Sunday, March 11, 2018

Stop Thief! - Malaysia’s PM is about to steal an election

IN MOST countries a government that allowed $4.5bn to go missing from a state development agency would struggle to win re-election. If some $681m had appeared in the prime minister’s personal account around the same time, which he breezily explained away as a gift from an unnamed admirer, the task would be all the harder. An apparent cover-up, involving the dismissal of officials investigating or merely complaining about the scandal, might be the last straw for voters. But in Malaysian elections, alas, voters do not count for much.

Under any reasonable electoral system, the coalition running Malaysia would not be in office in the first place. The Barisan Nasional, as it is known, barely squeaked back into power at the most recent election, in 2013. It lost the popular vote, earning only 47% to the opposition’s 51%. But thanks to the shamelessly biased drawing of the constituencies, that was enough to secure it 60% of the 222 seats in parliament.

This ill-deserved victory, however, occurred before news broke of the looting of 1MDB, a development agency whose board of advisers was chaired by the prime minister, Najib Razak. America’s Justice Department has accused him and his stepson, among others, of siphoning money out of 1MDB through an elaborate series of fraudulent transactions. Much of the money went on luxuries, it says, including paintings by Picasso and Monet, a private jet, diamond necklaces, a penthouse in Manhattan and a gambling spree in Las Vegas. In February Indonesia seized a $250m yacht that the Americans say was bought with Malaysian taxpayers’ money. Authorities in Switzerland and Singapore have also been investigating.

Mr Najib denies any wrongdoing—and of course he has loyal supporters. But his administration has not tried very hard to clear things up. Only one person has been charged in connection with the missing billions: an opposition politician who leaked details of the official investigation after the government had refused to make it public.

All this is unlikely to have improved Mr Najib’s standing with voters. Yet an election must be held by August. Faced with the risk of losing power, the government is rigging the system even more brazenly. Parliament will soon vote on new constituency boundaries. The proposed map almost guarantees Mr Najib another term, despite his appalling record.

How to rig an election
One trick is gerrymandering, drawing constituency boundaries so that lots of opposition voters are packed into a few seats, while ruling-party supporters form a narrow majority in a larger number. Lots of this goes on in Malaysia, as elsewhere: the new boundaries put two opposition bastions in the state of Perak into the same seat. Gerrymandering is made even easier by another electoral abuse called malapportionment. This involves creating districts of uneven populations, so that those which support the opposition are much bigger than those that back the government. That means, in effect, that it takes many more votes to elect an opposition MP than it does a government one. The practice is so unfair that it is illegal in most countries, including Malaysia, where the constitution says that electoral districts must be “approximately equal” in size.

Nonetheless, the constituencies in the maps proposed by the government-appointed election commission range in size from 18,000 voters to 146,000 (see article). The Barisan Nasional controls all the 15 smallest districts; 14 of the 15 biggest ones are in the hands of the opposition. The average Barisan seat has 30,000 fewer voters than the average opposition one. And this is the election commission’s second go at the maps—the first lot were even more lopsided.

Unfortunately, the electoral boundaries are not the only way in which the system is stacked against the opposition. The media are supine. The police and the courts seem more interested in allegations of minor offences by opposition figures than they are in the blatant bilking of the taxpayer over 1MDB and the open violation of the constitution at the election commission. The latest budget seems intended to buy the loyalty of civil servants, by promising a special bonus to be disbursed just after the likely date of the election.

But these biases, as bad as they are, are not the same as fiddling constituencies. As long as the electoral system is fair, Malaysians will be able to judge the government and vote accordingly. But a rigged system will rob their votes of meaning. That is the point, of course. Mr Najib may be venal, but he is not stupid. He fears that most voters would not return him to office if given a choice, so he is taking their choice away.

 Source: The Economist

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

'Wolf of Wall Street’ producer to pay US$60 mil settlement

LOS ANGELES (March 7): The producer of the "Wolf of Wall Street" agreed to pay US$60 million to settle claims it financed the movie with money siphoned from a Malaysian state investment fund.
The settlement between the U.S. Justice Department and Red Granite Pictures Inc, which was co-founded by a stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, also covers U.S. forfeiture claims against the producer’s rights and interests in two other pictures, “Daddy’s Home” and “Dumb and Dumber To.”

The complaint targeting the 2013 picture, directed by Martin Scorsese, is among more than two dozen forfeiture lawsuits filed by the U.S. against US$1.7 billion assets that were allegedly acquired with money stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd. The assets include mansions in Beverly Hills, California, luxury condos in New York, jewelry and artworks.

The Justice Department sought the profits, royalties and distribution proceeds that are owed to Red Granite Pictures. The movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio took in US$392 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to the website Box Office Mojo.
“We are glad to finally put this matter behind us and look forward to refocusing all of our attention back on our film business,” Red Granite said in a statement.

1MDB probe
Riza Aziz, Najib’s stepson, is a friend of Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, the Malaysian financier whom the U.S. alleges orchestrated the scheme to loot US$4.5 billion from the Malaysian fund going back to 2009. Of the allegedly stolen money, US$1.7 billion has been traced to assets in the U.S. and U.K.

Most of the civil forfeiture cases have been put on hold, while the Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation.

Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and his wife, engaged in contract negotiations to represent Jho Low, according to emails that his lawyer said were stolen when Broidy’s accounts were hacked.

The emails included talking points on why the U.S. should drop its 1MDB probe. One draft contract showed that the firm of Broidy’s wife, who is an attorney, could have made US$75 million if they succeeded. It’s unclear what if anything came of the proposal. The Wall Street Journal first reported details of the effort.

The case is U.S. v. “Wolf of Wall Street,” 16-05362, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Source: The Edge

CNBC: A super yacht is seized, and new allegations surface

What happened to 1MDB's money? from CNBC.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Ousting Najib is now a possibility in Malaysia

Malaysia's Mahathir claims ousting Najib is on the cards

KUALA LUMPUR -- Mahathir Mohamad insists there is a real possibility of a new government coming to power when Malaysia goes to the polls later this year. Speaking to The Nikkei at his office on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital on Monday,

Mahathir, who now leads a coalition of four opposition parties, said the mutual goal of unseating Prime Minister Najib Razak was of far greater importance than any differences they may have. "This is what they called the mother of all elections," said the 92-year-old former prime minister. "It will be very big and the possibility of changing the government is there.

For the first time, the opposition is very united." The Pakatan Harapan, or "Alliance of Hope," is an unlikely collection of politicians. Some, such as Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party, were jailed during Mahathir's 22 years in power. Anwar, once seen as Mahathir's chosen successor, is serving a five-year sentence on sodomy charges that many believe were fabricated -- his second incarceration for a similar offense. "This is more or less like the saying, 'your enemy's enemy is my friend,'" said Mahathir.

The veteran politician appears to have united a once fragmented opposition, a role once played by Anwar, even managing to gain broad consensus on seat allocation for the election, which must be called by June 24. The coalition has agreed for Mahathir to be appointed prime minister should the bloc win, but make way for Anwar when his prison term ends in June. Anwar, however, will still need a royal pardon in order to become leader. "Anwar will be the next prime minister after me," assured Mahathir, refuting allegations that his return was designed to pave the way for his son Mukhriz to take over.

Najib has repeatedly denied any involvement in the scandal and said it had been turned into a concentrated campaign to sabotage the economy for political gain. He has admitted there were "failings" at the fund, but these lapses of governance had been rectified after investigations. 

Regardless, Mahathir insisted the country would get "worse" if Najib stayed in power, and that he just wanted to put Malaysia back on track. He also accused the current administration of blurring the lines between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. Mahathir himself was no stranger to criticism during his time in office, but rebutted any suggestion that he might have been too hard-line. "Dictators do not resign. I resigned."

 Mahathir is the chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, or the "Malaysian United Indigenous Party." The coming elections will be the tenth he has contested in a political career that began in 1964. He is expected to stand in Putrajaya, the suburb where his office is located, Langkawi or his previous constituency of Kubang Pasu.
 - CK TAN, Nikkei staff writer
Source: Nikkei

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Malaysians take to the streets to get rid of Najib

Malaysians today will walk the streets again for Bersih 5 (in yellow) to peacefully demand for free elections and also for Najib's resignation while UMNO and BN will also similarly protest (in red) for the continuation of bribes, corruption and pillage of the nation's coffers as wonderfully demonstrated by their present leadership.

Mkini: Live Coverage

Twitter: Live tweets

MCA: The Malays don't want free elections  (as usual they are confused who they should be speaking for)

MIC: We don't want free elections either

UMNO: We can't help it if our members support Bersih

G25: We are there for good governance

Saturday, July 23, 2016

UMNO now worried their assets overseas will be seized too

The US government’s move to seize assets allegedly stolen from state firm 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has sent shock waves through the ruling Umno party, according to analysts. The US Justice Department named a close business associate of Prime Minister Najib Razak and his stepson in a civil lawsuit to recover US$1 billion in assets that Washington says were bought by money embezzled from the fund.

Several senior Umno members are contemplating defecting to the opposition after Wednesday’s civil lawsuits alleging US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB. Najib chaired IMDB’s advisory board until recently and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“Umno is jittery to the core … a few senior leaders have started moves to ‘discuss’ with Dr Mahathir,” said Firdaus Abdullah, former political editor of the government-owned New Straits Times, referring to former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir, who led the country for 22 years, has been Najib’s harshest critic, calling on him to step down over the 1MDB scandal.

Last week, he announced plans to set up a new party to challenge his one-time protégé. “They are top Umno members, cabinet members and leaders of the ruling coalition component parties,” Firdaus added.

 Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim said Umno is coming under “some pressure” but it would take a while for its members to jump ship. “[Umno members] are timid. It will happen but slowly. I think Najib will be charged by the US eventually and then you will see people jumping ship,” said Zaid. A source with knowledge of the investigation told the South China Morning Post that he expects criminal charges to follow. “The DOJ wants to ensure that all these dirty money do not vanish into thin air. After this civil action, the criminal indictment commences,” said the source who did not give further details.

One senior Umno member who declined to be named told the Post that the party’s supreme council supports Najib. “I wouldn’t say [everyone] but the supreme council is backing Najib,” they said. The Supreme Council is a powerful body within Umno. While Najib was not named, the US lawsuit said US$681 million from 1MDB was transferred to the account of “Malaysian Official 1”.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal said US$681 million was diverted from 1MDB into Najib’s personal account. Najib insisted the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family and denied any wrongdoing. “Our stand remains that we do not tolerate any act that goes against the law,” Najib was quoted as saying by The Star daily on Friday. “All Malaysians who can read English knows that Najib is the Malaysian official number 1,” said Kadir Jasin, a close associate of Mahathir.

Read more

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A Fractured Malaysia

CNA's documentary on "A Fractured Nation". This is one PM everyone should feel ashamed of for his racist comments to save his own skin. This video should also be kept for posterity so that our future generations know.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Murder in Malaysia

al Jazeera uncovers more mysteries in Altantuya's death.

Shot, then blown to smithereens with military grade explosives, the 2006 killing of Altantuya Shaariibuu was one of Malaysia's most sensational murder cases.

Even though years have passed since the young Mongolian's death, it is one case that has refused to disappear. If anything, the mystery has deepened. 101 East investigates those who were involved in the case and asks whether the two men convicted of her murder are "fall guys" for others who ordered the killing of Shaariibuu.

Watch the video as Sirul makes a new explosive allegation.

Watch the video 

MK: al Jazeera's Mary Ann Jolley deported while investigating the story 

FMT: IGP says 'Its utter rubbish"

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Is Najib Using 1MDB Funds?

Malaysian investigators scrutinizing a government investment fund have traced nearly $700 million of deposits into what they believe are the personal bank accounts of the country’s prime minister. A breakdown of what you need to know on this story:

What is 1Malaysia Development Bhd.?

A strategic development fund Prime Minister Najib Razak set up in 2009, promising it would develop new industries and turn the capital, Kuala Lumpur, into a global financial center. 1MDB is 100%-owned by the Finance Ministry, which also is headed by Mr. Najib. But unlike sovereign-wealth funds, it financed itself through issuing debt, and today owes more than $11 billion.

Why has it stirred controversy?

Critics of the fund, including members of Mr. Najib’s ruling party, say it took on too much debt and lacks transparency. The fund raised billions of dollars in bonds and has moved large amounts to accounts offshore. Some of its projects, including plans to develop oil fields overseas and a mine in Mongolia, haven’t panned out. The fund this year has rescheduled debt repayments and had to rely on a $1 billion capital injection from an Abu Dhabi state fund to repay other loans. 1MDB has defended its record and says its assets are worth more than its debts. There are four official government investigations ongoing into the fund’s activities.

What's the latest?

The Wall Street Journal in June reported that 1MDB played an indirect role in funding Mr. Najib’s election campaign in May 2013. The fund bought assets from a Malaysian company at what appeared to be an inflated price. That company later made donations to a Najib-linked charity that spent money on schools and other projects Mr. Najib was able to tout as he campaigned.

More recently, the Journal reported that Malaysian investigators looking into 1MDB had traced nearly $700 million of deposits into what they believe are the personal bank accounts of Mr. Najib. The investigation documents, reviewed by the Journal, mark the first time Mr. Najib has been directly connected to the probes into 1MDB.

How could this affect the U.S.?

Malaysia under Mr. Najib, who came to power six years ago, has drawn closer to the U.S. The country is seen in Washington as a bulwark against China’s growing territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. Foreign investors also have played a large role in Malaysia’s economy, and own about half of the country’s government bonds. Worries the government will have to step in and bail out 1MDB — worsening its fiscal position — have pushed the ringgit this month to fresh 10-year lows.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rosmah's Hair Raising RM1200 Hairdo

In comments quoted by news portal Malaysia Insider recently, Malaysian PM's globe trotting wife Rosmah complained of the 1,200 ringgit (US$330) cost of having her hair dyed, and the 500 ringgit she pays to have dresses tailored. 

“It is really hard to make tailored clothes these days. Their prices come up to RM500, and I am speaking as a representative of a housewife that buys made-to-order clothes,” she added.

The comments – made at a public event to discuss the introduction of a new consumer tax in Malaysia – were quick to anger many in Malaysia, where the official minimum wage is 900 ringgit per month. Many people are believed to survive on less than this.

Asian Correspondent: Now you know why Najib needs the money

A Kadir Jasin: The father was a frugal man

Malaysian Chronicle:  The public sympathizes with "poor" Rosmah!

A Day At The Museum

Actually it was just two hours, but it was enough to leave the writer shaken and stirred. - The Star

 I was given my first ever senior citizen concession last week. It was completely unexpected so I got slightly hysterical. It happened when I decided to visit Muzium Negara over the Chinese New Year break. Two of my children, aged 24 and 20, tagged along to see what was “new” at the museum. After all, it had been many, many years since I visited (the kids have no memory of ever visiting) and it had undergone a RM20mil upgrade in 2008.

At the ticket counter, I noted the entrance fee was RM2 for Malaysians and RM5 for foreigners. What I didn’t notice was the RM1 fee for the elderly and disabled as, to my mind, there were no elderly or disabled persons in my group. Well, the eagle-eyed ticketing girl did. She accepted my RM6, glanced at our three Mykads (to prove we were citizens) and promptly gave me back RM1. Seeing my puzzled expression, she enlightened me by saying, “Seorang warga emas, kan? (One senior citizen, yes?”) “Nooooo!” I groaned inwardly as reality hit me. Yes, that’s me: Senior citizen June. Aunty got her first “official” nod as a “golden citizen”, as the Malay term puts it most glowingly, on the third day of the Year of the blasted Wooden Goat. Blame it on the extended retirement age. Because of that, I have not been put out to pasture and therefore did not think of myself as a retiree with discount privileges. To cover up my shock, I was giggling rather hysterically as I handed out the tickets to my children.

When I explained what happened, they tried soothing my frazzled nerves by saying, “But you don’t look old, Mum.” Yeah, but I feel it now. Going into the museum made me even more aware of being a senior citizen. There are stairs everywhere – even to the cafeteria and the wet, smelly toilets located outside – and hardly anywhere for a tired visitor to rest. Apparently, there is a lift for the disabled but it’s not immediately accessible; one has to go through the gift shop to get to it. But since I wasn’t disabled and elderly-looking enough, I climbed the stairs to the first floor foyer where two of the four galleries are located.

Gallery A focuses on Pre-history while Gallery B is dedicated to the Malay Kingdoms. I have a childhood memory of a replica of the huge ceremonial bird used to carry the Kelantan princes for their circumcision ceremony of yore. That was in what is now Gallery B, where there was also a dusty Peranakan matrimonial chamber in one corner. Both ceremonial bird and Peranakan room are gone. New exhibits showcase the grandeur of the Malay court like the singgahsana or throne. There is a huge bronze bas-relief of Hang Tuah which assured me that our legendary warrior hadn’t lost his place in history after all. Galleries A and B are quite well laid out in an open concept. But the lighting was a bit too low for my liking, as my golden citizen eyes had to squint to see some of the exhibits.

After the good impression from the first two galleries we were lured upstairs to Galleries C and D: Colonial Era and Malaysia Today. Foreign visitors generally find the museum a good introduction to Malaysia and appreciate the nominal entrance fee. As a visitor from Canada posted on TripAdvisor: “This nice little museum is great for those who want to know more about what made Malaysia so unique. It does not take long to see it all and for only RM5, it was reasonable.” But locals like my kids and I aren’t so forgiving.

As a journalist, I was bugged by the inconsistencies in spelling (is it “Melaka” or “Malacca”?), language confusion (nationalisme instead of nationalism), grammatical errors and occasional lack of context and coherence in the English texts for the exhibits. As a newly minted senior citizen, I felt it was rather thoughtless to make visitors climb up more steps to view a couple of the exhibits instead of providing ramps for easier access.

We found the last gallery, Malaysia Today, the least engaging. Quite frankly, by the time we finished, our interest had waned. It felt as if the museum had run out of steam and space to tell our post-World War Two shared history better.

As a British visitor wrote on TripAdvisor: “there is an emphasis on the Malay history (i.e. to the almost complete exclusion of the Chinese, Indian and other Malaysians) in the story of gaining independence, but this is somewhat ironically contrasted with the display on 1Malaysia, which gives one the impression that there is a little papering over the cracks of Malaysia’s issues going on.”

That’s quite an astute observation, made back in April 2012. After all, according to Department of Museums director-general Datuk Ibrahim Ismail in his website message, the national museum, in line with the 1Malaysia aspirations, is an “educational instrument” for “fostering a closer understanding, integration and tolerance among the people.” He adds: “Our diverse heritage shaped from the assimilation of the different races in Malaysia showcases unity in various unique ways, something which is rarely seen in the international arena.” That’s a lofty statement that sadly falls short in reality.

Therein lies my biggest disappointment with Muzium Negara: the failure to document the roles of Chinese and Indian leaders and the communities in the making of this diverse nation. It’s a tad ironic really, considering the artist of the lovely murals on the walls of the museum was Cheong Laitong, the architect was Ho Kok Hoe and the Italian glass mosaic tiles for the murals which cost RM135,000 back in the early 1960s were donated by philanthropist Tan Sri Lee Kong Chian. Their contributions are not mentioned anywhere in the museum, unless I missed it. But then, what’s also forgotten is that even the National Mosque, built at a cost of RM10mil, has a multiracial past. As reported in an August 2007 Star article, a mosque brochure stated it was “designed by a Malay, constructed by Chinese and Indians, and financed by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims”.

If Muzium Negara cannot manage to tell a fuller and more inclusive history, then it’s time for a National Museum of the Malaysian Chinese and Indian, like the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. I won’t mind contributing to a fund for that, as long as it is built to be truly accessible to all.

 - Article from The Star by June Wong

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Will the floods wash Najib away?

Raub MP Ariff Sabri says Najib is as good as gone with the floods as shown by his and his government's incompetence in handling Malaysia's worst flooding in years.

In his latest blog entry, the MP for Raub said, “To me, Najib has no more future. The fate of UMNO and his own is already sealed by the next GE.”

He argued that Najib’s handling of the floods especially in Kelantan, the worst hit state, left much to be desired, adding, “Kuala Krai is indeed a watershed which showed the government’s incompetence in handling a national disaster.

Accusing Najib of taking things too lightly, Ariff said in a cynical tone, “Najib and his gang appear to think, they can respond to the flood with a jamboree mentality complete with his minions pointing to the water and saying or mocking us – look Tonto – this is water.”

Look - Water!

Read more

A Kadir Jasin: 
Umno and BN can keep the PM and pretend that everything in fine, but they must accept the fact that the risk of them being chucked out at the next GE is immense.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Is Proton Iriz Worth it?

A game-changer(?) but the Proton showrooms are empty

The day the Iriz was launched I was jogging past our local Proton showroom and was surprised to see that it was empty except for a green Iriz and about 6 salesmen milling around beside the car. Dismissing it as merely coincidental (it was dinner time, and yes, it was a weekday) I did not give much thought about it.

However, after reading so much about this model being a game-changer and reading it all over the papers and on the radio I could not help wondering whether it really was a coincident that the showroom was empty. And so when I jogged past the showroom again two days later (a Saturday, and yes, dinner time again), again the showroom was empty except for a 4-year old peering inside the car and no sign of the 6 salesmen.

I could not help thinking about the crowd I saw in front of the Perodua showroom when they launched the Myvi (the first and the "lagi best" model). It made me start to think what is keeping the crowds away from Proton.

Is it the price? At RM42k for the lowest series model it is not cheap for a "compact" car. The Japanese can buy a sporty sedan from RM30k plus in their own country. So does the Aussies. Why is it that with all the subsidies for Proton we still have to pay so much for our own LOCAL car?

Some may argue the price reflects the tons of features offered in the Iriz. But do we really buy a car for its features? I believe car buyers go more for the look rather than the features and in this regard I don't think Proton has a winner here, it may be a game-changer to them but it is not much of a looker (ditto the Suprima). Proton has much to learn (maybe it should look at the Koreans now).

A very black and plastic look inside

Some may also argue that certain sections of the community are "unpatriotic" and do not support their local cars. I can't see why I should support something that has impoverished millions of car buyers in Malaysia by increasing the taxes for foreign cars to "force" us to buy a Proton. We are not much different from a communist country in this respect.

Another interesting fact to note was Proton's "use" of Dr M to sell the car. Is that a joke? Do you really want to remind the buyers that by buying the Iriz you will also be forking out a portion of your salary each month to pay Dr M's salary?? Jesus!

Actually, my second car years ago was a brand new Proton and it had a problem even before it left the showroom. One of the tail lights refused to turn on even after an hour of investigation by the salesmen. I was then asked to bring my car to the service center the next day. When I brought it to the center a few days later, I remembered the "technician" spent a few hours looking for the problem and eventually found the culprit which was a small piece of metal lodged between some terminals.

That incident did not really put me off Proton as I loved the car (then) but what I disliked was the hours of waiting every time you need to bring the car for service. Now if Proton can change THAT, THAT could be the game-changer!

Paul Tan: A game-changer which attracts no one 

Read the review and pictures credit to 

Borneo Post: Weak sales figures from Proton despite Iriz's launch