- Scorpene deal ‘broker’ out to polish PM’s image?
- Najib and Kuan Yew are BOTH obsolete – Anwar
- Development is Freedom: Statement by Economists Against the Coup
Posted: 11 Aug 2013 09:53 AM PDT
Since the procurement of two Scorpene-class submarines in 2002, the federal government has reluctantly parried a decade of controversy, scandals and intrigue that followed.
From allegations of corruption to murder, the government’s response had often been curt and vague to an issue that wouldn’t go away, as NGOs and the opposition sought to keep the issue alive.
So it is a matter of great curiosity when the entire government-linked media machinery recently featured the the matter prominently, be it on television or newspapers, on what was meant to be a quiet festive season in terms of news.
Two weeks after an interview with Jasbir Chahl Singh, the so-called “architect” of the Scorpene deal, hit newspapers and airwaves, the man was again on television yesterday and in the newspapers today.
The national news agency Bernama had rushed Jasbir’s lengthy statement late last night with six updates to the story in less than three hours – a practice out of the ordinary – that was subsequently reproduced by most major newspapers today.
Jasbir insisted that the Scorpene deal was transparent and reiterated that it had nothing to do with Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu who was shot and blown up with C4 explosives by then Najib Abdul Razak’s security detail in 2006.
He was then deputy prime minister and defence minister.
Timed with Umno polls
Puzzled that the government machinery is now giving prominence to its own controversy, opposition strategists can only look to the looming Umno party elections to offer an explanation.
PKR strategies director Rafizi Ramli pointed out that Jasbir had been silent for the past decade but has suddenly been in the news for two consecutive weeks.
“Jasbir’s timing makes it clear that the whole thing is not in the interest of truth and justice as he could have addressed the issue much earlier.
“The timing is very suspect. This whole thing appears to be part of an internal Umno campaign to preempt attacks on Najib with regards to the Scorpene controversy,” he toldMalaysiakini when contacted.
The Scorpene issue had always been a bane to Najib, and at theheight of the controversy in 2008, his approval rating as deputy prime minister was worse than then premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi whose support was already bleeding from failed reforms.
Ultimately, Rafizi said the key to end the decade-long controversy that has plagued Najib, who is also Umno president, is for an open inquiry to establish the facts of the Scorpene deal as well as Altantuya’s murder once and for all.
“The fact is this one sided argument from time to time by characters such as Jasbir without the government’s willingness to open the books for full scrutiny will not work,” he said.
PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar echoed this, stating that the government cannot depend on individuals to clear its name with the help of its media machinery.
“Even though there are indications that the Umno presidency and deputy presidency will not be challenged, I believe he (Najib) wants to make sure that no one will use the controversy to mount a challenge against him,” he said.
Since taking over the premiership, Najib’s team has successfully strengthened the premier’s popularity, with Najib even becoming the face of an ailing BN to shore up support.
Najib appears to be employing the same strategy in the upcoming party polls when he urged some 150,000 party members who will be voting, to not only choose someone who can be successful in Umno, but also can appeal to the larger population in a general election.
Najib’s team in Umno is also expected to ride on his popularity which will likely receive a boost as China president Xi Jinping and US president Barack Obama will visit the country just weeks before the party polls.
Why not just show the figures?
However, the new Scorpene media campaign, whoever is behind it, could potentially be more a bane than a boon for the premier as even the government had preferred to be silent on it.
“The answers we have received from the government about Scorpene in Parliament have always one liners which is not much use,” said DAP publicity chief Tony Pua who is also Petaling Jaya Utara MP.
Instead of having point men to counter the Scorpene controversy, Pua said the government would do best to quantify all payments involved in the Scorpene deal to show that there was no improprieties.
“Whether it is above board or not, the inquiry in the French court will also determine that,” he said in reference to Jasbir’s assertion that the deal was transparent.
Human rights group Suaram has filed a case in France against French naval company DCNS over kickbacks allegedly paid out in the Scorpene deal and the probe is still ongoing in Paris.
Posted: 11 Aug 2013 09:52 AM PDT
With one swing of his blade Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has slain both Singapore ex-premier Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Najib Razak over their recent statements on Malaysian politics.
Asked to comment on Lee’s new book 'One man’s view of the world’, Anwar said the senior leader’s views were “obsolete” especially when it comes to race-based politics.
But while Lee belonged to the old school, Najib has shown the inability to reform Umno, the country’s dominant political party, mocked Anwar.
“We can see a lack of understanding on the part of Kuan Yew, and lack of resolves on part of Najib to understand the sentiments of Malaysians,” he said when met yesterday in Cherok Tokun, at a Aidilfitri open house organised by Machang Bubuk assemblyperson Lee Khai Loon.
“Kuan Yew’s view somewhat represents the Mahathir generation – it’s quite obsolete. He is always looking at the dichotomy between rights and race, black and white,” Anwar added.
“For example, he talks about race based policies, but has very little understanding of the discourses that have happened since the last decade,” he said.
The PKR supremo was referring to Lee saying that race-based policies were disadvantageous to Malaysia and that the country is shrinking the talent pool needed to build the kind of society that uses talent from all races.
Anwar said Lee appeared to be still trapped in his old mindset when he was an opposition MP taking on the Alliance government, or whenever political tensions were raised between Malaysia and Singapore.
He dismissed Lee’s thoughts as “irrelevant in the context of the present day”.
'Najib unable to reform’
On the same note, Anwar said Najib has shown the “inability” to make effective reforms or change, and thinks in terms of “generations” for it to happen.
Najib last week agreed with former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a new book about his leadership 'The Awakening’, that it was difficult for Umno to reform.
He said Najib does not seem to realise that Malaysia has been independent for more than half a century.
“We have embarked on the new economic policy, enriching the few family members and cronies,” he said.
“But the option is not to ignore the plight of the majority of the Malays or marginalise the poor, but to look at it as a decision of needs, not race,” he said.
Anwar reminded the two leaders that more than half of Malaysians were prepared to see a fundamental shift in the country’s policies when they threw their support (51) percent behind Pakatan Rakyat (in the last general election).
He said this was despite Malaysians facing “incessant negative propaganda” of fear and insecurity – where the Malays were threatened with losing their rights and were told that DAP wants a Christian state.
“If we allow free exchange of the media, then I can safely say we can cross 65 percent of Malaysians prepared to shift from obsolete race-based politics to needs-based agenda of reform,” he said.'Umno should heed book'
Meanwhile, Anwar advised Umno to engage in the issues raised in the book ‘Awakenings’, which relates to the leadership of former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“They should be engaged in a discourse in policies during his time, instead of these rancorous discussion on race,” said Anwar.
He said he was not interested in personal references about Abdullah, for example, his tendency to nap during official functions due to sleep apnea.
“I don’t want to be in Mahathir’s category,” he quipped.
“Abdullah’s policies are important and Umno should debate and engage in the issues he has brought up,” he said.
“Particularly when he asserted in no uncertain terms his failure to influence Umno in the major positions he took during his leadership,” he added.
Anwar made several stops on his tour – from Pantai Jerejak, Penanti, Permatang Pauh and Nibong Tebal – to visit supporters, who in turn prepared him a cake to celebrate his birthday.
But while the PKR de facto leader, who turned 66 yesterday, was willing to take photos with them and the cake, he declined to cut his birthday offering.
“What is there to celebrate at this old age?” he said in jest.
Posted: 11 Aug 2013 09:48 AM PDT
Egypt has witnessed a heinous crime against its current and future generations. A group of profiteers has taken control of the government, a group belonging to the same regime – in its military and civilian guises – against which the January 25 Revolution erupted. This hijacking is an attempt to return to power a group profiteering from the resources and sustenance of the Egyptian people.
First: For over 30 years, a small class (particular families) had control of the wealth and resources of this nation. Furthermore, this gang wants to continue robbing Egypt’s wealth while more than 25% of its people (over 24 million Egyptians) live below the poverty line.
Second: In the transitional period, after the Revolution, during the military rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), economic performance deteriorated in an unprecedented manner. Economic growth dropped from 5.1% during the year 2009/2010 to 2.2% during 2011/2012.
Meanwhile, unemployment rose from 8.9% in 2009/2010 to 12.6% in 2010/2011. The budget deficit rose during SCAF rule to approximately 11%, compared to 8.1% during 2009/2010, while the tourism sector saw $2.2 billion in lost income, and the number of tourists dropped by 2.8 million.
Furthermore, the balance of payments saw an unprecedented deficit, reaching $9.8 billion during 2010/2011, spiraling to $11.3 billion during the fiscal year 2011/2012. Foreign investment dropped to $2.2 billion compared to an average of $9.8 billion during the period 2006 to 2010. Can there be any worse failure?
Third: SCAF economic policies led to a drop in foreign currency reserves, to reach $15 billion on June 30, 2012 from approximately $36 billion in January 2011 – meaning that the reserve fell by about $21 billion, or 58.4%. In spite of that, the Egyptian pound lost about 10% of its value compared to the dollar at the cost of destroying foreign currency reserves, only so the upper class could withdraw their funds at a favorable exchange rate. Now, are the ongoing settlements with prominent figures of the Mubarak regime a repetition of the same scenario?
Fourth: During the one and a half years of SCAF rule, there was no clear vision in dealing with economic crises. The cost of government borrowing rose from 10.5% to about 13.5% as an average cost on government bonds and notes, with every 1% costing the national treasury LE8 billion per year.
In addition, SCAF did not take any action to prevent the exit of wealth abroad, and did not deal with issues of corruption or tax evasion in any serious manner. This cost the country billions of dollars (consider the case of fugitive corrupt businessman Hussein Salem, for example).
Fifth: International experience indicates the failure of military regimes in realizing economic development. In fact, some went into bankruptcy (as in Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Chile and many other countries in Asia and Latin America).
Sixth: During the previous decades, military types (army and police) have controlled the bureaucracy and local administrations in Egypt. Consequently, there was an unprecedented collapse in the performance of government institutions, and of the public sector companies managed by unqualified generals and military types. And now, in a continuation of this trend, SCAF has appointed a general as secretary of the council of ministers, in addition to more generals to control positions of all other ministries.
Seventh: In the coup's aftermath, the military regime immediately brought back corrupt figures to government institutions. Is it acceptable that a department manager in the ministry of finance would be promoted to hold two positions simultaneously, while he is being investigated in four cases of illegal gain? And in the same ministry, there is an attempt to destroy cases against employees who were being investigated by the public prosecutor during the past period.
In the past few days, we have also seen the return of many of the old faces. He who used to praise Gamal Mubarak has become a prime minister. In fact, many of the appointed ministers were members of the supposedly defunct National Democratic Party (NDP)'s Policies Committee, of whom some had evident histories of corruption during the Mubarak era. They are now spiting us by bringing back the Mubarak regime with its ugly face.
Eighth: Economic development and freedom go together. Historical experience and scientific studies have indicated that a people’s ability to develop must be based on freedom, choice and creativity in all fields. This is contradicted by the militarization of the country in its institutions and apparatuses, in a fascist and failed system.
So, we as economists will not accept the return of the old regime or the militarization of the nation in a fascist and failed system, because this will mean economic devastation for Egypt. This is something we will not accept for our country.
Signatories to the statement:
• Dr. Mursi Hegazy / Former Minister of Finance, Professor of Economics Alexandria University
• Dr. Hussein Hamed Hassaan / Professor of Economics, International Expert in Islamic Banking
• Dr. Meibid Al-Garhi / Professor of Economics, Expert in Islamic Banking
• Dr. Ramadan Maqlad / Professor of Economics Alexandria University
• Dr. Saber Younus / Professor of Economics Workers’ University, Bani Sueif
• Dr. Abdullah Shehata Khattab / Asst. Professor of Economics, Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University
• And others.”.
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