Archive for January, 2018

30
Jan
18

1MDB scandal in BBC’s House of Saud episode on graft crackdown

Najib ‘guest stars’ in BBC’s House of Saud episode on graft crackdown

PRIME Minister Najib Razak has made an appearance in the latest episode of BBC’s “House of Saud: A Family at War”, a documentary series on the conflicted Saudi royal family.

“The Malaysian people are angry. They believe they have been robbed,” began the hour-long episode, which aired on Tuesday and which may be viewed online in the UK on the BBC website.

The second episode of the series traces the beginnings of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal, to a deal the seventh son of the Saudi King, Prince Turki Abdullah sealed in late 2009 to receive US$1 billion (RM4 billion) in investments via PetroSaudi International.

Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor and their children are shown in a picture with Prince Turki and Penang businessman Low Teck Jho, better known as Jho Low,on board the luxury yacht Tatoosh, where a plot was allegedly hatched to siphon money from the sovereign wealth fund.

Sarawak Report’s editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown is depicted in an interview telling the BBC that some US$700 million had disappeared from the fund.

Leaked documents showed that US$681 million was transferred to Najib’s personal bank account in March 2013, just before the 13th general election, Rewcastle said.

Prince Turki allegedly received US$77 million in commissions for his part in the scheme, according the leaked e-mails, the documentary said. These are the leaked emails that PetroSaudi has said were tampered with.

Also interviewed was DAP lawmaker Tony Pua, who said he had been tracking the scandal for eight years.

“We’re not talking about a million or two million. We’re talking about billions of dollars and yet the Malaysian government acted as if nothing happened. Absolutely nothing happened,” said the Petaling Jaya Utara MP in an interview in a coffee-shop.

“We were promised a tasty bowl of noodles full of meat vegetables and dumplings and the people would get to enjoy the feast,” Pua said, using a plate of wan-tan noodles to make his point.

“I was suspicious. We knew they’re going to siphon off the meat and and give it to themselves.

“But what actually took place, what really took place, was that not only did they take the meat, they took the dumplings, the whole bowl of noodles and the only thing they left for us to taste was the spicy chilli.”

Pua recounted the events after July 2015, when the Wall Street Journal broke the news alleging US$681 million of 1MDB’s money had been transferred into Najib’s account.

“Nobody believed it when it happened. Why would the prime minister be so stupid as to transfer that big an amount of money into his personal bank account? When I met people on the street, they said, ‘Nah that’s false news’. But later on, we discovered it was true,” Pua said.

The documentary said stolen funds were used to buy, among others, a hotel in Beverly Hills, a Monet painting and a US$33 million private jet.

“The cash had even been invested in a Hollywood movie. A film that just happened to be about rampant corruption and fraud,” the documentary narrator said, referring to the Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio

Prince Turki was recently detained during a crackdown on corruption initiated by the new Saudi crown prince, 32-year old Mohammed Salman. Hundreds have been arrested, including members of the royal family.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has also launched a criminal investigation into funds allegedly siphoned from 1MDB after filing to seize over US$1 billion in real estate and other assets allegedly paid for with stolen money.

The DoJ said between 2009 and 2015, more than US$4.5 billion belonging to 1MDB was diverted by high-level officials of the state investor and their associates.

The DoJ said the main beneficiary of the assets it was seeking to recover was “Malaysian Official 1 (MO1)” whose identity has since been confirmed as Najib by Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan Najib.

The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing. Najib said that the money in his bank account was gift from a Saudi Prince and which had mostly been returned. He was cleared of wrongdoing by the Attorney-General Mohd Apandi Ali in January 2016. – January 19, 2018.

…more
Najib ‘guest stars’ in BBC’s House of Saud episode on graft crackdown
19 Jan 2018 – TMI

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29
Jan
18

Terengganu: A tale of weak leadership and wasted assets

T’ganu: A tale of weak leadership and wasted assets

COMMENT | From the landscape perspective, Terengganu is a fine country.

This laidback state, with a population that is 95 percent Malay, has somehow taken for granted the beauty that it owns: a 200km stretch of fine golden sand beaches, together with some of the most beautiful islands in the South China Sea.

An almost perfect, indolent place to be when you are on holiday, no doubt, with a big dose of laziness during the hot summer months.

Somehow, this sluggish state of affairs has permeated their politics too, especially when it comes to political expediency. Why do Terengganu voters seem to have this averse attitude?

Terengganu has been and still is a poor state, clearly depicted by its typical seaside landscape of traditional wooden houses and huts scattered all over the coastal villages.

Fishing (and its famous by-product, kerepok lekor) has been the pessimistic hallmark of the state that never prospered, yet traditional fishing continues to provide for the people’s livelihoods. Current economic indicators, upon reflection, tell the sad state of affairs endured by the population.

Terengganu is not only considered poor by international economic standards, but is actually classified as under the poverty line even by Malaysia’s own barometer.

Based on a combination of data samples and a partial projection of historical data, the state’s average monthly household income of approximately RM2,500 is way below the national average of RM5,288 in 2016. This illustrates that more than half of the state’s population is living below Malaysia’s own urban poverty line of RM3,000 per month household income.

But being poor is not a good excuse not to work hard, or not to be involved in politics and not to make a right political choice, especially in such an important event as the 14th general election.

Similarly, those in Felda schemes in Terengganu now have very good and valid reasons to be more concerned and possibly more active than ever in this forthcoming general election.

After all, problems resulting from Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd failures, abuse of Felda funds and Felda land scandals have now become national mainstream issues as big as 1MDB or GST.

Felda schemes in Terengganu are located away from the coastal towns, often in very remote and rural areas and difficult to access. Almost all schemes started without water, electricity and basic amenities, including schools and medical facilities.

Failed leadership

Politically, the state has been known to have a history of weak leadership.

A weak state government can be traced back to the era of Umno’s Wan Mokhtar Wan Ahmad from 1974 to 1999. This was supposed to be the golden years of the state, when oil and gas were first discovered and plans were sketched on how to develop these resources, both for upstream and downstream activities.

But the Terengganu state government then did not have any clue about how to formulate a development plan that was centred on oil and gas industries. It lacked the necessary knowledge to educate, train and inject the skills to the people and encourage them to participate in this new sector.

That is why Wan Mokhtar, as the state’s menteri besar, has often been blamed for the lack of development, very little economic activities and an absence of employment opportunities for the local people.

Wan Mokhtar was also a poor administrator. Instead of pushing ahead with a solid development agenda for the state, or engaging technical experts to advise him, he wavered and staggered and got sidetracked into PAS politics.

He played into PAS’ set of political beliefs and let Abdul Hadi Awang’s shadow loom over his administration and the state civil servants by trying to match every religious agenda set by Hadi.

But Hadi’s fanatical approach and religious rhetoric were more effective, especially among the many rural folks in the state, than Wan Mokhtar’s brand of religion.

The religious gap widened and differences increased, as did the number of PAS supporters.

Eventually, Wan Mokhtar completely lost his grip on Terengganu’s politics and the state paid a high price by foregoing modern development.

Many of Petronas’ downstream projects and the accompanying infrastructure opportunities were lost in a changing market environment.

The final straw came in 1999, when Wan Mokhtar lost 28 of the 32 state seats to PAS in the 10th general election. BN only managed to secure four seats and even Wan Mokhtar himself lost what used to be his safe seat of Chukai in Kemaman.

That is a sample of leadership in Terengganu’s politics and development schemes, if any, which were sketched by the state Umno’s machinery during those hungry years.

One local pundit has sarcastically said that what is now left from the discovery of oil in Terengganu is sketchy oil paintings of Terengganu villages on canvas.

The lacking of quality leadership continued after the 1999 general election, when PAS took over the state for one term. By then, Terengganu appeared to operate in a vacuum. No sign of leadership seemed to have emerged from the state.

Today, as then, there is nobody from Terengganu who is bold or inspiring enough, who can speak with some intellect or possesses economic credentials that could give credence to the state leadership, especially now on the issues concerning 1MDB, GST, Felda or oil and gas royalty.

It is no wonder that Terengganu failed to get noticed at the federal level and effectively negotiate for a better allocation of development funds; failed to obtain oil and gas royalties; failed to bring in foreign direct investment; failed to attract oil and gas related industries and new job opportunities, and waited for more than 10 years or two general elections for an expressway extension from Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu to be built.

Precursor to 1MDB

Despite the riches found in the form of oil and gas in offshore Terengganu, which was first found in the mid-70s and is all controlled by Petronas, a central agency under the federal government, Terengganu obtained very little revenue from the industry.

With very little income, the level of education naturally suffered. Avenues for locals to be trained in skilled jobs were not provided until recently, when the oil and gas sector was already diminishing in importance.

To make it worse, when Terengganu was ruled by PAS for one term between 1999 and 2004, the five percent oil and gas royalty to the state was withdrawn by the federal government.

And despite the continuous, strong religious agenda set by the state government and a ban on alcohol consumption, youths in Terengganu continue to suffer from drug addiction, considered the number one enemy in the state for many decades.

The seriousness of drug-taking among youngsters is often denied by the government of the day, who have grossly overlooked this issue and neglected to provide any remedy to this pertinent youth problem, save for some religious rhetoric and a spiritual approach, which hardly work for drug abusers.

The withdrawal of oil and gas royalties was not rectified even after Umno/BN wrested back the state in 2004.

Some other forms of aid were given to Terengganu, the funniest ones being in the form of Monsoon Cup sponsorship and expenditure under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s premiership, an event which did not benefit the people at all.

Many similarly silly ideas were mooted, which eventually led to the formation of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) in 2008 after Umno/BN won the state again in the 12th general election.

TIA was a corporate body set up with objectives similar to a sovereign wealth fund, flimsily structured after the Abu Dhabi model and supposedly meant to receive the five percent oil and gas royalty.

Instead, the body was transformed by the federal government when Najib became prime minister in 2009, had its name changed and became a precursor to 1MDB manoeuvres and the activities that followed. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history, including the scandalous “RM2.6 billion” donation.

…more
T’ganu: A tale of weak leadership and wasted assets
20 Jan 2018 – malaysiakini

25
Jan
18

Najib slammed for playing down 1MDB scandal

Najib slammed for playing down 1MDB scandal

CIVIL society groups and a lawmaker criticised Prime Minister Najib Razak for trying to soft pedal the colossal scandal at state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) yesterday.

They said the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) had called it the world’s biggest kleptocracy and other jurisdictions, such as Switzerland and Singapore, have taken legal action against banks and individuals for money laundering linked to 1MDB.

In contrast, Malaysia has not acted against anyone.

Najib told investors yesterday that 1MDB’s problems were amplified by the opposition to attack the government.

“Now, I am not going to brush over this issue. There were indeed failings at the company, there were lapses of governance. There was valid cause for concern,” Najib said in his speech at Invest Malaysia 2018 in Kuala Lumpur.

“This is why I ordered one of the most comprehensive and detailed investigations in Malaysia’s corporate history, one that involved multiple lawful authorities, including a bipartisan parliamentary body. Their findings were taken on board – and the company’s board was dissolved, its management team changed, and its operations reviewed.”

DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua, however, said abroad, banks have been shut down and collaborators jailed for money laundering charges linked to 1MDB.

“(But) no action has been taken in Malaysia. Not even an attempt to recover the stolen funds. So what exactly was amplified?

“What about the missing US$4 billion (RM16 billion) or more which the US DoJ has identified as stolen from 1MDB to acquire luxury yachts, private jets, properties all around the world, rare and famous paintings as well as to produce Hollywood movies?”

Both Pua and anti-graft watchdog the Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) director Cynthia Gabriel said Najib has yet to explain DoJ’s assertions that US$681 million were transferred from 1MDB to his bank accounts.

“Was it ‘amplified’ because the purported Arab donor has disappeared after the US DoJ exposed the above transactions?” asked Pua.

Cynthia said the failings of 1MDB were caused by deliberate failed investments, fraudulent transfers and the use of offshore banks and shell companies, as well as the purchases of luxury properties and paintings.

…more
Najib slammed for playing down 1MDB scandal
24 Jan 2018 – TMI

24
Jan
18

Stop intimidating and blackmailing teachers

Stop intimidating and blackmailing teachers

IT is unprofessional of both the Education Minister and the president of the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) to use their power to harass, intimidate, threaten and even blackmail teachers from having the freedom to support the political party they want. Teachers have the same rights as any other citizen.

For the past few elections now, teachers have been targeted this way because of their sheer number – almost 500,000. This is the single largest vote bank among the civil servants, more than all the armed forces combined. If the BN could engineer an excuse, they would be made “advanced voters” who will have to vote under the watchful eye of the school heads and NUTP representatives.

Is it legally, morally or ethically right for the education minister and the NUTP president to take away the democratic right of the teachers to support the politicians of their choice so long as they do not absent themselves from school to work for the politicians?

It used to happen and may still be happening that during election time, some teachers who are Umno and Barisan Nasional supporters will actively campaign for their teams till late and fall asleep in school the next day. And this is perfectly all right?

The education system is in bad shape, what with broken schools and indiscipline rising. This is what is crying for attention but neither the Education Ministry nor the NUTP seems to have any workable solutions. Jointly, instead of improving the standards of education and character building of the children, they have allowed standards to fall all round.

People are questioning why more and more Malay children are going to Chinese vernacular schools. Why are they abandoning the sekolah kebangsaan which is supposed to be the pride of the school system? Why is indiscipline so rampant in our schools?

If the teachers who have to work in a broken school system feel that the malaise is due to a broken political system, and that the political system must be changed for the broken schools tobe repaired, why is it wrong for them to lend a hand to change the broken political system?

The NUTP is showing itself to be happy with the broken school system. This is a great disservice to the nation. Of all parties, a teachers’ union should know that schools make or break the nation. They either develop future generations of people with good, strong moral values or future generations of unethical and lawless people, which is what is happening now.

The NUTP has no call supporting the minister in threatening, intimidating and blackmailing teachers, but should instead defend teachers who are punished in any way for not supporting BN. – January 20, 2018.

…more
Stop intimidating and blackmailing teachers
Ravinder Singh
20 Jan 2018 – TMI

23
Jan
18

Huge debts and the mismanagement by Felda subsidiary will rock the Felda vote

Shady land deal won’t rock Felda vote, but settlers’ debts will

FELDA’S troubles may have made national headlines but for the majority of 1.2 million plantation settlers and their families, the latest RM270 million land scandal is but a sideshow.

More pressing for them are the huge debts they owe the agency and the poor upkeep of their smallholdings by Felda subsidiary, Felda Technoplant Sdn Bhd (FTP).

Settlers’ groups said these everyday worries are what will rock the Felda vote spread out over 54 rural parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia.

The Felda vote has long been a certainty, or a “fixed deposit”, for Barisan Nasional, but land reform agency’s mismanagement of settlers’ holdings and their debts are jeopardising this traditional support base.

Financial scandals such as the Jalan Semarak land sale and acquisition of overvalued hotel properties could intensify the anger of the settlers, especially those of the second generation, at the government.

These scandals are campaign fodder for Pakatan Harapan (PH) which is making major inroads into Felda, thanks to former prime minister-turned opposition icon Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

However, Zulkefli Nordin, head of SGK2F, a group representing second-generation settlers, said the settlers were little bothered by the latest revelation of possible fraud in a Felda land transaction.

It was their poorly managed holdings and their high debts that the settlers were concerned about, he said.

“The mismanagement of their holdings by Felda and Felda Technoplant Sdn Bhd (FTP), their debts and their loan statements, which are not transparent – these are the issues that the government must settle if they want to win back the hearts of Felda settlers. These are the issues that everyone is talking about in the schemes, ” Zulkefli told the The Malaysian Insight in a WhatsApp message.

Felda settler families typically span two or three generations.

The first generation are the original settlers who received 4ha of land for them to plant rubber trees or oil palms. This group make up 30 to 40% of the Felda vote .

The second generation are the children of the original settlers. These make up 50 to 60% of the Felda vote. Their children are third generation settlers, but not all of them have reached voting age.

…more
Shady land deal won’t rock Felda vote, but settlers’ debts will
6 Jan 2018 – TMI

22
Jan
18

Umno is broken and can’t be fixed, says ex-MB’s son

Umno is broken and can’t be fixed, says ex-MB’s son

THE son of former Kedah menteri besar Sanusi Junid said Umno is beyond saving with money politics truly entrenched in the ruling party.

Akhramsyah Sanusi noted that he waited in vain for party members to rise up and demand change in Umno, saying those who left the country’s largest Bumiputera-based party felt that they had tried everything to fix it.

“Umno is a party that cannot be fixed. The groundswell of revolt that we prayed for never happened,” the Bersatu founding member told The Malaysian Insight.

Akhramsyah was first exposed to money politics when he entered the Umno elections in 2008, contesting a Youth exco post.

“It was unsuccessful because I refused to participate in money politics. On the last day of the elections, I was told that I was on the verge of winning.

“The evening before the votes were cast, I was advised to spend the night ‘pumping’. I was naive, and I come from a family that didn’t get involved in money politics, so I didn’t understand what ‘pumping’ meant. What it meant was… buying votes.

“You basically needed to fork out money to secure votes. That’s insane.”

In the party’s 2013 polls, Akhramsyah again tried contesting, this time, challenging Khairy Jamaluddin for the post of Youth chief.

“I was never active in Umno until I felt compelled to provide my services. I ran for the post of Youth exco in 2008 to help Mukhriz Mahathir, who I thought was the right candidate, win the post.

“I later ran for the post of Youth chief not because I thought I could win, but because I thought we needed to give Khairy a nice tight slap, even though he was the undisputed winner.”

The 2013 elections proved that despite structural changes, corruption had reached the grassroots level, the father of six said.

“I’m not saying that grassroots members are corrupt. But leaders at the branch level find themselves under pressure to run their branches with meagre assistance from the divisional and national levels.

“The party became corrupt because branch leaders didn’t get the structural support from the party to do what needs to be done during elections. That’s why they hold the leaders at ransom.

“It’s the only time when money comes from the party or individuals. It only comes with the pledges for votes, so the party becomes corrupt,” said the 45-year-old.

To join politics is to serve

Joining politics was a kind of calling for Akhramsyah, given his family’s involvement.

His maternal great-grandfather and grandfather were politicians in Aceh, Indonesia, while his father served as menteri besar from 1996 to 1999, and was a minister prior to being appointed as menteri besar.

Akhramsyah was the head of Umno Youth’s Bendang Baru branch in Langkawi before he left to join Bersatu.

“We joined politics to serve. Two years ago, I left Shell with the idea of doing a PhD on sustainable development and I saw myself as being a sustainable development expert in Malaysia, both in academia and business. My life plan has changed several times.

“But I never dreamt of being a prime minister or even a minister. My family were never brought up that way. We were brought up to serve,” said the Jerai Bersatu division chief.

Akhramsyah, who has 18 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry, and holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Imperial College London, said he pledged to the party leadership that the election machinery in Jerai would be ready by March.

“The machinery is growing organically. Whatever we have now, I think, is quite solid, but there is a lot more to be done.

“I need to prepare my division to contest in the next general election. Whether or not I become a candidate depends on the party.

“If the party nominates me, I don’t think I have a choice, because the truth is, we are a young party, and if the party thinks I’m the best choice, I will have to accept.

“But in the end, if we have a better, more winnable candidate for Jerai, I’m willing to concede.”

…more
Umno is broken and can’t be fixed, says ex-MB’s son
5 Jan 2018 – TMI

21
Jan
18

Hadi risks losing own seats if PAS sticks to GE14 plan

Hadi risks losing own seats if PAS sticks to GE14 plan

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s plan for his party in the 14th general election will likely lead to the loss of the seats he holds at the parliamentary and state levels in Terengganu, a study revealed.

This latest study comes as Hadi leads PAS to contest against both main opposition pact Pakatan Harapan and the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

Hadi’s plan for PAS will likely see three-cornered contests among it, BN and PH in all the 21 parliamentary and 78 state seats the Islamist party won in the 13th general election.

The study by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) policy lecturer Dr Mazlan Ali showed even Hadi would lose the Marang parliamentary seat and the Rhu Redang state constituency in the event of three-cornered fights.

Mazlan said the Islamist party stands to lose another three parliamentary seats in Terengganu in the event that it contests against both BN and PH.

The study estimated that PAS will only win two out of the 14 state seats it won in Terengganu if there are three-cornered fights. These are Sura and Paka under the Dungan parliamentary constituency.

The main reason for the losses was the split among opposition supporters towards PAS after the party’s internal schism in 2015 and its decision to sever ties with PH parties.

“All the PAS state seats in Marang will also fall into the hands of Umno if there are three-cornered fights between BN, Pakatan Harapan and PAS,” Mazlan told a briefing in Kuala Terengganu organised by Terengganu executive councillor Mohd Jidin Shafie on December 31.

First, Mazlan said PAS’ influence declined after some of its most influential leaders and members broke off to form splinter party Amanah.

The second reason is that non-Malays who voted for PAS in GE13 in 2013 have now shifted to PH.

“The third reason is the uncertainty in PAS’ direction. Voters do not see PAS as an alternative to replacing BN. They see PH as the only party that can compete with BN.”

After the party split in 2015, PAS lost many of its supporters, including non-Muslim voters, middle-class Malays and the young, he said.

The perception that PAS wants to cooperate with Umno is another factor creating unease among the party’s grassroots and they may either protest or vote for PH, he said.

…more
Hadi risks losing own seats if PAS sticks to GE14 plan
5 Jan 2018 – TMI




THE Al Jazeera interview

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

The dawn of A Better Malaysia!
Rafidah Aziz, Hannah Yeoh, Ambiga at TTDI ceramah

 

Mahathir in Putrajaya ceramah

 

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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