Najib doesn’t have GE14 in the bag

Najib doesn’t have GE14 in the bag

Malaysia’s 14th general election (or GE14) looms large. Some pundits predict that the election will be held sometime between November 2017 and March 2018. This is supposedly the best window for Prime Minister Najib Razak to lead Barisan Nasional (BN) to another victory.

But calling for a general election amid allegations of an epic financial scandal involving the prime minister himself is not an easy task. The 1MDB scandal, the subject of investigations in six countries, has badly affected Najib’s popularity. What the Prime Minister badly needs is a real feel-good factor that will overcome all these misfortunes. But this will be hard to come by.

By now, Najib must have received reports on voter sentiment from intelligence agencies such as the Special Branch, the Defence Staff Intelligence Division and the Research Division in the Prime Minister’s Department. Apart from these, he might have also seen the various situation reports prepared by socio-political agencies such as the Biro Tatanegara, the Department of Special Affairs (JASA) and the Community Development Department (KEMAS) on the state of the country’s social and political affairs. He would have also assigned his own political operators and engaged private pollsters to gauge public sentiment on the ground.

In the past, BN successfully gained electoral victory on the premise of its ability to deliver economic development and maintain political stability. But the current state of the country’s economy doesn’t look good. Although the World Bank forecasts Malaysia’s GDP to grow by 5.2% this year, prices of goods have gone up, subsidies for essential items like cooking oil and fuel have been either cut or abolished, the weak Ringgit is causing inflation, and on top of this there is the unpopular 6% Goods and Services Tax.

The 2018 budget will be tabled in Parliament in late October 2017. It will be an opportunity for the prime minister to create a feel-good factor by giving generous hand-outs to voters in order to win their votes. But the government’s coffers are depleting, contingent liabilities are huge, and the need to keep budget deficits low remains. There is very little room for the BN government to turn the 2018 budget into the feel-good factor and generate broad-based support in the general election.

But there is a silver lining for Najib. The Malay opposition is split due to the breakaway of PAS from the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition in 2015. While PAS has not indicated that it will cooperate with UMNO in the upcoming general election, the split in the Malay opposition will certainly be beneficial for UMNO.

Merdeka Center’s latest poll indicates that PAS gains an average of 21% Malay support. This is enough to reduce the opposition’s chance of winning the election, especially in the Malay majority constituencies should there be “3-cornered” fights between UMNO, PAS, and the new opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) led by Mahathir Mohamad. The Merdeka Center poll puts PH support at 18% among Malays, with 12% unsure and 9% declining to answer.

PAS is widely seen as the opposition’s spoiler. But the picture is more complicated. The level of Malay support for PAS is not evenly spread across the country. It is mostly concentrated in the Malay heartland of Kelantan, Terengganu, northern Kedah, northern Perak and some parts of Selangor and Pahang. These are mostly large Malay-majority constituencies, in which Malay voters make up more than 70% of the electorate. There are 70 parliamentary seats in this category in Peninsular Malaysia.

However, out of these 70 seats, eight are in Kedah, where Mahathir’s strong influence in the state may swing votes away from UMNO. Apart from these, there are at least five seats in Kelantan, and one in Terengganu, which have traditionally been PAS’s strongholds: Pengkalan Chepa, Kubang Kerian, Kota Baharu, Tumpat, Rantau Panjang and Marang. These 13 Malay-majority seats are most vulnerable for UMNO. Realistically speaking, then, UMNO has a sure chance of winning in only 57 out of 165 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.

Meanwhile, non-Malay support for BN has been extremely low since the last general election. Recent surveys have not seen any significant improvement in non-Malay support for the government, and the contest for votes in marginal Malay-majority constituencies—that is, where non-Malay voters are more than 30% of the electorate—will be keenly fought by all parties.

There are 47 parliamentary seats in this category, mostly situated in southern Kedah, Penang, the Kinta Valley in Perak, southern Perak, southern and central Selangor, and urban and semi-urban centres in Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor. PAS’ influence in these constituencies is relatively minimal, and may not impact much on the Malay vote split.

It is in these areas where PH is making significant inroads, posing a serious challenge to BN. Some of the parliamentary seats in these areas are already in the hands of PH parties. Apart from these marginal Malay-majority constituencies, there are 48 non-Malay majority constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia which can be considered as safe seats for the opposition.

Left for the government are 57 parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak, long said to be BN’s “fixed deposit”. However, out of these 57 seats, nine are currently held by the opposition, and are not safe seats for BN. Apart from these nine, there are at least five parliamentary seats in the east coast of Sabah where the newly formed Parti Warisan Sabah, led by former UMNO Vice President Shafie Apdal, is making significant inroads. These seats too are no longer safe seats for BN. So, out of 57 parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak, only 43 can be considered safe for BN.

With 57 safe seats in Peninsular Malaysia and 43 safe seats in Sabah and Sarawak, BN has a total of 100 out of 222 parliamentary seats that can be considered safe. This figure still falls short of the total needed to get a simple majority to form the next federal government. Unless Najib can turn the remaining seats into safe seats for BN, calling for a general election now will be a bit risky for him.

Najib doesn’t have GE14 in the bag
Marzuki Mohamad
18 Oct, 2017 – New Mandala


Why are Felda assets held by obscure offshore entities?

Why Felda assets held by obscure offshore entities, Rafizi queries

PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli has questioned why several of Felda’s overseas assets are held by obscure companies registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

He pointed out that this was despite Felda’s audited report claiming the assets were held by entities registered in the United Kingdom.

For example, he said the audited report showed the Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel in London, purchased for RM330 million, was placed under FIC London Hotel (Private) Ltd registered in the UK but it was instead owned by a company of the same name in the BVI.

Rafizi said likewise, Felda’s assets such as the RM380 million Felda House Wembly and RM656 million Grand Felda Hotel in Wembley, UK, saw a similar setup.

The two properties were placed under BVI-registered FIC Global Ltd instead of the one registered in the UK.

He pointed out that the UK-registered entities are listed as subsidiaries of Felda from public records but there was no mention about the BVI-registered entities bearing the same name.

“Why the need for Felda House to be placed under a BVI-registered company whose ownership is kept secret?” he asked in a statement today.

Rafizi added that with regard to Felda House, it was charged to Bangkok Bank Public Company Limited for RM60 million loan to FIC Management Houses Pte Limited.

The Pandan MP said checks found that FIC Management Houses Pte Limited, which manages the Felda House and collects rental, was a subsidiary of Felda’s investment arm Felda Investments Corporation.

However, he claimed there was no record of the loan in FIC Management Houses Pte Limited’s financial statement.

Rafzi urged Felda to clarify the ownership of the BVI entities and the status of the loan.

Why Felda assets held by obscure offshore entities, Rafizi queries
16 Oct 2017 – Malaysiakini


1MDB scandal: thousands join ‘anti-kleptocracy’ rally in Malaysia to oust PM Najib

1MDB scandal: thousands join ‘anti-kleptocracy’ rally in Malaysia to oust PM Najib

Malaysia’s opposition are counting on the 1MDB scandal to turn as many voters as they can against Najib Razak

Thousands of protesters gathered at an unsanctioned rally on Saturday to demand action against Prime Minister Najib Razak over the mismanagement of billions of dollars by a state fund.

Malaysia’s opposition are counting on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal to turn as many voters as they can against Najib, who can call for national polls anytime between now and the middle of next year.

The prime minister has so far been able to weather the scandal, consolidating power by clamping down on dissenters and curbing local media and activists even as he faces a fierce challenge from his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad.

But rising living costs and a broad-based consumption tax are leaving people like Hasmurni Tamby, a 42-year-old single mother of five, fed up with the way things are going under Najib.

“Prices of everything have gone up but not our salaries. We can’t save. So we don’t want this leader any more,” said Hasmurni, who travelled several hours north from her home state of Malacca to attend the evening rally.

Saturday’s rally was touted as the finale of a two month-long anti-kleptocracy roadshow, a platform set up by the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to convince the majority Malay-Muslim voters in rural battleground areas that the country has suffered from Najib’s handling of 1MDB.

Najib’s popularity took a hit from persistent bad press linked to 1MDB, especially after the US Department of Justice filed civil suits to recover over US$1.7 billion alleged to have been misappropriated from the 1MDB fund.

A rebounding economy and strengthening ringgit currency, however, are working in Najib’s favour.

The prime minister is expected to announce plenty of people-centric initiatives later this month when he tables his last budget before the polls. Just a few months prior, he announced billions in housing and cash aid for the Malay community.

But Mahathir, who saw through Malaysia’s industrialisation as its longest-serving prime minister, warned that nothing good will come out of allowing his former protégé to continue to rule.

“Never before have we had a prime minister who is a thief. He steals so he can have a comfortable life,” Mahathir told the crowd when delivering the final speech of the night.

“We need to bring down kleptocracy in our country … Najib’s fate is in our hands. We can get rid of him, just by voting PH,” the former prime minister said.

1MDB scandal: thousands join ‘anti-kleptocracy’ rally in Malaysia to oust PM Najib
15 October, 2017 – SCMP


Will anti-kleptocracy roadshow deliver votes to Pakatan?

End Kleptocracy

Will anti-kleptocracy roadshow deliver votes to Pakatan?

PAKATAN Harapan might have popularised the word “kleptocracy” among Malaysians through its natiowide roadshow but it still needs to offer policies and solutions to get their vote, analysts said.

Riding on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal and other national issues would not be enough for PH to win in the next election, they said.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisomuddin Bakar said he had attended several of the roadshow events, and he observed that people were generally fed up with the nation’s problems and the many issues raised by the opposition.

Many he said, questioned what PH had to offer, other than running down the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“They were waiting for PH leaders to offer solutions, while evaluating the unity among the coalition’s component parties,” Hisomuddin said.

That was why, he said, the large crowds at the PH “Love Malaysia, End Kleptocracy” roadshow would not necessarily translate into votes for the opposition.

He said people who went to the roadshow’s events were interested to see national personalities like Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and listen to issues “from the horse’s mouth”.

“But how far does their attendance translates into votes for PH is still a question. If we look at the voting pattern of those in rural communities, the people are traditionally more inclined to vote for the ‘party’s brand’ than anything else.

“The 14th general election will answer this question for us,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Awareness may influence voting

However, independent political analyst Dr Samsu Adabi Mamat said the roadshow could influence voting behaviour for people who were already unhappy with the powers that be.

He said political gatherings could give people the awareness to act for change.

“The people’s acceptance of BN now is reduced. There are survey results showing that people are unhappy with the GST (Goods and Services Tax), rising cost of living, prices of goods and the poor value of the ringgit.

“People are going through hardship, but they do not know what to do about it. The roadshow helped, they learnt about what is happening in the country and have become more aware of the need to take action for change to happen,” he said.

The former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia academician said if people believed that BN was not doing a good job, they might go home after an opposition ceramah feeling excited about the coming polls, waiting in anticipation to make their votes count.

“They will use their votes as a means of protest (against the current administration),” Samsu said.

The Mahathir factor

Hisomuddin has no doubts about PH chairman Dr Mahathir’s contribution to the success of the roadshow.

At 92, the former prime minister covered almost the entire country speaking in urban and rural areas, including Felda settlements.

Hisomuddin said without the influence of the late PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and jailed PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir was the crowd-puller.

“From the time Dr Mahathir started to collect signatures for his ‘Deklarasi Rakyat’ last year, until he was named PH chairman, he has infiltrated the rural Malay heartland – places the opposition never could penetrate in the past.

“That threatens Umno’s dominance in theses areas. Umno can no longer be complacent,” he said.

Dr Mahathir, who had been speaking at two to three anti-kleptocracy ceramah a week, recently said that the ceramah had been a success, having attracted huge crowds, including Umno and PAS supporters “who always stayed in the dark”.

Samsu said Dr Mahathir’s party Bersatu had also been well-received at the roadshow – another sign of the ceramah achieving success.

“Some ceramah-goers ended up being drawn to politics. Many signed up to be party members. Bersatu is said to have been successful in registering new members at the roadshow,” he said.

People waiting for a solution

Samsu also said with the people’s livelihood being the core issue, people were looking for changes like the removal of GST, tackling of rising prices, and political and economic stability.

“People want the country to have a good reputation, a healthy ringgit, improved investor confidence, and a better economy that will provide better opportunities for all,” he said.

Will anti-kleptocracy roadshow deliver votes to Pakatan?
14 Oct 2017 – TMI


PI Bala’s widow filed suit, Najib and wife ordered to file defence

Widow’s suit: Stay bid rejected, Najib and wife ordered to file defence

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has directed Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor to file their defence within 14 days over a suit filed by A Santamil Selvi, the widow of private investigator P Balasubramaniam.

Justice Hue Siew Kheng made similar orders for the other defendants in the suit, which include two of Najib’s siblings, as well as senior lawyer Cecil Abraham and businessperson Deepak Jaikishian.

This follows Hue dismissing their applications for a stay in filing their defence, pending the hearing of their striking out applications.

This is the first time Najib has been required to file his defence in a suit filed against him.

Besides Santamil’s suit, Najib is faced with numerous pending suits from DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim and Tony Pua, former senator Ezam Mohd Noor, as well as a pending appeal by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Anina Saadudin and Khairuddin Abu Hassan.

Hue ruled that there were no special circumstances shown by the defendants for the court to grant the stay.

She also said that granting the stay may have prevented Santamil and her children from exercising their fundamental rights.

Santamil Selvi (photo) and her three children were represented by Gopal Sri Ram, Americk Singh Sidhu and Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar.

The widow filed the suit on Aug 1, claiming injury and loss of income, following the family’s exile to India in 2008 after Balasubramaniam’s second statutory declaration over the murder of Altantuya Shaaribuu.

Besides naming Najib and Rosmah, Cecil and Deepak, the others named included two of Najib’s siblings – Ahmad Johari and Nazim, Cecil’s son Sunil, commissioner of oaths Zainal Abidin Muhayat and lawyer M Arulampalam, who held the second press conference on the second statutory declaration.

Deepak discharges Shafee

Reporters were also informed by counsels that Deepak had written to Justice Hue earlier to inform that he is discharging senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah from representing him.

Deepak also wrote in to withdraw the striking out of the application and stay.

This means that if the eight defendants manage to strike out the suit, Santamil Selvi’s claim would stand against Deepak, said Americk.

It was previously reported that Santamil Selvi had exhausted her claim against the same defendants two years ago, after the High Court struck out her claim of conspiracy, and the Federal Court upheld the decision.

Santamil Selvi and her three children claimed that her husband had publicly unveiled his statutory declaration on July 3, 2008, which contained damning allegations against Najib and his purported links to Altantuya.

Following this, the family claimed that Rosmah summoned Deepak to Sri Satria – Najib’s official residence at the time – for talks on the statutory declaration.
This is said to have led to the second statutory declaration being made a day after, the retraction of the first, and subsequently the family’s exile.

Following today’s decision, Justice Hue fixed Nov 1 as the case management for the court to decide on hearing dates for the striking out of the application.

Widow’s suit: Stay bid rejected, Najib and wife ordered to file defence
11 Oct 2017 – Malaysiakini


Malaysian housing market “seriously unaffordable”

Here’s why you can’t afford a house, Bank Negara tells Malaysians

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — Malaysia’s central bank has a response to those saying it needs to do more to spur home loans: houses simply aren’t affordable.

Bank Negara Malaysia has created a website packed with data aimed at debunking the “myth” that access to financing was deterring home ownership, showing that loan approvals for key cities are near 70 per cent or higher.

The central bank has resisted calls to loosen mortgage lending, instead saying the property industry should boost efforts to cut costs and accelerate supply.

Rising home prices have added to the grievances of Malaysians grappling with the cost of living since a goods and services tax started two years ago, and as the government removes subsidies on daily items including petrol and sugar. That’s made affordable housing a key voter issue for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak ahead of a general election that must be held by mid-2018.

“It’s a tricky situation,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief executive officer of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Kuala Lumpur. “I don’t think it’s right to say that there’s no problem with financing. But lending rules have to be both strict and balanced at the same time, otherwise we’ll have more non-performing loans and that is not good for anyone in the country.”

The median house price in Malaysia was 4.4 times the median annual household income in latest available data, making the housing market “seriously unaffordable” compared to global standards, according to a 2015 report by state-run Khazanah Research Institute. The report classed an affordable market as one with a median multiple of 3 times.

That still makes Malaysia cheaper than many other markets, with affordable housing in key cities something of a rarity in the 21st century. In the latest Demographia study, Kuala Lumpur had the eighth best housing affordability out of 18 metropolitan regions around the globe, with Hong Kong homes costing 19 times income and Beijing 14.5 times.

Malaysia’s central bank is seeking to strike a balance: its housing website aims to show transparency in the market while the lender also stands firm on stricter financing rules introduced since 2010 to curb speculation, as well as measures to promote responsible lending amid elevated consumer debt.

Household debt as a proportion of gross domestic product fell to 88.4 per cent last year from 89.1 per cent. It’s still one of the region’s highest and the nation needs to be careful of such levels, central bank Governor Muhammad Ibrahim said in July. The central bank has left borrowing costs unchanged at 3 per cent since July last year.

Just 20 per cent of new Malaysian housing launches in the first quarter were priced below RM250,000 (US$59,000), down from 33 per cent between 2010 and 2014, according to the central bank’s “Housing Watch” website. The bulk of new homes cost between RM250,000 and RM500,000. The median annual household income is estimated at around RM63,000.

“It is an issue of not having enough income and houses being too expensive,” Muhammad told a conference in August, reiterating that “the problem is not about access to credit” and the lender “must have the courage to say it loudly and clearly to the public.”

Here’s why you can’t afford a house, Bank Negara tells Malaysians
October 11, 2017 – MMO


Malaysians deserve better

Malaysians deserve better: we deserve to live in a society where our beliefs and personal liberties will not be trampled upon, where the rights of every woman, man and child are protected. Freedom, social justice and above all, safeguarding human rights irrespective of race, religion and gender are too important to be crushed by unjust policies, tactless bureaucracy and bad governance.

Disorder, distraction and division

WE’RE close to the end of 2017 and here is what we have so far: A tainted Prime Minister and his equally tainted ministers willing to do anything to remain in power, secret negotiations with political foes to lure them to the dark side and protests involving durians, plastic buckets and beer.

We have washed-up politicians pathetically attempting some sort of comeback and also power-hungry political opportunists who blindly use religion as their ‘get-out –of-jail’ card whenever the going gets too tough and if the trail gets too hot.

We have leaders who throw a curveball in a form of banning a beer festival that has been going for the past 5 years without drawing the ire from our unrelenting overzealous brethrens.

Some blame the opposition politicians who fail to deliver. They want to know what has become of the pledge to bring back local government elections and a shadow cabinet that is supposedly long overdue.

Others blame the system that has been steered to benefit the puppet masters who orchestrated the social disarray we find ourselves in today. As a result, such occurrences have further divided our nation into smaller pockets under subcategories within pre-existing categories by exploiting our innermost insecurities.

While most of us try to reignite the burning flames of socio-political reforms we experienced in the past, the back-stabbing and betrayal that has been played out habitually in our local political landscape has left some of us lethargic or too cynical to care anymore.

And this is exactly what the puppet master has in mind – to employ sickening methods by manipulating our already fragile ethno-religious relations and crafting devious diversions to distract a nation. If you do not subscribe to any organised religion or if you are a self-professed atheist, the guardians of the far, far right will infringe on your minority rights and instil a sense of fear and loathing.

By now, most Malaysians know just how conniving the ruling elite are and the worst is yet to come. With each passing day, the elections draw closer and threatening soundbytes become louder. Those who are in federal power will be free to scheme with the most brazen decree that disregards all sense of logic and good of the rakyat.

For them, chaos is not a pit rather it is a ladder that can propel one to greater commanding heights and the only way to ensure this is to keep the rakyat busy fretting over trivial matters while the larger more sinister deed takes place behind closed doors.

Keeping Malaysians intellectually clumsy and logically impaired will only be advantageous to the ruling elite, and unfortunately, some are lacking the skills to read between the lines and understand political patterns of subtle confrontation.

But these skills can be learned and understood through discussions and asking the right questions.

At present, the elite and the kleptocrats understand that their influence on our nation is slowly wearing off, hence, the tightening grip on religious issues and absurd rulings that contradict our secular nation.

We should always remember that once a nation is made to legislate upon religious arguments and basis, we make ourselves susceptible to every single form of persecution, bigotry and odious dogma. We should also remember that when a scandal is exposed, those in power will utilise their mechanism to create a distraction by rerouting our priorities and rechanneling our anger.

Malaysians deserve better: we deserve to live in a society where our beliefs and personal liberties will not be trampled upon, where the rights of every woman, man and child are protected. Freedom, social justice and above all, safeguarding human rights irrespective of race, religion and gender are too important to be crushed by unjust policies, tactless bureaucracy and bad governance.

The night in Malaysia is dark and full of frightening uncertainties, therefore let our intellect and reason be the guiding light we need to help walk a nation through this temporary menacing gloom. – October 7, 2017.

Disorder, distraction and division
Syerleena Abdul Rashid
7 Oct 2017 – TMI

Nuclear lessons for Malaysia (Part 1) (Part 2)
BN govt is directing attention to distant past and distant future, in order to distract people from present misdeeds and poor governance
Felda - A picture is worth a thousand words
How the 1MDB Scandal Spread Across the World (WSJ)
We cannot afford ridiculously expensive RM55 Billion ECRL!
All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?