Archive for March, 2015

31
Mar
15

Release the “TMI 5” immediately – FCCM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

We note with grave alarm that our colleagues at The Malaysian Insider (TMI), including the publisher of The Edge Media Group, have been arrested by police apparently to aid investigations over a report published on March 25 concerning the Conference of Rulers and a proposal to amend laws concerning Islamic law.

We in no way vouch for the veracity of the article and welcome all stakeholders to hold journalists up to good ethical standards. Should there be any question of law, we accept that the police have a role to play in investigations.

But just as with previous arrests of media personnel, and the recent use of the Peaceful Assembly Act and Sedition Act against politicians, activists and even students, authorities have used unwarranted and high-handed tactics to intimidate those practicing their rights to freedom of expression and, in the case of these five journalists from TMI and Edge Group, their rights and ability to earn a living.

Authorities must ask if they are cracking down on alleged sedition, or merely “bad” reporting? If it is the latter, then it is sufficient to call on all witnesses and suspects to record their statements as there is no good reason to arrest and detain them overnight, much less to remand them for several more days.
No TMI personnel has tried to flee from investigations even from last week when police reports were first filed against the news portal. It is of great concern that the police are applying “preventive measures” to reporters, as if they were terrorists.

We call on all stakeholders and the general public to participate in a democratic society responsibly. With regards to a free press, all aggrieved parties should be given their right of reply and there are proactive civil methods we can engage in that are more productive and honest, than using blunt and misplaced brute force.

The police and judiciary must release the “TMI 5” immediately and conduct investigations in a manner befitting of institutions that underpins a vibrant and orderly Malaysian society that the FCCM has been proud to operate in.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia
March 31, 2015.

31
Mar
15

Biggest crackdown of free speech in Malaysia

Arrests of journalists: Najib goes one better than Dr M


The arrest of the TMI journalists comes in the wake of the biggest crackdown of free speech ever in Malaysia. Over the past few months, the government led by Prime Minister Najib Razak has arrested more than 150 people – Opposition politicians, civil society advocates, activists, students and academics – for a variety of offences.

Most of these diverse offences have one common thread: They cast the Najib administration, and some of the instruments of power it wields, in a bad light.

These arrests also come in the wake of a continuing series of exposés that TMI, aided by articles in The Sarawak Report blog as well as in TMI’s sister publication The Edge business weekly, has been running on what is being described as the “mother” of all financial scandals: 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), whose alleged manoeuvrings put to shame anything you’ve seen on The Wolf of Wall Street.

No wonder some have been describing the current spate of arrests as Operation Lalang 2 (or Ops Lalang 2), a reflection of the crackdown under former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s longest-serving premier, in 1987.

That year, the Mahathir administration arrested 106 activists, Opposition politicians, academics, students, artistes, parishioners and others under the Internal Security Act (ISA). He didn’t arrest journalists though – in that area, he went one step further than Najib, closing down newspapers by revoking their publishing licences.

Where Najib has gone one up on Dr Mahathir is with the number of arrests, and the opaque and varying reasons for them. Except for the most sycophantic of his followers, most of whom have a vested interest in blocking media scrutiny of their activities, very few can rationalise these arrests.

In today’s world of Internet memes and social media hashtags, only one term can properly describe these actions: #Facepalm.

But I am being disingenuous, forgive me. The arrests can be rationalised. It’s to create a climate of fear and intimidation that discourages public discourse and scrutiny, and punishes independent thinkers. It is to maintain the status quo and uphold what is now one of the most repressive regimes in South-East Asia, even as Malaysia chairs the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

It is to prosecute the innocent and protect the guilty.

In December 2013, as this same government suspended weekly newsmagazine The Heat, I quoted the poem by Protestant pastor and social activist Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

I wrote then, “When are the rest going to speak out? Because if this government has its way and successfully brings the online media as well to heel, as it has done with the mainstream media and especially courageous publications like The Heat, who’s going to be left to speak for you when they do come for you?”

Well, they are coming for us. For all of us who care enough for the country to speak out. As Pete Teo has noted, it’s time for the deafening silence to end. It’s time for Malaysians to wake up.

Arrests of journalists: Najib goes one better than Dr M
By A. Asohan
Mar 31, 2015 – Digital News Asia

30
Mar
15

‘1MDB has hit raw nerve, converts BN backers’

A DAP lawmaker today claimed that the controversies surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is convincing strong BN supporters to switch to the Pakatan camp.

“1MDB is hitting a raw nerve. That day, when I was in a shopping mall, I was approached by two men who told me they started supporting Pakatan three weeks ago, and asked me to keep up my job (in exposing 1MDB dealings),” said Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua in a forum on the state-owned investment arm in Petaling Jaya today.

The forum itself, titled ‘1MDB: The Ultimate Low-Down’, was attended by over 700 people in a packed hall, resulting in many sitting down on the floor to listen to the panelists- namely Pua and PKR secretary general Rafizi Ramli.

Pua also said that senior ministers had begun confiding in opposition lawmakers that they no longer back Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s leadership.

“In fact, some of them are beginning to request information from me regarding 1MDB,” Pua said.

Pua’s views was echoed by Rafizi (right), who said that the controversy surrounding RM4 billion loan that was taken by 1MDB’s former subsidiary SRC International from the pension fund (KWAP) in 2011, with no confirmation of where the money went to date – could sway the opinion of the Malays regarding the government.

“When I speak to my grandmother, she tells me she always votes for BN because they pay her pension. Now, I’m going to tell her, they have taken even your pension money,” Rafizi said, saying that many pensioners might look at the political situation differently if they realised that the pension funds are not accounted for.

Both the MPs, who are vocal critics of 1MDB, also raised doubts on whether 1MDB could be rescued by the government’s efforts as it sits on a RM42 billion debt.

Pua said that 1MDB’s energy arm and land, if sold, could fetch over RM20 billion- but still would not be enough to pay off the RM42 billion debts.

“Where is the rest of the money going to come from?” Pua asked.

Rafizi meanwhile said that he believes up to RM15 billion in public funds “had already been lost” through 1MDB’s dealings, and the goal now is to ensure that no more public funds are used for 1MDB.

“I estimate between RM10 billion and RM15 billion has already been lost. We can’t do anything about it. The money won’t come back,” he said.

…more
Mar 15, 2015 – Malaysiakini
‘1MDB has hit raw nerve, converts BN backers’

29
Mar
15

Centralised power, weak institutions allowed 1MDB to happen

Centralised power, weak institutions allowed 1MDB to happen, says Sarawak Report editor

Over-concentration of power in Malaysia, weak public institutions, the muzzled mainstream media and lack of transparency had allowed businessman Low Taek Jho to allegedly siphon billions of ringgit from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Clare Rewcastle Brown said today.

The editor of whistleblower site, Sarawak Report, told a forum today that all these factors had prevented anyone from revealing more info on Jho Low, as he is better known, and his 1MDB dealings earlier on, despite the fact that he was just a “30-something businessman”.

“In a more open, strong, check-and-balance set up, he would have been flushed out, sorted and put in his place a long time previously,” said Rewcastle Brown, as she addressed the 1,000-plus audience at the Crystal Crown Hotel, in Petaling Jaya today, via an online video conference on Skype.

But in Malaysia, power was too concentrated, she said, pointing to the fact that Najib controlled two of the most important portfolios in the government.

“The checks and balances are eroded to the extent that the prime minister is the finance minister.

“I mean, why do you think there are two positions? Why is it a good idea that the same person should occupy both?” said Rewcastle Brown at the forum titled “1MDB: The Ultimate LOW Down”.

She added that there was also a lack of robustness in Malaysia’s institutions, despite the huge pool of talent and manpower the country has.

“The other thing that struck me is the lack of transparency. Politicians like Tony Pua, Rafizi Ramli and Umno’s Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have asked valid questions and those answers should be available in public paperwork.”

Instead, she said, the questions remained unanswered and anyone who digs deeper were treated as traitors.

Referring to the mainstream media in Malaysia, she said that the “muzzled media” was overly obedient and Malaysians could only rely on blogs and online news portals to objectively discuss politicians’ actions, added Rewcastle Brown.

“There seems to be an attitude that a strong government is a good thing, and that’s why you have over-concentration of power and weak institutions.

“But I think it’s a recipe for disaster. And that’s what 1MDB is, a very big disaster for Malaysia,” said Rewcastle Brown.

…more
Centralised power, weak institutions allowed 1MDB to happen, says Sarawak Report editor
15 March 2015 – TMI

29
Mar
15

80% of Malaysian workers below poverty line after retirement

80 per cent of Malaysian workers end up poor, who to blame?

COMMENT: The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) says 80 per cent of Malaysian workers end up with savings below the poverty line at the age of 55.

This is not only shocking but also worrying. Generally, it means the majority of Malaysian workers are poorly paid.
It also means wages and salaries are not rising in tandem with rising costs of living and quality of life.
How and why is this happening in Malaysia, 58 years after Merdeka? Is Malaysia a poor nation?

Isn’t Malaysia a country blessed with vast natural resources including oil and gas? What then has happened to the country’s wealth?

Not only are Malaysians poor after labouring and toiling for about four decades to raise their loved ones or families, their country’s federal debt is to the tune of RM800 billion, and still climbing.

The rakyat’s current woes can only mean something is really wrong with the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government’s socio-economic policy and focus since Merdeka.

Clearly, the policy has failed to ensure a reasonable and fairer distribution of wealth and income for the majority of Malaysians.

The federal government and politicians are to blame, no?

The Malaysian Insider reported that about 80 per cent of workers turning 55 this year will not have enough savings in their EPF to live above the poverty line, according to figures released by the fund’s chief executive officer.

Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said for the next 20 years, the workers would not have enough in total EPF savings to enable them to live on RM800 a month, which is close to Malaysia’s average poverty line income of RM830.

This is because most of them had low wages when they started contributing to the fund in 1980s, and continued earning relatively low salaries till they turned 55, said Shahril, who did not provide a number for this batch of retirees.

The revelation shines the spotlight on the problem of low income among a majority of Malaysian workers, even as Putrajaya said it aims to make Malaysia a high income nation in five years’ time.

According to Shahril, more than 75 per cent of its 14 million EPF contributors earn lower than RM2,000 a month. About 15 per cent earn between RM2,000 and RM5,000 a month, and those earning more than RM5,000 are in the top 10 per cent.

…more
14 Mar 2015 – theantdaily.com
by Ng Kee Seng
80 per cent of Malaysian workers end up poor, who to blame?

28
Mar
15

Dr M: How did PM’s stepson afford lush condos

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has joined in the chorus of calls to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to explain his family’s wealth.

In a post on his blog today, Mahathir took aim at Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, questioning how Riza could afford hundreds of millions of ringgit to purchase real estate in the US and produce Hollywood films.

“Initially, Riza’s money is said to be from inheritance of (former prime minister) Abdul Razak Hussein’s family. Then it was denied.

“The question is, if it is not from Razak’s family, then where did so much money come from?

“Is it from business? If yes, what kind of business and where? Was income tax collected? By which government?” Mahathir asked in his posting.

Money trail

Riza had previously said that Penang-born billionaire Jho Low had helped fund his company Red Granite Pictures to produce the Oscar-nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street.

Jho Low’s name is also mentioned in the film’s end credit.

However, according to New York Times, the end credits was later changed and Riza attributed the film’s financing to Aabar Investments chief executive Mohamed Ahmed Badwy al-Husseiny, who have also had business dealings with Jho Low and 1MDB.

Jho Low had also admitted to selling a penthouse to Riza for US$33.5 million (RM124 million) and another Los Angeles mansion for US$65 million but insisted it was done at market value.

Previously, the Prime Minister’s Office had attributed Najib’s family wealth to inheritance after a query from New York TImes about the premier’s jet-setting ways, his wife’s luxury jewellery and alleged stacks of cash at his home as claimed by a former aide.

…more
Mar 13, 2015 – Malaysiakini
Dr M: How did PM’s stepson afford lush condos

27
Mar
15

1Malaysia – now vomiting

Like many Malaysians, I am vomiting through the dungeons of my soul reading the reports daily on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), if it is true that the leaders of this country are bankrupting it.

This is especially so when 1MDB may one day suck the blood, sweat, and tears dry out of the long and difficult years of investment of the Malaysian public, especially the kampung folk, the rubber tappers, the small businessmen and labourers of any race, not to mention the filthy work of secrecy we are seeing operating in the government, at a time when the nauseating hypocrisy of slogans such as “high-income nation,” “world-class education” and “syariah index” are trumpeted and shoved down the throat of the people who are kept in fear and silence for criticising the run-amuck of the nation’s “global-smart-partnership of Ali-Baba and John and Hollywood-hedonistic bloodsucker-filthy corporate-crony-useless-sons and daughters of sicko-capitalists”.

Excuse me for the long running sentence. And excuse my little explosion too. The spirit of the New York beat poet Allen Ginsburg is running amuck in me today.

And excuse me while I kiss the sky and vomit through my bruised soul, as a Jimi Hendrix song would go screaming. What then must we do, in the midst of those in power pounding on the helpless crying for help in demanding justice and decency of making ends meet – especially to be reading stories of bloodsuckers and big-time conmen partying in yachts while the rakyat drowns in broken sampans and broken spirits?

And these premature talks about a replacement prime minister and who that might be too bores me to death.

Same old mould, I believe. These are mere dynastic wars over wealth and power that have become a disease of the nobility of politics as what it should be about: public service.

Same breed of emperors in new clothes

What do all these mean if what we are getting will perhaps be even worse vendetta and a continuation of the installation of the same breed of emperors in new clothes preying upon the poor and the helpless, using the state apparatuses to maintain a jet-setting lifestyle and lying to the people to beg for a mandate to rule?

Fools we have become and made to be, haven’t we?

My immediate worry is this:

With a bailout plan for 1MDB, even to pay just the interest of the loans and the new, horrifying numbers on the newly defined loan/bonds, what are we looking at? Will the rakyat’s pension plan/life savings/national unit trusts and the like be used to help these crooks out?

Have we not learned from the experience of other countries how public funds were used to bail out such “Cayman Island” investments? Do the people know enough about the kind of dictators, global CEOs and glorified money-launderers who stash their money in secret vaults in Switzerland, Singapore and those Islands?

What makes you think that your KWSP/EPF money is still going to be safe – when no one seems to want to tell the truth and what we are reading is about a barely 30-year-old kid and an investment punk partying till he pukes and investing our money till we all puke?

Why have we come to this point in history? You nationalists out there, tell me.


…more
Mar 13, 2015 – Malaysiakini
By Azly Rahman
1Malaysia – now vomiting

27
Mar
15

DAP calls Putrajaya’s SRC another financial scandal in the making

DAP today sounded the alarm on another possible financial scandal similar to 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) dubious dealings, this time with SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of the troubled state investment fund which had taken a RM4 billion government-backed loan.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said SRC International had taken the loan from the Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP) that was disbursed in two tranches in August 2011 and March 2012.

But the company was placed directly under the Finance Ministry before the end of March 2012, he added.

“This modus operandi appears similar to how the PetroSaudi joint venture was terminated and converted into a loan on the very last day of the March 2010 financial year to avoid having to report the details of the venture,” Pua said at a press conference in the Parliament lobby today.

He was referring to 1MDB’s joint venture with PetroSaudi International in 2009, a deal which was eventually terminated but not before 1MDB had paid US$700 million as repayment to PetroSaudi, funds which according to documents and emails exposed went to businessman Low Taek Jho.

Pua today questioned whether SRC International’s joint venture with Mongolian mining company, Gobi Coal & Energy Ltd, was similar to the 1MDB-PetroSaudi “scam”.

The DAP national publicity secretary said the answer he got when he raised the question in Parliament yesterday was “scary”, as the Finance Ministry refused to provide any details.

Pua said Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah had merely answered his question by confirming SRC International’s investment with Gobi Coal at 50%.

“The answer is scary because it sounded exactly the same when I had queried the Minister over the past few years about 1MDB’s 2009 US$1 billion joint venture investment in PetroSaudi.

“It was only last month after the Joint Venture Agreement was exposed when we found out that the PetroSaudi joint venture was an elaborate scam to immediately siphon US$700 million into a company controlled by Jho Low and his associates,” Pua said.

Also speaking on the same issue in the Parliament lobby today was Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, who said pensioners and civil servants should sue KWAP for approving the RM4 billion loan to the little-known company.

…more
DAP calls Putrajaya’s SRC another financial scandal in the making
12 March 2015 – TMI

26
Mar
15

RM950 million ‘standby credit’ to 1MDB a bailout by any name

A bailout by any name, PKR says of RM950 million ‘standby credit’ to 1MDB

Contradictory statements by the Finance Ministry and the chief of troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) about the nature of RM950 million channeled to the state investment fund show that it is clearly a bailout, PKR said today.

With Putrajaya calling it “standby credit” and 1MDB saying it was “commercial loan”, PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli said it was evident the money was approved hastily.

“That must be the reason they are saying different things, the terms are yet to be finalised.

“So it is clearly a bailout to ease the immediate cash-flow problems given the loans that has to be settled soon by 1MDB,” Rafizi said in a statement today.

Shortly after the Finance Ministry’s announcement in Parliament that the RM950 million to 1MDB was given as standby credit, 1MDB president and group executive director, Arul Kanda Kandasamy, issued a statement saying it was a loan on commercial terms.

He said the credit facility was part of the company’s strategic review of 1MDB’s business which he had announced on February 17 this year, shortly after he joined the fund.

“The Finance Ministry is fully supportive of these plans and, in its capacity as the 100% shareholder of 1MDB, has provided the company with a standby credit facility to help ensure that it is able to realise maximum value from these plans.”

“The facility, of up to RM950 million, is being provided as a loan on commercial terms,” Arul Kanda had said.

In Parliament, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said the money was standby credit and not a loan, disputing a report by Singapore’s Business Times a day earlier that Putrajaya had “loaned” 1MDB RM970 million.

Rafizi today said that if 1MDB had a strong credit and financial position, it would not need any loan from the federal government.

Instead, he added, the state fund would only need to list its subsidiaries in order to raise equity from investors or issue bonds to raise money.

“But the financial and credit status of 1MDB is so bad that it has become difficult for it to secure any new funds at the usual borrowing rate from financial institutions or the bond market.

“1MDB also has problems listing its assets because there is a big possibility its share offering will not be well taken up,” the Pandan MP said.

Rafizi said the injection of funds from the government was clearly a bailout, adding that the government would not otherwise offer any company such loans which should rightly be obtained from financial institutions.

…more
A bailout by any name, PKR says of RM950 million ‘standby credit’ to 1MDB
13 March 2015 – TMI

25
Mar
15

Why are lobsters exempted from GST?

Lobsters Exempted

Why are lobsters, not books and medicines, exempted from GST? PKR MP asks

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 – A PKR lawmaker questioned today Putrajaya’s rationale behind imposing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on healthcare and education when luxury food items like lobsters are being exempted.

Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar echoed similar calls by her Pakatan Rakyat (PR) colleagues to exclude all scheduled medicines from the new consumption tax system, saying the current list of zero-rated items would only profit the “crony class”.

“Lobsters are exempted, but medicines and books are taxed… who eats lobsters everyday? I know the people in my constituency don’t,” Nurul Izzah told a press conference in Parliament lobby.

“Ordinary Malaysians are being asked to pay directly or indirectly, for these projects through the regressive GST and abolition of subsidies to fill the Treasury’s deficit-ridden coffers,” she said.

The PKR vice president pointed out that patients at private healthcare facilities will have to pay the GST for medical aids such as crutches, wheelchairs and artificial limbs.

Apart from that, she said medicines for cancer patients, kidney-related illnesses and HIV patients are also excluded from the zero-rated list.

The Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) has estimated that healthcare costs will rise between 4 and 5 per cent after the GST as medical supplies are subjected to the tax system, scheduled for implementation next year.

Meanwhile, Nurul Izzah said findings by the International Publisher Association (IPA) have shown that 47 out of 51 countries that impose the GST have either introduced special discounts or exemptions on printed books.

“I think the government has to understand this demand.

“They are making lobsters exempt from GST because the government has under NKEA project harvesting lobsters in Sabah.

“So for me, there is a disconnect between what ordinary Malaysians are facing once the tax regime is in place versus what their vested interests are involved with,” she said.

…more
Why are lobsters, not books and medicines, exempted from GST? PKR MP asks
November 25, 2014 – Malay Mail Online





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What happened to 1MDB’s money? – CNBC Video
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?

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