. 12, a Malaysian appellate court overturned an earlier High Court ruling in favor of Malaysiakini, Malaysia’s leading independent news portal, in a defamation case initiated by a politically connected mining operation for remarks at a press conference by opponents of the mine.

Malaysiakini must now pay a crippling RM200,000 in damages and RM150,000 in legal costs, to the Raub Australian Gold Mine (RAGM), financially threatening the publication and raising concerns that the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak is behind the court’s reversal.

The subscription-based website has launched a public campaign seeking contributions to meet the court costs. “Our lawyers will be applying for a stay pending appeal. For that to happen, we need to have the money ready,” editor-in-chief Steven Gan said in a statement on the site. And should the stay be not granted, we will have to pay RM350,000 (US$89,000) in the coming weeks. Otherwise, RAGM can take winding-up proceedings against Malaysiakini.”

Neither Gan nor Premesh Chandran, the publisher, would speculate on whether the appellate decision was reversed at the request of the government. However, over the years, the relationship between Putrajaya, the seat of the Malaysian government and the alternative news outlet, the country’s most influential, has been fractious at best, and hostile at worst.

Image result for Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan

The dedicated men and women of bringing news and views to Malaysians and the international community.

The decision by the Appeal court to reverse the lower court ruling exonerating the news poral has set tongues wagging over whether Najib ordered Malaysia’s notoriously malleable courts to put Malaysiakini out of business prior to what political analyst say may be a tough election for the ruling Barisan Nasional, or national coalition.

Malaysiakini has, since its inception 18 years ago, been a particular thorn in the government’s side, attracting hostility from Najib and members of his cabinet. It has been the frequent target of police intimidation and rallies fomented by forces aligned with the United Malays National Organization, the country’s most powerful political party.

“It is totally unacceptable that journalists can be charged for covering a press conference,” said Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia-Pacific Desk of the press advocacy NGO Reporters Sans Frontières. “The right to information is a fundamental right, and Malaysian authorities must finally take it into account. It is listed as a fundamental right by the United Nations, ASEAN and the Commonwealth — Malaysia must consider lining up with international standards regarding this matter.”

Image result for Najib Razak
Prime Minister Najib Razak is feeling the heat from Malaysians who are increasingly critical of his incompetent and corrupt administration.

RSF, Bastard said, “demands the Malaysian government to give guarantees concerning the political independence of the court of appeal. It is very worrying to see this trend where first-instance justice decisions concerning press freedom are reversed by the Appeal Court. It gives the impression of a pro-government court whose decisions are politically motivated, and whose ultimate goal is to muzzle whistle-blowers and overly curious journalists.”

The case brought by RAGM has its roots in a press conference that Malaysiakini and another website, Free Malaysia Today, (FMT) were invited to cover in Raub, a small town in Pahang state north of Kuala Lumpur.

The use of sodium cyanide, a known toxic chemical, to extract gold from tailings, was alleged to have caused a variety of health problems among the villagers of Bukit Koman, a village near Raub. After Malaysiakini published three news reports and two video clips, on Sept. 5, 2012, RAGM sued the news portal for defamation.

The company said that it had taken all reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of the workers and residents, dismissing allegations that sodium cyanide was hazardous to Bukit Koman residents and arguing that “unsubstantiated and baseless allegations” had confused the villagers and protesters.

RAGM’s beneficial owner is said to be Peninsular Gold, whose chairman and main shareholder is a politically well-connected Malaysian capitalist, Andrew Kam Tai Yeow. Kam was secretary-general of the Malaysian Chinese Association, the ethnic Chinese political party in the Barisan Nasional or ruling national coalition in the 1960s. Furthermore, RAGM enjoyed preferential tax status. It has since ceased operations and started liquidation proceedings.

In 2016, the High Court dismissed RAGM’s suit and said it had failed to prove malice. Eight months later, the appellate court overturned the High Court ruling and said that Malaysiakini’s defense of its reportage didn’t hold up.

“The settlement offered by RAGM’s lawyer, Cecil Abraham, and the gold mine, to FMT required only an apology, but when it came to Malaysiakini, they wanted an apology and money,” said a source who declined to be named. “During the court hearing, [Abraham]s and the gold mine used FMT’s apology against Malaysiakini. They claimed that FMT had apologized, but not Malaysiakini, and therefore Malaysiakini was being indolent and irresponsible.

“RAGM’s lawyers failed to mention that they had demanded both an apology and a huge sum in damages from Malaysiakini. Clearly, the action by Cecil and the gold mine was to bleed the paper.”

A year after the protest march, three individuals who had led the rally and were also members of the Ban Cyanide Action Group (BCAC) were sued for defamation, by RAGM.

They were the chairman, Wong Kim Hoong, vice-chairman, Hue Shieh Lee, and secretary, Hue Fui How. RAGM claimed that the three had defamed them through their statements in two news articles, which both Malaysiakini and FMT had published.

When Wong and Hue Fui How apologized to RAGM in open court, the company withdrew its suit. Hue Shieh Lee elected to continue her legal battle, and in 2016, the High Court ruled that RAGM had failed to prove that her statement against the gold mine, was a malicious falsehood.

“It is difficult for RSF to accuse the Court of Appeal of issuing a judgment to prevent the villagers from demanding compensation for their damaged health,” said RSF’s representative Bastard. “However, the facts are clear: villagers will think twice before asking for compensation. This is a crude example of how violations of press freedom can affect every aspect of every society. This is why RSF firmly condemns the judgment by the Court of Appeal and shows its full support to Malaysiakini reporters, who were just trying to do their work – as the High Court recognized in the first instance.”

Villagers, he said, “can let independent local and foreign journalists investigate on their damaged health, so that awareness can be raised around their case.”

There are three strands to this story. The harassment of Malaysiakini is not just an attack on press freedom. Its punishment is also a warning to other newspapers to tread warily, when reporting on Najib and UMNO.

The Appeal court verdict is also a means of intimidating the general public. Those who dare to protest an injustice, or the effects of pollution in their locality, or corruption, or become a whistle-blower, will find themselves subject to a lawsuit, with substantial costs, in addition to incarceration.

As Malaysians go to the polls this year, they know that a free press, which can report without fear or favor, is a fundamental requirement for democracy; but this is the least of Najib’s concerns.

Image result for Clare Rewcastle-Brown

Sarawak Report’s editor, Clare Rewcastle-Brown, in an article titled, “Without A Free Media Malaysia Will Slide Backwards Fast,”, said “The difference between being a modern, progressive country and a tin-pot regime, where potential investors fear they cannot rely on the rule of law, can be quantified by the extent to which there is a free media and a government that can tolerate criticism.

“If Malaysia starts to use the courts to close down media that is doing its job, and airing the grievances and concerns of the people, then the world will start to recognize it as a wild country which is only suitable for risk takers and resource-grabbers who are willing to risk losing their investment. The rest will steer clear.  That would be a tragedy for a country which has made so much progress and could have a great future”.

RSF’s Bastard said, “Intimidation of journalists, humiliation, harassment and denial of access to information are common practices amongst government officials around the world who want to muzzle fearless journalists.

“Malaysiakini is recognized as an independent news outlet which doesn’t let its editorial line to be dictated by the government. This is precisely what is press freedom.

“Denouncing powerful people when it is necessary and legitimate in a report should not lead to reprisals. This is also totally unacceptable. And this is all the truer in an electoral context.”

Najib has learned from the previous general-election that he must tie-up many loose ends, before the country’s 14th General Election (GE-14), which must be called by August. Gagging Malaysiakini is perhaps one of those “loose ends.”