Archive for March 2015

Umno, the devil’s advocate in pushing for hudud

March 27, 2015

The passing of amendment to the Syariah criminal code 11 1993 in Kelantan is uncalled for at a time when Malaysia is inundated with serious economic and financial debacles and dilemmas. The 42 billion 1MDB loan, weakening of ringgit, high cash outflow, the 16 years continuous budget deficit, rising prices and wages stagnation, rising extremism and fundamentalism supporting ISIL to name a few. While the whole nation is grappling and coming to term with these issues PAS has unilaterally created another constitutional crisis by passing this punitive and primitive law. Datuk Nazri Aziz the tourism minister said that only stupid people will talk about hudud law in Malaysia.

PAS claims that they have tabled and passed the bill democratically but this bill removes all democratic rights of both Muslims and non-Muslims. The peer pressure within Malay/Muslim community silences people from voicing out their opposition against hudud. Even those few who honestly voice out like the satirical artist of BFM are threatened with murder and rape. PAS Ulamas and UMNO supporters of hudud did not speak against these threats. They seem to accept and tolerate rape and murder threat but cannot accept an honest opinion of this punitive and primitive Shariah law. PAS Ulama’s narrow interpretation of punitive laws is reducing the status and dignity of Shariah laws.

Obviously UMNO is playing the devil’s advocate to push hudud as a legislation to deliberately break the unified opposition. UMNO should not spite the opposition to hurt the country and itself. UMNO creates a national crisis whenever it is confronted with serious scandals and internal strife. Operasi lalang and even UMNO Baru were staged and hosted to avert and divert serious challenges to UMNO leadership. UMNO has shrewdly coaxed PAS Ulama faction to table the hudud bill to divert public attention from 1MDB, GST and rising prices.

PAS Ulama faction and UMNO have failed to reckon the sprinkling support emerging for IS militants and growing fundamentalism. Malaysia don’t need more religious laws that will encourage extremism.

The moderate group’s growth and acceptance within PAS makes Ulamas vulnerable and not confident of themselves. They lean on UMNO to gain support and financial aid and this lethal partnership is destroying what our founding fathers painstakingly built. UMNO’s support for the Syariah criminal code 11 1993 amendment in the Kelantan state assembly is blatantly clear after 12 of its assemblymen voted for the bill. It will be a flagrant deviation from the stand taken in the so-called global movement for moderation by Prime Minister Najib.

UMNO support to Hudud bill clearly violates the 18/20 point agreement with Sarawak and Sabah. The first point says that while there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia, there should be no State religion in North Borneo, and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to North Borneo. Therefore this Hudud bill is not applicable in multiracial Malaysia.

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PAS good at scoring own goals.

March 21, 2015

UMNO must be relieved at the turn of focus from 1MDB to now Hudud amendment in Kelantan. PAS without Tok Guru Nik Aziz has lost its focus and falling into UMNO trap. The Islamist party had won both Terengganu and Kedah in the past but then lost both due to its fanatical focus on religious matters and not bread and butter issues. Both the states were lost to Umno, and yet the Ulama faction in Pas finds it is somehow kosher being chummy with Umno, its former arch enemy, rather than being faithful to its Pakatan Rakyat allies. And Umno is skillfully and successfully enticing Pas into the hudud trap that will eventually help it wrest Kelantan from Pas.

Kelantanese revered Tok Guru and voted him in as Menteri Besar. But Pas has lost a spiritual and moral leader and runs the high possibility of losing the state in GE14. Umno has been subtly nudging Pas to amend the Kelantan Syariah Code 11 1993, knowing very well that it will not go down well with the people of Kelantan who are just recovering from the worst flood ever. It is unfortunate that the Ulama faction in Pas has wool pulled over its eyes and cannot seem to distinguish between friend and foe.

A recent Merdeka Center survey shows 81% of Malay/Muslim respondents across Peninsula Malaysia felt that the Kelantan state government should prioritise repairs and reconstruction of homes damaged during the devastating floods rather than concentrate its efforts on passing a bill to amend its 1993 hudud enactment. A similar survey conducted in April 2014 revealed that a majority (58%) of Malay respondents thought that the country is not ready for hudud implementation. But the Pas political leadership is not listening.

Another recent survey shows that 67.5% of Malays, 91.4% Chinese and 89.2% Indians who polled preferred a party that takes care of all Malaysians and not race-based parties championing their own communities. While Malaysians are moving towards national harmony and unity, Umno and Pas are galloping in the opposite direction for their own political survival.

But these recent developments have opened up space and opportunities for more moderate and people-centric political leadership among Malay/Muslim communities. But, of course, the hardline faction of both Umno and Pas will never allow space for the moderates to flourish. Malay/Muslim communities are being suffocated and suppressed by these religious and racial zealots and bigots. Both Umno and Pas are preventing and building barriers for the community to be competitive and strong to face the challenges of globalisation.

Kelantan remains one of the nation’s poorest states and its agriculture-driven economy has remained largely sluggish. The average monthly family income is one of the country’s lowest at RM3168 in 2012. The large presence of foreign workers are stagnating the wages for working class which is largely Malay/Muslim. Even race based parties are getting outdated but PAS is going back to stone ages of cruel inhuman punishment and suppression. Malaysians have to show them the door out.

 

1Malaysia initiatives finally drowned in debts

March 21, 2015

The 1Malaysia slogan was supposed to be the game changer for PM Datuk Seri Najib when he took office in 2009. Datuk Najib tun Razak came out with 1Malaysia slogan to win back the non-Malays who have deserted UMNO/BN after the 2008 general election when for the first time BN lost their 2/3 majority and 5 states fell to PR. The slogan was launched with much pomp and pride to turn around the electoral fortunes of BN. 1Malaysia campaigns and slogans launched emphasizing the ethnic harmony, unity and improve delivery to the government agencies and civil servants and Umno politicians. Huge funds were injected into the 1Malaysia campaign and transformation initiatives. Public debt which stood at 38% of GDP in 2009 jumped to almost 55% around 2014. But the national unity, public delivery and corruption levels never improved for the better.

From the beginning Umno hardline leaders nurtured and groomed by Mahathir rejected and did not support the 1Malaysian theme of PM Najib. The 1Malaysia intiatives, the transformation programs and people first and performance now initiatives, did not receive the needed support from civil servants and Umno hardliners. Mahathir himself reported saying that he “still doesn’t understand (masih tidak faham)” the concept. Perkasa went to town against PM for introducing the 1Malaysia campaign to unite the country. Datuk Seri Najib was helplessly watching the opposition with Umno, Mahathir, Perkasa and Isma and remained silent without confronting them. 1Malaysia slogan was spoken about and mentioned in all government sponsored programs but its objectives were never achieved. National unity, improvement in deliver system and corruption level never improved and the whole initiative was a failure.

Datuk Seri Najib armed with the 1Malaysia slogan and transformation initiatives programs behind him went into the 13th election in 2013 hoping to wind more non-Malay votes and retain the Malay votes. The non-Malay support did not come back to BN and for the first time BN lost the popular votes. Even though Pakatan secured 52% popular votes but could only win 89 parliament seats out of 222(40%). It’s Obvious that BN won due to gerrymandering and unfair delineation of electoral boundaries. After 2013 elections Datuk Seri Najib dumped 1Malaysia and made moves to win back Malay votes and strengthen his position in Umno. All his efforts failed and to top it Malaysians witness the MH370 disappearance, drop in oil prices and now the 1MDB.

Even though 1Malaysia initiatives did not bring the much needed national unity and harmony, but 1MDB sovereign fund turned out to be swelling pool that might drag down even the BN government. The complex money trails round the globe and the complex wheeling and dealing is simply complicated for even professionals. It’s amazing that a MOF linked company will billions of dollars being handled by personals not in the management using dubious companies and the MOF, PMO, BNM and Security Commission as just watching it happen. Within 5 years since its inception the sovereign fund accumulated 42 billion in debts and still counting.

Assets pasted their expiry dates were purchased with excessive prices and prime lands allotted at nominal prices hoping for high gains on valuations. Excessive loans with high interest rates taken to finance the purchase of overpriced assets finally exposed the unsustainable business model of 1MDB. Billions of dollars transferred out with no questions from BNM to dubious accounts in Cayman Island managed by unknown fund managers from Hong Kong makes 1MDB a thriller story. Malaysians may forget all the other 1Malaysia initiatives but 1MDB will be remembered and quoted as how funds should not be managed. It is sad that a noble initiative turned out to be colossal mistake.

1Malaysia slogan drowned in debts

March 17, 2015

The 1Malaysia slogan was supposed to be the game changer for PM Datuk Seri Najib when he took office in 2009. PM Najib tun Razak came out with 1Malaysia slogan to win back the non-Malays who have deserted UMNO/BN after the 2008 general election when for the first time BN lost their 2/3 majority and 5 states fell to PR. The slogan was launched with much pomp and pride to turn around the electoral fortunes of BN. 1Malaysia campaigns and slogans launched emphasizing the ethnic harmony, unity and improve delivery to the government agencies and civil servants and Umno politicians. Huge funds were injected into the 1Malaysia campaign and transformation initiatives. Public debt which stood at 38% of GDP in 2009 jumped to almost 55% around 2014. But the national unity, public delivery and corruption levels never improved for the better.

From the beginning Umno hardline leaders nurtured and groomed by Mahathir rejected and did not support the 1Malaysian theme of PM Najib. The 1Malaysia, the transformation programs and people first and performance now initiatives, did not receive the needed support from civil servants and Umno hardliners. Mahathir himself reported saying that he “still doesn’t understand (masih tidak faham)” the concept. Perkasa went to town against PM for introducing the 1Malaysia campaign to unite the country. Datuk Seri Najib was helplessly watching the opposition with Umno, Mahathir, Perkasa and Isma and remained silent without confronting them. Non-Malays knew 1Malaysia is a failure and Datuk Seri Najib cannot pull through the campaign to achieve its targeted goals.

Datuk Seri Najib armed with the 1Malaysia slogan and transformation initiatives programs behind him went into the 13th election in 2013 hoping to wind more non-Malay votes and keep the Malay votes. The non-Malay support did not come back to BN and for the first time BN lost the popular votes. Even though Pakatan secured 52% popular votes but could only win 89 parliament seats out of 222(40%). It’s Obvious that BN won due to gerrymandering and unfair delineation of electoral boundaries. After 2013 elections Datuk Seri Najib dumped 1Malaysia and made moves to win back Malay votes and strengthen his position in Umno. All his efforts failed and to top it Malaysians witness the MH370 disappearance, drop in oil prices and now the 1MDB.

Even though 1Malaysia initiatives did not bring the much needed national unity and harmony, but 1MDB sovereign fund turned out to be swelling pool that might drag down even the BN government. The complex money trails round the globe and the complex wheeling and dealing is simply complicated for even professionals. It’s amazing that a MOF linked company will billions of dollars being handled by personals not in the management using dubious companies and the MOF, PMO, BNM and Security Commission as just watching it happen. Within 5 years since its inception the sovereign fund accumulated 42 billion in debts and still counting.

Assets pasted their expiry dates were purchased with excessive prices and prime lands allotted at nominal prices hoping for high gains on valuations. Excessive loans with high interest rates taken to finance the purchase of overpriced assets finally exposed the unsustainable business model of 1MDB. Billions of dollars transferred out with no questions from BNM to dubious accounts in Cayman Island managed by unknown fund managers from Hong Kong makes 1MDB a thriller story. Malaysians may forget all the other 1Malaysia initiatives but 1MDB will be remembered and quoted on how funds should not be managed. It is sad that a noble initiative turned out to be colossal mistake.

PM should resign to make way for independent inquiry

March 17, 2015

Auditor general and inspector general have announced that their departments will audit and investigate the transactions of 1MDB for any mismanagement and questionable deals. For any credible and independent inquiry the suspected parties must make way and allow free hand in inquiry and return once the inquiry clears them of any wrong doings. How will auditor general and his department investigate if the prime minister himself is subject to inquiry? It will be partial and defeat the whole purpose of investigation. Therefore to come out with credible and impartial inquiry the prime minister must step aside and allow a full inquiry.

Besides, Umno itself is in full support of the prime minister without knowing the details and without any inquiry. All these impediments will hinder a proper and independent inquiry. US$1 billion was disbursed by 1MDB to buy 40% stake in 1MDB Petrosaudi Ltd which had assets worth only US$100 million and later converted US$700 million as loan repayment to Petrosaudi. This transaction looks dubious and doesn’t make any sense. Yet the 1MDB directors and advisors and MOF officials did not raise any red flag to stop the payment and verify the transaction. MOF and PMO officials were silent about these fictitious and purported transactions using tax payer’s money.  The Prime Minister cum finance minister stand exposed for being also the chairman of 1MDB. Therefore the prime minister must lead the way in setting an example for others to follow.

160 Umno division leaders out of 191 divisions have given the prime minister their support. The minister of agriculture Ismail Sabri who spoke for other division leaders said that they cannot compromise misappropriation and abuse of power but 1MDB is free from these abuses. Another division leader says that 1MDB has more asset than debts and the company will show more profits later. But DPM Tan Sri  Muhyiddin had come out with his own statement on 1MDB, saying there would be no public bailout of the company and that its directors must explain some of the company’s business deals which had not profited the government.

1MDB has paid out US$1billion to a company that did not even have company profile to sign any joint venture agreement and yet Umno leaders can say there is no misappropriation and abuse of power. Why was 1MDB set up for in the first place? Is it to uplift the economic interest of Bumiputras?   Auditor general and IGP may not have a free hand to conduct a credible inquiry. PM must resign to enable the auditor general and inspector general to investigate.

A young boy called Jho Teck Low the superstar was able to lead 1MDB into debt amounting to RM42 billion without any accountability or public disclosure within 5 shorts years. It’s incredible that MOF, 1MDB and PMO allowed it to happen. This kid has broken many laws that warrant an inquiry.

Yet Umno cannot see the seriousness of the matter and going about as though nothing has happened. Whistle blower site Sarawak report and the edge have revelation the detailed dealing and close knit connection of Jho teck low and the ruling government leaders. There are enough evidences to investigate.  All the AG and IGP need is to side aside the impediments and the political will to conduct and independent inquiry.

1MDB should be rated before cabinet approve cash injection

March 7, 2015

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak being chairman of 1MDB advisory board is under tremendous pressure to explain the many twists and turns of its large borrowings and opaque transactions. Joint ventures with susceptible company Saudipetrol with mysterious shuffling and revaluation of assets purchased at dip discounts from the government. Within 5 years of operation it racked up 42 billion in loans with little profit to show. 1MDB is a serious contingent liability for the Malaysian government at a difficult economic time. Public debt is already at the upper limit 55% of GDP threshold.

There is seems to be mysterious wheeling and dealing at every major transaction right from the inception of the fund. 1MDB must have stretched the limit of defining fair values in its balance sheets. No wonder auditors Ernst and Young were replaced by KPMG and later Deloitte in the last 5 years. 1MDB has been ably restructuring its dubious transactions for even the big 4 auditors to detect the effect of accounting entries. 1MDB is an accounting quagmire for any auditor.

This sovereign development fund has accumulated high interest debts that are backed by dubious and unverifiable assets. The silence and complicity by the various government agencies in the reckless borrowing of 1MDB is speaks volumes of government transparencies and accountability. There is so much of concealment and non-disclosure by senior officers, directors, advisers and auditors in its investment and valuation.

Billions of dollars guaranteed by Malaysian government is managed and transacted by the Prime Minister’s associate and family friend the party-loving billionaire tycoon, Jho Teck Low. The name Jho Teck low does not appear anyway in the management but his footprints are all over 1MDB. While Malaysian budget was revised due to shortfall in oil revenue, billions of borrowed funds guaranteed by Malaysian government were injected into 1MDB funds.

Despite all the above developments the Cabinet doesn’t seem to press the panic button and feels all dealings and transactions are above board. At the same time it has deferred the approval of RM3 billion cash injection. The cabinet should ensure 1MDB be rated before approving the cash injection. If 1MDB has done nothing wrong as claimed by the PM’s backers why was the fund not rated by rating agencies which would be required before investing public fund. Government should only invest if the sovereign fund is above the investment grade. Therefore to dismiss all the bad publicity and negative reporting Cabinet need a third party professional opinion before deciding on the cash injection. An independent rating agency would dispel all aspersions.

 

 

Malaysian is education destination of last resort.

March 2, 2015

Second education minister Idris Jusoh claims that Malaysia’s higher education system is now on par with developed nations like the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia in view of the fact that the 135,000 foreign students here make up 10% of all students in local institutions of higher learning. Many had expressed their reservation and disagreement over his claims. Below are some more facts as to how far away the minister’s claims are based on ground reality.

Many Chinese students are enrolled in local colleges that have twinning programmes with foreign universities. Many foreign countries have limited places for students from China. Malaysia is a stepping stone for these students to get foreign degrees or migrate to a third country. Students from China choose Malaysia as they feel at home here with the local Chinese culture and food are affordable. They are not here to get a Malaysian education. The Education Ministry has neglected English language but in the private sector and colleges, English is still the lingua franca.

Australians students in Malaysia are few and far between. The reverse instead is true. Malaysian students are in large numbers in Australia because of the high Australian education standards.

We have a large number of Middle Easterners here because of Islamophobia in the west. Besides, many Middle Eastern students get scholarships from the Malaysian government. Malaysia is considered moderate by these students who come from hard-line countries. Quite a number of these students are also escaping the rigid and hard-line policies in their home countries.

Malaysia is a stepping stone for Middle Easterners before they migrate to third countries. Malaysia is also relatively cheaper for those among them who want a degree. Many are here to learn English before they go back. There are, in fact, more Middle East students than local non-Malays in local public universities.

Some North African students are enrolled in public universities due to the support received from Islamic bodies that help them to continue their studies here. A lawyer friend of mine told me that nearly 30% of African students are languishing in Malaysian prisons for violating immigration laws, drug dealing or some illegal activities. The local police too seem to find African students easy targets for some offence. The Malaysian government spends millions keeping these students in prison. It’s a big drain on the government coffers.

All the above does not say much about Malaysia being a regional education hub. It is the foreign affiliations and twinning arrangements that bring foreign students to Malaysia. In fact, many more Malaysian students would have left for foreign universities if not for the twinning programs that links them to local colleges and universities. The brutal fact is that foreign students are here not because of our education standards. It is the third world countries’ students who come here to study. Therefore Mr Minister please do not use the high number of foreign students to measure the standard and quality of our higher education system.