September 12, 2016

Waiting in Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam

by Cmdr (rtd) S Thayaparan

Image result for Zahid Hamidi and ISIS Threat

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.”

– Raymond Williams

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wants to tell people that the Islamic State (IS) threat is real. All I can say is that I have been trying to tell people the same for the past couple of years. The UMNO Number Two also reassured the rakyat that the IS threat “was not a manipulation, publicity stunt or fiction,” which is just goes to show you the level of cynicism of most Malaysians right-thinking folks when it comes to official statements from Putrajaya.

But hang on a minute. The DPM made two extremely cynical statements that only justifies the level of cynicism thrown UMNO’s way. The first statement, “…the people in the country who joined the militant group did not have strong religious or educational background” and the second “They are people who are frustrated over something which only they know. So this disappointment is translated into a form of escapism.”

With regard to the first statement, while it may be true that youths signing up for jihad with IS are disenfranchised in terms of education, nobody could argue that their religious sympathies were anathema to the ideology of IS.

In my piece ‘The Merchants of Hate’, I wrote, “For years, the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) courses told Malays that they were under siege. This is not a defensive posture. In reality, this is exactly what extremist groups like IS need. They need young, foolish men filled with a sense of superiority fueled by unearned self-righteousness to carry out barbaric acts in the name of promulgating their scared religious beliefs. This, coupled with the rampant corruption and all-consuming hypocrisy, is fertile ground for groups like IS.”

Furthermore, when it comes to Islamic terrorism, Malaysia has produced its fair share of “educated” Muslim psychopaths who have blazed a trail of destruction and waged war against their fellow Muslims in South-East Asia. The BBC obituary for Noordin Mohammad Top for instance reminds us: “Officials believe the Malaysian-born former accountant orchestrated a series of attacks across Indonesia. Noordin was thought to be a key recruiter and financier for the regional Islamist militant group, Jemaah Islamiah, but analysts say he formed his own more hard-line splinter group.”

Therefore, I will say it again. With UMNO and the opposition funding Islamic entities who moral police the Muslim polity, with federal and state apparatus used to define Islam as monolithic for political purposes and lastly but definitely not least, the inclusion of an Islamic cult – PAS – into mainstream Malaysian politics – and both UMNO and the opposition are to be blamed here – can anyone seriously argue that Malaysia is not fertile ground for idiots wanting to join IS?

As for the second statement, does Zahid really expect us to believe that he, and by extension the government, does not understand the motivations for people joining IS?

Forget the sex slaves – it sure beats dating – that is promised to repressed young men who join the jihad (was that the escapism that the UMNO Deputy President was alluding to?), the reality is that when the state-endorsed Islam rejects diversity, when the state-endorsed Islam encourages Muslims to reject other forms of Islam, when the state-endorsed Islam cannot account for the class divisions and the resulting inequalities, you are going to get young men – educated or otherwise – joining movements that promise an Islamic paradise here on earth.

Why do you think that PAS’ Islamic propaganda is extremely effective in rural populations who see the decadence in UMNO? Why do you think a religious leader like the late tok guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat and his austere Islam was attractive to a voting demographic who rejected the materialism and corruption of UMNO?

In study after study of failed or failing Islamic governments, the recurring theme is how secular governments are unable to address systemic inequalities and corruption, which allowed the Islamists to gain the moral high ground.

Image result for Zahid Hamidi and ISIS Threat

In one of my answers to questions raised by PSM’s Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, I said, “I recognise (as do many other Malaysians, including Muslims) that Islam in this country is affected by the petrodollars of the Saudi regime, as evidenced by the so-called donation to our current Prime Minister for defending Islam. I recognise that there is a deliberate effort by the House of Saud and its tributaries to silence the diversity in Islam. I recognise that the religious schisms within Islam affect minority Islamic brethren the world over and that, being true to their faiths, they are being hampered by the stratagems from palaces in Saudi Arabia.”

This, of course, brings us back to the question of the meddling Middle Eastern influence that plagues Islam in this country. We do not have to look far to understand why Indonesia has movements that reject this interference. Last year the BBC ran an article titled ‘Is Indonesia winning its fight against Islamic extremism?

Image result for islam nusantara

The article was interesting in many ways, especially in its description of Archipelago Islam (AI) or Islam Nusantara, but what should be acknowledged is the overt manner in which Indonesian political and social bodies reject the influence from the House of Saud.

Consider what Yenny Wahid, daughter of the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) and activist, said, “We’re not just coming up with a counter narrative, we are coming up with a counter identity, and that’s what AI is all about. We believe we’re good Muslims but to be a good Muslim we don’t have to accept the recipes that are handed out by some radicals from the Middle East.”

In a 2004 piece, titled ‘The religious sources of Islamic terrorism’, Shmuel makes the argument that the West and Muslims have to tackle the problem in tandem. While some readers, especially Western ones, take exception to some of his arguments about reassessing certain sacred ideological cows, Malaysian readers should take note of the section titled ‘The dilemma of the moderate Muslim’.

Malaysians would understand where Shmuel is coming from when he writes, “Facing the radical Weltanschauung, the moderate but orthodox Muslim has to grapple with two main dilemmas: the difficulty of refuting the legal-religious arguments of the radical interpretation and the aversion to – or even prohibition of – inciting an Islamic Kulturkampf which would split the ranks of the ummah.”

Shmuel outlines the argument that many Malaysians can relate to in the section titled ‘Fighting hellfire with hellfire’, where he writes, in essence, the radical narrative, which promises paradise to those who perpetrate acts of terrorism, must be met by an equally legitimate religious force which guarantees hellfire for the same acts. Some elements of such rulings should be, inter alia:

  • A call for renewal of ijtihad as the basis to reform Islamic dogmas and to relegate old dogmas to historic contexts.
  • That there exists no state of jihad between Islam and the rest of the world (hence, jihad is not a personal duty).
  • That the violation of the physical safety of a non-Muslim in a Muslim country is prohibited (haram).
  • That suicide bombings are clear acts of suicide, and therefore, their perpetrators are condemned to eternal hellfire.
  • That moral or financial support of acts of terrorism is also haram.
  • That a legal ruling claiming jihad is a duty derived from the roots of Islam is a falsification of the roots of Islam, and therefore, those who make such statements have performed acts of heresy.

Somehow, I doubt we will ever see these types of fatwas coming from either the opposition or UMNO.

Writer’s note 1: Dar al-Islam means House of Islam as opposed to Dar al-Harb, which translates, to House of War.

Writer’s note 2: Anonymous_1388826428, is correct. House of War is Dar al-Harb. It was an editorial mistake made by me – the author – when transcribing from my notes. I thank Anonymous_1388826428 for pointing out this mistake.

Malaysia: UMNO apes the Taliban

September 12, 2016

Malaysia: UMNO apes the Taliban

by Tay Tian Yan

Image result for The Three Chimps

This is Positive Thinking ala Malaisie

Fanaticism knows no limits, from the Middle East to the rest of the world. Often the boundary between fanaticism and insanity is equally blurred.

Many years back when the fanatical Taliban ruled Afghanistan, many world-shocking events took place there, such as the shocking demolition in the name of  Islam of statues of Buddha in Bamiyan.

For thousands of years, the Bamiyan Valley was a regular stop on the Silk Road for travellers from China, India, Persia and Europe. Bamiyan was an important hub of Buddhist learning. Thousands of monks and craftsmen erected countless awe-inspiring Buddha statues on the walls of the cliffs in the valley, the biggest of which stood at 38m and 58m tall.

Image result for bamiyan valley destroyed

The Bamiyan Valley

Aesthetically, these were masterpieces attesting to the pinnacle of cultural eminence. From the historical point of view, they were priceless legacies of human civilisation. For over a thousand years, these two enormous Buddha statues stood over this land and the many historical developments taking place under their noses.

Unfortunately such godly artistic creations were blown up and reduced to rubble by the Taliban in a matter of hours. Similarly, after Islamic State fanatics captured parts of northern Iraq, they blew up 3,000-year-old Assyrian relics and statues in the ancient city of Nimrud.

Image result for 3,000-year-old Assyrian relics and statues in the ancient city of Nimrud

Image result for Temple of Bel and Baal Shamin

They also destroyed the Temple of Bel and Baal Shamin in the 4,000-year-old city of Palmyra in northern Syria they subsequently captured, smashing up the invaluable ancient animist relics.

Khaled Asad, director of Palmyra Antiquities Museum, was executed by the IS. Taliban and IS prohibited idolatry on the pretext of defending their religion, destroying priceless statues and relics without taking into consideration their enormous historical value.

What has been brought down can never be restored; neither can pieces of history be duplicated. The fanaticism and insanity of these people have shocked the world and brought tears to millions.

What has this to do with Malaysia? The eagle statue in Langkawi and the statue of fallen heroes at the National Monument have received media coverage of late. Some clerics who thought they were safeguarding their religion called for their demolition to preserve the sanctity of the religion and stub out idolatry.

Image result for The Langkawi eagle monument

A Popular Tourist Attraction on the Island of Langkawi, Kedah

The eagle is but a symbol of Langkawi and a popular sightseeing spot. No one is going to worship an eagle statue anyway. As for the National Monument, it was built in honor of the warriors sacrificing their precious lives for the nation, and was meant to inspire Malaysians to be patriotic. Similarly, no one is going to deify and idolize them either.

Image result for tugu negara malaysia

Remember the Men and Women who gave their lives so that we may live in Peace. That Peace is now under threat from ultra Malay Islamic Extremists and Najib’s pursuit of existential politics–Din Merican

Narrow-minded and radical interpretations of such people have religionised everything that crosses their minds and banished all who are not with them. This is the crudest manifestation of the pride and prejudice born out of such fanaticism.

If by chance their wayward thinking gets approved and legitimised, the country’s diversity and universal values will be completely uprooted.

The Guardian Book Review: Nick Clegg’s Politics

September 11, 2016

The Guardian Book Review

Politics by Nick Clegg – A painful read

by David Runchiman

Clegg Politics and Cameron rose garden

How long does it take to decompress from the extraordinary pressures of holding high political office, especially when it ends really badly? Bereavement takes at least two years. Nick Clegg suffered a kind ofpolitical death last May, with the added misery of having it played out in the full glare of the cameras. Yet here he is, barely 16 months on, with a book reflecting on his experiences, most of it written presumably in the still raw aftermath of his humiliation. Of the five stages of grief, Clegg seems to have got beyond denial, but he is a long way from acceptance. This is the work of someone stuck between anger and bargaining. The result is a pretty painful read.

In his introduction he promises us something different: a step back to reflect on what’s gone wrong with politics and how to rescue rational, liberal discourse in an age of populist anger run amok. But as such a visible victim of that anger, he keeps scratching away at his personal wounds. Take tuition fees: he fronts up about what a disaster it was to renege on the Lib Dem promise not to raise them, and in particular to be bullied by the NUS into having every Lib Dem MP (Clegg included) sign a pledge promising to vote against future rises. He also admits to being too easily swayed by the demands of leading universities to solve their funding problems. Vice-chancellors were going “nuts”. “If only I had dug in my heels and let them go nuts,” Clegg writes with the benefit of hindsight. So why didn’t he? Partly, he says, because he had too much else on his plate. But it still sounds weak. Getting outmanoeuvred by bolshy students and antsy academics was not a good omen for dealing with far tougher opponents, including those he faced inside the coalition government.

Clegg insists that the Lib Dems were caught between a rock and a hard place on tuition fees and the final policy was the fairest compromise they could muster, with safeguards built in to protect less advantaged students. He says the anger the issue aroused was “totemic”. And though he tries hard to take his medicine, he can’t resist a few whines of self-pity. The two main parties are hardly “paragons of consistency”, so why is this the U-turn everyone remembers? He blames himself for not having at least tried to delay the decision so that it didn’t overshadow everything that followed. But he also blames the British political system for making everything so tribal, with the decent people in the middle getting squeezed.

As a result, he ends up sounding like just another politician. It wasn’t the policy that was wrong, it was the way we communicated it: that’s the fallback of every failing government. His complaints about the unfairness of the system also betray a more basic problem. Throughout, Clegg expresses his surprise and regret that voters were not prepared to credit the Lib Dems for their willingness to compromise for the sake of good government. He says they had no choice but to join the coalition after the 2010 election: anything else would have revealed the party to be fundamentally unserious about power. It would also have let the country down at a perilous economic moment, with the public finances in desperate need of stability. Yet the Lib Dems got no reward for this seriousness of purpose, nor for all the hard work they put in over the next five years to moderate Tory extremism and deliver sensible policies in testing circumstances. Clegg can’t really have been surprised. As he also admits, this has been the fate of junior coalition partners almost everywhere: they get punished for their compromises by voters who see it as evidence of weakness. What’s so special about the Lib Dems that they should have been viewed differently?

Clegg’s bemusement that the British electorate could not see how much good his party had done is either disingenuous or startlingly arrogant. And for all its self-flagellating moments, there is a streak of arrogance running through this book. Clegg keeps telling us that he took decisions on their merits, having done his homework, unlike his Tory partners in government who were more often looking for party political advantage. But why should we think that the deputy PM – especially one as overworked, understaffed and strung out as Clegg tells us he was during his time in government – has some special insight into “the right thing to do”? He would have been better off focusing more on party political advantage for his own side. The absolute priority for the Lib Dems from the coalition agreement was constitutional reform, above all a change to the first-past-the-post voting system. But they got hammered in the 2011 AV referendum, after the Tories did everything in their power to undermine Clegg personally (even using the tuition fees fiasco against him), and Labour saw it as a chance to get in a few cheap shots. Clegg calls all this depressingly short-sighted by the other parties. But given where focusing on the long-term interests of the country has left him and his party, who looks short-sighted now?

The best way for minor parties to survive coalition government is to find some means of maintaining a sharply distinct identity. Clegg thought the Lib Dems should muck in where they were needed, which was fatal. He tells us of his many behind-the-scenes triumphs facing down Cameron and Osborne when they went too far. He wants us to know he’s a lot tougher than he looks. But he never attempted to humiliate them publicly, in the way they repeatedly humiliated him. Nor did he try to peel them off from each other or simply cause trouble for its own sake. It’s hard to think of any occasion when Clegg managed to embarrass the coalition deliberately rather than inadvertently. He was above that sort of thing. So he got crushed in the end.

A further sadness hanging over this book is the result of the EU referendum, which is referenced in a few last-minute tweaks to the text. The causes Clegg has stood for all his life – Europeanism, cosmopolitanism, liberal compromise – are in disarray. At the end of Politics he tries to take stock of what’s brought us to this point – economic stresses, cultural shifts, technological changes – and though he has no real solutions, he refuses to give up on liberal optimism. He hopes we will sooner rather than later rediscover how “to behave in a less tribal way, be civil to one another, be supportive of each other’s efforts to hold the government to account”.

But he knows this is easier said than done – especially since he is not immune to some tribalism of his own. In describing his political formation during the Blair years, it’s clear that a dislike of the Labour party – or the “Labour machine” as he calls it – runs in Clegg’s DNA. He would have found it incredibly hard to enter government with Labour; the Tories were always his preference. To call Clegg himself a secret Tory is unfair. He was his own man, liberal in his instincts, serious-minded, earnest, level-headed. He is totally plausible when he says that he never got caught up with “Cleggmania” following his performance in the first leaders’ debate during the 2010 general election campaign. His “Dutch blood” has made him “immune to great rushes to the head”. Still, given the ultimate failure of his time in government, he might have been better trying to access a bit more of his inner Tory bastard.

Malaysian Authorities must undertake an Immediate Inquiry

August 13, 2016

Malaysian Authorities must undertake an Immediate Inquiry

by Steven Thiru

The Malaysian Bar is deeply disturbed by the grim disclosures contained in the complaint filed by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”)[1] “to forfeit assets involved in and traceable to an international conspiracy to launder money misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (“1MDB”)…”[2]  The DOJ has made serious allegations of siphoning or diversion of funds, fraud, and the misuse of the banking system for illegal activities, by the individuals and entities named in the complaint.

Various persons have in the past weeks sought to interpret the DOJ’s 136-page complaint.  It is appalling that some have deliberately set out to distort the proceedings, and have attempted to create confusion, ostensibly to protect­ wrongdoers.  In the interest of upholding the rule of law and the cause of justice, the thrust, purpose and ramifications of the DOJ proceedings must be appreciated.

The legal proceeding commenced by the DOJ seeking the forfeiture of assets — including rights to profits, moveable assets and real property — constitute a civil action.  These assets, located primarily, but not exclusively, in the United States, are alleged to be proceeds from criminal conduct.  The DOJ maintains that this is the largest single asset seizure action ever brought under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.[3]

The DOJ’s court document states that the assets to be forfeited represent “a portion of the proceeds of over [US]$3.5 billion misappropriated from 1MDB.”[4]  It has been reported that the United States authorities intend “to recover more than [US]$1 billion that was laundered through the United States and traceable to the conspiracy.”[5]  In this regard, it would appear from the court document that the United States authorities possess comprehensive knowledge of the movement of the alleged misappropriated funds, have sighted relevant documentary evidence, and even reviewed telephone conversations.  The substance, depth and reach of the allegations are compelling, and should not be ignored.  The affected parties will have the opportunity to challenge the DOJ’s action in court, hence the process is transparent and adheres to the principles of natural justice.

The complaint made by the DOJ does not preclude criminal action, as the forfeiture is but a first step to prevent dissipation of the specified assets.  The act of money laundering, and involvement in a conspiracy to do so, are criminal offences.  Thus, upon forfeiture of the assets, it is likely that there would be criminal proceedings to prosecute those responsible for the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds and the laundering of those funds in the United States and elsewhere.

Such proceedings in the United States should not surprise our law enforcement agencies or officers.  There are similar provisions in our law for the freezing or forfeiture of assets in Malaysia that are connected with money laundering activities or are the proceeds of crime, whether or not any individuals are prosecuted.[6]  These have often subsequently led to the prosecution of individuals.  The laws in Malaysia also allow for criminal proceedings against individuals for alleged money laundering activities, even if those activities occur outside Malaysia.[7]

It is noteworthy that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has issued a statement confirming that it cooperated with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation in the latter’s investigations.[8]  In international efforts to stop money laundering and curb corruption, many countries — including Malaysia — have passed laws that allow for “universal jurisdiction” in respect of money laundering activities or corrupt practices.  Such legal actions cannot in any way be categorised as attempts to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state.

The principal aim of international crime prevention and anti-corruption treaties such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which Malaysia ratified in 2008, is to specifically provide for the prosecution of those involved in international or transnational criminal activities.  No country that is a signatory to such treaties or conventions should attempt to hide or shield such persons, or permit such persons to evade or avoid prosecution, or to block access to evidence or information.

It is untenable to hold that the DOJ document does not show that money has been misappropriated from 1MDB.[9]  The allegations of financial improprieties concerning 1MDB funds — described as having been “stolen, laundered through American financial institutions and used to enrich a few officials and their associates”[10] — are referred to in no fewer than 193 paragraphs in the document.

Further, it has been reported that 1MDB is being investigated for alleged financial irregularities and possible money laundering in at least nine countries: Australia, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America.[11]  It is significant that immediately after the DOJ announced its action, Singaporean authorities declared that they have seized bank accounts and properties amounting to S$240 million in total, as a result of their own investigations into the flows of 1MDB-related funds through Singapore, which began in March 2015 and are still in progress.[12]

There are parties who have stated that 1MDB has not suffered any losses but only “has debts”.[13]  This is a perverse and unsustainable position, given that the PAC report reportedly named members of 1MDB’s senior management that it said should face a criminal investigation,[14]  and that five of the twelve members of the PAC have reportedly stated that the PAC’s report shows that a total of US$7 billion have flowed out from 1MDB and were unaccounted for.[15]

Several individuals have been specifically named in the DOJ’s court document, but not the Prime Minister.  However, this is not to say that he cannot be identified from the descriptive statements contained in the court document.[16]  The conclusion — based on any clear reading of those descriptive statements — that the person named as “MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1” in the court document is the Prime Minister appears irresistible.

The court document contains many other troubling disclosures.  It is alleged that in March 2013, USD681 million was transferred to a bank account belonging to “MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1”,[17] and that this sum emanated from a 1MDB bond sale.  This allegation contradicts statements by our authorities that the funds were a “personal donation” to the Prime Minister from the Saudi royal family, given to him without any consideration.[18]

In addition, the court document also alleges that USD20 million and a further USD30 million traceable to 1MDB funds, were transferred to the same personal bank account owned by “MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1” in 2011 and 2012, respectively.[19]  It would appear that the transfer of these funds had not been previously uncovered or disclosed by any of our enforcement agencies.  These allegations therefore expose deficiencies and flaws in the investigations that have been conducted so far in Malaysia, and a lack of transparency regarding the findings that such investigations have yielded.

While the DOJ’s proceedings and any other possible related proceedings in the United States of America must be allowed to take their course and not be prejudged, a fresh and comprehensive investigation of all persons directly or indirectly implicated in the allegations made by the DOJ must be pursued.  These allegations must not be ignored or permitted to be swept under the carpet, as that would only fuel the already existing perception of a cover-up.  In this regard, the recent statement by the PAC, in the wake of the DOJ proceedings, that any further investigation into 1MDB is unnecessary, is deeply disconcerting.

There is a palpable need for greater fervour, transparency and accountability in the investigation by our enforcement authorities, and for appropriate and concrete action to be taken against all wrongdoers, without delay.  The truth must be revealed and justice must be done.                                                                                 

[1] Civil suit document filed by the United States Department of Justice dated 20 July 2016 (“DOJ civil suit”).

[2] DOJ civil suit, para 5.

[3] Press statement by the United States Department of Justice entitled “United States Seeks to Recover More Than $1 Billion Obtained from Corruption Involving Malaysian Sovereign Wealth Fund” dated 20 July 2016 (“DOJ press statement”).

[4] DOJ civil suit, para 33.

[6] Section 41 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, and Sections 44, 45, 50, 51 and 52 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

[7] Sections 44, 45, 50, 51 and 52 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.  Sections 44 and 53 also deal with the freezing and seizure of assets located outside Malaysia.

[8] Press statement issued by the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission entitled “SPRM Bekerjasama Dengan FBI” dated 22 July 2016.

[9] Press statement by the Attorney General of Malaysia Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Haji Mohamed Apandi Bin Haji Ali entitled “US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FILING OF CIVIL ACTION” dated 21 July 2016.

[12] Joint statement by the Attorney-General’s Chambers of Singapore, Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force and the Monetary Authority of Singapore entitled “Investigations into 1MDB-Related Fund Flows through Singapore” dated 21 July 2016.

[13] “Don’t be blindsided by 1MDB: Najib”, New Straits Times Online, 9 August 2015.

[14] “Malaysia’s Probe Into 1MDB Fund Was Flawed”, Wall Street Journal, 26 May 2016.

[15] “PAC members: We never said no wrongdoing, cash went missing”, MalaysiaKini, 12 April 2016.

[16] (a) DOJ civil suit, para 28: “MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1 is a high-ranking official in the Malaysian government who also held a position of authority with 1MDB. During all times relevant to the Complaint, MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1 was a “public official” as that term is used in 18 U.S.C. § 1956(c)(7)(B)(iv) and a “public servant” as that term is used in Section 21 of the Malaysian Penal Code.”
(b) DOJ civil suit, para 129: “[RIZA SHAHRIZ BIN ABDUL] AZIZ is a relative of MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1 and a friend of LOW [TAEK JHO].”
(c) DOJ civil suit, para 39: “Upon its formation, MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1 assumed a position of authority with 1MDB. MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1 had the authority to approve all appointments to, and removals from, 1MDB’s Board of Directors and 1MDB’s Senior Management Team. In addition, any financial commitments by 1MDB, including investments, that were likely to affect a guarantee given by the government of Malaysia for the benefit of 1MDB or any policy of the Malaysian government, required, the approval of MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1.”
(d) DOJ civil suit, para 238: “The Government of Malaysia provided a “Letter of Support,” dated March 14, 2013, in connection with the Project Catalyze transaction… the letter is signed by MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1.”, read together with “A 1MDB default would test limits of Najib’s support: Gadfly”, StockHut, 19 April 2016.
(e) DOJ civil suit, para 263: “… a press release issued on January 26, 2016, the Malaysian Attorney General confirmed that, “the sum of USD681 million (RM2.08 billion) [was] transferred into the personal account of [MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1] between 22.03.2013 and 10.04.2013,” and that, “ In August 2013, a sum of USD620 million (RM2.03 billion) was returned by [MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1]. . . .” The Malaysian Attorney General ultimately characterized the payment of $681 million as a “personal donation to [MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1] from the Saudi royal family which was given to him without any consideration.”

[17] DOJ civil suit, para 229:  “…between approximately March 21, 2013, and March 25, 2013, $681,000,000 was transferred from the Tanore Account to an account belonging to MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1.”

[18] Press statement by the Attorney General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Haji Mohamed Apandi bin Haji Ali entitled “IN RELATION TO THE INVESTIGATION PAPERS RETURNED BY MACC ON SRC INTERNATIONAL AND “RM2.6 BILLION” dated 26 March 2016.

[19] DOJ civil suit, para 261.

Jazz at The Riverside, Phnom Penh

August 7, 2016

Jazz at The Riverside, Phnom Penh

The weekend is almost over. But there is still time to relax with Tenor Saxophonist Stan Getz and Guitarist, Charlie Byrd. It is, in fact, not strictly over. At the Riverside, in the area near The Foreign Correspondents Club by the Tonle Sap, nocturnal activity is about to begin. May you all enjoy Brazillian Jazz samba by the two outstanding exponents  of the Bossa Nova.

Let us note that in another place in some distant city, Rio de Jenario, Brazil, in another time zone, the 2016 Olympic Games is being held. Our Brazilian friends are to be congratulated by defying the odds to stage the Games amid difficult economic and trying political times in their country. From all counts, despite controversies over the doping scandal involving the Russian Olympic contingent  the Games  promises to be a great success.

Image result for Brazilian samba

Dr. Kamisah and Din Merican wish to pay tribute to Brazil  and the Brazilians for their strength of character, resolve, and resilience in ensuring that the spectacle of 2016 is happening in Rio de Jenario this summer. You did not disappoint the world. In stead you showed the world that  you as a people have the capacity and the political will to honour your commitments to the Olympic movement by staging the Games.--Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

No political leadership in failing ASEAN

August 4, 2016

 No political leadership in failing ASEAN

by Dr. Munir Majid

The Transformation of Munir Majid: From  an ASEAN Activist to an ASEAN Skeptic

ASEAN is failing. It is not working in the way grand declarations and pronouncement of community just last year proclaim it would. Yet, in a pattern of self-deception which has become a regional characteristic, ASEAN – and its intellectual apologists – continue to deny what is plain for all to see.

If not before it is piece of fiction now to speak of ASEAN centrality. This was again proclaimed when the ASEAN Political and Security Community was pronounced last November. ASEAN Foreign Ministers even agreed in September on a “work plan” to strengthen this.

But, however ASEAN muddles through with a definition on what this centrality means, it is gone.Surely, the first and foremost thing about ASEAN centrality must be that it is central to its member states. Is it? Certainly not in respect of how to project and defend an ASEAN position on the South China Sea.

Some have described ASEAN as toothless in this regard. This is unfair. You cannot expect ASEAN to bite or even bark at mighty China. However you would expect ASEAN to stand up for its principles and sovereign rights of states, big or small. Therefore ASEAN should more appropriately be described as spineless.

This did not use to be the case. When ASEAN declared ZOPFAN (Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality) in 1971, through the leadership of Malaysia’s Tun Razak among others, it was in no position to defend it in a very hot phase – the Vietnam War was raging – of the Cold War. Nevertheless it drew a line in a joint commitment to establish a cordon sanitaire.

When ASEAN so creatively promulgated the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in 1976 – with leaders such as Indonesia’s Suharto and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew at the fore – it was in actuality the origin of ASEAN centrality: when states from outside the region want to come and treat with ASEAN, they had to accede to the TAC, one of whose main tenets was the legal undertaking to resolve disputes peacefully.

Thus it was that China acceded to the TAC in 2003 and the US in 2009. It is interesting to note that in the joint communique in Vientiane last weekend, where ASEAN Foreign Ministers struggled to forge a weak consensus, there was allusion to the TAC – as if, whistling in the dark, ASEAN wanted to remind its outside partners, especially in relation to the South China Sea, of their commitment to the peaceful conduct of states.

If there was some agreement in Vientiane not to make big the arbitration award on the law of the sea which so infuriates China, to lower the temperature in a situation that was spinning out of control, to engage in bilateral negotiations with China among the claimant states, but also to return to the Declaration of Conduct of Parties (2002) framework which will be fulfilled by a legally binding Code of Conduct, it is actually a good thing.

But where is the leadership in ASEAN to pursue the matter with the commitment that is needed? Leaders and ministers meet and then they go back to domestic concerns. Who follows through?

Certainly not the weak secretariat. Who provides the leadership in ASEAN today of the type which saw its establishment of Asean 50 years ago, of the panache and imagination of Tun Razak, Lee Kuan Yew and Suharto, to name just a few of the luminaries of ASEAN days gone by?

This lack of leadership is the reason why ASEAN is failing today. Asean has been happily organising meetings, with rotating chairs, among its members, with its partners (the so-called Asean Plus countries), at the Asean Regional Forum (established in 1994, now with 27 members) and the East Asia Summit (set up in 2005, now with 18 members), where they all come and attest to Asean centrality. Which Asean believes while they do their own thing.

After the hoopla and the linking of arms, there is poor follow up and follow through, except for the organising of more meetings. All too often you hear the assertion: ASEAN will do this and that, will take on the challenge of one thing or the other. Who? Which ASEAN? Doing what exactly?

There is no doubt there are big problems in the region. The biggest is the new regional geopolitics in South-East Asia informed by strategic contest for influence in the region between China and the US.

Weighty academic conclusions have been reached such as South-East Asia has become “the decisive territory, on the future of which hangs the outcome of a great contest for influence in Asia.”

ASEAN – here we go again, ASEAN as one when there is not any – is not able to contend with this new geopolitical reality. There is now an environment in the region out of the control of ASEAN’s institutional capabilities, such as they are. Another comment by a regional expert: “ASEAN suffers from inherent institutional paralysis.”

However, the situation was not any easier at the height of the Cold War at the time ASEAN was established, when the Vietnam war was raging, later when the genocidal Pol Pot regime reigned in Cambodia, which was then invaded, the war between China and Vietnam in 1979 – one thing after another – but ASEAN held together and fashioned a regional order even if it did not exclusively determine its remit.

There was leadership in ASEAN to make it possible to talk about an ASEAN position. Nowadays even the simplest of things take forever to happen.

The leaders talk grandly about a “People-Centric”. Yet they cannot even make sure there are ASEAN lanes at all ASEAN airports and points of entry.