Singapore Premier Puts Malaysia To Shame


South China Morning Post

1MDB VS 38 OXLEY ROAD: WHY MALAYSIA ENVIES SINGAPORE

The family feud dominating public life in Singapore has crossed the Causeway, as Malaysians marvel at the Lion City premier’s open handling of the saga – and compare it to the closed-door approach of their own leader, Najib Razak, regarding his alleged links to a scandal at the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has won widespread praise for his handling of what many believe should have been kept a private family matter. His siblings have accused him of abusing his power as prime minister to overrule the wishes of their late father – the city state’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew – regarding the fate of the family home at 38 Oxley Road. They say their father was adamant in wanting the home to be demolished after his death, but that the premier wants to go against this wish to preserve the home and derive political capital from their father’s legacy.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks in parliament about his family’s dispute over the fate of his late father’s home at 38 Oxley Road. Photo: AFP

The Lion City premier has responded with openness. Not only did he make a statement on national television – saying he had done all he could to resolve the family conflict and apologising for any harm it may have done to Singapore’s reputation – he also gave MPs a free rein to grill him in parliament.

Najib, on the other hand, has remained largely silent regarding a scandal at the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – where investigators claim to have traced some US$700 million wired into his accounts. Najib, who has denied any wrongdoing, is accused by critics of trying to shut down debate on the scandal. He has banned parliament from mentioning 1MDB and has removed key figures from his cabinet after they spoke out about the issue.

“The Singaporean PM has asked forgiveness from the people because of his siblings fighting. The Malaysian PM robbed billions, cricket noises,” said Twitter user @normgn. “Find it amusing to see the level of response of Singapore towards the Oxley Road house versus here for 1MDB. Just so weird,” said another, @yoongkhean. “One side got parliament seating just to explain it, one side … ignorance is bliss.”

The contrasting approach of the two leaders has been made more obvious as new details emerge about the US Department of Justice’s investigation into 1MDB.

As the public digest the details of the saga in the usually scandal-free Singapore – which has included Facebook posts from the premier’s family and private emails made public – they are also poring over the latest details of the Department of Justice’s investigation into 1MDB. The latest filing in the case seeks to recover US$540 million in assets including a yacht, a Picasso painting gifted to Leonardo DiCaprio, and a diamond necklace purchased with money stolen from the government fund.

Department of Justice documents allege that nearly US$30 million stolen from the fund were used to buy jewellery for the wife of “Malaysian Official 1” – jewellery that is said to have included a 22-carat pink diamond necklace. The documents do not identify Najib or his wife Rosmah Mansor by name, but say the jewellery was for the wife of “Malaysian Official 1”. Cabinet minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan has identified Malaysian Official 1 as Najib.

A cartoon by Zunar depicts an Inspector Clouseau-esque character. Handout photo

Controversial political cartoonist Zunar responded to this revelation by drawing a picture of a witch with a beehive hairdo riding a 1MDB broomstick and waving a large pink diamond pendant. Another cartoon depicts an Inspector Clouseau-esque character, a reference to the pink panther and a large pink diamond.

Last month, Rosmah’s solicitor released a statement saying that her lawyers were closely monitoring all postings on social media platforms and other publications, cautioning the public from making any false and malicious postings and statements.

In June, model Miranda Kerr turned over jewellery worth US$8.1 million that had been given to her by Malaysian financier Jho Low, who was instrumental in the development of 1MDB.

Australian model Miranda Kerr turned over jewellery given to her by Jho Low worth more than US$8.1 million. Photo: AFP

Even opposition politicians have taken to social media to vent their frustration at the lack of debate surrounding 1MDB. Member of Parliament M. Kulasegaran tweeted: “Openness by Singapore PM on a controversial issue speaks well of a government. In Malaysia?”

And Speaker of the Selangor State Assembly Hannah Yeoh said on Facebook: “When a controversy happens of this nature, being answerable to parliament is the right response. Lee Hsien Loong, you’re a good PM & I hope 1MDB can be dealt with like this in the Malaysian parliament too. Truly, not every son of a former prime minister is the same.”

WATCH: Singapore PM says siblings’ charges ‘baseless’

 

Najib is the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein.

Lawyer Ong Yu Jian also shared Lee’s public address on Facebook, saying: “No matter how embarrassing or personal the issue, he has the b**** to air it in parliament, invite questions from MPs and ask the party whip to be lifted for this issue.”

Political analyst Oh Ei Sun of the Pacific Research Centre said Najib’s silence was because he was confident he had the support of voters ahead of an election that may be called as early as this year.

38 Oxley Road, the residence of Singapore’s first prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew. Photo: EPA

“At end of the day, the 1MDB scandal will not significantly affect the vote banks for the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional, or even his party Umno specifically.

“Najib relies primarily on the urban and rural poor and for these people 1MDB is almost a soap opera. They may follow it but don’t feel acute hatred towards Najib as do the first group of people. They are more interested in whether they get a share in the next handout as they depend on these handouts. They won’t stop voting for the Barisan Nasional because of 1MDB. ”

Oh also said that there was less need to clarify issues in Malaysia, as Singaporean voters were “more sophisticated and educated”.

Still, many Malaysian voters and lawmakers are frustrated at what they see as a clampdown on discussion of the 1MDB scandal.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak can avoid discussing the 1MDB scandal because he is confident of voter support in an upcoming election, analysts say. Photo: EPA

Opposition MP Steven Sim said parliament was not even allowed to mention it on the pretext that it was subjudice. “Despite investigators in at least six countries investigating and taking legal action against 1MDB-related parties, including the US Department of Justice, Najib’s government has not only removed key leaders in his cabinet and in civil service who spoke out against him on this issue – notably his deputy prime minister, second finance minister, the attorney general, and the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission – parliament is not allowed to even mention 1MDB.

“By allowing serious and damaging allegations to be openly debated in parliament, Lee Hsien Loong demonstrated he has nothing to hide, is willing to come clean and answer to the people,” Sim said.

“The same cannot be said of Najib Razak.” 

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Its a shame – Malaysia play host for the deadly Military Industrial Complex


Its simply deplorable that Malaysia have been staging this dastardly event annually for the world’s “Military Industrial Complex” (MIC)

The wretched MIC is responsible for ALL the wars since WWI and that ALL wars are bank$ter$ wars
https://peoplestrustmalaysia.wordpress.com/…/all-wars-are-…/

War is the most profitable bi$ne$$


TheStarOnLine

Lima 2017 gets off to an explosive start

lima

LANGKAWI: The 14th Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima) 2017 started off with a bang at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) here.

During the opening gambit, an explosion was heard and a wall of flame appeared on the tarmac as a squadron of planes from the Royal Malaysian Air Force made a fly-by.

Lima 2017 was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Tuesday.

Also present were Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

The five-day Lima 2017 will showcase 555 exhibitors from 36 countries.

The first three days focuses on trade. The venue will only open to the public on Friday and Saturday.

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The law of rule in Malaysia


NewMandala

James Giggacher

1MDB shows that an already fragile rule of law is being stretched to the limits, writes James Giggacher.

Malaysia’s rule of law may have reigned supreme in this week’s case of the Budgie Nine – saving the Southeast Asian state from gross national insult at the hands of some silly young Australians.

Too bad the same thing can’t be said about another national disgrace, the 1MDB financial scandal.

In the face of investigations into the country’s failing sovereign wealth fund, and Prime Minister Najib Razak’s alleged links to millions of missing dollars, the rule of law has in fact gone missing in action.

This was certainly the case when Najib sacked attorney general, Abdul Gani Patail, who planned to bring charges relating to 1MDB against the PM in July 2015.

The plan was leaked, and Abdul Ghani stepped down, officially for ‘health reasons’. Perhaps he’d heard about what happened to former Mongolian model and Najib’s inner circle mainstay, Altantuya Shaarribuu.

At the same time, Najib removed his deputy and one of his most vocal critics — Muhyiddin Yassin.

The former AG’s replacement, Mohamed Apandi Ali, almost immediately cleared his embattled PM of any wrongdoing.

Apandi said that the royal family of Saudi Arabia had gifted Najib $US 681 million, of which $US 600 million had been returned. He also said no criminal offence had been committed. However, several countries, including the US, Switzerland, Singapore and the Seychelles, are still investigating the case.

Reports on the scandal by Malaysia’s central bank and anti-corruption commission have also been dismissed by Apandi; according to him the PM has no case to answer.

And in June, Najib filed court documents that denied graf, misuse of power, and interference in 1MDB investigations in response to a lawsuit brought by former PM and mentor, and now key adversary, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Meanwhile, the almost 700 million dollar question of how 2.6 billion ringgit managed to find its way into Najib’s personal bank accounts has yet to be satisfactorily answered.

So much for due process, democratic safeguards, transparency, and holding those in power to account. But can we expect anything better from a Malaysia still under the sway of long-ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and its leading party, Najib’s UMNO?

As Jayson Browder notes, BN has long had a poor record of abiding by the rule of law.

It has consistently leveraged several national laws – including The Peaceful Assembly Act of 2012, the Sedition Act of 1948, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1948 – to curtail freedoms, assembly, political expression as well as intimate activists and the media, and ensure its power.

These tactics guarantee the ruling coalition’s stranglehold over Malaysia’s political system “through a combination of economic rewards, intimidation of political opponents, and several national laws, which are in direct violation of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution in Malaysia.” Article 10 is meant to guarantee Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

An embattled Najib has only sharpened the teeth of a legal system already heavily stacked in his party’s favour. In August he brought in an unprecedented law that allows him to designate ‘security areas’ and deploy forces to search people, places and vehicles without a warrant.

Draconian would be an understatement.

Laurent Meillan, from the UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia, said that they were “gravely concerned” about human rights violations as a consequence of the act. The act could further restrict already highly limited rights of free speech and free assembly.

And in March this year, the independent news site The Malaysian Insider, went offline. Owners cited poor financial returns and high costs. The then editor, Jahabar Sadiq, said it was because the threat of being charged with sedition that could lead to jail time had become all too real.

The decision to pull the plug came almost three weeks after Malaysia’s Internet regulator — the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission – issued a gag order on the site because of a report alleging the country’s anti-corruption commission had sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Najib in the 1MDB case – even though he had already been cleared by Apandi.

The lesson? Smuggling budgies and smearing the flag is a clear no-no. Smuggling billions and smearing the nation’s sovereign wealth fund is a-ok.

It all goes to show that in Malaysia there is the rule of law – but most of the time there’s the law that lets BN rule.

James Giggacher is an associate lecturer in the ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs and editor of New Mandala

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The Cracks in Malaysia’s Political Order Begin to Show


Stratfor

Prime Minister Najib Razak will remain in his position until the ruling coalition decides he has become too much of a political liability to do so. But his opponents are nonetheless preparing for the next election, whenever it may be. (NICKY LOH/Getty Images)


Forecast

  • Neither Malaysia’s opposition nor its upcoming mass anti-government protests will supplant Prime Minister Najib Razak before the next general election.
  • Longtime Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad’s new party will struggle to gain traction, but it may still tip the electoral balance.
  • Growing restlessness in Malaysia’s outlying states could expose new fault lines in the country’s long-established political order. 

Analysis

As rumors circulate that Malaysia’s next general election may be moved up to early next year, the country’s next political showdown is beginning to take shape. Over the past two years, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been implicated in a scandal in which he allegedly looted nearly a billion dollars from state investment fund 1MDB. Najib is widely considered guilty at this point, and the scandal has sparked mass protests, purges in his ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party and international scrutiny. But it has yet to seriously threaten him. Until the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition sees the crisis as souring its electoral prospects, whether by alienating voters or by undermining the power of its patronage, the teflon prime minister will remain relatively secure in his position.

Still, for UMNO, which has ruled Malaysia every year since the country gained its independence, several challenges loom on the horizon. Combined with the country’s lingering economic woes and the continued 1MDB fallout, those challenges could expose new cracks in the political order and stability that have underpinned Malaysia’s rise to global prominence.

Staying Power

Despite his involvement in the 1MDB affair, Malaysia’s prime minister has managed to maintain his power over the country and the ruling party. As the scandal has unfolded, most UMNO members have closed ranks around Najib, and the party’s coalition partners have stayed put. Party members who have questioned the prime minister (including former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin) or tried to investigate him (as Najib’s former attorney general did) have been purged and replaced with loyalists who absolve him of any wrongdoing. The fractured opposition, meanwhile, is simply too weak to oust him through a no-confidence vote — as it tried and failed to do a year ago. The corruption scandal has also had little effect on voters; Barisan Nasional coalition partners won each of the state and parliament by-elections held over the past year. The reason for its longevity is simple: Patronage remains the dominant tool of political power in Malaysia, and Najib’s administration controls the purse strings. A half-century of UMNO rule, moreover, has allowed the party to redraw political districts to its favor, something it is trying to do again in the electorally critical Selangor state.

Even so, if the scandal starts to hurt the ruling coalition’s electoral prospects, UMNO may be compelled to devise an exit for Najib before the next election to save him from prosecution and the party from an unprecedented defeat. The vote does not have to take place until late 2018, but over the past month, UMNO has reportedly intensified discussions on whether to call snap elections as soon as early 2017. Regardless, the possibility is accelerating realignments ahead of the next vote — among both the opposition and Barisan Nasional’s nervous coalition partners.

Enter Bersatu

The biggest complication for UMNO heading into the next election will be the newly formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, or Bersatu for short. Launched in August, Bersatu was established by longtime Malaysian leader and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who also serves as the party’s chair. Muhyiddin is its president. The 91-year-old Mahathir has been trying to oust Najib, his former protege, for much of the past year, but his efforts have not gained much traction. His latest attempt to unseat UMNO is also unlikely to succeed on its own. Bersatu lacks the grassroots support and party machinery necessary to drive turnout, and Najib has been chipping away at Mahathir’s business interests, giving him less weight to throw around.

As part of an opposition alliance, however, the new party could play a decisive role in the next election. A similar opposition coalition nearly unseated Barisan Nasional in the 2013 general election and cost it the popular vote; Barisan Nasional retained a majority in parliament in that election mostly because of gerrymandering. During the week of Sept. 5, Mahathir was seen shaking hands with Anwar Ibrahim, a charismatic, reform-minded opposition leader. The incident was a boon for Bersatu, which found in Anwar an unlikely source of legitimacy — Mahathir ousted him in 1998 and then had him jailed on politically motivated charges.

By admitting only ethnic Malays into its membership, Bersatu has positioned itself as a natural landing place for Malay nationalist voters disenchanted with UMNO’s scandals but unsure of other opposition parties’ commitment to protecting their interests. UMNO’s stranglehold on the “Bumiputera” (the umbrella term for ethnic Malays and indigenous groups) vote is a perennial obstacle for the opposition. The party has long styled itself as safeguarding the interests of the Bumiputera against other ethnicities in Malaysia, stoking fears that the country’s economically powerful Chinese and Indian populations will try to do away with pro-Malay affirmative action policies. (Mahathir himself quietly sought to roll back some of the affirmative actions near the end of his term, to no avail.)

In the 2008 and 2013 general elections, opposition factions overcame their deep-seated differences and united behind ethnic Malay figures such as Anwar to appeal to Malay voters. But Anwar has since been jailed again, and the alliance has largely collapsed amid infighting and ethnic rivalries. For instance, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) — the opposition Islamist party dominant in northern peninsular Malaysia — severed ties with a former ally, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) in 2015 and has yet to commit to the new coalition, possibly positioning itself as kingmaker in the next general election. But considering that the opposition won the popular vote in 2013, Bersatu theoretically would not need to peel off much support from the ruling coalition to swing the next election. Bersatu’s best bet may be to focus on splitting the ethnic Malay vote in key races rather than on winning seats for itself, allowing other opposition parties to prevail.

First, however, the opposition parties will need to find a workable marriage of convenience. Though Anwar has tentatively endorsed Bersatu, the main opposition parties do not trust Mahathir. After all, he was the main architect of the system that has made it so difficult to dislodge Najib, and his own rise was fueled by exploiting Malay and indigenous fears of, for example, “the Chinese tsunami.” And several opposition leaders — from Anwar to members of the DAP — were jailed on politically motivated charges during his tenure. Even if Barisan Nasional does not call snap elections, the opposition has less than two years to find a way to cooperate and come to terms on sticking points such as seat allocations and conflicting policies. So far, they have not made much progress. The DAP has been reluctant to follow Anwar’s lead by accepting Mahathir’s olive branch, and the PAS (which itself is facing internal splits between Islamist hard-liners and a breakaway faction that supports the opposition alliance) remains a wildcard.

A Spotlight on the Scandal

Disorganized though it may be, the opposition will still benefit from the activities of Bersih, or the Coalition for Clean Elections, an activist group that is agitating for Najib’s ouster. Next month, the group plans to launch a nationwide roadshow to spread awareness of the 1MDB scandal in Barisan Nasional-controlled areas of Malaysia — an important endeavor given the government’s censorship of news related to the case. The roadshow will culminate in mass protests in Kuala Lumpur and other cities on Nov. 19. Although Bersih is not formally aligned with any of the opposition parties and is wary of Mahathir’s legacy, its efforts will serve the needs of the opposition, especially if elections are on the horizon.

Though protest turnout promises to be high — the last Bersih protest in 2015 drew some 300,000 participants over the course of 30 hours — the demonstration itself will not be designed to overthrow Najib. Mass protests in Malaysia are not typically the go-for-broke affairs seen, for example, in Thailand, where protesters occupy urban areas for prolonged periods of time to force a confrontation and delegitimize the government. Furthermore, any attempt to lock down Kuala Lumpur would spark ethnically tinged counter-protests that would raise the risk of violence. (Last year’s UMNO-funded counter-rallies, for instance, took on a noticeable anti-Chinese bent, and police narrowly prevented party supporters from storming a prominent ethnic Chinese business district in the capital.) The opposition does not want to validate fears among ethnic Malays that UMNO’s defeat would throw off the tenuous ethnic balance that the party’s rule has helped preserve. Instead, with the upcoming elections in mind, the protest organizers will aim primarily to put the focus of the next race squarely on the 1MDB affair and turn the vote into a referendum on Najib himself. The more it succeeds, the less the opposition’s internal fractures will matter.

Cracks at the Fringes

Along with its other political concerns, Najib’s government has to contend with growing restlessness in the country’s outlying, semi-autonomous states. Lacking geographical or ethnic coherence, Malaysia’s solidarity has long relied on shrewd, inclusive policymaking and plentiful resource wealth to grease any friction. The farther from the capital one gets, the more important the flows of revenue and patronage from the government become — whether in the form of large-scale infrastructure projects, extraction licenses or cash transfers.

But over the past eight years, several outlying states have increasingly tried to take advantage of Barisan Nasional’s weaknesses to push for a greater devolution of powers from the capital. Sarawak, for example, has been pressing Kuala Lumpur for more authority and oil revenues. In addition, protests erupted in that state and neighboring Sabah — both of which were critical to Barisan Nasional’s victory in the 2013 election — in September, demanding greater autonomy and a referendum on their status in Malaysia. Meanwhile, the crown prince of wealthy Johor state has suggested that the state may consider leaving the federation — as its southern neighbor, Singapore, did in 1963 — if the central government does not honor agreements on issues such as water and land rights. And the PAS, based in the northern Kelantan state, has been flirting with supporting Barisan Nasional in exchange for considering a bill to increase the power of regional Sharia courts, a move that threatens to spark ethnic backlash on both sides of the aisle.

At this point, none of these nascent movements presages upheaval that would threaten the integrity of the Malay Federation, or even major defections away from Barisan Nasional. Johor’s secession threats are particularly hollow, and Barisan Nasional’s dominance in an April state election in Sarawak demonstrated that local issues will play as great a role in the next election as will turbulence in the capital. Still, the trend reveals the lines along which the UMNO-led political order could begin to crack in the face of prolonged political uncertainty — particularly if persistent economic problems and low oil prices pinch patronage flows — with or without Najib.

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Malaysia’s obsession with uniformity is tearing the nation apart.


NewMandala

Behind the rifts in modern Malaysia

by Lim Li Ann – 14 Sep, 2016

A rise in nativism, eroding civic values, and a failing democracy are exacerbating already dangerous divisions.

Modern Malaysia’s obsession with uniformity is tearing the nation apart.

This trend, which sees difference as inherently dangerous, is being driven by ‘nativism’ – being against ethnic and religious minorities and having an instinctual allegiance towards one’s community intensified by agent provocateurs.

Within the span of a year, a state mufti has condemned the multi-racial but Chinese-dominant opposition party, DAP, as “kafir harbi” – non-Muslims who can be slain. Malay protesters, arriving in mobs, became entangled in brawls and shouting matches with Chinese vendors at Low Yat Plaza. Even the silver screen took on a dark tone when the Malaysia Film Festival segregated its nominations into “Best Films” and “Best non-Malay language films” — the former assumed to be in the Malay language.

Late last year, tens of thousands hit the streets to demonstrate support for Prime Minister Najib Razak during an event now known as the red shirt rally. The rally sought to “make it clear to Malaysian citizens, don’t challenge the Malays, don’t touch the Malays.” Despite the antagonistic rhetoric about the inferiority of other races, Prime Minister Najib Razak endorsed the rally, offering his “congratulations to everyone who attended.”

Pockets of Malaysian society, once humble, tolerant and moderate, are now rallying behind arrogance, antagonism and illiberalism.

Such assertions of supremacy appear perplexing. Contemporary psychologist Jonathan Haidt determines one key pillar of morality to be “in-group loyalty”. At one end of the spectrum lie people whose instinct is to care universally, while those at the other protect members of their community. In The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912) classical sociologist Emile Durkheim explains that these moderate feelings of tribalism are then elevated when one is in a collective.

Amid last year’s red shirt rally in Malaysia, one voice stood out. Sungai Besar UMNO division chief Jamal Yunos grabbed the limelight and chanted “Cina babi!” (“Chinese are pigs!”), triggering pitchfork-level outrage in others. But by Durkheim’s line of thought, Jamal’s behaviour was nothing egregious.

Narrating a man leading a crowd of ardent supporters, Durkheim writes:

His language becomes high-flown in a way that would be ridiculous in ordinary circumstances; his gestures take on an overbearing quality; his very thought becomes impatient of limits and slips easily into every kind of extreme. This is because he feels filled to overflowing, as though with a phenomenal oversupply of forces that spill over and tend to spread around him. … This extraordinary surplus of forces is quite real and comes to him from the very group he is addressing. … It is then no longer a mere individual who speaks but a group incarnated and personified.

Standing alone, any one person’s bold cries for racial hegemony would appear outrageous. But on that fateful day, in moral consensus with people surrounding him, social approbation begets reckless confidence in his judgment and fearlessness in his actions.

The dangerous rise of nativism in Malaysia is also explained by the country’s failing democratic culture.

Pillars of democracy can only be upheld when society embraces democratic virtues. Institutes of democracies are meaningless — precarious at best — if they do not go hand-in-hand with democratic values in the hearts and minds of citizens.

Outwardly, Malaysia is a democracy. Elections are held regularly, the elected are accountable to the electorate, to a certain extent as the 1MDB scandal shows, and the state apparatus to the elected members of parliament.

But, Malaysians lack the appreciation for democratic values that makes the term “parliamentary democracy” anything more than a soundbite.

And then there are the problems with Malaysia’s civic education – which helps feed this trend of nativism and democratic deficit. Malaysia’s current syllabus for Civic and Citizenship Education boils down to nothing more than a laundry list of moral dos and don’ts.

Malaysia’s civic education needs an overhaul — to be one that mandates critical moral reflection, as opposed to rote memorisation of civic duties — to overcome the political apathy that has enveloped society.

Amy Gutmann, author of Democratic Education (1987), offers that such an education should inculcate truthfulness to one’s self, mutual respect for and the ability to deliberate over differences with others, commitment to society — thus teaching the importance ranging from individual freedoms to collective social consciousness.

When formal institutions of democracy are not accompanied by a corresponding level of public commitment towards core democratic values, institutions of democracy are easily collapsible — and that won’t seem to matter.

Before we unquestioningly accept the many platitudes that are imposed on us, whether by pillars of power or factions in society, perhaps it would do us good to develop our own independent thoughts.

Ultimately, these are moral choices that we need to identify, but even more importantly, ones that we are able to legitimately justify predicated upon personal autonomy and societal interests.


Lim Li Ann is an economics and public policy graduate from Singapore Management University. She is a co-author of the chapter on arbitrary detention in the forthcoming book, The History of Human Rights Society in Singapore, 1965-2015.

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#1MDB and Malay Nationalism


WSJ

Najib fans fear of foreign plots and traitors to shore up support.

Can Najib Razak survive the 1MDB corruption scandal? The Malaysian Prime Minister came under increased political pressure in July when the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that a family friend embezzled $3.5 billion from the state-run investment fund. But he has fought back and could even turn the case to his advantage if he calls a snap election early next year.

Mr. Najib is using the same strategy predecessors used when faced with domestic opposition: Play the Malay nationalism card. The country’s racial divide makes this a powerful and dangerous weapon.

On Aug. 5 Mr. Najib said he wasn’t involved in the 1MDB case and blamed “certain enemies” for politicizing it. On Aug. 14 he warned that foreign enemies could impose neocolonialism if Malaysians share confidential documents with outsiders: “History is a testimony of how we could lose our sovereignty if we were in cahoots with foreigners.”

During an Aug. 30 speech on the eve of Independence Day, Mr. Najib reiterated the danger of foreign neocolonialists using “dirty hands” within the country. People in “certain quarters who want to topple the government in an undemocratic manner” were “poisoning the minds of the people,” he said. Other politicians from the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) are making similar statements.

One target of this rhetoric is the anticorruption organization Bersih. On Wednesday the group announced plans for a mass rally in November calling for Mr. Najib’s resignation. Since Islamists dropped out of the group, Chinese and Indian activists have played a leading role.

UMNO politicians portrayed the last such rally in August 2015 as an attempt by minority leaders to seize power and take race-based privileges away from Malays. In the aftermath of that rally, a Malay nationalist group known as the red shirts, led by UMNO official Jamal Yunos, tried to protest in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, the scene of race riots that killed hundreds of Chinese in 1969. The police kept the red shirts out of Chinatown, but Mr. Najib defended the protest as a response to posters insulting Malay leaders at the Bersih event.

A new opposition party set up by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin poses the real challenge to Mr. Najib. The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia—which translates to Party of Malaysia’s United Indigenous People—restricts membership to Malays. Mr. Mahathir attacked the government for selling national power-production assets to Chinese companies to bail out 1MDB.

The battle between UMNO and PPBM will depend on the loyalty of rural, less-educated Malays. Both portray themselves as defenders of Malay interests against outside forces.

The risk of communal violence is real, and there are striking parallels to past eruptions. The 1969 riots began after the UMNO-led coalition almost lost a general election as Chinese voters turned to the opposition. Then-Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman supported a protest against insults to Malay leaders, much as Mr. Najib did last year.

Since 1969, racial tensions have risen whenever disunity within the Malay community threatened UMNO’s political dominance. The ruling coalition barely held on to its parliamentary majority in the 2013 election despite losing the popular vote.

The government’s motive to fan Malay nationalism will grow as details of the U.S. lawsuit and international investigations into 1MDB reach the Malay heartland. If Mr. Najib chooses to stoke resentments against ethnic minorities, he may succeed in holding on to power, but at immense cost to Malaysia.

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Was It Some Ban$ker$, Their Bank$ Or The Regulators Who Let Malaysia Down?


Sarawak Report

The metaphorical longhouse of 1MDB is gathering an impressive set of bankers’ skulls to hang up in the porch!

The latest head to roll is that of the former Goldman Sachs Swiss banker, Eduardo Leemann, who departed yesterday as CEO of Falcon Bank.

He follows high-profile figures such as BSI’s Singapore boss, Hanspeter Brunner; Goldman’s South East Asia boss, Tim Leissner; Edmond de Rothchild’s Luxembourg’s boss, Marc Ambroisien; ANZ Bank’s CEO, Mike Smith along with a number of their collective underlings.

Naturally, as with all the rest, Mr Leemann and his bank have stated that the unexpected departure had nothing whatsoever to do with 1MDB. Indeed, Falcon yesterday announced that Leemann’s exit was long-planned since the very beginning of 2015:

“Eduardo Leemann informed the board (at the) beginning of 2015 that he wanted to retire from the operational management at the age of 60,” Chairman Murtadha M. al Hashmi said in a statement. [Reuters]

In which case, it seems a lamentable reflection on the bank’s basic organisational skills that today, almost two years after it received that notice, Leemann remains advertised on their website as the Chief Executive.

Even more indicative of a less than organised rearrangement of the bank’s affairs is the fact that still featured next to him, as the second most important public face of this private bank, is another chap who had already earlier departed in July. Chief Operating Officer Tobias Unger had been previously touted as Leemann’s Deputy and obvious successor, but took off to another job as storm clouds swirled over the Aabar-owned bank.

The man who has taken over at Falcon was only brought onto the Board last year and remains, according to the present website, as a Board Member and not top management.

Nothing to hide

The reality of course is that this confusion in the shop window is a mere reflection of what must be chaos behind the scenes at Falcon following the DOJ’s detailed disclosures of its deep involvement in the laundering of billions of dollars of 1MDB’s stolen cash.

The bank was taken over by Abu Dhabi’s Aabar/IPIC fund in 2009 under the initial Chairmanship of Aabar’s CEO Khadem Al Qubaisi, now arrested and under investigation in Abu Dhabi for massive fraud relating to 1MDB.

Khadem’s successor on the Board at the time of the 1MDB thefts was his close side-kick Mohamed al Husseiny, also named in the DOJ indictment and also under investigation by the US, Abu Dhabi and Switzerland for his role in the misappropriation of the funds.

Handily in position as Chairman of the Board at Falcon as the 1MDB money flowed through in 2012 was Mohammed Al Husseny – Leemann was his CEO
Handily in position as Chairman of the Board at Falcon as the 1MDB money flowed through after April 2012 was Mohammed Al Husseny – Leemann was his CEO

Al Husseiny helmed the Board of the bank right through the ‘Aabar/BVI’ phase of the 1MDB scan in 2012 and also through the ‘Tanore phase’ in March 2013, when huge sums were funnelled via the Falcon Bank Singapore account of Tanore Finance Corporation into Najib’s private KL account.

Straight after Najib recieved that money in March 2013 (just in advance of the general election) Al Husseiny resigned from the Board (in May 2013). The DOJ detailed millions of dollars in kickbacks he had received:

“Between approximately May 29, 2012, and December 3, 2012, Blackstone [funded by 1MDB] sent four separate wire transfers, totaling $55,000,000, to an account at BHF Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, held in the name of Rayan Inc. (“Rayan”)….HUSSEINY is the beneficial owner of the Rayan Account….

December 18, 2012 – .. Blackstone sent $10,100,000 to an account at Bank of America in Texas held in the name of MB Consulting LLC (“MB Consulting Account”). The payment details on the wire read: “PAYMENT FOR SERVICES.” HUSSEINY is the beneficial owner of the MB Consulting Account and the only authorized signatory on the account. The MB Consulting Account received another wire transfer of $1,500,000 from the Blackstone Account on or about January 22, 2013. [DOJ filing sections 189-192]

Then when crisis hit at Falcon, owing the the exposure over 1MDB and Aabar stepped in to take over 1MDB’s debts, Husseiny returned to the Board in April 2015, remaining until he was sacked from all Aabar/IPIC related posts in August.

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Falcon Bank announcement

Heading the management team through the entire period was Leemann.

Back in September of last year, long before Falcon was officially revealed as a key player in the laundering of Malaysia’s development money, Sarawak Report identified the Swiss branch of Falcon as the outfit which had facilitated the setting up of the off-shore company Tanore Finance Corporation, which had sent $681 million to Najib’s personal account.

Yet, as recently as March of this year Falcon’s then boss Leemann was still adamant the bank had “nothing to hide” over 1MDB:

Falcon Private Bank AG, owned by Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJSC, said it has nothing to hide from regulators probing possible financial irregularities at a Malaysian state investment fund and is cooperating fully with investigators.

“We are totally transparent, fully cooperative and there’s nothing to hide,” Falcon Chief Executive Officer Eduardo Leemann said Wednesday in an interview in Dubai, saying the bank’s business hasn’t been affected by the investigation. “We’re open as a book. That’s all I can say.” [Bloomberg]

Leemann was further quoted by the Wall Street Journal claiming the Aabar bosses on the Board had no influence whatsoever on his operational decisions at the bank:

On Wednesday, Falcon Private Bank’s chief executive, Eduardo Leemann, said the Zurich-based wealth-management firm operates independently from its Abu Dhabi owner and that the emirate plays only a minor role in helping it gain new business or clients.

“The owners, IPIC as well as Aabar, never until today, never have never had and never will get involved in any operational issues,” Mr. Leemann said. “It opened doors but no more than that,” he said. He made the comments at the inauguration of the bank’s new office in Dubai’s financial center.

Mr. Leemann said the bank suffered no impact from the association with the Malaysian scandal and that it has internal compliance mechanisms in place that have been audited internally, externally and by regulators.

“There’s a process about documenting each and every transaction we execute,” Mr. Leemann said. “It’s excess documentation, believe me, we have followed that process on all cases, and I’m not talking on 1MDB only,” he said.

Such talk was impossible to maintain once the July 20th DOJ court filing on asset seizures had been published to an astonished world.

That court filing shows in devastating detail how Falcon Bank was involved in the suspicious transfers of enormous sums of money linked to the activities of its Aabar Board members in both the two power purchase bond issues for 1MDB in 2012 (worth $3.5 billion) described as the Aabar/BVI phase of the scam.

It was already highly irregular that a small private bank should receive the full total of a multi-billion dollar state loan to take care of. But apparently Leemann’s due diligence then proceeded to fail to pick up that the outfit to which he was then immediately instructed to send on $1.4 billion of that money was a bogus company set up by his own bosses at the bank, Aabar Investments PJS BVI.

The Aabar/ BVI phase 2012 – Falcon transferred $1.4 billion from 1MDB to its bosses accounts at the bogus BVI company Aabar Investments PJS Limited

In the next 2013 1MDB bond issue, called the ‘Tanore phase’ of the scam, Falcon played and even more obviously culpable role.

Tanore Finance Corporation was a shell company set up by the Singaporean Eric Tan, who was a known associate of Jho Low, a highly controversial and politically exposed associate of Najib Razak. Nevertheless, Falcon’s Singapore branch took on the account and assisted in setting up the offshore company registered in the BVI.

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The Tanore phase of the 1MDB scam also involved Falcon Bank

The bank then willingly received in the course of just 48 hours no less than three separate payments in Mid-March 2013 totalling a boggling $835,000,000 into this one Tanore Finance account.

A day later Falcon sent $620,000,000 of that straight on from this account to the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s account in Kuala Lumpur!

Presumably, Eduardo and his colleagues did not turn a hair that their cupboard sized branch in Singapore appeared to have acquired such a massively wealthy single client whose shell account received these enormous payments out of the blue and then transferred them on to the Prime Minister of Malaysia?

The ‘open book’ bank then obligingly followed up with a second payment from Tanore to Najib of $61,000,000 a couple of days later.

Eduardo Leemann has left his post and a bank which will have to deal with the regulators on this matter, alongside fellow institutions such as BSI, UBS, Goldman, ANZ/AmBank, Coutts, JP Morgan, Rothschild and others.

He, like the other former top players involved is likely to find that he is wanted for extensive questioning on these matters in an individual capacity, despite having retired from banking life. Hanspeter Brunner, for example, has been denied exit from Singapore while the BSI investigation continues.

Totally against more regulation

Yet is was this Swiss senior banker who not long before was quoted denouncing the idea of any further regulation of the banking system. We quoted Leemann from an interview with the Abu Dhabi media saying he was “totally against more banking regulation”:

“I understand you need regulation but more regulation does not solve the problem. The most regulated market has always been the United States. What happened in 2008? Regulation as such does not solve the issues….” said Leemann.

In fact, Leemann’s interpretation of the causes of the financial crash was of course self-serving and in opposition to what is widely agreed went wrong.

Inadequate regulation is what is widely recognised as having caused the failures of 2008. Illegal and irresponsible greedy bankers had broken all their own rules and guidelines in order to make a fast buck and lax oversight had let it happen.

Yet, over the following years more lax over-sight of banks such as Falcon had clearly allowed more illegal and irresponsible transfers to continue un-investigated, allowing global scams such as 1MDB to almost pass unnoticed.

The first enormous misappropriation of 1MDB money took place through the Zurich branch of RBS Coutts Zurich back in 2009.

Yet, nothing whatsoever had been done to investigate the matter right up until early 2015, when finally Xavier Justo released his devastating documents to Sarawak Report and Malaysia’s business paper The Edge, who both started reported on the scandal.

Either the banks did not raise the “Red Flag” money laundering alerts which ought to have been raised to central regulators in Malaysia, Switzerland, Britain and the United States as the interested parties in this particular transaction or the regulators concerned in all these countries simply failed to act.

The same applies to each and every other bloated, politically sensitive mega-1MDB transaction that occurred in ensuing years. Was it the banks who failed to notify the regulators in Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, America, Hong Kong and elsewhere or was it those regulators who failed to do their jobs?

The business media, meanwhile, did little more than muse over 1MDB’s banking irregularities. After all, who pays for them and all their adverts?

It is a huge relief for all Malaysians that at last this scandal has been addressed by all those forces. But, it well might not have been the case had the still imprisoned Xavier Justo not nailed his former bosses.

But it is clear that global regulators have failed to nab rogue banks, who have failed to nab rogue bankers for far too long and it is time to make the system start working for the public instead of protecting these dangerous illegal operators.

The intention behind the 1MDB money flows are illustrated in this WSJ chart showing the DOJ money trail orchestrated by Malaysian Official 1, the man in charge of the fund,

 

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