- Spring Comes To Malaysia
- Paris Papers: Perimekar Just A Travel Agency
- EC Lies To International Fact Finding Mission Group About Postal Voter Proposal
- Let The People Govern, We Must Represent The Conscience Of The Rakyat
Posted: 05 May 2012 01:33 PM PDT
Anyone can get angry. But to rise in anger, it helps to be young. The young constitute the heart of any uprising for two good reasons. They have not yet had time to compromise. Their mobility is still unhampered by the usual constraints, otherwise known as the litany of social security that keeps us locked into the conventional, of job, family, property. The second reason is more interesting. The most important stimulant in the complex mix that instigates a mass movement is hope, not anger. Hope is the positive face of anger.
The first two decades of the 21st century will be remembered as the season of volcanic rage across those parts of the world subdued into stagnation in the name of isms [faith, economic philosophy, patriotism] that were often nothing more than pathetic alibis for authoritarian exploitation by local elites. There is a frisson in the air that is reminiscent of the first half of the 20th century, when there was turbulence against colonial power. This time the post-colonial world is challenging those who have usurped authority and denied their people the essence of ferment: freedom. Freedom is not merely independence from foreign rule. It is, equally, freedom from local dictatorship.
Anger, by its nature, is a spur to violence. Remarkably, today's young, from Africa to Asia, have understood what Gandhi foresaw more than a century ago, when the thought was too novel to be considered credible: that non-violence is far more dangerous to the establishment than violence. Violence is a tantrum, a surge of passion that serves little except an individual appetite during its momentary flare, and denies a lot beyond. Violence is counter-productive. It frightens the bystander and inhibits the breadth of popular embrace. Violence feeds the trap set by government, which seeks to survive discontent by turning the victim into the culprit.
Non-violence challenges a government, but not the state, which is why institutions committed to the state like a national army, are loath to confront it. Gandhi was a steely visionary: he tested the power of non-violence not against a national army but against colonial military officers and bureaucrats who treated Indians as inferior at best, and contemptible at worst. History is witness not only to the superior idea, but also to the astonishing fact that once the terms of change were negotiated between Indians and the British, they became friends. Non-violence heals the wounds of conquest and repression, even as it dismantles an empire.
On Saturday 28 April, spring came to Malaysia, as the young emerged from once-static corners of Kuala Lumpur to take the road ahead. Seasons do not change abruptly. Often, they stutter; sometimes, they deceive. Just as there can be a false dawn, there can be a false spring. But there does come a day when fresh grass pushes up from hidden roots, and when all nature, including human nature, can no longer be imprisoned by soulless rationalisation. A spring can even take its cultivators by surprise.
Anwar Ibrahim's long winter has included many years lost in the solitary confinement of jail, a campaign of mass-media promoted slander that defies the minimal standards of ethics, and the terrifying exile of seeming hopelessness. As a young Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, he was once the nominated heir of the patriarch, Mahathir. He was punished for breaking rank in the cause of his conscience. Conscience is generally dismissed as naiveté, or even arrogance that disrupts the collective effort of governance. Anwar Ibrahim, and his extraordinary, courageous wife Azzizah, paid a terrifying price for dissidence. The extended power of the state tested them with a fire that would have incinerated those of less commitment. If they had any hope, it was faith in the people, and in the promise of unabridged democracy.
It is exhilarating to see fear evaporate; one minute, it is a hovering fog, and an hour later it has dissipated into receding memory. It was a privilege to witness a seminal moment of change, and to do so alongside a principal author of this metamorphosis. It is easy to theorise that change can be postponed but not prevented, but it requires deep levels of conviction to believe this. As, from morning, the citizen began to congregate; as growing groups gathered the momentum of solidarity; as ethnic differences which had been the reference module of the old politics began to visibly melt; as the space on either side filled from street to roof with Malay Muslims, Chinese Christians, Indian Hindus and Muslims, cheering, urging us on; and even when a ham-handed government tried to incite disarray through teargas and swooping helicopters, you knew that this was a day on which another chapter of history had commenced. The young knew that salvation lay in non-violence. They controlled their anger.
And Anwar Ibrahim became Anwar, no mere leader up above but a brother in the emerging joint family of a democratic Malaysia.
Posted: 05 May 2012 01:52 AM PDT
By Kua Kia Soong
Having had the privilege of looking at some of the Paris Papers on the Scorpene submarine scandal recently, it behoves me to give anxious landlubbers a 'hitchhiker’s guide’ to this convoluted mesh of payments that have gone on to grease this most expensive (more than RM7 billion) arms purchase in Malaysia’s history.
Since Suaram lodged its complaint with the French courts for a judicial review of the Scorpene contract in November 2009, the French prosecutors have certainly been busy with their investigations.
They have interviewed officials in the French state-owned defence company, DCN, and related companies such as Thales as well as officials in the French Defence Ministry.
They have looked into bank vaults and scrutinised contracts, memoranda of understanding, memoranda of intent, invoices, bank accounts of various people including Abdul Razak Baginda (left in photo), the former close confidant of Prime Minister Najib Razak at the centre of the controversy.
There are also some rather telling internal confidential reports of DCN and the French Defence Ministry.
So far, the Malaysian Defence Ministry has told Parliament that:
Malaysian taxpayers will still need to pay even more for maintenance services, support and test equipment, missiles and torpedoes, infrastructure for the submarine base, training of crew, etc. The total bill for these two submarines will be in excess of RM7 billion.
But are these two the only transactions in a sordid affair that has claimed the life of a fair Mongolian lass named Altantuya Shaariibuu?
Negotiations on the submarine contract started in 1999. At the time, French defence giant DCN had this view of Perimekar:
“The amount to be paid to Perimekar is overvalued. It is not worth it… They are never more than a travel agency… The price is inflated and their support function is very vague… Yes, that company created unfounded wealth for its shareholders.”
But this system was created by the Malaysian government so DCN had no choice.
Before 2002, when new laws in France and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Convention came into force to make bribing of foreign officials a crime, money used to bribe foreign officials was even tax deductible. Such is the nature of arms deals all over the world.
DCN former finance director Gerarde Philippe Maneyas had made a claim for 32 million euros (RM127 million) allegedly used to bribe Malaysian officials for purchase of the Scorpenes.
The budget minister had questioned such a large bribe although he did eventually authorise the tax break.
With the new French law and OECD Convention against corruption in place after 2002, the French arms merchants had to find a way to pay commissions to their foreign clients. The method used was to create 'service providers’ that could “increase invoices” to take the place of 'commissions’.
Thus, when DCN terminated its contracts, Thales took over as a private company, not involving the state. Thales International was appointed to coordinate the political connections.
A commercial engineering contract was then signed between DCN and Thales, referred to as “C5″.
It covered 30 million euros (RM120 million) in commercial costs abroad. The companies used in the Malaysian case were Gifen in Malta, Eurolux in Luxemburg and Technomar in Belgium. The travel expenses of Razak Baginda and Altantuya were covered by these.
Another “consulting agreement” was signed in 2000 between Thint Asia and Terasasi for 2.5 million euros (RM10 million).
What role did Terasasi play?
The commissions and dividends for the Scorpene deal were funneled through two companies, Terasasi and Perimekar, both owned by Abdul Razak Baginda. His wife, Mazlinda is a director in Perimekar, while his father is a director in Terasasi.
Malaysians have heard about Perimekar and its “coordinating service” in the submarines deal. But so far there has been no mention of Terasasi.
Could the defence minister please tell the Malaysian public and Parliament the exact role of Terasasi in this Scorpene deal?
From the Paris Papers, we know that at least 32 million euros (RM127 million) were paid by Thales International (Thint) Asia to Terasasi.
There is an invoice by Terasasi dated Oct 1, 2000 for 100,000 euros (RM400,000). There is also an invoice from Terasasi to Thint Asia, dated Aug 28, 2004 for 359,450 euros (RM1.43 million) with a handwritten note saying: “Razak wants it in a hurry.”
A confidential report in the Paris Papers notes:
“It appears that the management of Thint Asia is aware that the amount paid to Terasasi ultimately benefited Najib or his adviser, Baginda.”
Thus, as Suaram’s French lawyer Joseph Breham (far right in photo) has put it:
“Investigations so far have provided sufficient evidence to point our finger at Malaysian officials in this (court) hearing.”
Posted: 04 May 2012 09:26 PM PDT
The Election Commission had allegedly told an international mission that the Parliament had rejected the proposal to introduce postal voting for Sabah and Sarawak voters working in peninsular Malaysia.
However, the report by parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform released last month revealed that it was the EC that gave the thumbs down.
According to the 12-page interim report from the seven-member international fact-finding group on Malaysia’s electoral system, the negative response came from EC deputy chief Wan Ahmad Wan Omar (left).
The report states that the group has found out that these people working in the peninsula face difficulties in returning home to vote, recommending that legislation be introduced for them to be absentee voters.
However ,Wan Ahmad told the group: “That’s the reality in Malaysia. They should change their registration (addresses). We proposed that Parliament legislate to introduce postal voting for the people in Sabah and Sarawak. Our proposal was not accepted”.
In fact, the PSC report had stated clearly that one of electoral reforms proposal is to allow outstation voters to cast their ballots without having to return to their constituencies.
Evidence of EC digging in
The report added that the EC refused to implement it in the next general election, only agreeing to study the proposal futher in relation to Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, which stipulates that an eligible voter must be a resident in his or her voting constituency.
It is among the six preliminary proposals rejected by the EC.
The international group also noted that the Federal Constitution empowers the EC to compel state-owned media to give parity of coverage for political parties during the election campaign period, but the EC chose to adopt a narrower interpretation of the clause.
The group pointed out that Article 115(2) of the Constitution which states that “All public authorities shall on the request of the (Election) Commission give the Commission such assistance in the discharge of its duties as may be practicable” can be used by the electoral body to ensure fair reporting.
But the group’s interim report records Wan Ahmad as replying that the Article empowers the EC to obtain “logistical assistance only”.
To clear doubts on this matter, the group recommended clear legislation to compel state-owned media to provide fair coverage.
In the absence of a legal provision, the group proposed that the EC exercise its moral and persuasive authority by releasing a report each day of the campaign on its views whether public and private ational TV stations have provided balanced coverage over that 24- hour period.
It reiterated that the Constitution provides the EC with wide latitude in the conduct of the electoral process.
The group comprises Australian senator Nicholas Xenophon, Pakistani senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Filipino University of East College of Law dean Amado Valdez, Germany’s Freidrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom coordinator Juliane Schmucker, University of New South Wales associate professor of politics Clinton Fernandes, Indian journalist Mobashar Jawed Akhbar and the Indonesian International Scholars Association chairperson Mohamad Nasir Tamara Tamimi.
They visited Malaysia from Apr 25 to 29 at the invitation of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s office to assess the Malaysian electoral system.
During a press conference to release the findings last Sunday, Bizenjo described the EC as “backward”, a cause for the country’s weak democracy.
Besides Wan Ahmad, they had met with Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz, Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah, Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim and Anwar.
The group had also heard disturbing testimony from a former senior military officer, who requested anonymity, on the pervasive fear among military personnel regarding the secrecy of their votes during the 2008 election.
The report quoted the ex-officer as saying: “There was a definite fear factor among the soldiers that if they did not vote for the government they could be victimised because they knew that their vote could be traced”.
“Troops would discuss this in front of me. I and other officers would say ‘You can vote any way you want’. Troops would laugh and say ‘Who will give us protection if we’re traced?
“It was common and widespread knowledge among military personnel that they knew they could face retribution if they voted the wrong way.”
Hence the group recommended that the postal vote system for military personnel be reformed and protocols changed to ensure fair practice.
Posted: 04 May 2012 09:02 PM PDT
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