University of Malaya: Time to Honour Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram


July 4, 2018

University of Malaya: Time to Honour Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram

I am reminding my alma mater, University of Malaya to address this Injustice to Dr. Jomo, who is a member of New Malaysia’s Eminent Persons Group led by Tun Daim Zainuddin . I  know that he genuinely deserves this honour. My reasons are given in an article I wrote a number of years ago (July 4, 2010):

University of Malaya Emeritus Professorship for Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram

by Din Merican*

With the next commencement or convocation of the University of Malaya fast approaching, some time in August, 2010, I have been thinking about names of distinguished Malaysian Professors who should be honored by my alma mater for their solid research and teaching achievements while at the University.


In recent years, I note the University of Malaya has been awarding Emeritus Professorships to its former Professors for their outstanding work. This is a very important development in the University’s history. A professor and scholar never retires and like a great military general, he just fades away, but not with making contributions and sharing his knowledge and experience through his writings, consulting and advisory work, and occasional public lectures.

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Even in retirement, a professor is remembered by his students and those who have benefited from his generous guidance and wise counsel. In this regard, I can think of Professor Syed Hussein Al-Atas, Professor Wang Gungwu, Royal Professor Ungku A. Aziz, Professor Mokhzani Rahim, and Professor Zainal Abidin bin Wahid because they had a huge impact on my education and outlook.

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I can say the same of my Business School academic advisor and intellectual mentor, the late Emeritus Professor Dr. Philip Donald Grub at the George Washington School of Business, The George Washington University, Washington DC.

A number of my friends like Professor Dr. Mohamed Ariff (formerly Executive Director, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research) and History Professor Khoo Kay Kim have received due recognition by the University for their contributions to our country and for their work in the University. Missing from this honour list is the name of Professor Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram (popularly known as Jomo in academic and social circles). If there is anyone deserving of this honour and recognition, it has to be in my humble opinion  has to be Jomo.

I first knew this outstanding yet humble academic through his book, A Question of Class: Capital, the State, and Uneven Development in Malaya. ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) and have interacted with him during my short attachment (2000-2001) at the Asia-Europe Institute at the University. This book is today regarded as a classic on Malaysian political economy. It has been widely reviewed by his peers and critics alike. His writings left a deep impression on me. I am sure during his career at the University of Malaya, Jomo touched the hearts and minds of colleagues and students, who were privileged to know him at close range.

From Academia to the United Nations

Jomo has been Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development in the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) since January 2005. He was Professor in the Applied Economics Department, Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya until November 2004, and was on the Board of the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva (2002-4). He is Founder Chair of IDEAs, International Development Economics Associates (www.ideaswebsite.org).

Academic Background

Born in Penang, Malaysia, in 1952, Jomo studied at the Penang Free School (PFS, 1964-6), Royal Military College (RMC, 1967-70), Yale (1970-3) and Harvard (1973-7). He has taught at Science University of Malaysia (USM, 1974), Harvard (1974-5), Yale (1977), National University of Malaysia (UKM, 1977-82), University of Malaya (since 1982), and Cornell (1993). Jomo has also been a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University (1987-8; 1991-2) and was Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (2004).

Articles, Monographs and Publications

He has authored over 35 monographs, edited over 50 books and translated 11 volumes besides writing many academic papers and articles for the media. He is on the editorial boards of several learned journals. His book publications include Malaysia’s Political Economy (with E. T. Gomez), Tigers in Trouble, Rents, Rent-Seeking and Economic Development: Theory and the Asian Evidence (with Mushtaq Khan), Malaysian Eclipse: Economic Crisis and Recovery, Globalization Versus Development: Heterodox Perspectives, Southeast Asia’s Industrialization, Ugly Malaysians? South-South Investments Abused, Southeast Asian Paper Tigers? Behind Miracle and Debacle, Manufacturing Competitiveness: How Internationally Competitive National Firms And Industries Developed In East Asia, Ethnic Business? Chinese Capitalism in Southeast Asia (with Brian Folk), Deforesting Malaysia: The Political Economy of Agricultural Expansion and Commercial Logging (with YT Chang and KJ Khoo), M Way: Mahathir’s Economic Policy Legacy and After The Storm: Crisis, Recovery and Sustaining Development in East Asia.

Other and more recent books include Bail-Outs? Capital Controls, Restructuring & Recovery in Malaysia. (with Wong Sook Ching and Chin Kok Fay), Industrial Policy in Malaysia: The Chequered Record of Selective Investment Promotion, Labour Market Segmentation In Malaysian Services (with H. L. Khong), Law and the Malaysian Economy (with others), Globalization Under Hegemony: The Changing World Economy During The Long Twentieth Century, The Great Divergence: Hegemony, Uneven Development and Global Inequality during the Long Twentieth Century, The New Development Economics (with Ben Fine), The Origins of Development Economics (with Erik Reinert) and Pioneers of Development Economics.

I hope that the Minister of Higher Education, the University Senate and Council ,and the Vice Chancellor will deem it timely and deserving that this outstanding Malaysian should be granted the status of Emeritus Professor. Although he has been critical of government policies and is often invited to speak by the Opposition and civil society group on Malaysian political economy, most recently in Parliament when he spoke on the 10th Malaysian Plan, his views have always been contrarian, yet constructive and useful as we seek to formulate new policies which are intended to transform Malaysia into a high income economy by 2020.

Let us honour this outstanding academic and the University of Malaya should recognise his contributions to research and teaching for more than 2 decades. No obtacles should stand in the way of honouring Jomo for his stellar contributions to research and teaching. Even his detractors should concede that Jomo is outstanding and deserves recognition.

*Din Merican graduated from the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur in 1963 and did postgraduate studies in Business at George Washington School of Business, The George Washington University, Washington DC. He is Professor of International Relations, Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh since 2014.

Mr Holland’s Opus–Starring Richard Dreyfuss –An Inspirational Movie


June 7, 2018

Mr Holland’s Opus–Starring Richard Dreyfuss

Comment:

 

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My Friend, Ambassador John Malott (pic above) is passionate about Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia after retiring from a distinguished career as a diplomat with the State Department.

In my long distance conversation over to the Internet with my dear friend Ambassador John Malott in Alexandria, Virginia  today, we got into a discussion about what we would do with the remainder of  our years before we fade, hopefully gracefully, into the sunset. John is 71 and I am 79. I told him that I wanted to realise  my childhood dream of being a teacher. After a career in Malaysia’s Foreign Service, Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank) and the private sector since 1963, here I am in 2018 not as an ordinary school teacher, but as an academic and researcher at The University of Cambodia (UC).

It is without a doubt one of the best decisions I ever made, and that is to be in the company of some of the young and brightest students in Cambodia. Over the last 5 years in Phnom Penh, I am a student again,thanks to Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, UC President, because education is a two way process. I am able to share my life experiences with my students and also learn new skills, share books, exchange ideas with them, and reinvigorate myself. I am lucky, I guess.

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I am grateful for the opportunity to lead an enriching life of service at  UC, and learn from my students about their rich culture, music, history and moral philosophy.  Mr.  Holland’s Opus is a touching movie  about the trials and tribulations of a music teacher who was concerned  about his legacy.

I too am concerned about my legacy. My American buddy John told me that I should not worry as I have found my calling and passion; and my legacy will be that of a teacher who cares about educating and developing  the mind. So here I am a happy and simple man.

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My liberal  business education at The George Washington University was demanding, challenging and morally transformational.  Terima kasih (Thanks) GWU for  Your Care.

Thanks, John, for your friendship. Thank you America and Americans for the quality education at The George Washington University. May God Bless you, my late Professor, academic advisor and intellectual mentor, Dr. Philip Donald Grub, for showing me the way.–Din Merican

Kassim Ahmad: An Iconoclast


October 14, 2017

Kassim Ahmad: An Iconoclast

 

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Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad was a courageous and brave thinker and his passing on October 10, 2017 is a loss for the nation, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said. Dr Mahathir said he was very sad that his 84-year-old “friend” Kassim had passed away this morning in the Kulim hospital in Kedah. “We lost a brave figure who held on to the principle of his struggle no matter what happened to him,” he said in a statement posted on his blog.–Dr. Mahathir on the Passing of Dr. Kassim Ahmad

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Much of the encomia for Kassim Ahmad, who died at the age of 84 in Kulim yesterday, spoke of his courage in the face of repression of his beliefs.

Kassim exemplified Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage as grace under pressure. He was serene in facing the waves of hostile reaction to his beliefs – save in one instance.

This was when he blamed Anwar Ibrahim for forestalling the evolution of a debate he wanted with critics of his book, “Hadis: Satu Penilaian Semula” (Hadith: A Re-evaluation).

Kassim had wanted the book, which was banned shortly after its publication in 1986, to evoke a debate on the arguments he had adduced for making the Quran – and not the Hadith – as the principal source of Islamic faith and jurisprudence.

The conventional view was that the sources of Islamic jurisprudence were the Quran, Hadith and the general consensus of Islamic scholars. Kassim had argued that the Hadith contradicting the Quran could not be relied upon as a source of Islamic jurisprudence.

 

 

He fingered Anwar (photo), then a Cabinet Minister, as having played the main role behind the scenes to stop any debate on the book from taking place, specifically a debate with the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (ABIM). The debate didn’t go ahead. Kassim, ever willing to debate his disputants, blamed Anwar for this.

Anwar was then seen as the go-to Islamist in government, having been ABIM leader from the early 1970s, before mutating from government critic to collaborator in the drive that begun under then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1982 to inject Islam into the administration and governance of the country.

From the perspective of the years gone by, this move is now seen as having paved the way for the weakening of the secular underpinnings of the 1957 Constitution inaugurating the country’s birth – thus opening the way to what many feared would be the eventual Islamisation of the country, which would have been a travesty of what the country’s founders envisaged.

Kassim would remain scurrilous and vituperative on Anwar’s alleged role in foreclosing debate on the banned book.

‘Amenable, amicable and kind’

The venomous streak that was much in evidence whenever Anwar’s name or fate came up in conversations between Kassim and friends who came a-visiting seemed uncharacteristic of the man who was otherwise amenable, amicable and kind.

From the time he graduated from the University of Malaya in Singapore in the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, when he called for a reevaluation of the hadith, Kassim distinguished himself as a thinker who was wont to go against the convention.

 

He had espoused the merits of Hang Jebat as the authentic Malay hero, in contradistinction to Hang Tuah as the archetype, in Malay intellectual discourse in the early 1960s.

He introduced “scientific socialism” to Parti Rakyat Malaysia in the mid-1960s when he took over its reins from founder Ahmad Boestamam, and changed the party’s name to Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia, in conformity with the Marxist view that their ideology was irrefutable science.

Even when he began to abandon scientific socialism for an Islamic worldview while under ISA detention between 1976 and 1981, it was towards “Teori Sosial Moden Islam” (Modern Islamic Social Theory), the name of the treatise he would pen after being freed, and not towards anything nebulous.

Kassim’s was an intellect who craved certainty for its beliefs, where such certainty is elusive. That was probably why he took an oppositional view of the Hadith, with some of its origins in the mists of times long ago.

Whether it was jousting with national literary laureate Shahnon Ahmad on the role of art and literature in Islamic discourse, or with Islamists on the reliability of the Hadith, Kassim evinced the air of the scientific rationalist.

He had the iconoclast’s penchant for challenging orthodoxies, but this yen came with the ideologue’s weakness for certainties.

The French writer Honoré de Balzac knew the type when he observed that “It’s not sufficient to be a man; one must be a system.”

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/397983#Zu1Yr8RvHWv8cqG0.99

Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name


February 26, 2017

Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

In deciding to investigate an allegation of racism against one of its associate professors, Universiti Malaya gives itself an opportunity to prove to the Malaysian public that it upholds a high standard of decency.

We await the findings of the five-member investigation panel and the university’s follow-up action. However, one wonders whether Universiti Malaya would have bothered to look into the matter if it hadn’t received a directive from the Education Ministry. Indeed, it did not have to wait for the directive. It should have maintained an alertness to issues that might affect its reputation and it should act speedily.

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The allegation came in a Facebook posting by a student. The article, titled “Voice of an Indian student”, has gone viral.

The student said the lecturer, in reprimanding her and another student, dispensed with the courtesy of calling them by their names and instead called them “India”.

Here, in brief, is the story according to the Facebook posting:

The lecturer said, “India, I don’t like Indians sitting together.” After making a disparaging remark about a private university, she added: “When Indians sit together, they will plagiarise and copy one another’s assignments. I recognise Indian traits.”

The abuse continued. She pointed to the student and her friend and told them to sit separately, saying, “I will ensure that the two of you will not be in the same group for your assignment. I know what Indians are like.”

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This Ikan Bakar Man–Jamal Yunus– is a racist. Najib and UMNO support him and so Najib is a racist and UMNO is a racist political party. Q.E.D.

Then she insulted the other Indian students in the class. She made no excuses for her behaviour and said she did not mind if no one promoted Universiti Malaya because she preferred to teach smaller classes.

So, is this what you learn in a top Malaysian university – racism, intolerance, rudeness, insensitivity? When asked for his reaction, one postgraduate student said, “Academicians in Malaysian public universities should uphold a high standard of ethics. Making stereotypical racist comments against students is very unbecoming and reflects badly on the university and the degrees it confers.”

The student who wrote the complaint has demanded an apology from the lecturer.

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The Fun Loving but Insecure Malays

An apology to the direct victims of the insult is not enough, if the lecturer is indeed guilty. She should apologise to the public and the apology should be published in all the mainstream papers. And Universiti Malaya must sack her.

Academic Freedom and The University


December 21, 2016

Academic Freedom and The University

by Teoh King Men@www,freemalaysiatoday.com

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”–George Washington

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Historically, our academic freedom had its origins in the 1960s, cherished and upheld by the Universiti Malaya Student Union (UMSU) and the Persekutuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Malaya (PBMUM). Led by Anwar Ibrahim, these movements were instrumental in getting then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to step down. It also implicated the police force, who invaded Universiti Malaya and subsequently disrupted the protests against the erstwhile PM.

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We forget that it is this man as Prime Minister for 22 years+who was  the slayer of academic freedom when he was Minister of Education in the 1970s.–Din Merican

Likewise, in 1979, a large-scale demonstration by students in solidarity with poor farmers in Baling, Kedah, faced similar consequences. Hishamuddin Rais, a student activist, was forced to flee the country as the Malaysian government went out of its way to arrest the demonstrators.

As these two brief recollections of past events have shown, students of past decades were broadly active in raising awareness on issues of great concern to both public and private interests – issues both political and personal, national and local.

Turning to the present, it should then come as no surprise that in light of the country’s recent 1Malaysia Development Berhad and public finance scandals, the freedom to protest has once more been trampled upon. Universiti Malaya student Anis Syafiqah Md Yusof and two other student activists were recently suspended for a semester and slapped with a RM400 fine for their involvement in the “Tangkap MO1” (MO1) rally.

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It must be emphasised that students play an integral part in the exchange of ideas and truth in our society, and therefore, should be permitted a platform on which to speak up on pressing issues, such as on corruption, governmental irresponsibility and betrayal of public trust.

 After the Malaysian Federal Constitution came into force in August 1957, we were granted the right to freedom of speech, assembly and association, protected under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution – or rather, that is what the authorities would like us to believe. The rights of students, and indeed of everyone and anyone, to say what they think and to protest is pivotal to our democracy and the prevention of state tyranny.

Freedom of speech has no limits, and should always be respected. There is a clear distinction to be made between free speech and incitement to violence. The government, however, has been attempting to label any form of political dissent or criticism as incitement to violence. I quote George Washington: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Free speech was the predominant mechanism that granted the Malays their United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – which was inaugurated on May 11, 1946 in Johor Bahru – and the emergence of Datuk Onn Jaafar as its first President. UMNO obtained support from all strata of Malay society in opposing the Malayan Union – the aristocrats, the radical Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (Malay Nationalist Party or MNP), Islamic groups, civil servants, rural leaders like the penghulu (village heads), and even the Police and ex-service personnel.

“Freedom of speech is the great bulwark of liberty; they prosper and die together: And it is the terror of traitors and oppressors, and a barrier against them. It produces excellent writers, and encourages men of fine genius.” – Benjamin Franklin

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It is thus a matter of utmost importance that we do not stifle debate among students in the academic community. The reason being, this country is abundant in financial capital but lacking in intellectual capital – the solution to corruption is not more corruption, nor the remedy to state tyranny being more tyranny, but it is the need for intellectual honesty and expression.

Above all, the University was once a highly held institution for the free expression of ideas. And protests and rallies are inevitably part of such milieu. Academic freedom should be respected in the University in order for the students to think critically and voice up against the issues that concern them. Let us never lose sight of this, and preserve our rights.

Teoh King Men is an FMT reader.

Looking Back in Time: Malaysia’s Lying Attorney-General cum Cover-Up Artiste


September 25, 2015

Looking Back in Time: Malaysia’s Lying Attorney-General cum Cover-Up Artiste

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Opinion: The Lies of Malaysia’s Attorney General

The Crony Attorney-General Appandi Ali

When a Malaysian Deputy Prosecutor named Kevin Morais disappeared on September 4 last year after leaving his condominium in Kuala Lumpur on his way to work, the rumor spread that the 55-year-old Morais, who was gay, probably had tired of his job with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and had left with his lover, probably for London. And, newly-minted Attorney- General Mohamed Apandi Ali said, Morais had nothing to do with the controversial MACC probe into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s tangled financial affairs.

It is widely believed that that probe got former Attorney- General Abdul Gani Patail fired from his job in July, to be replaced by Apandi Ali, a UMNO stooge and loyalist who served in a variety of different capacities, including as the judge who ruled that Christians couldn’t use the word “Allah” to describe god.

That has been put to the lie as well. Morais’s brother in Atlanta, Ga. in the US turned up in Kuala Lumpur to issue a statement saying Morais was not only working on the Najib case, but he was either leading or co-leading the prosecution, and that he had sent him a USB drive containing information on the case. That has been corroborated by other sources in Kuala Lumpur.

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Clare Rewcastle Brown–Relentless in Pursuit of 1MDB Scandal

It has since become clear that Morais in addition was one of the sources of deeply detailed information on Najib’s finances that was being fed to Clare Rewcastle Brown, the editor and writer of Sarawak Report. So rather than being killed for revenge by an angry army doctor, it appears that he was killed for being a whistleblower.

 

A lot on his muddled head–Too many lies

 

What nobody expected was that Morais would turn up. The rumor about his disappearance was put to the lie when a CCTV camera, by chance, caught Morais’ car being rammed on a Kuala Lumpur street and him being dragged from it. Morais was later found in an oil drum filled with cement in a river in Subang Jaya, a Kuala Lumpur suburb. His burned car was found in a palm oil plantation in Perak. The Police said it was an open and shut case. Morais had been killed by confederates of an army doctor in revenge for prosecuting a case against him.

So why was Apandi Ali, the country’s chief law enforcement officer, lying about Kevin Morais’s activities? Why was the lie spread that he had left town with a homosexual lover? Why did the Attorney-General’s office say Morais had nothing to do with the Najib case?

Apandi Ali has now denounced a story by Sarawak Report – and a similar Asia Sentinel story quoting Sarawak Report –that the MACC had forwarded 37 criminal charges against Najib for prosecution. He has said he sent the case back to the MACC for further work. Is Apandi also lying about that as well?  Given the clear lies about Morais, who does the reader want to believe? Mohamad Apandi Ali or Asia Sentinel and Sarawak Report

Apandi Ali says he has sent the report back to the MACC for revision. He retires officially in three weeks, meaning he wants to pass the hot potato to his successor, expected to be another UMNO lawyer, Mohamad Shafie Abdullah.(This never happened. Apparently, he is still useful to Prime Minister Najib Razak.)

The story has earned a ban for Asia Sentinel in Malaysia from the Communications Ministry, which has issued a notice saying “This website is not available in Malaysia because it violates the national laws.” The ban has holes in it, but, say sources in Kuala Lumpur, it is likely to tighten.

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Hussain Najadi–Founder AM Bank

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Pascal Najadi seeks Justice for his father

It seems more likely that it is the Malaysian government that violates the national laws, not only in the case involving Kevin Morais but in a long list of other cases. For a second one, try the murder of Hussain Najadi, the retired founder of AMBank Malaysia, who was gunned down in a parking lot in 2013. Although law enforcement officials said he was shot in a dispute over a Hindu temple property matter, Hussain’s son Pascal has charged that his father was assassinated because he said he wouldn’t play along with financial irregularities involving the United Malays National Organization prior to his death, refusing to orchestrate a multi-billion ringgit property deal connected to the Kuala Lumpur City Center. On one occasion, he told his son that Prime Minister Najib Razak was “lining his pockets with billions of ringgit with no consideration for the future of the country.”

A gunman was almost immediately arrested. The property dispute story was widely accepted by everybody but Pascal Najadi. The supposed mastermind, one Lim Yuen Soo, went on the run for two years. But Lim, a Melaka gangster and nightclub owner, appeared to be hiding in plain sight. In fact, he was part owner of the Active Force Security Services Sdn Bhd. with the former Malacca Police Chief Mohd Khasni Mohd Nor.

When Police caught up with Lim at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, arresting him on an Interpol warrant, they held him incognito for eight days before they turned him loose for “lack of evidence.” But that story raised more questions than it answered. If he could be turned loose for lack of evidence, why wasn’t the original case reopened to find out who had actually paid the gunman to kill Hussain?

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As to the probe of Najib’s finances, it is clear from what has emerged in Sarawak Report that he may be a cheap crook as well as a thief of titanic proportions, given the huge amounts of money that apparently have been siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the troubled state-backed investment fund.  The MACC, in its probe, found him to be using credit cards from SRC International, a Middle Eastern company supposedly involved in oil exploration that was funded by 1MDB. Najib ran up bills of RM449,000 on an SRC Visa card and another RM2.8 million on an SRC MasterCard in August 2014. That in effect was public money, spent on hotels, meals, jewelry, and other personal items in Italy and Monaco. 

He is already believed to have taken millions in kickbacks on defense contracts and purchases during his years as Defense Minister, particularly on the purchase of two French submarines as well as purchase of Sukhoi jet fighters at vastly inflated costs and other contracts. Yet, despite the tens of millions stolen, he still had to use credit cards from a publicly owned company to fund his wife’s vast needs for jewelry and handbags.
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It was Najib’s years as Defense Minister that ended up in the 2006 death of the Mongolian translator and party girl, Altantuya Shaariibuu, at the hands of two of Najib’s bodyguards. It has long been assumed that Altantuya was attempting to blackmail Najib’s close friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, over what she knew about the purchase of those submarines.

So in the long run, who do you believe about the deaths of Kevin Morais and Hussain Najadi and Altantuya Shaariibuu, and the subsequent statements by Mohamad Apandi Ali over the MACC probe?  The Malaysian government? Or Sarawak Report and Asia Sentinel, both of which are now banned in Malaysia? Neither publication is likely to stop investigating them.