Archive for December, 2016

31
Dec
16

Malaysia’s 1MDB in university hard sell – They think students can be so easily deceived?

Malaysia’s 1MDB in university hard sell

An investigation by US authorities into the alleged theft of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB was in part fuelled by Attorney-General Loretta Lynch’s desire to divert attention from Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, according to materials distributed in private lectures given by the company’s chief executive Arul Kanda in Australia last week.

The glossy 20-page booklet claims the US Department of Justice investigation, which has so far resulted in the freezing of more than $US1 billion ($1.34bn) in ­assets allegedly removed from 1MDB, is “questionable, strange and bizarre” and threatens the stability of Malaysia.

When it was set up in 2009, 1MDB was touted as a development bank that would invest billions of dollars into energy, real estate and hospitality, but the DoJ alleges the pillaging of the fund began within months of its creation.

Under increasing pressure from the series of international investigations, 1MDB and the ­Malaysian Special Affairs Department, JASA, have been secretly shoring up support among backers of the country’s ruling party in a series of closed-door lectures at Australian universities.

The tour followed an apparent pivot towards China by Malaysia, a long-time US ally, with Prime Minister Najib Razak visiting Beijing a fortnight ago to sign a 55 billion ringgit ($17bn) railway construction contract with the state-owned China Communications Construction Company.

CCCC, which owns Australian contractor John Holland, has previously denied reports the railway deal was inflated to conceal 1MDB’s financial black hole.

Accompanied by JASA officials, 1MDB chief executive Arul Kanda last week appeared at three Australian campuses — in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane — where the pamphlet, entitled “DoJ’s summons is questionable”, was distributed.

When confronted by The Australian at the University of NSW about the alleged corruption, including the funnelling of hundreds of millions of dollars into the personal bank account of Mr Razak, Mr Kanda refused to answer questions and was quickly ushered into a waiting car.

Mr Kanda did not meet with any Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade officials while in Australia, nor anyone at the Australian Securities & Investments Commission or at ANZ, which owns a quarter of AmBank, the Malaysian bank where Mr Najib held the account that allegedly received the money.

ANZ last week attempted to distance itself from the scandal engulfing its Malaysian affiliate. The bank’s chief executive, Shayne Elliott, who was on the AmBank board until October last year, told a parliamentary inquiry the bank had not investigated activities of ANZ employees seconded into senior AmBank ranks at the time.

Responding in writing to questions after the hearing, Mr Elliott also declined to comment on his knowledge of an internal investigation into the vast flow of money through Mr Najib’s account, or discussions of the issue while he was on the AmBank board, citing “confidentiality requirements under Malaysian law”.

The contents of Mr Kanda’s presentation on Australian campuses is unknown, with The Australian ejected from the lecture shortly after it began.

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Malaysia’s 1MDB in university hard sell
November 15, 2016 – The Australian

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30
Dec
16

Felda – A picture is worth a thousand words (re-post)

Felda
(courtesy: Zunar)

29
Dec
16

Milking the Felda cash cow? (re-post)

Raking in the Bounty of FELDA’s IPO

In the run-up to the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of FELDA Global Ventures Holdings (FGH), there is little, in fact no discussion on how the exercise would benefit FELDA settlers. Surely that should be the foremost consideration. The only criterion upon which to judge the wisdom or success of any FELDA initiative, including this proposed IPO, would be to assess its impact on the settlers.

Instead the focus has been on bragging rights, as with trumpeting FGH to be the biggest IPO for the year, among the top 20 on the KLSE, and the world’s biggest plantation company. Such milestones are meaningful only if achieved as a consequence of the usual business activities and not through fancy paper-shuffling exercises. Apple recently surpassed Microsoft in market capitalization, but that was the consequence of Apple’s much superior products like iPads, iPods, and iPhones. Contrast that with earlier achievements of such now-defunct financial giants as AIG and Lehman Brothers that were based on fancy “financial engineering” instead of solid products and services.

Instead of delineating the potential benefits that would accrue on the settlers from this IPO, its proponents are content with dismissing the critics and imputing evil motives on their part. There are legitimate concerns that this exercise would prove to be nothing more than yet another fancy scheme for the politically powerful to cash out on a lucrative but under-priced government asset. We already have many ready examples of such greed.

Consider the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) “cowgate” mess involving considerably much smaller sum of money. Despite the presence of high government officials on NFC’s board to safeguard the government’s interest, NFC’s senior managers still managed to subvert those publicly-subsidized loans to purchase luxury condominiums totally unrelated to the company’s activities. This oversight failure reflects both the incompetence of the government’s representatives in discharging their fiduciary responsibility, as well as the lack of integrity on the part of NFC’s management.

Such despicable omissions and spectacular failures are not unique only to NFC; they are endemic in government-linked corporations. Thus Malaysians have good reasons to believe that FGH would be no exception once the money starts rolling in.

It also does not escape the public’s attention that the man helming FGH, and thus whose hands would be at the till once the billions start pouring in from the IPO, is one Isa Samad, a former UMNO Vice-President. Not any VP however, but one who was found guilty by his party of “money politics” and subsequently suspended. UMNO is no paragon of virtue; to be found guilty by it would be akin to being called a slut by hookers. You have to be disgustingly gross.

It would be easy to blame Isa Samad. The bigger question, and one that has yet to be answered, is why did Prime Minister Najib choose such a shady character to helm this major corporation? That is as much a reflection of Najib as it is on Isa.

Peruse FGH current corporate structure. It has nearly over a hundred subsidiaries, associated companies, and joint ventures, many with overlapping functions, markets and products. Those units are created less in response to commercial needs, more to create opportunities for senior civil servants to be appointed to the many governing boards, and thus garnering extra income in the form of directors’ fees, in addition to their regular civil service pay. Ever wonder why these GLCs lack effective oversight and our government departments are shoddily run? You would think that their regular government jobs, diligently executed, would keep them fully occupied.

A more sinister reason for these GLC directorships is that they are an effective trick to trap the loyalty of civil servants. Be too critical of the idiotic ideas of your political superiors and you risk being left out on those lucrative board appointments. With Isa Samad, it is also a case of Najib buying Isa’s silence, for reasons best known only to the pair.

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Raking in the Bounty of FELDA’s IPO
February 26th, 2012 – Bakri Musa

28
Dec
16

Rafizi poses questions to PM on Felda-Eagle High Plantations deal

Rafizi poses questions to PM on Felda-Eagle High Plantations deal

With criticisms mounting against Felda’s planned purchase of a 37 percent stake in PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli wants Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to answer several questions on the matter.

His demand comes after Felda announced it would buy a non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation for US$505.4 million (RM2.26 billion).

During a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today, Rafizi cited Eagle High Plantations’ average share price in 2016 was between 132 rupiah to 315 rupiah per share.

Based on the average share price in the past 52 weeks, a share at Eagle High Plantations was 200 rupiah or 6.7sen in ringgit.

As such, Rafizi said Felda would pay a premium of 290 percent to buy the 37 percent stake in Eagle High Plantations, which is three times more than the average share price recorded in the past 52 weeks.

Even if the purchase is compared with Eagle High Plantations’ share price at present, he said Felda would still be paying a premium of 195 percent to acquire the aforementioned stake.

Citing Felda’s 2014 audited financial statement, Rafizi claimed that Felda only had RM291 million in cash.

He further pointed out that the figure was only for 2014. Felda’s 2015 financial statement has yet to be submitted to members of Parliament.

Therefore, Rafizi wanted to know how Felda would make the RM2.26 billion purchase to acquire the stake in Eagle High Plantations when it only had RM291 million in cash at the end of 2014.

“(And) who gave the instruction to buy the 37 percent stake in Eagle High Plantations for three times more than the market price?” he asked.

‘Only Najib can answer’

These questions, said the Pandan MP, could only be answered by Najib, pointing to the relationship between the latter and Indonesian tycoon Peter Sondakh.

He described the latter as being the prime minister’s “business associate”.

“I want Najib to answer whether he instructed any official to continue with the purchase of the 37 percent of shares of Eagle High Plantations, owned by his business associate Sondakh,” he added.

Sondakh is the chairperson and chief executive officer of Rajawali Group. Eagle High Plantations is a plantation unit of the Indonesian conglomerate.

Rafizi also confirmed that he would lodge a police report against Najib and the Felda board of directors over this matter on Thursday.

Reiterating that he would hold daily press conferences on this, the PKR leader also said his side would attempt to “pull strings” with their counterparts in Indonesia.

“Logically, no politician (in Malaysia and Indonesia) is going to push for this,” he added.

Felda announced the planned purchase in Eagle High Plantations after a failed attempt by Felda Global Ventures (FGV) to purchase the same stake.

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Rafizi poses questions to PM on Felda-Eagle High Plantations deal
27 Dec 2016 – malaysiakini

27
Dec
16

Ringgit at new lows and all the gov’t can say is ‘don’t panic’?

Ringgit at new lows and all the gov’t can say is ‘don’t panic’?

YOURSAY | ‘The drop in the value of the ringgit is like the money you owe your credit card issuer.’

Don’t panic, ringgit will bounce back, says minister

Odin Tajué: Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani, if you want to delude yourself, that is your business. But in trying to delude others, you are only making yourself look like an idiot.

Of course, the ringgit will bounce back. The question is, bounce back to which level? But the answer to that question means nothing. Because you can pick any level in the present decade that suits your purpose.

The important point to note is that the drop in the value of the ringgit is like the money you owe your credit card issuer. The more you borrow, the harder it is to repay what you owe until you get to the stage when you have to declare bankruptcy – as has been happening to many Malaysians.

If one looks at the trend of the drop in the ringgit, one will find that it has never recovered. Never, you understand? It has not recovered even to the point just before it was pegged against the greenback and never mind to a point sometime in the 70s.

Compared against the Singapore dollar, it has also been dropping. And dropping. And dropping.

You all have failed, and failed miserably, to manage Malaysia’s economy even properly and never mind well. You all have been too busy doing we all know what.

Clever Voter: Johari knows that his colleagues had not expected the ringgit decline. The assumption was that revenue from petroleum exports would have cushion the shortfall of the 1MDB.

Secondly, they had not expected commodity prices to stay bearish. We could have done better to diversify our economy. The so-called resilient economy is put to a test with a broken governance structure.

The final analysis is that perception counts. The likelihood is that the ringgit will remain in the doldrums for quite a while.

Dont Just Talk: Johari, you failed to mention the crux of the issue, which is the rampant corruption in the country, with 1MDB taking the top prize.

Your boss, MO1 (Malaysian Official 1), received US$681 million into his personal account and MO1 was mentioned 36 times by US Department of Justice as someone who holds a high position in the government, a close relative of Riza Aziz and an associate of Jho Low, who allegedly stole US$3.5 billion from the Malaysian people.

When leaders fail to lead by example, how would you expect foreign investors to have confidence in Malaysia?

Our ringgit has depreciated to RM4.48 to US$1 and RM3.10 to S$1 and as second finance minister, don’t you feel embarrassed by this?

Korkor: Hmmm, thought I heard that last year, and it’s going to be another year soon. When will it bounce back? How soon is “soon”? That’s the question even soothsayers can’t predict. Maybe we should ask our Malaysian ‘coconut binoculars’ bomoh.

Our ringgit has grown so small in size and when it does bounce back, I wonder will it be like the basketball it once was or will it be a squash ball?

Anonymous #44199885: Corruption, kleptocracy, abuse of power and failing institutions do not make a “right ecosystem” for the ringgit to bounce back.

Do the right thing, Johari – that is, do what that will put the bounce back into the RM. The question is whether you and the others in BN are up to the task.

Anonymous 2419321464077065: No worries, we will raise the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to 8 or 9 percent to cover the gap, and the currency will bounce back, perhaps this is what he means.

Lulu: When the government says don’t worry, that is when you really should start worrying.

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Ringgit at new lows and all the gov’t can say is ‘don’t panic’?
22 Dec 2016 – Malaysiakini

26
Dec
16

Malaysian Politics: ‘Mother Of All Battles’ Shaping Up – Analysis

Malaysian Politics: ‘Mother Of All Battles’ Shaping Up – Analysis

Malaysia’s besieged leader Najib Razak claims to have turned around his political fortunes despite the 1MDB scandal. While UMNO is increasingly confident of facing the coming general election, the ground may be far from sweet.

By Yang Razali Kassim*

The mother of all battles is shaping up in Malaysian politics as beleaguered prime minister Najib Razak pulled out all stops to defend himself in the face of a reconfiguring opposition. Putting his dominant party, UMNO, on a war footing at its recently concluded annual general assembly, Najib resorted to the Islamic doctrine of wala’ – or loyalty to the leader – as he manoeuvred to rally support and ready UMNO for a general election.

The enabler was his Number 2, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who started the ball rolling by pledging his own loyalty to Najib, who has been under siege since the outbreak of the 1MDB scandal last year. UMNO for the first time had to ward off an uprising against a sitting president led by a former prime minister and party president. In a single-minded drive to push Najib out, Mahathir Mohamad is leading a “people’s movement” to “Save Malaysia”. Having resigned from UMNO in protest against Najib, Mahathir has joined the opposition, even reconciling with his former ally-turned-nemesis Anwar Ibrahim to revive their once powerful political partnership.
Najib’s Survival Strategy

Mahathir is now demonised as a traitor who would even sleep with the enemy, the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP), to destroy UMNO, the Malay party he once led. The trigger that launched Mahathir on this warpath is 1MDB which has implicated Najib despite his denial of wrongdoing. The scandal has energised the divided opposition as well as Najib’s critics, culminating in the departure from UMNO of Mahathir and three other leaders, including deputy prime minister and UMNO deputy president Muhyddin Yassin. All three have formed a new party PPBM, also known for short as Bersatu.

This new party is set to join the Anwar-inspired Pakatan Harapan, formerly known as Pakatan Rakyat. This could strengthen the opposition coalition out to topple Najib, along with UMNO and the ruling national front coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN). It is this prospect of a reconstituted opposition coalition led in spirit and form by the two formidable former foes – Mahathir and Anwar – that caused Zahid to predict an epic clash. “We have to work triple-hard than previous elections because the mother of all battles will be in this coming elections,” he told the MalayMail in an interview. Another UMNO leader, the chief minister of Johor state, has described the coming general election as a “battle for survival”.

With his back to the wall, Najib’s strategy for survival has transformed him from a gentlemanly politician to an almost unrecognisable political animal. At the outbreak of the 1MDB scandal, he swiftly removed key senior officials who were not on his side, including the attorney-general, before sacking his chief critic, the deputy premier Muhyiddin. 1MDB has now grown into an international scandal as several governments launched probes where the financial fiasco affected their jurisdictions; yet at the UMNO general assembly over the weekend, 1MDB was hardly an issue as the entire party’s attention was deflected towards the impending general election.
Rohingya Issue

Najib the Malay nationalist then burnished his credentials as an Islamic leader by latching on to the latest humanitarian crisis on the Rohingya in Myanmar, which came at an opportune time for him. Usually cautious when making his moves and choosing his words, Najib was a different persona at the Rohingya solidarity rally the next day.

He did the unprecedented in ASEAN: He brushed aside a warning by Myanmar not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Upset that his foreign minister was turned away by Aung San Suu Kyi when he sought bilateral talks on the issue, Najib declared a limit to the ASEAN principle of non-interference when it came to human rights abuses. He even ticked off Suu Kyi for not living up to her name as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, while urging Indonesian president Joko Widodo to mobilise a larger rally in support of the Rohingya: “Enough is enough!” he said. “They want me to close my eyes? Shut my mouth? I will not keep quiet. We will defend them (the Rohingya)!”

Billed as the Muslim Ummah Solidarity Rally for the Rohingya, it was clearly not just to show solidarity with the persecuted Rohingya, thousands of whom have taken refuge in Malaysia. It was also to showcase solidarity between UMNO and PAS, the Islamist opposition which Najib has been trying hard to woo. Indeed, this was a showcase moment – of him on stage together with the opposition Islamist PAS leader, Hadi Awang.

In coming together to support the Rohingya, UMNO and PAS have signalled their converging political interests. While this does not necessarily mean they would end up as formal allies in the coming elections, it does raise the prospect of an electoral pact. The more UMNO can win PAS over, the lesser the chances of the Pakatan Harapan opposition getting stronger. ASEAN will now have to contain the political fallout on the diplomatic and regional fronts.
The Mood Outside UMNO

Najib is clearly overflowing with confidence. UMNO leaders claimed the party had turned the corner and was now solidly behind him. While this may be so, it is too early to say if UMNO is completely out of the woods, going by publicly-aired sentiments. One came from a recent press conference by an UMNO Youth leader who quit the party after he was suspended for allegedly trying to “sabotage Najib” by attempting to provide Mahathir with a speaking platform.

It was not so much the Youth leader’s resignation but what he said. He said many more were standing behind him and claimed there would be “busloads” who would leave UMNO in “managed waves”. This would build up to the general election that is widely expected to be quickened to next year, before the fractured opposition could consolidate.

…more
Malaysian Politics: ‘Mother Of All Battles’ Shaping Up – Analysis
By S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)
December 9, 2016

25
Dec
16

Report on Malaysia’s PISA disqualification underway

Report on Malaysia’s PISA disqualification underway

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 – The Education Ministry is preparing a report to explain Malaysia’s disqualification from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, its deputy minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon said.

He added that the ministry committee in charge of Mathematics, Reading and Science will release the full details to explain the inadequate sampling which resulted in the disqualification, The Star daily reported today.

“The committee conducting the PISA will come up with a report on the issue” Chong was quoted telling a news conference yesterday.

Despite Malaysia’s disqualification, Chong asserted that the country’s results showed improvement compared to previous years.

The Education Ministry came under criticism after it was reported to have touted an improvement in Mathematics, Science and Reading with Malaysian students allegedly scoring higher in PISA 2015 compared to 2012.

In actual fact, Malaysians were disqualified from the ranking last year as it there was insufficient data supplied for the assessment and low number of schools that responded.

…more
Report on Malaysia’s PISA disqualification underway
December 16, 2016 – MMO




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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